CHAPTER 01: THE COWARD
The smells were musty. Revolting.He looked anxiously too his left and right. My God, I never thought it would smell this bad, he thought to himself.
The torch on his hand flickered. I don’t think anyone notices me. Silence as shadow, he reminded himself.
Be fast, be nimble. And silent like the shadows. I must not be caught. The torch flickered again. He could already feel the wind.
I already tied a horse on the outskirts of the city. After this last tunnel, I will be safe. He sits down in the sewer and opens his lunch pack.
Even though the smell was revolting, he still need to eat. Eat, drink, walk, he muttered almost like a chant by now.
His hand untangles the wrap and he began munching on the roasted fish he took from the armies kitchen.
He was sitting down when he noticed a corpse in front of him. The skin was melted off; probably die a long time down here.
No wonder, the smell was revolting.
Most men would scream to see a sight like that, but he was stoic. After the Great Slaughter he was accustomed to see such scenery.
It’s nothing compared to what he had seen during his year as one of the soldier in the Coalition army.
Blood and corpses littered the Human Continent. What more a little corpse? The corpse has a symbol attached to its clothes. A lion holding a pearl.
Vangua toops, he muttered.
He then start to flashback to his memories on what leads him here to the sewer beneath Zettel, running from the army, walking fast and creeping like shadows.
8 HOURS EARLIER.
The year is 1023 After Fall. The Dark Lands have conquered about half of the Human Continent.
The great slaughter that began in 1017 AF marks the start of a great war between the human and the Demon race that inhabits the Dark Lands Continent.
My name is Arial Vermont. I am 23 years old. Single. I am one of the many foot soldiers in the Human Coalition Army.
Why did I join the soldier? My family .I am from the Dukedom of Alan. One of the Kingdoms in the Human Continent. The Dukedom is one of the largest lands in the human continent
I lived in Danoba village ruled by the House of Alan. During the day of the attack I was in the Capital City of Seren celebrating my 17 name day.
I was happy. I was in joy. My father gives me some silver and told me “Son, go enjoy yourself and see the Capital” he said, love in his eyes.
Of course if I knew what was going to happen, I would never leave the house. Better to perish together than survive alone.
The third day when I was in Seren, I heard what happens from the wandering caravans and the survivors.
The Dark Lands have invaded the Dukedom.
With our Kingdom suffering wars after the Succession Affair, the defense of the Kingdom was weak.
They easily came and destroy our Kingdom with their dark swords and their dark magic.
Hearing the story, against my better conscience I went back to the Dukedom and tries to sneak a peek of the devastation they wrought with some hope in my heart.
What I see must happen after they were invaded because not many Demon Race soldier was guarding the village.
The village has no strategic importance other than it is one of the closer village with Levitia bridge. The scenery was like hell on Earth.
The men were killed. The woman were raped and left to die. Some become sex slave for the Demon Race Armies.
Then, trembling with fear, I went to my old house. Of course, I creep and hide going there. It also helps that many of the Demon Race soldiers have already moved to other states in the Dukedom.
In my hands were the souvenirs I bought in Seren. I intend to give it to my father and my mother.
I was so excited to get home to see their expression of joy when they knew I bought them something beautiful.
They would be overjoyed, I thought. I worked secretly as a Blacksmith with Uncle Strom to get some money.
The whole time I was thinking about my parent in the house.
The warm light from the sun in the windows, the winds that always blow in the evening giving the back door of the house a creaking sound, the smoke from the chimney when the winter comes, and the sound of my mother singing for my father.
How younger she looks when she sang for my father! The smell of the oak tree in front of the front yard, the fire crackling in the fire place while my father tell me the stories of Old Heroes, story of Great men, and Great Kings and Great Heroes.
The scent of the roasted chicken in the winter while he would play around in the kitchen pinching the food trying to get a little taste, all of it come to his memories, each time forcing him to step back outside the house.
Go back, the voice seems to whispered. Arial was tempted. Go back, he muttered under his breath.
But he could not. He must not. He wanted to know. Uncertainty will gnaw at him, eat him, and destroy him.
So, he takes another step forward. He walked through the door. The floor creaked. The inside of the house was a mess.
The swinging chair he made for his father was thrown to the wall, stuck there, a hole in the wall of blood.
What happen here?
The windows were smashed, glasses scattered in the ground. Then he looked again. This time he went to the bedroom.
Even before he went to the room, he felt a premonition of what he was about to see.
I wish I never saw it. In hindsight, he knew. And then he sees it. And there was….Just blood. The bedroom was red with blood.
