“Ow,” Avalel muttered. The sliding down damaged his back, and he struggled to stand up. Except for the light in which he came from, the area was pitch black. Or was it? There seemed to be some kind of faint light in the distance. The area was silent and the air felt chokingly lacking in oxygen. Pure curiosity suddenly overtook him and he found himself walking, as much as he tried to resist, towards the interior of the area. It was quite damp, as it wasn’t very far down from the surface, and it was eerily quiet. Too quiet, perhaps, for a child who just turned eight. However, there was no sign of fear in Avalel’s face. His face was emotionless as if he was controlled like a puppet, marching to some unknown destination. He slowly walked and didn’t stop until he tripped on something. Landed face-first, his cheek was scratched from the rocks, but what was more alarming was the object that he almost fell on - a broken spearhead. He examined himself, glad that there were not any serious injuries, and walked on. What he was unaware of was the thing in which he tripped over - an arm bone, cleanly cut, and not far from it, an armored skeleton, the arm bone missing.
As the light diminished slowly behind him, Avalel searched his pockets for some kind of light source, and found none. Now the first feelings of fear began to creep towards his mind. Where am I going? he thought, what’s that dimly lit thing? Is there someone here? Still, he marched forward like an automaton, not even taking a look at his surroundings. That’s when it became too dark to see anything. He felt the wall of this area, now convinced a cave and inched forward. He walked very slowly and held his dagger in his free hand as if there would be any incoming danger. The wall guided him forward, and now Avalel has ventured in so far the light cannot be seen. Suddenly, he touched something smooth, unlike the cave wall. He continued anyway, but the next step that he took, it slid on another smooth object and he slipped, falling on his bottom. What surprised him was not that he slipped on a smooth object, but that a pile of whatever fell down with him on his right and landed beside him. He gradually forced his arm to feel his right side and the hands seemed to touch something round and with holes. He turned his head and found a skull facing right back at him, the lower jaw missing. He screamed and tried to crawl away from the skull, but his sight is near ground level now, he saw more skeletons lying around, some arms outstretched, some with jaws gaping, some in a fetal position. Now, that was much too overwhelming, even for an unusually brave child.
He now ran, disregarding the fact that he’s still running towards that dim light. Tripping over more suspected skeletons and finally a pile of rocks, his breath was panting and he was wheezing because of the lack of oxygen. Overwhelmed and frightened by the many skeletons that he encountered, he expected the light to be a safe place. Yet, here in the space surrounded by the light, he saw at least a few dozen skeletons and many ancient weapons. Swords, spearheads, and arrows lay around the scene. The skeletons were all slumped over, their torsos leaning against the cave wall. There were fragments of bones, and Avalel smelled ash. The area was strangely circular, and in the middle was the source of the light: a sword, lodged firm on the stone floor. Near it, a broken skull with a golden crown, resting above a small cushion of ashes.
Intricately decorated, there was a finely carved stone placed in the blade, protected and surrounded by patterns of metal. The pommel was shaped like a fiery eagle, perhaps a phoenix. The grip was long (but still suited for one hand holding) and was made of cold metal. The fuller was carved with words on the metal, and it seemed to glow bright red, like molten glass. It wrote: All who are worthy may hold this sword. The blade also had the gleam of a slight red, as if the metal had just been made. It was double-edged and narrow. It seemed minimalistic, for many ancient swords have very detailed designs on the blade compared to this sword, but up close, as Avalel did, it’s a work of art. Both the blade’s tip and edge are very well made, with much-sharpened edges and tip. Connecting the blade and stone is a narrow fuller, and then a ridge, and it glowed brightest in the blade. The cloth wrapping around the grip was clearly durable, as it still clings on to the metal grip. There was a wood layer that wrapped around the metal grip, but it now had rotted away and had only left the cloth and metal. The guard was a cross-guard, also minimalistic. Even though this sword seemed to be just a well-made, but not a well-decorated sword, it somehow enticed Avalel, drawing him closer, with the gears in the brain now cranking with thought.
Listening to the many legends Faresoenn had told him before, Avalel recognized the sword immediately, as it fits the description he had remembered from one of the legends.
“Oh. My. Goodness,” he gasped, “It’s the Anapadeia, the Sword of Kings. No way it could be found here! I must bring it back!” Regardless of the writings, he grabbed the sword and forcefully lifted it up from the ground.
“It was very light, contrary to what Avalel imagined. He could hold it with only one hand and soon he began to get used to this new sensation. He suddenly seemed to forget his surroundings, and hurried to bring…”
“Storyteller,” one child interrupted, “How is it very light? I thought all swords can only be carried by adults.”
“Now, my child,” the Storyteller answered, “The Anapadeia was a very well-made sword. The ancient mages somehow made it so powerful that it could cut a plasma beam without vaporizing and yet be carried by a small child like Avalel back then.”
“Ooh!” some children cried, “When will the plasma cutting come, Storyteller?”
“Just wait and I’ll get to it,” the Storyteller replied, “Now, where was I?”
“Wait!” an adult shouted, “How do you know there are many skeletons inside that cave? According to the archives, that was the final stand of King Prven many millennia ago, but it never said there were many skeletons. Rather, the corpses were presumably all buried in mass graves, but when one soldier touched the sword, the group ordered to transport the sword all vaporized.”
