Their horses moved swiftly through the abandoned road. It was a cold day, with a cold wind piercing the day. The sun was dull, and heavy clouds drifted through the skies. Rayn was the captain who led the column. The group was dressed identically, the captain was unique though. On his forearm, was the symbol of Kalais: an eagle with outstretched, and four surrounding stars.
His company was comprised of his close companions; men having gone through many trials together. The group of ten men was very much skilled in the martial arts. Each had, slung on their shoulders, was a bow and a quiver full of arrows. Strapped to their waist, was a double-blade iron sword, and a sharp battle dagger.
The horses halted at the gust of a strong icy wind. Rayn took the time to look around. The land around the road was thick forest. The woods were dense, and ran through much of the continent. Rayn kept his eyes opened for a distinct sign...and there it was. It was an oddly placed stump. The trees around for miles around were undamaged by man or beast, but this one particular stump was the sign Rayn was looking for. Rayn grabbed the reigns of his horse, and guided it out of the road. Another horse rode up beside him to his right.
�Despite his covered face, Rayn could easily recognize him. The man was Scion, a youth near his age. Scion was a skilled archer, who had won Rayn's respect. Scion was dutiful, loyal, and strong to boot. Addler rode to his left, strong and brash was he. Scion and Addler were Rayn's most trusted men; he had great confidence their ability. Addler wore the uniform of the group; however, he dissented from the group in one manner. He preferred the axe to the sword. He strapped on his blade, although in combat, he would never pull it from its sheath. His double-bladed axe was strapped to his horse...a real fight was not near, but not far enough.
Rayn, despite his young age, was a skilled commander. He demanded great respect from his men, and received it. Rayn was orphaned early in his life. He spent much of his time as a blacksmiths apprentice. In his free time, he learned to use a sword with great ability, and craft them as well. Rayn fell upon hard times, and it dawned upon him that the only way to make money was to fight for it. Soon, thereafter, Rayn enlisted in the Kalian army. He was assigned to a group of rangers that patrolled the border; they were the Empire's first line of defense. Rayn soon climbed the ladder of power, and became a commander of his own force. It was this very force he traveled with. Rayn prided himself on a single accomplishment, not to lose a single man in his battalion. Ten men, seasoned from many battles were Rayn's pride.
Rayn felt another attack of cold, blistering air. Rayn could feel the cold through his layers of clothes. Wordlessly, Rayn pushed his horse into a gallop, his men followed closely. The riders thundered down an invisible path, one that could only be seen by them. Rayn spurred his horse faster, dodging roots and low branches, Rayn burst into a small clearing.
The clearing was vacant, save for two structures. The first was a large, double storied, stone house built many years ago. Along side the house, was the small stable Rayn and his men had erected themselves. Their frequent visits here had given birth to the necessity of a stable. The horses would long be outside in cold, unpleasant weather.
The home seemed small dreary. There were no windows, and the old house looked on the verge of collapsing. Rayn led his company quickly into the stable, where they led their horses into their separate compartments. They hastened to relieve their burden, give them food and water, and give them warm blankets for the chilling nights. Within minutes, Rayn and his company withdrew from the stable and marched towards the house. He immediately headed for the door, but as he raised his hand to knock on the door, but he found it already ajar.
In the doorway stood Rayn's acquaintance, Lysander, an active, young scholarly man. He was slightly taller than Rayn; he had very fair, almost pale complexion. He was dressed in a white tunic embroidered with elaborate gold patterns. He wore a glittering silver band around his forehead, with sharp emerald eyes, and jet black hair. He stood, as a grin slowly spread across his face.
����������� "It certainly has been a long time, Rayn." Lysander spoke with a soft voice.
����������� "Well met, Lysander. I trust you are well?" Rayn responded, moving into the embrace of his friend.� Lysander then took notice of the men standing behind him.
����������� "You brought the troop as well? Well, that's wonderful. The more the merrier, right? Now, do come in. The cold must be miserable… and these days are just going to get colder." Lysander gestured them inside. The home, as was large as it was, seemed even larger inside. It was very lavishly furnished, with a comfortable fireplace with several chairs set around it. There was a smooth polished table in a corner, and a bookshelf situated near it.
On the walls were portraits of beautiful fields and meadows. Also hung on the walls, were a hunters bow and arrow, and alongside it a sheathed sword. Rayn knew, as he sat in a chair, that Lysander's real pride rested in the second floor of the house, where he amassed a small library of books. Rayn had only seen it once, but he was content. From what he could recall, there were books covering the walls, shelves upon shelves were completely filled. A small table rested on one side, with a cozy chair.
����������� Lysander returned, and gave everyone warm ale. Rayn, Addler, and Scion, being the wisest of the group always refused, however. The group thanked him, and drank to his health. "Now, Rayn..."Lysander began, "What is it that you came for? It's not like you to journey all the way out here without reason. You are a far too busy a man to be doing that."
����������� "That's true. But it's quite a long story, I'm afraid."
����������� "I have time." Lysander intervened.
����������� "I don't." The captain countered. "Unfortunately, we have a mission to address, so I will cut it short. We were patrolling the border, as we do naturally. This time we were sent to examine the ruins of the King's manse. As you probably already know, the manse was destroyed a few weeks back in a surprise raid." Rayn waited to receive Lysander's reaction, when he saw none he continued. "We split up and began to look around. I was with Addler when we discovered a trap door, leading some ways underground. Naturally, we were interested, so we went below. The tunnel was quite long and elaborate. The walls were covered with something that looked like marble. As we ventured deep into the tunnel, we discovered this on a rock." Rayn's hands went to his sheath, and he drew the sword. The strange thing is that, it seems that only I am able to hold the sword. Everyone else here collapses under its weight." He sheathed the sword, and look intently at Lysander, hoping to hear an explanation to the mystery.
����������� "Hmm…your tale is very interesting Rayn. You are more than I expected, my friend."
����������� "That is all well and good, Lysander." Scion intervened. "But do you know what it means?"
����������� "No, but I do have some theories. In order to test them, I would like to hold the sword."
����������� Addler spoke, "Lysander, you obviously have not been attentive. None but Rayn have been able to wield the blade."
����������� "I have heard that Addler, but as I mentioned before, I would like to test my theory. Now Rayn…" He extended his hand, "If you would be so kind as to hand me the sword…" Rayn drew the blade from the sheath he had constructed along the way and gently placed it on Lysander's outstretched hands. He held it there for a few seconds, before slowly letting it go. He braced himself to support Lysander, but nothing of the sort happened. Lysander was able to hold the sword without difficulty, much to the amazement of everyone in the room. "Hmmm...This is a very old artifact."
����������� Addler stood and asked, "What is the meaning of this devilry?"
����������� "Calm yourself, Addler. You have just entered a whole world of wondrous proportions. This will take some time for you to grasp. So I'd suggest you sit down, and make yourselves comfortable."
����������� Scion spoke politely, "Surely it can't take that long, Lysander. We have some matters to attend to."
����������� "I'm afraid it will. This will no longer be a simple world for you anymore. A new chasm of mystery has opened itself to you…and fate will usher you forth." The company looked to Rayn, who said nothing.
Slowly he spoke, "Very well, speak and we will listen."