Month of Orti, Fourth week, 4103 GS - Town of Dowee in the nation of Rustaria.
"Thank you again," Theodor said as he grabbed the bread off the tray the servant brought into their room. "Is Tina alright?" He asked as he turned to look at the tall man.
"She has the week off, I hope it won't be a problem." The servant replied. "Is there anything else you might need?"
"No, you may leave." The servant, Theodor should have probably gotten his name, bowed then turned around fairly quickly. It wasn't a few seconds before he left the room behind.
"See here, it speaks of a great shadow that grew across the land. Covering the world in red." The focused voice of his wife said to him. Her green hair gently rustled in the small breeze off the fireplace. "Again we see this red shadow."
"But that could mean a number of things. A war so terrible the ground was soaked in blood. Or maybe it has to do with Skarr. Something happens and it extends a red shadow changing the land. These writers, they tell of tales long past." Theodor sighed in frustration and brought another sliver of bread to his mouth. He glanced over at the stack of books he and his wife have been going over from his latest trip to the library. "I would kill for a first-hand account, or even a third hand at this point. All these books come from a time at least a millennia past the event."
"Isn't that the job of the Tior, to seek the truth throughout history?" His wife asked as she picked up another book. Her tone was soft, but he could hear the mocking humor in it. Being married as long as they have, caused one to begin to understand the other at even the most subtle of levels.
"Don't get me wrong, I love the challenge." Theodor retorted, his face became a bit downcast. He started to pace before he spoke again "If I didn't have the threat of the impending chaos, I would be in paradise. I mean look here," Theodor paused and took in a calming breath before he read, "'And the folk had many tales of the Kavikk, the shadows, taking the scourge of the earth and adding them to their number. Further study revealed that these tales grew stronger the deeper one progressed in the continent of Hugora.' It is passages like this scare me the most. If these shadows could take people, consume them. I fear even more for our children."
Theodor looked at his wife and her soft face soothed some of is frustration. "I understand hun, but if we let ourselves get consumed with fear, how can we think clearly." Her hand flipped the page as she turned her head back down. "Wasn't it some great general somewhere that spoke on that. 'Men, though fate may call for us to die this day, let not fear creep into our blade. Is it not better to die, then it is to become a man cowering in fear! So let us fight this day with courage, acknowledging our fear, and moving on. Is it not our country, our cities, and our families we fight for! For them men, we shall die if we must!'" As his wife spoke those words, a deep shame fell onto Theodor.
"That speech, was it not before the loss of Laferin?" Theodor's words were solemn. His mind shuddered at the vision these words brought forth.
"It was, but if I know my history correct. That army held against ten times their number for weeks. Finally retreating to the highlands around the shallow peaks. A month later they led the army that was chasing them into an ambush. That ambush ended up winning the war for his side." His wife's words sent a rush of sensations across his body, Joy, pride, guilt, and regret.
"Even still, that day…" Theodor paused for a few seconds. The room fell deftly quiet at that moment. "Anyway, we are still no closer to finding a way to fight this impending chaos. I am not sure we will be given another year. Ten might not even be enough" Theodor said his voice a deadly calm. "The more I find out, the less I know." He said as he gently placed down the book. "Shadows, red, plagues, taken, eaten!" Each word a weight unto themselves.
Theodor stopped his movement, stopped his thoughts and turned to his wife. "The fifth sign has come to pass, far quicker than we ever expected." He looked into his wife's eyes as he spoke the next words with finality. "It's time." He could see his wife trying to object, to speak. The silence that followed his tone taking any words from her lips. Her face grew solemn. "You need to take the kids and head out. I will continue to look for a way, but it is too dangerous for you and the kids. From the fragmented information we have learned, this continent is going to take the brunt of it. I can't risk you three any longer."
He turned towards the wall, towards his kids. He didn't want to see the look in his wife's eyes anymore. The decision already felt like a dagger to his heart and her look would twist the dagger all that much more. "I will send Randy with you, I am more than certain he will be willing to help you. I need to stay behind, to see what information I can find. To help where I can."
Theodor felt the room go cold as if the silence fed off the heat around him. Theodor's head still stared at the wall. He wasn't sure what to say next. He wasn't sure he could even speak at the moment.
