RSS

Category Archives: Ecalai

The Cyess Lord plays a role.

Ice Palace: Echoes of the Past

By Nathan Steen

Edited by Alicia Steen

 

Several hours before nightfall, the Stranger decides it is time to make camp. Once that is done, the Stranger draws his sword and announces that they will begin training immediately. “You will not fare well in these mountains if you neglect to sharpen your skills,” he says. “We will do this every evening for as long as we are here.” Thus, Ecalai’s training begins.

Ecalai had always considered himself proficient with a blade, but he is nothing compared to the Stranger. The Stranger is a master with the sword. Ecalai wonders where he acquired such skill. Also, what is a master swordsman like him doing secluded in the mountains? There are clearly many mysteries surrounding this Stranger that Ecalai shall have to look into. For the moment, however, he requires all his concentration just attempting to hold off the Stranger’s blade.

The training is brutal. The Stranger is an excellent teacher, so much to that he knows exactly how to push Ecalai in the way that will tax his skills and energy to the limit. If this is how every evening training session will go, then Ecalai is in for a world of hurt. It is not all bad, though. Somehow, the Stranger also seems to know when Ecalai needs a break the most, and mercifully lets him catch his breath every now and again. Ecalai certainly appreciates this about him.

Eventually night falls and the Stranger ends the training for the day. He prepares their meal while Ecalai sits and recovers his strength. “You have a rather unique sword fighting style, Ecalai,” the Stranger begins. “I have not met many men that could handle its kind. Where did you learn it?”

“In my home planet of Nagaster,” Ecalai answers.

“I have been here myself. It is quite a ways from Jeshrun. What brought you here?” the Stranger inquires.

“I came to Jeshrun because I heard of the great threat of shadow here. That is really only half the story, though. In truth, I left my home planet many years ago because I felt that I could not stay there any longer. Shadow had invaded and, despite my best efforts, had destroyed over half the planet. There was not anything left for me there.”

“Ah, I see. I sensed you had a history with shadow. Not many have such a first-hand knowledge of it as you do.”

“It was a lot like what happened recently in Dark Moon. Unlike Dark Moon, though no one in Nagaster believed that the shadow was coming. I tried to warn them of the danger, but they would not listen. It was like some sort of nightmare…”

 

Nagaster. Six years prior. Midnight.

All is quiet in the capital city of Nagaster. Not a sound can be heard from the streets that will turn busy com the first rays of dawn. Even the royal palace at the center of the city seems quiet tonight. Only the night watchmen are awake at this hour, as they patrol the streets of the city, its walls, and the palace. Tonight, however, Ecalai is also awake keeping watch over the sleeping city. He isn’t really sure why, but he feels apprehensive of late as if something were approaching.

It isn’t just his own sense of unease that causes Ecalai’s apprehension. Reports had come in from all over the region telling of signs that shadow might have recently crossed over the borders into the kingdom. No one else had taken these reports seriously, save for him. The kingdom and the capital city are thought to be so far away from any hints of civilization and so well protected that shadow would never bother coming here, or, if it did, would never pass the borders undetected. Still, Ecalai is not convinced. Something, he knows what, is not right.

A sudden movement in the city streets catches Ecalai’s eye. Is it just an night watchman on patrol? Ecalai looks again but nothing is there. Had he just imagined it? Maybe he is more tired that he thought.

The Ecalai realizes that he cannot see the lights from the watchtowers by the main gate. It is as if a large black cloud is blocking his view. The cloud has already engulfed the main gate and is moving toward the palace. Ecalai cannot believe his eyes. How had he missed it? He draws his twin blades. Incredibly, shadow is already in the city.

 

Jeshrun. Present. Nightfall.

Ecalai warms his back by the campfire as he sits and stares up at the stars. With a little bit of searching he locates the star around which his home planet of Nagaster orbits. Looking at it like this, it feels so far away and out of reach. “All of those years I spent wandering through magic portals that took me from planet to planet I wondered if there was something I could have done to save Nagaster that day. In hindsight, I probably spent too much time living in the past. I suppose I still do. It is hard to move past it, though, after going through such an experience. Scars left by shadow are hard to forget.”

“You have spent a lot of time living in shadow, my friend,” the Stranger replies. “You have lived with it for so long that you have started to believe the things it has whispered to you in the dark.”

“It is not that simple,” Ecalai retorts. “I have spent my whole life fighting against shadow. I am no stranger to resisting its allure.”

“It is simpler that you think,” responds the Stranger. “Shadow has a much more subtle way of worming itself into you if the direct approach does not work. It starts with a small, unnoticeable whisper and slowly eat away at you until you question your very reason for existing. Being swallowed by shadow in this way is truly one of the most painful for your soul to die long before the body is laid to rest. Men who die in this way will, in the end, become the very shadow they once fought against.”

“You mean it is possible for a man to become shadow?” Ecalai asks, horrified.

“Yes. Anyone who has dwelt in shadow for too long will inevitably become a slave of it.”

“How does one resist such a thing?”

“Only the Ancient of Days can rescue a man or a nation from the darkness. Without Him, men are truly without hope. Hopelessness is in essence what the shadow embodies.”

“I can relate to that.”

 

Nagaster. Six years prior. First hour.

Death, fire, and darkness are all that Ecalai sees. The capital city of Nagaster is burning with flames that will not be quenched. The shadows have come and the city has fallen. There is no more time to think of fleeing – there is nowhere to go and no way out. The city has been surrounded by shadow and, even though wat brief battle there was has long been over, shadows continue to pour into the city. Nothing remains here but death.

