The Blade of Spirits

The Blade of Spirits

Status: In Progress

Genre: Fantasy

Houses:

Details

Status: In Progress

Genre: Fantasy

Houses:

Summary

In the Fourth Recorded Age of the Storm Empire, a civil war, known as the Rebellion of Dawn, rages through the kingdoms as the Dawn Alliance fights to take over. While their powerful armies clash to gain power, another enemy maneuvers through the war, toying with both sides to achieve its ultimate goal, which will end humanity if they manage to succeed. An unlikely trio, whether bound by circumstances or destiny, must hunt down the leader of this third army before all is lost.
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Summary

In the Fourth Recorded Age of the Storm Empire, a civil war, known as the Rebellion of Dawn, rages through the kingdoms as the Dawn Alliance fights to take over. While their powerful armies clash to gain power, another enemy maneuvers through the war, toying with both sides to achieve its ultimate goal, which will end humanity if they manage to succeed. An unlikely trio, whether bound by circumstances or destiny, must hunt down the leader of this third army before all is lost.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Chapter 1

Author Chapter Note

Here is the first chapter guys. I'll try to update every two weeks, but there are times when the updates might take a while because of college. Remember comment if you have any criticisms, suggestions, or if you want to say anything. Thank you so much for reading!

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: April 21, 2017

Reads: 26

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: April 21, 2017

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A bead of sweat slid down James' brow as he parried another strike from Initiate Rin, stepping to the side in preparation for his counter. Despite being more experienced than the youngster, James was having a hard time keeping up with Rin's quick attacks, whose movements were like lightning. Armed with a metal practice sword and metal shield, the former mercenary was sorely testing James' endurance.

James swung his metal practice halberd towards Rin's head, but his opponent raises his shield to block, a loud clanging sound ringing in both combatant's ears. Rin then bashes James with his shield, staggering him, and then proceeds to swing his sword downwards. James blocks the swing with the halberd's long shaft, pushes forward, and kicks Rin in his exposed midsection. Rin falls back and hastily steps back again as James slashes his halberd downward.

Where the mercenary was fast, the knight was strong.

James circles around Rin, his opponent returning into his combat stance. Raised shield and sword ready to strike, the young initiate watches him cautiously as James tries to look for a weak point in his defense. Seeing none, pride swelled in his heart. He has taught Rin well.

But no defense is impervious to all assaults. James charges forward, attempting to feint a strike for below. Rin falls for it, lowering his shield to block the strike. In that second, James fully spins around, slashing his halberd's spear blade at the side of Rin's head, causing him to stagger sideways. James then disarms the initiate, slashing the spear blade at Rin's wrist, causing him to drop the sword with the impact.

"If I was using a real halberd, I would have sliced through your wrist, initiate," James said, standing straight and holding his halberd upright as the crowd of initiates who have been watching the practice applauded and cheered.

"If I was using a real sword, you would be bleeding from many wounds," Rin replies, a tired smirk appearing on his lips.

Rin was right, James thought. The initiate managed to score more hits than him. If the practice were to be an actual duel, James would have been bleeding profusely.

"You are right, Rin. But as long as your opponent is standing and fighting, you haven't won yet."­

Rin nodded, sheathing the practice sword and banging his chest plate with his right fist; the Stormguard salute.

"Still, I could have beaten you James."

"Ser James," James replied sternly. "Know your place, Initiate Rin. I may be older than you by just two years, but I am still a knight of the Stormguard."

Rin straightens up, realizing his mistake. "Sorry, ser. It's easy to forget."

"Why? Because of my dashing good looks?" James says with a wink, chuckling.

Everyone in the training ground laughed, and Rin joined in the laughter.

"Alright everyone, get some rest. Remember everything you have learned today," James tells the initiates as they straighten up and salute him. "Don't forget to leave your practice weapons and armor with the quartermaster."

As all the initiates started to return to the barracks, a man approaches James from behind. Without looking behind him, James could already tell who it was.

"Brother Arto," James said, turning to face his fellow knight. "What brings you to the training ground?"

"To visit my old student," Arto says, his armor and bald head shining in the afternoon sun.

"Old? I think you are referring to yourself, brother," James says with a smirk and a wink.

"Always cracking a joke. Not even the training of these children has changed that," Arto replies, a ghost of a warm smile appearing on his wrinkled face. "I guess it's because they are your peers."

James smiled with pride. At the age of only twenty-two, James is the youngest member of the Stormguard, the Emperor's personal guards and army. Elites in the empire, only the best are accepted as initiates where they are trained to be even better. Anyone can attempt to join; farmers, blacksmiths, sailors, even criminals looking to repent. As long as they are willing to serve the Emperor above all else, they are worthy to be tested.

