It was in the dead of night in the sleepy, mist-filled town of Seles. Everyone had been sleeping, away from most of the rest of Serdio, when the peace was shattered. Fireballs rained down upon them, burning through each and every one of the poorly built houses. The wood from which the houses were composed didn't stand a chance. High pitched cries could be heard all around as people young and old fled their homes and some even the town to escape this attack on their beloved town. But not a one of the soldiers of Sandora cared for these insignificant vermin. Only one girl was good enough to deserve to live. No one else was worth a penny. To kill them or not to, it made no difference.
This was why they went at the villagers. They just didn't care. They sliced their swords into them, destroyed all they held dear in front of their dying eyes, and watched them bleed out. They even cackled as many of the victims cried out for them to stop or sobbed in despair.
It took no more than thirty minutes for them to become bored of terrorizing the citizens and so the game finally died down, only a few people remaining standing so to speak. Technically the only ones standing were the soldiers and the beasts they rode on. And once this was fully realized by the group they focused all their attention on the buildings which, miraculously, were still standing.
The flames rose higher and higher with each passing moment, more sparks flew through the air, the wind picked up in intensity, and the silence became closer to becoming reality. The only thing that ruined the possibility of utter silence was the beating of hooves on the hard ground, the crackling of the fire, and, soon after, the voices of the sinister soldiers.
Eventually the commander arrived at the site, mildly surprised by the scene he was greeted with. Only mildly because he knew the force was sent by one of the most brutal men. The houses had collapsed into themselves, coving the sun scorched ground with the burnt wood that had once been a roof and walls, the sky was ablaze, multiple colors of red, orange, and yellow filling it, and the smoke created from the flames blanketed the once clear night sky in thick clouds. It didn't stop there as he went on.
There was a row of statues in the shape of a woman who was sacred to a few select towns around with random pieces missing, blood was pooling all over the ground from the multitude of dead or dying bodies that were strewn about, and lastly the birdbath like fountain set near the center had its support chopped in half so that it had crashed onto its side, the water spilling from its depths to mix with the crimson blood.
As he took in all this and more he came up on a group of soldiers who were standing in a circle with torches in their hands. "Great Commander, this way." One said, motioning to the ground in which all had been and still were staring.
The commander slowly lifted his leg over the beast so that he sat sidesaddle before he slipped effortlessly to the ground. He then made his way toward the center, kneeling down next to the body on the ground. "So…this is her." As he looked down on her, hesitating a fraction of a second, the others drew closer still, wanting to see what made this girl so special. This was especially true because she looked average, another one of those poor women.
She had light brown hair that fell just above her shoulders, curling at the ends, her eyes brown, and skin light as the moonlight that would have fallen on this disastrous scene, and faded blue clothes worn and torn to a great extent.
After another moment he reached his hand back behind him, expecting to receive what he needed without asking. And so he did. The man to his right pulled a glistening clear blue orb from his pocket and placed it in his hand.
The commander brought the orb to her forehead, gently taking her cheek with the other hand to tilt it upward. The smoggy black clouds quickly began to deviate to either side of the sky, revealing the moon in its full glory.
Once the moon touched the small crystal ball it started to glow a brilliant shade of blue and transferred the light of the moon through it onto the young girls' forehead. The light grew brighter until it reached a point where it shone unimaginably bright, beautiful blue light suddenly turned into golden yellow, almost like the sun.
They all looked on in wonder until the bright glow slowly started to dissipate back to its original state of nothingness. "Hmm, indeed." He muttered to himself, lightly tossing the ball back to the man who handed it to him as he rose into a standing position. "Put her in custody." He informed the group, turning on his heel, his cape trailing behind him and thus making his exit appear much grander. Although it wasn't intended, it was a habit.
He walked on by himself until he stood side by side with a strange man in a hood. "Is this really necessary?" He questioned the man with a confused yet simultaneously interested look present on his face.
"It is his Majesty, Emperor Doel's, command to take that girl into custody." As he said it the man's expression never changed. He wore the same emotionless look that he had since they arrived. It was as if he was incapable of human emotions.
This lack of emotion was ultimately why the Commander took to staring at him just as the hooded man did to him, as if to decipher some hidden meaning in the others words or even just their faces. "Who is she?" The Commander said in the same tone he'd used before, not expecting an answer he wanted to hear.
"That is not your concern." The man answered promptly, faint pauses between each word, almost as if he'd known the question was coming. He then immediately left the Commanders side, moving on towards the beast he had ridden here on.
The Commander stared blankly after him, soon following in his actions. He hopped back on his steed, along with the rest of the group, and instructed them to hit the road as fast as they were able. The horses cried out once given the order but complied nonetheless, setting off at a breathtaking pace as part of a developed instinct so as not to be punished by the more nasty riders.
