Dust settled on the brow of Faro’s head as he lay unconscious on an old table in the abandoned house. The sun barely filtered through but gave the room an orange haze, signifying the coming of night and the possible arrival of the Dailfok, a wild lupine like beast that likes to travel in packs, taking shelter in abandoned buildings and feasting on innocent travellers.
The person watching Faro sighed, getting bored of waiting for so long. He reached out for an old bucket sitting by the boy’s legs, the rusted metal full to the brim with clean water. He moved closer to Faro, a smirk on his face, lifting the pail over his head.
“Time to wake up Litchi...”
Faro spluttered as he fell off the table. He groaned in pain, hitting the wooden floor.
“You took a nasty fall earlier, but someone special up above must have taken a real shining to you!” the voice laughed sounding familiar to Faro’s ears.
“Huh, who said that?” Faro stumbled around trying to get his bearings together.
“I guess it is time I introduced myself, after all I’ve been hiding inside your shadow all these years,” the person smirked, still standing away from any light source, “I’m still unsure how to say this, but from what I've learnt I have no name that man could understand.”
“What are you saying?” Faro rubbed his head and looked towards the source of the voice.
Although he was still stumbling, unable to keep his legs straight, Faro focused his vision onto the space in front of him. The silhouette of a figure was just about distinguishable against the shadows, the body having a darker presence than the area around him.
“What....are you?” Faro asked, not believing what he saw.
It was common for someone like Faro, who had attended the School of Heroes as an assistant to have seen many different races of people, from the Pickenhearts who had the ability to turn into birds, to the Lyrarus with their natural obsidian skin.
The boy walked out of the shadows to reveal himself. Indeed he looked exactly like Faro, every feature of his face Faro could recognize.
But there was a big difference.
Instead of the pasty dirt colour Faro was expecting, this boy had complete black skin, the only exception was his eyes which were a glazed metallic grey.
“No, it’s not possible,” he could hardly get the words out of his mouth, “that voice as well, I recognized it, it’s mine only deeper and more sinister!”
“Sinister? That’s not very nice.” the shadow chuckled, his voice seemed to echo in Faro’s ears as if no one else in the world could hear him, "I’m nothing but a shadow. But to be more specific I am your shadow. I’ve been watching you for quite a while and I wanted to contact you earlier but our Patron told me to wait and lead you here today.”
Faro froze in place for several moments, a look of anger forming on his face.
“So it was you who punched me and stole my bag!”
The shadow gave a sheepish smile and put his hands up as if he just got caught. He was about to speak out when Faro, in his anger, threw a stone towards the boy.
The shadow didn’t even bat an eyelid as the stone phased through his body leaving no mark. Faro just stood in shock.
“What are you?”
“You already asked that question! Come on, we have been stuck here for too long now, let’s just leave this place. It’s making me nervous.”
Faro too found he was slightly unnerved by the aura of the abandoned house, he turned around and gave the room a proper inspection. Apart from a table and old cupboard, there was nothing in the room. Years of rain and insects had eaten away at the wood leaving a perceptible stink in the room. Faro now felt nauseated by the atmosphere and started looking for a way to exit.
“I’ve already checked, the only way out is the way we came in”
Faro looked up at the hole in the ceiling. Testing out the stability of the rocks, Faro confirmed that they were incredibly loose and he would only hurt himself again trying to climb up them.
“I don’t suppose you can just fly us up?” Faro asked secretly hoping that he could.
“No, for some strange reason I’m bound in that regard to the struggles of man just like everyone else, however I may be able to get us out another way.”
Faro was baffled as to what he should say. He was about to ask his shadow another question when the boy raised his hands and a dark light enveloped both boys. Light turned to darkness, left became right and Faro couldn't tell what was happening to him. His whole body felt numb yet in pain at the same time as his body fell apart into a mist of particles.
In an instant Faro and his shadow disappeared from the room, leaving no trace of their presence.
The smoke had scarred the blue sky, no sign of life from both the air and the earth. The School of Heroes was reduced to nothing, a pile of rubble amongst charred statues.
The sound of fire could still be heard, a noise that wouldn't fade away for a few hours, but it stood alone, a sound that crackled in the daylight and pierced the silence, only comforted by the harsh breeze which only seemed to help this destructive force grow. The view from the remains of Faro’s home was devastating and nothing spared from sight. Even the local animals had fled after the incursion.
The chaotic peace was disturbed when the air in front of Faro’s house started vibrating. Then seemingly out of nowhere black particles began to form two figures.
