Feet pounded against the hard soil of the path as Lyria charged down it, towards perhaps the ugliest monster she had ever seen. A giant, towering Cyclops. It had skin grey as stone with a greenish tinge to it and so tough she wasn't sure if her daggers could pierce that flesh. Ivory tusks protruded from the sides of its mouth. It was thankfully lightly armored, with simple bracers on its wrists and wearing a long loincloth. It was a fearsome sight, but there was no uncertainty this time. Her nerves were a bit on edge and butterflies flitted about in her stomach, but she was determined to brave through whatever trial was set before her. Although, she mentally reminded herself to stop running headfirst into things she may not be prepared for. After all, look where that got her.
On the path before her was a hulking brute of a monster, unexpectedly lying face down in the dirt. Its large arms thrashed about in a clumsy, violent manner, seeking something that could help it push itself back up. The guardsmen beating its sides with steel and fury gave it no chance to find purchase. They had already bloodied it significantly, as its leathery hide was already stained a deep crimson and marred with bleeding scars and painful welts. One of its tusks had been broken off, lying in the grasses nearby. As fate would have it, it seemed as though the guard had nearly bested it, giving Lyria the easy task of finishing it off.
A multitude of goblins attempted to distract the guardsmen from the Cyclops. The sound of clubs crashing against shields echoed through the air along with the strange gurgling chatter of the goblins. Their attack gave the giant the opening it needed to slam its palms onto the ground and heave itself up. As it did so, it swung its enormous fists to and fro, knocking aside several soldiers and sending dust flying in all directions.
Lyria coughed as the dust flew into her face, grimacing when some touched her lips and slid into her mouth. When it cleared, she sputtered a bit before pulling an arrow from her quiver, ready to take aim. The Cyclops turned to face her as if it knew she were there. The earth rumbled a bit with each step its monstrous feet took. Its single eye stared at her with a certain kind of bestial rage. Its mouth opened, revealing disgusting jagged teeth as a threatening roar flew out.
The sound sent a nervous shiver down her spine, but Lyria stood firm. She set the arrow in her longbow and drew the string back, aiming to send the arrow flying into that single eye. If she could take away his eyesight, victory would be in their grasp…
As her eyes locked onto her target, something caught her eye. It may have been a trick of the mind, but she thought she saw a strange red marking shimmer across the beast's head. This was distraction enough, as it caused her to ponder what it could mean. Having lost some focus, she released the arrow at a bad angle, sending it flying into its head. This only seemed to make it angrier.
Lyria swore under her breath before reaching for another arrow. As long as the guardsmen kept it occupied, she could fire off arrows as a way to weaken it. She had to be quick, though, as the beast's attacks were growing more desperate. Its arms flailed about wildly, sending both humans and goblins flying. They were losing numbers fast due to this, so the pressure was on Lyria and Rook to send it reeling with their ranged attacks. She took comfort in the fact that it was weakened and already on its last legs.
To keep the damage going while Lyria prepared another volley of arrows, Rook launched several fireballs at the creature. The flames easily dispatched the goblins surrounding it, burning their flesh until little remained. The magic had little effect on the Cyclops, however. The fire licked at its skin but was not strong enough to dig deep. They soon dissipated, leaving moderately charred flesh and a rather unpleasant stench.
All of the remaining guardsmen put all their might in to making the beast fall. A few clambered on to its legs, trying to crawl up and jab their swords into vital regions like the chest and neck. Lyria admired their courage, but she thought there was no way they would be able to climb so high. And indeed, they were shaken off before they could reach their target.
The Cyclops was moving about too much for her to get a good shot at its eye. Frustration began to build within as arrow after arrow lodged itself in the monster's tough skin, dealing very little damage. It would start to look as though it had quills if any more arrows protruded from it. Gritting her teeth, Lyria nocked yet another arrow, this time drawing the string as far back as it could possibly go.
