“Even in the darkest of situations there is always some hope, if you but look for it.”
- Tome of Inspring Quotes by N.W. Thomas
“Many people have belittled heroes and dismissed their action, claiming that they are not real heroes, or that heroes do not exist in any form. But I disagree. You can say that heroes never do enough, or never do what is needed to be done. And in many cases this may be true. But you cannot dismiss the fact that heroes give hope to people. Their courage, strength, valour and determination to fight for what they believe in, is something that should inspire all.
A hero is not only someone who fights evil and stands up for the rights and freedoms of the simply folk in the face of the world’s destruction. A hero is someone who fights desperately for what they believe in. Someone who would sacrifice their own lives and their own happiness for their cause. These are the heroes that are overlooked by most, and in many ways can be seen as the only true heroes.
Heroes never die, they are kept alive through tales and so long as we remember them they cannot die.”
- Remember Us by Lyinar the Bard
Year 3633, The Sixth Age, the nineteenth day of Spring
Wide city streets and solid stone housing greeted Lieut on the other side of the gate of Sparren and the sounds of a thriving metropolis filled the air. The stone of the city was smooth from years of rain falling upon it and running down the sides of the buildings or along the many gutters and waterways throughout the city.
“I know of a good tavern,” Vythe said as he took the lead.
Lieut follow Vythe and Bārdin through the very straight and structured city streets and past the similar looking buildings. Many people moved about on their daily activities and quickly jumped out of the way as Vythe trotted down the middle of the road. As he rode along Lieut was surprised to see many of his Nevārancien brethren walking about and enjoying the sights and sounds of Sparren. He regarded them curiously as they went about daily activities as if they had lived in the city for years. Most of the warriors seemed to not notice him and those that did only gave him a slight nod in passing greeting. But none of them realised who he was.
Vythe led the way over many bridges and towards the castle that stood high on the mountain side overlooking the city, its walls and design very uniform and similar to the buildings of the city proper. Yet even from this distance Lieut could tell that the keep was crafted with a much higher standard of care.
Over another bridge they went and came alongside the tavern Petrified Ale where Vythe brought his mount to a stop and dismounted. Lieut and Bārdin followed Vythe’s lead heading inside and finding a table.
As Lieut took up his seat Vythe ordered some food and drink, and did not forget to flirt with the plain looking barmaid. Quicker than usual the barmaid returned with the order and smiled widely at Vythe before heading away.
“Kreha!” Bārdin blurted and nearly choked on the sausage he was eating.
Lieut looked up in surprise and saw the small woman walk calmly through the tavern. But instead of her usually girlish expression on her face she did not look pleased and her hands were balled into fists at her sides.
“By Dhror’s hairy armpits, I never thought I would see you again,” Bardin exclaimed happily, “What are you doing here?”
“Not time to spend time talking with dwarfsie,” Kreha said simply as she sat down and Bārdin’s smile vanished and his shoulders slumped. “Although we do enjoy doing so. But our business is much more important.”
“So much for subtly,” Lieut remarked dryly and Kreha glared at him, and Bārdin also regarded him in shock.
“Since the nosy humansie overheard us talking with you, subtly has lost its point,” Kreha replied giving Vythe an angry look.
“There has to be another way Kreha,” Vythe cut in emphatically, “What you are planning will destroy this world, I know you can see that.”
Bārdin turned a curious expression towards Vythe.
“The Five will die foolish human,” Kreha said, her voice becoming deep and ominous.
“And when they do M’Aierth will be ripped apart,” Vythe replied, trying not to seem intimidated.
“That is uncertain,” Kreha replied seriously, “The deaths of The Five is not.”
“But why Lieut?” Vythe asked through clenched teeth, “He has helped you before, why do you need him now? Just let him have your gift and be done with, don’t drag him into your obsession with revenge.”
“Silly humansie,” Kreha said condescendingly, “If I reveal myself to kill a demi-god I won’t be able to catch Antōre by surprise. Stupid humansie.”
“Damn it Kreha, listen to reason,” Vythe implored, but Kreha interrupted him.
“Be silent,” Kreha growled and Vythe went flying backwards through the tavern, knocking over tables and thudding into the bar where he collapsed into unconsciousness.
The barmaid screamed and the others in the tavern fell over themselves as they raced quickly for the exit.
“What in the Abyss Kreha?” Bardin roared and jumped to his feet, his axe in his hands.
But with one glance from Kreha Bardin also went catapulting through the room and into the stone wall where he too collapsed.
“Will you be next?” Kreha asked as she turned her glare upon Lieut.
Lieut did not move or say anything, even though he dearly would have like too. But he could feel the power from Kreha pressing down on his chest and throbbing at his temples.
