Chapter 1: The Forsaken Storm
Dark droplets of rain fell from the heavens above, leaving darkened spots on the earth and the cloaks of the weary travelers. As if on call, a cold breeze of wind rushed by, forcing the duet to draw in their cloaks even closer, attempting to conserve whatever heat they had left. A pair of sapphire eyes scanned the sky.
"Funny thing," he noted almost comically, "it was sunny only a minute ago."
The high priest looked crest fallen, "it does that a lot whenever we decide to go anywhere."
His lord knight companion grinned, "Maybe you should have picked a better day to come out to Glast Heim, or asked God for better weather."
He shook his head with a melancholy smile forming on his lips. "You know I had no choice. The letter Ciara sent me said it was urgent. Plus," he added on a side note, "You didn't have to come with me."
"You know I didn't like the sound of that letter anymore than you did. It's out of character for her to ask for help." He paused momentarily, as he turned to gaze at the faint outline of the Glast Heim Churchyard, barely visible in the forsaken weather. "To tell you the truth, it scares me to find out what could possible be bad enough to get the head priestess of the Prontera Church to call on the individual guilds for help."
"Then why did you come?" The brown haired man arched his brow in question.
"Since when have I ever been known to back out of a challenge?" He grinned, almost forcefully.
"That's not the truth though, is it?" Torias spent more than enough time wriggling the truth out of his guild mates. He is more than capable of telling when he was being lied to.
The Knight rubbed the back of his head in defeat. "I should've known better than to lie to you." His face grew stern, "look, I know you are one of the best priests in Midgard, but in the end you're only a priest. Your spells and blessings can only go so far. Sometimes there's a need for brute strength. I don't want to see you rushing head first into something even you don't know the bottom of."
"Garland…" He was speechless.
"Torias, don't think any less of me. I trust your abilities. It's just… ever since the beginning it's always been the two of us. I've always watched your back, as you did mine--"
"It's all right. I'm not insulted." He flashed him a weak smile, "To be honest, I'm scared too. Ciara swore to never speak to me again on the day I left Prontera church to make my own guild. She's kept her word for it for the past five years. Whatever lies in that churchyard frightened her enough to break her vow, swallow her pride, and ask for my help."
There was a brief moment of silence between the two as they returned to their own gloomy thoughts. It's no longer possible to ignore the fear clutching both their hearts. Something terrible is brewing in this place. There is no doubt about that.
The two companions slowed down to a halt as they finally noticed the presence of others. This was the first time hey had seen anybody at all within the past three hours of their journey, which was highly unusual since Glast Heim was a popular training spot. All the more made this situation mystifying.
A dark haired wizard rushed to them in a state of near panic. "Thank god you are here. We just lost another party- 2 crusaders and a wizard. Ciara's talking about sealing this place permanently now."
"Wait a second, what's going on?"
"I'm so sorry, where are my manners? I'm Habrador, the leader of the Order of High Wizards appointed to the Prontera Church. And may I ask who you are?"
"Torias, and my friend, the Lord Knight is Garland."
His eyes widened in surprise. "I've heard a lot about you. You're the one Ciara's been meaning to leave her place to. I'm glad to have the two of you here with us. God knows we need all the help we can get."
"What has been happening here?" Garland repeated the question once more. The entire place is in the state of total chaos. The once popular leveling spot now seemed almost… haunted. The weather definitely added an extra effect to that conclusion.
"Strange monsters have been sighted around here. More than twenty people vanished from the area, last seen entering the churchyard. Nobody we sent in have ever come back… no one except for her. One priestess made it out alive. Poor girl, she's frightened out of her wits. She refuses to talk about that happened in there, and won't even let us tend to her wounds."
"Do you have any idea what could be behind all this?" Torias couldn't help asking.
The high wizard shook his head. "We have no leads at all. Our only source of information is her." He shifted his head in the direction of a light brown haired girl who couldn't possibly be any older than 19. "We sent her in yesterday with a knight, a sniper, and another high priest. She was the only one who came out."
"That's… horrible." The Lord Knight said in disgust. "What could be bad enough to be slaughtering all these people? We have to do something about this, Torias. Don't you agree?"
When he received no reply, Garland turned to his guild leader in reproach. He immediately found himself rolling his eyes, as he noticed the source of his friend's distraction, but neither the High Priest nor the High Wizard took notice of him.
"She's hurt. Haven't any of you noticed the cut on her arm?" Torias said reproachfully, speaking about the sole survivor of the slaughter.