"Alright," His wife spoke softly, the sound of a book closing followed. "We will leave in the morning. Just promise me you will contact me as soon as something happens." Theodor held back tears as he heard her tone. She wasn't angry or even frustrated. She was concerned about him.
He risked a glance at her and saw her looking at a map. He could still see the pain in her motions and it tore at his heart. "We will catch the ferry to the Ima islands. From there we will look for passage to the Nikloran continent." After a long pause, she stood and looked towards him. "I will go get the kids packed." She walked to the door and Theodor steeled his heart. He had made his choice and he would stick to it.
"Theodor, I love you. I always will." With those words, she closed the door to his room. He could hold the tears back no more. They fell as the darkness of night filled the room. The fire died and Theodor just stood there unaware. A single question battered against his mind. Was there a better way?
Theodore opened his eyes once again, the nightmares taking all sleep from him. He glanced out of the window and took in the night sky with a sigh. The absence of sun and stars took all notion of time's passing. He sat up and looked across at the other bed, at Randy asleep within. The question about when he came into the room crossed his mind for a short second before it wandered back to his nightmares.
In each one, he saw different pain befalling his family. In one a shadow consumed him and his wife. They then became a part of the shadow chasing after their kids. In others he fought in an army, massive red beasts attacking him and his men. Finally, this last one was of a sickness that dissolved men and beast into a blood-like shadowy substance.
Theodor's breathing was heavy and his body was covered in sweat. He knew his sleep this night, no for the next few weeks would be just as troubling and useless. He kicked off his covers and stood to get himself some clothes. If he couldn't sleep he could at least get some more studying done this night. Perhaps he should call up some refreshments as well considering the tray held little more than a chunk of cheese.
He stepped out into the balcony and let the night air chill his bones. He took in the Skaar covered sky in wonder. What he saw could only be described as countless gems dancing across the heavens. The quiet gentle dance soothed the storm deep inside of him little by little. Even through all his fear and turmoil, he still knew he made the best choice he could for his family. The shadow would hit, and soon. This world would no longer be a peaceful place.
He looked back at Randy asleep on his bed and thought back to that day. The ambush, the death, and the celebration. Finally, as if the heavens themselves cheered, there was the pillar of light that shot up into the sky. It was breathtaking even in his memories. Only later would he learn its name, the Sura, and the chaos it predated.
A distance off he saw some shadows dancing by firelight. The images of the Sura in his memories overlapped with the faint wafts of orange. The fire mesmerized and enticed his tired mind. It called out to his soul somehow. Then, out of nowhere, a flash of strength hit his mind. That fire is too far away to be seen so clearly. No, that fire is huge. He knew then that the town was on fire, and soon it would spread. He needed to get his family far from that danger.
With quick determination, he turned to get randy out of his bed. He paused as he processed a faint light that wafted into his hallway. His mind, now awake from fear, had a flash of understanding. The fire was the last of his worries. In a few quick and gentle steps he closed the distance to the closet. A familiar weight fell into his hand. The weight of death. A groan seeped from behind the closed door.
Theodor pulled out a blade from through the door. His mind had acted without much thought. Years of battle and of dealing with assassins taught him much. The sight of the blade brought back many memories, many hardships, and many struggles. Right now, none of that mattered. Someone is trying to kill him and his family.
He tilted his blade down to his side as he prepared to open the door. Unsure of how many assailants would be in the return closet. He turned the handle and the door forced its way open, two dead bodies slammed to the ground. The sound echoed in the tiny room. "Randy to arms, we're under assault!" Theodor yelled as all hope of subtlety was now lost. He sliced across the runic circuit with his blade before he closed the now empty closet. Behind him, he could hear the subtle rustling of Randy.
With a glance he saw Randy up, undressed, and a candelabra in his hands. It was a decorative piece and would be rather flimsy due to this place being fully Draw powered. "Sir!" He said his stance ready for battle. Randy's eyes drifted to the sword than to the floor and nodded. "How many?" His question was low, his face alert. It was clear he was used to these kinds of situations.
