Prologue- The Spear of Fates
Cavern of Chaos - Far North Mountains - Xechenia
"Your majesty, are you entirely sure?"
"Trust me Raneah, I've never been more sure of anything my entire life. It has to be here."
The King strode forward with a rhythmic gait, behind him, a young man trailed, clad in bronze armour with a sheathed blade. He glanced around curiously, taking in the crumbling caves.
An icy cold settled in the air all around them, the wind whistling through the holes in the caverns rocky walls.
"Do you truly believe the boy will survive this? The power of the gods is great! He may be the Kingdom's strongest warrior, but the Netherworld is not to be trifled with, lest you wish for misfortune to follow you to the ends of the earth!"
The King shook his head, silver locks of shoulder length hair bouncing furiously back and forth as he stared at the man before him with hard emerald eyes.
"The boy bears the brand, he was born for a purpose such as this, thus is the reason for his existence!"
"B-but, Xechenia will no longer have an heir. What good is the forging of an Empire if there will be no one left to lead it?"
"That's enough Raneah, the boy will wield the Spear of Fates, it's his destiny. I am old, what is left of my life is limited, that is why it must be him, It has to be! War is coming, one we cannot afford to lose and he must guide our nation to victory. The spear will guarantee that."
Raneah sighed, golden eyes downcast, "My King all I am asking is that you consider this logically! In breaking the seal you open our world to the threats of the Netherworld! The old tales tell of a disease, a malevolent blight that strips all of their humanity, Deamhain will roam freely throughout our lands! Is it really worth the risk? To damn our people in pursuit of a minor victory in a meagre war?!"
The King's face contorted with rage as he whirled swiftly around to face the ebony haired druid.
"Do not underestimate this coming war Drochta - it will decide the fate of this Kingdom - the future of the Xechenian people. We cannot surrender, we will not submit. No matter how many lives are lost, no matter the consequence, we will not yield. I will not sacrifice everything we have built."
"B-but Your Majesty-"
Though his pleadings were pointless.
"Do not forget Raneah, your people will acquire the lands I have promised- if you fulfill your duty."
The druid bowed lowly, ebony curls escaping the confines of a crimson ribbon. "Yes my King. Please forgive my foolish insubordination. I-I understand. I will carry out what was agreed upon."
The King gave a nod before he strode ahead as Raneah fell into step beside the fiery haired man who lagged behind. Slowly his downtrodden gaze flicked to the young prince.
If the boy felt even an inkling of fear, his expression did not show it.
"How do you feel Lord Aedh?"
He didn't respond at first. There was a flicker of something unrecognisable in the depths of his blue eyes, though only for a moment before it disappeared once more and they returned to their usual state of placidity..
"In truth Sir Reneah, I-I cannot tell." He sighed softly, "My wife, she is soon to bear our child and I fear should this not go according to his majesty's plan, mine may grow up without their Father." A sliver of sorrow was mirrored in his expression briefly before vanishing.
"But Wielding the Spear of Fates- this is my destiny. I must succeed, for my father, for my people…" He trailed off, "For my child, so they may have a Kingdom to inherit." Slowly he turned his palms downward, fingers gently caressing the mark engraved in his skin. It was a strange u-shape, mildly representative of a harp with a series of four vertical lines. He'd been told each line represented each of the four gods, Caeiius, Danua, Belara and Borrume - a sign of their favour.
He shook his head furiously, "But please, ignore my mindless musings, we should continue onward, after all, time waits not for a mere man."
Raneah looked as though he wished to speak further but refrained, instead merely pressing his lips tightly together until they became a thin white line amidst the tight curls of his raven beard. "Certainly Milord! May the gods smile upon you."
Prince Aedh nodded, "And on you as well, the seal will surely not break so easily."
They continued on in comfortable silence, the gloomy grey of the cavern walls growing increasingly narrower the deeper they progressed; paired with a number of sudden, sharp inclines upon uneven terrain.
A wall of illegible glyphs and worn down stone loomed before them, it's carvings faded and barely visible in the weak yellow glow of their lanterns.
The prince's eyes caught alight at the sight and he rushed towards it, gently brushing the palm of his hand against its cool, ridged surface.
"Finally- the tomb of Chaos- Finally we've found it!" The King turned excitedly toward the druid who gazed upon the seal with an unreadable expression.
"Now Raneah, the incantation!"
With trembling form he raised his arms, squeezing his eyes shut and with a soft, shuddering voice he began to speak. "Ah-ra tana-ma-tuca-notemus. Ire-no mi- sora-tu-ta" He raised the volume of his voice with every utterance of an unrecognisable syllable. His entire being pulsating with a brilliant white light.
Suddenly the glyphs began to glow, whirling and twirling in circles upon the rock-face as the seal slowly crumbled away before their very eyes, revealing only vast darkness beyond.
"Now my son- go, claim your destiny, wield the Spear of Fates, as did the seer foretell!"