Ecalai looks toward the royal palace at the center of the city. All of its banners that normally hang proud and majestic have been slashed diagonally down the center as a symbol of shadow’s conquest. The palace itself, covered completely in shadow, is in ruins with all its splendor gone. It is a fitting image for the destruction of the nation.

Sharp screams and desperate cries fill the city streets all around and echo into the night as if to complete the utter ruin all around. Ecalai knows that there will be no help coming to answer those cries tonight. Any last shred of hope faded when the Nightbringers came to complete the destruction.

No, there will be no hope tonight, nor is there likely to be ever again in the kingdom of Nagaster.

 

Jeshrun. Present.

“I have spent a lot of time fighting shadow here in Jeshrun,” Ecalai continues, “but I was never able to succeed in driving it out. I have been told all my life that the Ancient of Days is the only one that can make the shadows tremble, but I have never truly witnessed this for myself. Tell me, if it is true the He has such power, why does He not give it to those of us who really need it?”

“Unless you are changed from within you will never be able to wield the power of the Ancient of Days. Even more than that, unless you are made new you cannot escape from the shadow. Those who live in this world will forever be trapped by the inevitabilities of the ruler of this world, but those who live for the world to come will never fall into shadow,” answers the Stranger.

“You speak of the world that will come when the Ancient of Days shall eradicate all that is evil from the world, right?”

“Yes.”

“But what do you mean by I need to be ‘changed from within’ or that I need to be ‘made new’?” Ecalai questions. “I have believed in the Ancient of Days and served him all my life. Am I not already changed?”

“Believing in your head and believing in your heart are two different matters. You have called on the Ancient of Days and have pledged your service to Him and that is good. Nevertheless, you must go further. Unless you relinquish all rights to your life and your heart and are made new, the Ancient of Days will not be able to use you.”

“I still do not understand. Have I not already done these things?”

“Consider this. On the day that the Ancient of Days separates what is good from what is evil and destroys all wickedness, will He judge based on appearances or will He judge based on truth? I tell you, He will judge based on the truth of what a man really is and not what he claims to be.

“This is why you must be changed from within and not just on the outside. Men judge based on outward appearances, and by consequence think that outward appearance is all that matters. The Ancient of Days judges on the heart,” the Stranger concludes.

“If this is what it takes to defeat shadow then the world is doomed. Any who meet those standards must surely be a champion among men, and I have not met anyone like that. How can there be enough men in the universe who meet those standards to drive back shadow?” Ecalai asks.

“You would be surprised how many of them there are. You have even met some of them. Even if you cannot see it, the Ancient of Days will always have a remnant who are His champions. Even in the darkest of places the Ancient of Days has champions willing to stand against shadow and rescue the helpless from its grasp.”

Ecalai thinks back to that day in Nagaster. “Now that you mention it I have met someone like that…”

 

Nagaster. Six years prior. Halfway through the second hour.

Ecalai is on his knees looking directly into the merciless eyes of a Nightbringer. Ordinarily he would rise to his feet and fight for his life, or at least attempt to flee and live another day; however, he is completely exhausted and knows he lacks the strength for either. It had taken everything he had to survive to this point, but now all his energy has been spent. There is nothing left now but to accept the inevitable.

The Nightbringer, sensing that Ecalai is incapable of fighting back, inches forward with deliberate slowness as he revels in his apparent victory. It is as if the Nightbringer wants to savor the despair of his victim before dispatching him. “It was pointless to even think of resisting, human,” the Nightbringer taunts. His words and tone of voice sound different from that of a man. It sounds more like the growlings of a beast than that of an intelligent being. The Nightbringer continues, “We are the Nephilim of old. We are the first and the strongest of all the creatures of shadow. No matter what you try, there is no hope for victory against us.” The Nightbringer stops directly in front of Ecalai and raises a massive claw. “Die now in despair, human.”

“That is far enough, Ramuel,” calls a man’s voice from behind Ecalai. “This one you shall not touch.”

The Nightbringer throws his gaze in the direction of the voice. He is clearly very angry at the interruption. “What are you doing here? We have claimed this world as ours. You have no right to interfere!”

“This one is mine,” the man’s voice says, coming closer to Ecalai and the Nightbringer. “You shall not touch him.”

The Nightbringer takes several steps back as the man approaches. Ecalai can see his absolute hatred for this strange man clearly visible in his eyes. There is also something else in the Nightbringer’s gaze – fear.

The man steps in front of Ecalai and looks directly and the Nightbringer. “Go back to the shadow of your own realm,” the man commands. The Nightbringer growls but he cannot resist the authority in the man’s voice. He slinks back into the shadows and is gone.

Ecalai cannot believe what he just saw. Who is this strange man who can command even shadows? Look at the man, Ecalai can see the absolute authority the he holds There is something about this fearless stranger that makes even the shadows tremble.

Turning back to Ecalai, the man says, “Come, let’s get you out of here.”

 

Jeshrun. Present.

Ecalai thinks hard on what the Stranger has said. It does make sense in its own way, but Ecalai knows that it means he has a long way to go before he can become the champion the Ancient of Days has called him to be. He will need a lot more training before he is ready to fight shadow again.

Ecalai sighs as he lays down on his back to gaze up at the stars once more. He wonders where Erianna and Mykai are, and what they are doing. He has not seen them since Dark Moon. They are probably wondering where his is as well. They probably could use his help, but he knows that, at the moment, he is incapable of helping himself, much less anyone else.

His magic still has not returned. Because Mykl used a magic breaking technique in their fight, Ecalai knows that his magic might not ever return. He can still wield a sword, but is not proficient enough to be useful in a fight without his magic. The simple fact is that he is now powerless and helpless on his own.

