And so the End Began.
Shand’ swordplay always had a different taste. Some swordsmen’s technique were traditional but efficient, while others knew how to adjust themselves to Kel. Some relied on instincts, others on tactics. But Shand had always been something else. Their duels had shaken the face of their nations, and so did their fondness of each other.
Fighting Shand is always fierce and authentic, Kel knew. At every swing of his sword I feel my life on the edge. Yet, if I am scared, so is he.
Their swords clashed. Their dance began, and soon afterwards Stryga lied dead in the mud. Sadly, Kel gave more worth to his feud with Shand than Stryga’s life. After all, he had been an enemy before a friend. Shand was the opposite. Shand is MY enemy.
And so it lasted, until the moon shone upon the land its immaculate brace. Drops of water, the rain – or the Muses’ tears – fell on the plain. The battle had ended.
Standing above Shand’s body, Kel dropped his sword. No one cheered for his triumph, too many had paid the ultimate price for the Illyran victory. Why me? It made no sense. Unforgiving, Kel didn’t deserve to live. Deep inside I know, that Shand was just like me, his gaze explored the battlefield, and the mountains of corpses and arrows. Thinking of this world as a fairy tale is a fantasy.
Suddenly, Kel’s knees succumbed. Collapsing in the mud, pierced by arrows, stabbed on multiple occasions, he couldn’t afford to stand. His face met the dirt, and the stink and blood. Shand’s expressionless face stared at him. Funny, I always thought he would be the one. Why me? Will luck always protect me from my well-deserved retribution?
His mind wandering in his memories, Kel remembered the last decade with a incurable sorrow. Many thought of Kel as the Last Dragon, the last of his order who was born accursed with a core sadness. Witnessing his own life fading away, Kel smiled, thinking of butterflies.
Following his mind into a dangerous maze, Kel closed his eyes.
It was all a dream…
When he opened his eyes, Kel painfully realized his hands and wrists were bound in his back. Captured? No, he thought. Worse.
Sniffing the air, Kel struggled to breathe, therefore deducing to be laying underground. Accurately gazing at his surroundings like if he just left a meditation, Kel saw a candle consuming itself, with an odd flame he recognized. A fire than never dies, a blue fire. By the composition of his cell, he realized to be trapped in the Black Temple. Orange like fire, the rocks making up the cave were carved into runes of a recognizable style – the Red Tongue, spoken by the Eldarnei and the Draedar. Did I became reckless enough to fall asleep next to the Crimson King’s corpse? Did we lose?
Perfectly aware of what it meant, Kel didn’t try to break free, for a Magi always took precautions. In the Black Temple, it wasn’t the House of ValenKel that ruled, but the followers of al’Krul.
“You have surpassed my expectations,” a deep voice, richer than the most eloquent of silvertongues, echoed. “Ismair valenKel, the Last Dragon”.
Thinking back, Kel recognized the voice. Accursed, he couldn’t name it. So close to understand… Turning back, Kel tried to pierce the darkness of the cave, watching at the hooded figure approaching, helped with a Staff – one more decorated than any Staff he ever saw. A Magi. If a wizard was effectively pulling the strings of the last war, than Kel had been fooled from the very beginning. I should have known. His own father often scolded him. Earing his father’s voice, he remembered. The order of the Magi follows an nonsense path that they don’t even comprehend themselves. They have their secrets and their own ways. Never trust a Magi.
Gasping for air, Kel tried to call the earth, but his own mind was trapped in doubt. He would never succeed in conjuring a spell if he couldn’t temper his fears with knowledge. Even if superior to most, Kel’s knowledge was outclassed by the Magi’s, and his fear of the Draedar was very much alive in his racing heart. I am… Powerless.
“Do not fear, Ismair of the House of ValenKel,” the Magi said, approaching with a surprisingly graceful demeanor. From the Magi’s little facial features Kel could observe, he assumed the wizard to be extremely young – or at least in appearance. A well-hidden hint of a smile carved himself on his pale face. It was the sort of troubling confidence that Kel disapproved. Vanity, Kel called it. “Do not fear me, fear your forefathers, for they are the harbingers of the greatwar.”
Kel didn’t interject.
“It is your father, Ismair, your father who orchestrated this madness” the Magi pursued, his words so convincing for Kel never opposed the sinful family he always despised.
“You are Lucius nar’Amonaga” Kel understood.
“That I hope, but no, I am Arathor” the hooded magi nodded, pretending to bow in the Illyran fashion. “My Prince”.
Kel didn’t understand. It makes no sense, Arathor the Bold fought Shand alongside my father for years. Why?
“Did we… lose?” Kel asked.
“Of course not,” the magi who called himself Arathor answered. “Your father is really skilled at what he does, and this war was his. Thanks to your moral sacrifice, a new dawn illuminated us.”
“Why are we in the Black Temple then?” Kel asked, struggling to move for his bonds.
“The Black Temple has fallen my Prince. It is Illyran now, or at least, it was.”
Shock seized Kel. How could he have missed the final stages of his own campaign against the Draedar? How long has he been unconscious?
“What is the day?” Kel asked, his voice shivering.
The smile Kel read on the Magi’s face had nothing humorous. It looked cruel. Just like the cruelty a child shows freely on anyone equally.
“The year is 1477, of Emperor Arius’ 19th year of His Reign, of the Third Age, and you lay underneath of the Ashpit, once known as the Dungeons of Cirpal, known in mythical times as the Black Temple.”
Nothing. That was what prevailed in Kel’s mind before it comprehended the Magi’s claim. This is 700 years after… He had once heard such feats were at human reach, but he refused to accept that extravagant mockery. Does time even exist?
“Are you jesting?” Kel didn’t laugh when he questioned the magician.
“Of course not my Prince,” the hooded Magi replied with a smile. “Be reassured, you are a hero, a saint in this day and age. Surprising, is it not?”
A hero? Kel imagined. It canno’t be.
Suddenly, his bonds loosened, and Kel instantly rose, realizing to have pierced through ice. Despite the numbness caused by the frost, his body reacted at in incredible speed, almost like if his fight with Shand was still driving his muscles’ reaction. Bursting out of a blunt rage, he grabbed the Magi by the neck, lifting him with little effort.
“Where is the door?”
The man laughed, and his strangled mockeries scared Kel himself.
“Brilliant,” the Magi said. “Follow the cave. Brave New World.”
Tired of the giggling fool’s riddles, Kel snapped his neck, ending his nonsense. Death had something final to it. Staring at the blue flames that never faded, Kel felt his own thirst for blood. They used to say you could stare at yourself by observing the howling fire of a wizard. His face was the same as it always was – lean, pale, cynical -, it hadn’t changed, except for his eyes. His sapphire eyes had turned red. He knew. These aren’t my eyes.
They were Shand’s.
Where am I? Why am here?
Trapped below the Black Temple, Kel who was possessed by Shand’s evil, knew he had to follow the cave, and find out the new world by himself. Why me?
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