The shadows of silence completely encased the shrouded mountain top. A clear moon reflected in the shimmering lakes that littered the valley below. A single song flitted out through he air, a single voice longing to break through the shadows. A single boy walked along the path of darkness, seeming to reflect the slivers of moonlight Though he stepped lightly, his every footfall sounded like a gunshot that echoed through the valley. He stopped and stood perfectly still, his song ending on a high note. A soft click shattered the peace through the night as he drew his dagger, sending a shudder through the very trees themselves.
“Come out!” he shouted loudly. A bush rustled loudly and the boy narrowed his eyes at it. A fuzzy white rabbit hopped out and the boy gave a light laugh that reflected his relief. He put his dagger back into a small scabbard he had on his tan-colored belt. “It was only a rabbit!” The boy began to walk again, and his whistling started all over.
“It is dangerous to walk around at night, young one.” A grapy old voice cut through the boy’s song and caused him to jump. How could he let himself be surprised like this? He turned sharply while drawing his dagger at the same time. He was faced with an old man wearing a long black cloak. His gray beard glowed with the moonlight which caused his eyes to light up. The old man leaned on an old oaken staff.
“W..who are you? How did you sneak up on me like that?” The boy raised his dagger as to threaten the old man into telling him what he wanted to know.
The old man spoke with clarity and a twist of humor. “I know a great many things, Callahan.” The boy’s eyes lit up in a mix of shock and horror. “Now put that toy away and we shall speak.”
The boy, Callahan, kept the dagger where it was. “How did you know my name? I haven’t been called that in…” his voice trailed off. He hadn’t been called that in years! Not since his village was attacked and he was forced to flee over five years ago.
“In over five years?” The man finished Callahan’s sentence with a chuckle. “I know. I know a great deal about you. But I’m not going to talk when you’re standing there with a dagger pointed at my throat.” A silence befell the area as the two glared at each other. Finally after what seemed like an eternity, Callahan lowered his dagger. The old man gave a smile. “Curiosity always wins in the end.”
“So get on with it. Tell me, who are you? What are you doing here? How did you know my name?!”
“As you know, the world was once divided into hundreds of small kingdoms. You yourself came from the old kingdom of Baronia until Dragonshire came and destroyed it. The world is changing, Callahan. Dragonshire has no regard for human life anymore, and Delgradia is the only kingdom strong enough to withstand the constant attacks.”
“You don’t have to remind me. Both of my parents were killed in the attack on our village.” He held back a tear from the haunting memories of his friends and family being burned alive.
“You don’t know the entire story. Do you know why you were spared from the tragedy?” The old man narrowed his eyes.
“Of course. My father begged the soldiers to spare me and sacrificed his life for mine.”
“You know nothing then.” His words were cold and icy. Callahan could no longer hold it in and tears began to flow from his eyes.
“Who are you to say I know nothing? Were you there? No! So shut up!” Callahan raised his dagger once again in anger.
“I am Zandamir and I am the single reason why you are alive!” For the first time, the old man Zandamir stood straight up. He picked up the staff slightly off of the ground and slammed it down. A bright light flashed throughout, causing Callahan to drop his dagger to shield his eyes.
“You will listen to what I have to say!” He returned to his leaning pose. Callahan rubbed his bright blue eyes and nodded. “Good. I will say again that you do not know the entire story. You must embark on a quest to find the truth.”
“Yes, the truth. You must go to the ancient cave of Qua-tur.”
“It is said that the ancient Gods of Nas-Terran used Qua-tur to hide a very important relic called the sword of Gradivus. You must go and pull the sword out of its encasing.”
“And what happens when I pull the sword out? Do I become king of all the lands?” Sarcasm rung through Callahan’s words like a bell rings through the air in a churchyard.
“Oh heavens no! This is not a King Arthur tale, you know.” Zandamir laughed loudly, causing it to echo throughout the area. “Now hurry and go. When you pull the sword out, everything will become clear to you.” A strong gust of wind blew through the area causing the dust to stir up and throughout the air.
“What will I understand? What will I learn?” Callahan ran forward through the thick dust but could find no traces of Zandamir. The dust blew away with another gust of wind. Laying where Zandamir had been standing was a large stone hammer with a golden crusader cross. The cross was engraved in gold with equal length of both arms which would almost be mistaken for a plus sign save for horizontal and vertical lines at the ends respectively.
He bent over and picked up the hammer. A faint yellow glow covered his hand, causing him to drop it suddenly. “What was that!?” He glanced at his hands and back down at the hammer but he saw no signs of the glow. “Maybe I’m just seeing things.” He reached back down again and picked it up.