The horse's hooves pounded rhythmically against the ground all the while, the yells of their riders rising high above, the scenery flashing by as they left the scorched town behind in the dust of their trails. They would never think back to this little town either. It was already nothing more than a memory and barely that. It, like everything else on earth, was history, the brunette girl being carried away on one of the horses to an unknown place being the only thing to testify that it had ever existed.
It was a bright day in the forest in which he, Dart, traveled. He was a youth with blue eyes, light but dirty skin, and dirty blonde hair which acted like anime hair in the fact it stuck up more than most men's and did not settle around the frame of his face, instead it kind of floated. It was rather like a choppy bob.
He wore a worn red chest plate with an emblem of a lion's head on it, a black shirt beneath it, grayed pants with a thick brown belt adorning them as a way to hold his sword sheath, matching red knee plates, a red headband, and a stretch of red armor down his left arm but not his right. His right, instead, had an incredibly thick glove that reached just below his elbow.
He was on his way back to his village after five years of absence. He had been searching for the person who had deprived him of his first home, where he was born and raised until the age of five. And now he rested, reading a note he had been given. "Chance of war more likely…" The young man of twenty three said to himself, crossing his arms over his chest and looked up to the sky. "I hope it's just a rumor." He stuffed the letter back in his pocket carelessly, jumping up from his spot on the fallen tree. He had to get back home soon. He had to see Shana again. He missed his baby sister.
He ran forward, eager to get where he was going. As he went he heard the sound of hooves pounding on the dirt path ahead. But as he came upon the path from which he was sure the sound was coming he found nothing. Still the beating of hooves. Just no creatures. So he slowed and looked about himself, observing everything.
Then, suddenly, there was a burst of noise. Two creatures akin to horses nearly ran over him, rising up in the air so that they stood almost like humans, neighing loudly. They startled the man as much as he startled them as he drew his sword out in protection. "Who are you?" One of the soldiers cried.
"Are you a mercenary of Basil!" The second bellowed, trying to get his horse back under control.
"Answer!" Demanded the first, pointing his own sword at the man.
Dart met swords with the soldier, daring him to mess with him.
"What are you doing! Are you drawing a sword against us!" The soldier was astonished by the notion, not really caring for an answer.
Just as Dart's lips parted to give an answer a terrifying roar echoed throughout the forest. "Wh- What is-" The two soldiers said in unison, not waiting for an answer. They sped away as fast as they could go.
Dart frowned lightly, confused by their sudden departure. But not for long. The trees parted, another roar erupting, and Dart swiftly turned about.
A fraction of a second later a gigantic beast appeared, a deadly look in its eyes.
Dart had never seen such a creature. It was at least thirty feet tall, with fangs sticking down at least five feet. For a moment he was frozen. "What the heck is this!" He cried out as if someone was there to tell him the answer.
His failure to move made him susceptible to an attack. The mighty beast roared and struck out with one of its arms, knocking Dart from side to side like a pinball.
Dart groaned, foolishly raising his sword to try and hit the monster back. But he was too slow. The monster hit him again before he could even think of stabbing the thing and the jab had the same effect as before. Dart's body ached from it and it nearly knocked him off his feet. "I gotta do something or I'll be killed!"
The monster used a different move this time. It snapped its head toward Dart to very well bite his head off. Fortunately the man was fast enough this time to avoid such a fate.
He then turned and ran through the forest to escape the wrath of the fearsome beast. Yet it didn't seem to be doing him any good. He always felt like it was but a foot away, and it was.
Being so large it was able to take one step and match every fifty of his. Dart could barely keep ahead. It didn't help that the monster was capable of knocking whole trees down at him, and did.
Dart had to use all of his skill to avoid them, sliding like a baseball player would to a base and rolling tactfully to the side in order to get well out of the way. But these moves did cost him time.
The monster struck at him while he was down on the ground, narrowly missing as Dart leapt forward and back on his feet. He was scared, breathing ragged. "This isn't working." He moaned, making sure to duck as the creature struck at him once more and halt himself as yet another tree was knocked into his path. "Damn!" he flipped himself over the fallen tree in a hurry, dropping fast and rolling forward some before getting back to his feet in hopes of losing his pursuer.
As he drew slightly farther ahead he couldn't help but stop to catch his breath and hold his side. "What a monster!" It had hurt him considerably without even trying. Was there any way he could best it?
The creature's footsteps shook the forest and Dart snapped to attention, turning about to face it despite the fact this was unimaginably foolhardy and guaranteed him death. "Here it comes!" He couldn't help talking to himself, drawing his sword, grip firm.