Knighted at the age of only nineteen, James' quick learning of the arts of war and his skills in combat pushed him up through the ranks of his fellow initiates, finishing each of the trials even better than the veteran knights of the order; which was the reason why he was chosen to train new initiates.

"Now, now Brother Arto," James said as he patted Arto's left pauldron, "As much as I love our conversations..."

"Sure you do," said Arto sarcastically.

"Of course I do, brother. They are very enlightening!" James exclaimed in jest. "Why, if I had a silver for every chat we've had that made my head ache..."

"Say what you want to say, Brother James," Arto says, reverting back to his grumpy self.

"Time has not been kind to you old man. I've seen older men who smile as wide as the sea," James said, faking a sad face, then immediately smiling again. "Anyway, I know you would not have come here personally if it wasn't important. Not that I don't appreciate the visit, mind you. You just aren't a...people person."

"You are right, Brother James. I came here for an important reason. I just came from council chambers. The Emperor himself has summoned you."

Though the notion of being summoned by the Emperor would have surprised even the steeliest of Stormguard, James was different.

"So...the Emperor has finally seen my contributions to the Empire and has decided to build me a statue in front of the palace! I must say, I am hardly surprised. Such acknowledgement has been long overdue and I..."

"Stop your yammering and follow me," Arto says as he walks towards the path that leads to the palace. "It's about the war."

James followed suit, falling in step beside Arto as he chuckles at his former mentor's irritation. James has always loved annoying Brother Arto back when he still referred to him as Ser Arto, though he never pushed it too far; or he would have been flogged in the middle of the training ground. Training was hell, and he found happiness anywhere he could get it. Which was unfortunate for Arto, who thought of the young James as the bane of his existence.

Suddenly remembering his initiate years, his sight turned towards the huge scar cutting across Arto's old features as they ascended the stairs that led to the palace doors. Arto noticed, and grunted beneath his breath.

"Stop looking at it. It is my shame."

"There's no shame in being beaten by someone better than you, brother. You told me that," James said, smiling.

"I hadn't suspected you would choose me as your final trial," said Arto, referring to the last trial to pass in order to be inducted into the Stormguard.

"Why don't you see it as me seeing you as a challenge? I mean, I've beaten many of my fellow initiates, and even some of the Stormguard said I had no equal," James said and laughed as they entered the doors to the palace. They were walking through the Hall of Heroes, where the royal family and any of their guests ate under the banners of famous houses that hung on the walls, which commemorated their contributions to the empire.

The table in the middle of the hall could sit a hundred people, and at the end of the table was a separate table elevated for the Emperor's family, where they ate over their guests. The stairs to the council chambers were to the left of the Emperor's table, so they made their way towards that.

"If you wanted a challenge, you should have chosen your father." Two woman servants, each carrying a basket of fruits, passed them and, at the sight of the two knights, bowed respectfully.

Arto gave them a respectful nod while James winked at them and smiled, and they returned to their conversation as the ladies giggled and blushed.

"I'm sorry brother, but I'm not stupid enough to challenge the captain of the Stormguard. I never paid much attention to your lessons, but I know there is a reason why he has that title."

"Oh dear. The great and charming Ser James Stormheart? Afraid of his own father?" Arto said sarcastically. "How will you woo the ladies with that?"

"I am not afraid of father," James replied while straightening his poise as if it will make him bigger. "I respect him. There is a difference."

"So you disrespect me. I see."

"Good of you to realize, brother," James said amiably.

"I hate you," Arto grumbled as he frowned at James.

"And I love you and your shiny head, Ser Arto Stormheart" James says affectionately as he tries to pat the top of Arto's head, who in turn swatted his hand away. Every initiate who is inducted to the Stormguard must change their name to Stormheart, as a sign that they have become part of a new family.

James chuckles as they arrive at the entrance of the stairs leading to the second level. They climb the stairs towards the council chambers, with James managing to pat Arto's head right when they both climbed the first step.

 

 

James and Arto finally reach the council chambers, where a meeting was already underway. The pair walked in and bowed towards the chamber's occupants, and proceeded to sit on one of the nearest chairs surrounding the circular table. Around them were some of the highest ranking officials in the Storm Empire, but only three stood out in James' eyes.

"Ah. Ser Arto and Ser James," said Calisto, the Emperor's royal advisor, his tall and slender form standing as he acknowledges the recent arrivals. "We are so glad that you could join us."

