Chronicles of the Light Warriors: O T H E R W O R L D
by Owen Axel
As told by your friendly Santa, Bahamut
Since the Defiler’s birth this timeline has been forever lost in the void between the universes. The only remnants of the once magnificent world are the four Light Warriors – but they remember nothing of what was. Only I, the steward Bahamut, am left to treasure these faint memories of a world that from your viewpoint has never existed. Therefore my duty must be to tell the story, for nothing ever dies as long as its memory remains...
First, envision what was a peaceful evening. Soft puffs of snow danced in the chilly wind, raining down over the frozen meadow. Not many hours ago there were children playing in the snow, running and laughing; a heart-warming sight. Now it was empty, but for a still figure, sitting aptly on a lonely tree stump. Though dressed in luxurious ceremonial armour, the man made himself a pathetic picture of a knight, as he huddled against the cold, wrapping his embroidered cape tightly around himself.
Unrequited love is perhaps the most painful sorrow a person may endure in their lifetime. The knight would have wept, but his strict upbringing would not allow for it. Instead his grief was slowly being channelled towards anger. The cold pierced through his armour, yet the knight named Garland was burning inside.
Such was the beginning of a dark story, but to do the lost world justice, the eye of the beholder should be sent elsewhere, where true joy was found.
In some worlds the winter solstice that was being celebrated that day is called Christmas. Its intent is to bring joy and merry tidings to all, and to tighten the bonds between friends and relatives. In the royal castle of Cornelia, much merriment was being sought.
Darreth, the newly-elected head of the Pravocan Thieves’ Guild, did find cause for merriment at the party. He had acquired an invitation to the royal festivities through the fruits of his labour. The same could be said for his aristocratic outfit, which was highly different from his regular clothes. The reason for his sudden glee of that moment was that across the ballroom he had just spotted a most attractive young woman. The sight of the cute redhead caused him to forget his show of upper-class dignity for a second, as he spat into his hand and brushed his hair back with it.
“Fair lady,” the thief in gentleman’s clothing bowed. “May I have this dance?”
The young woman extended her hand. She found the dashing youth to appear strangely impudent for an aristocrat, particularly because of how little he tried to disguise that he used the bow as an opportunity to more closely examine her cleavage.
It was irony, of a sort, that this awkward meeting took place. She did not give her dance partner her name that evening, but it would probably not have mattered if she did. Unlike the thief, Alyssa was of upper-class origin. As the youngest of four, her inheritance was inconsequential enough that her father, the lord, felt she could do as she wished with her life, and so did nothing to impede her wish to study the magical arts. Once Alyssa came to be appointed Crystal Bearer, and learned of Darreth’s deception that night, this romantic moment they now shared would be swept from her mind in an instant, leaving her for quite a while with nothing but resentment for the thief.
But for that evening, dancing forever across the candle-lit ballroom, they were happy. And we both know how the story of the tramp and lady must eventually turn out, do we not? How amusing is the whimsical nature of young men and women.
What of the other two? you may wonder. For surely this story must concern them as well, and indeed it does.
Following the winds across the sea, and one could eventually witness how the crystals of snow so beautifully were strewn over the lands of Elfheim. Only once a year, at this time, did the winter roses bloom on the walls of the capital city. No poisonous plants were left to cover the marble fence, for what evil would want harm to befall the kind race of elves?
But the Summer Fortress stood empty this time of year. To find the players of a story as yet untold, you would have to look far to the Northwest, where the cobbled highroad reached its destination at Elfheim Castle. Therein, as in Cornelia, the solstice festivities were well underway.
More concerned with dignity, the high citizens of Elfheim did not dance, but remained seated around the long tables that lined the royal chamber, discussing affairs over such meals as you can only dream of. At the middle of the table sat the kings of the two elven races across from each other. At the Drow king’s right hand sat his son, the crown prince Astos, while at his left sat his grandson Rand. Elven lifespans being as they are, the crown tended to remain a few generations behind the newest one.
Being at the age of twenty-seven placed Rand in the early stages of puberty, by elven standards. Although his duties as an heir to the throne prevented him voicing his grudges, he was at least as irritable then as he is today. He wasn’t quite as happy as Darreth and Alyssa at that moment, because he was still unable to reserve any sufficient amount of patience for these dull political parties. Rand’s moment of happiness transpired was several hours ago, when his father granted him his approval. The approval of his tutor meant that Rand was finally an adept in the arts of black magic, as were taught to all highborn citizens of Xaraphima the Drow city.
“Yes, majesty,” Rand agreed to whatever his grandfather had just said.