She took steady, even breaths and tried to relax her muscles, for pain and tension decreased concentration. With care, she lined up the tip of the arrow with the beast's eye while predicting how the arrow would fly. When it locked in place and it looked as though she had a chance, she released her grip on the arrow. It sped through the air, soaring upward and wedging itself in the Cyclops's pupil.
A smile crept across Lyria's face, feeling triumphant as it pawed at its eye with both hands. It stumbled around blindly before tripping over its own two feet. Once again it fell, this time on its back.
Lyria quickly strapped her bow to her back and drew her daggers, taking off at a sprint towards the fallen creature. Together with the remaining guardsmen and Rook, they launched a furious onslaught. Its skin was very thick, making it hard to dig her daggers deep into its flesh. She grimaced as she hacked away at its neck, trying to cut through its windpipe. She paid no mind to the blood that splattered against her or the flames that were starting to burn at the monster's head.
A few other soldiers aided her and with their combined effort, they managed to slice through the vital point in its neck. Without a way to breathe, the beast began to panic. A strangled choking sound rumbled from the creature as its arms thrashed weakly. Feeling a rare stroke of bravery, Lyria leaped onto its chest and slammed both daggers point-first into the region where she assumed its heart should be. It took a few tries to pinpoint the right location, as she had never fought a Cyclops before, but the final stroke did the trick.
The beast grunted when her daggers struck its heart, telling her she found the right spot. She struggled a bit but managed to twist the blades to ensure a swift death for the beast. The guardsmen backed up when the beast fell still and a brief silence permeated the atmosphere before they erupted into cheers.
Lyria dislodged her daggers, shaking blood off of them before returning them to her belt. She then crawled off of the monster to join the merry soldiers. Her spirits lifted, knowing a threat was vanquished. Strange, how the death of one being can bring the happiness of others. She was even pleasantly surprised to see Rook smiling. She burst into gentle laughter, knowing that she had finally won for once.
Amidst this cheer, Lyria never noticed the robed figure observing from the shadows…
Lyria returned to the encampment bearing the news of the Cyclops's defeat. A few seemed surprised that someone so scrawny could fell such a large beast. To this she insisted it was not she who defeated it but rather the combined might of the troops, though some continued to believe it was her, as she was the Arisen after all. The Arisen is supposed to be one with the strength to destroy any kind of monster. Lyria wasn't sure she would like all this unwanted attention, positive or negative, but she gratefully accepted the coin that came with it. Maybe now she could afford some armor.
She left the guards to their chattering and reporting to the higher-ups, wandering into the white tent. The Cyclops was supposed to be her trial, was it not? It was certainly enough of a trial. This better have been worth the effort… she thought as she walked past the man in charge of storage into the tent's dark interior. The room was exactly as she left it: quiet and empty. The only sound was her dirty leather shoes padding against the wooden floor.
Once again the rift stone glowed blue when she gently pressed her palm against it. She knelt onto the ground, staring into the stone's center, opening her mind and awaiting the echo of the voice from the beyond. Its presence came quickly, once again filling her empty chest with such comforting warmth. It was as if she were sitting before a warm fire and it made her feel rather sleepy.
"With that, your trial is complete," the voice spoke, "You are the Arisen in truth, proven beyond any doubt."
"Then what is to happen now?"
"Now, I bid you select a companion for the journey ahead."
This, she was not expecting. Was he speaking of a pawn? Why, then, if she already had Rook to assist her?
Confused, she replied, "Companion?"
"They shall serve you and you alone, to share in your hardships and aid you in every endeavor."
At this, Lyria wasn't sure where to begin. How would she select someone to accompany her? Would this person fit her needs? Would they be able to make up for her weaknesses? And most importantly, they had to be someone she would get along with, if they were to accompany her for her entire journey. The voice remained silent while she pondered what sort of companion she would look for. After moments passed, it seemed to sense her hesitation, so it inquired, "What do you seek in a companion?"
What did she seek in a companion? Silently she assembled her thoughts. I would want a protector, a guardian. Perhaps a warrior, someone strong, to make up for the strength I lack. So I guess they would have to be unafraid in the face of danger. Oh, but not to the point of arrogance. But with some confidence. And they have to be someone I can trust, someone I can depend on. Basically, a friend as well as an ally. I'm sure I'll need one on this journey.