“Well, well,” the Storyteller said, “There are some things that the archives don’t tell you about, and many secrets are hidden. Now, again, where was I?”
“Avalel got the Anapadeia and wants to bring it back,” the audience replied.
“Good, I’ll carry on,” the Storyteller muttered and continued on.
So Avalel found the Anapadeia and decided to bring it back to Faresoenn. His senses finally kicking back, his legs demanded that he must rush back, but there was something that halted him in his tracks: the skeletons and ashes. The rather circular chamber was peculiar enough, but the ashes, weapons, and skeletons suggested an even more sinister feeling to this place. Firstly, the sprawl of rusted melee weapons in the area, although the Achien army still carried melee weapons in Avalel’s time. Second, almost every single corpse there was armored and punctured with arrows or spears. Third, this cave was strangely shaped like a tunnel. As he put his thoughts together, Avalel was brought to a frightening conclusion: this cave was man-made and was home to the last stand by ancient warriors, which means this is a major archaeological find. However, it would mean the release to the public of this settlement, and in the outside world, foresters are thought to be extinct or only a legend. They were similar to the people outside but quite different. Taller in stature, they were considered giants, and it would most certainly frighten the short Achien citizens when they see hundreds upon hundreds of “giants”, and in the history of the people of this planet, they have often either assimilated or destroyed all those who are similar but different. Still, Avalel shook those thoughts away and now held the Anapadeia firmly in his grasp, and dashed as quick as his little feet allowed (he wasn’t very tall compared to the others, as I’ve explained earlier; foresters also have quite large feet).
Thrashing and swinging the Anapadeia in his hands, Avalel effortlessly cut away all those obstacles in his way, whether vines, bushes, or boulders. When he finally backtracked to the starting grounds in their “war” game, he was quite startled to find no one there.
“Guys! Hello? I’m right here!” he shouted. It was quite a shrill cry of help, regardless that the game valued stealth in its later stages. There was nothing to be heard, except for the rustling of bushes. Then suddenly, out leaped Kavlina with her darts (or more like small pieces of wood), like a leopard pouncing on its prey. Avalel with his instincts swung the Anapadeia, or what he thought was the Anapadeia that he was holding. Meeting Kavlina’s darts wasn’t a magnificent sword. Rather, it was the dagger that Kavlina gave. Surprised that it was just the dagger, Avalel quickly tried to dodge the darts, but instead, his arm, contrary to his brain’s orders, swung the dagger and successfully deflected all the darts.
“When did you get so good?” Kavlina asked.
“Hey, I dunno. Even I’m really shocked,” Avalel answered. He was puzzled that somehow, he was holding the dagger and not the Anapadeia. What happened? He thought.
“Guess what? The game’s pretty much over. You’re the last one that my team didn’t capture yet.” She made a small hand sign, and from the bushes out came all the others, some triumphantly marching, some gloomily dragged along behind, but all had at least one bruise somewhere. One even had a makeshift bandage wrapped around his calf, where it was bleeding. Faresoenn came last, helping to calm the children and heal their wounds with herbs.
“Hey, Lel, why did you make such a ruckus in this place, this time?” Faresoenn asked, “It’s rather weird that you would do that. I know my son isn’t that stupid of a person.”
“It’s because I found this, and I wanted to make sure if it really was what I was thinking about. But now it’s gone, dad, I dunno where did it go. Wait, what?” The dagger that he was holding disintegrated and slowly reformed into the Anapadeia, words and all. Avalel reached into his pocket and found the real dagger.
“Oh, my, my,” Faresoenn gasped, “Where did you find that, Lel?” The children, knowing the legends well, too gasped.
“I found it in some cave filled with skeletons. I knew the legends would say it’s a powerful sword, but why the disintegrating and reforming? The legends never said that.”
“Morphing,” one of the children piped up, Buvil to be exact, “I remembered in one version of the Anapadeia legends that I’ve heard of it says when a person does wield it and is worthy the sword will have a power unique to that person that he or she can use. Remember the great queen Elethien, the founder of Achien? I read that when she wielded the sword, she can combine herself with the sword, and become something like a lord of all swords and she literally has an infinite amount of swords she can use. I even read her eyes turn blood red when she combines and the Arachma replaces her heart temporarily.”
“Whoa,” Kavlina interrupted, “That’s some awesome queen. I think Buvil’s point is, you have some power when you wield the sword, and I believe it’s morphing the sword. Not close to being as awesome as Queen Elethien’s, but still pretty awesome.”
“So, does that mean I am worthy to hold the Anapadeia?” Avalel excitedly asked.
“In a sense, yes,” Faresoenn replied, “You are worthy to hold the Anapadeia. I am proud of you, my son.”
“Wait!” Buvil shouted, “I also remembered more about it. In my knowledge of the legends, it says whoever holds the Anapadeia will encounter a test some time in the future. If they pass, they will be fully worthy. If they don’t, they will die. All the ones who are worthy have been largely successful, like Elethien founding an empire that lasts even until now, its 1008th year. All the ones who have held it but aren’t...” he trailed off.
“Either disappeared or died a gruesome death,” Faresoenn grimly said, “I know that part. Even so, Avalel, do not be afraid. You have to face the test, and you will face the test, but I will be by your side when that happens.”
“Yes, dad! I will train myself harder to pass the test, whenever that might come, and I will be the best of all who have ever held this sword!”