If the Stranger can indeed show Ecalai his purpose like he said, or at least train Ecalai in the use of the sword, then maybe he could get by well enough to return to Dark Moon and find Erianna and Mykai. It is a long shot but it is all he has. The two would have to be able to survive on their own until then.

“Hang on Erianna and Mykai,” Ecalai whispers to himself. “It may take me a while but I will come find you just like I promised.”

Advertisements
 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 30, 2017 in Ecalai, High Wilderness

 

Ice Palace: The Stranger of the Mountains

By Nathan Steen

Edited by Alicia Steen

 

Far from the western seas of Blue Soul and the bordering shores of Dark Moon, great mountains rise in eastern Jeshrun, separating the cities and strongholds from the frontier lands. The mountains are much more untamed and far more dangerous than the cultivated western lands.

Borders are never permanently fixed here as many of the darker clans of Jeshrun are always competing with the clans loyal to the Ancient of Days, desiring to expand territory and influence. Any traveler who wishes to pass through here must always be on their guard, lest he be caught unawares in an ambush laid by the dark clans.

In spite of the ever-present conflict, there is one place completely avoided by nearly all warring clans. Deep and high within these mountains lies a barren ice-filled wilderness nearly devoid of life. Between the fierce storms that rage and the almost impenetrable landscape, most clans find it easier to avoid the place altogether. All that is known if this desolate country is the name passed down since ancient times: the High Wilderness.

From a distance, all that can be seen of the High Wilderness is the clouds that continuously, or perhaps deliberately, block the mountain peaks from view. According to legend, those clouds hid many secrets left abandoned by the ancient clans of Jeshrun in the tallest peaks of all the land.

Some say these secrets are powerful weapons forged in dragon fire that have been sealed away until the Ancient of Days calls forth those who will wield them. Others say the secrets are the keys to mastering a great ancient magic left behind by the twelve Lords of old. Still others whisper that the secrets reveal a darker mystery behind the dark clans of Jeshrun that must never come to light.

Whatever the truth might be, all the legends agree on one detail: the High Wilderness is guarded by merciless guardians known as clan Twilight. More than the violent storms, they are the reason no one seeks the secrets hidden in the mountains. Even the naysayers who proclaim that clan Twilight either died out centuries ago or never existed, even they will not tread there for fear of them. Thus the High Wilderness remains desolate, and the secrets still a legend.

All this changed, however, the day the legends became real.

 

 

Ecalai stumbles and falls to one knee. He is breathing hard from continuous travel without rest. He cares little about that, though. Ignoring his fatigue, Ecalai picks himself up and continues moving forward. All he wants is just to get away – away from Dark Moon, away from Mykl, away from the Guide, and away from the torment of his failure. In this way he keeps wandering aimlessly as he ventures deeper and deeper into the mountains. Yes, here is where he would rather be. These mountains do not need protection, nor do they demand anything from him. Here there is only silence, cold, and ice… calm, quiet, and deadly ice.

Ecalai wants the silence the mountains have to offer more than anything else. Unfortunately, there is no place he could go nor anything he could do to silence the accusatory voices that plague his thoughts. One sounds like Mykl’s voice still repeating what he had said in Dark Moon, “Everything you have ever done has been for the sake of vengeance. You can no longer see the truth of what you have become.”

Another voice, this one belonging to the Guide, also rails against him, “What a pathetic fool you have become. Did I not warn you this would happen? You are nothing but a hopeless cause. You belong to the Shadow now.”

Ecalai tries to ignore all the voices. He does not wish to hear anything they have to say, but the voices only laugh at his attempts to silence them. Truthfully, Ecalai feels clearly that the voices are right. He tried to save Jeshrun from the Shadow, but he only made the situation worse He failed to kill even a single Nightbringer, and, in a crucial moment, he lost to Mykl. Now he has been forced to abandon Dark Moon as well as leave Erianna and Mykai behind to face the Shadow alone.

He had tried to be the hero, but everything had gone wrong. He has failed completely and utterly.

Suddenly, a new voice, this one not in his thoughts but coming from a person standing behind him, interrupts Ecalai. “It is dangerous to wander alone,” the person says. “These mountains are home to many things that you had best no meet unprepared.”

The voices of accusation immediately go silent. Startled, Ecalai looks behind him and sees a rather peculiar man standing there. He is one of the strangest looking men Ecalai has ever met. His clothes are of a manner Ecalai has never seen before, nor by looking can Ecalai tell where the man is from. He is well equipped for travel in these mountains, and from the look of things he comes here often.

“You appear to be lost. Perhaps I could be of some assistance to you,” the man continues.

“Thank you for the offer,” Ecalai responds, “but I am beyond what aid you may be able to give me.”

“Still,” says the man, “I cannot leave a poor soul like you to wander in these mountains alone. Come, where are you headed? I know these mountains well and can guide you anywhere you wish to go.”

“I do not have a destination. I guess you could say that I am a mere wanderer who has lost his purpose.”

“Would you like to discover your purpose?”

Ecalai is caught off guard by the direct question. “What do you mean? How would you show me my purpose?”

“You are not the first despairing soul to find your way here. Many others just like you have come to these mountains seeking help that they know not where to find. I come offering them help out of their desperate situation. I suppose you could say I am in the business of offering hope to those who have none. However, I can only give my help to those who want it. Tell me, would you like to discover your purpose?”

Ecalai is skeptical of this strange man and the help he offers. “What kind of ‘help’ are you intending to give me?”

“Well, for starters, you are going to freeze to death or worse if you continue to wander these mountains alone. Should you get lost you will find nothing but a most unfortunate death awaiting you. You will need my help if you wish to leave these mountains alive.

