Chapter 1: The Trials of the Blade
The town of Inatos. A peaceful town with farmers, travelers, wanderers, fisherman, bards, and of course the warriors that defended the town. The town was a flourishing one separated from the rest of the world due to the thick forest which surrounded it. The only people who could get to this town were the people living in it.
The village was average sized. It fit a few hundred people easily. The houses were made of stone, with the roofs painted red. Some were bigger than others, though the biggest ones were left for the sages of the village and the home of Galador. The village had its own army, highly trained in many arts. They were not, however, very vigilant for they thought that no one could penetrate their ultimate defense, the forest. The forest surrounding the village was so vast and thick that it was almost impossible to get through it. Some merchants cut down some trees many a year ago and created a city there.
In this village lived a boy named Hector, who was around the age of seventeen.
�The boy named Hector had enormous ambitions of becoming a warrior. He did not know his parents because he was abandoned in the forest when he was simply an infant. A farmer family found him and raised him. He quickly became the joy of this village as he helped the villagers with chores in return for training as a swordsman. Hector had blue eyes and dark blue hair which was mess, but he tried to keep combed to the side. He also had a small dark blue beard. He was strong and tall for his age, though not too tall, he simply seemed a year older than he was. He was not too thin, and not too fat. He was right in between. Hector was headstrong at times and easily got angry. Even so, he was very nice to everyone in the village and offered to help whenever he could lend a helping hand. He wore loose clothing: a long shirt which extended until his knees, and loose pants. The shirt split from the waist down on the side. There were three buttons near the top of the shirt. These clothes made it easy for him to fight and move in. He usually wore black, though he would change every so often.
When he had finished his training for the village he was given a grand sword, only given to the greatest of men. This most honorable sword was as powerful as a dragon. It was also unable to be lifted by any other man than the one the sword chose. It was enormous. The handle itself was half the size of Hector. The blade was then double the size of the handle. It was a great stone blade. The sword was given the name, Galador, the Light Brother. No one really knows the history behind this name, it was always there.
This sword could only be carried by one owner. You may say, the "Chosen" one, though no one in the village saw Hector as that. Talented as he may be, he was quite headstrong. But, even so, the sword chose its owner as Hector. This was the most greatest of honor. It seemed almost light to him, though it still slowed him down a bit. The sword had a mysterious hole engraved in the middle of the handle and the blade. It was about the size of Hector's fist. No one knew why it was there. Even the sages of the village did not know what it was for, and they traveled many lands before finally staying in Inatos.
����������� �Though the rules of the sword were supposed to adapt to him, they did not. The sword only made him a little slower than usual, though he was not much for speed anyway. He held his head high, for it was an honor to receive such an item. At the first moment the sages asked that Hector try to lift the sword, he could feel a connection to it.
Hector could remember the day vividly, because it had only happened a week ago.
He had entered the chamber of Galador. The largest building of the town. It had stone pillars supporting the entire building on the outside and in. There was a large brown door which controlled the entrance of people into the building. Only worthy people could pass the door. The Five Sages had enchanted it to not open to anyone except themselves, the leader of the town and his family, and the Chosen One. Inside the building was even bigger than it looked on the outside. The Sages had made it so that it seemed to the person entering that they had entered a whole different place. Right when a person would enter they would see the grandness of Galador on its stand placed very far away from the entrance. There was always at least one Sage there standing guard in case anyone got passed the door. The walls were made of stone, though it gave off a white glow.
"Come O Hector, chosen one." The greatest of the Sages told him. He had a gray beard which went until his heart. He had a white turban on which an amethyst colored jewel was embedded in the center of it. The sage was old and his eyes only opened half way. He had white clothing, the same kind Hector wore, except it was more fashionable. It had golden threads weaving through its sides. His shoes had a gold color to them as well. They were half hidden from the sage's pants. His hands were old and had spots on them, like the old usually tend to have. His veins were showing through his old skin. And he had a sword in its white sheathe next to him.
