Chapter 244: Day of Rebirth
I stumbled back, barely able to stay on my feet. My breathing quickened to the point that my head spun. Everything was blurred out of focus except for my parents—the one sight that I couldn’t bear to watch.
But my eyes remained glued to their corpses hanging in the air with a black spike jutting through their backs. Their arms and legs hung limply high up in the sky as blood trailed down the spikes that scaled over three stories high, dying them in crimson.
The worst part, though, was the fact that I could see their expressions. Their eyes were wide and bulging, while their mouths hung open. It wasn’t just my parents, it was the king and queen of Sapin as well. They had all been positioned for everyone arriving to clearly see the pain that they had been in before their deaths.
Blood rushed to my head, pounding against my ears, and I felt power leak from my mana core. The primal strength that I knew all too well as the elderwood guardian’s beast will threatened to break free and wreak havoc on the Alacryans here.
Control yourself, Tessia, I begged to myself. It took every ounce of strength left in my body to resist the beast’s tantalizing power.
Despite how everything turned out, my parents took me away believing that they were keeping me safe, and for that very fact alone, I needed to make sure that I didn’t throw their efforts… and lives away in vain.
A sob reached my throat and I couldn’t bear it any longer. Falling to my knees, I wept quietly amidst the crowd, mourning for different reasons. To most of the people here, they cried because their deaths meant that Dicathen had lost. They cried because their deaths meant grim futures filled with hardships and uncertainties.
For me…I cried for my parents—I cried for all of the things I couldn’t do with them, for all of the things I said to them, and all of the things I couldn’t say to them.
“Citizens of Dicathen,” a soft, honeyed voice rang. Despite how loud it had been, the crowd quieted. On the top of a stone pillar that had just been conjured stood a woman donning the gray and red military uniform of Alacrya. Her red hair billowed like a dancing flame as she looked down at us with her hands clasped in front of her.
I found myself waiting for the next words of the female Alacryan, curious as to what she’d say.
The Alacryan spoke again with her alluring voice. “Your kings have passed, your armies are fleeing, and your most powerful warriors are in hiding. The Castle is ours, Xyrus City and Elenoir City…are ours, and now, Etistin City is ours. But do not fret, for we did not come here as pillagers.”
There was a still silence as everyone waited for her next words. Finally she spoke, making a subtle but welcoming gesture with her arms slightly raised.
“We came here as agents of something greater—of someone greater. Mighty asuras, the deities that you have worshipped all this time, thinking—believing—that they are watching over you. Those days are no longer. The alacryans have won this war, not by our own power. We won because our sovereign is no lowly human or elf like the ones you see here.” Her voice quieted, but somehow her words could be heard even more clearly than before. “We won because our sovereign is an asura. Our victory was the will of a deity himself.”
Murmurs could be heard throughout the large crowd, but the Alacryans didn’t stop it. They let the chatter and hesitance amongst the crowd grow until finally the woman on the pedestal let out a sigh.
She only let out a sigh, but I could hear it as if she were next to me in a quiet room.
She used earth magic to raise that stone pillar, and she’s been manipulating sound to spread her voice. How powerful is she? I couldn’t help but doubt what I had learned. In the face of someone capable of not only manipulating multiple elements, but also being a deviant like myself, I began to wonder how many mages as powerful as this person, or even more, existed amongst the Alacryans.
“Your disbelief is reasonable, and what I say or do here will only fan the flames of doubt growing within you. This is nature, and this is why we had to do what we did. Because of stubbornness, because of pride, because of greed, and because of doubt, peace can only be achieved through war,” she said solemnly. “You may feel like prisoners of a defeated country now, but I assure you that as time passes you all will feel like a part of something bigger, a citizen of a godly kingdom.”
“My name is Lyra Dreide. Today, I have stood above you as victor of this war, but I pray that the next time we meet, it will be as equals, and as friends.”
The Alacryan’s words lingered like a sweet candy after medicine. She didn’t just stop there; she then raised the stone pillar even higher and gently pulled the bodies of my parents and the king and queen of Sapin from the black spikes.
After setting them down one by one on the ground, she created a pit around their bodies before conjuring a flame in her hand.
“Our sovereign has decreed today, the twenty-fith sundown of Spring, as the day of rebirth.” In a single motion, she lit the pit on fire.
I pressed my hands over my mouth, physically restraining myself from screaming as I watched the flames burn higher. The thought of not even being able to properly send off my parents clawed at my insides making it harder to control my raging beast will.
“This is not a time for mourning and reflection of the past. Today is the start of a—”
The Alacryan’s speech was cut short.
It was then that I felt the subtle shift in the air.
My hair stood on its end, and I could feel the primal instincts of the elderwood guardian inside me tremble. Every fiber of my body told me I should get out of here.
I watched the bright flames dance in the pit as if mocking me. Rage and indignation bubbled in the pit of my stomach but I knew it was too late.
Biting my lower lip, I took one last look at the Alacryan named Lyra Dreide. I knew she wasn’t the one responsible for those black spikes that had killed Kathyln’s and my parents, but I wouldn’t forget her.
I found the Alacryan talking to a figure that wasn’t there before. With short black hair and a rather thin body frame, I swore I recognized him but he had his back turned toward me. Regardless, my body screamed at me to run away the moment my gaze turned toward the familiar man, and with how much was at stake, I followed my instincts.
Staying low, I weaved through the forlorn crowd, burying my own feelings from getting in my way. Wiping the tears from my face, I headed towards the buildings in the hopes that I’d be able to squeeze through the alleyway to escape.