A beam of yellow light shot from his hand and went upwards. Callahan watched and followed it up and saw it shoot off into the distance, towards a faint mountain range. “Could this be the direction to Qua-tur?” The light began to fade as the sun’s first rays touched down upon the world, as dawn broke into the sky. “This is going to be a long day, I just know it.” He bent over and picked up the dagger he had dropped from Zandamir’s strange flash and put it back into its scabbard. “Why me?” He put the hammer through his belt, let off a loud sigh and began to walk.
The sun rose to the highest point in the sky, beaming it’s hot rays down upon Callahan. He had been walking all morning with no rest. His stomach began to growl from hunger, but he hadn’t met a single person or a town since he started his journey. He glanced upwards towards the mountain range. ‘They’re bigger now’ he thought. ‘I must be getting closer’ His thoughts were broken by another loud growl from his stomach. ‘What am I going to do? Am I going to die out here?’
He took another step, the hunger crept through his entire body. He felt empty and in pain. Seconds seemed like minutes which seemed like hours. ‘I can’t go on!’ He fell to his knees and panted. The pain was too much, and he just wanted it to end. Everything went black as he closed his eyes. He fell over with a loud ‘thud’.
“Cally! Cally! Come play!” A small girl with long brown hair that had no sign of curl laughed and chased circles around Callahan. Her bright jade eyes glowed and she laughed longer. Callahan had always hated being called Cally and he wondered where he was. “C’mon Cally! Mom says we can play before dinner!” It came back to him. He was looking at his little sister. No, that was impossible! She was dead–killed in the fire. What IS this?
Callahan turned around and saw a large brown door. He ran towards it and opened it only to be met by an army of soldiers wearing thick black armor. The leader of the group stepped forward. He smirked and withdrew a large a double-bladed axe from behind his back. “Callahan, step back.” Callahan looked over to see a man with long brown haired tied in a pony tail step forward with a silver sword.
Dad? The man stepped outside with the knights. Callahan went forward through the door and appeared in a large town. The sun was beginning to set, and crowds of people were being suppressed by more knights in black armor.
The leader laughed and swung his axe towards Callahan’s father, who managed to block. The leader smirked once again and flipped his axe sideways ripping the sword from Callahan’s father in a flash. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again.. my technique cannot be defeated by any ‘sword’! Hah!”
His father gasped and realized that it was over. He fell to his knees. “Spare my son! I offer my life for his, just don’t let harm come to him!” The leader turned and looked at Callahan. His cold black eyes glared deep into his soul with a look of ‘you’re next’. The leader nodded and rose his axe. With a swoop the axe came crashing down.
“Father! No!” Callahan sat up abruptly. It was just a dream? Zandamir had to be wrong; his father HAD saved him! His head throbbed with pain and he felt the hunger pains again. He glanced up and realized that he was no longer sitting on the path he was on before but was now in a two-room log cabin that was lit by three small candles.
“Oh! The boy is awake” came a light, happy, and soothing voice. After a moment a tall young woman walked towards Callahan carrying a tray of food. She had long brown hair and dark jade eyes that Callahan shuddered when looking into. She looked like his dead sister. He shuddered again at remembering the dream. “Don’t be afraid. I found you on the path outside of town. You were lying unconscious out there.” She handed him the food, which he grabbed at before she could even set it down. “I’m Galaniel.”
Callahan stuffed food into his mouth and gave off a childish smile. Spitting various chunks of food out while mumbling he managed to tell her who he was. “My goodness, it looks like you were nearly starving! You sure are lucky I came down that path. I don’t even want to think about what would have happened to you if one of Dragonshire’s soldiers had found you instead.”
Images of the black armored soldiers flashed in Callahan’s mind and he dropped the tray of food. Galaniel ran forward and caught the tray before it could fall to the floor. “Is something wrong?” He shook his head. “Well, I think it would good for you to sleep right now. I’ll make you some more food after you wake up. Get rested and we can talk later.” She hummed a little song while she gave a smile and turned. She stepped through the doorway into the next room.
Callahan closed his eyes and instantly fell asleep.
“Spare my son!” “Father! No!” “You know nothing” He awoke again. Sweat poured down his forehead and he blinked rapidly. He sat up and saw that the candles were put out. He sighed and layed back down again. He knew everything would become more clear after he had slept some more.
He closed his eyes and humed the song he had heard Galaniel hum earlier that day. He smiled and then laughed. He realized that the song was the one he was whistling the previous night. He wondered how she knew it but sleep overcame him before he could figure out an answer. He was out cold.
“Wake up Callahan. It’s morning and you need to eat.” The soothing voice made him open his eyes. Everything was blurry but he could reconize Galaniel in all her beauty. He sat up and saw a tray of food. He smiled and began to eat.
“When I’m finished,” he manage to say inbetween bites, “I really must be going. Where is my equipment?”