Faro coughed loudly clutching his heart as he started to slow down, he had never experienced anything of that calibre before, the pain of his body being taken apart and put back together. He looked towards his shadow to ask him a question when he noticed that his shadow wasn't looking too good either. The boy’s dark skin shifted.
As it happened in front of him he witnessed as the boy started to melt, as if he were turning into pure oil. His form slowly decreased in size until it became a pool of dark matter on the ground. The black substance cleanly reflected light as it seeped into the ground, becoming a faded patch that slowly moved towards Faro.
Faro wanted to move back, but he understood what his shadow was doing. As the blob reached Faro’s foot, the black matter became less of a blob and formed a natural shadow. Looking somewhat surprised, Faro chuckled before feeling a feint vibration within his body.
“Faro, right now I have exhausted all the stored up power I possess and I don’t know when I’ll be able to do something like that again. This was also the first time I've tried anything that extreme." his voice was fainter then before, clearly evident that he was tired, "perhaps we should leave, I wouldn't be surprised if those Aginian soldiers come back!”
Faro nodded, feeling ridiculous right afterwards, he was nodding to his own shadow. He checked his home, rummaging throughout the wreckage. Nothing had been spared. Amongst all the burnt wood and fabrics, Faro found the remains of a silver pendant hidden underneath a few beams of wood, surprised that it hadn't been taken.
He picked it up and examined the intricate designs, the pendant as a whole was star shaped, swirls coiled around the four points, each one with its own design. He felt the small bumps along the floral patterns, each one cold to touch against Faro’s rough skin. The centre of the pendant held a cracked ruby supported by a band of gold which firmly held the jewel in place. Words were written on the band, yet Faro had never come to understand them or even find someone who could read the engraved characters.
Looking at the pendant, Faro felt some attachment to the silver piece yet he didn’t want to take it. Knowing he would regret leaving it behind he dumped it in his bag and took off towards the town square.
Faro looked around, never pausing for more than a moment. He didn’t want to run into any patrols as he had nothing to defend himself with. It was this thought that brought about an idea as he looked around the destroyed village. As he started moving, with a firm plan of action, a sound alerted the boy that he wasn't alone. Faro hid behind an old farmer’s house that had been knocked down, the rubble provided enough cover to hide him from any watchful eyes. As expected the ground started to faintly vibrate, horses were slowly getting nearer to Faro’s position.
Without much of a choice, Faro risked diving into an opening, hoping he would not get spotted. Unfortunately for the animal taking refuge in the rubble, Faro landed on the soft body of a fox which yelped, scratched Faro’s arm and jumped out, running away only to be met by the hooves of a large grey horse. The horse instantly knocked the fox over, injuring it greatly. The fox wasn't the only thing to get injured, the impact caused by the fox made the horse skid to a stop and the rider, who had been paying little attention, was sent flying off. He cried loudly as his back fell against a large rock, the sound of his bones snapping much louder than his cry of pain.
“Help me...” the man managed to groan out before falling unconscious.
Before Faro could do anything, two more riders came into the picture and inspected the scene. The two men were wearing light yellow armour, the first dirtied by the blood of those that they had slain. The other man, who was decorated in silver trimmings took off his helmet and scowled at the man on the ground.
“We haven't got all day, get up!” he shouted.
The man, most likely their Captain, impatiently tapped his foot against the horse he sat upon.
The horse, also wearing similar armour, stamped about nervously, not wanting to be there any longer. The Captain took off his helmet and pointed at the man.
“Help the man, Synar!”
The other man muttered a quiet apology for not acting quickly enough and spurred his horse slowly to where the fallen soldier lay. The two men approached the soldier and dismounted their horses. The Captain produced a bottle of light blue liquid and gave it to Synar so that he could help the man. He poured it into the mouth of the unconscious man and forced him to swallow it, resulting in the man coughing nosily.
After the short fit of coughs, the man remained in his unconscious state whilst the other man carried him to one of their horses.
“The potion will keep him alive until we get to the camp. Be sure to make sure he doesn’t fall off your horse or you’ll have me to answer to.” The man whose helmet had the design of a bear on it growled.
“Sire, what about his horse, should we not take it as well?”
“Leave it, we will say that it died, I would have left him here to rot as well if it were not for the fact that he is Lord Haridhsm’s brother.”
The Captain spurred his horse forward, not going faster than a walk, so that no accidents would occur again.
By the time Faro had come out of his hiding place there were no traces of the soldiers. The horse, only having minor wounds, limped towards a water hole that hadn’t been destroyed. Faro tried to approach the horse slowly, but only managed to aggravate it as the back hooves of the horse pounded against the ground.
