[YE WHO HATH FACED EVIL]
[Year 996 of the 9th Ecclesiatical Cycle, Month 3, Day 17]
"-Ye who hath faced evil, ye who protecteth El-Alabastra's will..."
These words were spoken in a soft tone, but they still managed to bombard the eardrums of those nearby with their explosive volume. They echoed all throughout the cathedral in a manner not unlike a chilling gust of cold air. The manner in which they swirled around and then finally returned to the center was but a testament to the building's perfect helical design.
Almost all of those present watched tensely from the indoor balconies that hung above. Even despite their desire to speak, they remained completely and utterly silent. This much was to be expected though: none would dare speak out while His Holiness was speaking.
"Dost thou seeketh the strength to slay all mine enemies?" His Holiness spoke.
Tall, mighty, majestic, and great. These were all words that could describe His Holiness. That beast of old stood clad in the whitest scales known to man. Its massive wings remained folded on its back, but such was only natural; if His Holiness were to spread his wings, the cathedral would be destroyed. Its tail was as a mighty cedar tree, and its silvery eyes glinted in the murky gloom.
This was His Holiness, the White Dragon of El-Alabastra.
These words that had been spoken to the armour-clad youth hung dryly in his ears for several moments as he considered the manner he would use to respond. A bead of cold sweat slowly ran down his back as he knelt before His Holiness.
"Is my conviction perhaps being put to test?" the youth thought. He clutched the his mentor's sword wildly and stared down at the thin layer of snow below. Likely this snow had drifted in from the open cathedral door a little ways off.
The youth felt all of the eyes that were focused on the white mantle he wore, the one which bore a crest in the shape of a slumbering dragon. It was clear what he had to do, though he was still reluctant. If he refused it would mean going against His Holiness's will. Even so, to disgrace the memory of his mentor...
"Why dost ye remaineth silent, Sir Vane of Judice?" His Holiness asked. If he had held even a hint of impatience, it did not show in his voice. His Holiness simply lay there patiently. Those silvery eyes of his were something that the youth did not dare meet.
The youth known as Vane bit his lip. His short, platinum blonde hair shook as His Holiness's soft but explosive voice boomed through the cathedral once more. It was clear now that if he did not make his decision, he would be branded a traitor alongside his mentor. He didn't want to do it, but it seemed that there was no other choice.
"Yes, your holiness." Vane spoke in a loud voice. His grip on his mentor's weapon had softened considerably. Vane quietly unlatched the weapon from his belt and then gently held it with both hands, almost as though it was a newborn. Reluctantly, he began to extend the sword towards His Holiness.
Trace amounts of chatter began to brew in the balconies above as they lay witness to this scene. To them it was a scene that they would have never expected to see from one such as Vane. The scene of one as rude and hot-headed as Vane stoicly forsaking his traitorous mentor's sword was one that brought tears to the eyes of many onlookers.
Vane felt a chill in the pit of his gut. He wanted to yell and scream. He wanted to take back the swipe of his sword that had killed his mentor in His Holiness's name. Even if he couldn't do that much, he at least wanted to beg that he be allowed to honour his mentor's memory despite the man's betrayal. Unfortunately, there was no place for that in this land wreathed in snow. Having come to terms with this, Vane began to speak once more.
"O mighty White Dragon, our lord wreathed in alabaster scales, I present to you the sword of Medraut Cecil!" Vane exclaimed as he beat down the desire to cry like a child. "He who dared to question the sanctity of El-Alabastra is no more. His might with a sword was unparalleled, but his will as a man was weak. For this reason..."
Vane wanted to stop. He had already slandered his mentor to the point of no return, thus disgracing both him and his family. Nevertheless, this much wouldn't suffice. His Holiness still stared at the platinum blonde youth through expectant eyes. Vane steeled himself and continued to speak.
"...I beseech thee, O mighty White Dragon, deny that fool passage to the afterlife!" Vane roared.
For a few moments the only thing that could be heard was Vane's voice echoing throughout the cathedral. A few hushed sobs and cries sounded from the balconies above, but Vane forced himself to ignore them. He feared that he would go mad with guilt if he looked up and saw a member of his mentor's family staring down at him.
Finally, His Holiness started to move.
"Thine conviction hath reached me, Sir Vane of Judice." His Holiness said. His Holiness, who had been laying on his side rather comfortably, slowly arose. His massivie claws caused sprays of diamond dust to bombard the youth as they touched the ground. With each claw that found its footing, His Holiness slowly grew taller and taller. Or perhaps it would be better to say that this was His Holiness's original size.