She pointed towards the second room. “It’s all in there. That’s quite a nice hammer you have. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it.”
“Neither have I” he commented. He thought about it and the entire scene from the previous morning flashed through his mind. ‘You know nothing.’ He jumped out of the bed once he was finished eating and stretched. He grabbed his equipment. “I must truely thank you. I’d be dead if it weren’t for your hospitality. I will return one day, count on it.”
She nodded and opend the door for him. He stepped through and was completeyl amazed at how close he was to the mountain range. It would take him no time to reach the caves of Qua-tur. He took a deep breath and began walking once again…
He hated this cave. He had never been in such a damp and musty place in all his life. The gray was everywhere and he desperately wanted to flee and escape the place to return to fresh air. However, he knew he had to press on.
Callahan walked further and stepped over a pile of rubble. He gasped as he saw it. The sword, the sword of Gradivus, was thrusted into the cave wall. It was nothing like had ever seen before. At the base of the bright silver blade and at the rounded top of the golden-clad hilt was an engraved ornamentation consisted of plant motifs and male masks. The engraving was in a poor state and housed many runes that ran up and down the hilt. At the base of the blade there was a round hand-guard that was interwoven with the hilt and much of the lower blade. It pulsated with a Godly power. Below the sword was written several ancient runes that he could not make out.
He approached it and studied it. It was well embeded in the wall, how would he be able to pull it out? He sighed again and reached up to grab it. He stopped momentarily and wondered why he was doing this. Why should he trust some stranger he had met only a day before? He had to know the truth, that’s why. Callahan touched the handle of Gradivus and screamed in agony as pulses of energy shot through his body. He tried to let go, but it was too late.
A blinding light swirled throughout the room as Callahan’s screaming grew louder. Everything went black, but he was still conscious. The pain lessened and the entire void filled with scenes of his life. Suddenly they stopped in a large castle. He was standing on a red carpet facing towards a large throne with a king leaning forward in it. He saw his father. What was going on?
“So I see. Dragonshire is really going to attack the village of Aoni?” The king scratched his chin, deep in thought. “I appreciate this insider’s information. I will have to consider it.”
Callahan saw his father nod and bow to the king. Suddenly everything went black. “I don’t understand!” Callahan shouted despite the fact no one could hear him. The scenes began to flash all around him faster and stopped once again, this time inside a village that Callahan recognized to be Aoni. “Aoni? But that’s..” Callahan stopped as time seemed to resume and play-back like a movie.
He saw fifty of Baronia’s top knights march through the gates of the village. He noticed once again that his father was among the people he could see. The knights came to a stop and he heard several of them talking.
“Aoni? Why would Dragonshire attack Aoni?”
“It’s just a small town of farmers!”
“Sure is quiet though.”
“Yeah. Perhaps a little too quiet.”
Callahan looked and noticed that there were no villagers. He saw his father take a few steps backward, away from the crowd just as the gates of the town slammed closed. Hundreds of black-armored knights came out of nowhere to ambush the party. The battle lasted only moments before all but his father were dead.
“You’ve done good. Take your petty reward and get out of here before we decide to kill you too.” The leader gave a small pouch to Callahan’s father. The void returned.
“So that’s where my father got that money! But.. how can I believe this? That would mean my father was a traitor!” His stomach did flips, and he felt sick. How could this be true?
The void returned to a large gray castle. Stone tiles lay as far as the eye could see, and the walls were thick blocks. He saw his father once more, standing in front of someone whom he recognized to be Glathmore, the king of Dragonshire. He wasn’t sure how he recognized him, since he had only heard of him in stories and had never actually saw him in person. Glathmore’s face was dark, with eyes black as coal. He had a thick black beard to go along with his short black hair. His voice was like graven under a boot, and carried loudly.
Next to Glathmore was a strange hood-covered man wearing all black. For the first time since the images had appeared, he felt like he was actually being watched. The hood-covered man glanced towards Callahan’s position, sending a cold chill up his spine.
“I see you led your fellow countrymen to Aoni to be slaughtered. Well done. If you keep this up, you may actually earn yourself a rank in the Dragonshire army.” Glathmore chucked evilly.
“I would be honored, my liege.”
“Good. Now, we’re going to conquer the remaining Baronia villages. You will help us in this, am I correct in assuming so?”
“Yes, my liege.” Glathmore nodded and smiled an evil smile.
The hooded figure stepped closer towards Callahan. Callahan jumped back. How was this man able to see him when no one else could? He prayed the scene would be over quickly so he could get away from whatever he was.
The void returned almost instantly. He gave a breath of relief. “What was that? And my father betrayed the kingdom of Baronia? Why?” Sharp pain returned throughout his body and it caused him to lose his train of thought. The images began flowing again and the pain decreased. It stopped at the scene that Callahan had hoped he’d never have to see again.