“Secondly, you mentioned that you have lost your purpose. That being the case, you will easily be swallowed by the shadow even if you do manage to find your way. If you come with me I may be able to help you with that.”

“That sounds almost too good to be true,” says Ecalai, still skeptical. “No one I have ever met would offer that kind of help for free. What do you want in return?”

“Well, if you insist on repaying me, then you can accompany me on a little errand of mine. Shadows have stirred up dark forces that are active even here in these secluded mountains. For the present, I have been charged with protecting these mountains by hunting down any dark forces that lurk here. An extra hand would always be welcome.”

Ecalai considers ignoring this stranger’s offer to help. It is true, though, that he does not know much about these mountains and that he could easily run into trouble if he were alone. He still does not know what to make of this man, but he is not in the situation or mood to care if the man ends up betraying him. “Well, I guess it couldn’t hurt,” Ecalai shrugs. “Where are we off to?”

“First we must head deeper into the mountains. I have a friend there that we must meet up with,” says the man as he points toward the higher mountain peaks.

“Fine,” Ecalai replies.

“You will be needing this.” The man tosses Ecalai a sheathed sword.

“What is this for?”

“I told you these mountains are dangerous. Seeing as you lack a sword of your own, you can borrow one of mine.”

“If you insist,” Ecalai shrugs again. “By the way, I almost forgot to ask you your name.”

The man smiles. “I have many names, but those who know me around here call me the Stranger.”

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 7, 2017 in Ecalai, High Wilderness

 

Tags: , , ,

Ecalai’s Rebirth: Twilight

By Nathan Steen

Edited by Alicia Steen

 

As Ecalai and the Stranger continue to journey through the mountains, Ecalai discovers just how peculiar a person his partner really is. Apparently the rugged mountain traveler knows quite a lot about swordplay and combat. Every day the Stranger insists on making camp several hours early in order to train Ecalai in the mastery of the weapon.

During the first training session, Ecalai had asked, “What is the point? Shadows do not dwell this deep into the mountains. What could there possibly be to fight here?”

“Trust me, my friend,” the Stranger had replied. “You will need these skills where you are going. There may not be shadows here, but these mountains are dangerous just the same. Much more so than you think.”

Gradually Ecalai started to enjoy these sessions, but he also became increasingly frustrated with his own lack of ability. He was learning to fight entirely without magic, something he had never done, and as a result his strikes were slower and his form less disciplined than he would prefer. The worst part was how acutely he knew it.

“This isn’t going to do me much good,” Ecalai complains at the start of another training session. “Without magic I cannot fight back against another who does use magic, much less be effective on a battlefield. How can I win with only a sword?”

“You win with only a sword because only a sword is all you need,” the Stranger answers. “You have been using magic for so long it is hard to picture fighting without it. Do you see how that limits your ability?”

The Stranger assumes a fighting stance, which Ecalai copies. The Stranger continues, “Think of it this way. Magic is will bring down the sword, yet still the sword is the bane of magic. Strength does not arise from either your sword or your magic; strength comes only from trusting the One who alone is strong.”

“I have tried to be that man before,” Ecalai says, “and I still was not able to stop shadow. I know the Ancient of Days is above all powers that live, but I do not see how His power works in our worlds. Shadow just seems too unbeatable. In the end, how can anyone rise up again after being broken by darkness?”

The Stranger smiles, as if Ecalai hit upon the heart of the matter. He replies, “The Ancient of Days is often closer to the broken than he is to the strong. No man can be truly strong in his own power. To the contrary, only after you are broken do you become strong, and only when you give up your life do you truly live.

“The Ancient of Days can turn the weakest of men into his champion. He chooses to display his power through the lowly and humble. What is often the hardest part is becoming weak so He can make you strong. So often men begin to doubt when they arrive at the darkest hour. If only they would turn to the Ancient of Days in their brokenness he would heal their hurts and make them new.

“Come,” says the Stranger. “Let us begin your training.”

Several weeks pass in this way. Each day Ecalai grows stronger in skill and in knowledge. The Stranger teaches him much about the Ancient of Days that Ecalai has never heard before. Ecalai also learns how to cope without his magic as he adapts his old skills of wilderness survival to his new surroundings. Slowly, Ecalai begins to heal.

Eventually the Stranger leads Ecalai to the heart of the mountains – the true High Wilderness. Standing on a cliff ledge, Ecalai can see the entire landscape. Hidden in the midst of tall snow-capped mountains a lush valley opens up. Looking as if green splits white in two, the wide valley looks a paradise in the midst of inhospitable cold. The sheer beauty takes Ecalai’s breath away.

“Welcome to the heart of the mountains, the High Wilderness of Jeshrun,” the Stranger says. “This is a place few have knowledge of and even fewer have found. It is the home of Jeshrun’s most mysterious clan – the clan Twilight.”

“Clan Twilight?” Ecalai inquires, startled. “I thought they were a dark clan that keeps to themselves. They almost never show themselves to anyone.”

“It is true they have earned a reputation of being rather strong and intense,” the Stranger explains. “It is said that they received the name because their enemies have time only to whisper a single word.

“However, they are not a dark clan. That is a rumor spread by those who have reason to fear them. They are strong because they diligently follow the commands of the Ancient of Days, and they are fierce because know the value of what they have been given to protect. These mountains know no shadows because clan Twilight protects them as they have for ages past. Clan Twilight, along with clans such as Blue Soul and Dark Moon, are the reason shadow does not own Jeshrun.”

“Really?” Ecalai asks, skeptical. “I have not heard any of this in my travels.”

