Disclaimer: Shadow of the Colossus belongs to Team Ico and it's creators.

Wander's Descent

Chapter One

All I remember about that morning was that it was dark, as if the clouds themselves were portents of the news I would receive on that day, the day that started my destruction. I am called Wander, for utterance of my true name was forbidden, and none, not even I, can recall my true name. I was born to the caste of the warrior priests, one of the castes of clergy. The priesthood, whose role was to ensure the prosperity of our kingdom, began my training as personal priest of her majesty Princess Mono and next in line to inherit the title of High Priest. I was meant to be her spiritual guide and her protector, but I also became her closest friend.

I found Mono in our usual spot in the hanging gardens in the rear palace grounds. She saw me as I approached and tossed me a fruit from the tree she lay under. I broke the delicate skin and savored the sweet juice that rushed into my mouth. I felt energy swell throughout my body. I felt awake.

"So, High Priest," Mono said, "What shall I learn today?"

I laughed, "I don't have the mask yet."

Then more seriously she asked, "Do you recall 'The Fall of Dormin'?"

"I thought you would ask, Princess," I said, "I heard Lord Emon chastised you for requesting to learn that tale."

"So you won't teach me then?" she asked in mock hurt. "Or do you not know it?" she added teasingly.

"I could recite to you the epic poem in its entirety if you wish," I retorted.

"Oh priest, your prose will be enough," she said.

And so I took on my role as spiritual guide and with that persona I began my recitation.

"In the time when the world was young, and man younger still, Dormin, the sixteen who are one, came to the young people. They told man of great towers, plentiful food, and of the near immortality that they could give to man, and in haste and naïveté man asked for Dormin's gifts. After some time had passed, Dormin demanded of them sixteen sacrifices, one for each month of prosperity, one maiden for each face of Dormin, but man refused at first. Dormin, angered by this, blighted the land, and crops failed, towers crumbled, and the dessert encroached on the fertile places. And so with great sorrow, the first sacrifice was offered and their blood healed the land. But man never forgot the cruelty of Dormin and turned their renewed knowledge to destroy the false god. On the night of the next sacrifice, the priests waited in the shadows as the maidens stood in front of the idols used for the worship of Dormin. The figures of Dormin came upon the maidens, ready to consume the pure souls. In that moment the shaman wove their spell and the sixteen idols glowed with a brilliant light and drew the sixteen pieces into them. It is said however, that if the shaman's sword is taken to that unholy temple in the forbidden land that Dormin may perform a miracle to those desperate enough to seek for it and willing to pay his price.

Mono looked at me, then asked, "What kind of miracle?"

"Anything, even raising the dead," I answered, "But you need the sword the shaman-priest used to complete the ritual."

"And where is this sword?" she asked, mischievously.

"Lost, I presume," I said.

"Lost… or forgotten perhaps?" she said.

"You know something. What aren't you telling me?" I asked.

"I did my own research," she said.

"Without me? I'm offended," I retorted, feigning indignation.

"Oh shut up and listen," she said, "I found a document that told me of a sword kept secret to most, even the royalty only learn of it after their coronation. I snuck this out of my father's secret library." She held up an ancient scrap of parchment. I took it and read over what seemed to be the designs of a reliquary and how the locking mechanism worked. "See the space in the middle, a sword could fit there," she indicated what could be a sword shaped resting stand.

"Okay, but we don't know where this could be, if it is what you think it is." I commented.

"Read on," she urged. I humored her and lifted the parchment to my eyes once more. It all was what a shaman caste priest would say a normal reliquary should be. From what I could tell, from a warrior caste priest point of view, this would be large and hard to hide. I read more; it was made from a rare stone, one that came from the volcanic planes.

It dawned on me, "Of course the only reason it would be so easy to hide this would be that it isn't hidden at all. It has to be the altar of prayer. The sword is in the altar!" I exclaimed.

"See," she chastised, "That's what happens when you jump to conclusions; you overlook details."

"Alright, alright," I said.

"So, tonight, let's sneak into the Altar Room and test our theory," She whispered. I made to respond but was interrupted by the distant sound of the gates being opened and the shuffling of feet neared us. It was Lord Emon's messenger.

"You are summoned by Lord Emon," he said to me.

"Why?" I asked.

"He didn't say," was the reply. I excused myself and headed to the temple.

Upon reaching the temple grounds, I hailed the guard to open the gates. I ushered myself past them before they had even opened fully. I proceeded to the temple doors as the gates clanged shut behind me. I mounted the steps at the rear of the sanctuary and found the hallway that led to Lord Emon's study that also doubled as a chapel. I heard voices, one I knew to be that of the high priest, the other I recognized but could not place.

"We are not at war," the second voice objected.

"Not yet," came Emon's voice, "but soon."

"But why does she play such a pivotal role?" came the second.

"As King, you know full well the power of a symbol," Emon replied. I stifled a gasp at this realization. "A symbol can elicit unwavering bravery, just as it can cause a stupefying sense of defeatism. That is why."

"What are you implying?" The King asked.

"I will spare you the details, for they will only further dishearten you. She shall suffer greatly and eventually break and our symbol shall fail us in our time of need. But if we remove that ill fate in favor of a lesser doom, then we shall have a martyr to rally the troops behind. Hers is a cursed destiny, she is to die, but it is in our hand to save her from a fate worse than death itself." Emon said.

"By sacrifice?" the King asked.

"Yes," Emon replied.

"So she must die?" the King asked.

"Yes," came Emon again.

"There is nothing we can do to prevent this?" the King pleaded.

"I'm afraid not, lest Mono shall suffer greatly at the hands of the enemy. Such is what Heaven has revealed to me," Emon said.

"If it is the will of Heaven..." the King's defeated voice trailed off. The door flew open as the King left; I could see the tears held just behind his regal eyes.

I entered the study, "What did you hear?" commanded Emon.

"Nothing M'lord," I said with the sternest face I could hold. I thanked whoever it was that gave me my ability to lie.

"I summoned you here because I have an urgent assignment. You are going to be sent north, to the neighboring kingdoms as a missionary, but in secret you will keep watch for hostility towards our nation. There are many from the western Nomads that would seek our land as home but need powerful allies to do so."

"And so Mono shall be an ambassador and I her protector and missionary to the people," I injected.

"No. This time you go alone," Emon corrected.

"With all due respect, my duty is to Mono," I retorted.

"Your duty is to Heaven, and you will do well to remember that fact." Emon jabbed. I made to object but was cut off by a wave of his hand, "My word is final. They are Heaven's will verbatim." He preached, "You leave at first light," he added. I knew that was the end of it. Lord Emon would suspect me if I pressed further openly, but secretly I began to plot a way to save Mono. I said the traditional farewell of the clergy and left to continue my thoughts in the privacy and silence of the archives. As a boy, I had memorized the books on temple architecture and the design of the underground tunnels and sewage drains, but I looked them over once more. Tonight, I would help Mono escape. Tonight, we would be free.