Still, even though he was intent upon facing the creature now, he found himself backing away as it grew closer. "This is bad." He swallowed hard, hands shaking around his sword.
The monsters screamed again and lunged at Dart.
The cry sent a shiver up Dart's spine and gave him a sudden burst of energy that made him swing his sword at him.
His sword grazed the creature's arm, eliciting a high pitched scream from it. And the pain only angered it further, driving him to lung at Dart with jaws open to bite him.
This gave Dart a real reason to jump back. He jumped pretty far too, just barely avoiding the beast's razor sharp fangs. But the swift movement combined with his injuries made him stumble.
The creature used Dart's loss of balance to swipe at him with his arm.
It hit him square in the chest, bringing him to his knees with a groan of pain. "No…" But he refused to give up. He couldn't die here. NO! He jumped back again, a pain hitting him at the action. He knew he was screwed over.
It was then that a petite woman jumped down from the cliff above, grabbing him around the waist and took him with her as she easily jumped behind a large rock.
"Who are you?" Dart started, staring blankly at her. She was really something to look at. Her dark black hair fell down to rest at hip level, her skin as pale as a ghost, and those black eyes seemed capable of piercing anyone's soul.
Her attire was that of a one-piece armor akin to a dress, the bottom being just below her butt and the shoulder plates cutting off only a few inches down her arm. The only thing separating it from being a dress was that her wear was much thicker. The color of the suit was a dark purple with gold designs of the sun, moon, and other various astrological signs on it and the same gold coloring served as an outline as well. And beneath her armor, with a blacker tint, she had gloves covering length of her arms, a black plate with gold outlining on the wrist and elbow to match the armor.
Dart also saw, as his eyes moved down her body, that she wore boots of an identical fashion, one acting as more of a leg guard seeing as it went up past her knee, while the other only just passed her ankle. And were those…cat ears on her head? Dart made a face. What a strange woman.
"Shh." She hissed, putting her hand across his mouth. "If you don't want to die." It was actually kind of funny regardless of the fact she was in no way joking.
The beast thrashed about a while longer, knocking chunks of rock down off the adjacent cliff and roaring menacingly as if to tell all that he was infuriated at having lost his prey. And with that the creature turned about and headed further into the dense forest in search of another victim.
Dart sighed with relief, rising back up into a standing position along with the woman before him. "Thanks for saving me." He murmured, rubbing the back of his head nervously.
She looked him over, a disapproving look in her eyes and a frown set on her face. She turned away from him and walked a few paces.
"What the heck was that!" Dart burst out, eager to understand what had just transpired.
She didn't move from her spot, unwilling to look at him, just caring enough to gratify his words with a response. "It's a dragon."
His eyes grew wide at the revelation and he found himself stepping forward a bit. "Dragon!"
She turned back about to face the man before her, hands on her hips and a bored expression playing across her face. "But it's strange." She paused, leaning back against the rock they hid behind, her gaze wandering away from him to look thoughtfully at the sky. "That village could've been easily destroyed without a dragon."
There was a sharp intake of breath on Dart's part. "The village…? Are you talking about Seles! Then those soldiers were-" He stopped abruptly.
"There won't be anything left by now." The woman said matter of factly, brushing her hair back out of her face with one smooth movement. She was indifferent to this person's distress. But it wasn't because she wanted to be that way. She had just forgotten how to care.
"Seles is my village!" It was then that he decided he'd had enough of this woman and her disregard of what appeared to be life in general. And despite his initial attraction couldn't bear the thought of being in her presence any more. He turned and kicked it into high gear, completely forgetting about his previous wounds and tiredness. All he could think about was his home and the fate of the people there, first and foremost Shana.
As he rushed off, the woman took her time in rising off the rock and slowly meandered toward the path to watch the quickly fading figure of the man before her. "Humph…" she breathed lightly. "Why do I wonder who he is…?" She frowned lightly at the thought, rolling her eyes at herself. She was ridiculous sometimes. But she supposed that's what came with wandering about for so long with no purpose.
She moved to turn away from the direction he had taken, thoughts of fighting the dragon becoming more profound, when something unbelievable caught her full attention. The ring that dangled from a string around her neck resonated a dark purple. She sucked in a breath, not having had this happen to her for too long. "Oh my god…" she spit out, taking the ring in her hand. "That man must be…no. There's no way."
Dart scaled the last hill, the lush grass brushing by him as he went, falling leaves riding on the wind, as dark clouds of what must have been smoke floated above him. It was this fact that scared him most, setting the mood in his mind as one of death and despair. When he reached the top this image was not far from reality. He froze. The town of Seles was scorched to the ground, all grass that had graced the place incinerated, the remaining buildings darker than the darkest heart, and an overall feeling of death gathered here as puffs of smoke billowed forth from the ruined landscape. "My God!" He instantly shot back into his run, breathing uneven as he grew closer and closer to Seles.
