For years, rumors have circulated throughout the Kingdom of Aolise regarding a rare blade that would grant the user unimaginable power. The power to bring a Kingdom to his knees, enough power to turn the fortunes of a poor village on its head.
“The blade is nothing more than a fable!” The Elder said, aware that the rumors would entice other fortune seekers.
“I forbid you to go!” He told his daughter, placing his hand firmly on your shoulder. He was however, fully aware that no matter what he said, she was fixed upon leaving to help bring prosperity to her home.
Anora, the Elder’s oldest daughter, was unlike other women in the village. She trained at a young age to be proficient in the martial arts and was particularly skilled with the spear. She was widely regarded as the most talented fighter in the village and won many tournaments, which would only bolster her confidence.
“The village will continue to suffer if we do nothing. Even if these rumors turn out to be false, there might be something of value that will help the village prosper.” She said calmly, gently moving her father’s hand from her shoulder.
The Elder sighed, he knew how stubborn she was and even though her intentions were pure, nothing would quell his worry.
“There could be monsters, demons, or some odd manner of creature that is looking for a fool to snack on.” He pleaded.
“I can defend myself.” She said, “No matter what I encounter, they are going to have to work hard for their supper.”
Anora smiled and stood up. Grasping her knapsack in one hand and her spear in the other. She knew that she would not be home for some time. While her father worried, the village needed help and sitting around waiting for the Kingdom to come with aid wasn’t feasible. Something has to be done, someone has to do something
Her father made his way over to the entrance of their home. Deflated, he pulled his daughter close and embraced her, fearing that this may be the last time he’ll see her. “Be safe.” He whispered. Anora smiled, nodded, and proceeded to make her way north to the village exit.
The blade was rumored to be hidden in a temple to the north, past the Khor Mountains and the forest of Tarth. It was far from the reach of the Kingdom and until recently, was left untouched by man. But power is something that can entice any manner of person, regardless of their upbringing and ability.
Many have tried to find the blade and a large number of them have disappeared in their pursuit. These disappearances were dismissed by the general populace due to the uncharted territory they found themselves in. Traversing the mountains of Khor were treacherous as the footing was poor and the turbulent winds could knock poorly equipped travelers off with ease.
If an individual was able to make it over Khor, the forest of Tarth was a complete mystery. Trees with twisted branches and thick leaves would create a blanket that would block out all light. Successfully traversing both would be an achievement for any adventurer, but for Anora, these were obstacles that she would brave for the sake of her village.
Utilizing the climbing equipment she took with her from the village, Anora made her way up and through the Khora mountains and down into the forest of Tarth within a span of three days. As she ventured further, the darkness eventually suffocated the light and created a wall of darkness. The light from the lantern was her only means of seeing the path ahead.
No noise. She thought. Focus on the path ahead. Her grip on the handle of her spear tightened. The village needs the blade. These thoughts danced around in her head, the darkness seemingly embracing her. Panic would do her no good, she quickly understood how others have gotten lost. But even through her doubts, she pushed forward.
It had been weeks since she had left the village, she missed the familiar faces, but knew that staying wasn’t an option. As she continued onward, light began to creep through the darkness and Anora began to smile.
Finally. She began to quicken her pace, desperate to leave the darkness behind her, knowing that every step forward would bring her closer to the temple and possible treasures. Her vision became clearer as the light begin to wipe away the dark. What layed in front of her however, was unexpected and left her in shock.
What is this? A valley of swords, spears, and other weapons were embedded into the dirt, resembling a burial ground.. Chills ran through her as she tried to make sense of the situation. What manner of beast could have done this?
In the center of the valley was the temple or what was left of it. The building was in ruin, the roof had caved in years ago and at its center a figure sat, cross-legged, staring directly at Anora. A blade sat directly in front of the figure, its hilt was blood red, but looked worn. If this was truly the rumored blade, it was far from the rare blade that it was fabled to be.
“Hello little dove.” The figure spoke, their voice echoing throughout the valley.
“Have you too, come for the blade? It isn’t what you think, quite the opposite actually, only dead wanderers in search of a fable.”
Fear quickly gripped Anora, the sheer amount of graves surrounding the valley shook her to the core. She had never seen such destruction, never knew that such devastation could be created by one person.
“Well?” The figure bellowed. “Why have you come little dove?”
She slowly gathered herself and began to step forward. As she spoke, her voice trembled.
“I am here for the blade.”
The figure, with blade in hand, stood, smiled, and then waved her forward.
“Let’s talk first, I want you to understand what comes with wielding this blade.”
Though hesitant, Anora didn’t sense any malice from the figure. She made her way forward slowly and found herself standing directly in front of the figure. What she thought would be an imposing warrior, instead she found a rather average looking man of both height and build, with a number of scars on his face and body, looking particularly worn down from the many battles hes fought to keep the sword.
“For two hundred years, I’ve been the wielder of the cursed blade and for two hundred years, I’ve never lost.” He said quietly. “This blade keeps me tethered to this world and even though I’ve wished for death, once the blade is drawn, I must honor the duel. The graves you see around are all those that have tried and failed. Is this what you want, little dove…immortality?”
