He sat in utter darkness. The air was stale, the sole noise being the rustle of his tattered mantle shifting across the cold stone of the throne. The new monarch was faced with a decision; to kindle the First Flame, or to let it burn out and bring about Dark.
Shanalotte had only wished for him to take the throne; her final words to him were "What lies ahead only you can see." Obviously she was letting him decide, her goal already accomplished. Nashandra had tried to take the throne for herself with the intent of snuffing the flame. And Aldia cared for neither, curious as to only what he himself wished.
What did he wish for?
What had he sought long ago?
A name would be a good place to start. A home. He no longer remembered either. It had been so long since he set out he lost most of his memory. And the memories themselves, even after he received Vendrick's blessing in his crown and curing his curse, remained frustratingly out of reach. Like a forgotten dream.
His sword and dagger would not aid him. So he delved into sorcery and pyromancy. When that failed he studied the darker side of the soul in hexes. When that brought about nothing he even went through the trouble of getting Licia's ghost back to this plane and studying her miracles.
Everything he did to get his memories back ended in a dead end or failure. He stormed to the throne for… what? Was he just lashing out? Hm. He had much to think on.
His fingers brushed against his belt, feeling for the wire effigy given to him at the start of his journey. A flick of his hand brought about a soft glow in the chamber, and he gazed silently at it. Early on, he could gaze at this effigy and remember who he was when he had died.
Now, though, now he stared at it and wondered why he even had it.
The monarch gazed silently at the effigy, turning it over and over again in his fingers.
. . . . .
The small light he had lit had long since faded, and the monarch's eyes were slightly glazed as he sat on the throne.
He was one to always carefully consider every possible outcome with every possible decision, thus he would not carelessly walk over to the bonfire and ignite it just because he was bored. Absolutely not. Nope.
He twisted on the seat to gaze at it. It was a pitiful thing, really. It smoldered quietly, the odd sword characteristic of all bonfires simply red hot at the tip, rather than burning halfway up the blade, like most bonfires he had encountered.
Dying embers. That was what he was looking at. And he watched it silently before turning back. It would be painfully simple to simply stretch out his hand, reignite it, and suffuse the land with warmth and fire once again.
But fire needed a source to burn.
And he had a hunch as to what that bonfire would use as fuel.
. . . . .
He had sat there, for who knows how long, before a soaring feeling engulfed his body. He recognized it.
He was being summoned to another world, to assist in the slaying of the master's enemies. A voice he did not recognize murmured to his conscience.
As he accepted the call, he wondered who he would encounter, and what ills they were going through to call upon him.
Would he confront the Pursuer once more? It would likely be a trivial fight; no more did he have just a longsword to hack away at the giant armor; he had crushing sorcery at his disposal. The Pursuer was never a match for him after he delved into sorcery.
Perhaps he would confront the Old Iron King. He never liked it, always knocking him into lava. The first time it hurt, but subsequently it just felt cheap. He probably died more to the lava than actually dying to the King's fists.
He adjusted the two chimes on his belt, idly grabbed his staff and prepared to enter another world.
The dark chamber plummeted into an even deeper blackness, before a light at the end signaled the world. He raced into it, eager to see what awaited him. Blinding light engulfed his vision, before he was gazing at the ground, straightening his back in a long stretch. He had gotten stiff sitting there. And yet… this summon didn't seem quite right.
The first sign that something was off about this summon was that he could feel grass under his boot. The major reason that something was wrong was that it was ridiculously pure. Even in Majula, the one peaceful place in all of Drangleic, the grass was deadened, brown. Here the grass was a vibrant shade of green he had not seen at all.
In fact, it wasn't just the grass. Everything about this world was pure. The air was clean, the sun blindingly bright after his time on the throne. As he raised his hand to cover his eye, he became aware of who summoned him.
