The Light Wand and the Ice Blade Chapter 15
Shadows of the Past
Bram stood on the parapets of the abandoned castle, his home for the past twenty years. He gazed at the tundra that stretched towards the horizon. This snow-filled continent had been his domain but that would change very soon. He had spent the last twenty years preparing to rule the pathetic planet known as Filgaia. He would no longer gaze at snow but at scorched plains and burning cities. He would make the humans tremble before him as he sat on his throne made from the bones of his adversaries, their heads hanging on poles in front of the entrance of his fortress as a warning to those who defied him.
And he had the perfect humans in mind.
The Demon Lord smirked at the thought, the thrill of anticipation making his fingers tingle. To see the trios heads lined up before him was a sight to behold. For the human race to see their saviors beheaded would devastate them. And to add insult to injury, he would add the new nuisances that Razan and Bow had fought to his collection. He knew for certain that the rest of the human race would fall into despair, seeing their last hope swinging from the poles.
Bram began to chuckle softly.
You seem pleased.
The black-haired demon suddenly stopped his mirth and merely turned his head to see Valta kneeling behind him with his head bowed down. So, youve returned, Bram stated as he reverted his gaze back at the snowfield. Why isnt Razan with you?
He decided to stay at Malduke, the cat-demon replied, his head still kept down.
Malduke? Bram questioned as he turned fully to look at the kneeling demon.
Yes. Valta slowly stood up and looked at Bram squarely in the eyes. Its a city in the sky that is more powerful than the Photosphere, he explained. A weapon among the stars, high above Filgaia. It is fully operational and ready for use.
More powerful than the Photosphere . . .? Bram mused as he stroked his chin. How would you know this?
We saw a record of some sort when we reached its control center, the cat-demon replied. It showed Filgaia covered in darkness that could only be purged by the power of the Guardians and the Tear Drop combined.
The Guardians? Bram inquired. Theyre strong enough to expel such a force?
Combined with the Tear Drop, yes, Valta nodded.
Tear Drop? Bram questioned thoughtfully. What is this Tear Drop? How is it related to the Guardians powers?
Perhaps I can answer that for you, a disembodied voice answered from around them.
Bram and Valta looked to the side as Bow appeared from thin air.
The archer nodded his head at the two before telling his own report. It seems our resident monsters werent lying about the Guardians, he began. The Tear Drop is what gives them life, and thus, give this planet life. But what the Tear Drop is, I dont know.
The Tear Drop is a small jewel, Valta supplied then smirked and added, carried by the female spellcaster.
No doubt, passed on to her daughter, Bow muttered darkly.
But will this Tear Drop or the Guardians pose a threat to our plans? Bram demanded.
Valta and Bow grew quiet as they tried to think of an answer. Then: Perhaps not, Bow replied confidently. They did pose a threat to our predecessors, but I doubt theyll pose a threat to us. The records we found in the Photosphere showed that they were a threat from what we could understand from them. Seth wants you and Razan to view them to get a better interpretation.
Yes, that would be wise, another voice echoed around them.
In a puff of smoke, Razan appeared before the group.
I thought you were going to learn more about Malduke, Valta said as soon as the wizard appeared.
And I was, Razan nodded, until I found that it was impossible to learn more about it. There are no more records besides the one we found and there are still some unanswered questions. I think its best to view the records Seth and Bow found in the Photosphere. Perhaps they contain the answers I seek. If not, then we could go back to Adlehyde and retrieve a source.
Very well, Bram acquiesced. Preparations are complete here in Arushan. When those fools find out that this place is a deception, it will be too late. Lets go!
All four demons disappeared in their own way, as they teleported to the Photosphere, leaving their home abandoned---except for some shadows---once more.
A man clad in fur and carrying a thin spear leapt off his shaggy horse to study a trail on the snow covered ground. The erd wen this way, he announced to his small band of similar clad figures on horses before mounting up. With a wave of his spear, he urged his group onwards to the hunt.
Bruen, the leader of this band, sat tall and straight atop his mount, the reins held in one hand while the other held his spear. His keen hazel eyes scanned the horizon for the herd of elk they were hunting. He frowned at that thought.