An amputated hand can be seen in the corner of the bedroom.
All Arial saw was blood. All there was, was blood. There is no signs that his parents were even here.
But he knew to whom this blood belongs to. The hand has a little scar that Arial knew.
Arial began breathing faster. His heart was beating so fast, fearing what he is thinking, what he felt in his heart, denying it with every fiber in his being, trying to deny the scene that unfolds in front of him.
I can still feel the way my mother fingers on my cheek, her whisper in my ear.
No, no, he persuaded himself. But the tear was already falling. So, that day he cries and he grief.
He went out of the village and quickly uses the money that he still has to buy a horse.
He rides the horse to Seren undetected for he once worked as a tracker with some of his villagers during his teenage years learning from the adventurers that came to his village, picking up some of the skill.
He knew what people will look for, what tracks belong to who and he knows how to hide his track.
In one day, I arrived at Seren.
The Kingdom was unprepared. The news of the slaughter reached the nobles and the Kings and finally fearing what would happen to the Dukedom would also happen to them, for the first time in 500 years they united together to form a coalition army.
Hearing this, I joined them, thinking I could avenge my parents.
I was not strong like the noble kids but I was talented in being a tracker. So, every time I followed any division I am tasked to either hide our tracks or recognizing the tracks.
Initially that is my job. But then more talented trackers come. Noble’s children. Sons of Kings and Queens.
I was demoted to a foot soldier.
But still I follow the order. I really wanted to kill the Demon Race and expel them from the Human Continent.
Lofty ambitions, he knows. For someone born a son of a farmer, he has ambitions that rival a King.
AT least, that’s how it starts.
Years passed. And before he knew it had been six years since he first joined the army and there are no signs that they are winning this war.
Six years in the army taught him many things. His friends that he made in the army, the whole lot of them has already died killed by the demon Race.
After many of his friend died during an ambush the second year he serve as the soldiers, he kept his distance from people.
He became a loner. He has no home, no family, no friend, and no lovers. All he could see now was desperation.
The Humans are doomed in this war.
We could not win. Even after putting the coalition Army, the Kingdoms still argue about simple things and petty quarrels.
The lords and nobles, Kings and Queens, are driven by their thirst for minor glories, yet they forgot the true enemy that plagued the realm.
It’s not like the Coalition Army did not win any battles, but Arial knew it does not change the tide of war.
It is time like these that he remembers his father stories. Stories of Old Heroes, story of Great men, and Great Kings and Great Heroes.
There are no great heroes to fight these evil nor there are great kings that helps the people suffering.
They are all busy fighting among themselves, bickering, arguing night and day about titles and pride.
Idiots all of them! There is another point of debate among the people of the Human Continent.
What prompted Azrael, The Dark Prince to invade the Human Continent?
No one knows.
Right now, they are stationed at Zettel Kingdom. Tomorrow they are going to engage battle with the Orchish Division of the Demon Race armies in Zidar, a large city occupied by Gruk Vor, the Orc commander.
Today, the new recruit is choosing their weapons, checking their equipment, says their prayer to whatever God they believe whether it was the God of Light or the Dark God that the Demon worship.
Pray, I say and let see whether those Gods will make your prayer come true. They are all going to die tomorrow.
We’re outnumbered 3 to 1.This war can’t be won. Any chance of victory faded a long time ago.
Six years in the army and seeing so many promising young man, to die horrible deaths in a meaningless war can turn any brave man craven.
The only reason that he is still alive was because he always found some excuse to be stationed in the back if battle is inevitable.
If the frontline soldiers die, he either hid himself, pretend he’s dead or run away. And if the Commander shouts retreat, he follows them silently.
He never got caught, fortunately. He has different plans.
I’m going to sneak out tonight using the old sewage system in this Kingdom. For the past 3 years I was researching old maps and I discovered the sewage system that leads you to the Vern Empire.
Tonight, I will enact my plan when everyone is eating and drinking.SO, that’s how I’m here, in sewage, accompanied with a rotting corpse.
I will survive.
2 days of riding his horse, finally at Vern Empire. But he was greeted with a strange atmosphere.
Where are the people? The bustling markets? It was the strangest scene but there was no one.
Silence. An eerie silence. One of the largest Kingdom in the Human Continent and Arial could not even find one person.
He looked high and low, knocked doors and scream, yet no one responds.
The huge gate is opened but the castle walls showed that there was a great battle a few days before. The traces of battles remain.
But no one is here. Where did they all go?
So, I enter the Kingdom with the horse and started scouring the Kingdom. Half a day I went around shouting and checking the surrounding. No one could be detected.