A girl, a little weed of one at that, was pointing an adorably tiny catalyst at him. Perhaps he was wrong about being summoned and he would be challenged to a duel? He didn't know, it had been a very long time since he had an encounter. A crowd was watching them, a rather large one at that, and they broke into murmurs. He noticed they were all dressed the same. Some society, perhaps? A covenant he was not aware of?
He waited patiently for the girl to bow to him. Only then would he bow in turn. Alternatively, she could always attack him. He would return what was due. What he got was completely different. The girl started jabbering in some language he didn't understand. He shrugged in response, and the crowd started laughing. He may not have understood their language, but some things are just universal.
Perhaps they were his enemies? They were rather close. The Staff of Wisdom swung in little circles. They didn't show hostile intent, but one could turn the moment he let his guard down. He paid that price a few times in the Lost Bastille.
The crowd started jabbering at the girl, who responded in turn and had quite the voice. She turned to an older man, dressed in a black robe and carrying a staff. So a sorcerer then, like Carhillion? Was he in one of the few surviving schools of sorcery? His fellow phantom? And sporting the Ring of the Living, at that. Perhaps they were surrounded.
Idly he put a hand on his hip, waiting for direction to the lord of the area. His gaze swept across the crowd, lingering on the strange creatures at their sides who gazed at him in response. The crowd seemed more intent on the girl, presumably his summoner. She and the man were (presumably) discussing something. Odd, he never discussed anything with his phantoms. There was very little reason to. At best they tossed a few carvings here and there, but he neglected to put them on his belt before he departed for the throne.
Ah, they were arguing now. Their voices were starting to get raised. He drummed his fingers against his chimes, letting out a rather pleasant ringing sound. He was getting impatient. His time here was limited, and he couldn't linger for long. He didn't really want to go back to the throne, but he had a somewhat limited choice.
The monarch then noticed two things.
First, his body was not surrounded in the white aura of phantoms. And he wasn't wearing the Ring of the Living.
Second, the girl was approaching him. Finally, they were going to go somewhere. She pointed a finger down. He raised an eyebrow. Was she-
She pointed at him, then pointed down again. She was demanding he prostate himself before her? Why? What'd he do?
The monarch bent down on a knee. He would only kneel. The Staff of Wisdom was proud and upright. His back was straight, like his old knighthood training had taught him. His hexer's garb, however, sort of negated the nobility traditionally associated with the pose.
If the girl had truly found something wrong with him, which he highly doubted, she can duel him for that prostration. He was a monarch now, a monarch of four kingdoms now. He would never prostate himself before some random spell slinger. A king would not normally kneel to his subjects either, but from the purity of the land he highly doubted he was in Drangleic, let alone any of the surrounding kingdoms. This land was like a sliver of light against the encroaching Dark.
He watched as the girl waved her tiny catalyst around, speaking something, and tapped his forehead. Amusing; a baptism? Had he been inducted in some sort of religious cult, like the Archdrakes? Because if so, they can expect a surprise.
His bemused thoughts were brought to an abrupt stop when the girl leaned in and kissed him on the lips. He raised an eyebrow; she was very lucky he could not reach his dagger, but considering he felt no drain on his life like with desert sorceresses, this might be some strange custom.
She leaned back and started speaking very haughtily. He could tell by her body language. He watched her silently, wondering just what she was trying to say to him.
Burning pain prickled in his head. It was minor compared to being impaled by the Pursuer or falling into lava. Of course it couldn't quite compare to having his head crushed in the teeth of an ogre, so he only rubbed at it, mildly annoyed. The pain stopped, just as quickly as it began. None of the people gathered seemed to notice due to the cowl still being up and hidden by locks of black hair.
The man, the leader of the covenant by his unique garb, said something and started to approach him. The monarch regarded him silently. He brushed aside the monarch's hair, squinted at his forehead, jabbered something, and began floating off.
Wait, what? The monarch blinked his eyes. To his rising disbelief, the man actually started flying off like a gods be damned butterfly. To add the nail in the coffin, the other members of the covenant started doing the same!