He skidded down the steep slope of the hill, coming to a stop as he was met with the fence. Of course this was no obstacle to him; he came and went this way so many times in his childhood. He easily flipped over the fence and into the town he had been missing all these years of leave.
Unfortunately it was not as happy as he would have wished. Once he was there he noticed two soldiers that he knew must be from the same group as the ones he encountered in the forest not long ago. And a familiar voice floated to him. "You didn't get enough killing?" It was one of the elder villagers.
A soldier laughed, voice mingling with a nearby crow. "It may be enough if I kill you!" He chirped sarcastically, allowing the other to come up and kick the poor man before stabbing his own sword through the defenseless villager.
"Stop!" Dart bellowed as he jumped out into plain sight and drew his sword to prepare for the inevitable fight ahead.
The soldier took a step forward, crossing his arms as he questioned skeptically. "Isn't it a bit late for you to show up?"
Dart didn't take kindly to the guys mentioning of his lateness, not bothering to hide the immense hate in his eyes and tone. "Shut up! What are you doing here?"
The same soldier cackled, saying, "Can't you see? We're gonna occupy this area, and these worms were in our way." He smiled deviously.
"What! Were you sent by the Imperial Army?" He exclaimed incredulously.
"Even if we were, it's none of your business." The soldier taunted like a child who had hidden something of great value just beneath another's nose. "Cause you're gonna die!" Both the men then charged toward him. But he was not afraid.
He almost eagerly awaited them, wanting nothing more than to get revenge on their sorry asses for doing to his town what had been done before. He did not want to relive it. He didn't even want to remember it. Yet he was forced to. So he did so in the best way.
The first lunged at him, cutting his sword through the air with fury.
But that's all he got because Dart was beyond fast compared to the both of them. Not only that, but he had much more to be fighting for.
The other soldier quickly followed suit, only with a much more undesirable outcome.
Dart didn't bother dodging, he threw himself at the soldier, jabbing his sword deep into the enemy's chest. Not only that, but he also made it a necessity to twist his sword in the man's gut before wrenching it out.
The soldier let out a strangled gasp, blood dripping from the corners of his mouth, before he collapsed and died near instantly.
Dart was breathing heavy despite the lack of energy exerted, his hands gripped tightly about his weapon as he leaned forward slightly in a position to strike if the need arise once again. It only made him look more fearsome the way his eyes burned with a violent passion and his mouth curved down into a deep snarl.
The remaining soldier took one tentative look at his fallen comrade and another at the man responsible before he knew what must be done. He turned heel and ran like the devil himself was at his feet.
Dart continued to breathe irregularly even after the brute ran off with his tail between his legs. He was just so pissed. "YEAH! You better run!" He yelled after the so called soldier, sighing deeply before re-sheathing his stained sword.
After he no longer held the weight of the sword in his hand he raised his head to the sky and squeezed his eyes shut tight. What was going on? Why was this happening? Why him and his village? Hadn't he suffered enough at the hands of fate?
He lingered but a moment on such thoughts as he knew he must act in the moment if he were to understand any of this. And the villagers would surely know. Not only that, but he also just needed to make sure they were ok, namely the one those punks had been picking on. "Jay!" Dart cried, kneeling at Jay's side to inspect his injuries. "Are you ok?" Dart pressed.
"Are…are you…really…Dart…?" Jay squeezed out, coughing out blood soon after.
"Yes! It's me!" Dart sighed, running his fingers through his hair from half relief of him being alright for now and half despair of knowing that much like this town Jay too would be dead. "What's happened to this place?" Dart was still in a bit of a frenzy and sounded more demanding then he intended to be.
"War…Imperial Sandora…attacked us." Another stream of coughs issued forth. He was close now.
"What about the truce!" Dart yelled, hands shaking from fury. "God! They're nothing but a bunch of brutes!"
"Yeah, suddenly…I didn't imagine…they could come….to such an…outlying area." His breathing was getting shallower with every word that passed his lips. He was fading. He was getting farther from Dart. He would not have much time to get the information he desperately needed.
Dart lowered his head, shaking it from side to side, ashamed. "If only I'd come back sooner." He completely blamed himself for the fate of his home, just like he did the last time. It hadn't mattered that he was five. He felt he could have and should have prevented the catastrophe.
"There is something, you have to do…Shana. Rescue Shana…only you…can…" his body went limp in Darts arms, taking the mystery of Shana with him.
