–The Age of Death,
The Seventh World
Argor, Post Exodus 584–
Argor. It was the second largest city in all of the charted Outlands – its defenses surpassed only by the great Red Wall itself. Like Lock Core, it too was carved from the Gorian, though this far west of the Capitol, the stone was all white. Rarely could even a thin vein of red granite be found. In the winter months – which were incredibly long so high up the Gorian -- the city was unreachable. In the spring thaw, the roads were treacherous. In the fall, they were risky. Only during the summer was trade and travel feasible. For the most part, the inhabitants of the white-walled city of Argor lived in isolation from the rest of the ‘civilized’ Seventh World. Such was the wish of its founder; to create a city even the dead couldn’t reach. Lock Core may have its giant red wall, but Argor had the elements themselves to keep it safe. And there were miles of narrow passes as well, and a million opportunities to trap the dead within them. If one day the dead truly did seek the city, it would cost them dearly to reach it. And if they did reach it, they would face Argor’s own wall, and the hearty people born to defend it.
Unlike Lock Core, the people of Argor never forgot the sacrifice of their ancestors and what the Seventh World meant in the struggle to maintain life. When the Plague came to Lock Core, they didn’t join in its defense, but awaited it upon their own wall. It never came. The Destroyer sent it back into the Black Door . . . or so they all thought.
But there remained one who was infected. He raised his own army -- but not in Lock Core. Town by town, city by city, LeCynic took over the Outlands. Eventually, even Argor fell as easily as the rest -- infected from within. Its walls and weather meant nothing.
So it goes with the Plague . . .
But there was one Argorian who did escape, just days before the coming of the Plague; a boy of great power -- given to him by the Gods themselves.
His name was Tetloan of Argor.
And had LeCynic encountered the boy, and faced his power and rage, even the undead Keeper might have thought twice about taking the city.
Tetloan stood on the balcony of white stone, scowling at those down below. His orange head of hair appeared to catch fire as the sun rose over the Gorian. He wore a rich burgundy cloak, fastened at the front with clasps of silver. In the sandy courtyard beneath him, the Master-at-Arms took a group of children through various offensive stances, the students’ wooden blades rapping against one another as though they were keeping rhythm to a fast-paced song.
The boy crossed his arms, sneering at them.
“I’m not going down there,” he stated, continuing to regard the other children with contempt.
“I don’t give a dead, lad. By the Gods, true and false, I command you to go. Everyone must train, Tetloan. Since the days of the Exodus, such has been the way of the Argor,” his father said, waddling onto the balcony.
Had the balcony not been made of stone, and of dwarven craftsmanship, the cantilevered structure might have collapsed under the man’s weight of well over four hundred pounds.
Gemstone rings set in gold were nearly enveloped by his meaty fingers. Despite the late season and cool mountain air, the man wore a loose tunic, deeply cut, exposing a wiry mass of grey hairs on his chest.
“I have been far too soft on you, lad. You’re to be a man soon, and should begin to act as such. Part of that means acquiring the ability to protect yourself, and perhaps one day your family as well.”
“Protect them from what?” the boy asked, continuing to glare into the courtyard. “If you ask me, it’s a waste of time. All of it.”
“Well, I ain’t asking you. If you had lived during the War, you would not be speaking so. When the dead come to our wall, we must stand against it, one and all. Besides . . .”
He tried to settle his flabby hand on the boy’s shoulder, but Tetloan shrugged it away.
“I have spoken with your instructors, and they tell me of your difficulties with the other children, particularly some of the boys. You must learn to stand up to them, especially if you wish to one day follow in my footsteps.”
“I hate them.”
His father answered with a hearty laugh.
“I never said you had to like them, lad. All you need to do is teach them that you’re not a man to be trifled with.”
There was a time when they feared him and left him alone – called him cursed (but only behind his back).
How he longed for those days, but they were no more.