Slowly but carefully Faro continued approaching the horse. He rummaged through his bag and pulled out a broken apple. Immediately the creature sensed the fruit and turned its head, still occasionally stamping its feet. Faro paused not sure what he should do next.
He wanted to help the creature but it was acting far too hostile for his liking. Deciding not to interfere much, Faro placed the apple down on the ground, making sure his head was out of reach from the horses hooves. He then turned around and dashed off towards the ruins of the School of Heroes.
As Faro neared the wreckage, the sky had turned from a pale blue to a dark orange. The sun was barely visible in the horizon, setting past the mountains to the west, glowing with its usual white colour. As most of the smoke had dissipated over time, the wind continued to bring in clouds, all dark and bothersome as if they knew what had transpired below. Faro didn’t need to be an expert to know that it was going to rain soon.
He grimaced in annoyance as he was not appropriately dressed. Wearing nothing but a light ragged tunic and a pair of breeches, the earthy colours of the clothing long lost to dirt, plants and blood that Faro had gone through in the past few years.
Standing in what used to be the archway for the entrance to the school, Faro suddenly noticed a lack of people. He then realised that there were no bodies anywhere. Having learnt about the war with Madrack in class, he came to the conclusion that the over compulsive nature of the tyrant kings attitude to conquest.
Luck was seemingly on his side as the Aginian’s had left and the rest of the village was empty, meaning Faro could spend all the time he needed, scavenging for supplies. His thoughts started to drift off towards Oliha, he remembered the time when they found an entrance to a secret armoury underneath the school. The room had many weapons of various sizes put on display as if they were antiques, however they always looked as if they had been freshly forged. The memory made Faro guilty, he hadn’t been there to help Oliha when the attack happened, he had woken up later than expected and he had to deal with his stolen bag, only to meet that person.
Could she really be called a person?
Still unsure of what he was supposed to do, Faro forced himself to believe that Oliha was okay, that she had planned a way to safety and that he would be able to meet her if he forced himself onwards.
“I suppose ancient magic has kept the weapons in a usable state.”
Faro’s heart almost jumped out of his throat as his shadow formed a half-hearted attempt of a solid form, failing to do so and melding back into his shadow. Breathing heavily, Faro rested against a fallen pillar and caught his breath.
“Don’t do that again, you almost scared me to death and how did you know what I was thinking?” Faro looked at the ground where his shadow was, although not knowing exactly where to look he stared at the head of the shadow as that seemed logical to him.
“I can explain that easily,” the voice floated about in Faro’s head spoke, “There is this force, which binds all life to each other. This energy can be transferred from a soul of an innocent mortal to an item so that it will never rust nor break until the spell is broken. The ritual to do something like this is dark, inhumane and outright evil. As to why I was able to answer you in the first place well....”
The shadow laughed as if he held an amusing secret.
“Thoughts and memories are more than just parts of someone’s mind, they are induced with magical properties, similar to that of what I mentioned before. However not all thoughts can be heard by other, but I suppose our connection allows for a greater communication of minds. That’s my theory anyway.” The shadow chuckled again before making a sound which resembled a yawn.
“I still need to recuperate my energy and I’ll be of no further use to you until then, so try not to get killed,” with that the Shadow fell silent again and Faro’s mind seemed to clear up, meaning the consciousness of his Shadow had left him for now.
Faro moved towards the middle of the school complex to a location he often visited with Oliha. He thanked the gods that it hadn’t been tampered with as he moved his hand towards the centre piece of the structure. The fountain in its entirety was a large circular bowl that acted as a platform for a life-sized soldier, carved out of white stone. Surrounding the platform was various gems of different colour and size, meant to represent the different kingdoms of the world.
Eleven in total were present within the fountain, however where the 12th kingdom would have been located, a plaque was present instead.
The words on the plaque were unreadable and must have been scribed long ago as Faro traced his fingers over them. The soldier was holding a horn like instrument which water poured out from. Faro put his right hand inside one of the dry tubes of the instrument and felt round until his fingers gripped a screw like object.
He pulled it and stepped away from the fountain so that a door, concealed by the plaque, revealed itself. At this moment, Faro realized he missed the company of his friend and only wanted to find her.
The platform that supported the statue seemed to move backwards as it vibrated while the hidden door revealed itself. Faro climbed onto a support step and dropped through the door, remembering that the drop was nothing to worry about.
The walls of the tunnel Faro had just entered were in almost perfect condition, made of a metal Faro couldn’t identify.
He placed his hand on the cool metal and relished the fact that the illumination stones placed on the ceiling gave off a calming glow. However with his mind set on the task ahead, Faro rushed onwards.