"Hey! Wait! What about Shana? What happened!" Dart screamed, shaking the dead man back and forth. It was hopeless. He let loose an aggravated sigh, standing back up and shaking his head in confusion and somewhat hurt. He had loved everyone in this village and just the thought of any one of them dead stung. He couldn't linger like this much longer though. He had to see if anyone else knew of poor Shana's fate.
Dart hurried on deeper into town, looking desperately about himself for any sign of life, or more some movement. His heart skipped a beat as he glimpsed a man lying face down on the desert ground. It only increased his anticipation when he swore he saw a flicker of movement. "Plos!" Dart rushed over to the man's side, shaking him roughly. "Hang on!" He was not dead. Not yet. Dart simply would not believe this impossibility.
"Ahh…" the old man, Plos, groaned as he slowly got up into a weak standing position. "That voice. Is that you Dart?" His voice was coarse and weak, barely audible.
Dart smiled slightly, glad to see someone whose life hadn't been shattered into millions of pieces so small no one could hope to pick them up and glue them together again. "This way." He motioned toward what remained of a scorched building. It had been Shana's. Dart could never forget the place he'd visited so many times over the past eighteen years.
Plos allowed Dart to lead him over to the building as well as aid him in sitting down. It still hurt him, but not to as large a degree as it would have without the assistance Dart so willingly gave to him. He wanted to thank him only he couldn't find his voice. So he was left to silence as Dart looked him over.
"It's just a light wound." Dart sighed with relief, smile widening a smidgen.
Plos chuckled half-heartedly. "I guess…I was lucky." he muttered, looking away from the face of the youth before him to see the full horror the town had become. "But look at this village." he waved his hand about in small circles as if to guide Dart's vision. "If only you came back earlier…" he added miserably, unknowingly making Dart's guilt grow.
Dart stared blankly at the old man, the grim reality of it all becoming more unbearable once it was spoken, hitting the clean air like a deadly toxin. He sighed lightly, raising into a standing position as he tried to overcome the gripping pain that grasped him, shaking his head slowly back and forth all the while.
Plos cleared his throat, coughing. "It's about Shana, too." he squeezed out, scratching at his throat as if doing so might free his lungs and allow the words he so desperately needed to say to spill forth into the atmosphere.
Dart snapped his head to attention, eyes widening tenfold with unbridled shock and immense urgency. "What's wrong with Shana?" He demanded thrusting his arms forward, fists clenched tight. He needed to know this. It was not just a simple matter of ignorance, he needed it.
Plos took in a deep breath. "She was taken away." He swallowed hard. "It seems Shana was their primary purpose." He continued coughing as the feeble words passed his chapped lips. As he said it it felt like a great burden had been lifted from his chest. He hadn't realized this fact had such a hold on him. Already he felt more able to breathe, his chest's tightness letting go.
Each word that passed the man's lips brought Dart closer and closer to insanity. He didn't want to imagine where she had been taken or even why. All he knew was that he in no way understood this. Sure she was important to him, she was his baby sister. But what was she to them, or anyone else for that matter? Was she not an ordinary eighteen year old girl? "Do you know where they went?" Dart yelped, nails digging so deep into his own skin due to the panic quickly snaking its way through his being that he was drawing blood. It only added to the sense of despair as the sound of crows cawing found its way to his ears. He shuddered.
Plos hesitated upon answering. He was afraid that Dart would lose it with no further clue to the whereabouts of his dear sister. Yet in the end he gave Dart the answer he knew was the last he wanted to hear. "I...don't know." He sighed, flinching as his wound acted up on him, stinging.
Dart would have pursued the topic further if not for the sudden change. He didn't fully realize what the change was, but the crows did. They issued one final call before the sound of their many feathered wings filled the air, quickly falling back into bone chilling silence that had engulfed the rattled youth. They were no longer alone. The crows told all.
Dart swirled around as the faint sound of footsteps reached him. And he soon saw another, more heavily armored, soldier approaching him with his sword in hand. "I'll make him talk!" Dart cried half to Plos and half to himself.
The man wore silver armor with red designs of a snake covering the surface sporadically over his body. It made his stomach stick out more as well as gave his whole body a more bulky look.
Dart was quick to unsheathe his blood ridden sword, knowing that there was no way this wouldn't end in a fight.
The commander snorted conceitedly at Dart's swiftness to take up arms against him. "Besting a private is no reason to be confident." He informed him superciliously, smiling wickedly beneath his head gear.
Dart growled angrily, pointing his sword threateningly at the commander. "Where did you take Shana?" He snarled, the fire which had remained ever present in his eyes throughout this ordeal turning to a blaze.
