The dreams were stronger now. The voice, that voice that continued to come to her...
It was her own voice that called to her, she realized. The things the Voice told her of were things no child should know. Why she continued to come to Sunny Hill, where the voices and visions were so much stronger she couldn't say for certain. What she did know for certain was what would happen if she told her dreams to anyone.
It was funny; when the dreams started to come she was terrified of everything: sleep, shadows, friends, fire. Great Gods above and below, the fire was what terrified her most of all. As time wore on, however, her curiosity got the better of her and she began going more often up to Sunny Hill, wishing to know the source of these dreams and to understand their meaning.
The end of life as we know it is here.
It was happening. Tia had heard the beginning of the dream for so long now she could say It along with the voice.
For Man has strayed from the path
I shall incinerate them with the earth
and from their ashes–
"–a new world shall be born." Tia finished for the Voice. She had never had the courage to speak during the dreams, least of all while the Voice was speaking. She was unsure just how the Voice would react to this sort of interruption. But the Voice continued on, as if it were nothing new or different. She listened.
Let us bind a deal between us
for you shall attain my heart's true desire.
"Me? Are you sure?"
Yes. Do not fear, for you will not be alone in this quest.
"But, I am nothing but a child! How can I achieve all this greatness for you? How will I–"
Now, reach out your arms to me!
And receive me. The voice grew gentler now, almost warm.
Know the truth and record it
For it shall fill the coming world.
As long as corruption exists...
the flame of destruction will come.
"Until we attain true enlightenment." Tia said along with the Voice. The Voice seemed to give off heat again. Was this a way to show it was pleased?
This was the end. The dream was over. It had been much more vivid this time. Heat across her skin, color all around, visions of things to come... and the Voice itself! Never before had it felt more real to her than now; It had spoken as clearly as a whisper to her ear. She could not marvel in it long, for now she had to decipher its meaning. The visions always began with things burning, burning...and people dying. But this time something rose out of the ashes, a book, and it was flying to the high heavens. But something else had happened too, but what was it? Had something, or someone rise with the book?
No, not yet pet. Think: what does every book need? Something small, something important...
That's what it was, a bookmark. And it flew out of the Book (she couldn't say why, but the book felt like it had some name to it, some name that was forgotten upon waking up) towards...something. It had been in her hand, but then the images swept her up to see that Book, flying of all things, it falling into a dark hole, its pages soaring across the countryside. They were all calming, nostalgic scenes, but she couldn't fathom what the connection between the book and her were.
Finally she opened her eyes and rubbed the sleep out of them. What was that she saw, floating lazily towards her? The very same bookmark that was in her dreams!
She reached out her hand and caught it. No, it landed in her hand. Slowly she got up and stared at the sky where it had come from.
"Did you travel all that way for me?" She asked the bookmark. She smiled at it, not knowing why she felt like crying all of a sudden. She felt as if she were reunited with a long ago friend that she never thought to see again.
Tia turned around and stared up at the Monolith. For as long as anyone could remember it had been there, watching over Rhoan like the old True God but never before had she heard of it speaking. Stranger still, she was almost certain that it was the Voice from her dreams; her own voice.
As if it were waking up after a long nap, the Monolith seemed to stretch its own power, glowing to the point that Tia had to turn her eyes away from its radiance.
Far northeast of the Grana Plains and the soon-to-be hero, things were not well. The Waisen Empire, eternal enemy of her home country of Kaleila, was on the march out of the mountain passes in a scouting mission to find the ideal ambush to begin an upcoming war; but they could not see her. The Monolith had shielded her from their gaze.
But there were some in the scouting group who could see that their prey was just beyond the sight of man. And they followed the smell of the Book of Prophecy.
When Tia could no longer feel the heat of the light from the Monolith, she dared to look upon it again, and found herself trembling in fear at the sight before her. The Monolith continued to radiate with light and power, all of which was focused on one particular spot in front of her; of that small section of light came out a book. The Book in her dreams was now just out of arms reach, with unkind eyes protruding out of its cover and giving her a critical overlook.
Strangely enough, she felt no fear. This Book was her guide, and when it finally was in her hands she saw her own face within it. Her data was the first thing to be recorded for the new world.
'A new world?'