The Stranger nods. “To be fair, clan Twilight does keep to itself more than the other clans. It is not strange to never catch more than a whisper of them even in the Tri-City area. Their isolation has earned them a dark reputation, but that is not the real truth.

“A word of advice, though,” the Stranger adds. “They will not long abide any who believe in the lies and delusions spread by shadow, so do your best not to say anything stupid.”

“I’ll try to keep that in mind,” Ecalai agrees with slight nervousness.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 10, 2016 in Ecalai, Jeshrun

 

Ice Palace: Ecalai’s Rebirth

 

The wind is changing. Things that were and are will be no more. The Sentinels are shifting restlessly; the powers that guide them are awakening in might. Those kingdoms and warriors who arise now will be the leaders of the coming future.

A new age is rising.

The Age of Champions

 

By Nathan Steen

Edited by Alicia Steen

 

Introduction

In the far east of Jeshrun the mountains tower high above the landscape, standing like an impenetrable wall. Any route through these seemingly endless mountains, if indeed it existed at all, has long since passed from common knowledge. As dangerous as these mountains are, few dare to travel far into this natural maze save for one lone figure slowly making his way deeper and deeper into the unknown.

Ecalai stumbles and falls to one knee, but he picks himself up and keeps going. Wandering aimlessly, he is slowly venturing deeper and deeper into the mountains. He hardly cares, however. In fact, he can barely see where he is going. It doesn’t matter much. All he can think about is his failure to stop the shadow and the terror he felt when he saw his skills could never compare with Mykl’s power.

Ecalai had tried so hard to be the champion that the Ancient of Days has called him to be. He had trained so hard to master his magic. He had given all his effort toward making sure he could clearly hear the wind. In the face of overwhelming darkness he stood firm and gave all he had to defend Jeshrun, yet none of it had been enough. In the end nothing he possessed could save him.

Ecalai doesn’t understand it. What had he done wrong?

Ecalai can still hear Mykl’s words in his head. “Everything that you have ever done has been for the sake of vengeance.” Mykl’s voice accuses. “You can to longer see the truth of what you have become.” In his heart, Ecalai knows Mykl was right. Ecalai had thought he had been doing what the Ancient of Days had sent him to do. He had been so sure that the wind led him to do all those things, yet it had all been merely a trick of his own mind. If something that he had believed in whole-heartedly was so completely wrong, what else of what he thought to be true was a lie?

More accusations reverberate in Ecalai’s head. “Now Dark Moon is in ruins and you are partially to blame,” the guide had said. “You could not save Nagaster and you cannot save Jeshrun either.” At the time Ecalai couldn’t think of anything to say in his defense. Even now he still has nothing to say in reply. Maybe the guide was right.

Ecalai continues his aimless wandering up and through rocky passages in this manner even as the day grows old and the miles grow long. He is now far enough into the mountains that he can no longer see Jeshrun behind him. Nor, if he looked, could he see where he came from. In front of him the mountains rise higher and, though he has not begun to notice, the air is becoming colder.

As it begins to grow dark a sudden strange voice out of nowhere interrupts his thoughts. “It is dangerous to wander alone,” the voice says. “These mountains are home to many things you had best no meet unprepared.”

Startled, Ecalai looks up and sees a man standing in front of him. This man is one on the strangest looking men Ecalai had ever met. His clothes are of a manner Ecalai has never seen before, nor by looking at them could Ecalai tell where the man is from. He was well equipped for traveling through the mountains, however, and from the look of things he comes here often.

The man continues. “You appear to be lost. Perhaps I could be of some assistance to you.”

“Thank you for the offer,” Ecalai replies, “but I am beyond what aid you may be able to give me.”

“Still,” the man says again, “I cannot leave a poor soul like you to wander in these mountains alone. Come, where are you headed? I know these mountains well and can take you anywhere you wish to go.”

“I do not have a destination,” is Ecalai’s response. “I suppose you could say that I am looking for something but I don’t know what it might be.”

“Ah I see. You are not the first to come here searching for the unknown. Come, I have some friends who might be able to help you find what it is you are after. It is a bit of a long journey, but it is one that many like you have found well worthwhile.”

Ecalai shrugs. “Well I guess it couldn’t hurt. Tell me, sir, what might your name be?”

The man smiles. “I have many names, but those who know me around here call me the Stranger.”

 

The Stranger leads Ecalai deeper and deeper into the mountains. As they move upward, the temperature continues to drop until snow forms on the peaks above them. Still the Stranger keeps moving deeper into the mountains. Ecalai begins to wonder where they could possibly be going, though he says nothing. Any place is good as long as it isn’t in Jeshrun. Their journey, however, does not pass in silence, as the Stranger is much more talkative than the guide was.

“I have seen many a person come to these mountains for one reason or another, but your circumstances appear to be different from theirs,” the Stranger speaks. “Where have you been and what brings you here to the high wilderness?”

Ecalai, wishing to be left to his own thoughts, is slightly annoyed at the question. He wonders why he accepted help from this man in the first place, when all he really wants is to be left alone. Still, he does manage to reply, “I was in Dark Moon when the shadows attacked. I tried to hold them back, but I failed in the end.”

“I see. I was on a mountain peak when it happened and could just make out the clouds of shadow in the distance. It is a shame that many are so distracted by one thing or another they cannot see the war fought in the world around them. If they would only turn to the Ancient of Days, He would heal their cities and cleanse their lands.”

Dejectedly, Ecalai replies, “I don’t see how that could ever happen. Shadow always seems to win in the end.”

“What?!” exclaims the Stranger with a sudden stop. He turns a stare at Ecalai. “Who told you that?”