Despite his boredom, Rand kept himself amused. If someone were to look underneath the table, they’d see the black mage’s fingers toying with the end of a staff hidden under his chair. Hmmm? Ah, a sexual metaphor, you think? No, I would not put something so crass in one of my stories. Pay attention, now. While around him the great banquet continued, Rand was secretly drawing on the floor with a trail of ash born from magic. He was sort of hoping the girl sitting next to the king of the white elves would notice. She’d been passing him looks all evening.
Out of the four, Rand was the one who had least to recognise in the altered reality. Perhaps it was best that his memories remained locked away. His defeat of the Dark Elf would have been harder if he’d recognised him as his father and teacher.
As for the leader of the four future Light Warriors, to see his part in this story we return to where this story began, to where Garland contemplated his loss.
“Sir Garland?” Owain called to the still figure in the snow.
The young bronze-haired warrior was still dressed in his regular rusty uniform. Due to his loss in the Cornelian Army’s lottery, he’d been stuck with guard duty while the rest of the guard joined in the festivities. He certainly hadn’t expected to find the famous hero of Cornelia brooding in the empty meadow outside the city gates. From what he’d heard all the knights were sent personal invitations to the royal ball, so what on earth was he doing out here?
Garland looked up, as if noticing Owain for the first time. Frost had started to form on his eyebrows and elegant moustache.
“What do you want?” he sneered.
“Uh, n-nothing, sir. Sorry for disturbing you,” Owain apologised nervously, worried that he’d get reprimanded for intruding upon a senior officer’s space.
“No, wait.” Garland brushed the snow out of his hair and stood up, taking a deep breath of fresh air. “Would you join me for a short trip?”
Owain considered his watch duties for only a second. This was, after all, the most famous knight in the world – the man whose deeds of valour were known as far the distant nations of the North. “Certainly, sir!” he responded eagerly.
Garland chuckled at the young soldier’s excitement. He was not yet the monster his destiny would lead him to become.
“Then fetch a pair of good horses from the stables, and return here. I’d like to show you something.”
Owain wasted no time, and soon his thoughts had flown as far from his duty as you can imagine. Fifteen minutes passed before he came back leading two carefully selected steeds. Garland didn’t appear to have moved in the time he was away. He was still watching the sun set between heavy clouds, as if absorbed by the sight. “S-sir?” Owain called, still afraid of disturbing his role model’s thoughts.
Garland turned, smiled, and accepted the reins Owain offered to him. “Excellent choice,” he complimented.
“Thank you, sir.”
Perhaps you’ve guessed where Garland planned to lead the young soldier. Yes, the Temple of Chaos was in this world as it is in ours. A place where darkness is brought to foster – where stories begin, and stories end. The horses Owain had chosen were indeed fine specimens, and on their swift legs it did not take long to carry their riders across the ice-swept Cornelian land to where the temple ruins stood erect.
Garland dismounted and guided his friend to the ominous structure. So great was the soldier’s trust in the hero that only now did he inquire why he’d been led here.
“I like to come here when I want to be alone,” Garland answered. “This place has been empty for hundreds of years. No one knows why it was built, or who built it. All mankind has forgotten about it, yet it still remains. Scars of history so deep man must struggle to forget them, yet they still remain. I...think better when I’m alone here.”
That was the second time he’s said ‘alone’, Owain thought, starting to become very self-conscious that he’d followed the knight here.
“No, don’t worry,” said Garland, placing his hand on Owain’s shoulder in a friendly manner. “I don’t think I want to be alone tonight. Tell me, boy, have you ever been in love?”
“N-no, I don’t think so, sir.”
“You don’t think so,” Garland laughed. “Then, trust me, you haven’t yet.” He looked up at the sky, as the clouds parted to reveal a glowing sea of stars. “They say it’s better to have loved and lost then to never have loved at all.”
“I don’t believe that. But love, however true, can be so terribly cruel. In what hell must soul-mates be parted by the wanton barriers of class? No man can know equal pain, lest the world be flooded by the spawns of darkness, lest the sky be turned to poison, lest the seas be filled with tears...”
Owain didn’t know what to say. He could not know that there was another listening to Garland’s misery.
As the wishes of Good be granted by their fellows on the night of the winter solstice, which in some worlds is called Christmas, so should the wish of a broken man be granted by darkness. A prayer sent to the shadows was not lost, only hidden.
Garland subsided. Now he looked embarrassed for his display in front of the young soldier. Owain was only too happy to leave that dark place behind as he and Garland returned to town. In spite of his previous nervousness, he couldn’t believe that his idol had confided in him, and he too felt joy, of a sort.
Joy for the four, and much merriment to be shared by the children of that beautiful lost world. Many months were yet to pass before the Defiler struck, and this thread of time was torn from the fabric of reality, but that was the Last Christmas they would ever know...