The commander laughed coldly. "Shana...?" He thought the name over, giving the man before him time to grow further infuriated, before he truly answered. "Don't worry about her. She must be receiving the courtesies of Hellena Prison by now."
Dart started, sucking in a sharp breath. "Hellena!" He burst out, gripping his sword tighter.
Dart's surprise made his grin spread further across him smug face. "Surprised, huh?" He chuckled darkly. "We specifically invited only that woman."
This drew another gasp from Dart's lips. This was growing more and more ridiculous by the moment. "You must be kidding! You attacked the village only to kidnap Shana!" His temper was rising faster than a speeding bullet now.
He nodded faintly. "Exactly." He readied his own weapon. "But don't worry. I will let you follow them. Although not to Hellena." He swung his sword about himself as more of a fancy trick than to show Dart he should be afraid. "To 'Hell'!" And he lunged forward.
Dart jumped back, the sword grazing his red armor. But he was not deterred.
"What's the matter? Are you some kind of coward!" The commander taunted, lashing out in a straight line aimed for Dart's heart.
The man's words angered Dart further as he leapt away again, hating the action for what he knew it was, cowardice. But Dart knew the man was nothing. All he had to do was prove it.
Dart charged forward, sword at the ready, and struck at his chest. It was heavily plated and his blow did little to nothing, leaving Dart open for an attack on the enemy's part which he willing took.
The commander struck out for Darts' arm. For how was Dart to fight without limbs?
Dart dodged to his right, striking at his chest for a second time. No good.
He was able to block the attack completely.
It was like they were playing a game of arm wrestling, only with swords. Whichever one of them was capable of pushing the others sword back would surely be victorious. "Come on, little man."
This time Dart hit him in such a way that he was able to penetrate his armor and dive his sword deep into his chest. And, as far as Darts' personal belief goes, he figured it was his immense hate of being jeered on that allowed him the means to do so.
He moaned and groaned, falling to his knees. He dropped his sword, shaking slightly.
Dart nodded firmly, knowing that this would be the outcome. "No. Don't you get cocky." This win gave him a sense of satisfaction. Yet he was not pleased enough. He had to do one last move of kicking him down on his side. It was cruel, he knew, but he couldn't stop himself. It was his way of avenging Seles and all the lives lost in this needless fight. He turned back to Plos. "I did it." Dart sighed.
"Dart, you are going to rescue Shana…aren't you?" Plos asked with worry and a twinge of hope.
Dart didn't hesitate a fraction of a second in answering. He nodded firmly.
Plos sighed. "I won't stop you, but please, be careful." He paused so he could resituate himself against the charred building behind him. "Besides….your journey isn't over yet, is it?" Plos had been wondering this all along. He only asked now because he knew he would get no other chance.
Dart stepped forward toward the old man. "…No." he admitted, shrugging slightly.
Plos smiled wanly. "Ok." He paused, taking in Dart's expression. "You can count on us about Seles." He reassured the obviously uncertain youth. "There should be enough people who can still move."
Dart's expression brightened considerably, a content smile taking the place of his grimace and a light coming to his once dull and angered eyes.
"Thank you." He sighed in relief. "When I settle everything, I'll be back." Dart nodded firmly, turning away from the man with a new found confidence. A little ways away he stopped mid-step, saying, "With Shana." He clenched his fists in determination before heading back out for good.
He left Seles with no fear at all in his heart. He didn't have time for fear. All he could think about was the girl held captive in the place called Hellena. It sounded like a god awful place. But he could not say for sure. He had never been there, only heard of it. The rumors flew all around about it, saying that few souls ever exited once they were dragged in and the few that did manage to escape were forever scarred. They never had another restful night for the rest of their sane lives, soon after losing their mind thinking that any moment the monsters that ran the place would come after them again, seeking to rid them of their pathetic lives.
But no one is really sure of any of this. At least Dart isn't. It's because he doesn't want to believe it, especially not now with Shana there. Before he would've said his disbelief was due to the absurdity of the whole idea, but now it was nothing more than blind fear. Perhaps he was going crazy…maybe. But he preferred to think he was merely in love. Not the love of a married couple or even a boyfriend, just the love of a brother who couldn't stand to lose his sister.
Far away, in a fortress like castle sitting on the precipice of a desolate land mass surrounded by the ocean, the young girl Dart so desperately chased after was being treated to Hellena Prison. A guard followed her into a cell which was only for the most important guests. It wasn't because it was decorated better, it had the same dull stone walls and floor, cobwebs in every corner, rats hiding in crevices, one simple rag sheet bed, and a dim candle sitting on a table. It wasn't even because those suited for this room would be treated better, because they weren't. This cell was specifically made to hold those that were to not be killed and as such guarded heavily. She moved slowly, inch by inch, closer to the bunk.