“It was a man I traveled with who called himself the Guide. He kept saying such things over and over. I didn’t want to agree with him, but, judging from my own experiences, I haven’t seen anything to suggest otherwise.”

“The Guide you say?” the Stranger muses as he resumes walking. “I have heard of him. I would advise you to be more careful of what company you keep. The Guide has led many a man down the wrong path in his time.”

“You know him? He seemed to be the kind who has few acquaintances and fewer friends,” Ecalai says. He is becoming intrigued with the Stranger.

“Yes, I know him,” the Stranger responds. “He is devious and cunning. He revels most in turning righteous men down the wrong path and tearing them apart until they have nothing left. Far too many have followed him only to find themselves trapped in his web of lies and despair. It would have been wiser for you to not have listened to him or followed his paths and ‘shortcuts’.”

“But what about the things he said? Isn’t he right about shadow?” Ecalai questions. “All my life I have been fighting shadow, and I have seen many other good men dedicated to defeating it, but I have yet to see anyone who was able to achieve a lasting victory. Shadow always comes back.”

The Stranger pauses a moment before answering. “It is true that men with their power alone can never be victorious. If you rely solely on your own strength, you will always fall short. To defeat shadow, you must be made new. You must be, as it were, born again.”

“Born again? What do you mean?”

“Truthfully, I tell you unless one is made new he cannot see the things that the Ancient of Days would have him see. Unless one is born again of the Wind, he cannot enter the kingdom of the Ancient of Days. That which is born of flesh is but flesh, and that which is born of the Wind is also wind.”

“I understand the Wind already. I have felt it. I have heard its call. How can you say I must be born again of the Wind when I already know the Wind?”

“You see but you do not understand. You listen but you have not truly heard. Here is the meaning: the wind that is of the air blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Wind.”

Ecalai pauses as he thinks this over. “You are a curious fellow; you know that?”

The Stranger smiles.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 19, 2016 in Ecalai, Jeshrun

 

Ecalai’s Journey: Broken

By Nathan Steen

Edited by Alicia Steen

Mykl attacks Ecalai furiously. Ecalai has barely the presence of mind to fend him off. He searches for a way out, but Nightbringer block all possible routes of escape. Ecalai is trapped in a circle of death faced with an onslaught he cannot stop.

“How does it feel, Ecalai, to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have utterly failed?” Mykl jeers. “Nothing else remains but for you to fall into shadow. Don’t worry, though. You won’t be alone for long. Soon all Lords of Magic will join you – broken, powerless, and helpless before the eternal night.”

Ecalai’s blades no longer match Mykl’s in brilliance. Mykl’s sword shines powerfully with a dark light while Ecalai’s are but a dim glow. The glow fades with each strike until it vanishes altogether. With his magic gone, Ecalai is left with two sticks of wood. Mykl closes in.

“Now you see what you really are, though far too late. You have nothing left and nowhere to run. Time to put you out of your misery.” Mykl’s sword shines brighter as he assumes a stance that can be used for only one skill. “Magic breaking technique: Shatter!”

As Mykl’s blade screams through the air Ecalai closes his eyes and whispers, “Erianna, Mykai, I’m sorry. It looks like I wasn’t strong enough after all.” Mykl’s blade cuts through not flesh and bone but slashes Ecalai’s magic directly. Instantly Ecalai feels tremendous pain. He collapses, though not physically injured, for nothing is so painful as when one’s magic is completely broken.

“I hope you are satisfied with what you have become, Ecalai,” Mykl speaks as Ecalai writhes on the ground in agony. “I’ll enjoy watching you fall into shadow.” Turning around, Mykl disappears into the darkness. “Come, my shadows We are done here.”

As Mykl’s spell takes full effect, Ecalai fades into unconsciousness.

Ecalai lays unconscious where Mykl left him. All around the hill where they fought are corpses of shadow dragons that once terrorized the skies. Not one had escaped. Myzrath is pleased. Mykl’s power matches his ambition. Even the Nightbringer are afraid of him. He defeated Ecalai with ease, even surpassing Myzrath’s greatest expectations. Mykl will make the perfect servant to rule the shadow in the days soon to come. He is indeed worthy of bearing the power and title of Myzrath.

Ecalai, on the other hand, is still alive but little else. Mykl has broken his magic; Ecalai will never use magic again. When he wakes up Ecalai will no doubt wish Mykl had killed him. That would have served no purpose, however. This way Ecalai will begin to question everything he once believed and, in time, he might fall so far that he could become a servant of shadow just as Mykl had done. Myzrath will enjoy nudging him toward the darkness as Ecalai searches desperately for answers. This battle has clearly been won.

As the sun rises higher, the shadows leave Dark Moon and its devastation behind. Their mission has been completed.

Hours unknown passed before Ecalai woke up. When he did wake the devastation shadow had caused fill his vison. From the look of things not even Fortress Dark Courage has made it through the night. With no word of Erianna and Mykai, and no magic with which to find his way, Ecalai wanders aimlessly away from the scene of his battle with Mykl. His only thought is to get away from Dark Moon and the memories that plague him as quickly as possible. His body aches, but he pushes himself onward regardless.

Eventually Ecalai stops for a breath when he reaches a small village destroyed in the night. The village is completely empty and little is left standing, but Ecalai finds a wall to lean against to rest. He has remarkably few physical injuries, but exhaustion and pain take their toll. As he rests he tries not to think of his failure, but his mind refuses to let it go.

Suddenly an all too familiar voice speaks from behind him.

“Are you so confident now?” The guide speaks softly. “What have you gained from all your effort? What have you accomplished with all your struggling?”

“What do you want,” Ecalai replies.