"I don't know," Theodor answered. "Take Tate and get him to the docks. I will go check on my wife and daughter." Theodor said as his voice demanded obedience. Randy headed toward the young boy asleep on the ground, bedroll laid out. "And Randy." Randy turned back to Theodor, the youth in his arms. "Protect them!" From the nod and glint in his eyes, Theodor knew Randy understood what he meant. The bit that wasn't said. If I die, watch over them.
His hand grabbed a key to his wife's room as he bolted into the hallway. It was dark, darker than it should be. The Draw lamps that were always on, were now off. He let out a slow breath and called for a familiar weight. The armor fell with a comfortable feeling as he took a step. Theodor felt a nostalgia, a warmth of his many battles as the Blood General. With care, he placed the key onto his wife's door.
He thanked whatever god that watched over him as he saw the closet door begin to open. He locked eyes with the first man to step out. Their entire body covered with a dark cloth. A swift movement and his blade was slicing through the air. A blade formed in his foe's hand the instant before he would have made his cut. Theodor cursed inside his mind. Binders! The blades crashed into each other, a metallic ring echoed through the dark hallway. Who was Theodor fighting that had access to a binder?
The corridor lit up from the flashes let off by the protective runes on both blades. Theodor's left hand left his blade and stabbed forward acting almost on instinct. The other assailant was caught unprepared as he stepped out of the closet. Another blade formed in Theodor's hand and imparted itself into the second man's heart. The man looked down at the blade that seemed as if it was always in his heart.
The next instant the blade was gone as if it never was. Blood oozed from the cut. The man fell backward. The other assailant kicked, undaunted by the death of his ally. A metal clash is heard as Theodor's left hand caught the kick. His gauntlet absorbed most of the force. His body moved even as Theodor thought about what to do next. His left hand pulled back and forced the assailant off balance. His right hand swept and drew the blade across his foe's throat. This one fell onto the other with blood flowing out.
Theodor looked up to see his wife standing with her hands over her mouth. "Take Maya and run!" he shouted. He turned to look down the hall. The runes on his helm amplified the little light there was. An assailant dropped from the ceiling above him and slammed a metal weapon against his helm. Theodor stumbled back for an instant before reflex steadied his footing and pushed his sword up, blocking the assailants next attack. His body moved as Theodor took in the information he could. There were at least ten if not twenty cloaked assailants in the hallway.
Another parry and his body acted. He punched with his off hand, the full force of the runic armor behind it. A grunt is heard as the man flew into his fellows. His chest cracking under the pressure of the blow. It has been years since Theodor donned this armor. Years since he acknowledged his binding abilities. A strength he had long since ran from. A strength useful for only the shedding of blood. Right now, he was thankful to whatever god there was that he had these skills. Because of these, his family would be protected.
Theodor parried again as he backed into the doorway to his wife's room. At least this small entryway would allow him to fight only one or two at a time. He could easily hold these guys off long enough for his wife and daughter to escape. Once they left he wouldn't be far behind them.
Theodor stumbled as the wall behind him exploded with fire. He acted quick and turned to slam into the man who was now walking through the opening. Years of battle drove Theodor's movements. His blade flew and sliced right through the neck of the one he colided with. Unfortunately, he lost his superior position as he now had to fight in an open room with two beds.
Still, Theodor fought on, dancing in an out of the fray. He killed four more of the assailants but they just kept coming. The armor was getting heavier and heavier with each moment that passed. He stepped in and punched the shoulder of the next assailant as he pondered the issue. He has gone far harder and longer in the past, he should not be feeling this empty. Yet with each moment, his draw was bottoming out. Could it be all these years of inactivity have weakened is Draw capacity?
Theodor moved his left arm such that his forebrace caused a glancing blow from another sword. He didn't have time for these thoughts in the middle of this battle. He needed to last long enough for his family to escape. With renewed determination, his blade pierced through the foe before him. In the small lull of battle, he turned his head towards his family. Their eyes met and the panic in their faces imprinted on Theodor's mind. It was then he knew he had to hold this mob here. An uncontrolled roar erupted from Theodor's mouth. He turned his back to his family, the endless legion before him. He knew he was going to die this night. Yet, a smile fell upon his face.
And it is here we see the last of Theodor, for now at least. It is a bit sad as I grew to like this man.
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