“Very good then,” Kreha smiled sweatly and the tension of power lifted from the room. “Now we shall say what we was going to when we came here in the first place.”
“Why the spectacle?” Lieut interrupted and Kreha looked angry again, “You could have met up with me tonight, when they had gone to sleep.”
“I was making a point,” Kreha replied quickly, suddenly changing from an innocent girl into a regal queen. “I hope it was conveyed. You will do this for me, I will kill Antōre, and if you change your mind or your friends try and stop me I will kill them as well as you. And I will make certain that this world is destroyed.”
“I thought you loved Essinendeür, Kreha?” Lieut asked seriously as he matched the stare Kreha was giving him.
Kreha blinked and looked away, “I do, rather I did. And I will again once The Five no longer exist.”
“So if the world looks as if it will be destroyed as The Five die, you will fix it?” Lieut asked seriously.
A slight smile came to Kreha’s face and she nodded, “I will.”
Lieut narrowed his eyes suspiciously, “I hope you will.”
Kreha quickly changed back into the innocent young woman with a sweat smile on her face, “You can trust us sillies. Now, what we wanted to say was this. We thinks that Grengur, Antōre’s first demi-god, is here in the city.”
“Grengur?” Lieut looked confused.
“He is the demi-god of enjoyment and festivities,” Kreha sneered, “The embodiement of lust, drunkenness and debauchery. We thinks he is hosting the endless party in the Silver Stream manour. Apparently it will continue until the world ends.”
“How can I be certain it is him?” Lieut asked with a sigh.
“Sillies,” Kreha shook her head, “Just walk up to him and call his name. His name is his identity and you will have the conformation in his reaction. Then plunge your sword deep into his chest and watch as Antōre will race to help his fat little puppy dog, upon which we will rip out his heart. We knows, yes indeed we knows.”
“Then I will be free to go on my way with your gift of Fog in my head?” Lieut asked suspiciously and Kreha regarded him curiously.
“Of course sillies,” Kreha smiled sweetly.
“But what of the other three Gods?” Lieut began to ask but Kreha simply vanished from sight.
As soon as she disappeared both Vythe and Bārdin let out a groan and pulled themselves to their feet.
“What happened?” Vythe asked slowly as he staggered back to the table.
“You angered a Goddess, obviously,” Lieut replied simply.
“You know what I mean?” Vythe snapped irritably.
“I am going to the endless party at the Silver Stream manor tomorrow,” Lieut replied and he took a drink from his cup.
“Why?” Bārdin asked gruffly, “Wait don’t tell me nothing, don’t want to change a habit of a lifetime.”
“What?” Lieut asked curiously and Vythe also gave the dwarf a perplexed look.
“You have kept your secret about speaking with Kreha for a while now, but Vythe seemed to know,” Bārdin grumbled, “Not me though, I didn’t know nothing. And it turns out Vythe also knows why we are in Sparren, didn’t bother telling me though did ya?”
“I didn’t tell Vythe anything,” Lieut cut in before Bārdin could continue, “He overheard me talking to Kreha in Calias.”
“I was just as annoyed as you are Bārdin when I first discovered it,” Vythe reassured the dwarf.
“That supposed to right this wrong is it?” Bārdin snorted and took a long drink of ale, “So why are we here anyway?”
“To kill a demi-god so I won’t die,” Lieut replied simply.
Bārdin looked at Lieut incredulously, “Like what happened on the fields in front of Gun Dürin?”
Lieut nodded and Bārdin snorted again.
“Good idea,” Bārdin roared sarcastically, “That caused the beginning of the end of the world. I am sure nothing bad will happen this time though.”
“Hopefully it won’t,” Lieut said seriously, “And Kreha gave her word that she will save the world if it seems as if it will be destroyed.”
“I ain’t trusting that one ever again,” Bārdin huffed and took another long drink.
Just then a group of guards burst through the door led by one of the patrons who had fled earlier.
“The girl was just here,” the patron was saying as the guards came over to Lieut’s table.
“You three, where’s the girl?” the leader of the guards demanded.
“You just missed her,” Vythe replied with a hint of sarcasm in his voice, “She headed towards the rafts to the lower city.”
“Thanks,” the guard nodded, “You lot alright?”
“I am sure we will be just fine,” Vythe rolled his eyes, “Thank The Five for men of the city watch. I do not know what would have happened if you had not showed up.”
“Get yourselves checked out by a herbalist if you are hurt,” the guardsman said seriously, “Don’t fear we will arrest this devil girl.”
The leader of the guard gave Vythe a curious look before ordering his men back out the doors. As the sound of chainmail disappeared down the street Vythe smiled and let out a snicker.
Bārdin let out a loud laugh, “Nice work. That solved some awkward questions they were bound to ask.”