Her pace was, however, to slow for the guard. He had other things to do and thus jabbed her in the back with the blunt end of his spear. She fell to the floor a foot ahead just as he wanted her to. He was so satisfied with himself that he even smirked darkly before turning about to head out the door. "Be good in there!" he barked an instant before the cold bars of the cell door clanged shut, a loud ringing noise following.
Once the girl was sure the man was well away she couldn't hide her weakness any longer. The sobs she'd held back the whole time since she'd regained consciousness finally escaped her, racking her body with severe convulsions. It didn't take much longer for the tears to catch up with the other symptoms of defeat. Tears soon began running from her eyes down her perfect cream colored skin onto the chafed, dirty flooring.
No more than five minutes later there was a pool of tears collected in between her hands in which she could stare. She whimpered at the sight, barely recognizing this girl who looked back at her in the water. Her reflection had changed drastically just in the time she'd left her home. Her brown hair was frizzled and a complete mess, skin not as perfect as she remembered due to the accumulated dirt and grime, and eyes glazed over so that life was practically void, nonexistent even.
She refused to look any more after that, so instead she allowed herself to crumple further into herself. She pressed her forehead onto the foundation, the hot tears making her face flush lightly but nothing more. She continued to cry, sob, moan, wail, and shake as previously. And that's where she stayed, position and all, for hours to come. Only one thought was profound enough to breach her shattered state of mind. This thought was whether or not she'd make it out of here alive to see Dart, for she missed him dearly, and to never see him again would be a fate worse than death. She needed this…she needed him.
Elsewhere, on a wooden walkway, an enormous man wearing heavy armor, a gold helmet with spikes sticking up, bulging gold and red chest wear with spikes protruding from the shoulders, unusually large leg protectors of matching color and a glorious blue cape adorned with gold embroidery stood before the man in the black and silver hood. "Who the heck is the girl?" He barked gruffly, coming off as someone far past their prime. "You can tell me!" He assured the stranger, nodding as best he could in his heavy armor.
The hooded man stared blankly up at him much like he had at the Commander the night before. Still he was void of emotion, indifferent to this whole situation. He licked his lips slowly before sighing lightly. "The world's future rests on her." He said in a flat tone, expecting an outburst from the brutal leader of the Sandora's, especially since, after all, he had no problem shedding blood of his own men.
"That's it!" The large man, Fruegel they called him, cried exasperatedly.
"This is enough information for you." The hooded man replied coolly, brushing his hair back out of his eyes. "Those of you who do not grasp the value should just do what the order says." his eyes gleamed with smugness, the only sign of feeling he'd shown in so long.
"I'm not taking your orders!" Fruegel snapped, fists quaking no thanks to his low tolerance for resistance towards him and his acquisitions. "Only his Majesty Doel can order me!"
"Anyway…you must remember this." There was a pause as the hooded man looked the other over before he made a swift move to unsheathe his sword at his side to threaten Fruegel.
Fruegel was surprised enough so that he stepped back quickly and tripped, falling on his butt due to the sudden shift of weight. He growled at this unexpected fall, eyes narrowed and mouth curved into a deep frown beneath his thick armor.
"If you make a scratch on her, it'll cost more than your head." There was a brief pause as he contemplated whether it mattered to say who exactly was commanding this. "This is a message from Emperor Doel." The hooded man added in his usual cool voice, putting his sword back in its sheath.
Fruegel groaned lightly as he raised back up to his feet, rubbing his head lightly in the process. It wasn't that he was hurt, just pissed that this tiny, unknown man was able to control him without even trying and rubbing his head was in a way a technique to help with anger. Or at least someone had told him so. Although it in no way helped to the extent he needed it to. So to make sure he'd only do one stupid thing in reaction to this shift of power he, after turning on his heel and heading off of the bridge, knocked a guard standing at the edge of the unstable ground over the edge to fall to his death. The man's scream followed immediately after, echoing through the fortress long after his body disappeared from view.
Fruegel sighed heavily after the act was committed, already feeling better about being able to control the life of another. He didn't give a damn whether he had been on his side, in fact, him being with him made this control all the sweeter. Now all he had to worry about was keeping him and everyone else from killing the girl up in one of the highest cells. That's all that mattered anymore.
The journey would be a dangerous one, he knew, but he couldn't just give up on her. His baby sister meant more to him than anything in the entirety of this god forsaken world. This is what he told himself as he first entered the forest he'd played in many times as a kid. It was just the way he remembered too. Not a tree, rock, or life form had been eradicated.
