Destiny’s Throne - Chapter 1
"Do you believe in destiny, Master Varleon?" The menacing, cloaked figure shook her head and spat on the wet cobblestones, revealing blackened and crooked teeth.
"And what could you possibly mean by that, Slynn?," Varleon sneered.
"Do you forge your own path? Slice yourself up on brambles and thorns, yet keep cutting through to get to the other side? Or do you embrace what you are meant to do? Do you rise up to seize your glory by brutishly hacking away through life? Or perhaps you simply refuse to be the master of your own destiny." Slynn took her wizened old eyes off of Varleon’s hooded face to gaze up at the moonless night sky. She licked her lips, adjusted her wooden eye, and prodded, "Well…?"
Varleon merely looked to his right, towards the Palace District. He scoffed and closed his eyes, allowing hazy memories to soothe his mind as he thumbed the intricate mythril pendant he wore around his neck. After a long pause, he stated, “I am a puppet, yes. Anyone who wants to stay alive in this world is. The only difference between them and me? I am my own puppeteer. And what of you? What of your destiny, Slynn? So quick to cast others down, thinking nothing of your own shortcomings. But one does not simply stumble into positions like mine. I know what you have been hiding all these years. I know the secrets to your secrets.” Varleon cracked his neck a few times before continuing. “True, the things that I do not know vastly outweigh the things that I do know, but…”
And in seemingly no time at all, Varleon had his dagger at Slynn’s throat; a minute bit of pressure more, and then all Varleon had to do was to slip back into the shadows - something he had become rather good at in his twenty-two years.
Slynn giggled. “Really, now, I could’ve sworn you were smarter than that, Hume.” She grinned as Varleon watched the old Hume woman transformed into a young Elven lass. “Jeez, how long have you known me, Var? I was just playing around. You’re always so serious.” She muttered something to herself while massaging her throat.
"Tch. And you didn’t happen to have anything to do with the real Slynn’s death, did you?"
"What!? Var, you’re terrible, of course I didn’t! I was so awfully bored just waiting around, so I decided to go look for this nutty old bat! But when I got to her hut, she was already dead. And judging by the smell, she’d been dead at least a week. Gross."
Varleon sighed. “Well, I guess we’re back to square one now, aren’t we, Caiella?”
"Hmph. I thought I told you to stop calling me that. People might recognize that name, and Luna forbid they capture me and give me back to the Elders," she wrinkled her nose, then said cheerfully, "Just… just call me Caia ‘till this is all over, ‘kay?"
"Yeah, yeah." Varleon waved his hand as if to dismiss her. "You… you don’t really believe in Luna and Sol, do you?"
"What kind of question is that!? Should I start questioning your beliefs now too?" Caia folded her arms and frowned.
"It’s just that…" Varleon sighed. "Never mind." Caia stopped frowning and looked up at the moon. She said wistfully, "We believe in Luna and Sol because they are the Creators. They shaped us from moss and stone and bark. From flowers and vines. They warm the earth, they rock the tides. They made us, so we worship them. You don’t believe we came from nothing, do you?"
Varleon grumbled. “I don’t believe in some absent mother and father figure. Maybe this was all just a big accident. But I certainly don’t believe that the sun and moon created us.” Varleon rolled his eyes. Caia scoffed, “Luna and Sol are not the sun and moon. They’re just the physical manifestations of their consciousness. You should really attend a Solunian Circle on of these days. Just to see if you like what we believe in.” Varleon stuck out his tongue, “Yeah, maybe. When hell freezes over.”
"Just stop questioning my Elven beliefs, and I’ll stop questioning your silly non-beliefs. Deal?" Caia stuck out her hand. "Fine, deal," said Varleon.
Caia whipped her cloak around her and darted off into the night, Varleon close behind her. They stopped when they reached an abandoned alleyway. “Shh. Do you hear that?” Caia whispered back, “Yes. I hear them. The Templars. They’re supposed to guard this city, but all they do is protect the Humes. They hate Elves in particular. Guess they’re just jealous.” Varleon rolled his eyes and said, “I’m going to go check things out.” Caia cringed a little bit. “Be careful, you idiot.”
