Alas, we’ve finally reached the end of my first story arc! Yaay! With this, Volume 1 is basically concluded, so I can finally move on to some more exciting stuff and revelations about the world and characters! Thank you guys for reading 🙂
CHAPTER X – THE RADIANCE (VI – FINALE)
“The only brush I need is blade, as all else is mere passing glory.” – S. Wook, ‘Of the Fallen’, Year 381 of Moon-Lyn Calender
The night had covered the skies above Dawnfae, littered about with countless stars, as if bejeweled. The city was still wide awake, as countless homes and streets had been destroyed in the large succession of explosions and fires started yesterday. Most believed it to be a rebellious attack while some suspected invasion.
In the midst of discussion, in front of the large city gates, entourage of hatred has arrived. Despite having ran all day long, none of the four showed any sign of tardiness as they approached the guards, Lyon leading upfront. Most of the trip had been spent in dead silence and they hadn’t even stopped once to rest, fueled by one, singular goal.
The guards quickly let them through, with warnings that the city had been attacked yesterday and that they should be careful and report any odd behavior. Four ignored them and quickly ran through, following Lyon as he lead them to the main house of the Phoenix family. It was buried in the deep west, near the very end of the city, and it took them almost an hour to reach it. Barred with stone walls ten meters high and reinforced wooden doors, it looked as an impenetrable fortes rather than someone’s home. There were no guards upfront and the inside reckoned no sound either. Eon suddenly stepped in front of the three, unsheathing his inhumanly large sword and drawing it backwards. One swing, he thought as he took deep breath. He clenched the handle of the sword with all his might, and using every muscle in his body, he moved forward, alongside the sword. Drawing from back towards the front, at his side, he swung the sword, aiming at the wooden part of the gate, with all his might. Upon collision, he felt his hands grow numb briefly, but suddenly a large, gaping hole had appeared where the gate used to be. The shattering produced a loud bang, and pieces of wood flew inwards, to the courtyard, rousing up particles of dust.
Moments after the gate was shattered, shouts began flirting with the silence. Eon led the trio, being the first one to enter inside the large courtyard. The main house was divided into several smaller ones, all built out of stone but with relatively adorned facades. Like ants, dozens of people suddenly began pouring out of each separate house, moving quickly towards the gates while shouting.
“It’s up to you, Lyon.” Eon said, glancing briefly at the young man who had a conflicted look on his face. Eon understood, but he couldn’t care. Not at the moment anyway.
Lyon simply nodded and quickly ran off, leaving Eon, Elain and Lye to meet up with the main force of the Phoenix family. The large barrage of people quickly began approaching; the sheer number had earth beneath shaking, and Lye’s and Elain’s spirits began wavering, but they didn’t withdraw. Leading the army-like force of the family was Lyon’s father, and right next to him was Alstar, the first prince. The two of them stopped a few meters away from Eon, both relatively surprised.
“What is the meaning of this?” Aggard asked in a harsh voice.
“Consider it a repayment.” Eon replied coldly.
“Repayment?” Alstar said, grim look on his face. “It seems that the country bumpkins don’t understand the hierarchy of gods.”
“If you turn back,” Aggard said, ignoring his son. “I can pretend none of this ever came to be. However, if you still wish to push, you’ll die.”
“Relax, you two,” Eon smiled and turned towards Lye and Elain who tightly held onto their weapons, looking around like startled animals. “And trust me.”
Without saying another word, Eon lifted up his large sword. Without moment’s hesitation, he flung himself forward in such speed that neither Aggard nor Alstar noticed when he moved past them, entering the fray – the heart of their forces.
Like a dancing shadow, Eon spun around, cleaving through dozens of people in a single swing of his sword, leaving them no opportunity to even escape. Swaying left and right, he began evading the flashes of silver aimed at him; he danced under the stars, swinging the inhumane sword at speeds most who live thought impossible. Aggard and Alstar quickly joined; Alstar raised up his right hand and swirled his finger clockwise. An ever-growing chunk of ice appeared above it, quickly turning into an array. The temperature dropped for most, but not for Eon. As soon as the array of ice was flung at him, he spun towards it and swung his sword from above, splitting it half. He then swung his sword sideways, blocking several attacks that were launched at him. Seeing that mere swordsmanship wasn’t enough, Aggard broke in cold sweat. Using any form of magic was wholly forbidden within Dawnfae. Yet, he had no other choice.
“Forget the weapons!” he screamed out. “Fight with all you’ve got!”
In mere seconds, Eon had managed to kill almost thirty soldiers. The large mob that gathered closely around him suddenly dispersed away, encircling him in twenty meter radius. He stood in the center, focus of anger and rage, fully relaxed. Flashes of elements began appearing in the sky, just as the wind suddenly began blowing. His cloak wavered backwards and danced in unison with his lengthy hair. He already had dozens of blood stains across his armor and a few on his face. In anger he had forgotten – he had become a murderer. When bandits attacked, he was defending his home. Now? Now he was destroying a home. It’s a must! They destroyed mine! His mind justified, but a strange feeling already had a tight grip on his heart.
