~Erasmus Eliaden, First Patriarch of House Eliaden and First Warden of the North.
A Ranger's Tale
The morning sky is uncharacteristically warm, the sun blazing from high above wringing sweat out of the young recruits. Three months’ worth of orientation after graduation finally reaping its profit utterly deserved, only some prissy rich man’s son would protest against the Father’s will. They say boys are meant to enjoy, but men are made to fight. The journey for every boy has ended, ‘tis up to the men to decide whether to be mere mortals or a pride of lions in fiery red.
Thrill and anticipation playing vanguard to his first day of duty, Guy Cody decked himself in a leather suit of scales. Like members of every Support Command, fervent pride burns in him as he takes note of his tunic in green. Visualising a spangenhelm donned atop his head, the feel of an oaken shaft belonging to his spear ignites forth a flurry of passion. The time is now at hand, bugles blaring aloud the Gaffer’s coming. Knowing not what is to come, the lad nevertheless hopes his first mission will be a major one.
“Stand guard, attention!”
Atmosphere formal permeates the Teesside Division, excitement verily gives way to tension threatening to overspill. Moggray Tonn makes his entrance with nary a pomp, this is a seasoned veteran used to braving fires of war. Orbs of iron grey dare all comers to challenge his stand, an old soldier’s features scarred betraying an old lion yet to fall. Scaled shirt of shining mail sparkles forth an aura of steel, the Gaffer’s helm bearing a roaring lion's face.
"Is everything okay, Southgate? You better don’t fuck this up."
"All fine and dandy, Sir," replies Southgate, his respectful salute defying the manner of his words.
"Alright then," mutters Moggray curtly, his heart nonetheless amused by Southgate Garatt’s expression, "As the Division Gaffer of Teesside, I hereby welcome you all to the Red Lions. I'm not good with words and far worse off in tolerating morons. Might as well allocate your duties accordingly until any of you happens to get promoted.”
As thunderous bellowing from the boots affirmed their stance, Moggray inhaled deeply before his actual briefing. Erecting a stoic facade every day seen was the only solution, battling a sense of real unease being the only way out.
The system of Support Command is there for a reason and everybody knows why.
“Most importantly, take serious note of this,” hollers Moggray, the Northern Lion realising how harsh his tone was just now, “All you people here are part of the entire Support Command, hence direct combat should only be engaged under orders. It's either you learn to obey or prepare to be brayed. Understand?”
They’re just merely boys embarking on the path of men.
The Gaffer of Teesside now has to take that inevitable plunge, his thought mirroring the dire circumstances at hand.
“As you all have known by now, there’s a case of someone causing trouble at Lindel. Just don't ask me how that brown bugger managed to kill and bail, but at least I'm pretty sure the description is dead-on,” Moggray feels his throat going dry, yet the leader has to keep battling away till his fears banished, “Refer to the info issued to you an hour ago unless you all want to die. Southgate, elaborate further please.”
“It’s been rumoured that a suspicious figure was seen around our Teesside County three days ago. Just don’t ask me whether a pretty lass is more capable of fibbing.”
Laughter abruptly invading the square, Moggray heaved a hidden word of gratitude towards his second in command as Southgate Garatt continues, “Hence your immediate task is to scout the surrounding areas. Every single inch of ground belonging to our beloved Teesside, that is.”
“The First Support Command has already been mobilised together with the Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Engagement Command,” interrupting Southgate’s speech, Moggray Tonn displays nary a remorse over his decision, “As for the Second Support Command, necessary deployment will be on the cards if there's a need for additional back-up. Until then, stay red!"
"Erm, Sir?" raising up his hand, Guy Cody wears a nervous look on his face, "What about the blokes at Manchester? I thought they are supposed to be best of the best."
"Sound opinion voiced out here. Others tend to call you a moron, but obviously you're not too shabby in the humour department. Good try of sarcasm here, Guy Cody,” answers a stoic Moggray, inner mirth nevertheless blooming in spite of struggles prior, “Learn from him, lads."
"Erm, Sir... it's not too good to say things like that," whispers Southgate.
"Well, I'm just stating the cold hard truth,” comes a deadpan reply, “And Southgate, you're also included in this statement."
My blood… is it just only mine?
A metallic warmth and taste… I fucking hate this bullshit.
Am I already dead... executed by my own sins?
Fuck my sins. Do I even understand the meaning of death?
My loss, my pain… everything is nothing but a myth. A big fat bullshitting lie…
A bloodied blade… my sole apology… is it my hand gripping its hilt?
That moron whose death has saved me for good… is he still there?
"This is my parting gift to you. Live on, Aeranath... even if your life has been nothing more than a mistake."
Jolted from his slumber, Aeranath finds himself baptised in sweat. Stagnant air feeling frigid, its bite brings forth the blackest dawn. The last True Apostle is doomed to be a dreamer, someone living out a nightmare and nothing more. An eternal crucible is to be the Ranger’s only way of life, a past sowed via an unfeeling race mocking his misery.
“In the name of Avalon, I henceforth sentence you and every unfortunate soul here to oblivion.”
