The Warmth of the Hearth

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To Live Again

“Blepalon?” Luke stops in his tracks. “My soul is trapped?” He feels his heart tighten, realizing how bad the situation was.

Blepalon, also known as The Severed Realm, is the physical manifestation of all of humanity’s darkest desires. Lying in between Aeorexus, the land of the living, and Eredell, the Isle of the Dead, it is in Blepalon that emotions like fear, envy, greed, and wrath rule over the entirety of its existence. Souls that are sent here are either governed by these emotions or are trapped by mages who practice taboo magic known as Necromancy. Due to the lack of manna in the realm since it is severed from reality, these souls are driven into madness and turn into monstrosities known as Wraiths, beings that have an unnatural hunger for manna and will do anything to acquire it, including sucking it from fresh souls that are unlucky enough to be sent there.

Luke shivers, a cold sweat dripping down the back of his neck. Will I turn into one of them? A question suddenly comes into mind. “Xylia, why aren’t I getting attacked by the Wraiths?” Luke asks the pixie out loud as she flutters in front of him, her butterfly wings glowing as she floats. “Just now, they were pretty eager to suck my face off. Why the sudden change of heart?”

Xylia doesn’t stop moving, almost as if she did not hear Luke’s question. After a moment, she finally decides to answer him, still looking in front of her. “Your mother’s manna, now your manna, is imbued with a piece of Agni.” She pauses, facing Luke with her arms crossed. “When you were born, your mother knew she couldn’t make it. Before she died, she made that boring old mage promise that he will take of you in her stead. I think his name was Oliver?” The pixie puts a hand on her chin, trying to remember the mage’s name.

Luke finally answers for her. “Olin?”

“Ah yes, Olin. That guy always got on my nerve. She also stored all of her manna inside of you, so that when the time comes that you get yourself into trouble, she’ll be able to momentarily come back to save you and properly bless you with the Hearthfire.” She flies closer to Luke and pokes him in the chest. “Haven’t you ever wondered why your flames were so weak? As if something was missing? That’s because your manna wasn’t really the one that was yours to begin with.” She points to the sky, making Luke look at the various wisps that float in and out of vision. “Those things can’t handle the flame that you have. They’ll end up disappearing if they even attempt to absorb a portion of it.” She then points at him to finish her lecture. “That is the power that you have Laisren, although you did get it a lot earlier than planned. Humans and their feeble bodies, what a pain.” She sighs, turning around to continue their journey.

Luke now walks beside her, taking smaller steps than usual to ensure that he does not overtake her. He looks in front of him as he walks, seeing nothing but the barren landscape and its sandy floor. His eyes hover around the various dark castles that can be seen in the distance, their tattered banners waving weakly with the breeze. “Why am I here then? Does that mean that my soul is trapped by that Ripper guy?” Luke looks at Xylia, who is having no problem keeping up with his pace.

“The one that killed you was no mortal.” She looks at Luke. “That was a demon born in Blepalon, his name unknown to any creature.” Luke sees Xylia shiver, as if she was terrified of the thought. “Yes, your soul is trapped in this forsaken place. And if you fail to stop him, all of humanity will follow.”

Luke stops in his tracks. His heart pulses violently as the severity of what Xylia said hits him. Carson and the others! Luke turns to the pixie and asks, “How do we get out?”

The pixie smiles, as if she was pleased by Luke’s sudden eagerness. She points behind him, causing him to turn around. “Over there, that’s our way out.”

In the distance, Luke can barely make out a small platform made out of dark stones. He rushes towards it, which causes Xylia to pick up her own speed. They arrive at the platform, its surface half buried in sand. Luke kicks some of the sand off, revealing symbols that are scribbled all over the circular platform. Runes? Luke drops down on one knee and begins to read the text, his eyes squinting as the mist hinders his vision. “For those who are impure cannot see the hidden path, their feet shall carry their burden. Alas, those who have been blessed, let the way be open for you!” He finishes reading the text with ease, having been capable in reading Runes, a feat not many can accomplish. “The guys that came before us were pretty cheesy, weren’t they? So, I’m guessing this is a portal?” Luke asks the pixie, who nods with a smile on her face.

“I must admit I underestimated you Luke. Maybe there is something to look forward to.” She puts a hand in front of her and strong gusts of wind hit the both of them as two stone pillars rise from the ground, towering over their small statures. Her eyes glow brightly and in an instant, a translucent wall appears in the middle of the two pillars. The image behind it is distorted, and Luke senses an immense amount of manna from it. Xylia turns towards the young mage and grins as her hair violently sways with the wind. “Ready to live again Laisren?”

Luke smiles back, a hand over his eyes to protect himself from the sand. “Yeah… I guess I am.” He walks towards the portal, it’s magnificent structure in front of him. Luke takes a deep breathe and he closes his eyes, entering the portal.

He is surrounded in darkness; no longer feeling the wind hitting his face. Instead he hears the gushing of water, and he immediately opens his eyes. Luke sits up immediately, his body sore and wet all over. He looks around, his eyes scrounging for anything familiar. Luke finds none, and he feels his body cold from being in the water. A question comes out of his mouth, and his throat stings as he speaks. “Where am I?”

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