Since his grandfathers time, the valley of Glacia had been dwindling in its resources. Their valley, tucked within the ring of mountains of Arctica, hidden from the outside world, had always provided its people with food ranging from the elk and the mountain goats to the fish in its lone lake for as long as they could remember. But now they had to hunt for their food outside the safety of their valley, which began to prove difficult twenty years ago when there was a disturbance.
He was only five years old but he remembered that day well. A group of men from his village that had went to hunt for food returned with news of five beings falling from the sky and landing near the hidden entrance to the valley. They had followed them until they had reached the abandoned castle at the east edge of the ring of mountains and found that they had decided to take residence there.
Their arrival had marked the beginning of their strife. Herds of elk were now becoming difficult to track since there were so many activities taking place within the ring of mountains. Bruen remembered another explosion a couple weeks ago that had scared the herd they were tracking. He found out later that the explosion was caused by one of the visitors from the sky.
Frustrated, Bruen had gone to his mother for advice. The only words of wisdom she would impart was that they should persevere for the sake of their people. He sighed, his breath billowing out in the chill air.
Who were they? Why had they hid in Glacia for . . . How long . . .? What is the history of their people? Bruen wished to know their lost past, wished to know the answers to these questions. His mother seem to possess such knowledge, but refrained from passing it along.
Why retain such knowledge when their people were starving for the truth?
Literally starving, he thought as he remembered about the hunt.
Its been a week since his band of hunters left the valley to gather more food for their supply in the village was dwindling. Theyd better hurry with a bounty of food or the villagers would need to start rationing the food that is left.
He urged his horse on through the piles of snow, hoping to end their hunt soon and return to the valley. If his mind were clear of all thoughts except on the hunt, he would have realized that he was leading his group right into the abandoned castle that his people had avoided for centuries . . .
Yes, some things have become clear, Razan muttered when the last record was played. Dont you agree, Valta? he added as he looked at the cat-demon.
Valta nodded in agreement. The part about the Tear Drop and the Guardians have become very clear but I still question about the first war they had upon landing on this planet. And how they were capable of sealing Mother.
My thoughts exactly, Razan agreed. He then turned to Bram, who was staring at the blank screen in thought. What do you think, my lord? he asked him.
Their leader stroked his chin, a sign telling the others that he was deep in thought. They underestimated their opponent, he whispered to himself after a moments pause before turning away from the screen. He silently motioned for Razan to follow and both demons left the control room, the door silently closing behind them.
Seeing that the meeting was at an end, Seth and Bow resumed their seats at the control panel. Valta, on the other hand, decided to explore the Photosphere. He silently slipped out of the room on all fours.
Where are we going, my lord? Razan asked as they traversed a long dark hallway.
Were going exploring, Bram replied, turning down another corridor, scouting. Id like to see the land that were about to rule. To learn its layout so I could make plans of how things would be done and where things should go. You understand?
Razan muttered an affirmative. But what does that have to do with me? the wizard asked.
Your magic can disguise us as humans, the leader explained. For you see, while we are scouting, well be gathering intelligence as well. And perhaps well find a library filled with the history of this world. If not, then we can obtain a reliable source as you have suggested. Though thats the fastest way to obtain the information we seek, the experience of traveling Filgaia outweighs the method. Ill only use that as a last resort.
I understand, Razan nodded. Then shall we get going?
Yes, Bram replied.
Bruen! Stop! someone shouted.
The leader of the group of hunters pulled on the reins of his horse that slowed to a halt. What? Bruen asked turning back to see who had stopped him.
A figure trotted forward; a veteran by what Bruen could tell from the figures heavy built and the heavy lance, whose tip was large and barbed, that he held with ease. His assumption was right when he got a glimpse of the figures face beneath the heavy fur hood.
The hunters face was heavily scarred, one scar running through his right eye, another on his left cheek to the side of his mouth, and the last across the bridge of his nose. He had a graying beard and his one dark brown eye seemed to pierce through the snow that suddenly began to fall.
The grizzled hunter halted when he was next to his leader. ave ye noticed where were eaded? he asked Bruen.
Fore the erd, Bruen answered matter-of-factly. Is that no obvious?
Aye, the veteran nodded in agreement. But ave ye noticed were eaded fore thcastle as well?
