Legends of Lethurea: The Chosen: Teaser

This is a teaser of the First Scene from First Chapter of my Book.

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Chapter I

Night was settling on the Western Hemisphere of the small planet Uublai. A massive ocean separated Uublai’s northern and southern supercontinents. This body of water was known as the Tesparin Ocean. Immense blue jungles covered the Northern and the Southern Continent from the coastline to the poles. Consistent blistering temperatures along the equator fed the continents with high levels of rain and tropical temperatures into the poles. On the northern continent rested flat tropical plains. Fields full of crops went as far as the eye could see. Docile beasts grazed in the endless pastures. Giant Orchards produced every species of fruit. An immense grid of train tracks covered the fields, which were used to transport many products and workers. These tracks covered the entire continent. To the far north of the Northern Continent was a jagged mountain range. This mountain range created a nearly impassible ring known as the Polar Crown. No one can pass by standard method.

The vegetation here consisted of evergreens and conifers. Strange one-hundred-foot-high archways of ancient craftwork jutted out of the land. Mile wide circles surround them, devoid of vegetation. These were Kroetar. There were nine Kroetar on the planet. One for the Polar Crown, four on the Northern Continent, and four on the Southern Continent. One for each cardinal direction.

Many miles south of the Polar Crown, bio-luminescent insects emerged and flitted around a clearing. Luminescent fungi lit the jungle environment in a pale blue light. Nocturnal beasts had woken up and were foraging for food. The calm of the idyllic, almost surreal scene broke with sudden fear.

The wind shifted, bringing the scent of a master predator. Members of the herd had been claimed many times. The predator’s abilities were sharp, perfected, and in all cases, deadly. The herd ran, fearing another attack. A faint shadow dropped from the canopy upon an elderly beast. There was a sudden crack and then silence. A male Vamperein’s figure loomed over the corpse of its victim. He knelt next to his catch. He pulled its broken neck to his mouth. Long pearly white fangs punctured its arteries. He drained his fill, letting the body fall from his hands.

He wiped away a small amount of blood from his mouth. As he stood, a twinge of pity filled his heart. The wild and predatory delirium left him. Blood filled his system. His soft, deep voice emitted a whisper. The carcass ignited with bright blue plasma. The Vamperein stepped back and gave reverence for the beast’s sacrifice. Now visible in the light of the violent plasma, his features were revealed. Handsome kingly features riddled with hard pink scars.

Deep blue eyes with piercing precision examined their surroundings. Shoulder-length sandy blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail to keep it away from his face. He wore a simple garb, a sleeveless tunic, and long tan pants of a self-mending woven material. His leather boots were enchanted to muffle his movements. His immense physique was of extreme prowess and noble nature. His extreme muscularity was even more riddled with scars than his face. Over his back, he bore a sapphire blue war sword, called a Kledrad, named Malis Iekodus, Evil’s Bane. It could be summoned from anywhere. Its master would hold out their hand and command its name. It was fastened with an advanced latching mechanism. Across his hip, he bore a two-a-half-foot long, single-edged curved knife called an Uuk.

His name was Maerik Teslek. He was, by all means, one of the most effective hunters of the era. He, however, hunted a different query by trade. He was a warrior honored by all races, and in return, he learned their arts and mastered their forms of combat. However, he was a Vamperein and unbound, stricken with the Curse of all Vamperein. The Curse forced him to consume blood. Days without blood led to delirium, insanity, and even death.

Maerik examined the terrain and oriented his exceptional sense of direction. He knew roughly where he was. He had traveled farther than usual. He was fifty miles south of the Polar Crown. This was strange as his home was near 3,200-miles south. He must have used his hoverbike. Now he just had to find it. He took a crystal orb from his pocket. It seemed to possess an infinite number of multicolor lines. He located his bike, and he moved toward it. It was roughly two miles away.

There was a flash of light brighter than midday overhead. He raised his gaze to the anomaly. A great blue ethereal disk had opened in the sky. Shuttlecraft and other space vessels poured through, heading north.