Hector tried to stifle a laugh from what the sage said. He always thought it funny, that someone would call him, "the chosen one." It seemed so weird. "Yes, master sage." He said recovering from his laugh.
"Hector, we would like to give you a few tests. Tests that may change your life forever. Are you ready?" The Sage said.
Hector was not sure what to say. Am I ready? Should I take the responsibility of this most grand of creations? He said to himself, battling his conscience against fear. After a short while, he acquired the courage to say, "…Yes. I am."
"Excellent. We have the tests ready for you. A different one for each sage. These tests will tell if you are able to handle the responsibility of this sword. Is this agreed upon?" The sage asked frowning. His eyes were very narrow, his face pale, and his eyebrows were very bushy.
"Yes." Now I have to get ready for his speech. Here we go.
"We, the Five Sages of Inatos, must see if you are worthy of this honor." The sage stated. "We have three tests for you."
You don't have to repeat yourself. Hector thought.
"The tests," the sage continued, "will test your courage, wisdom, and power." He paused, as if waiting for a question.
The next thing he said was very hushed that Hector could not hear it. He heard the words He couldn't and not the chosen. "Oh!" The sage popped back into reality, "Are you ready for the tests O Hector? Mind you they will be difficult."
"Then let the tests begin. We will need you to step outside for a moment so we can get ready to deliver the tests. No need to take any time, just go out and step right back in."
"How long do I go out for?"
"Just go out and come back in, it will not take us more than a second to ready the tests."
"So I just go out and come in?"
"Right you go out and come in."
"I go out, and then come in?"
"Correct, you go out and come in."
"YOU GO OUT AND COME IN!" Screamed the Sage.
"Let me get this straight. I go out and come back in"
By now the sage had his hand on the handle of his sword. Seeing this Hector said quickly, "Right, I got it now, I go out and come in." He quickly turned and ran out. Right, now what am I supposed to do? He smiled to himself.
�Hector took a deep breath and walked back in. What he saw amazed him. The whole place had changed. It was quite dark, and lit by torchlight only. The walls were made of giant gray stone blocks. There was a winding staircase in front of him. It seemed as though it was a tower he was in. He heard footsteps descend from the stairs. A sage appeared before him.
"Hello Hector, ehem, chosen one." Greeted the Sage. He looked exactly the same as the other sage; however, his clothes were a dark gray color. Also, his sword was longer and double edged. He also had a turban on with a red jewel embedded in it.
"Hey." Hector replied, but seeing how this seemed very informal, he added with a slight bow, "Master sage."
"You know you do not have to say that. We know each other better than that."
"Yeah, I know." This Sage was the only sage who was actually kind to Hector. The others were indifferent towards him. He had always talked with him, and when Hector was smaller, the Sage had played many games with him.
"Hector? Hello, Hector?" The sage said, trying to break Hector out of his trance.
"Huh? Oh yeah. Sorry." Hector returned.
"No problem. Well, let's get started. You are about to begin the trial of wisdom. Bear in mind that this test is connected to the next. This is a tower. So, after completing one trial, a staircase will open to your next trial. Alright?"
"Got it." Hector said with a thumbs up.
"I have nothing more to say except good luck. Now proceed through the staircase of your destiny. You are ready right?"
Am I ready? Hector asked himself.
Of course not. A voice said.
Yes he is. A second voice argued.
Nope, he can't do this. Do you think he has wisdom? I'll answer that. No!
Shut up. It's not like you'd know. He has plenty wisdom. Enough to get that sword.
Sure. The first said sarcastically.
Could you two shut up and let him figure this out? You're just confusing him. The third said.
Fine. The first two voices said together.
I have got to control my thoughts. Hector said to himself.
All the while, the Sage was waiting patiently for a reply which seemed to never come. "Um. Hector? Could you stop spacing out now?"
"Oh right, right." Hector said, again, returning to Earth. "I am ready."
"Great. Now, when you ascend the stairs, you will see a portal. Do not fear it. Just walk through it. It is part of our magic. Understand?"
"Now proceed. And do not turn back without that sword in your hand." He said with a wink.