Th. . .castle . . .? Bruen repeated uncertainly.
Aye, the veteran nodded once again. Thcastle that we ave avoided fore as long as our people ave lived in Glacia.
I remember now, the veterans leader nodded before looking around his surroundings. They were indeed near the castle, the curve of the mountain range revealing the veterans words to be true. He cursed himself for being so ignorant of his immediate surroundings. A great leader would not have made the same mistake.
A great leader just like his father.
But a great leader also learned from his mistakes and Bruen was one who learned quickly. He nodded determinedly as he scanned the area, trying to think of a plan of action. If the herd were heading towards the castle then they would have to proceed with caution. Though they believed the castle to be abandoned, he couldnt risk the chance of being found out.
Finalizing the plan he had in mind, he turned back to his group. All right, he began, addressing the group. Keegan as brought tme attention that were near thcastle. As ye kno, we ave always avoided it during our unts. Bu now thelk as wandered near thfortress. We must utilize extreme caution.
He paused for a moment for the news to be absorbed. I propose, he continued after that moments pause, fore Keegan an another one o ye tscout aead an see ow close the erd is to thcastle. Threst o us will be makin camp . . . He paused once more as he scanned the area looking for a good place to rest.
There, he stated pointing towards a nearby outcrop of snow-covered boulders, beind those rocks where well be idden from pryin eyes.
Bruen then began leading his group to the cluster of boulders he had indicated. Keegan, the grizzled veteran that had warned of their impending approach of the castle, rode besides his chief. Good plan, Bruen, he commended softly in his rough voice.
ave ye chosen who would accompany you on yer scoutin? the young leader asked without looking at Keegan.
Aye, the veteran hunter replied.
Then best ye be goin, Bruen said before riding ahead of the group, leaving Keegan behind.
Two fur-clad figures crouched atop a small ridge overlooking their immediate surroundings. They could see an ominous building a couple miles away, shrouded in a curtain of snowfall, and they could see a herd of elk slowly moving towards it.
No good, one of the figures muttered as he studied the movement of the herd. By thtime we get back to thcamp, the erd would be very close to thcastle. I dont like the looks o this.
Then, what do ye suggest? the other figure asked the first.
Stealth, the first one answered simply.
Stealth . . .? his companion repeated uncertainly.
Aye, the first one nodded, stealth. Killem from afar wi bow an arrows, spears, throwing knives . . . Anything that can kill from a distance. We leave our orses beind an approach quickly an quietly. If we attack on orseback as always, we may attract the attention o those that may be livin in thcastle.
I thought no one resided there anymore, the second hunter stated.
Aye, the first hunter nodded once again. But remember those beings from the sky. They ave decided ttake residence there.
Ye ave a point, the second one agreed.
The first one then stood up. Lets ead back tcamp an report tBruen.
The second one nodded and both hunters left the ridge disappearing into the tundra.
Night had fallen when Keegan and his partner returned from their reconnaissance. When they arrived, half the camp was already asleep. One of the hunters on night watch escorted the duo towards the campfire where Bruen sat watching the flames dance.
Light flickered on a stern face, hardened by years of hunting and leading. His fur hood was down revealing shoulder-length platinum hair that shone like moonlit snow swaying gently against his slim shoulders.
Bruen heard the approach of footsteps and turned to see that the scouting team has returned. ow did it go? he asked as he stood up to speak with them directly.
Not very good, Keegan replied gruffly. The erd continues tmove twards thcastle. We can still killem but it requires a different tactic.
Go on, Bruen encouraged curious to know what the tactic the old veteran was talking about.
If ye wish tavoid alerting the abitants o thcastle---if there are any abitants---I suggest that we kill the erd quickly an quietly. In other words, killem from a distance.
Killem from a distance . . . Bruen repeated softly to himself. He thought on that tactic. It was certainly different from their normal skirmishes with the beasts but if it was the only way to bring home the food they need in the village . . .
All right, he nodded afterwards, agreeing to Keegans plan. Well leave first thing tomorrow mornin.
