Previously on Aetherius Saga…
Jon the Compassionate, Sage of Water, continues his journey to the Colsana Archipelago with Storm the Red. His goal, to receive a traditional Neithan Mark. A special tattoo that tells their life story. While receiving it, Jon recalls his past in Cider Village and being sold to the Kingdom of Orion…
Out of all the Kingdoms, the Kingdom of Orion was feared for the strength of its army. But while the Kingdom of Celestia ruled the seas, the Kingdom of Orion had its own means to combat them. Large fleets that relied on brute force and sheer durability over speed and precision. A side benefit to this more is more mentality was a sizeable cargo bay. Perfect for transporting their new conscripts and slaves. There in the darkness of the cargo bay, Jon and numerous other captives from Cider Village and beyond sat. The young mage was nervous, terrified, and blindly angry yet…couldn’t stop smiling. He knew he was a prisoner yet his expression couldn’t change. Even if it was a façade he couldn’t help but try to stay positive.
“Everyone out!” One of the guards yells with an axe in hand. He was covered from head to toe in armor and was primed to execute anyone who questioned him.
Jon does as he’s told and walks with the other prisoners to the deck and sees the Isle of Caldra. “Wish I could draw this…” Jon thought to himself. The island was in the shape of a massive crescent moon. The dock was in the central dip while the outer ends were entirely mountainous. From Cider, Jon could only see the mountains in the distance but never so close. It could’ve been beautiful had it not been for the outpost located in front of an underground mine.
“Not you Mage.” Sir Fredrick says putting his hand on Jon’s shoulder and drawing him close. “You’re my ticket to a promotion.” A proud smirk comes to his mouth at the thought. “Come, we have a long day ahead of us.”
Jon remains silent and follows Sir Fredrick obediently. His eyes constantly wandering to the sights around him. Children doing their best not to cry and draw their captors ire. Women who were being divided between the private tents and the various external regions of the camp. Men of all species being driven into the mines. Humans, Trelza, Elven, and a strange one he has never seen before. A bulky scaled humanoid species with four arms. The seemed lizard like but not quite like those of the Dragons he heard tales of. The luckiest individuals were being ushered to a training ground to be outfitted and prepared for further transport. “Where are we going?”
“From now on you only speak when spoken to. Under no circumstances will you say a word. Nod if you understand.” Jon nods hesitantly at Sir Fredricks orders. “Good, then there will be no problems.”
Jon kept following Sir Fredrick past the training grounds towards the main tent in the camp. Inside four knights awaited with their own prize. Sir Allendros the Fair was known for his fair skin and stunning flowing hair. Some have mistaken him for a woman in the past…they’d soon learn to live without a tongue. His armor was sleek and shone like the sun, accenting his athletic build in a display of narcissism.
Lady Vanessa the Brutal who was feared across the land for her ruthlessness on the battlefield. Rumors abound that she kept the head of her defeated enemies adorning her personal estate. Her armor had a number of spikes on its shoulders, elbows, and knees. She made great use of them alongside her serrated short sword.
Sir Bagan the Ancient was the oldest of all the knights in the Kingdom of Orion and possibly the oldest Highlander in Zeratal. He no longer went to battle due to old age, but his mind was still sharp and capable of formulating strategies. His armor was smooth and shell-like, resembling that of a turtle. He hunched stature only cemented the imagery.
Finally, Sir Genji the Silent was the most recent addition to the Knights of Orion. The sole Myurkyurian in all of the Kingdom of Orion, he defected from the Empire of Myurkyuria. Preferring to keep to himself and battle alone, his armor was sleek and minimalistic. It was a hybrid of materials and styles used by the Yagyu clan and a Myurkyurian Samurai. Albeit in the colors of the Kingdom of Orion. Even his blade was reforged to mimic it. His hair was black and kept tied in a small top knot to avoid obstructing his vision. His only reason for not being killed on sight was so they could use his knowledge against the Empire of Myurkyuria.