Lieut smirked and shook his head at Vythe’s ploy before taking another drink of water.
“I think I need to get me hearing checked,” Bārdin remarked, “Did he say herbalist?”
“Herbalism has advanced recently, now that magicks are limited to the talented or knowledgeable, or lucky,” Vythe replied simply, “It seems that herb lore is more popular here in Sparren.”
“But having said that,” Vythe continued, “I do think you need to get your hearing checked. All that hair looks like cotton wool stuffed in your ears.”
“It’s protection,” Bārdin snapped back, “All dwarves have it. It stops us from believing everything we hear. Unlike you bald humans.”
Vythe let out a laugh and shook his head in amusement.
“So whats the go anyhow, Lieut?” Bārdin asked taking another healthy drink of ale. “We going to this endless party or what?”
“Tomorrow,” Lieut replied seriously.
“Why not today?” Bārdin asked, “I’m sure they have a goodly amount of booze there, and no doubt it’s free. To think, all that drink and easy women just waiting for us at this party. Come on let’s head there now.”
“Do not be so eager, Bārdin,” Vythe remarked a hint of sadness in his voice, “For at that party something is bound to end for good.”
Bārdin scoffed and pointed to his hairy ears, “Don’t believe everything you hear. Just ‘cause someone says something will happen in a particular way, don’t mean it will. You should know that Vythe.”
Vythe nodded and took a sly glance at Lieut, “I hope you are right my friend, for all our sakes.”
For the remainder of the afternoon and into the evening they continued to sit at the table and talk idly as Vythe and Bārdin drank and ate. Lieut was glad of this and was happy to simply spend time with his friends, he only wished that Fairris was with them also. Lieut was not sure of what was going to happen tomorrow, maybe it would be as Kreha said and if another rift opened in the sky she would fix it. Maybe then he would be free to go on his own path with the gift of life sustaining Fog in his head as Kreha had promised.
But as Bārdin had said, people lie, and Lieut could imagine that now Kreha had a hold on him she would not easily let go, just as Vythe had suspected. Lieut decided that it was no use worrying about it, he would deal with that problem when, and if, it occurred.
The nightly crowd came and went and Vythe and Bārdin hired some rooms for the night, leaving Lieut to ponder his situation and deciding what he was to do if things did not go as planned. Too quickly the night went by and the dawn came bright and cloudless, which was an unusual occurrence in this city.
Lieut met Vythe and Bārdin in the main room and after they had something to eat and drink Lieut led the way out of the Petrified Ale and towards the Silver Stream manor.
The morning was bright and cheerful, the noise of the waterways echoed off the stone houses and the citizens were beginning to fill the streets as they began their daily routines. Nobles walked about causally, sometimes stopping to look at the wares that a merchant was selling before moving to the next stand without buying anything. At the corner of nearly every road something was happening, be it a street performer making a show or a priest of The Five shouting and waving his finger about the end of the world, the Prophecy of The Five, and how everyone should be spending their last days repenting for their sins and praying for forgiveness.
The Silver Stream manor was positioned at the north western area of the city beside the castle keep, an area reserved for the very rich and powerful. The white stone of the castle glowed brightly in the morning light, the flags of the ruling family and the yellow lion of Norrendōrel on a green field flew proudly in the breeze atop the high parapets.
Walls also surrounded the richest section where the Silver Stream manor was and the silver gates were manned by guardsmen.
“What do you lot want?” one of the guards asked as Lieut approached the gates, “Another Nevārancien ay? Too many of you lot in the city these days.”
“You three got business here?” the second guard asked, his halberd across the entrance.
“We are making for the party at the Silver Stream manor,” Vythe said with a smile, “Am I still correct in guessing it is an event for all?”
“Half right,” the first guard replied, “There is an entrance fee. A gold coin each if you want to get in.”
“You fraudulent scum,” Bārdin roared, “Everyone knows it’s free to all. Now step aside before I knock ya heads about.”
“In that case it just became two gold coins each,” the second guard was quick to say, “And you better pay unless you want to spend your last days in the prison cells, or worse.”
“Why you,” Bārdin flared and his hand moved for his axe handle.
“Calm yourself Bārdin,” Vythe interjected and stopped the dwarf from drawing his axe, “There is no need for violence and regretful action. Here I shall pay for all of us.”
Vythe took eight gold coins from his purse and handed them to the guardsmen as Bārdin grumbled something under his breath.
“Keep the change my good men,” Vythe smiled and the guards were quick to step aside to let them past.
“Well then, welcome good sirs,” the first guard smiled wide, “Enjoy the festivities and don’t make any trouble.”