One vessel veered away from the others and fired several concussion charges. Blasts reverberated even from where Maerik stood. The vessel set down, and Maerik cautiously approached the vessel. The Cockpit sloped back while the vessel's rear sloped over the boarding dock. Several Malisik had emerged from the vessel. He counted fifteen Ganagoe’an, six Dugrong, and one Ok’tlugarg. His bike was past the party of Malisik. He had a duty to eliminate them.

“Grel Mek. Puuz uush!” The Ok’tlugarg growled in a deep gravelly tone. [“Spread out, find food!”]

Maerik frowned, knowing the insatiable hunger of the Malisik war machine. He perched himself like a predatory bird on a high branch. He would not let the Malisik leave the clearing. Their reports would lead to an accelerated invasion south. He watched as three Ganagoe’an lumbered past his position. He dropped down from the tree. Drawing his Uuk from behind his hip, he drove the blade through the rear of Ganagoe’an’s skull. Violently twisting the Uuk to assure him it was dead. He Propelled himself forward with his powerful legs as the two Ganagoe’an reacted to the noise. As he slammed his palm into the first of Ganagoe’an’s trachea, he spun around and semi-decapitated the second. The first seized while Maerik drove his blade into its throat. It was dead before it hit the ground. Black blood poured from its fanged mouth. He stepped over it and ran his Uuk through its chest, penetrating the heart. It seized no more.

Maerik pursued the other Malisik. He watched the Ok’tlugarg strut into the surrounding jungle. Maerik felt a twinge of anger at the arrogance of the invader. He was quick to follow into the jungle. He lurked above it in the trees. He drew his Uuk once again. He dropped quietly, driving his blade effortlessly through the thick skull. It was a compliment to the blade's superior design. It crumpled under him. He followed the Dugrong and, one by one broke their necks. He then followed up by stabbing the Ganagoe’an in the kidneys. Letting them bleed out, he covered their mouths as they exhaled their final breath. He then dragged the bodies to the clearing and made a pile with their corpses. He stretched out his hand and commanded in an Ancient Tongue. A blue plasma leapt from his hand and encompassed the corpses. He swiftly left, traveling south, after retrieving his hoverbike. He kicked the bike into the on stage. It crackled to life with the energy it drew from the void. The void was the plane between Yedistren, the plane of the Living, and Itslaemwai, the plane of the Lethurean Heaven.

As he fled, he did so in a peculiar manner, weaving across the land. Det’sikar graves littered the Northern Reaches. The menace of the demons’ remains still permeated the surrounding land. It was disorienting and would lead many who crossed into it astray. Millions of years later and their menace still could be felt.

Clouds formed in the sky, and with it brought the day's first storm. Maerik parked his bike and found shelter under an umbrella-shaped tree. He was improperly prepared, and so he waited for the rain to calm. The rain subsided, and he departed once again. In a short amount of time, he arrived at the river of Ranthea. Ranthea made up the borders of the plains of the Fendithar District and the Northern Reaches. He had traveled nearly one thousand miles in his haste. Night fell hours later, prompting him to find shelter and rest for the night. Maerik feared he was pushing his hoverbike to its limits. He hoped it would handle the continued abuse well, though he feared he might be walking back partway.

Maerik roused in the early morning and left before the sun rose. He arrived fifty or so miles later at Kavard, a large farming village within the plains of Fendithar. He went to the local blood pub but avoided the usual stall keepers and shop owners by avoiding the main streets. He zipped down the alleys at high speed. The village had mostly wood-paneled buildings that had been erected some time ago. The worn panels revealed a surprisingly sophisticated metal building. The Ages of many buildings varied as much as their styles. Simply put, the village and its buildings were a menagerie of tastes and eras.

Maerik reached the pub without incident. He parked and approached it on foot. The locals outside the pub knew him and greeted him, so he politely returned the gesture. Many of the locals worked on his family’s land as farmers and field workers. They were responsible for making sure the machines ran smoothly. He arrived at the Pub, and the smell of blood permeated his senses. He stepped inside and found a quaint establishment. Wooden frames and cobblestone walls made up the general aesthetic of the interior. Tables and benches sat around the middle of the room. The establishment pushed for a natural feel. Several individuals much younger than he was were there to quench their curse. The smell of blood overwhelmed the smell of baked goods, fizzing beverages, and alcohol served to other customers. Three particular individuals had taken notice of Maerik.

