"We must make it to the falls but my leg is slowing me down." Lyadare rushed through the trees as quickly as his gimp leg would allow. He glanced down for just a moment, assessing the damage. It looked bad; blood poured down his leg from the large gash. The Recreants were ruthless and they had worked mercilessly to perfect the Malbyra's magic. Their ice shards where painful and could cause quite a bit of damage. Fortunately, Bronwyn had escaped untouched.
Bronwyn looked back to see if Lyadare was okay. He was in a lot of pain; she could see it clear as day on his face. "There's an abandoned shack up ahead. Let's stop and rest for a bit. I'll wrap your leg for you."
"I'll be o…." Bronwyn turned to look at him. She always had the most convincing look of concern. He hated that look; it meant he would have to give in and do what she said. Bronwyn was the only woman who could change his mind on any subject. "Oh alright, I guess having my leg wrapped can only help."
Bronwyn made a quick sweep of the area to make sure they were alone before entering the small shack. Lyadare sank down in the far corner. There were holes in the walls large enough to see through, but it was dark outside and there was enough room against the walls to hide from any passing soldiers. Bronwyn took out a knife and gently cut the fabric from Lyadare's calf. The gash was large, but a clean cut. She pulled some thread and a needle from her pouch and got to work. She had always been an excellent doctor. That was her first profession, before becoming champion of wisdom.
Lyadare watched Bronwyn as she worked on his leg. He remembered the first time they met, years before their first battle in the arena, when they first journeyed to become champions.
Lyadare stood just behind the tree line not twenty feet from her. She stood next to a pond staring at it, as if searching for something. She was beautiful with long, golden hair, tanned skin and blue-green eyes. She wore a flowing dress that just reached the ground. It was trimmed with a golden rope. She looked up as Lyadare approached.
'I'm Bronwyn and you are?
'I'm Lyadare. Can I help you find something?'
'I am looking for my stone. I can feel it calling to me from the water. I assume you are searching for your stone as well?' she asked nonchalantly.
'I am but I am in no rush. I could find it for you.'
'It's nothing I can't do on my own.' Bronwyn seemed to be anything but a damsel in distress. Lyadare felt a slight twinge of regret at offering his help to this, clearly, capable beauty.
Bronwyn removed her shoes before disappearing into the water. She resurfaced with the small stone in her hand. It emitted a faint blue glow which enveloped Bronwyn momentarily. When the light faded from her body, Bronwyn pulled a small pouch from her bag and dropped the glowing stone inside.
Lyadare had loved Bronwyn from that first day. She eventually developed feelings for him as well, though she would not always readily admit it. Her feelings for him were the only true reason she did not join the others. She had hated fighting as much as the rest and would have taken up arms in a heartbeat if Lyadare's logic and pleas had not swayed her.
After a few quick stitches, Bronwyn wrapped Lyadare's leg with the little bit of gauze she had remaining. "All done. How do you feel? Will you be able to continue?" She was clearly worried.
"Oh Bronwyn, I am fine. We will need to…"
"Shh… Did you hear that?" Bronwyn interrupted.
They sat still, listening for breaking twigs and the sound of voices. There. Someone was outside. Lyadare caught his breath and leaned to the side, peeking through the closest hole in the wall. A Malbyra guard stood just a few feet from them. He made a quick check around the building before relieving himself on the nearest bush. Lyadare sat back stifling an annoyed huff. After a minute, he turned back to see if he had left. The guard looked around again before his music began. At first it was a soft hum. Then suddenly he released the most beautiful sound Lyadare had ever heard. The tree next to the soldier began to wither and die.
The music was beautiful but it caused so much destruction. Lyadare heard the sound of twigs breaking move further and further away. He's gone. Lyadare grabbed the pouch at his hip. The stones were still there. He pulled one out and looked it over. It was a perfectly smooth, oval stone. No one ever thought a small river stone would bring such power… such destruction. Lyadare knew the power he held in his hands. He had fought it many times in the arena before the Recreants betrayed the nations. Soon enough the Recreants will be stripped of their power and destroyed. The stones will be left to seek out new champions and the world will be at peace once again. He had to rehearse the line over and over to avoid losing hope.
"Okay my darling, we must go. Are you ready?" Lyadare asked in a hushed tone. Bronwyn nodded her head as she helped him to his feet. Then they were off again, running through the trees as fast as their legs would carry them.
Twenty years earlier, the idea of using champions to fight their battles seemed nearly genius in nature to the leaders of the nations. They would not lose the valuable lives of their soldiers and their disagreements would come to an end after a short bout in the arena. Only one champion would fight instead of hundreds of thousands of strong, able-bodied men. The champion left standing would win the fight for their nation, the other champion would return to life shortly after the battle. All six champions were strong and equally matched. It made for quite the event. The nations were even able to collect a hefty sum of money from the people wishing to observe the fights and even more from those betting.