After she relayed her answer, the stone's blue light seemed to glow brighter. She removed her palm quickly, stepping backwards as the air in the room seemed to change. Right above the stone, the air seemed to swirl faster and faster as a cloudy portal materialized. Lyria stared into its depths, unable to see anything but a gentle white light shimmering from some unseen world. Before she could examine it any more, a shadowy figure flew out of the portal in a similar fashion to when she met Rook.
And just as before, the portal vanished from sight when the shadows slid away to reveal a man. He fit her image of a guardian exactly, clad in light mail armor. He was far taller than her and more well-muscled. It was clear that he would be the fighter she sought, as a study shield was buckled to his arm and a sharpened sword was belted to his waist. He had short, slightly shaggy dark hair and forest green eyes that were kind, gentle. A small smile formed on his face when he looked upon Lyria.
He raised his hand, showing her his palm bearing the glowing pawn marking. She expected the typical reaction; the warm feeling that spread through where her heart should be. But this felt stronger than any she felt before, as if a fire were burning within her. It did not feel uncomfortable. In fact, it felt wonderful and she couldn't help but smile in response.
Her pawn knelt before her, along with Rook and several other pawns that had gathered in the tent. She hadn't even noticed when they quietly entered, waiting for her to be fully acknowledged as Arisen. She suddenly felt rather awkward, not used to being treated this way. Her feet shifted back and forth as she listened to Rook speak, "Our fealty is sworn to you, Arisen. From this day, the legions men call 'pawns' live and die by your command."
She stared in stunned silence as one by one the multitude of pawns took a knee as a gesture of loyalty. It made her feel uncomfortable; knowing she now had the power to lead them. She was no leader, nor did she have any leadership experience. To her, it felt almost a burden, thinking of all the mistakes she could make. But at the same time, she felt honored to accept the mantle of Arisen and as she looked at the pawns, her smile grew a bit bigger. Lyria, an obscure woman from a fishing village was now somebody. She wasn't one to gloat or bask in any sort of fame, but by the Maker this felt good.
"So you're my…main pawn?" Lyria asked while she made her bedroll. This was the first chance she got to speak with the pawn tailored to suit her needs, and she was going to make the most of it. The rest of the day consisted of training that the guard deemed necessary. She would try to speak to her pawn only to be swept away into some different exercise. By the end of the day, she was tired of shooting wooden dummies and lugging heavy boxes to and fro. But she and her pawn worked well together, blowing away plenty of dummies in what Ser Berne called record time. They made an excellent team, Lyria, her pawn, and Rook.
She was exhausted by the end of the day, and was all too eager to accept a bedroll to sleep on. She managed to drag her sleepy self to the large white tent, spreading out her bedroll beside the rift stone. The warmth it filled her with felt comforting, so she thought it would help lull her to sleep. Her pawn joined her, though he did not have a bedroll as pawns did not sleep. He merely took a seat on the floor nearby, staring at her as she spoke to him.
"Yes, Master. I am to serve you as best I can," he replied, his voice containing a bit of enthusiasm.
Lyria nodded and sat on her bedroll before removing her cape, folding it and setting it to the side. "Do you have a name? I…forgot to ask earlier."
He shook his head. "I am whatever you wish to call me."
This caused her to raise an eyebrow. Pawns had to possess enough free will to choose a name. "You have no name? Is there aught you wish to be called? " The blank stare she got as a response was answer enough.
With a sigh, she said, "Alright. I will…think of something. Give me a minute." He nodded in compliance, giving her time to think. Lyria felt it had to be an…interesting name; nothing boring or over-used. It may take a while, so she decided to converse while she thought.
"So, because you're my pawn, you have to do whatever I say."
"So…if I told you to go jump off a cliff or swim with the Brine, or wear a fancy dress, you would do it?"
"Perhaps I would question your methods first, Master, but yes, I would," he replied, a slight smile crossing his face.