Hector smiled and gave a slight nod. He then continued up the stairs. The staircase was very narrow. Not more than one person could walk through there. It was very cold and damp. A shiver ran down his spine. The stairs kept winding upward. He then saw a faint light appear. He headed towards the light, mainly because he could not go anywhere else. He reached the light which impeded his ascension. The light was pink and transparent. The portal was waving back and forth. Hector took a breath in a walked through.
It felt as if he had been sent at light speed. The wind hit his face so hard; it felt he was being punched in the face multiple times. Suddenly his head started throbbing. It felt as if someone was stuffing a huge box in his head. He closed his eyes as he grasped his head as the wind continued rushing past him. He felt cuts and bruises appear all over his body. His felt his mind being lysed with all the things being stuffed into it. He only saw darkness though and could not smell anything with all the wind passing by him. Then, as quickly as it had started, everything stopped.
When Hector opened his eyes, he was still on the staircase, he was unscathed, and now the staircase was much wider. Wide enough to fit three people comfortably. He had a blue, double edged sword at his side, but was still wearing the same clothes as before. �
"What's wrong Hector?" A man asked him. The man was about an inch shorter than Hector, who was five foot ten inches. The man had red eyes and his hair ran until his shoulders, were thick, braided, and brown. He carried two halberds in his hands and there was a mace at his side. He wore a red shirt which had a black V shaped vest on it. He also wore black pants and white sandals.
"Oh. Nothing, Arion."
"Are you sure, because you looked like you just went through Hell and back?" A woman asked him. She was about five inches shorter than Hector. She had beautifully long, brown, wavy hair which ran down until her lower back. Her eyes were a dark brown. She wielded a curved sword with a brown hand. The blade was long and sharp. She had a long green dress with a scarf around her waist.
"Yeah, don't worry about it Serona." Hector said waving his arms.
"Alright." Arion and Serona said together.
"Let's just keep going. Okay?"
The three of them continued up the stairs, until it got to a wooden door. The door looked very old. It was rusted and hanging off its hinges. There was a black ring used to pull the door open. When the Hector got close to it, it began readjusting itself to its hinges, and completely replenished itself. It looked as if it was a whole new door.
"Weird." Said Serona.
"No point in standing here watching it." Arion said.
"He's right. I'll go first." Hector told them.
Hector approached the door and pulled on the handle. As he pulled it open, he heard it creak gently.
They continued through the door which led to a large chamber. It looked almost the same as the entrance, except this one had three sets of stairs.
"Hmm. There are three sets of stairs. I guess the sensible thing to do is to split up." Hector said.
"Yup, I guess so." Serona said.
"I'll take the middle one."
"The right one's mine." Said Arion, heading to the right most stairs.
"That leaves the left one to me. Take care of yourself Hector."
"Oh yeah, don't mind me. I'm, the 'outcast' right?" Arion exclaimed.
"Sorry Arion." Serona said, blushing.
Hector started to laugh. "Good luck you two." He said as he headed to his stairs. He heard Serona and Arion's footsteps fade away as he ascended further up the narrow winding staircase. After about two minutes, another door blocked Hector's path. He opened it to enter to a giant chamber. It had standing torches in each corner, along with many wall torches lighting the rest of the chamber. The sage was standing in the center with his eyes closed and his arms crossed.
"Welcome Hector. I see you've made it this far."
"Hey. How was I not supposed to get here, nothing happened so far!"
"Well everything is about to change now."
"Don't tell me I passed the first test."
"This is not a test for a toy sword. This is the greatest sword this village has ever seen. Just wait for your 'friends' to arrive." As he said friends he quoted it.
"What do you mean by 'friends'?"
'Nothing. Nothing at all. Ah, here they come."
Arion emerged from one of right staircase, as Serona emerged from the left one.
"Hey you guys, did anything happen?"
Arion was the first to answer, "Nope."
Serona replied, "Not at all."
"Okay Hector, take a good look at your friends. One of them is an imposter."
"What! What do you mean by imposter?" Hector yelled.