The hunting group spent a full day traveling towards the herd. It was nightfall when they finally reached the vicinity of the ominous castle and the herd that grazed near its borders. Their camp was cold that night, protected from the sheer winds by the small bulk of their horses bodies. They did not dare make a campfire for want of scaring the elk away even further. It was a small sacrifice to make in order to get the hunt finished and return to their families.
Dawn came, the suns first rays embracing the land in its warm light. The hunters awakened and got ready for the days hunt ahead. Bruen gave orders to those that did not possess a long-ranged weapon to stay behind and watch the horses the rest were to leave behind.
Well be back by sundown, he told them when preparations were complete. Wish us luck.
May the Lord o the Valley make yer feet swift an guide yer weapons with deadly accuracy, a burly man in charge of the group that was staying behind returned. Courage and strength! He held up his huge curved sword.
Bruen grinned. Aye! he nodded as he lifted his spear into the sky followed by everyone else. And they shouted together:
Courage and strength!
The white elk milled about as they foraged for food a couple miles away from the castles walls unawares of the group of men that approached them, their scent carried away by the wind.
Bruen and the others felt uneasy as they approached the herd, their uneasiness stemming from the presence of the fortress. They felt that this area was forbidden, a place to be left alone.
Bruen stopped the group by raising his spear. The group stood atop a ridge not too far from the herd. He motioned to those carrying bows and arrows to come forward. Archers lined the ridge as they stepped forward, loading their weapons. One by one they pulled back on their bowstrings and aimed for the various elk below them.
Seeing that they were ready, Bruen raised his spear. Fire! he whispered harshly as he dropped down his spear.
He could hear the bows twang as the archers released their arrows. The group watched as those arrows rained down on the elk below. But the archers didnt watch as they got their weapons readied once again and fired when the first barrage of arrows claimed some of the elk. The second volley claimed a few more and then the third. They continued to fire their arrows until only a few elk were left.
Good work, Bruen congratulated the archers. The group then waited a while longer for the rest of the elk to gallop away, leaving their dead behind. A good catch. The Lord o the Valley as truly blessed us this day, he added softly when he saw that the elk they had killed number more than half of the herd.
They were truly blessed but sometimes a blessing could also be a curse.
ow are we tcarry that lot o elk? Keegan rumbled as he stood next to Bruen overlooking their kill. I didnt think we would kill this many.
Then we carry as many as we can back to thcamp, Bruen directed. After, we can return an carry threst provided that thbears or thwolves don get tthem first.
Very well, Keegan nodded. I can see no other way round it.
Bruen only nodded in return before walking away. After taking one more look at their kills, the grizzled warrior followed.
The hunters carefully wound their way down the steep and slippery path of the ridge to the base, the howling winds threatening to knock them over the edge. After an hour, they had reached the bottom and were now heading towards their prize.
Bruen trudged slowly, wary of the nearby fortress, while most of the others were eager to carry their meat back to camp. He watched as some of them passed him eagerly, their smiles showing on their faces.
As he trudged closer to the castle, he felt very strange. Then suddenly, he heard several clashes echoing around him as if there was a great battle. He looked around frantically as he held his spear defensively but he saw nothing.
Are ye all right?
Bruen whirled around preparing to thrust his spear towards the voice but halted when he saw that it was Keegan, his spear point just an inch from the grizzled hunters chest. He pulled his weapon back and awkwardly muttered an apology, embarrassed of his action.
Keegan, after recovering from his shock, placed a kind hand on Bruens shoulder. Thats all right, he reassured his leader, but are ye sure yere all right? Ye look a bit pale.
Aye, Im all right, Bruen assured. I guess Im just a bit tired.
Keegan nodded in understanding. Then lets urry an bring these elk back tcamp. The sooner ye get this done, the sooner ye can rest.
Yere right, Bruen sighed.
The veteran smiled and patted Bruens shoulder before joining the rest who were bounding some of the elks front hooves.
Bruen sighed once more before following Keegans example. He tried to forget what he heard as he slowly trudged through the snow once more. After a few steps, however, he heard the sounds of battle once more . . .
. . .and gasped when he saw the ghastly images of fallen warriors about him.
He heard stories of great battles from his mother but he never knew that he would witness one. He watched enthralled, yet disgusted, as men killed men with swords and spears and arrows, their shrieking death cries echoing around the gloomy area.