Those on the lower balconies were almost close enough to touch His Holiness's head after he had finished standing up. His Holiness's full size placed him at roughly 7 or so meters in height. With that in mind, it was no wonder that he was worshipped so vehemontly.
Vane remained motionless as the sounds of His Holiness steps started to get closer and closer. With each step His Holiness took, the youth felt his entire body shake. Regardless, he did not dare look up. He did not dare attempt to lay eyes on His Holiness in his current situation. He simply closed his eyes and waited, praying that it would soon end. Soon Vane heard the clink of metal against metal. He knew it had come.
His Holiness had placed one of his mighty claws against the sword that the platinum blonde youth held. That claw produced a faint white glow as it touched the leather sheath. Shortly after, an intense force shook the youth's arms.
When Vane had opened his eyes one more, the sword he had once held was now broken evenly into two halves. The sheath had been shredded as though it was paper. The two pieces of metal slowly fell to the ground, leaving imprints in the snow.
It was over now.
"...Without his sword, Master Cecil won't be able to slay the Beast of Souls. He will be denied access to the afterlife." Vane thought as he stared at the broken sword. "...All because I struck him down on that night."
Vane felt bitter. There was no other way to describe how he felt. Unfortunately it seemed that this encounter hadn't finished yet.
"Rise, Sir Vane of Judice." His Holiness commanded.
Vane quickly stood. His expression was stoic, though in reality he was facing quite a bit of inner turmoil regarding the situation at hand. "...Will I be struck down now as well?" Vane thought. Fortunately, such a thing would not come to fruition.
His Holiness's cedar-like tail began to twist and turn in a manner not unlike a serpent. It probed around the cathedral, almost as if seeking something. After a few moments, the tip of His Holiness's tail had settled coiled around one of the many spines that ran along his back. Without a single pause, His Holiness plucked the spine. Red blood dripped down into the snow below and produced a sizzling noise.
At this point, both those observing the situation as well as Vane himself found themselves in a sort of daze. This was something that had never happened before, so it was only natural that they would be confused.
His Holiness's tail slowly extended itself towards Vane. It was still coiled around that icy spine of about one and a half meters in length. After a few moments, His Holiness's tail finally arrived where Vane stood.
Vane, who had not dared speak out of turn before, now considered whether or not he should ask. It turned out that there was no need. His Holiness had started to speak once more.
"Sir Vane of Judice, thine resolve towardeth our White Queen, El-Alabastra, is unshakeable." His Holiness stated. "Ye hath slain the mightiest swordsman that the White Ecclesia hast ever had in service. It be only natural that ye receive his title of Lord Knight."
Vane felt as though he wanted to throw up. It did not show on his face, but it felt as though he had betrayed his mentor in every possible way. Striking him down, slandering him and his family, stealing his title... he had done all of it. What's more, he couldn't refuse to accept the title. To do so would be the same as stomping on His Holiness's good will.
"...I accept." Vane stated.
"Very well." His Holiness stated. In the next moment, His Holiness had lowered the spine he has plucked into Vane's hands. The thick layer of ice that coated it quickly began to crack and split. Soon it became quite apparent that this wasn't simply a spine.
"Rejoice, Lord Knight Vane of Judice." His Holiness spoke. "I present one of mine swords for thine use in serving El-Alabastra. Bear witness to the Sword of Principality, Albion."
With a total length of about five feet, it had a pristine alabaster blade. A faint white glow seeped out of its blade and into the youth's fingertips, causing him to shiver a bit.
This certainly was a sword.
Vane cringed as he held the sword. This wasn't anything he deserved to be holding, and yet it now belonged to him. He could scream and cry if he pleased, but it would only serve to disgrace his mentor more. It pained Vane that the only thing he could to honour his mentor was to remember his teachings with a sword. The very same teachings he had used to slay his mentor.
While fighting back tears, Vane bowed his head. He could cry just a bit now. None would be able to tell of the source of his tears. Perhaps some would gather that they were for his mentor, but most would likely assume that it was the honour of receiving a sword from His Holiness. To Vane's disgust, it was some strange combination of the two feelings.
"You are too kind!" Vane exclaimed. "...I will serve you to the best of my abilities until the day that I fall, O mighty White Dragon!"
The youth's strained voice could barely be heard over the sobs of the onlookers above. The sobs and cries that filled the cathedral brought a sort of life to the air, the kind that would liberate all present.
Or rather, almost all present.
The moon hung high in the sky.
Howling winds roared through the land, carrying on them snow and ash. They scraped against the massive stone walls, seeking gaps with which creep in and extinguish the life that lay inside. There was no such thing though.