"Calm yourself. Either Serona or Arion is an imposter. The real one is safe. However, you must use your own wisdom and judgment to figure out who is the imposter. I have tapped into the mind of the real one so that he or she attacks you as well."
"You're kidding me, I can't fight them. They're my best friends."
"Prepare yourself, here they come."
At once both Arion and Serona launched themselves at Hector at the same time with their weapons drawn. Hector started jumping backwards to avoid the hits. I cannot fight them, they're my friends.
Arion threw his halberd at Hector. He drew his sword and deflected it. Serona then jumped forward and struck Hector in the jaw with the flat end of her blade. Hector flew across the room. Well, she has Serona's strength. But why would she do hit me with the flat end instead of the blade? Oh crap. He could not think long enough because Arion had thrown his other halberd at him. Hector dodge-rolled to the side fast enough to just get out of the way in time. Again, Serona jumped up and tried to stab Hector in the neck. Hector lifted his sword to protect himself and got in a deadlock.
Arion came up behind Hector and nearly slashed his head, but Hector had flipped out of the deadlock in time to get a cut on his leg instead. Damn it. Who the hell is the real one? The battle continued as Hector struggled to stay alive while his two best "friends" strived to kill him. Hector was hit on his arm, leg, and shoulder by Arion. However, Serona had not hit him once. Whenever they used to spar while growing up, Serona had always beaten Arion. Then how could she not hit me, when Arion can?
A slash to the right, a stab to the left. One swing at his head, another at his leg. All at the same time, and all at different times. Hector had to dodge them all while making sure not to hurt them. Arion kicked him in the stomach which sent him hurtling against the wall. Serona ran towards him and stabbed him in the chest, but did not push the blade in. It was a small cut.
All the while, the sage had been meditating in the corner. Hector had figured out who was real. It was so simple.
"Master Sage! I've come up with my answer." Hector yelled, sweat and blood pouring down his face and body. Immediately, both Arion and Serona stopped. Arion's halberd was just an inch from Hector's face. It's funny how that works out.
"I see. And it only took you, a half an hour."
"Is…that…good?" Hector said, panting.
"Not really, no."
"I…had to make sure…dammit." Hector was on one knee.
"Your answer is?"
"At first I thought it was Arion, because he was the first to attack, and he always is the first to attack. But then I realized it was Serona, because she was holding back the whole time. It seemed like she wanted to save me." Hector gasped for breath. He had used too many words.
"So you think it is Serona who is real?"
"I'm not finished." He took a big breath in, and then released it. "If Serona was real, she would have gone all the way. She would never hold back while sparring. Arion is the real one."
"And how did you come up with that conclusion?"
"Arion never hit me before. How is it that he can hit me now?"
"Have you ever thought about the fact that you might have been holding back?"
"Yes, and I stick with my decision."
"I see. I am sorry to say this, but…"
"Oh no!" Hector whispered. His whole body tensed up. Cold shivers were going down his back. He could hardly stop himself from shuddering.
Hector's jaw dropped. "Seriously? Oh my god!"
"Yes!" Hector jumped with joy. He gave a few screams of victory and then asked, "So where is the real Serona?"
"I must explain something to you. And you must keep an open mind about it. Do not get overexcited."
"What is it?"
�"Serona and Arion are not real."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Calm yourself. I placed false memories of these people in your minds. And created illusions around two of my soldiers, so that you would believe your best friends were with you. The feeling you felt when you stepped through the portal, the throbbing headache, was a cause of these memories entering your mind. I will release you of this pain now."
"Wait. So Arion and Serona are fake? But I knew them. They were so real."
"I am not going to go further on this subject. Prepare yourself." The sage raised his hand up to Hector's head.
"Wait-" He was cut off because the pain he had felt before, when he passed the portal had returned. Hector screamed, grabbing his head with both his hands. It now felt as if an invisible hand had penetrated his head and was now ripping something away from his brain. The Sage withdrew his hand. Then, as soon as it had begun, the pain subsided and Hector fell face forward on the stone floor.