Entering the main chamber in a rush, Faro looked around at all the weapons on display.
Even to this day, he was still amazed by the weapons and fascinated by their archaic designs. Knowing that he lacked any magical abilities, he moved away from the staffs and other items of magic and headed towards the melee weapons.
As he passed by a bow made of solid silver, Faro heard a shuffle coming from behind him. Before even thinking, Faro dived forwards and rolled quickly into the shadows. Luckily, Faro had dived just in time as an axe had split the ground directly where he was standing mere moments ago.
Looking up to see who his attacker was, Faro gasped as he recognized the face of the man wielding the huge axe. Unfortunately for the boy, the man couldn’t see Faro’s face and was about to strike again.
“Master Thash, wait!” Faro shouted not caring if anyone outside heard him, luckily his actions forced the man to stop and halt his attack.
“Step forward, who are you?”
Faro slowly shuffled forwards, not wanting to give the man a reason to cleave his head off.
“It’s me, Faro” he looked into the eyes of the older man only to notice that one of his eyes were closed.
Whether it was due to the blood covering his face or a wound he sustained Faro couldn't tell.
“Faro...how?” the man sighed in defeat and dropped onto the floor.
Without any restraint the injured man dropped his axe by his side and winced in pain as he started to relax. Faro realized that his masters wounds were fatal and that he wasn’t going to be alive much longer . Faro moved closer to help the man, but he had to pull back as his Master gave him a vicious look with his good eye.
“I asked you a question!”
Faro looked quizzically at the teacher, deciding to answer the question before he lost his nerve. He explained what had happened to him, from the moment he saw the attack on the school to the secret entrance he used to enter the weapons room.
He did however decided to leave out the part about his shadow being sentient or the meeting he had with the all powerful deity. The teacher looked at Faro, a tiny spark of hope still trying to keep alight.
“Faro, you need to listen to me. I’ve seen you train with weapons before and don’t worry you’re not in trouble,” the teacher laughed at his little joke, only to cough up droplets of blood. “I suggest you take those Dual Swords over there in the corner, they were made for someone of your size and fighting style."
Faro didn’t want to leave the teachers side but, felt that he had to so that his Master wouldn’t frown again.
Faro looked back to see a pair of dull grey swords lying in the corner as if they were not supposed to be amongst the collection these magnificent weapons. He quickly approached the blades and a realization occurred to him, out of all the times that he had come here, he had never seen these weapons before. One was longer than the other, however both looked sharp enough to cleave off a person’s head easily.
“Faro, I grow weaker by the second. Come here...”
Faro looked back, almost forgetting the presence of his master. He rushed to his side, avoiding the sickly pool of blood now on the floor.
“Oliha, the girl from my class. I sent her to one of the capital cities in the south.”
Master Thash tried to lift his arm, but was too weak, he would have to hope that Faro would search him after he passed away.
“She used a teleportation amulet that I gave her to get there. I have one more for myself, but I’m afraid I won't survive the journey in my condition. I need you to swear on your loyalty that you will follow and protect her at all costs!”
Faro was stunned, he was ultimately happy that his friend had survived and now he was being tasked with a mission to find and protect her. Without thinking for one second, Faro knelt down, put his hand over his heart and performed the ritual of Nidain.
Such a ritual was usually only allowed to be performed by Knights, who had graduated from the School of Heroes or a similar training scheme from their own kingdom. The ritual of Nidain was a magical bond between the performer and the task sworn that wove their fates together. It was custom that those who performed such a ritual in front of their King or Lord would usually receive a medallion to prove their task was sanctioned by that sovereign.
“I swear on my loyalty to the house of Karimika that I will protect the one known as Oliha Teleinu until the day I fall against the enemy.”
When Faro finished speaking Master Thash sighed in relief. Being a member of the Karimika family, the man was considered a close relation to one of the many royal families and was highly regarded amongst the more influential aristocrats. For one last time he considered his actions, knowing what he was about to ask of the boy in front of him.
Without warning Master Thash stopped breathing, his eyes starting to fade away as his life left him. Faro tried to shake the man awake but to no avail. Holding the lifeless body of his master was something Faro was unprepared for. He couldn't help feeling sick, wanting to stay away from the body of his former Master. Although it had just happened, he was disgusted by the sickly shade the dead man's skin was already starting to turn. Faro had never dealt with death well, he always found a reason to dismiss it, but now it was in his face.
Remembering the amulet that Mr. Thash had said he possessed, Faro moved forwards to retrieve it, however he felt a cold wave shower him and fell against the floor, his vision quickly slipping away.
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