She shook her head. Stunned at the revelation. None of this would end up helping the village. It was all for nothing. The blade would cause nothing but trouble. Anora took a deep breath and looked up at the man.
“No. This was…unexpected. I would rather there be no truth to the rumors and that there would be something of value I could take back to help my village.”
He smiled, turned around and walked toward the mats behind him. He lifted one of the mats revealing a chest dug into the ground.
“Many years ago, in another life, I was an explorer when I happened to come across this temple. Not going to say I was the most efficient with a blade…but I was able to best the previous wielder. I buried my valuables here, knowing I could never leave. But you can have this chest, if you happen to end this curse.”
End his life? Killing another person never crossed Anora’s mind.
“How would we go about this, do you kneel and let me strike you do-”
“No”. He laughed, knowing that this very question has been asked before. “The blade does not allow its host to fall so easily. You’ll have to kill me in armed combat.”
While having been in a number of tournaments, the weapons were wooden and no serious harm would come to the participants. This would be the first time she would use her spear to take a life. The thought of killing another person made her body tense and rigid. But through their brief conversation, Anora sensed that the man had suffered enough and that the contents of the chest would greatly help the village.
“Fine. I agree to the duel.” She said, this time with confidence.
As she untied her knapsack from her waist and placed it on the ground, the man took the cursed blade and held it before him. He drew the blade from its hilt, a dark, obsidian blade. A somber smile no longer lingered on his face, his visage had changed. Anora could now sense his aura, it was overwhelming and powerful, she now knew just how dangerous he was, but was unaware with what he was capable of.
With the spear firmly gripped in both hands, Anora assumed a battle stance. She dashed forward, hoping to gain the first strike. The man stepped forward, forcefully planting his foot into the ground, the pressure from this step created a wave of wind that violently knocked her back. She reacted by quickly planting the spear into the ground to prevent herself from being thrown back further, but the sheer force of the attack was enough to stun her for a moment and fill her head with negative thoughts.
I’m going to die.
The man stood up and smiled. “Impressive. Most people aren’t left standing after that attack. You have my compliments.” In a blur, he rushed forward looking to follow up with a thrust. She dodged to the left and wildly swung her spear at the man, he ducked, spun, and then swung his sword. Though she blocked the blow, she was immediately thrown backwards. The man stood up calmly, sword by his side. Anora could feel an intense pain in her hands. She clinched her teeth and grasped the spear harder, knowing that the man was going to be relentless in his pursuit.
She moved forward slowly and brought her spear forward and begun to thrust violently at the man. He dodged effortlessly, the smile had grown bigger on his face. “You’ll have to try harder than that little dove”. His words echoed in her head. Anora tried an overhead strike, he simple moved to his right, the man then brought the sword above his head and struck down. Instead of blocking, she stepped back narrowly dodging the blow, but the immense pressure from the attack had kicked up dirt and debris, creating a cloud and making it difficult to see.
I’m going to die.
Footsteps could be heard, but they sounded as if they were coming in multiple directions. How is he so fast? Her pulse quickened, panic was beginning to settle in. Through the debris a figure flashed into view and the man attempted another thrust, this time the speed would making dodging nearly impossible. She turned as fast as she could to the right, bringing the spear where she assumed his blade would impact. The tip of the sword struck the spear and immediately broke her weapon in half, with the force once again throwing her back.
Unable to brace this time, Anora crashed violently into the ground. There was a sharp pain in her right shoulder where the attack struck. She was lucky to have survived, but knew that another blow like that would kill her instantly. The man stood up and once again complimented her on surviving what should have been a sure deathblow.
“Well done, but it does look like you’re without a weapon. Pity…I was hoping you would be the one to end my suffering. I’ll make sure to end this quickly.” He began to walk forward and as he did, the pressure from his aura would prevent Anora getting to her feet. There was no escape this time, no means to dodge and no way to deflect. Death was staring at her directly in the face.
The man gripped the cursed blade in both hands and brought it slowly above his head.
I am not going to die.
Raising the blade above his head gave Anora an opportunity to strike. She threw herself forward and thrusted the tip of the spear toward the man with her right hand.
He blocked it with ease.
But he could not block the second thrust with her left hand as the splintered remains of the spear were used to dig deep in the man’s neck. His eyes opened wide with surprise at the desperate maneuver. In 200 years of fighting, no man nor woman has ever struck him with a deathblow, he could not remember the last time he saw his own blood flow. The cursed blade fell from his hand and stuck straight into the ground. Anora stood and thrusted again with the tip of the spear in her right hand, this time striking the man in the chest, piercing his heart.
He quickly collapsed to his knees, all the while looking up and into Anora’s eyes. She had never taken a life, but he gave her a grateful glance and then closed his eyes, finally passing away. Feelings of relief and regret both washed over her as she staggered slowly to her feet. She glanced over at the cursed blade, it called out to her knowing that she should be its next host. While tempted by the blades power, she knew what the curse would ultimately bring.
Immortality has a high cost.
She made her way to the man’s belongings and carefully opened the chest, weary as it could be booby-trapped. But to her surprise tt was filled with jewels, gold, and various valuables that would help her village thrive.
A smile overtook her face.
The journey was well worth taking after all.