Lately, they’ve grown braver; spurred on by the Smithy’s brawny son, Gregor. Now, never a day goes by that Tetloan isn’t pushed around, or made fun of for his natural red hair . . . or his ‘curse’. On more than one occasion, he returned to the Keep with a bloody lip or bruised flesh. He was the Mayor’s son, yet they humiliated him, and made him feel insignificant. Even worse, they made him feel like there was something wrong with him, as if he were evil.
Was he evil?
As much as he hated to admit it, there were truth to the rumors – strange things did happen around him. For one, there were the fires. Objects happened to spontaneously combust when he was around, and he couldn’t deny that their frequency coincided with the level of his anger. Even the weather took on his mood. Once, when he was at his grumpiest, an actual raincloud appeared and seemed to follow him around. It wasn’t until his mood changed that it finally dissipated and drifted away.
Maybe they are right, he thought.Maybe I’m a freak, possibly even evil.
Whatever the case, he knew that he didn’t belong with them.
No . . . he absolutely did not want to go down there.
Not to mention, these children had all been born with a sword in their hands, while Tetloan was fourteen suns now and had never actually held one. He blamed that on his care-taker, who forbid it. It was her duty to ensure his safety, and things such as weapons generally came in conflict with that role.
Everyone else in Argor had been raised by their parents learning weapon skills as they learned to walk. Even before the Plague entered the Seventh World, such was the case. And so it remained, even though the Plague had been defeated by the Destroyer, the fear of its return had been passed on to Tetloan’s generation.
But unlike the rest of his peers, Tetloan’s father was a busy man; and had no actual fighting skills to bestow his son. In truth, he was purely a diplomat who spent most of his time away from the city – especially during the winter, when he always had some excuse to visit the southern Outland cities. And if he wasn’t away from the city on official business, he was tied up dealing with the never-ending stream of grievances from the Panel of Elders.
Until today, Tetloan had been forced to endure the situation on his own. He had no friends, and the closest thing he had to a mother was the House Matron, Eneta. His true mother died during childbirth. Eneta had been the one to raise him – but she did so with little love. When she held him to stop his crying, it was because she couldn’t stand the noise; not because she actually cared how he felt.Tetloan had been born with the understanding that shedding tears received no sympathy, and that he had a better chance of finding it by spilling his sorrows to the white curtain wall than he did speaking with Eneta.
Now, he never cried – even when the other children were at their cruelest. He wasn’t entirely incapable of it; mainly he just didn’t want to give them the satisfaction. He knew they would love nothing more than to see him weep. Then their victory would be complete; the cursed Mayor’s son fully degraded and broken. No. He wouldn’t cry. Not for them. Not ever.
His father was right.They would never respect him until he had power – and to have power, he had to learn how to fight. Once he was able to defeat them, then they would know he was not a man to be trifled with.
With that thought in mind, he brushed past his father and headed to the courtyard. He was determined to master the sword – after all, if every commoner in Argor could do it, Tetloan believed he should be able to pick it up with relative ease.
Besides, he knew his father would be watching, and meant to make him proud.
The moment he stepped onto the sandy training grounds he knew he had made a mistake. Everyone stopped what they were doing to stare at him. Whispers became chuckles. And then the Smithy’s son spoke, and the chuckles turned to outright laughter.
“Better hide your practice swords, or Little Red’s gonna use em as kindling,” Gregor said, shoving his way to the front of the crowd.
He was shy of his seventeenth sun, yet was larger than the average adult male. He stood a full six feet tall – every inch of which was packed with solid muscle. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on the boy – which was visibly apparent, for he wore a sleeveless fur vest that revealed his sculpted chest and arms. Had his father been a baker, he still would have been unusually big and strong, but his years as a smith gave him unnatural strength; something one could only acquire after years of pounding steel into submission at the forge. And whatever free time he had, was spent swinging a giant two-handed sword (often with only one hand). He was a born warrior. Even without the existence of the Plague, Gregor would still seek out something, or someone to fight – someone like Tetloan.