Suddenly, those cries stopped. The clashing ceased. And the images faded, swept away by the wind.
Bruen blinked as he found an empty plain before him. Damn sno an light!, he thought angrily as he rubbed his eyes. Playin tricks on me.
After getting his grip on reality, Bruen went to join the rest of his clansmen. When he reached the group, they were already making their way back to camp with Keegan in the lead. Each hunter dragged an elk by a rope bound around the animals front hooves. Some, who were strong and able, managed to drag two.
Theres no elk left, Keegan informed the young leader when he finally caught up with them.
Really? Bruen asked incredulously. I thought we didnt ave enough unters.
I thought so too but it seems that we do, Keegan replied then smiled beneath his shaggy gray beard. Our village shall ave a feast once we return! Lets urry ome!
Aye! Lets! the young hunter agreed fully, returning Keegans grin with a smile of his own. He then noticed that the grizzled hunter was dragging two elk behind him. Ye need elp wi those? he asked him.
No, Keegan shook his head. Ye just rest while we do thwork. I think ye need it.
All right, Bruen sighed but was secretly glad for the offer. He was indeed tired, the illusion of the battle he had witnessed a sign of his fatigue. Lets go then, he said before walking off, leading his group once more through the snow.
The wind that blew was a bit colder than before, an indication that the day was approaching its end. The steely sky seemed to grow darker as the wind began to pick up. Bruen knew that theyd better hurry or be stuck out in the tundra at night.
And the tundra can be a very dangerous place during the night.
urry! he told his men. We don ave much---
He suddenly halted looking frantically about. He heard the sounds of battle once again but this time he could hear distinct voices through the cries and clashes.
There can only be one ruler and that ruler shall be me!
It takes more than a crown trule a kingdom! It takes a pure heart an a clear mind! Ye possess neither one!
Who cares? It takes strength to rule, an iron fist! Here! Ill prove it to you!
More clashing resounded throughout the area. Suddenly, Bruen gasped when two ethereal figures appeared before him, their swords clanging against each other as they fought. The young leader watched until one lost his grip on his sword.
The weapon flew through the air and landed point first near its wielder, who had fallen. The victor stood above his fallen opponent.
See? Didnt I tell you that it takes strength? You and your foolish ideals!
Foolish they may be but it as served thkingdom well.
But times are changing and those rules dont apply as well as it had before. Its time for a new ruler. Do you yield your crown or shall I force it off?
Bruen watched as the fallen removed a circlet from his head.
ere! Take it!
The figure threw the circlet at the victor, who eagerly snatched it and raised it above his head in a sign of triumph. The fallen warrior then slowly stood up and took his sword.
Ye may be thking now, Donovan, but someday ye will fall. Ye were right bout one thing: it takes strength trule but it takes strength o a different kind. The question is: Do ye have that strength?
Bruen observed as the fallen opponent turned away and . . .
Walked towards him!
He stood still as he gazed at the mans forlorn face. There was something familiar about him, as if hed seen him before. Then it hit him.
Uncle?! he gasped softly.
The man bore a remarkable resemblance to his mothers brother, his uncle. At the thought of him, he grew angry. His uncle had betrayed his own family, his own people, just to get a glimpse of the outside world. His father had thought ill of him saying that he possessed no pride for his people. He recalled meeting his uncle for the first time when he was a mere boy.
He was excited to meet his uncle, at first, and had a high opinion of him. After he had left once again, that opinion changed. His father had told him of his uncles betrayal.
All because of a woman he had seen in one of their hunting trips.
But why did this spectral figure look like him? Were they related somehow?
Bruen suddenly stepped back in fright when the figure decided to stop before him. He stared at his eyes---so much like his uncles, so full of sorrow---it looked . . .
It looked as if the ghostly figure was staring at him, looking at him.
The figure moved his hand slowly forward towards Bruen and laid it upon his head.
Bruen suddenly felt light-headed, his knees buckling beneath him. He fell and the last thing he saw before sleep took him was the figure vanishing into the wind . . .
He seemed to be floating above the area around the castle. He looked down to see a large gathering at the castles gates. It looked as if they were departing. Curious, he flew down to get a closer look.