“I was wondering if the Warden would ever arrive.” Sir Allendros mocks with head held high. Sir Fredrick the Warden was notorious for his horrific prisons hidden in Va’ Sif. None have ever gone and returned to tell the tale. Those who question it have also conveniently disappeared…
“I had quite the haul from Cider Village. I hope you’re ready to be disappointed.” Sir Fredrick taunts.
“Ohohoho, you’re going to eat your words, Fredrick.” Sir Allendros waves his hand incessantly to signal his guest to come forward. Accompanying him was a crying woman in a wedding gown. An Aizr with snow-white wings forcibly strapped to her chest. “I conscripted her right out from under Celetia’s nose.” he lifts her chin up with his index finger and looks longingly into her eyes. “Snatched her up right from the altar. Such a fine prize indeed. It’s rare to find one of them without that nasty warrior’s temper.
“Another mistress? How the hell is that going to help our cause?” Lady Vanessa snaps.
“Why when you die our children will replace you.”
“Pathetic…If you’re done wasting time I’ll show you what a truly useful prize is.” With a snap of her finger, Lady Vanessa’s prisoner comes forward. Hers was a member of the four-armed species Jon had passed earlier. A Ciruseran from the Wastelands, they were praised for their immense physical strength. But they were a primarily pacifistic race…a fact that was exploited in earnest. The Ciruseran prisoner had green tinted skin and raging red and orange hair. “He calls himself Wournsfeik and came with me on the condition I spare his wife. I’m sure that endless well of love will be more than enough motivation to become the greatest warrior he can be.”
“Brawn before brain as always.” Sir Allendros chuckles under his breath.
“Better than another whore who’s useless outside of your own lust.” Sir Fredrick comments.
“You’ve all the wrong priorities.” he sighs with a roll of the eyes and shrug of his shoulders.
“I will admit I agree with Allendros on some levels.” Sir Bagan finally speaks. His voice deep and demanding of your attention. “There are many ways to help a war effort. He plans to make the next generation. I personally have acquired one from the Mystic Jungles.” he gently nudges a small girl younger than Jon forward. Still wearing the simple nightgown she was taken in. Her eyes were hollow and gray while her hair covered in a white shawl.
“Great, as if we didn’t have enough children.” Lady Vanessa hisses. “First Genji, then Fredrick, and now you. I knew you would get senile in old age Bagan but I had hoped you’d escape it like death.”
“Indeed…maybe I am just a senile old man…” Sir Bagan had learned many things in his long life. One such thing was to never underestimate someone because of their appearance or age. Were it not for her brash comments he might’ve shared that the child was a powerful psychic at the cost of her eyes. He did, however, plan to keep her heritage a secret regardless. For she was a Sylvanus, a rare evolution of Mages capable of casting musical spells much like the Fairies and Sages. Beings powerful enough that their hair glowed blue with Aether. She was his personal trump card. “A shame I couldn’t get a Dhampir like Sir Genji. I don’t know how he does it but I can’t argue with results.” he pauses to examine the young Dhampir. His thin and lanky frame, the crimson eyes, and the straight raven hair accented with blond streaks. “Even if he seems frail I’d say Sir Fredrick has a lot of ground to cover if he wants to win this round.
“I bet his is going to teach us how to grow a bountiful crop.” Sir Allendros adds bursting with laughter at the sight of Jon. “Oh, Absalon he even needs glasses!”
“Laugh all you want Allendros, but Mages are still the most valuable. He was raised in a farm town which gives him more discipline. With proper conditioning, he’ll be far more useful than your sorry lot.
“Can the boy cast a spell?” Lady Vanessa asks much to Sir Fredrick’s annoyance. “If he was capable of it then surely he’d have attacked us. I dare say the mistress is more useful than he is. A Mage farm boy with poor eyesight and not a spell to his name. Truly he is the greatest prize of all.”
Sir Fredrick wanted to strike Lady Vanessa down with all his might but he knew better. He held his tongue and left the group. The prisoners would feel his wrath instead. He was always brutal and unforgiving but putting him in a bad mood made it especially worse. Wournsfeik was transported to the training grounds with Lady Vanessa, Sir Allendros took his new mistress to his private accommodations where the rest of his personal harem awaited, and the three children were left under the watchful gaze of Sir Bagan and Genji.