Lyria started laughing as she imagined him in a purple formal gown and how she would laugh even harder if it actually happened. Of course, she would never do that to him; she wasn't that mean. She was sure pawns had some semblance of humility and might be the slightest bit embarrassed.
She composed herself before saying, "Ha, alright in all seriousness now. You would go along with whatever decisions I make?"
Frowning, she drew her knees up to her chest and hugged them, staring at the floorboards. She was afraid of this, and this was why she did not think herself suitable to be a leader. She had never been in situations like this, so how would she know how to act? "I know I will make bad decisions. I just...Can you…Will you tell me if I am about to do something foolish? Will you warn me about dangers? I know I can do things without thinking, and that could get me into the deepest trouble."
"If that is what you wish, Master."
"I do wish it."
"Then I shall do as you request. Provided you will listen," he replies, a sincere look in his eyes.
Her frown vanished, replaced with a relieved smile. It felt good knowing she had someone to depend on. They spent the next few minutes in conversation. Lyria told him of Cassardis; what it was like, what kind of people were there, and how she spent her entire life living beside the sea. If he was to travel with her, he would need to know her attachment to the place and why they would probably stop there on many occasions. He listened intently, happy to learn more about the Arisen.
She even got a chuckle out of him when she told him of the time she got stuck up on a rooftop. Like a cat stuck in a tree, she had been too afraid to come down. She learned to hop along the rooftops at age ten, and often explored up there with her other childhood friend, Valmiro. They often had "adventures" together as children, exploring every nook and cranny of their home town. That one day, though, it had been particularly windy atop the roof of the short bell tower, and her confidence plummeted. Her father and the chief had to get her down. That was just months before he passed.
Just then, an idea popped into her head. "I think I have a name for you," she said.
"How does 'Calsifer' sound? 'Twas my father's name. Besides him, I haven't met or heard of anyone with that name. 'Twould be nice to have someone carry it on."
"'Tis a fine name, Master. I shall bear it with pride."
As Lyria looked out the opening of the tent, into the starry night, her eyes began to feel heavy. Her muscles ached from the day's activities, crying for a good night's rest. She drew back the blanket on her bedroll, ready to curl up underneath it. Before doing so, she eyed Calsifer and asked, "Are you not going to sleep?"
"Pawns do not need sleep as you do, Master. So long as you are rested, I will be too. I shall aid others through the rift while you rest."
"Alright. Good night then, Calsifer."
"Good night, Master." He blew out the candles lighting the room for her, so she did not have to get up and do it herself. She thanked him before lying down and pulling her blanket up to her chin. The bedroll was rather comfortable, so she had no trouble falling asleep. The blanket, the warmth of the rift stone filling her chest, and the warmth of Calsifer's presence easily sent her to the land of dreams.
A/N: Phew, finally finished it...
And yay! Finally Cal comes in! :D
I had so many brain farts during this, it's not even funny. I spent an hour staring at the part where Cal comes into the picture, derping and wondering how to write it. Same thing with the end there. I hope the battle scene was okay... I honestly could not figure out how to finish the stupid thing off! So yeah, this chapter is a whole lot of derp. :P
On another note, I did have fun coming up with dialouge between Lyria and Cal. I always imagine the antics those two can get in. They're a dynamic duo, those two. Partners in crime.
I did actually put Cal in a dress. Hey, there was an achievement for it, so why not? *shrugs* Got a good kick out of it!
So yeah, Calsifer is a fighter. Lyria's thought process for creating him was similar to mine. In-game, she's fast and stuff, but skinny and not super muscular. So I made Cal as the tank, the strong guy who could go in, kick butt, and pick up my slack. Although I ended up doing most of the work anyway... O.o
Also, review response!
Raven the Blood witch: You just reminded me that I need to put the link to Lyria 'n Cal's screenshot on my profile so you guys can see what they look like in-game. I'll go do that right now! And yes indeedy, there will be a pairing. And yes, it is a secret. ;) But once that person comes around, I get the feeling I will make it blantantly obvious on accident... XD