“I warned you, Ecalai,” the guide continues. “I told you what would happen but you would not listen. Now Dark Moon is in ruins and you are partially to blame. The shadow cannot be fought; all of Jeshrun will fall. You could not save Nagaster, and you can’t save Jeshrun either.”

“So what do you want me to do?” Ecalai shouts back. “I gave everything I had and it wasn’t enough.” Ecalai stands up and moves away. “I can’t stay here. I’ve had enough of you.” Spotting mountains in the far off horizon, Ecalai makes for them at a run.

The guide smiles. “You can’t hide from shadow, Ecalai!” he shouts. “It will find you wherever you run!”

Ecalai never looks back.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on July 29, 2016 in Ecalai, Jeshrun

 

Ecalai’s Journey: Descend

By Nathan Steen

Edited by Alicia Steen

Note: the term ‘Nightbringer’ is used here for both singular and plural references, much like the words ‘cactus’ or ‘sheep’.

 

Ecalai counterattacks with all his fury. By using magic, he increases the speed of his strikes with hopes of throwing Mykl off balance. In addition, he executes one his favorite combinations: cuts and slices designed specifically to overwhelm an opponent. Even so, it is no use. Mykl flawlessly blocks or dodges every strike. Not only does Mykl keep up with the increase in speed, he responds with an even faster series of his own. Ecalai is barely able to hold Mykl back.

“You are pathetic,” Mykl spats. “Even your magic betrays you powerless, but still you are too stubborn to realize it. You can no longer see the truth of what you have become.”

Ecalai continues to focus on fending off Mykl’s blows. He knows he must take this fight to the next level if he is to have any hope of victory. Ecalai activates even more of his magic to speed up his reactions as well as the clang of his blades.

“I am more than what you think I am, just as there is more to the world than what the eye can perceive,” Ecalai responds with vengeance. “Shadow may come and darkness grow, but dawn must also break as surely as the morning sun rises. You may think I am weak, but you don’t know the whole story.” Ecalai uses his increased reaction time to avoid Mykl’s sword, executing a lightning fast slice of his own that will surely take Mykl’s head. There is no possible way Mykl can guard against this strike from his position or even see it coming.

In the last possible moment Mykl’s sword flashes through the air and stops Ecalai’s blow short of its target. Ecalai’s blades freeze. None had ever stopped that attack at that speed.

“Is that the best you can do?” Mykl asks, pulling back. “If you really believed that you would not be as you are now. You are only deceiving yourself if you think that what men like you truly believe could actually be so noble.” Mykl becomes a blur before disappearing into the darkness. Ecalai loses sight of him, but he can still sense Mykl stalking him.

Mykl continues, “You of all people should know that shadow is something you can never escape. No matter where you go it will follow you. It strikes unseen and unexpected.”

Ecalai still can’t catch sight of Mykl. The shadow is hiding him from all Ecalai’s attempts to locate him. Suddenly, Ecalai’s sixth sense warns him of Mykl’s sword coming at him from the left. Ecalai reacts just in time to block what might have been a deathblow. Mykl’s sword vanishes as quickly as it appeared, leaving no time for a counterattack. Another slash comes from Ecalai’s right; then another from above. Ecalai becomes disoriented. How is Mykl able to move around so quickly?

Mykl’s voice continues to taunt from the darkness. “Shadow can even enter your mind and corrupt your thoughts. It will never let you forget the pain you have felt in your life. Even as the years go on shadow will haunt you with all your old scars. Even when you cannot take it anymore it will never relent until it brings you face to face with your pain yet again.”

At last comes a cut that Ecalai cannot block. The wound is shallow, but it burns intensely. Ecalai grunts and drops to one knee. Mykl’s strikes cease but his voice does not. “You know of what I speak. You have spent your entire life running from the horror that you experienced, but you cannot. No matter where you run you are constantly reminded of that which you try hardest to forget but continue to see again and again. You try to pretend you are different from those misguided men whose mistakes allowed and perhaps caused the horror in your life. Yet, after time and time again of being slammed into the ground the realization creeps up that you are exactly like them.”

Ecalai’s pain burns deep, but not from the wound inflicted by Mykl. Mykl’s accusations do not stop. “People like you are the very reason shadow exists. You can try to escape from its grasp, but it will always stay with you. No matter where you run you will never get away.”

“Enough!” Ecalai shouts. He stands to his feet. “Your accusations are but baseless deceptions! I am done listening to your lies. You’ll have to find something stronger than mere shadow if you want to get inside my head. Darkness is not the greatest power in this world and I plan to prove it by putting an end to your schemes.”

A sinister laugh echoes from the surrounding darkness. “Shadow does not lie, Ecalai. It can see everything that you are, even that which you do not know yourself. Your fate has already been decided and nothing you do can change it. By rights you belong to the darkness.”

“You are wrong, Mykl. I will never let that happen. I am protected by the power of the Ancient of Days.”

Silence rings in the shadows around Ecalai. An uncomfortable stillness fills the air. Slowly, a bone chilling sound starts softly then grows to fill every corner of the darkness. It is a hideous laughter, though it comes not from Mykl, and it causes a tinge of fear to grow in Ecalai’s mind. This is the sound of the Nightbringer, and more than one.

“Do you think that will save you?” a Nightbringer taunts in his laughter.

“Why would he care for a fool like you who walked deliberately into the shadow?”

“You came here for revenge in spite of his warnings.”

Ecalai stutters in an attempt to answer, but his growing fear silences his tongue.

“You know it to be true,” the Nightbringer continue. One massive form emerges slowly from the shadows.

“You left the wind far behind you at Dragon Mountain and have been wandering blindly ever since.”

“Thanks to your own foolishness you are far beyond any protection his flame may once have provided.”