“Oh, oh. Looks like his hair’s already caught fire,” Gregor continued, receiving further laughter, even though Tetloan and the rest of the inhabitants or Argor had heard a variation of the insult at least a hundred times before.
“Enough of this, Gregor. The boy’s come to train, and all are welcome to enter this ground in Argor.”
The speaker was Evan Groll; a thin, wisp of a man who was without a doubt the greatest swordsman in Argor. He was also the city’s Master-at-Arms, making it his duty to train Argor’s citizens to peak efficiency. Groll was nearing the twilight years – his short, once chestnut colored hair was now dark grey, while years of staring into the wind from atop the white walls had hardened his face into leather.But like a fine wine, Groll grew better with age. The rugged landscape and weather eventually wore most people down physically and mentally, but Groll was strengthened by it. It made him a stronger and tougher fighter than would have been possible had he lived in the soft, southern lands.
“Fine, then. I’ll let him use mine,” Gregor said, throwing his massive log of a training blade at Tetloan’s feet. “I’ll even partner with him . . . teach him how to use it,” he continued, picking up a standard sized sword – which seemed like a twig in his hands.
“Tetloan, are you fine with this?” Evan Groll asked, striding to him.
How could he say no? Tetloan wasn’t about to show weakness before his training had even begun. He nodded his head of red hair and picked up the weapon. He thought it could actually be a blessing in disguise. If he could hold his own, sparring with Gregor, then the rest of the children would come to respect him – maybe Gregor would as well.
Groll leaned down to Tetloan, who was fumbling with his grip on the massive wooden weapon.
“Don’t be intimidated by his size, child. Speed and grace count for everything in battle.”
Despite the man’s reputation, his advice stank. Tetloan had neither speed, nor grace. And it was impossible not to be in awe of Gregor’s brutish strength – even with the smaller sword, a blow to the head could crush Tetloan’s skull. What he needed was real advice; like how to keep Gregor from killing him.
Groll seemed to see the doubt in Tetloan’s eyes and said, “Take it easy on him, Gregor. He hasn’t the skill for a true contest.”
Tetloan knew Groll meant to be helpful, but his words felt like an insult.
Gregor didn’t respond, merely cast a wicked grin Tetloan’s way . . . he wouldn’t be taking it easy -- not on the cursed, spoiled son of the Mayor.
“Let’s revue some basics . . .” Groll said for Tetloan’s sake, directing the students into formation.
The lesson began simple enough; Groll demonstrated some rudimentary footwork, stances, and the importance of maintaining balance – all of which Tetloan managed to replicate fairly well. When he failed to catch on, Groll’s training staff was there to whack him into place.
Then things got tougher. The students paired off for a light back and forth. However, the exchange between Tetloan and Gregor was neither light, nor back and forth. Gregor rained down blow after vicious blow, never giving Tetloan enough time to even think of mustering a counter attack. He must have thought Tetloan was an anvil the way he hammered down at him. The large training blade was tiring to wield and incredibly awkward in Tetloan’s unskilled hands, but somehow he managed to stand his ground. His arms grew numb from the shock of the strikes and the weight of the blade as Tetloan fought to keep the Smithy’s son from crushing him. Eventually, his luck, desperation, and strength wore out and Gregor’s sword began to ‘work’ Tetloan’s flesh.
Groll watched him closely; offering pointers on his stance and adjusting his footing with a rap of his stick. But mostly, Groll watched to make sure Tetloan was safe, that his many bumps and bruises didn’t become broken bones. Tetloan’s father watched closely as well. While picking himself up off the ground, he often looked up to see his father’s jowls wagging as he shook his head in disappointment.
Growing ever more battered and bruised, Tetloan never failed to get to his feet and face Gregor again.