Lieut was quick to lead the way through the silver gates and along the road that headed through the rich houses and manors of Sparren. In this part of the city more trees and other plants lined the road and the waterways were smaller but no less numerous. Among the beautifully built houses and walled manors were also many grassy parks filled with fountains and flowering flora. Even the bridges that crossed the streams had not been forgotten in the building of this area and all were covered in intricate carvings and lined with crystal lanterns.
Knowing the way Vythe took up the lead and across many bridges and along a walkway that ran alongside a stream. At the most north western point of the rich part of the city the Silver Stream manor stood tall with a high stone and silver wall running around it. Down from the mountains on either side two rivers gushed and caused the estate to sit upon an island that was only accessed by two bridges.
As Vythe led the way towards the nearest bridge Lieut’s eye was caught by an elf coming from a side road and towards the same bridge. Lieut’s whole surroundings seemed to suddenly become non-existent and superfluous as he recognised the deep red hair of the elf and her light gait.
“Fairris?” Vythe called out as he too realised who she was.
The Blood Elf turned quickly and her deep blue eyes widened in surprise and joy.
“Vythe,” Fairris smiled, “This is. . .”
Fairris’s voice trailed away and her eyes grew even wider as she noticed Lieut alongside Vythe.
“Hey,” Lieut greeted awkwardly.
The smile on Fairris’s face slowly slid away and a look of incredulity came to her features as she walked towards him.
“It’s been a long time,” Lieut began to say, but he stopped as Fairris launched a punch right for his face.
Lieut easily grabbed Fairris’s wrist before she hit him and responded with a look of confusion. As soon as he grabbed her first punch Fairris threw another one for his face, but again Lieut grabbed it. Tears started to come to Fairris’s face as she pulled her hands free and tried to continue the assault upon him. Lieut easily blocked all of Fairris’s punches, but she continued as tears fell from her eyes. To stem the assault Lieut quickly grabbed Fairris by the shoulders and pulled her close. Fairris continued to try and punch him but as her anger lessoned she just cried into his chest.
Lieut looked to Vythe and Bārdin for some kind of aid, but both of them just smiled widely and nodded to him. Suddenly Fairris pulled away from Lieut and turned her back as she wiped away her tears. When Fairris turned back around to face them a smile was back on her face.
“It has been a long time,” Fairris said with a strained smile as if she was trying to act as if her outburst had never happened.
“Indeed,” Vythe said with a slight laugh, “It turns out he is not dead. How have you been Fairris?”
“I have been very well,” Fairris replied, “And never for a second did I think you were dead, Lieut. But tell me, what happened after we parted in the Foglornt those years ago?”
“Lots of things happened,” Lieut remarked and he moved to continue towards the Silver Stream manor. “A story too long to be told at the moment.”
“What? Why, what’s going on?” Fairris asked curiously as she followed with Vythe and Bārdin.
“Perhaps we should take a moment to talk about it,” Vythe said as he grabbed Lieut’s arm to a stop him as he was about to cross the bridge, “Fairris’s opinion would be greatly appreciated.”
“There is nothing to discuss,” Lieut replied simply and moved to continue, but Fairris jumped in front of him and stopped him from walking.
“Please tell me what is going on?” Fairris asked, frustrated.
“I will not waste time with the intricacies, Fairris,” Vythe began when Lieut did not, “But as simply as I can put it: the rift in the sky was caused by the Goddess from the Prophecy of The Five when she killed Anduěr. The Fog in Lieut’s head has been seeping out and effectively killing him, so he made a deal with Kreha, the Goddess, which entails her keeping him alive in exchange for him helping her kill Antōre. And as a result of that, aiding the annihilation of our world.”
Fairris looked dumbfounded as she absorbed what Vythe had said, her mouth hanging slightly agape.
“Kreha promised to save the world if it looked as if it was to be destroyed,” Lieut said with a slight sigh.
“But who in the Abyss is going to believe what she says again,” Bārdin said angrily.
“So either Lieut will die, or the world might be destroyed?” Fairris asked slowly as she understood what Vythe had said. “Well, that is an easy choice. I will help you kill this false God, Lieut.”
A slight smile came to Lieut’s face as he looked at Fairris who returned the smile before looking away.
“What?” Vythe balked, “Fairris, I do not want to see Lieut die just as much as you. But I also do not want the world to be destroyed and everyone in it to die. There has to be another way.”
“Like what?” Lieut asked and Vythe shrugged.
“I don’t know,” Vythe admitted, “But as I told you, Kreha now has control over you and I doubt she will release that hold until all The Five are dead and the world ripped apart.”
“Like I said, there is nothing to discuss,” Lieut said and he moved to continue on his way and Fairris, nor did the others try to stop him. “I have made my choice, and whatever may happen I am glad you three are with me.”