"She won't let us touch her. Trust me, we've tried. Every time we got close enough she would burst out in tears, telling us to leave her alone."
"The cut looks deep. If it's left unattended she will bleed to death."
"If you like to give it a try, be my guest." Habrador shrugged. He was used to this. He's been stationed at the church for the past four years. All priests are like him- refuses to see a wounded without rushing headfirst to attend to them.
Torias made his way toward the priestess. His robe swooshed gracefully with each advancing step. He was a meter away, before she finally took notice. Her eyes were filled with tears, as she spoke. "Please… just leave me be."
"But you're hurt." He gazed worriedly at the wound on her left arm, staining half of her sleeve scarlet, slowly dripping blood down the length of her hand, mingling with the puddle of raining forming on the ground.
"I don't care." She shook her head in desperation. Locks of damp hair plastered to her face, "I don't deserve to be here… I failed them…"
"Don't be like this." He whispered, as he took another step forward, closing the gap between them. "Look," he kneeled down to face her at eye level, "You tried your best, and there was nothing more you could have done. We've already lost enough people today. Please… be reasonable, and let me heal you."
She looked at him with full intensity, her brows slightly narrowed, as if debating whether he deserved her trust. A few moments passed before she looked away, and raised her arm for Torias to examine.
Several feet away, Garland smiled expectantly. Torias would have passed anybody's test. If anybody cared, he did. He didn't wear a mask of fake kindness like the other priests did. He genuinely cared.
"I can see why Ciara favours him so much now." Habrador said approvingly. "He's kind, and trustworthy, but he also has courage. He would make a splendid Head Priest--if he ever decides to accept the position." He added as an after thought.
"I'm his best friend, and even I can't tell what he's about to do next. To be honest, I don't think he even knows what he's going to do until the right moment comes."
"Whenever that might be, I hope he makes the right decision." He turned to Garland and smiled. "I still think it's a miracle how he managed to get through to that girl… she's been sitting at that spot crying since last night and refuses to eat or sleep."
"If anybody could have gotten through to her, it would have been Torias. He has this… atmosphere about him. Whenever you're around him, you can't help but feel… looked after."
"I'm guessing that's what she feels right now."
"Tell me when it hurts, and I'll stop, alright?" He told her softly as he carefully placed the palm of his right hand an inch away from her wound. A warm green glow surrounded his hand. "Normally heals aren't supposed to hurt, but since I don't know what weapon you were wounded by, I'm going to cast some extra spells to make sure." He paused as realization hit. "Err… I'm sure you know all of that already, since you're a priest yourself. I keep forgetting that." He blushed self-consciously. "As you can probably tell, I'm not used to having others priests as patients..."
To his surprise, she smiled. "I'm not used to being the patient either. You have no idea how vulnerable and useless I feel right now. A priestess who can't even heal herself…"
"Don't worry about it. It happens when you use too much of your power in one day. You tire yourself out completely. Just rest for a bit, it'll come back."
"Why are you like this?" she tilted her head to get a better view of his face, "Why are you so kind?"
He looked up at her in surprise, as his features gradually melted into a mellow grin. "I guess you can call that my weakness."
"I think being able to care about others, and do everything in your powers to help unconditionally is your strength. It's certainly an admirable trait."
"Admirable doesn't mean it's practical." He cast a downcast glance. "Caring too much certainly makes you vulnerable to all the bad things happening around you. At one point you start to realize, you can't save the world."
"It doesn't hurt to try." She said encouragingly, giving him a soft smile. "It's people like you that give others hope."
"Now you're just over exaggerating." He told her kindly, as the light green glow around his hand subsided. He took out a bandage from the pouch attached to the right side of his robe, and started to dress her wound. "I stopped the bleeding, and repaired your damaged muscles, but it's going to hurt for a few days still. Just try not to use that arm for a while."
"Thank you…" she said in gratitude, as she lowered her arm back onto her lap. "Don't you want to know what happened in there?"
When she staggered out of that building, the first question anyone had asked her was to interrogate her about the event that had taken place inside. Nobody cared about her well-being as much as they wanted to know the truth and the intensity of the situation. Torias was the first one to ask about her welfare without having a secret agenda behind his actions- only person with a pure intention.
He took a moment to consider her question, before responding. "Yes. I'm not going to lie to you. I do want to know what's been going on around here, and what I'm getting myself into. But I'm not going to pressure you on the subject when I know you're uncomfortable with it."
"You are different from the others." Her eyes beamed with respect for this strange priest. "I'm Vianna by the way."
"Torias." He replied. "Torias of Divine."