His assumption proved correct when he saw the horses pulling carts full of household goods. The old and defenseless ones---including the women and children---were gathered near these carts, towards the middle of the gathering, while the men stood or rode on horses around the perimeter in order to protect those in the middle.
Children laughed, thinking this to be some sort of great adventure while the women and the elderly were saddened to leave their home.
He wondered why they were leaving the great castle. Werent they safer staying within the high walls than to travel the tundra? He then noticed a great horse standing at the head of the congregation.
The rider sat straight and tall as he gazed at the tundra before him. He then turned his head to look at the people.
The flying figure gasped when he saw the face.
It was the face of . . .
Bruens shouting brought him to full wakefulness and he opened his eyes to gray walls and a familiar ceiling.
He realized that he clutched a sheet of white wool and that he was half-naked, his shirt missing. He blinked and drew his hand across his eyes, trying to clear his mind of the confusing scene he had witnessed. He took a few deep breaths before taking a look at his surroundings.
He was in a room---his room he realized when he noticed the furniture, or lack thereof. ow did I get ere?, he thought as he removed himself from his bed. But as soon as he stood up, his head began to pound and his vision began to swirl. He held a hand to his head as he slowly sat back down before his legs would buckle beneath him.
Seeing that moving wont get him anywhere, he decided to figure out what had happened since the hunt. The last thing he remembered was seeing a spectral figure of . . .
The figure looked like his uncle, yet he was somehow different. Who was he? Why did he look like his uncle? But most importantly, was he the only one in the hunting group to have seen the ghost? Or was the ghost a figment of his imagination, a product of his mind from his weariness?
His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the crashing of the door opening and a loud uptight voice, Bruen!
The young man looked up to see his mother standing at the doorway, her blue eyes clouded with concern.
Mother, Bruen began as she entered his room, ow did I get ere? ow long ave I been sleeping?
His questions went unheard, however, when his mother walked towards him and began administering a number of physical examinations. Mother? Bruen inquired as she placed a hand on his head.
Bruens mother nodded to herself as if to reassure herself of something. She then slapped her son on the back of his head, which took him by surprise. What was that fore?! he complained as he rubbed his sore head.
Fore worryin me so, his mother replied. Yeve been out cold fore nearly a week!
A week! Bruen repeated in disbelief. Yeve got tbe jokin! What appened? Who brought me ere?
Keegan brought yback along wi all o thother unters, his mother explained as she gently pushed him back onto his pillows. e said that ye fainted while ye were leadin thgroup back tcamp. Ynever regained consciousness on thway back ome. They say ye cried out in yer sleep, shoutin bout yer uncle. Mind tellin me what ye saw out there tmake ye look troubled?
Bruen sighed as he leaned back against his pillows and closed his eyes. He had not forgotten the visions he had seen. How could he not when they kept on replaying in his mind? He then opened his eyes and looked at his mother, who had sat down on his bed besides him. She was looking down at him with caring eyes, patiently waiting for him to explain.
The erd o elk we unted went near thcastle, he began. Twas there that we caught them. Thothers wen tgather them ahead o me. As I approached, I witnessed a battle o sorts. Dead bodies littered thground an I could ear their death cries echoin round me. Here he paused to take a deep breath before resuming.
As soon as it ad appeared, the vision vanished an I was able tjoin thothers. It was while we were goin back that I ad another disturbin vision. Twas the same as the first but this time I could ear distinct voices through the cries. It sounded as if they were fightin fore thcrown o thcastle. They batled until there was ony one victor. Thloser relinquished is crown before walkin away . . . twards me. He then laughed softly.
Maybe Im wrong but thman looked like . . . Bruens voice trailed off.
Looked like whom? his mother urged him.
Uncle! Bruen exclaimed. e looked like uncle! ow could that be?! I wanted tbelieve that I imagined it but ever since, I keep avin these flashbacks. In one o these flashbacks, I see im leadin an assembly from thcastle into thtundra. Why is that? What ave I witnessed?
He then looks imploringly at his mother. Tell me, mother! Ye should know! What do these visions ave tdo wi me an uncle? What are these visions?!
The past, his mother replied softly. She then stood up and strode over to the window, looking through the glass at the falling snow outside.
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