This was his first statement uttered, those were his first words spoken since bidding farewell to his father. The future has always meant nothing, morals defining the True Apostles would always define the present.
Fuck the morals, fuck the present, fuck them all.
Aeranath knows what should be done. To become a hunter so that he can attain the end of his life. He who is the beginning and the end of the last True Apostle’s path, he who created this tragedy named Contra Mundum.
Aor, the First True Apostle.
The moon suddenly turned a bloody red, its crimson face forcing the night to be a silent one. A bluish hue briefly flickered, then it becomes no more. The wind stilled its course, the balmy air warping into a wintry bite. Only howls from a nearby wolf can be heard, the beast continuing its soulful dirge.
Guided by omens both seen and felt, Aeranath buckles down on his knees. Ominous woe soon to befall all bereft of good fortune, a galloping heart keeps begging for a mercy not granted. Clutching his chest with both hands, Aeranath knows the Answerer will taste blood once again more.
The beast can only break free, there’s no other choice. Chains restraining a rabid animal forced to their greatest limit, the wolf would never be sated.
No guarantee of sanity, no chance of staying intact.
This familiar feeling.
Even if only for this very night.
Kill and you'll verily be free.
Skies were broken, the heavens will never weep for him. Persistent laughter despite a resilient will festering like a massive sore, this is a twisted solace lasting till dawn breaks.
The killer is prepared to dominate, a primal roar projecting forth another victory easily won…
Marked by a full crimson moon shining brightly above the slaughter come...
Wasting little time over the scout's tip-off, Pallister Scholes knows only too well the manner of bandits residing at Potter’s Mound. Equally dire, if not worse is the knowledge of Citias’ current straits. Just as vultures enjoy circling over the dying, a city boasting beautiful buildings and womenfolk befitting such a repute would always end up attracting unwanted attention. Rumour has it that Citias was recently attacked by a bunch of Demons, yet no one could describe what these monsters look like. It’s one thing scoffing at fibbers and the fibbed, quite another to acknowledge the importance of the Red Lions this time round. With nary a doubt, Citias’ defensive strength has swiftly been halved.
No, make that more than half.
If not for the Church sending much wanted aid, this proud city of cultural excellence would have been wasted like a chaste beauty forced to whore. Like most of his fellow Lions, Pallister detests dogma with a certain zeal. Yet, everyone has to admit that the Church is the only reason why the Greater North is able to retain a decent semblance of stability.
Demons or no Demons, it doesn’t matter. Really hate this fucking retarded truth.
"Sarge Scholes! All lads on the pitch!" exclaims an excited runner, his message prompting Pallister to prepare himself for war.
"Good," hails a dry reply without turning to face the informant, "Relay my orders that we'll be mobilising after three minutes. Ten companies, twenty men each. All must stay within a five mile radius from each other, positioning should be our highest priority.
“We all know the basics, Sarge,” pointing out his superior’s mistake, the scout never felt intimidated all the while.
“That's just me talking cock,” smirks Scholes, his cockiness all too evident now, “Time to up the bozos, no turning back."
Potter’s Mound, a hillock renowned for its namesake. A decade and half ago, this was where potters of finest quality gathered and lived. Fifteen winters later, bandits and knaves claimed it for their own. Word has it that not only was Potter’s Mound famous for the earthenware, the whorehouses there were also without peer. Mayhap ‘tis coincidence, perhaps a strange force at work. Regardless of whatever said and whispered, Potter’s Mound has indeed became a haven for rape and whore dealing.
"Dude, I can't wait for the fucking fun to start," gripes an unshaven man in a chainmail shirt, his sword belted at the waist while he and a few other friends squat outside their encampment.
"Yeah, you're right on that, stud. Even a ‘tard knows we’ll have tons of fodder under us, so why not hoard some of their finest bitches by then?" quips a ratty lad around sixteen winters, his lazy drawl drawing hoots of approval.
"That's a good idea! Why di... hey you see that, Obtsan?"
"Seems to be some random sucker coming our way... oh shit! Fucker's armed! Doubt he wants to bant. Go rat Chief Ben!" snaps Obstan, his hands gripping a spear tightly.
"No need for that, Tanner. It’s only us vs one. Even a hamster can easily guess the correct winner here," leers a rotten toothed hulk towering beside Obstan.
Encouraged by a grown up’s words, blades and axes drawn themselves against an intruder looming into view. Indulging himself in sexual fantasies involving ravished girls of noble birth offering themselves wholeheartedly, the last thing greeting Obstan isn’t some nubile brunette half naked.
A flash of lightning blue and flaring red, something explodes within him. Then darkness claims Obstan.
Reconnaissance halted under Pallister's order an hour ago, every Red Lion nears the intended target inch by inch. Silence unbearable for every lad bearing his Lion's pride, a round of good humoured jape erupts. Simple jest surrounding girls and sex passing from one man to another, immature bravado soon evaporates to nary but emptiness. Not a single cricket chirps, tension stages an all-out assault. Seasoned veterans like Pallister Scholes would not hesitate in staying put, but not anyone else no older than twenty winters. No matter what, pointless decisions should be the last thing needed. And to a field leader like Pallister Scholes, staying put is just that. Combat has never been won on bravery and valour, only little boys and girls believe so otherwise. Conflicts are won via decisions, every duel of arms is decided by a mind swifter than the opponent’s blade.