"Yes, I can smell it on you!" Tia turned around and screamed. A knight of the Waisen Empire, slayer of babes and rapists of loyal wives, they were what all children were told to fear. "You have it. The Book of Prophecy! Just as he predicted, it has finally arrived." The knight gave a horrible laugh, a mixture of a bark and bull's cry.
Tia stared at the man terrified. What Book of Prophecy? She stared down at the Book in her hands. Was that what she held had been dreaming of all this time? But how could anyone know about it, let alone a knight to her kingdom's oldest enemy? She began to back away from the abomination.
"Not so fast!" the knight drew his massive battle axe and pointed its blade at her. "Hand over the Book of Prophecy now! Do so and I may spare your life."
Tia shook her head. What else could she do? She silently cursed herself for skipping so many of Master Gustav's lectures.
The knight shrugged as if her refusal was of no importance. "Fool. I'll just pry it from your dead fingers then!" The knight bent over and his from his spine came a grotesque crunching noise, and as his armor split in two he revealed himself not to be a Waisen Knight, but something much worse. He was instead a half-bull, half-man creature, twice as large as she and just as wide, with burning red eyes and long yellow teeth.
He gave a mighty roar and began to advance towards her with each step back she took. Eventually she found herself with her back against the Monolith and no way to escape.
Please, she prayed. Please someone, anyone, save me from this monster.
How about instead, you save yourself? Are you not adept enough with a sword to fight? Alas, you have a way to go before then, don't you pet?
Once the beast was close enough to slash her in two with its mighty axe, a wall of flames surrounded Tia and were then shot straight into the face of the beast!
"Not so fast!" a boy's voice shouted. Tia stared as the monster cried out in pain and fury, trying in vain to reach his face and put out the flames. The fire appeared to pull itself away from the beast and formed into a small compact ball of fire until finally exploding and revealing the strangest looking boy Tia had ever seen in her life. The boy continued to spin even after the fire died away and no sooner had he opened his eyes did he do loop-de-loops through the air, shouting 'Woo-hoo!' as he did so.
The boy flew right next to Tia laughing and said to her, "Feels good to be out at last! Nice ta meet ya, you new 'round here?"
The monster snorted and glared at him. "Who're you?"
"The name's Rempo, the fire guardian Spirit! ," the boy smirked. "And as for you, you're not laying a finger on the Book of Prophecy!"
"Fire guardian?" Tia asked dumbly. Things were moving too fast, and she had barely a moment to understand what was happening.
"Hm, a spirit? What could you possibly do to me?" The beast said with contempt. Tia scowled; the beast was more confident now that he wasn't set on fire.
"No, not me, the kid here!" the boy called Rempo said waving at Tia.
"What?" Tia looked at him.
"C'mon," he encouraged. "Let's you and me go deal with this goon right now!" He seemed to finally register the look on her face. "Face it, the Book of Prophecy will make it easy! Let's do this!"
"You mock me?" the monster roared. Why was he glaring at Tia when it was the boy who said all that? "How dare you!"
"Hurry! Go on, take out your sword!"
Tia looked frantically around the ground. No sword had appeared with Rempo. She looked at him and asked in a slight panic, "What sword?"
He groaned. "Don't tell me you don't know how to use the Book!" Tia looked at him stricken. How was it her fault she didn't understand all this? It had all stayed in her dreams up until now!
For some reason this didn't phase Rempo much. "Well, I guess I can't blame you. Seems like it's all up to me. The Great Rempo will have to teach you how to fight!"
He gestured to the Book and she opened up one of its pages. A magnificent sword was painted on the page. "That sword's the last of the Book's power. Perfect for using as practice. Just pull it out of the page and it'll appear!"
It didn't sound as easy as it really was apparently. And one came out for each hand too! She turned towards the monster. Time for that bully to learn a lesson in humility. Tia had always been good at dodging and speed, but this creature was all about power and full throttle attacks. She realized it was no different than the street fights in Rhoan, only bigger and uglier opponents.
Still, she couldn't help but feel like it had been a little too easy.
With a final cut right about his temple finally took him down. Rempo, who had vanished during the battle finally reappeared. "All right! You did it!"
Well, at least he didn't insist on taking credit of the victory. Tia felt a vibration in her hands, and when she looked down she noticed that the beautiful sword that helped save her life was now replaced with two rusted sword.
She looked up at Rempo for guidance, but he seemed just as surprised. "Huh? It looks like your sword lost all of its power in the fight." Although he seemed saddened by this, he perked up quickly. "Oh well! We'll just have to get it back later. Hm? What is it?"