“I’m not afraid of you, Little Red,” Gregor said, glaring at Tetloan who was struggling to get back to his feet after suffering a blow to his ribs that had left him momentarily breathless. “Argor is the safest place in the Seventh, but you threaten that. You know what you are?”
He wished he knew.
“Let me guess . . . a red-haired freak?” Tetloan managed to reply between breaths.
“You’re an infection. And I mean to cut you out.”
He’d been called many things: cursed, evil . . . red-haired freak. He had endured them all. Even learned to live with it, and accept it as part of his life. But somehow this was different. Being called infected didn’t make him feel sad or small, only . . . angry.
The anger gave him focus, clarity. He felt the world around him as though it was an extension of his will – a part of him, as tangible as his own flesh and blood. With a thought, he could control it, as easily as his own limbs.
He was too absorbed in the strange sensation, marveling at his sudden new-found power, that he failed to realize Gregor’s wooden sword was coming at him harder than ever, and that it fell squarely on top of his head. The blow should have killed him instantly, but it only dropped him to his knees. He was dazed and disoriented – but miraculously, he was not dead. Blood spilled down his face – covered his eyes.
With his vision tinged red, he saw his father high up in the balcony. He didn’t look worried, or concerned . . . merely disappointed.
Gregor paused for an instant; stunned that Tetloan wasn’t flat on his back. The wooden blade was cracked in half so he picked his original two-handed weapon off the sand and raised the huge wooden blade for another attempt to see him laid out, or dead.
Groll moved to stop him, his own blade of silver and steel was unsheathed and moving impossibly fast to intercept Gregor’s attack.
But it wouldn’t be fast enough.
Infected . . .
Tetloan’s blood boiled . . . it turned to fire.
The air around him . . . the earth below him . . . he felt it all . . . even Gregor’s wooden sword.
The blade touched his hair and turned to flames.
He even felt the Smithy’s son. His flesh was his to control – he could transform it, or simply erase it. How easy it would be to turn him to flame. They wouldn’t laugh at him then.
How small Gregor seemed as he stumbled back. How weak, nursing his burnt hand.
Infected? Evil? They will know what he really is.
Tetloan became fire, a living inferno. The students all fell back, even Evan Groll joined them. Tetloan wouldn’t have thought it possible, but the man’s leathery face showed fear. Good.Tetloan wanted to show them all what he was . . . the flames rose higher, forty feet in the air. He faced his father, watched him waddle away in fear. All of Argor would know him now . . . what he truly was – pure power.
No. They would never trifle with him again.
In Argor, it was law that no less than ten mages stand the white walls at any one time. Within the walls, there should be no less than thirty. Though the High-Tower lost many Magi in the War (and even before then they had been in short supply), Argo still adhered to the law, and paid dearly to see it maintained.
And so it was, when Tetloan unleashed his power at the training grounds. Atop the white walls, ten mages saw a pillar of blue flames unlike anything they had ever seen before -- which was saying a lot, for two of the mages had seen a great deal at the battle of Lock Core. No matter where the rest of the city’s Magi were, they too saw -- or felt, the great eruption of Singularity.
It filled them with fear.
When they learned it had come from the Mayor’s son, they were even more troubled. They knew he had mage-blood, and had sensed the power in him before. Long ago, he had been tested. Though it was there, the boy lacked the ability to detect it. They thought if they were lucky, it would simply never manifest. But it had. They had seen him use the Oneness, even when he had not. They knew that what the others called a curse, was in fact the blessing of mage-blood. His use had been minimal, and thus hadn’t warranted containment. But now, his power was so great they feared nearing him. Like another Destroyer, the boy could at any moment obliterate them all.
He was beyond containment.
They sent to the High-Tower for help. In the meantime, like the rest of Argor, they either avoided him, or if unable to do so, they submitted to his every whim -- lest his anger gives rise to their deaths.