Varleon stuck his head out of the alley and saw two things. First, he saw a mortally wounded Elven child lying on the ground. Second, he saw a particularly large Templar standing over her, sword coated in blood. As he was processing this, Caia sauntered up behind him and peeked around him. Shocked, she gasped rather loudly, gaining the attention of the Templar. “Varleon, take the Templar down! I’ll get the girl!”
Caia ran over to the dying girl and brushed her long white hair behind her back. “It’s alright sweetheart. Everything’s going to be okay. Hush now.” Caia placed her pale hands over the tiny child’s wounds and began to hum. Immediately, her hands glowed with a pale light, and the child’s flesh began to repair itself. The more power Caia’s song had, the faster the muscle and flesh knit together.
On the other hand, Varleon was in the middle of a staring contest with the Templar. He drew his dual daggers and threw off his cloak. “Prepare to feel that child’s pain,” he said firmly. The Templar dragged his two-handed greatsword around in the cobblestones and said in a strange accent, “I shall not be the one to die tonight. I am justice. I am law. The child pickpocketed me. It was only right.” And with that, Varleon sprinted at the armored man and thrust his dagger under the Tempar’s helm. With his other dagger, he managed to knock the man’s helm off. Varleon gasped and stepped back. The man had dark hair with sharp red eyes. “Y-you’re an Ardian! What are you doing as a Templar?”
“I never said I was a Templar. But now it is time for me to bid you farewell. We shall meet again one day.” As he finished his last words, the Ardian darted off into the night.
As Varleon stood there blinking, Caia came running over, the child in her arms. “What happened? Why’d he run? And we need to find out where this girl came from so we can get her back home.” Varleon shook his head and explained what had happened.
“What? An Ardian? But we’re at war with them! Why is one here? We need to tell the guards. Or the mayor. Or someone! What if they’ve infiltrated the Templars already? Jeez, they’re bad enough already, we don’t need them crawling with those creepy Ardians too.” She shuddered. Just then, the little girl began to stir in Caia’s arms. As she woke, the girl looked around and yelped, desperately trying to get away from Caia. “Hey, hey, it’s okay. I’m Caia, and this is Varleon. You probably don’t remember, but I healed you. See?” She poked the place where the girl’s wound used to be.
“…Oh. You healed me? Um, thank you. And I’m sorry I hit you.”
Caia laughed. “It’s alright. What’s your name? Where are you from? We should get you home.”
The girl’s eyes widened. “No! I can’t go back. Don’t make me! I’m Ryla, thirteen years old, and I’m from the Helping Hands Orphanage. It’s awful there. They beat me and punish me for things I didn’t even do!”
“Didn’t that place get an official warning from the Templars?” said Varleon. “I remember when they announced that they were thinking of cracking down on the orphanage.”
“Yeah. When we heard the rumors, I got hurt even more.” She looked down at the ground and wiped a tear away. “You can’t make me go back. Please, let me go home with you guys!”
Caia and Varleon looked at each other and simultaneously sighed. “Ryla,” Caia said softly, “You can’t come with us. We’re on an important journey. There will be danger and evil and fighting. We can’t put you in harm’s way like that.”
“But I can fight! I can do more than fight.” Ryla put her hands out in front of her, and from them came a bright blue flame. “See? I’m an Arcanian. I have lots of powers. Mostly destructive ones. I can fight. Please, let me come with you! And if I’m a burden, you can just leave me there and continue onwards and I’ll go back to the orphanage. Please!”
Varleon sighed and said, “Alright. But don’t get in our way. We need some destructive magic with us. Caia can only really heal.” Caia frowned, “And is that such a bad thing? Hmph.”
Meanwhile Ryla was grinning and saying, “Let me go find my stuff. I dropped it when the Templar attacked. You won’t regret this, I promise!”