Callahan’s father stepped outside with the black-armored knights. The leader chuckled, and laughed before narrowing his eyes.
“I see you didn’t do as Glathmore had ordered.”
“I have done everything that he has asked of me.”
“Ahh, but you see, Glathmore doesn’t believe you have. So he has sent me, the strongest of all Dragonshire has to offer, to make you pay.”
The door opened slowly as Callahan, now as a small child, walked out of it. The leader laughed and swung his axe towards his father, who had managed to block it. Older Callahan gasped in horror. He had to watch this morbid scene again and he hated it. He screamed in anger. “Make it stop! I don’t want to see it anymore! Stop it!”
The leader smirked once again and flipped his axe sideways ripping the sword from Callahan’s father in a flash. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again.. my technique cannot be defeated by any ‘sword’! Hah!”
“No! I can’t witness this again!” He closed his eyes, but the images still prevailed. He began to weep.
His father gasped and realized that it was over and fell to his knees. “Spare my son! I offer my life for his, just don’t let harm come to him!” The leader turned and looked at child Callahan. His cold black eyes glared deep into his soul with a look of ‘you’re next’. The leader nodded and rose his axe. With a swoop the axe came crashing down.
The child Callahan cried loudly, matching the sobs and weeps of the older. He saw the child take off in a run as the leader of the gruesome knights flicked his axe sideways, causing blood to fall off in a spray.
“Get the child. I have no intention of keeping any sort of plea for mercy. The traitor and all of his family will suffer. Burn the village. This has gone on long enough.”
“Yes, sir.” Several of the knights began to chase after the small boy. They were almost upon him when suddenly a flash of blinding light distracted them. The older Callahan looked and saw him. It was Zandamir. He looked exactly the same as he did the previous day.
The blackness returned and suddenly gave out. Callahan was now back in the deep cavern system of Qua-tur. The sword of Gradivus flew out of the wall and landed with a loud clank that echoed throughout the entire cave. He fell to his knees and wept loudly. How could his father have been a traitor? Zandamir was right. He had known nothing of this. He wiped his tears.
The cave walls began to shake violently, and pieces of rock fell from the ceiling. Callahan looked upwards towards a large rock about to hit him. Why should he move? He had just witnessed his father’s betrayal. “No!” He rolled out of the way seconds before it crashed. He wouldn’t let it end just yet.
“So it was you who pulled out the sword of Gradivus.” He heard a hissing sound that paralyzed him with fear. The figure whom he had witnessed during the scenes walked through the wall where the sword had been embeded. “I cannot allow you to leave here with that!” The figure drew back the black hood from his face to reveal a face with three black eyes staring forward. The cheeks were covered with a thick red blood, which flowed like a river ran down his face, and into the cloak.
“U..gah! What are you?” Callahan grabbed the sword and staggered backwards, carefully avoiding the falling debris.
The monster figure chuckled in its evil hissing way while stepping forward. “You won’t be alive long enough to care.”
“We’ll see about that!” Callahan leaped forward and thrusted the sword towards the monster. The figure hissed in pain as the sword went straight through him.
“I.. but how? No mortal weapon can hurt us!” Greenish blood flew out of the wound and hit the cave floor, burning holes in it. “That’s right. I remember now.. the sword of Gradivus was not forged by a mortal.” The monster pulled at the wound, struggling to remove the sword. Callahan hung onto the handle with all his might. “Curses!”
The sword came loose, and Callahan went flying backwards. The monster stepped forward then remembered the pain it had felt when the sword pierced its body. “Don’t think this is over, mortal. We shall meet again!” The monster stepped backwards through a wall and vanished.
“What is this sword?!” Callahan looked at it. Suddenly it began to glow red and shattered into a thousand pieces. “What? But why?” More rubble crashed into the floor. Callahan threw the handle down and ran towards the exit. He felt the entire cave rumble harder with each step. “I’m not going to make it! I’m going to die in here!” He ran faster. He felt his energy leaving him with every breath he took. Sweat flew off of him as he finally saw the exit to the cave. He dived for it, and prayed he would make it.
It was a month later since the incident at the caves of Qua-tur. The entire cavern was completely blocked off. It would be months, if not years, before they would be able to clear it out enough to return. It didn’t matter to Callahan, however. He had decided how to repent for his father’s crimes. He had decided to join the Delgradia army. Delgradia was the only kingdom strong enough to resist the magnitude of Dragonshire’s attacks, and he wanted to extract revenge on the man who had killed his father.
He looked down at the hammer he had received over a month ago. He knew that it would come in hand. He knew his life would someday be meaningful and complete. He would make it so. He smiled to himself and wept a final tear before stepping into the recruitment building.