They endured the passing of winter and spring, living in fear of the child. It wasn’t until summer’s end that they finally had a response from the High-Tower. And when it came, it was in the form of one man; a Red-Mage named Brice Langlia. He had two other children at his side, both of which held their own incredible amount of power. His arrival was met with great disappointment, for the man had a reputation as a fool, a man many thought had been outcast from the order altogether.
And indeed, he lived up to the reputation; smiling with joy at the sight of the child when he should have been trembling with fear. When it was time for the Red-Mage to claim the boy, many Magi hid. Those that stayed remained partly out of curiosity -- they wondered how one Red-Mage could possibly contain such a child -- and partly out of need to save the city should his anger arise.
The boy grew angry indeed; practically throwing a tantrum as his father the Mayor ordered him to accompany the Red-Mage. His power manifested, greater than ever before.
When they saw his blue flames arise, the Magi didn’t move to help, but to flee, for surely they would all die. But instead of finding the white walls collapsing around them, nothing happened.
They turned back.
What they saw was a weave of blue flames more delicate and intricate than any silken tapestry. They were amazed that a mere Red-Mage had managed such a feat, for even with their powers combined, the Magi of Argor could not have created a shield so complex.
It covered the boy -- who raged against it, even though he was utterly oblivious to its existence. The blue shield flexed and expanded. But in the end, it held and his power was depleted. Believing his magic was gone, and having no other option, the boy was forced to join the Red-Mage.
For days afterward (until the Plague took their city) the Magi spoke of the weave of flames; the most beautiful and elegant display of the Singularity they had ever seen. But most amazing of all was that it had been created, not by a White-Mage or a Keeper, but by a curly haired little girl.
After the Red-Mage left, his reputation as a fool was greatly diminished among the Argorian Magi. Unfortunately, none of them lived long enough to spread the tale to the rest of the Seventh World.
With Galimoto flapping in the air at his side, Tetloan stalked the outskirts of camp.
The bastard’s out here . . . I can feel him, Tetloan thought, rubbing the pinkish scar where his arm used to be.
Through blue-fire, he scanned the distant darkness; the field of charred earth that was once the city of Shattered Rock. Something had been following them ever since they left the city, but thus far, the being had eluded detection.
Show yourself, coward, Tetloan wanted to scream to the darkness. If the being attacked, he would be ready – more than ready. He longed for the encounter; a chance to avenge all the evil the Plague had done, not only to himself, but more so for her . . .
After his next encounter with the Plague he would leave the undead in piles of ash, same with the encounter after that. As long as he lived he would burn them all to ash.
He still couldn’t believe she was gone. And he hadn’t done a thing to save her. He had been wounded, his power nearly depleted. When the wave of darkness washed over them, it took everything he had left just to save himself.
He wouldn’t make that mistake again.
If he ever saw the Destroyer . . .
The flames around his body became and inferno. Even the imp, Galimoto had to distance itself.
“Do not think to rob Galimoto of the honor of killing the foul one,”the Imp said, reading his thoughts as he often did. The small, blood-red creature hovered in front of Tetloan, wagging a claw at his face.
Tetloan could see the imp now, unfortunately. Not only could he see him, but the fiend had somehow bonded itself to him. Even if he wanted to be rid of the pest, he doubted it was possible, for their bond felt almost physical – like the creature was a part of him now. He had lost and arm but gained an imp. The creature was wicked, crude, and annoying, but their mutual loss and their hatred for the Destroyer made the imp bearable. He was also Tetloan’s only ally, companion, and the closest thing to a friend he had ever known.
‘Don’t worry, Galimoto. I mean to make his suffering last, just like ours. There’ll be enough time for both of us to have our revenge.’
The imp grinned, revealing row after row of jagged little teeth.
‘But we need something first . . .’
He turned his back on the darkness, and the mysterious undead follower, then headed into camp.
A pair of young ‘guards’ gave him a nervous greeting as he neared the camp’s perimeter. They held their silver etched swords awkwardly before them. The blades trembled in their hands, but didn’t lower as Tetloan came closer.