Fuck pragmatism, fuck procrastination. I'm first a field sergeant and leader, not some brainless taskmaster.
Slivers of doubt extinguished, the ginger haired commander begin barking out orders. Every man bearing arms marches headlong into the bandits' base in response, their organised ranks uncompromised.
Then all freeze in their tracks as they stare aghast at bodies of sentries strewn. This is nothing less than an incursion initiated by blood and death, bloodied pieces of flesh decorating the sturdy gates red. Adopting a cautious approach this time round, fear seized even Pallister’s heart. Beckoning in front for his men to follow up, the Red Lions join ranks to create one massive phalanx. Then it all starts unfolding before every watcher present.
Dozens dismembered and charred, only the dead were visible. A motley group brutally slaughtered, the crimson moon reveals forth a testament inked by Chaos' quill. Hair of purest frost contrasting starkly with fairest features dark, an Elven visage becomes wholly static in an unholy state. Insane rhythm sung from Pallister's heart the last thing felt, a predator suddenly ravages a battalion of lions helpless and armed.
Oblivion's hand finally revealed, Pallister Scholes witnesses heads detached from the lads and blood erupting from every lifeless corpse. A burning pain invades his heart, a searing fire tearing into his belly. The Demon is already before him, both the killer and the killed staring eye to eye...
Then it all ends here, his body and soul utterly immolated.
I watch my past seven years ago unfolding like a play, myself seated as the lone audience. Everything is too surreal, this has never been the way to spend my eighteenth birthday. Lecherous leers exposing my fear back then, my kidnappers spare no efforts in unmasking their hopeless lives. Who would ever commit his lust onto an eleven year old girl yet to see maidenhood? ‘Tis a question I will never know. Joenne said outlaws like them only desire money and ransom, Karen asking why money and ransom at the same time. That was two years ago, I still remember a sombre Karen nodding in response.
"Only money if you’re a son, both money and virginity if you’re a daughter."
They claimed themselves to be after my father's gold, said gold is nothing to these ravenous animals licking their lips. Two things they only aim, one goal is all they want. To get their undeserved reward and taking my body, to renege on their word so as to sell me off as a whore. I know what they’re thinking because I heard each man speaking out his mind.
Should sins and evil overrule all things rational?
I ask myself this question, rumoured tales of potent brew running rampant in my head. Any contents within such a drink should be meant as whispered warning to every maiden desirable, yet here I am being both the witness and victim.
"There is no honour in fuelling your evil desires, 'tis why even gods are guilty thus."
My mother not from birth has taught me this much, this is why I abhor such a life. What purpose does the promise of power serve if your soul knows not what you're living for? What manner of gods are appeased by such heinous individuals unless they claim to do it in their holy name? My father is no stranger to scoundrels doing so, this is why I know certain things without being cursed with the luck to see them.
Then he enters the act abruptly and chaotically. All twenty bandits bereft of repentance hacked down without respite, his blinking movement outrageously alluring. Yea, to truly feel my saviour travelling to and fro with impunity is indeed a beauty by itself. I see nothing less than a marvellous sequence of somebody disappearing and reappearing at will, me being both the audience and the little girl saved. They tend to shun me because they say a Cinha is no Causacean. They call me a harlot and a whore, yet his eyes betrays a life seventy times worse than mine.
His eyes of crimson red... should I be fearing him?
Is he a Demon so many have whispered in fear or merely an avatar of death?
Or mayhap this man is chaos itself assuming flesh?
My mind pays no heed to this question asked, I know with nary a doubt that this dream will never be the end. 'Tis but only a beginning I cannot foresee, my heart reaching out to my saviour brandishing a sword baptised in blood.
As the main actress on the stage, is he the main actor?
As the only audience seated below, should I adore him akin to how Joenne and Karen desiring that comely actor years ago on the stage?
He is truly a living sigil embodying conflict between what-ifs and reality, surely he is not the type of man Joenne or Karen likes.
Is he comely?
More likely the rugged type of man more used to charming smallborne girls serving in any tavern. Twong always enjoyed saying such men are only good enough for whores, that was when I was only twelve winters or so. My father was not amused by such bluntest jest, a stinging slap and words which stung equally in public ensured a learning environment less than eventful.
I then see the full moon gradually laying down its cards, I witness a captivating sea of blue invading the lunar sky. The resultant clarity ensnaring my soul for good, this has to be the obscurity otherwise named the True Apostles. Understanding bereft of words greeting that rugged form, his back becomes the most poignant portrait ever. Mother has spoken before of beings both fair and powerful, their long ears and hair of winter snow setting themselves apart.
I never expect his complexion bronzed like a Tamurian, yet I will never accept that stark white hair and his distinct features as a lie. Our eyes meet each other for the first time, burning jewels of crimson red supplanted by the most beautiful colour never before seen...
The colour belonging to that azure moon hanging above...
The never-ending blanket of clearest blue…
Yea, this is everything representing a True Apostle...
If only I could tell him that night my name is Alestrial Eliaden.