"Right on time, as a matter of fact," said Captain Castor Stormheart, the captain of the Stormguard. His armor was as spotless and bright as befitting a person his rank, but despite the cleanliness of his armor, James' father kept an unshaven beard and mustache streaked with white. Combined with his wild and wavy hair, his appearance was as chaotic as a storm. "We are in need of your skills, Ser James."

Right between the royal advisor and his father was the man he swore his service to. Seated across the table, his features as strong as it is noble, the ruler of nine kingdoms was the Storm Emperor himself.

James had only seen the Emperor in person once, and that was when he was inducted to the Stormguard along other initiates who finished the trials. James still remembered that moment clearly, so he was surprised to see the Emperor look as if he had aged ten years in the span of three years. The civil war was taking a toll on the man.

The Emperor was leaning forwards, his elbows propped on the table and his hands held together as he rested his chin on them, looking at James with tired eyes. Three years ago, the Emperor looked as though he was bursting with energy, his eyes bright and his voice so loud and strong as if he had lightning coursing through his veins. His face was comely, his hair cleanly cut and combed. He inspired everyone around him just by standing in their presence; the perfect image of a Storm Emperor.

But now, the Emperor's face was drawn, wrinkles appearing on his once smooth face, his hair now long and streaked with grey. He was a brooding presence in the chamber, filling the hall with gloom. However, he still radiated power, as if willing others to be as strong as him in these dark days.

After a quiet moment, the Emperor suddenly spoke, his voice filled with strength hidden behind his fatigue.

"Castor," said the Emperor while still looking at James, "Are you sure about this? He is your son."

"Your excellency..." his father started to say before being interrupted by the Emperor.

"Please stop that," the Emperor says, turning to face his captain. "No more of that 'highness' or 'excellency'. This isn't a formal gathering, Castor, and we have known each other for so long."

"My apologies," Castor says before straightening up, "Lucian, I am sure that Ser James is fully capable of the task." Castor then turns to face James from across the table. "He will not fail."

Emperor Lucian simply nodded, then relaxed on his chair. "Very well, I trust your judgment, Castor." He then stands up and rests his hands on the table, his gaze solely on James now. "Ser James, time is of the essence here, so I will get straight to the point. The Razish have started to attack Acturia."

James was taken aback. The Kingdom of Razin was located in a peninsula found to the south of The Kingdom of Acturia. It was separated from the other members of the Dawn Alliance, the kingdoms of Gelhad, Korren, and Tel, by the Red Gulf, the body of water that is surrounded by the Storm Empire where many naval battles were fought thousands of years ago. By land, it was also separated by the loyalist kingdoms, Acturia, Magusdan, Faneia, Birine, and the capital of the Empire itself, Stormdan. In short, it was all alone in the war.

"Why would they take such a risk? They are alone and surrounded," said James, voicing his thoughts, "we have the Imperial Navy patrolling the gulf every day and every night, it is impossible that the Tel managed to reinforce their forces. We would have heard if they did."

"Exactly my thoughts, James," said his father as a man with two swords crossing together behind a lightning bolt in his badge, the symbol of the Imperial Army, unfurled a map and laid it across the table.

James looks at the map of the continent of Orelia, the domain of the Storm Empire, its paper old and dusty. He turns his eyes to Acturia, the kingdom from which the Imperial Navy gets supplied with heartwood, the strongest wood used in ship building. He then looks over the Kingdoms of Magusdan and Faneia, to the left of Acturia. The Dragon's Maw, a mountain range located to the north, east, and west of Faneia, seperates Stormdan and Acturia from the kingdom.

He then looks at Magusdan, which is below Faneia. Home to the mages of the Empire, their troops have proven vital to the war effort, and it is separated from Razin by another mountain range; which was the reason why it wasn't attacked first. Unfortunately, being below Faneia, it meant it was also below the Dragon's Maw, meaning the only way both kingdoms could join the war was through Acturia. James leaned away from the map, already knowing what the Razish plan to do before the man with the Imperial Army's sigil even spoke.

"The Razish plan on cutting of Magusdan's and Faneia's support in the war by taking hold of Havenhold and Heartwood, the provinces closest to the border of Magusdan," said High Commander Varo, his long hair tied in a ponytail. "It's the only plan that makes military sense to me."

"Havenhold is the main province of Acturia," said Arto, "It will be heavily defended. Even the Razish should know that."

