Chapter 1 - Prepaing for War
The weather was less than ideal. The wind blew and the rain fell hard like thousands of stones slung from the heavens. The sky was a dark gray with a slight green tint and was gloomy to say the least. The soldiers lining the battlefield didn’t seem to notice at all. Or if they did they showed no signs of caring. They all stared into the distance at the gathering forces that they would soon battle. Orska Nasadra, a commanding member of the fighting force known as The Chaos Legion, stood atop a ridge at the rear of the forces. The pathway down jutted out the side of the steep ridge and it was the only way up to the area where he and his forces were set. The back side was covered in a blanket of trees that made up Vinewood Forest. The odds of winning looked to be in their favor since they had the high ground.
A raven descended from the endless sea of clouds, landing on a branch overlooking the clearing. The enemy forces had fully arrived below, ten thousand elves brandishing swords and shields, wearing full elven armor similar to Orksa’s. They stood in a cluster two hundred feet away from the bottom of the pathway and then began to charge forward. “Show them no mercy men,” Orska shouted to his fighters as they descended upon their enemies. The two forces clashed near the bottom of the pathway. As Orska expected, his forces pushed back the enemies. His right hand clutched the hilt of his sword as he readied himself to dash down and join the fray. “This fight is as good as ours,” he whispered under his breath. Just as the words exited his mouth a shadow crept over him.
Feeling the unknown presence, he whipped around while drawing his sword and found its tip under the shadowed figure’s neck. “My friend, you are jumpy as ever!” laughed the unknown figure. Orska frowned as he lowered his blade and sheathed it.
“You picked a bad time to surprise me. I would have killed you had my eyes not realized who you were before my steel cut you,” said Orska. His sky blue eyes glared at the figure before him and he gritted his teeth
“That may be true, however, you move so slowly I doubt you could ever do such a thing. Unlike you, my brother, I don’t brute around, relying on my golem-like strength to solve my problems. I use better tactics, which is why you and your men have already lost the battle,” the enigmatic figure sneered, nodding toward the battle below.
“How dare you,” growled Orska and he turned in the direction his shadowed rival had nodded. His troops had pushed too far from the natural protection of the pathway and found themselves surrounded by the enemy. Within minutes his forces had been crushed. Grinding his teeth, he turned back and bowed, “It seems you have bested me again, Vand.”
“Yes, it seems so Orska” said Vand sounding slightly bored.
Vand hated the formalities of these combat training sessions. He often wished he could have left one of his fellow members to run these trials. Vand knew Orska was upset by his defeat and probably wanted to settle the score with him. Of course, Vand would have gladly accepted a direct challenge from his older brother but this is not how things were done. Training sessions were a test of personal strategy and were not to be taken personal whatever the outcome, but maybe with a bit of effort, he could force a fight.
Vand began to walk away and then turned toward Orska with a menacing grin on his face. “You know brother, if you’d like some advice on battle strategy, maybe I could teach you a thing or two,” Vand said, his piercing green eyes were feral.
“No, brother, there is nothing you could teach me. However, I will teach you how to shut that mouth of yours!” snarled Orska as he charged forward, drawing his sword. His Esparin armor clinked as he rushed forward. As Orska closed the last few feet he slashed his sword forward. As the sword hit its intended target Vand’s body split in two halves and then plumed into wisps of smoke while fading from Orska’s sight. Orska was bewildered. He had hit his mark, yet he hadn’t. He didn’t have time to think, turning to see were Vand had vanished to. As he turned, Vand was standing behind him and Orska found a blade under his own throat. It was from Vand’s arm blade, a weapon concealed under his vambrace. Vand wore such a weapon on his left arm and was quite skilled with it. It was one of the reasons he was chosen to join Ascuro, a group that had mastered the art of killing from the shadows.