He smiled faintly at the familiarity, a squirrel catching his eye. It fussed over him a minute before scurrying off up the next tree. He chuckled lightly at the creature, staring at where it disappeared in to the tree leaves for a moment before snapping back to attention. He had a job to do! He couldn't be slacking off! Shana's life depended on him!
Dart hurried down the dirt path of the forest, kicking up dust as he went and disturbing the very peace of nature as he made such irritating noises. Dogs barked in reaction, squirrels chattered, the wind howled, and there was even the occasional growl of a bear.
Dart might have stopped to fight the bear if this were any other point in time, but he had other, more urgent, things to do. He had to save Shana.
The grass which had bordered the dirt and thus created the path thinned out the farther he ran into the depths of the forest until, up at a fallen log, it completely vanished. Now he had to use nothing more than memory to find his way through the ever thickening forest. But this was no problem.
He knew the way through this place like the directions were written into his mind. So after he climbed the fallen tree up to a slightly more elevated area he turned to his left and wandered knowingly into an area thick with brush.
He pushed through the first pocket of it with only slight difficulty since it was the least overgrown and came out onto a short path that led him into another pack of brush.
He instantly dropped down to his knees upon reaching it, hoping that after five years his old trick would still be useful. And it was. Along the bottom remained a decently sized space of near emptiness. Granted it wasn't as easy as before due to his size, but he still managed.
It took about five minutes for him to find his way through this one and so when he breached the exit he heaved a heavy sigh having felt rather claustrophobic underneath the brush.
The dirt accumulated didn't bother him a bit. He simply rose to his feet and brushed what he could off of himself before heading toward what he knew would be the last obstacle and undoubtedly the most annoying.
He'd loved this patch as a kid because he felt it was a test of his smarts and strength, but now his sentiments were no longer the same. It didn't help that the situation was so drastic.
Ultimately it was the thought of Shana being hurt that made the task seem more difficult than it was. He felt as if every bit of the prickly piece of nature was fighting hard against him. Even the little scratches that resulted from his urgency to get through felt more painful.
"Damn it…" Dart muttered in a strained voice as a part of the brush slung back into place and hit him square in the face. But he refused to let an inanimate object beat him, a full grown man.
Eventually he pried his way through the mass of brambles and brush, insignificant scratches on his face. Now that that was done he could move on to the easier parts of this forest.
He trekked down a steep slope until he came upon another log which led down instead of up.
He didn't slow as he headed down the oddly slanted tree, but he did take in the fact that two limbs above him from trees opposite each other reached just far enough to give the illusion of them being connected as he spread his arms out on both sides to keep his balance. It was but a moment before he came to the trees end and jumped down the remaining distance, landing perfectly.
As he rose up and went to jolt into a run again a beast jumped out from between two trees, barking wildly.
Darted started slightly, leaning back, before realizing it was nothing more than a wild dog. "I have no time to deal with you!" Dart barked back, shooing the creature off with more anger than was necessary.
The less than frightening creature cowered pitifully before turning and scampering away in the direction it had come.
"That reminds me…" Dart murmured thoughtfully, turning to face where he'd just come from as he flashed back to a moment years upon years ago to a similar situation in a newer version of this very spot.
The trees which lined the dirt path were greener and there was still some grass to show the way as well where he and his sister, Shana, played. They were headed to one of Shana's secret spots, a new one, and Dart was lagging slightly. "Wait!"
"This way! This way!" Shana giggled with exuberance as she turned about to face her slow brother, waving her hands in the air before zipping back around and racing down the fallen tree bridge.
Once at the bottom she was instantly jumped by a wild dog which barked loudly at her and came increasingly closer as it bared its teeth.
Shana let out a terrified shriek, dropping down into a crouching position as she gripped her head tightly and shook in shear fear.
Dart's brotherly instinct kicked in and he was quick to jump from his position on the tree down in front of Shana in order to create a barrier of the sorts. He even spread his arms out wide. "Cut it out! Leave Shana alone!" he ordered in his ten year old voice.
The image faded back into the recesses of his mind as he continued to stare. "Leave Shana alone…" he repeated in a much softer tone. He hung his head slightly. Shana. His fists clenched at the thought of her. "Hang in there. I'll get you out of there." He did a fist pump and then sprang forward.
He was on the last stretch of the forest where it basically ceased to be a forest. The trees were few and far between and the grass had returned to aid him in keeping a course. Not that he needed it. Still, he followed the long winding dirt path all the way until he exited the familiar place and found himself out on a long stretch of flat terrain which he'd rarely ever been around.
Still, he'd been across this particular stretch of land enough to know which direction Hellena was in and that it would take approximately two days to get there if he didn't stop at all. And he wouldn't. He had to get there before anything happened to her.
If he didn't…he'd never forgive himself.