"Please sir," Tia began cautiously. "Tell me: who are you? What are you? I'm afraid I didn't catch much of it just now." Better to be polite to the boy who was born of the flames than to be rude to him.
"Oh, that!" he grinned at her. "I'm Rempo. One of the Great Spirits that is written in the Book of Prophecy. I'm a mighty Fire Spirit that can incinerate anything!"
Tia felt the blood drain from her face; to incinerate the earth, wasn't that what the Voice warned her of? Tia looked at the boy more closely now. Although at a glance he could've been as young as her age, but the joy he took from the battle, his overconfidence in his own abilities, and what he told her made her doubt he could be older than fourteen. She also noted the large chains and strange metal contraptions binding his arms, and holding him down to this earth. How could such heavy-looking things weigh him down, yet when he flew it was as if the wind itself could topple him over?
Rempo shifted uncomfortably under her gaze. "Enjoying the view?"
Tia jumped, just now realizing how rude she was by staring. "Ah, I'm sorry! Please forgive me. I was just wondering about your… about your..." she was at a loss for words.
"About the shackles?" he grinned at her again as he lifted one of his arms up easily. "Think there's somethin' weird 'bout it? Nah, these are just the shackles ta bind me ta the Book. Without these, I could really do some damage!"
He said it like it was a tragedy –and it no doubt was– but Tia could not get the thought of the world burning out of her head. Still, something inside of her told her that this boy was not here to destroy, but she couldn't say what he was here for if not for that.
"Oh, well," he shrugged and lowered his arm. "Guess there's no point in talkin' 'bout it. But just trust me! I'm the baddest thing out there!"
Tia couldn't help herself but to giggle a little at that and smile. He was a boy for sure, and that was comforting to know. "You do look like you could do serious damage sir, I'll give you that. Hopefully I'll never make you mad enough to inflict that damage towards me."
Rempo's grin grew wider and laughed. "You sure are honest, kid. Oh! By the way, I can't keep calling you 'kid'. What's your name, anyway?"
"My name? It is...Tia. My name is Tia."
Rempo looked like he had something else to say, but stopped. He listened. Tia heard it too. Metal on grass, the gait of a soldier, Tia knew the sound all too well. But his uniform was a different one.
His uniform was that of a Waisen soldier.
"Aw man, now what? Another opponent? Let's do it! C'mon Tia, take out your sword!"
Tia stared at the soldier, he hadn't seen them yet, and she had a feeling in her gut that she wouldn't be as lucky against him as she was against the monster. But still she drew her sword, hoping that Rempo would know what to do if the worst came to show.
"Whoa, wait." He flew closer and frowned. "That one's Human… let's beat it; this'll get messy too soon!"
Tia couldn't agree more. She turned and fled to the only place she knew she would be safe no matter what.
They escaped to Rhoan.
General Heath Blackburn examined the armor. No doubt about it, it had belonged to one of their knights, probably one of the two deserters, but he could not come up with a single solution as to why a knight of the Prince's inner circle would dispose of their armor and flee like a freelancer would. His brow furrowed in concentration as he turned it over again to examine the large tear down the middle of the armor. How could this happen? Who would desert their sacred mission, right in the middle of enemy territory? More importantly, why?
"General Blackburn!" Heath didn't so much as glance at the scout he had sent ahead. Even without seeing him, he knew he had found something. Those of Waisen blood were not known to disappoint.
"Speak." he said.
"The tracks point towards the Southwest. Shall we follow, General Blackburn?" There was no small hint of eagerness in his voice, eager to shed some Kaleilan hounds blood.
Heath finally turned his head and looked up at the scout. Even without standing, the general knew how to strike fear into a man's heart.
"Have you forgotten?" he asked with a flat tone.
"Sir?" the scout fidgeted.
"We cannot, will not, tread any farther into enemy grounds. I shall personally check on the border patrol and their troops. Report all this to the Prince. Understood?"
"Yes, sir!" The man stood up a little straighter as he gave his Commanding Officer a final salute before returning to the mountains, where the pathway known only to the Waisen Empire and the mountain men was hidden
Heath sighed and looked back to the armor enigma. Turning it around in his hands, he could offer no solution to it. All it could do instead was further his belief that something was terribly wrong.