One of the members started mocking the girl who still stood before him, he could tell by his attitude and demeanor. Silently they both watched the covenant head back to a castle in the distance. Perhaps she couldn't fly because she was a new member in the covenant? She looked significantly younger than the other members.
Fascinating, covenants usually had a secret to guard or some sort of mission. And flight would be an invaluable secret to bring back to Drangleic. Perhaps he might liberate their secrets for his own studies? Rather excited, the monarch started striding towards the castle. It had been an incredibly long time since he discovered a spell he did not know, or blueprints, outlines of spells he could not recognize.
None of the three schools of magic so much as hinted at a scroll that would give him the secrets of flight. The Pursuer could levitate, but not outright fly like these covenant members. Flight… how easy it would be to traverse Drangleic.
Yes, he would join this covenant, seize their secrets, and depending on whether or not their goals were worthy or not, add his power to their cause until their objective was completed.
He began striding toward the castle, ignoring the cries of the girl behind him. Normally he would be incredibly suspicious at the kiss, especially with his experience with desert sorceresses, but considering he didn't feel any different, he'd let it slide. Perhaps that was simply her way of greeting phantoms, like bowing and using carvings.
He ignored the tiny fist that abruptly hit his waist. It didn't hurt, in fact he wouldn't even have noticed it had his clothes not rustled slightly. He'd dealt with far worse.
. . . . .
Unfortunately for the monarch, by the time he had arrived at the castle the halls were deserted. Curious, he opened a room to a shrieking occupant, whereupon he hastily closed the door.
What? They actually bothered to sleep?
Well, on second thought it wasn't impossible; not everyone in Drangleic was completely Hollow and even those that were occasionally fell asleep. Those with the sign still felt exhaustion, as many of his allies would attest. He'd walked past a couple of passed out drunken warriors in No-man's Wharf, after all, so their bodies still feel the call of time.
And considering he cured himself of his curse with Vendrick's blessing, he supposed he would feel all the things mortals had once again. It had been so long since he felt hunger for something other than souls he took the warm bread a kind passerby had decided to give him.
It was, admittedly, a bit tougher than what he expected, but considering most of the food items he passed by had long since molded over and crumbled in his fingers or was stale, it was rather tasty, all things considered. He enjoyed it.
He lay idly under a tree in the covenant's courtyard, himself igniting a nearby sconce with a flame butterfly. The tiny girl who presumably called him to this world gave up a number of hours ago, and shouted something at him that he had promptly ignored. He already slipped on the Ring of Whispers briefly to see if he could understand her; perhaps she had traces of monster blood in her like Tark, but the Ring did not translate her speech.
Someone who spoke an entirely different language then… that was new. And from the two moons that hung in the sky, it was entirely possible he was in another world, literally separate from Drangleic. It wasn't impossible; he didn't understand how the various soapstones and orbs worked. He hadn't seen one on the girl, nor any of the other covenant members however.
Silently he unbuckled the clasp on his leather pack and peered in. Various items lay scattered inside. Tied pouches of repair powder, samples of varying pine resin and aromantic ooze (he strung those to his belt, who knew what the monsters in this land were weak to) wilted dusk herbs and glowing golden lifegems (he tucked some into two pouches on his belt as well, never hurt to be prepared), various scrolls, neatly rolled and tied, and at the bottom of it all lay his single greatest secret. His cure to his curse.
A gleaming, ornate and masterfully crafted silver crown winked at him in the moonlight. The ruby set in the center flashed, filled with Vendrick's blessing. The Crown of the Ivory King.
He did not take Vendrick's crown, leaving it on the throne along with his gear behind Wellager out of respect for the great man. The chancellor had wailed with despair upon seeing the crown and sword, for he had remembered what his circumstances were, what Drangleic had become, and passed into the next world. Perhaps he would've encountered him, surrendered to grief, as a wraith.