"The Razish will seek to lay siege to Havenhold's city while raiding its villages and farms," replied Varo, "They only need to prevent the Acturian's armies from attack them at the Magusdan-Acturia border"

"Something doesn't feel right," James said, "Even if the Razish succeed, they will have to fight on two fronts. Assuming they have a strong enough force to hold the Magusdan and Faneian forces back from joining our armies, Acturia's provinces still have their own armies and they are capable enough to crush the Razish with Magusdan and Faneia. Even if Stormdan doesn't intervene, it will be losing battle for the Razish. No, I believe they have another motive."

"Whatever their objective is," the Emperor says, his deep voice resonating throughout the chamber, "the Razish will still be a dagger pointed at our backs. This war has lasted for two years, and with the cost of maintaining such a widespread war, that is already a year too long. To end this war quickly, we need the aid of the mages of Magusdan and the armies of Faneia."

The Emperor then turned to James. "I have heard of your skills in combat, Ser James, and I believe your father has schooled you excellently in the arts of war. Am I right in assuming that you have already gathered why you have been summoned here?"

James was speechless for a second, but regained his composure. "Yes, your excellency. I am to lead an army to prevent the Razish from invading Heartwood and Havenhold."

"And you must leave immediately," Varo said, confirming James' answer. "So far, the fighting has only affected the borders, scouting parties against scouting parties."

"It will be a long journey, Ser James," said Calisto, consulting the map and drawing a line through a long road passing straight through the kingdoms. "If you use the Imperial Road, it will take you a month at most to make it to Heartwood. I will send word immediately."

"Are your men ready, Varo?" the Emperor asks. "They should leave now, not tomorrow."

"I will muster five hundred men once this meeting is over, your excellency."

"No," James told Varo while looking at the map, his mind calculating the number of men needed and the speed of their travel. After three seconds, he faced Varo. "Give me a hundred. Five hundred is too slow."

Varo was about to argue, but saw the wisdom in James words. "Granted. I will muster a hundred of the best the Imperial Army has to offer."

"Very good, commander," the Emperor said as he stood up, his royal robes looking crumpled and worn. The man has been in the same robes for days it seemed. "This meeting is finished. Return to your duties."

As everyone stood up, the Emperor walks towards James, and places a hand on his pauldron. He looked even more tired than he did when James walked through the door, but there was something in his eyes. It was like hope, as if James would be the key to ending the war.

"I would send other Stormguard with you, but most of them are defending Birine agantsthe armies of Gelhad, Tel, and Korren, and the rest are stuck here, because your father wouldn't have this place undefended. Nonetheless, I have faith in you, Ser James Stormheart. May you bring the storm to those rebels."

"I will, your excellency." James replies, and then bangs his fist at his chestplate twice. He then leaves the chambers, leaving the Emperor, Calisto, and his father inside.

 

 

The light from the torches around the assembly area outside the palace lit up the night sky as James made his way to them, still wearing his armor from training the initiates. Stormguard armor, made from the strongest steel and crafted by Brutus, the Stormguard's smith; he always wore it, and only removed it to wear formal attire in special occasions or when he slept.

He held his halberd in his right hand, its shaft resting on his shoulder. He remembered forging his halberd back when he was twenty-one. Although not required by the Stormguard, he felt it would be appropriate to forge his own weapon. The halberd's axe blade was bigger than most common halberds. Its spear blade longer was as well, allowing him to stab or slash anyone at a safe distance. The hook at the back of the axe blade was also longer than other halberds in order to provide balance to the weapon. Its shaft was a little shorter and was made of heartwood, and it was only through great patience and a big pouch of gold that he was able to acquire just enough of the exotic wood to make it.

Unlike the named weapons often found in legends, his weapon had no engravings or gemstones or artistic design to it, for James thought of his halberd as a weapon of war. He didn't forge it of his own accord for display. Nonetheless, he still named his halberd anyway; Ruin.

The one hundred men that Varo gathered were preparing the things they needed for the journey. Some were putting tents, weapons, and other supplies inside caravans, while others were putting saddles on the horses, for James deemed it necessary that every soldier be mounted in order to reach Heartwood in time. He prayed that the small skirmishes would continue, for even on horseback, it would still take at least three weeks to arrive at their destination.

James sheathes the shaft of his halberd at his back and makes his way to his own horse, a black war horse with thin sheets of steel covering important parts of its face and small links of chainmail armoring the animal. The horses of the Stormguard were specially bred to be strong and durable in order to not only aid the knights in combat, but to also carry the weight of the knight in his armor for long periods of time without resting. He took a carrot from one of the open supply crates and fed it to his horse, who chewed it with glee as James patted the side of its face.

After feeding his horse, he walked towards a soldier who was packing supplies inside the caravans. The soldier paused from his work to salute James, and after returning the salute, James told him to pass the word around that it was time to move. The soldier nodded, and ran off to tell his comrades as James returned to his horse.