They feared him. And rightly so. Tetloan was a living weapon now. He didn’t give a dead about them. If they wished to give him trouble, he would return it tenfold. That applied to anyone else who tried to stand in his way. None of them mattered.
On second thought . . .
She matters, he decided, walking past the guards and turning to watch the curly haired girl, who was no longer content to just heal people, but was now pouring her power into a withering oak tree. He scowled at her, not because he bore her any ill will, it was quite the opposite. It angered him to no end, seeing her waste her power so. She would kill herself for these wretches, and for what?He didn’t want to see her die for nothing . . . like Nathalia. She had saved Tetloan’s life, her and Nathalia. In that sense, he supposed he owed her as much as he did Nathalia. She deserved better than this. She was too good of a person to be consumed with all this suffering and death. He wanted to wrap her in his power and take her far from this place. He would find a safe place somewhere in the Seventh World. And if he couldn’t, he would use his power to create one. Tetloan would face all the evil; she could have peace. He meant to do it, even if she refused him. But he had to do one thing first . . . find the Destroyer.
Did he love her?
He wasn’t sure. The only thing that was certain was that since the Archenon, his feelings for her had grown. But grown into what?
As foolish as she was, he couldn’t help but admire her. And even filthy and run-down she was still somehow adorable. Maybe it was her wide brown eyes, or plump red limps. Or maybe it was her caring nature he found charming. She was definitely an odd girl – who tries to heal a tree, for dead sake? But as inexplicable as her actions were to Tetloan; no one would dare deny Emily was a good person. And if they did, Tetloan would burn them to dust.
He wanted to go over to her, to talk about Nathalia, and how empty he felt without her. He never had a real mother – or anyone that actually ever cared for him. His feelings for the elf woman were complex, to say the least. He definitely loved her, he just wasn’t sure how. Her beauty was undeniable. Perhaps one day, Tetloan could have matured to love her on a physical level. But he could never match her age, experience and wisdom. And one day he would grow old, while she would remain virtually unchanged.
But she had loved another.
What she ever saw in that loser boggled Tetloan’s mind. She was the most beautiful, talented, and loving woman in the entire Seventh World and she gave her heart to a drunkard. Tetloan would have treated her like the goddess that she was. She shouldn’t have died because of him. She shouldn’t have been anywhere near such a disgusting and thoughtless man to begin with.
In the end, her love for Alec cost Nathalia her life.
Tetloan vowed to avenge her . . . but he needed some things first – it seemed only fitting that her fight continue on, and that when the Destroyer finally receives justice, it will be at the end of her orchid blades.
Under Emily’s care, the tree was healthy and now blooming. She turned to Tetloan, the smile dying on her lips when she realized he was glaring at her. His remaining hand was clenched into a flaming fist. She opened her plump limps as though to speak, but before she got a word out, Tetloan stormed away.
He was too angry to speak with her now. He had to finish this. Maybe afterwards, he would take her to a place, absent of death, and tell her how he felt.
There was someone else he needed to find now. He searched the camp for the One Elf -- he wasn’t hard to find. There was a large tree clear of refugees. Everyone avoided it and the being napping beneath it as though he was infected. The ‘great’ Solo Ki was a heap of soiled cloth and hair. His face was almost completely hidden beneath the filth. Whether it was his hood or his hair that covered his head, it was impossible to tell so filthy were both. His back was to the tree, his legs and hands were crossed in front of him. Leaning against the tree trunk was the legendary weapon, the Graelic, its tip a constant blood red hue.A worn leather scabbard could be seen at each of the elf’s hips, the leaf-shaped crossguards sparkled in the flicker of the camp fires.
‘I’m gonna need your help with this, Imp.’
Tetloan was well aware of the One Elf’s skill. He wasn’t certain even his flames would be a match for the elf if things went bad.