“Shut my mouth you say? Well now, dear Orska, you could have just asked me nicely, but it’s too late now. Maybe it was you who should have shut yours,” shouted Vand in a triumphant voice. He began to laugh wildly, the sound cutting through the cold air and sending a sharp chill throughout Orska’s body. Vand’s laughter echoed over the clearing they stood atop and was absorbed by the forest behind them. “You know, I never liked you much, and now I can be rid of you forever.” Vand whispered into Orska’s ear. The words were cold and Orska knew Vand meant to kill him. Orska discreetly reached to his belt and found his dagger attached to it on his left side and clutched its hilt. As he slowly drew it out, he suddenly felt the motion of Vand’s arm slide across his shoulder and his arm blade began to cut into his neck.
A familiar voice to both of them rang out in the chilled air. “Stop at once!” Vand, while still holding on to Orska, turned in the direction of the voice and grinned broadly. With a loud click he retracted the arm blade from Orska’s neck and released him from his grasp. Orska raised his hand to his neck and felt the warm blood trickle through his fingers. A second longer and he would have been soaked in blood while lying on the ground. Orska looked at Vand who was now standing on his right side, then straight ahead at the elven elder, Mila, standing before them.
She stood before them tall and regal with long, flowing hair that was the same deep green as the forest behind her. She had frosty blue eyes that looked as though they had been touched by winter and she wore the dark purple robes of an elder with a belt of pouches around her hips. Orska knelt to his elder, as did Vand. “Stand!” commanded Mila. Both of the brothers stood up at once. Mila took a second and looked each one of them over then turned her attention to Vand. “May I ask what Vand, member of the Ascuro, was doing assaulting Orska, one of the elite elven fighters and member of The Chaos Legion?”
“You make it sound as if I was to blame for this little skirmish, but I must tell you it was Orska who came at me with sword in hand. So I took action to prevent any harm that would come from his brash action. I was trying to help both of us,” said Vand as he turned his head and looked at Orska. The wind blew his dark brown hair and the blood was still trickling down his neck, mixing with the water from the hard rain and staining his clothes under the Esparin armor. “However, it looks like I may have scratched him a bit. I truly am sorry brother!” mocked Vand. “Will you forgive me for hurting you?” He took great pleasure in goading his brother. Orska gritted his teeth, but said nothing in return. Vand was about to speak again when Mila interrupted.
‘That is quite enough Vand!” exclaimed Mila with a hint of anger in her voice. She turned her attention to Orska next. “Orska it would appear you have been slightly injured. I want you stop by a healer and have your wound looked at.” Orska looked at Mila, and for a moment looked as if he had something to say. Whatever it was, he kept it to himself. He nodded at Mila and headed toward the tree line of Vinewood and entered the forest. Mila watched Orska until he was out of sight and hearing distance then snapped her attention back to Vand. “You fool! You could have killed him!” spat Mila.
Vand laughed coldly “Could have? Could have? No, Mila, I would have and he would be dead right over there,” Vand stated and pointed to the spot where he had nearly taken his brother’s life. He looked at Mila to gauge her reaction, but Mila gave nothing away, keeping her cold gaze trained on him. “Even if he were dead now, how would that hinder our situation? Orska is just a brute that charges into things with no thought at all.”
Mila quickly replied, “If we lose Orska, we lose not only a grand warrior for our side, but we would lose the support of The Chaos Legion. That is why we need him! I know you two have some silly rivalry to show our people who better holds the glory of the Nasadra name, but this mission is far more important!” Vand tried to interject but was stopped short by Mila. “I don’t care what you have to say! If we are to find what we are looking for we need to cooperate or this mission will fail. We are running out of time and we are not even close to the goal. We have to find the weapons,” said Mila. She had a look of urgency in her eyes.
Vand had a look of displeasure. He hated being scolded, especially when he believed he did nothing wrong. “Well let me assure you that we will succeed in finding whatever lost relics you believe we will find, so long as they actually exist,” Vand replied condescendingly. “As I was trying to say, Orska may be a commanding member of The Chaos Legion, but should he die, I know we wouldn’t lose their support. Besides, my tactics are far more superior. My half of the forces won today’s training session, in case it escaped your notice. As for that remark of a ‘grand warrior’, I don’t see your sense in saying such things. He did almost die today.” Mila’s eyes flashed with anger, a reaction that gave Vand great pleasure. He quickly put up his hands defensively, “Now calm down, I was just giving you my thoughts on the matter. So quick you are to anger, my elder.” Vand laughed softly as Mila continued to glare at him. “Don’t worry. If you wish for me to leave him alone, I will. If there is nothing else then I need to get back to more important matters.” He turned and began to walk towards the forest, calling over his shoulder, “I may be helping on this foolish quest, but I don’t see the point in chasing down myths. The Black Wars, if real, were fought thousands of years ago and anything that survived would be long since destroyed or lost.”