As he gets on his horse's saddle, he sees a Stormguard knight walking towards him from afar. He squints his eyes and notices his father's signature wild beard, and then motions his horse to move towards the captain of the Stormguard.

"James," his father calls to him as he stops right in front of him. Castor always called him by his name whenever he was being a father. If he was being a capain, James was equal to his fellow Stormguard knights.

"Yes father?" James said as he dismounted.

"How are your men? Have you inspected them?"

"Well, no. I assumed Varo already inspected them himself," James said sheepishly.

"Commander Varo," his father corrected him sternly, "and I'm sure he did. Nonetheless, you should still inspect them yourself, since this is your host to lead. You must be sure that everything is to your liking."

"Oh. Of course, father. Is there anything else?"

"Yes, I'm afraid there is," his father replied, a bit of unease in his voice. "There was something I didn't mention in the council chambers earlier. Calisto and I thought it best not to say it then, for it would be bad if the other council members heard it. Word might spread, and Lucian is already too stressed about the war to worry about public fear."

Just as his father calls him by name when he is being fatherly, so does the captain of the Stormguard call the Emperor by name when he is being brotherly. James knew that the Emperor and his father grew up together as the best of friends. Both were the only sons of their houses, and they forged a bond of brotherhood in the Imperial Palace, the young Castor being molded into a knight of the Stormguard, and young Lucian being taught in the ways of governing a vast empire. By day, they were busy training and learning, and by night they would either duel with wooden swords in the courtyard, or they would play as Emperor and royal advisor, even switching roles when the other was bored.

The concern in his father's eyes was almost palpable.

"I'm assuming you didn't inform the Emperor either," James said, seeing that fact in his father's words.

"Yes, not only because he is tired, but also because it sounds...impossible."

"Alright, tell me."

His father pulled him behind two caravans that were full of supplies. "There have been rumors spreading of necromancy being used in the attacks," his father whispered, making sure no one would hear even in their isolation. "I don't believe it myself, but even if just a hint of this gets to the populace, order might be hard to maintain."

"I see why you didn't tell this to anyone," James said, realizing the chaos that would ensue if word gets out. Meddling with the dead has brought nothing but despair to the kingdoms for thousands of years, and was a magic that has long been forbidden by the mages in Magusdan.

"I am telling you this so you know what to expect, even if it sounds impossible," his father said as he looked into his eyes intently. "The mages may have forbidden it, but it doesn't mean it has been extinguished. The Dawn Alliance is vastly outnumbered, and I won't be surprised if they turn to the dark arts to support them."

"Kind of ironic that the Dawn Alliance would use the dark arts, don't you think?" James asks rhetorically. "It kind of ruins the whole "Light in the Darkness" trash they have been preaching."

"The rebels are led by kings only motivated by greed," his father said. "They don't want to be a part of a bigger purpose and pay the Empire their dues so they can further their own selfish agendas."

"The Empire has brought down rebellions like this before," James reassured his father. "This won't be any different."

"That's what I told Lucian two years ago," his father said solemnly, looking back at the palace.

Sitting at the bottom of Mount Thun, the highest mountain in Orelia, the Imperial Palace was a structure of ancient beauty, reaching up until halfway up the mountain. Dating back to the First Recorded Age, this palace was once the palace of the Elves, who ruled Orelia for thousands of years. After the war between Man and Elves ended, it has since been taken over by mankind, although not many details remained from that time. What precious scrolls and tomes about that age were safely guarded by the mages in Magusdan, high up in the sky inside their flying city.

Despite the obvious wonder the palace has, James knew that it wasn't the reason why his father turned his gaze towards it.

His father turned to him again, his face back to its paternal self. "One more thing; since necromancy is involved in this, you know who else might be there in Heartwood."

It took a while before James figured out who his father was referring to, but when he finally understood, his father confirmed it.

"Try to understand his position, James. He wouldn't have left if he had a choice."

"That doesn't change anything," James said bitterly, a wound in his heart reopening. "If I was in his place, I know I wouldn't have left." He then walked back to his horse and mounted up as Castor followed him. By the time his father was beside the horse, James was already motioning the horse to face the other way.

"I know you wouldn't have," his father said, "But you would have been forced to leave, just like him."

James closed his eyes and took deep breaths to calm himself. "Enough of this, I have men to lead."

He thought his father was about to argue, but was surprised when he heard Captain Castor speaking. "Very well. Bring the storm to those rebels, Ser James."

"Yes, captain," James said, then galloped away to his men.


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