A second Nightbringer emerges from the blackness. “You are alone, hero, and all that is left to you is shadow. Did you think that because you can fight off the dark you could defeat it?”

“Little do you realize that the shadow is far more than mist alone. Your imagination fails to even comprehend, mortal, the true shadow. It is an all-consuming darkness and we are its rulers.”

A third Nightbringer emerges behind Ecalai. Still laughing, it speaks. “Yes, you may pretend you can somehow fight the shadow, but it is far too late in time for that. Shadow has already won this world.”

“All that remains is to clean up the few misguided ‘heroes’ such as you.”

More Nightbringer step from the darkness. They all seem to laughing as they close in on their chosen prey. It is Mykl who silences them with a raised fist as he too steps forth. “Do you see it now?” Mykl asks. “You have already lost. By the authority of the Contract that governs reality darkness has laid claim to this world. The sons of darkness, the immortal race that has haunted this world since time began, will rise and rule all. Your fate will be worse, as I will make certain that all you think you are is stripped from you. Then shall you finally understand what it is to face Myzrath.”

Only one thought rings through Ecalai’s mind. He has tried to hold it back but without success. He cannot mask the one emotion he has now felt for the second time in his life: terror.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 24, 2016 in Ecalai

 

Tags: , , ,

Ecalai’s Journey

By Nathan Steen, Edited by Alicia Steen

 

Ecalai. Dark Moon, Jeshrun. Year After Shadow Two Thousand One Hundred. First Rise.

In the darkness where no eyes could see the Lord of Shadow beholds the battlefield of northern Dark Moon that is spread out before him. With a gloating smile Myzrath, for that is his name, revels at each strike the shadow creatures make as they press into Fortress Dark Courage. Of particular interest, however, is two men fighting on a hill some distance away. These humans, Ecalai and Mykl, are at the heart of the hurricane of clouded shadow covering the battlefield and with good reason. These men represent the heart of the conflict taking place here between dawn and shadow.

On one hand is Ecalai, the Cyess Lord. His magic blades are glowing hot and white from his intensity. His outright rage toward shadow is clearly expressed as he fights. He is like a champion of all the noble things men who dwell in the light hope to one day achieve. Yet even he, like the rest of them, is but a fool with a hopeless dream. For all their ambitions, humans like him are so small and easily manipulated. Ecalai is staring his own demise in the face, but will not know it until far too late. In his blindness he can’t even glimpse the Nephilim as they stalk him unnoticed in the thickening clouds of shadow around him.

On the other hand is Mykl, prince of Gathyra. He holds a presence like none other. He has even slain Lord Dragon and taken his power and position and the Commander of Shadow. Such are his abilities that he has already earned the right, and would soon claim, the title of Myzrath, along with all the power that comes with it. Myzrath smiles. The Ancient of Days had meant for Mykl to become one of the greatest warriors of the dawn, but Myzrath will turn him into one of the most feared servants of darkness the universe will ever know. Even the legends of Lord Dragon will pale in comparison to what Mykl will become.

The land trembles as the two warriors clash. Even the thunder is quiet when compared to the crashing blades of these two champions. Such is the power of their battle that even the creatures of shadow are careful to remain well clear of them. In the distance, however, unseen in the thickening shadow, Nephilim are gathering. Soon Mykl will call them forth and the trap around Ecalai will snap shut. The poor fool will never know what hit him.

Lightning flashes, and for an instant the sky is illuminated as bright as day. But Myzrath is no longer there to be seen. Concealed by darkness, he spreads his angelic wings and soars into the sky.

 

Growing darkness, thickening shadow, and clashing blades create the backdrop where Ecalai and Mykl fight as bitter enemies. It remains to be seen yet who will gain control of the battle, and thus whether dawn or shadow will prevail. Ecalai’s magic blades shine brightly in an attempt to cut through shadow. Mykl’s sword casts a dark light in answer. Neither of the combatants show any willingness to give up the fight, but as time passes fatigue begins to wear on Ecalai first.

“Don’t you see how futile your efforts are?” Mykl asks as Ecalai disengages from their clash to grab a moment’s breath. “Look at you. Your strength is leaving you with each passing second. If you are barely surviving now, how do you hope to stand against that which is still to come?”

Ecalai glares at Mykl but says nothing.

“I can see through your thoughts,” Mykl continues. “Your anger is all that is keeping you going, but it also blinds you to the inescapable reality of your own weakness.”

“You don’t know anything about me!” Ecalai at last responds. “You didn’t live what I lived. You have no right to say anything!”

“Ah yes, the incident at Nagaster. I can see how in your mind and memories you have used that excuse over and over again to justify yourself,” Mykl accuses. “As long as you are the victim any of your actions and motives are justified, correct? Too bad. The shadow finds you guilty just the same. Lie to yourself all you want, but you can’t escape the truth that all you have ever done has been for the sake of vengeance. Why else would you be here?”

“But that’s not… I couldn’t have…”

“You know I am right. I can see everything. Even now you doubt yourself.”

Ecalai pulls himself together. “You think I am going to believe you that easily?” he says while once again raising his blades. “Well, if you want to argue the point, then prove it!”

“So be it,” Mykl responds as he renews his attack on Ecalai. Mykl’s black sword pulses with energy, while the light in Ecalai’s blades begins to dim ever slightly.

Myzrath smiles as he looks down on the battlefield. Ecalai is beginning to falter. Already the doubts in his mind weaken in concentration and consequently affect his magic. Mykl is doing well. Soon Ecalai will fall into his trap and then the shadow’s work here will be complete.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 16, 2016 in Dark Moon, Ecalai