Swallowing his fear as he gulped in a mouthful of cool air, Aedh edged cautiously forward. He gripped the hilt of his sword so tightly his knuckles turned white, though still he did not falter. With a calculated step and high-held head he crossed the threshold and disappeared into the wave of inky blackness that awaited him.
Immediately the pale flame flickered before extinguishing immediately. The prince swore softly under his breath, throwing his lamp to floor in frustration and listening to the shattering of the glass. Slowly he moved onward reaching blindly in front of him, seeking out the walls that lay on either side of his path, feeling as though he'd been walking for hours in endless dark.
It was as though the walls were closing in all around him, his shoulders suddenly brushing against the cool stone. His apprehension was increasing with every step he took, with every echoing thump of a footfall. His grip on the sword hilt had loosened by now, though his fingertips continued to rest upon it, almost precautionary.
As he rounded the bend he could suddenly see the trickle of light as it crept down the cavern's path, as though leaving a luminescent trail that guided him forth.
He could feel his heart begin to race, the palms of his hands growing clammy the closer the sliver of light became.
It lay almost two heads above him atop a towering cliff that loomed over him. He took a deep breath before launching himself onto it's uneven surface,desperately grasping the numerous sections jutting outward.
He clung to it tightly but found he couldn't push himself up, each time sliding back down to the floor with a frustrated groan.
He could feel the beads of perspiration build upon his forehead and quickly, he wiped it away. Eventually he chose to shed his armour, stood now in only his gambeson and cotton trousers, his scabbard remained attached to his belt and with a deep breath, he began pulling himself up once more.
Without the extra weight holding him down Aedh found himself capable of moving somewhat quicker, eventually hoisting himself upward and over the cliff ridge, eyes burning as he stood captivated, staring into the blinding light. He could feel a slight breeze caress his skin and he found himself smiling as he held his head high, stepping out into the fresh air.
What he saw made him feel as though he'd reached the netherworld itself.
Never before had he seen such otherworldly beauty. It was a grove of glorious green shadowed by tall, proud trees and flourishing flora. He could hear the babbling of a brook in the distance, sunlight peeking in between the gaps in the branches.
To the thicket he bowed lowly before his eyes settled upon the spear.
It glinted silver in the sun, entrapped within thorned brambles. He had barely managed to take a single step forward before the world began to lurch.
He tried to take another, but found he couldn't move, instead frozen in place, the spear just within his grasp yet still too far away for him to reach.
"You who desires the hero-slayer, the spear of fates, bearer of the brand. Heed my warning, you risk breaking the seal to the netherworld, within which the chaos god slumbers"
He looked around wildly for the speaker's source, though it seemed to come from the air and the earth itself.
"Please, guardian, I beseech you, hear me!" He breathed deeply before continuing. "I will wield the spear of fates. It has been my destiny since the day I was born."
"Understand that in wielding such an arm, chaos will be bound to you until the day you draw your final breath. The malevolence will return to the mortal realm once more. In doing so you damn your people to a darkness of their own creation. For a weapon, for a war, is this truly your heart's desire?"
Aedh sighed, " Humans… We are such fickle creatures, hungering for nothing but power and control, ever susceptible to corruption. We need such things in order to survive, this is the way it has always been. This spear alone will not damn my people, nor will it ensure their destruction, they are more than capable of such things themselves. Without the influence of Chaos, without this Malevolence of which you speak- only the strong will survive. That is the reality of the world in which we live and nothing on earth could ever change that."
He paused, inhaling deeply. "The brand, it marks me as one of their chosen, one worthy of possessing the weapons they once controlled. I cannot deny the path they've carved for me. I must ensure the survival of our waning kingdom - no matter the cost, no matter the consequences. So please, guardian of the cave, allow me to retrieve the spear, allow me to protect my people."
He bowed once more, suddenly regaining control of his movements and stumbled forward. He gazed upon it only for a moment before reaching towards it, fingertips ghosting upon the cool, smooth metal of its handle. He felt almost a tingle of static jolt through him, the brand on the back of his left hand beginning to glow faintly as he tightened his grip upon it, freeing it from nature's grasp.
For a moment he felt nothing, as he clutched it tightly to his chest.
Then he felt everything.
It started with a gentle heat that grew increasingly more intense as the seconds passed, then suddenly it consumed him, as though his entire being was engulfed in flames. He screamed, collapsing to his knees, the spear still gripped within his palms, it's tip digging into the earth beneath his feet, barely keeping him aloft. He bowed his head, squeezing his eyes shut.
Was this truly to be it for him? Had the seer been wrong all this time? Was he truly to perish at the hands of the Sacred arm that was supposed to be their salvation?
He could not fall here.
He couldn't accept that.
Then just as quickly as the pain had started it stopped.
He couldn't move, it was as though his body was suddenly made of lead.
Then he slumped face first to the damp earth as the darkness closed in all around him.