A burst of flames suddenly appeared beneath his feet and he was forced to dodge sideways, rolling through and quickly steadying himself. It was too late to regret it, he knew. All he could do is end it fast.
Flashes of spells were flung towards him – ice, flame, chunks of earth, sword-shaped light and enchanted arrows. He ran towards Aggard and Alstar, swinging his sword front and back as if crazed by a drug, a look of a madman on his face. Several meters away, an arrow managed to pierce his shoulder. Pain surged from the wound and passed through every nerve in his body, but he ignored it. He clenched his teeth and pushed. Jumping up, he flipped himself forward, gaining momentum, and embedding his sword into the ground as he landed. Aggard and Alstar managed to avoid the sword, but the shockwave from the blast surprised them. Several dozens of soldiers were knocked down as the monstrous wind expanded towards them. Taking no extra breath, Eon lunged himself towards Aggard who was just beginning to recover. The two quickly entered into a duel, as suddenly all spells ceased to appear in the nightly sky. However experienced Aggard was, the sheer brutality of Eon’s attacks quickly overwhelmed him. He felt as if each time their swords would clash, the other side was throwing mountain at him. After three quick swings, his sword broke into pieces; the blade cut through and found a way to his shoulder, splitting his entire left arm from the rest of his body. Blood gushed outwards, dyeing the ground red, prompting him to scream in pain.
“Father!” Alstar screamed as soon as he got up; he saw his father’s arm being flung off from his body, and his father screaming out in pain. “What are you doing, you maggots?! ATTACK!”
“ATTACK YOU FUCKS!”
Yet, before any weapon or spell had a chance to reach Eon, he stabbed his sword through Aggard’s chest, straight through his heart, in one, swift motion. Old man’s eyes gaped open in terror, but he drew no more air as he fell down.
Eon then turned towards Alstar and the remaining forces; roughly three hundred soldiers came to meet him, just shy of two hundred remain fully healthy. True to his class, Eon proceeded, no longer feeling any pain. He was cut and bruised, and half his armor was demolished in the coming minutes, he but he never stopped swinging. Blood poured from every part of his body, blurring his vision, but he swung and swung. The more he was hurt, the stronger he felt.
Lye and Elain stood frozen at the very entrance. They were enthralled by the battle, unable to inch forward. Seeing Clay in the state of madness, Elain felt fear – fear she never encountered before. Although annoying, Clay was, in her eyes, a good and kind person. She knew he was strong, but never to which realm. Now that she had seen it, she never wished to see it again; however strong he was, there was no beauty in this slaughter, no pleasure. Limbs were cut off faster than the screams could follow, and the entire ground beneath was soon littered with corpses and soaked red with blood. She saw him getting stabbed at least fifteen times, yet he never budged. He pressed on, as if pain fueled his strength beyond limits of an ordinary man. No – there wasn’t anything ordinary in the way he fought. He was smiling. Under the blood-dyed face, Elain saw hints of a smile. Submerged in limitless pain, it seemed as if he finally found life. As if he finally found his purpose.
Although it may look so to the outsider, Eon hadn’t gone mad – but he did begin enjoying himself. Roughed up beyond recognition, he felt each wound on his body separately, but he enjoyed it. It was a battle of endurance – will he be able to kill them all before he bleeds out to death? However strong he was, he could only kill a few with every swing. And, what’s more, they kept jumping back and using long ranged spells to attack him. Halfway through the fight, he stopped dodging. He just pushed onwards as if he had a hurricane at his back. Even Alstar, who barely escaped a few times, nearly collapsed due to fear. In his life he never saw anyone as strong as the man that stood before him. Beyond strength, he never saw anyone as mad either – no matter what they threw at him, he took it and broke through. Mounds of earth, spears of ice and flame, brutal wind attacks, enchanted arrows – everything they had within their arsenal was thrown at him, yet it seemed as if it only strengthened him.
Within half an hour, Alstar was on his knees, unable to move. Every, single last member of their guard and majority of the family were now cold corpses soaked in blood. Eon stood above him, armor trashed beyond recognition, bleeding from hundreds of spots, panting. He was unrecognizable; his face was wholly covered in red, as was most of his body, and not a trace of silver could be seen. Each time blood would begin to try, more would soak him. He stood in the center of chaos and he emerged from it. Every pore in his body ached, and now that the battle was done, he felt it tenfold. He didn’t know how he was standing. He could barely see that Alstar was in front of him, squirming against the wall, face streaked with dried tears, eyes wide open.
Eon was certain that if he had a mirror, one look at it would terrify him. He knew how he looked. He knew what he had done. Now that it was over, he suddenly fell on his knees, lowering his head. Tears wouldn’t come – they abandoned him. In dead silence, as he was battling the remorse, hatred and regret, he felt a hand on his shoulder. The hand was warm and gentle and it slowly moved around, landing on his jaw, lifting his head up. Through the blur he saw Elain. Her expression was plain, but her eyes gleamed and were red. She cried, Eon noted.
