PAST AND PRESENT
In the past years, the village has grow exponentially. Alixia sprints around the village, the few houses become dozens, and the small population extends to hundreds. She runs around desperately looking for the house of an old acquaintance while, at the same time trying to avoid the multitude of town guards.
When she was younger, her family used to travel to the bridge village. During their visit, the people used to host a great party for them, with a delicious feast and haronious music. The kingdoms of Silverward and Calardir were allies for hundreds of years until the destruction of their cities by the wicked emperor.
Alixia remembers that on one of those trips, a poisonous river snake bit her while she was swimming, causing her to suffer a tremendous fever and pain. Queen Aquamarine tried to heal her with her famous healing spells, but for some reason, her magic wouldn’t work on Alixia.
The entire town, including her parents and brothers, could only watch the young princess suffer, as no one could do anything. Alixia was dying…
From the crowd, an old lady, humble in appearance, walked slowly towards Alixia. The woman’s hair was very long and opaque. Her eyes were green and bright, but the most distinctive characteristic about her were the subtle green marks all over her pale skin. “The witch,” a man said, looking with both respect and fear towards the old lady.
“Stop,” the queen said. “I won’t allow you to do any kind of witchcraft to my daughter. Her life won’t be tormented by demons or curses…”
“Don’t be foolish my queen,” the witch said. “This is no witchcraft or curse; you should be able to recognize the magic of your own people when you see it.” For some reason, the queen felt relief in seeing the old lady and allowed her to see Alixia. The witch took a glass bottle, which was filled with a mysterious greenish liquid. After drinking it, the princess’s fever went down and after a few seconds, Alixia woke up without even feeling pain from where she was bitten. The queen hugged Alixia and, crying, she thanked the old woman.
“This belongs to her,” the witch said, placing a dusty stone on the young princess´s hand. The stone cracked, showing a bright crystal inside of it. Queen Aquamarine remained in silence as the witch went back into the crowd, disappearing from their lives as swiftly as she had appeared.
Alixia was told what had happened to her, and since that moment, she always admired the impressive healing abilities of that mysterious woman. Alixia hopes the witch can help Arkael, whose wounds are too severe for her to handle.
Meanwhile, Damian struggles and crawls to reach the city before the dark knights that waged war upon his kingdom could threaten the princess’s life. “Come on, Damian. You didn't spend ten years of your life training in the castle barracks to let this happen,” he says to himself.
His body is trained to withstand the fiercest battles, but the hit he had received from the swamp monster leaves him with an empty feeling, as if the monster had absorbed part of him, a feeling that hasn't left him since he woke up.
“Sir!” a voice says from behind. Damian turns, waiting for the worst. “A group of those dark knights? Mercenaries? Or maybe bandits?” he thinks.
But he only finds a farmer and his son. Damian feels a wondrous relief. “Sir, you look very injured. Son, give him some water.” The child draws closer to Damian, looking with fear towards the warrior. The hundreds of scars on his arms scare the little boy. Damian drinks the water desperately, and immediately explains his situation to the farmer, who offers him their horse to borrow. With his renewed spirit, Damian forgets his fatigue and rides out of the main road and through the forest to avoid the cavalry of black knights.
A guard in the east tower of the bridge gate manages to see Damian and alerts the mounted guards to intercept him. “Stop right there, stranger!” The captain of the guard says, threatening him with his sword. Damian warns the guards about the imminent attack, explaining that the princess may be in their town and he must hurry to search for her. “Where’s your armor or badge, soldier? If your story is true, you should have something to recognize you by as the guardian of the princess. Also, the black knights won’t dare to come any closer, because we, the knights of Calardir, are protecting this town”.
“Those bastards will be here in any moment. And I must protect my princess! Step aside, Captain” Damian answers, but the captain doesn't believe him and tries to arrest him. Damian fights back, easily knocking down the captain to the roadside.
“Fire at will!” the captain yells, and, from the towers, arrows whiz towards Damian. He quickly avoids almost all of the arrows except for one, which grazes his arm.