In all actuality, the fighting wasn't so bad as far as Lyadare remembered. It was the coming back to life that was difficult for each of them. Their bodies had to be immersed in the water beneath the falls of Abethkara along with their stone, while the proper incantation is sung. Though it sounds easy enough, the actual process was hell. Lyadare remembered his body feeling as though it was on fire. Suddenly, all the pain of dying was forced back into his mind and then his eyes flew open. Confused at first about his location, he realized he was under water. Panic filled his lungs as he struggled to reach the surface for that first bitter-sweet gulp of air after being brought back. It was this, and not the actual fighting that drove the others to anger.
Shylan had always been impeccable at convincing the others to see things as she did. She was the first to go mad and was probably the worst of the four. It took years but when Shylan finally decided she had had enough, it didn't take much to convince Ailar, Trinju and Boljag to join her in her quest for power. Lyadare, being the champion of intelligence saw through her ploy. He refused to join her and pleaded with Bronwyn to do the same. Bronwyn was hesitant at first, but eventually Lyadare's absolute logic and her love for him swayed her to stay behind. The four became known by the nations as the Recreants, traitors who wrecked havoc on the world.
Though most feared the Recreants and did everything to stay far from their line of sight, they still managed to gain quite the following. These people revered the Recreants, raised them up as gods and did everything in their power to help them succeed in their efforts to rule the world. They called themselves the Malbyra, and hoped to raise themselves above the rest of the nations.
Lyadare and Bronwyn worked together with the Mages of Tinivar, who originally created the stones, to destroy the Recreants and banish the Malbyra to the north. There they would be too focused on survival to cause problems. It was Bronwyn and Lyadare who laid the plan to steal the Recreants stones. They would break into their hold, steal the stones and bring them back to the Mages of Tinivar. The stones would be unlinked from their champions, who would then be destroyed. It was a difficult task, but Lyadare and Bronwyn were the smartest of the bunch and had faith that they could pull it off.
Lyadare knew they were close and ran a little faster as he darted through the trees. He could see the edge of the jungle just ahead. They would have to row across the great waters to the island concealing Abethkara Falls.
"Just a bit further my love!" Bronwyn whispered as they neared the small row boat that lay on the beach ahead of them. The boat was old and rickety, but it would serve its purpose. Lyadare pushed the boat into the water and grabbed and oar as they both climbed in. He looked back to make sure they hadn't been followed and when he felt all was safe, started them on their journey across the water. It would take at least half an hour to get to the island.
The water was mostly calm with gentle waves every now and then. They had picked a good day for their mission. Tropical storms were frequent on Lyshadar. The land was beautiful though, which made living there worth the risk. Lyadare loved the tropical jungles and the beautiful beaches. Even the water was a beautiful clear blue-green color. It was definitely paradise, aside from the current war.
Lyadare felt his tense shoulders relax a bit when they reached the beach on the island. They were almost there; almost free of the Recreants and all the chaos they had brought to the nations. Bronwyn helped Lyadare out of the boat and into the jungle ahead. Running had reopened his wound and Bronwyn could see he was in immense pain, though he wasn't one to complain.
The pair walked as quickly as they could. The falls were just ahead and Lyadare could see three Mages of Tinivar waiting for them. He pulled the pouch from his hip and offered the stones to the head mage, Giludae as they approached.
"Thank you Lyadare and Bronwyn. You have brought peace to this land and that will not soon be forgotten. Do you wish to continue as champions or would you rather I revoke your powers as well?" asked Giludae.
"We wish to live our lives in peace. Though we will happily resume our role as champion should the need arise." Lyadare responded. He and Bronwyn hoped for nothing more than to live out their lives together. They would retire to a small home in the jungle where they could enjoy the world around them together.
"Then I shall not revoke your powers just yet. You will remain champions but until new champions arise, you may do as you wish." With that, Giludae began the ritual. He placed the four stones of the Recreants on the altar they had built beneath Abethkara Falls. As the water flowed over the stones, the three mages began their chant.
"Ashalii burladae aelyshu frooma caliida…" The chanting was a rhythmical song. It was beautiful, each note ringing through the trees clear and distinct. Lyadare could feel the power surrounding them. This was it, the war was ending. He felt a twinge of regret; he had, after all, grown close to his comrades. Despite having to fight them in the arena, they had all become friends. Shylan could be quite charming when she wasn't plotting to take over the world. It seemed unfortunate that such good soldiers had fallen so far and lost their humanity.
The stones emitted a rush of power that blew through the trees, nearly toppling the gimp Lyadare, who was caught off-guard. There was silence.
"It is done. The Recreants have been unlinked from their stones. They are dead." Giludae said solemnly. "You have one task left ahead of you. Help the nations return to a state of peace by banishing the Malbyra to the north. The land is not much more than icy tundra and they will need to focus solely on their survival."
Lyadare thanked the mages and they were off to scatter the four stones, in the hopes that good virtuous champions will rise to serve the nations. He looked at Bronwyn, whose relief was clear on her face. Lyadare pulled her in for a hug and held her close. She pulled him even closer, glad that they both had survived.