There were two Alacryan soldiers guarding the path that I had come from. It would’ve been smarter to wait for at least one of them to leave, but behind me, I could feel the threatening presence growing closer.
Barely able to think over the sound of my own heart trying to break out of my ribcage, I ran past the Alacryan guards, blasting both with a gale of wind.
However, unlike the guards I had first met upon arriving through the gate, these Alacryans seemed ready.
The female guard to my right repelled my attack with her own blast of wind while the male guard to my left had managed to anchor himself to the ground, his entire body covered in reptilian scales made of stone.
The earth mage swung his arms, launching a barrage of the stone scales covering his body while the female guard sent a gale of wind from above, pushing me down to my knees.
With no choice and little time, I ignited my beast will and shrouded myself in the protective green aura of the elderwood guardian.
The stone scales were repelled and the wind had become manageable. Conjuring a translucent vine of mana in either direction, I killed the wind mage and injured the earth mage before running off.
Despite my victory, the dread in my heart grew. The threatening presence that made me fear for my life followed behind me like a shadow even as I reached the outskirts of the city. My first plan had been to try and make it back to the gate that I had crossed from, but even from a distance I could already see Alacryans heavily guarding all three gates of Etistin.
“Damn it,” I cursed under my breath. I leaped off from the building I was on top of and made my way towards the southwestern border of Etistin.
The closest city with a teleportation gate was Telmore city, which was just off the western coast. If I could make it there and use the medallion, I could still make it back to the refuge shelter. What worried me, however, was that the Alacryans would expect this.
With that in mind, I didn’t go directly to Telmore, but made my way toward the shore that the last major battle had occurred in. From what I’ve heard, General Varay had managed to build a massive field of ice off of the Etistin bay shore. This was the battle that both General Varay and Arthur had participated in. I wanted to see the spectacle for myself, and hopefully find some help.
After hours of nonstop running with wind magic through hills and dense arrays of trees, the sky had turned a deep orange from the setting sun. I knew I wasn’t too far from the coast, but I needed to rest.
I’ll head to the coast in a few hours and see if there are still any Dicathen soldiers still in the area. I didn’t believe the Alacryan named Lyra. There had to be soldiers on our side still fighting out there.
My mana-enhanced senses picked up on the slightest movement, making me stop mid-step. I knew as soon as I did that, that I had made a mistake. I shouldn’t have made it known that I could sense someone.
“Get on your knees and show your back.” a clear and authoritative voice rang from my right.
I immediately got on my knees and lifted up the bottom of my tunic to reveal my lower and mid-back.
“Clear,” a deep voice grunted from behind me.
Suddenly, a figure walked slowly into my line of sight, her hands held over her head in a sign of peace. She was thin and a head shorter than me, but her weathered face and toned body told me not to judge too quickly. Her expression was knitted into a suspicious scowl as she studied me.
After taking another few steps, she turned around slowly and removed her leather vest and lifted her shirt, revealing a tanned but otherwise clear back without the markings that Alacryan mages had.
She turned back around but kept her distance.
“Nod for yes, shake for no. Are you alone?” she asked quietly, her gaze constantly flitting left and right.
“Okay,” she replied, walking closer and stretching out her hand. “I am—was the head of the third vanguard unit. You can call me Madam Astera. What is your name?”
Looking around uncomfortably, I leaned in close and whispered. “Tessia Eralith.”
Madam Astera, who looked a few years older than my mother, flinched and she looked at me carefully before her eyes widened.
It only took a second for her to regain her composure and send me a nod. “We’ll talk later.”
With a quick gesture of her hand, I could hear several pairs of feet shuffling closer until her entire group joined us.
“We’re going back to our base,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper.
The rest nodded and I found myself trailing right behind Madam Astera.
“Are you all Dicathen soldiers?” I asked, catching up to her.
She nodded in reply, her head constantly moving, watching out for something amiss.
“How many of you are there?” I continued, making sure to keep my voice low.
Madam Astera shot me a cold glance. “You’ll see soon enough, Princess. For now we need to keep moving.”
I bit my lip, frustrated at her lack of proper response. “I’m on my way down to Telmore City. If we can rally up more soldiers from the battle of Etistin bay shore, then I can take—”
“Rally?” Madam Astera cut off, her gaze sharper than a dagger. She let out a sigh and held up a hand above her head.
The other Dicathians around us stopped in their position, most hidden behind trees, some crouched in shrubs and hollow logs.
“Follow me,” she muttered, climbing the steep hill that we had been at the base of.
I followed after her, using the jutting roots and rocks as footholds. Madam Astera got to the top first and I saw her looking out, her expression solemn. Finally reaching the top, my eyes looked up, taking in the sight of the setting sun. It was when my gaze dropped further down that I felt the blood drain from my face. From the twisting knot in my stomach to my trembling knees on the verge of collapsing, my entire body reacted to the sight as a sharp gasp escaped my throat.
Out on the Etistin bay shore, where one of the last large-scale battles had occurred, the icefield that I could only assume had once been white, had been turned into a traumatic scene.
Blood—so much blood—dyed the ice varying shades of red, from light pink, all the way to a deep maroon where I could see scores of corpses. Scattered amidst the field of red were eerily dark flames that looked more like smoke, and the same obsidian spikes that had killed my parents.
“Princess. You asked if we could rally more soldiers…” Madam Astera breathed. “I don’t think there are any more soldiers to rally. At least not here.”