Before a second wave of arrows could be fired, a storm is heard rampaging from the forests through the gates of the town. It is the sound of the black knights that Damian warned about. One of them, wearing a different helm from the rest with two great spiraling horns and spikes on his shoulder pads, stands in front of the invader forces and gives them their final orders. “Remember, we've come to search for the priests of this town, along with any magic wielder. If the people give them to us, we may leave the rest of the people alive.”
The guards gather around the knights. “You’re not welcome here; this town belongs to the free kingdom of Calardir!” a guard says. The horned dark knight laughs, and points to the guard. A rain of spears, burning with blue fire, pierces through the armor of the guards, killing them. “I suppose you’re new in town, puny human. This town belongs to the emperor!” Damian and the captain remain silent behind the invaders, hoping to get by unnoticed. Quietly, they manage to hide behind some bushes. The cavalry goes into the city, brutally killing every person they find. Damian takes the captain’s sword and runs to the town.
“Son, I’m sorry,” the captain says.
Damian stops, and calmly, trying to hide his rage, he says, “It is too late to be sorry. Take a sword and help me find my princess” and keeps running.
In another part of the town, the injured dragonute hears screams and riots. Next to him, a very young lady, with green eyes and hair tries to help him stand. She wears a white dress with colorful ornaments and a beautiful jade necklace. “I can help you, please, come with me,” she says to Arkael, who rejects her help and tries to stand up by himself.
“Why do you want to help me?” Arkael asks, his throat burned and severe injuries bleeding,from his battle against the hydraroot. The girl explains that every now and then, the black knights travel to the bridge searching for mages, sorcerers and priests because the emperor forbids the use of any kind of magic arts, possibly fearing a revolt against his dictatorship.
Most of the mages decided to fight against oppression, but the knights were almost immune to their spells and defeated them easily. The people protected the few priests who didn't choose to fight, and most of them still remain hidden among the common villagers.
One day, the knights came back, but with a new tool, strange spheres impregnated with profane witchcraft, the same curse that once was used to hunt the elven wizard order of Silverward. These spheres only shine in the presence of potent magic energies, like those in the souls of mages and priests, or magical creatures like some dragons. The invaders killed not only their targets, but also the people who tried to protect them.
“I've been trying to protect these people, healing the wounded and sick, but I must leave, or they will kill them all,” the girl says with tears in her eyes and anger on her face. Arkael still doesn't understand why she wants to help him, so he asks her again, but his wounds cause him to collapse. The girl grabs him from one arm and helps him to maintain the balance. “I know what you are. You’re part dragon, part human, strong enough to stop those knights. I don’t know how you got hurt this badly, but I’m sure that I can heal you!” she replied.
“Sure, I’ll help you, but… she’s still out there… I must find her…” Arkael says. The girl agrees to search for person Arkael is looking for, but first helps Arkael to get into a nearby house made of stone and oak. Inside, Arkael recognizes the smell of various exotic plants which his father used to bring home when he was a kid. After his eyes get used to the dark, he manages to see them, all of different colors and shapes growing along the tall walls, and strange fruits hanging from the frames of doors and windows. It is surely the house of a witch or alchemist. The girl sits Arkael in an old chair next to a dusty table, covered with dozens of paper sheets, some glass containers, and bottles of different kinds.
The girl tells Arkael “I’ll be back as soon as I find your friend, try to not move, and don’t make any noise, or they’ll find you. By the way, my name is Elori Sol.” Arkael introduces himself, too. He tells her that the girl she’s looking for wears a brown hood, black pants, and a violet blouse and her name is Alixia.
Elori tells Arkael not to worry, and she leaves. Arkael can smell the odor of blood and death from afar even inside the house. In the town’s plaza, the Knights are already beginning the massacre.
“Behold! The orb of hunting shines! Bring them to us, the wizards, mages, priests, and sorcerers!” The horned knight commands.
The people panic and offer the knights the few gold and treasures they have, but the knights refuse. “We are not here for treasure, but for the lives of those who stand against the emperor!”
The princess hears everything from a nearby alley. “They wear the same armor! I've only seen that armor once, before. That means the dragon must be near here!” she realizes “I must find the witch to heal Arkael! If not, I won’t have a chance of surviving this onslaught.”