“This is for our village!” Lye was standing above Alstar, dagger flashing brightly in his hand.
“What village?!” Alstar shouted. “What have I ever done to your village?”
“Make up excuses in the world beyond ours.” he quickly moved in.
“You’re making a mist-” dagger flashed through the throat, quickly ending his life. Lifeless body dropped down, blending in with the surroundings.
Eon and Elain looked at each other in silence. Even if he wished to talk, pain wouldn’t allow him. Even if he wished to ask for forgiveness, it was too late. Hatred had perished and all that was left were screams of the dead. He began hearing them again; some were mere whispers, others painful shouts, some terrifying screams – they all spoke without taking a breath.
“You are a mess,” Elain said, drawing a gentle smile on her face. “Can you stand?”
“Lye, help me lift him.” Lye quickly took the other side, and the two lifted Eon who grunted in pain with each movement. “We didn’t come here just to be spectators Clay.” Elain said softly.
“Will he be okay?” Lye asked, his harsh voice turning gentle as he worryingly looked at Clay.
“Who knows?” Elain said. “The wounds are just surface Lye. Would you be okay if you did what he had done?”
“….” they dragged him through the battlefield in dead silence. Eon didn’t close his eyes; instead, he tried to intake every single inch of what he could see. He did this and there was no point in evading it. He has to live with it.
“Lyon is waiting for us outside the city,” Elain continued as they left through the hole in the gates. “Apparently, when we arrived, he cast some sort of a magic around the estate. That’s why no one came despite the chaos. Ah…” she sighed. “Is it cruel to say that I admire you Clay? Probably is. But it’s true – I do. And yet again, I’m so afraid of you that it takes all I have not to just drop you and run. Then I tell myself: how can you fear the dying man? And then images flash through my mind. I need you to promise me,” she suddenly stopped and moved Eon’s head towards hers, locking their eyes in a deep gaze. “To never, ever become who you were out there. To never again embody the death itself as you fight.”
“….” without being able to talk, Eon barely managed to nod before averting his gaze. Shame surged like a wave from within, inhabiting his entire being.
“You’re cruel Elain,” Lye suddenly joined in. “Why do you think we were left as spectators tonight?” he said, turning towards her after glancing at Eon. “Because he had a lot of fun? Because he wouldn’t share his spoils? If so, you’re more naive than I thought.”
“I know he wanted to shield us from it Lye. I’m not an idiot.” Elain said. “But we’re not that weak. At least I’m not.”
“You are,” Lye said bluntly. “That wasn’t a battle or war Elain. It wasn’t carrying out justice. It wasn’t anything noble or righteous. Neither you nor I could swallow the aftertaste of cruel revenge, baptized with slaughter of hundreds. Don’t put on a useless bravado. It doesn’t suit you.”
The two stayed silent as they walked through narrow, empty alleys in-between the buildings as they approached the gates of Dawnfae. The stars still shimmered like jewels, but there was nothing beautiful about the night. Eon wished to fall asleep and wake hundreds of years from now, when his actions become less relevant. But he couldn’t. He lived through the chaos once before and hadn’t broken into pieces – he knew he won’t break now either. He’d rather proudly carry that demon on his shoulder than succumb to its whispers and taunts. He knew this won’t be the last time he commits to his anger. Yet he knew he can never let it get out of control again; he clearly remembers the intoxicating feeling he had whenever the blood would spurt out of the wounds he inflicted. The feeling was like a drug, and each swing was made with intent to adhere to the deep-rooted desire for more. He knew it is dangerous to walk that line, as just a mere push can hang him over it, leaving him in the place from which he can never return.
Lyon really was waiting for them in front of the gates; as soon as he saw Eon hanging in-between Lye and Elain, he let his inwards out, unable to directly look at him. After giving them a few directions on where they can spend the night, he rushed back into the city to finish relegating those he saved. He didn’t dare go back to the estate; if Clay was like that, he couldn’t imagine how others looked. A mere thought had him shivering from neck to toes and sudden cold would tangle him like vines. His heart was slowly breaking and he finally let out the tears. But, in the end, what could have he done, even if he was there? He’d just be another corpse under the stars, washed away in Clay’s wrath. He knew that well, yet still couldn’t let go. Torn between two sides, neither of which seems right, he couldn’t see the tomorrow or the day after. The future grew grimmer and grimmer as he raced through the streets. And he feared it more than death.
Lye and Elain found a small cave Lyon told them about quickly. They gently put Eon down and covered him with a blanket. Lyon had already given him a medicine, and all they could do now was wait and hope it works. In truth, both wondered how was he still alive; the sheer number of cuts are more reminiscent of torture to death rather than battle from which he emerged alive. To Lye, it looked as if there was something godly about Clay, while to Elain it was more akin to inhumane. Fallen or not, they knew, there shouldn’t be a creature who can survive what he did. Awed and afraid, both soon drifted into dreams, as the tireless run caught up to them now that the emotions had slightly settled. All they could do is wait for the dawn, and uncertain future laid before them.