“Now that those brash children are away, I’d like to ask you three a question. Do you know why we’re here?” Sir Bagan awaits a response but gets only silence. He could see none of them wanted to be here, but Jon’s eyes were the only ones to meet his. “We’re here because of a holy war. A war that you children will help us lead in the name of the mighty Kingdom of Orion You see, we all have our own territories but something makes us all different. Do you know what it is?” Sir Bagan pauses once more but stops and looks over his shoulder at Genji. “Sir Genji, would you mind standing guard out front? I’d rather not get interrupted before I continue.” Sir Genji does as he’s told and leaves Bagan with the trio. “Now then; the difference between us all, aside from our race, is our faith.” A sinister grin crept onto his face.
Unknown to the children was that Sir Bagan had a dangerous trick up his sleeve he kept secret. He had an Aura that took the form of a sinister black Centipede. It remained visible to the naked eye and slowly wrapped its way around the trio. With it, those who heard his voice became especially susceptible to his sway. Mind over matter was always his specialty…especially when it came to the naturally impressionable.
“Faith?” The young girl asks lowly.
“Yes my child, faith is what separates us. The Kingdoms of Nanow and Xanad believe strongly in the existence of the Elementals and the Sages who are their avatars. The Kingdom of Celestia believes in a loathsome abomination. They believed they were created by a single Angel, the Dragon Thanatos that would one day return to raze the Earth. A bit melodramatic I’d say…You’re from the Kingdom of Celestia aren’t you child?” Sir Bagan asks the Dhampir who nods in response. “What is your name?” he asks softly. His Aura slowly coiling tighter around him.
“Amyerain sir…” he responds meekly.
“Was I accurate in describing your faith Amyerain?”
“I guess so…”
“Isn’t it sad? A vengeful god who only wants to raze the planet? It makes the Myurkyurians belief seem palatable. They believe in Okami, a wolf deity that will be either savior or destroyer. First, the Elementals who do nothing, then Thanatos who will raze the world, and Okami who could do either on a whim. So what do you think the Kingdom of Orion believes in?” his Aura ensnaring and consuming the group slowly. All save for Jon, whose eyes never strayed from Sir Bagan’s. In fact, his Aura couldn’t get close enough to affect him. A fact that intrigued Sir Bagan greatly. “In the Kingdom of Orion, we believe in the mighty and beautiful Phoenix Absalon. A deity who will one day return and bring about the world’s rebirth. It’s sacred fires cleansing the impure and sparing the innocent.”
“But that sounds just like Okami.” Jon interrupts. “Don’t they both want the same thing?” his words reaching the others and causing the Aura to loosen its grip.
“Hardly, Okami acts on a whim in who it protects or harms. A fickle deity that shows no compulsion about who’s hurt or not. The Phoenix brings only righteous rebirth and punishment to all.”
“It sounds like you’re playing favorites.” Jons words were innocent and pierced through his coercion, weakening the binding of Sir Bagans Aura further.
Jons resistance to his coercion intrigued Sir Bagan. Even the Sylvanus wasn’t immune to him so what did he possess that she didn’t? He hated to admit that Sir Fredrick may have gotten a better prize then himself…but he wouldn’t allow them to find that little detail out. They foolishly left the children under his watchful gaze and he could hide what he saw fit…Alternatively, he could easily find ways to have Jon be absent so he could attend to his more malleable prospects.
“I think that’s enough of a lesson for today. Know that by this wars end only one Kingdom shall be left standing. I intend for it to be mine. Sir Genji, if you’d please.” Sir Bagan calls out to the stoic warrior. “It seems the young lady and the Amyerain aren’t as vocal as they should be. A shame really. Perhaps a day in the mines will make them more cooperative.”
“Wait!” Jon exclaims. “I’m sorry for how I talked. Please, take me in their place.” The words came out instinctively.
“A noble gesture indeed. They raised you well in Cider. Take the boy Sir Genji.” With the pair no longer in his way, he summons his Aura once more. “Now then…where was I?”