I thought that by hiding here, I would be safe, but if there’s no one what good will it do? So, instead of wasting my time, I gathered the food and supplies, fruits and meat, barley, peas, beans, apples and grapes, bread, cheese and other variety of supply in this big bag I took from a store.
I also chose the most high quality armor, greaves, boots, helm and armguard from the Armory shop.
I also stock up on health tonic and potions from the apothecary.
The carrot and the vegetables I give to my horse. Considering no one is there, I don’t think they would mind.
Of course, the reason why they disappear should make me worried, but right now I need to take the current problem as my priority.
At first, seeing that the palace is empty I decided to hide in the castle but I thought that would really make me an easy target.
If the Demon Army came here, I guess that’s the first thing they will attack.
So instead, I hide in the Grand Library. With 70 feet tall and width that rivaled the abode of Kings, it will prove hard to find me here.
He will hide here and survive.
It has been 3 years since I lived in the library. Almost all of the Humans Kingdoms have all but fallen. But still not one battalion of Demon Race army came here.
The first year, I almost gone crazy not talking to anyone. There are some nights that I thought someone is talking to me.
Dreams I say.
There are some nights where I would wake up sweating profusely, remembering what I saw in the bedroom of my old home.
Dreams I muttered again. Unfulfilled dreams and broken hopes. As a distraction I began reading the books in the Library.
It’s hilarious. I was never interested in studying not to mention the end of humankind is probably near, yet I spend time reading books and practicing swordplay.
I learned swordplay from many of the Books that are forbidden to read. Forbidden to read means it reserved for Kings and Nobles Lord.
There is also this room that I discovered that hidden behind the Head Librarian room.
In it was full with swordplay technique reserved for the Royalty. It records all the swordplay that the Vern Empire creates, developed or steals.
So, in my state of utter boredness, I learn all of it. It takes me some time but I succeed in learning it.
Of course there is some swordplay that I can’t execute because I lack the internal energy. Internal energy can be cultivated, but usually only nobles kid and the Royalty was taught internal energy since they were little.
Which are why many noble children are stronger and powerful than the rest of the society.
It’s not fair but when has the world ever been fair? Usually they started leaning at the age of 10.
For the swordplay that required me to have strong internal energy, I just memorized it.
Being alone makes me a very diligent man.
I’m already 29 years old. The Human Kingdoms has truly fallen. The Dark Lands have finally succeeded in invading us all.
The last Human Kingdom was Renasia. It falls in 1027 AF. The years that followed was filled with the massacre of human race perpetrated by Azrael.
The one who survived either flee to Ranoa Republic, Vorthy for anyone that is lucky enough or brave enough to sail the Weeping Sea and some went to the Dry Lands living amongst the Anjou Horde.
However Vern Empire still stands. Population: 1.This few years I did not just sit around the library. I did my research.
Finally I know what deterred the Demon Army to come here.
The day I came here, 6 years ago Vern Empire was fighting the Demon Army. Outnumbered and desperate Vern Empire turns to a Forbidden Magic.
It sacrifices everyone including the very citizen of this Kingdom. I confirmed it 2 years ago when I was researching the borders.
I found a weird runic marking that I could not make sense of. It is not in any of the language spoken here.
Not Vernian, not Vorthian neither it’s the True Tongue or the Common Tongue.
The Demon Race fears that the magic is still active. The humans also fear the same thing which is why I have been living peacefully and without interruptions in these past 6 years.
But not for long. Sooner or later they will come. I bet sooner than later. I also learn many new things.
If the rumour can be trusted the reason Azrael invaded the Human Continent was because it is said that the emperor of Vern empire orders assassins to kill his beloved wife, Arianna.
Enraged he rises up his banner and the largest host of Demon Race since the Subjugation lay siege and ravages the Human Continent.
But the most important discoveries that I made was the Library of Levitia. After reading some obscure story about a hidden passage in the Grand Library I use my time to find out whether it was true or not.
Turns out it’s true.
I found the secret door
This library keeps on giving. The library contained his journal, his martial art technique, and his special method of cultivating energy.
The library belongs to the First Great Hero of the Human Continent, Levitia.
The swordplay all required him to have strong internal energy. So he just memorized the technique.
But I learn his meditation technique.
In almost 2 years my internal energy was almost the same level as captain level. If only I learned all of this when I was little, no, even if I learned all of this during my teenage years, I could at last save my parents.
These days, I start thinking like that.
If only. Little did I know my peaceful and idyllic life is about to end.