“It’s true The Black Wars are myth to many, but I can tell you they did happen and were as real as of the Wars of Balance we fight for to this day. If we find these weapons then we are guaranteed victory in any conflict we might face. We could finally rule all of Cinda unchallenged,” Mila said. Vand stopped and turned towards her with a skeptical look. “I know you don’t believe me Vand, but I have proof,” continued Mila as she pulled an object from one of her pouches located on her hip and held it out for Vand to see. Vand stared at the object as the metal piece began to emit swirling shadows from all sides. The shadows filled her hands and converged into a single mass that looked like black fire. She flicked her hand and the mass shot outward hitting the soil between them with such force the ground shook and dirt came raining down around them. When the dust cleared a scar had been left in the earth three feet down at its deepest point “You see now why we are on this foolish quest?” questioned Mila as she put the object back into her pouch.
Vand had a look of pure shock and not until after several moments was he able to regain his composure. “Where did you find that thing, my dear Mila?” asked Vand with a slight tremor in his voice. “Which side is that thing from? Is it from the Lost Children that came and invaded or from the mythical Vilsin?” Vand stared at the ground for a moment then looked up and shook his head “What am I saying? These things aren’t real. They are myths, nothing more. What magic did you just use?” Vand looked lost and he ran his hand through his short blond hair to try and calm himself.
Mila looked over at Vand, “You seem upset. Have I destroyed your simple little world Vand?” she laughed. “If you paid any attention to the history of The Black Wars you would know this carries traits of the weapons the Lost Children carried. As for the Vilsin, I do believe at one time they did exist, however there are no traces of anything they left behind. There are only stories and myths.” Suddenly the raven perched on the branch took flight. Mila's face held a look of panic for a brief moment and then she began to whisper, “Watoo Naseen Elim Ohda.” She held her hands apart in front of her as bright white light crackled on each of her fingertips and arced between them. She brought her hands closer together and the light pooled and formed a spherical shape. The sphere crackled even louder as strands of light snaked out of it. She took control of the light in her right hand and raised it in the raven’s direction. She then opened her hand and released the ball of light, which arced out from her hand and shot the raven. The raven instantly started falling from the sky, but never hit the ground. Instead it puffed into a cloud of black dust and was no more.
“I know you are upset my dear Mila, but do you have to kill birds to vent your frustration?” asked Vand. He had regained his snarky attitude and used it to mask his curiosity.
Vand looked at Mila, the youngest of the elders. She looked calm and focused again. She turned toward Vand and stated “It looks like we have even less time now. That wasn’t an ordinary bird. It was a spell used for watching and listening and was in the form of that raven. It was a spy for what I can guess would only be for humans. We must hurry. Vand please go and tell Orska to get ready to move out.” Vand quickly began to head towards the woods. “Oh and Vand be sure to get your armor repaired as soon as you can.” Mila’s words echoed out to him as he headed farther into the forest.Vand stopped and looked down at his body. His armor shouldn’t have taken any damage; he didn’t fight anyone but Orska. He looked over his equipment and found part of his Ascuro cloak, which he wore over his armor, was sliced and a shallow but clear slice was running from the front of his fitted leather breastplate to the right side. As he inspected closer he found a hole made by a dagger on his left side, which had pierced past his armor. “He would have killed me too had I finished cutting him. We both would have died.” Vand whispered to himself. Mila must have known and seen this. A chill ran up Vand’s spine, which was an unusual feeling for him. She was right; there is more to Orska then what he lets on. “Mila, my dear sister, you are quite a frightening force in this world. I wonder what secrets you too are hiding,” Vand whispered softly to himself again. He began to move farther into the forest, for war was on the horizon and would soon be at their doorsteps.