He had no wish to associate himself with the proud and arrogant Old Iron King, and set that crown before noble Sir Alonne's gear, an act of respect to the proud knight, and perhaps an apology. He had relived the king's memory; seen Sir Alonne kill himself rather than serve, felt the king's sorrow upon seeing the act, and felt the king's overwhelming grief when he saw the throne that his friend and mentor kept all those years. The Iron Crown simply held too much memory, too much story behind it, for him to comfortably have without feeling the guilt of the king.
And he had willfully left behind the Sunken King's much for the same reason as the Old Iron King; he despised blind worship. A foolish man, worshipping a dragon of all things as a god… why would he do such a thing?
The Ivory King, however… he was someone worthy of his utmost respect. Devotion and mercy. Determination and loyalty. He built his kingdom atop a ticking time bomb, for all intents and purposes. He would willingly sacrifice himself for his kingdom, devotion he could respect and admire, yet in the same breath was uncomfortable praising due to how zealous it had been. He had done the impossible and wedded a Child of the Dark, Alsanna the Oracle. He was honored to have held the great sovereign's sword, even if it had been only temporarily. When he set out to Drangleic Castle, he knew his journey was coming to a close, and consigned the items he did not or could not use to the flickering flame of the bonfire. They were not incinerated, not by any means, and he could easily retrieve them should he manage to find a bonfire.
He had studied them, and while they were a mystery he knew they were made from ashes of humans, souls who were linked to the flame they kindled. They were also linked to the First Flame, and in this world the Flame was extraordinarily healthy; he could feel it resonating through the land. It would not be a problem to light a bonfire; all he had to do was find a freshly deceased corpse and consign it to flame. He was already hypothesizing what sort of magic the sword held, and such things were detailed in a scroll.
What was his problem was the blessing the crowns held. How had Vendrick discovered it? Was it the precious item Vendrick stole from the Giants? Was that the key to reversing the Curse? He couldn't ask the man himself; he had spoken to a memory of the king and he knew how the king ended, it had been by his hand, after all.
Ah well, he had time.
Wait, no he shouldn't have time. Why hadn't he returned to his own world? Frowning suddenly, the monarch pulled out a black crystal, touched his forehead to it, and focused. It didn't respond.
"What…?" he murmured. For the Black Separation Crystal not to activate, he had to be in his own world. But he clearly was not; he was summoned here, he recognized the feeling and acknowledged the summoner. There shouldn't be a way to forcibly keep a phantom locked in the master's world.
Then again, humans shouldn't be capable of flight either. Perhaps another of the covenants' secrets? They lock phantoms in their world? If so, that was rather worrying. What would become of him? What would become of Drangleic? He was supposed to unite the fragments of humanity and lead them to the future… wasn't he?
But then again, the world was dying. For all his might, he couldn't simply stop nature's course. Monarchs far greater than him tried and failed; there was simply no way he could do it. Perhaps it was fated the world would return to the Dark. It was all a long cycle, a long dream.
Perhaps he had simply been presented with the opportunity to wake up.
Still, he couldn't quell the voices in his mind as he finally fell asleep.
Then she reached up and tried to circle his head. It was a move he was quite familiar with. Desert Sorceresses had managed to grab him and drain his life in a grasp much like the girl was trying to pull on him now.
Ah, so it was an ambush then. He'd heard of a few stories, of dishonest world masters summoning help only to kill them, either out of spite or simply out of humor, he didn't know. The monarch rose above her grasp and quickly stepped away, letting the girl grab air. She let out a noise of surprise, then with anger in her features tried again.
An ambush it was. He raised the Staff of Wisdom and focused magic into its crystal while moving back. The girl halted, shock spreading across her features. A rather bad move on her part, the monarch idly thought.
With a loud roar from the staff and a sharp jab in her direction, a Crystal Soul Spear was sent screaming towards her.