“Has the child gone completely insane?” the imp asked in his musical voice. “Steal from the One Elf? Galimoto would rather jump back into the Rift?”
‘Maybe later we’ll do exactly that,’ Tetloan replied, willing to go wherever he had to in order to find and kill the Destroyer. ‘But first I need her swords, Imp. It’s only fitting that his blood is spilt with them.’
Galimoto grew serious.
“The boy child is right. They would make a fitting end to the foul one.”
‘Good then. You know what to do.’
Their wills as one, the Imp flew off, his blood-red body blending with the shadows. The One Elf never stirred as the imp found a perch above him. Though Galimoto moved in utter silence, Tetloan held his breath, worried that even the most subtle shift in the wind from his beating wings would be enough to rouse the famous warrior. But the One Elf seemed oblivious to the intrusion.
Tetloan sent his power in – doing his best to imitate Emily’s subtle thin blue threads. He was getting better, though not as hair thin as hers, he still managed to avoid sending a blue fireball straight towards the One Elf. His small candle-sized flames slithered across the ground while Galimoto drifted down from his perch. The blue flames left only the faintest trail of black grass in their passing, only a slight curl of smoke to indicate they even existed to any other than those of the mage-blood. Galimoto was as sneaky, if not more so. Halfway to the ground he dug his claws into the trunk. Clinging there, his tail uncoiled. The forked barbs moving silently to the hilt of the weapon on the One Elf’s left hip. His tail was about to wrap around it, when at the same time Tetloan’s blue flames had also neared their destination and were preparing to hoist the other weapon free from its scabbard.
All the while the One Elf never moved, not even to draw breath.
But the One Elf never truly slept . . .
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
Came a raspy voice from somewhere beneath the pile of filthy hair and cape. Suddenly the Graelic was in his hands.
At the sound of his voice, Galimoto vanished back into the treetop. Tetloan plowed ahead. He was afraid, but he needed those blades. He needed Nathalia’s blades!
“I’m taking them, Solo Ki. And you can’t stop me.”
His candle flames became bonfires.
But still, the One Elf never stirred.
“Is that so, thief?” the elf calmly replied. “And what would you do with them, if somehow you could take them from me?”
“Put them to more use than you ever will.”
Tetloan’s missing left arm regrew into blue flames and shot out at the One Elf in a flaming fist.
“In her name, I’ll turn them into a whirlwind of silver-fire. Until my last breath I’ll make the undead pay for what they’ve done. All of them.”
Solo Ki calmly raised the Graelic to intercept Tetloan’s attack. His flaming fist vanished; all that was left was a thin wisp of smoke curling out from the Graelic’s tip.
Tetloan’s failure only incited his anger. The earth trembled as he summoned more of his power; as much as he could possibly hold. His body was a pyre; the earth itself was cracking beneath his feet. Even the air around him ignited, becoming a churning sea of flaming de . . .
The Graelic slammed into his chest, flinging him backwards and draining every last drop of his power with one blow.
Tetloan was on his knees, gasping for breath. He tried to push himself to his feet, but like a fool, he had forgotten he was short one arm and fell face first into the earth. He was laying there, trying to figure out what happened – how he had been so easily defeated – when a pair of orchid blades fell to the ground but inches from his face.
“They’re yours. But if wish to last for even a second against the Plague, you have much to learn. I’ll let you keep the blades, but only if you let me teach you how to use them. If you falter or defy me even once, I take them. If you try me again with your mage-fire, I’ll kill you. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing your vengeance fulfilled.”
Tetloan made it to his knees and ever so delicately grabbed one of the weapons. He knew nothing of swords – their use or their crafting. But nevertheless, from the silver orchid inlay on its face, to the razor-sharp edge, he was amazed by the blade’s perfection.
“I won’t disappoint you,” Tetloan said, as he admired the blade.
It was perfect . . . just like her.
He held the weapon and wept.
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