The city of Artevalia's walls had been standing since a time before even His Holiness has descended from he mountains at El-Alabastra's behest. This meant that the walls of Artevalia had stood for at least a thousand years without any problems. This also served as a testament to their perfection, which some believe was the result of El-Alabastra's will itself.
These were the walls that had protected Artevalia and its inhabitants from the evils that skulked the stormy tundras of Gottheim, the very same evils that were said to cause men to stray from El-Alabastra's path.
"Had Master Cecil been tempted by these evils?" The platinum blonde youth thought. The new weight on his belt was quite light in comparison to the previous sword that had taken up that spot. Still, it weighed on his conscience when he thought of its reason for being there.
These were the things that Vane of Judice pondered as he walked through the streets of Artevalia. He had chosen to do so in the dead of night, when none would attempt to stop him. Only the sound of the youth's pristine white armour clinking against itself could be heard. His gray eyes slowly danced around, taking in the sights.
Stray dogs wandered the streets and those without homes were left to huddle up amongst themselves.
While Artevalia's walls kept the raging storm out, it didn't do much to keep the cold from entering the city. It wasn't uncommon for those who were too prideful to seek assistance to die from the cold. In fact, it was such a common occurence that Vane could hardly tell the difference between a man and a corpse on the streets sometimes.
The upper levels of Artevalia did well to stay warm. The closer one got to the cathedral, the warmer they were. This was due to His Holiness's scales, which were said to absorb the cold so that life could prosper amidst such terrible conditions. His Holiness's scales had very little effect on the lower levels of Artevalia, where those who did not serve the White Ecclesia were forced to stay.
This now included the family of Vane's mentor as well.
With such things in mind he continued forward. With every step he took the clinking of his armour caused those who huddled amongst themselves to stir. Through beady eyes, some would glare at Vane. There was very little to uphold the law in the lower levels, as none of the White Ecclesia were particularly fond of the cold. This included Vane, but in this situation he felt obligated to at least talk with his mentor's family. What's more...
"...I'm not cold at all." Vane thought. His grey eyes slowly fell on the pristine white sword that now lay attached to his belt: the Sword of Principality, Albion. It made sense if one were to think about it rationally. If the scales of a the White Dragon of El-Alabastra served to keep the cold at bay, why not a spine plucked from his back?
In a sense Vane was proud, but he also felt very guilty. He now felt that there was only one way to begin his atonement.
"...The least I can do is offer refuge to Master Cecil's family." Vane spoke quietly. "They may not forgive me, but surely they will welcome warmth."
This served as an affirmation for Vane himself more than any of the homeless present. Ordinarily Vane would have gone to their home with gusto in an attempt to convince them, but that hot-blooded spark within him had seemingly withered. All that remained was a rather weary youth who would like nothing more than to crawl into his bed and sleep.
With every step Vane took, his willingness to meet his mentor's family gradually diminished. They would likely decline his offer. They would likely tell him that they at least had their pride. Was there really any purpose to seeing them when Vane felt that already knew what they would say?
The youth's steps stopped. There was no need to dig himself deeper into the pit of despair. He could call it atonement if he pleased, but in reality it was simply the youth's own attempt to make himself feel better about the situation. There was no point to this false sense of honour.
Vane smiled bitterly. "...They will want nothing to do with me, that much is obvious."
Having come to this conclusion, Vane slowly turned and began to make his way back to the upper levels of Artevalia. His once heavy steps were now significantly lighter. Perhaps justifying his actions with such faulty logic had served him well in his attempts to make a decision. Perhaps "he who hath faced evil" had no need for his fragile ideals of what a Knight should be.
Having reached his own conclusion, the youth walked off into the night.
Little did Vane know that his story had only just begun.
Author's Notes: Hi there, Rental here. If you're reading this then you've either finished reading this chapter or you've skimmed through it. This is [Prologue A]. Yes, this means that the next chapter will be [Prologue B].
In essence, this is a Fantasy/Adventure story that functions on a set of laws and rules that I had created for a completely different fantasy world that I had intended to write about. After a bit of brainstorming, I decided I'd try writing a story in a new fantasy world. I'll probably get into the smaller intricacies of the world that I don't get to explain in the actual chapter in end section here.
To start, the White Ecclesia is a group dedicated to the worship of the White Queen, a Goddess known as [El-Alabastra] who supposedly lives high in the snowy mountains. The White Ecclesia is comprised of two groups: those who offer prayer to El-Alabastra, and those who defend El-Alabastra's Priests and Priestesses.
Until next time,