. . . . .
Louise's mind was frozen as she stared death in the face. Her summon been fairly passive, and dressed in those fairly tattered clothes but holding a staff, she thought she had summoned a fallen noble. Despite her distaste, she had moved to seal the contract but was instead spurned, her summon moving away, his eyes narrowing. She tried again, and this time his eyes hardened while casting magic she had never seen before.
Her mind was still processing this when Professor Colbert leaped in front of her and attempted to incinerate the strange, silvery-blue projectile. It passed through his defense like it wasn't even there before piercing his side without slowing. Blood splattered the courtyard, and in an instant the students, who had been jeering at her for summoning a fallen noble and calling for his death, screamed as one.
Her mind was moving on autopilot as she was swept into the chaotic crowd. Her summon had stiffened, eyes flicking across the students like he was eyeing which one to kill. Her stomach plummeted. So she summoned a fallen noble and a potential murderer… could her life possibly get worse?
. . . . .
The enemies were fleeing; did they have an innate fear of sorcery? It was entirely possible, maybe it was anathema to them like fire to dark stalkers.
But that fire was more worthy of his attention. So the phantom before him was a pyromancer… interesting.
The monarch circled the newly identified pyromancer. He had seen the shield of flames he tried to use to halt the Spear. Foolishness; crystal would pierce next to anything with extraordinary ease. To it, there was no difference between bare flesh and the most hardened of plate armor. The staff's crystal glowed gently, holding a spell yet not releasing it.
"Be gone from this world," he commanded. A final offer of mercy to the, likely hidden, red phantom. Two Rings of the Living, cleverly disguising themselves with the area's enemies on top of pretending to be the world's master… he had to make haste and find his real summoner.
The pyromancer looked up at him, seemingly shocked he spoke. He couldn't really fault them. It was the longest sentence he had ever said since he was forced out of his home, many years ago. Had he been forced? Had he left willingly?
…either way, he was without a home, wandering from realm to realm before hearing Shanalotte's voice and making his way to the ruins of Drangleic, and reliving his story from the beginning.
His face twisted in pain, the pyromancer tried flinging a fireball at him.
So he would rather die hard then… fine. He had dealt with stubborn phantoms before.
His fingers dropped and unhooked the Dragon Chime from where it rested on his belt. Clasping it in his fist, he switched to Force and called upon it.
With a rush of expanding air, the fireball met the Force shockwave and dissipated when it met. He had no time to enjoy the pyromancer's look of shock. His gaze swept across the surroundings, and he heard footsteps approaching. Yes, coming from the steps, a number of humanoid foes shouting at him. Some looked familiar from the crowd prior, others not. Either way, they outnumbered him and didn't look friendly enough to warrant him staying.
Time to withdraw. He held up the Dragon Chime once more, switching out Force in the process.
With a thunderclap, Wrath of the Gods was unleashed upon the converging enemies. Some flew back, some recoiled, and some were killed the moment the field touched them. With the enemies reeling from the miracle, the monarch turned and fled into the forest.
A/N: Name is already decided. ***** of ******. He just doesn't remember it. Not going to be a big old reveal.
Equipment: Hexer's set, Staff of Wisdom, Dragon's Chime, Caitha's Chime, Dagger (in off hand, dominant hand is right)
Appearance: Literally the starting male build but with black hair. He looks a lot like a younger Felkin, hence the image.
Divergent Path is a section where I look at a minor detail that would completely change the story, if such moments happen. Louise was minutely more aggressive and direct in trying to seal the contract, so the Monarch saw parallels with the desert sorceress. He's not very fond of kisses...
This divergent path was originally where I was heading, before I realized I couldn't make a story out of that.
This is a casual project, written purely for fun and practice with length, again. Chapters I write are way too short; better suited to writing moments.
Writing this while I read the light novel. Not using the anime. Takes a backseat to Shadowgift.