Lights hung from the ceiling, powered by the deceptively sophisticated power grid. A fire sat off to the side, with several chairs and sofas for the visitors to converse. The older locals enjoyed the heat during the rainy parts of the day. The Old Vampereins’ natural dislike of cold was only worsened with age. Maerik stepped up to the counter and sat on one stool. Popus and Lyra were the owners, and Maerik had known them for several years. His parents had known them since they were young, and his grandparents also. Popus appeared as a man of only thirty years, and Lyra looked to be a girl of only twenty. They nonetheless were old enough to be Maerik’s “six-greats” grandparents. Popus was at the age of 452 and was middle-aged for a Vamperein. Lyra was older, being 460 years.

Maerik was only 35, Of-Age, something dangerous for a Vamperein who was unmarried. He waved over Popus but found there was no need as he had already taken note of him. He gave Maerik a jovial smile. His eyes broke the deception, only showing pity for Maerik. He cared for many of his guests as a parent. Lyra was sterile, and her mothering nature could seem stifling at times. They had kept their concern for Maerik under wraps so far this visit. Maerik couldn’t help but feel shame for the emotional pain he inflicted upon them.

“How are your lovely parents? They don’t often drink here anymore. Lyra has been worried.” Popus asked.

“They’re well but worried about me. Father and Grandfather have been extremely busy managing the business.”

 “Don’t your predecessors alternate ever twenty years who runs the business,” Popus said. “Your grandfather was talking about something like that last time he was in.”

Maerik nodded softly.

“Now back to business, Maerik; it’s been a few months since we’ve seen you. Been keeping yourself fed, without Us.” Popus teased. “Your usual?”

Popus gestured to a silver tap labeled “Kargorok Blood.” Maerik nodded firmly.

“I’ll take a shot of Jerkin Liquor on top. It’s been a rough past few days.” Maerik explained.

Lyra sighed playfully and pulled out a bottle of fluorescent blue liquid, which was nearly empty. The smell that emanated was pleasant enough. However, it was comparable to drinking fire. It could inebriate most adults in one shot. Drinking it mixed with blood gave it a pleasant, sweet flavor and the burn drowned out the metallic taste of the blood.

Blood wasn’t good, but it wasn’t bad either. It was comparable to cheap liquor in taste. Maerik found that blood from the more aggressive and massive the creature, the more it played with your brain. Kargorok's blood made most people disoriented and sometimes delusional. It was similar to drinking stronger alcohol.

“You’re the only one who can stomach it, other than your parents. I was wondering when you or your folks would ask for it again.” Lyra explained.

Popus gave Maerik a tankard of florescent red-orange blood that glowed in the dark. Lyra poured the last of the bottle into the glass, making it a fluorescent reddish violet. Maerik downed the contents quickly. He would have stayed and enjoyed the drink, but the north would not wait. He politely stood to pay.

“No, no, my boy, we don’t need your money. This one’s on the house,” Popus insisted. “You’re like family, but you’re so much more. I can’t imagine what you’ve been through.”

Lyra came up behind Popus and said, “Oh, my dear Maerik, we all are concerned for you. It’s because we care so much for you.” she explained.

Maerik bowed slightly. Popus’ pained look returned, and a tear rolled down his cheek. Lyra hugged Maerik and kissed his forehead. They were so much like parents, and they cared so much for him.

“Don’t you die on us?” Lyra teared up through her sternness. “I want to see you with that lovely girl by your side.”

Maerik quietly acknowledged her pleading. The three individuals came up behind him. Maerik turned slightly to face them individually. He was drunk; he probably ran one of the local gangs. He playfully punched Maerik’s shoulder. “If you're so special, why don’t you have a go at someone who knows Tie Pae. Fight right here.”

“Not in my pub,” Popus demanded. He slipped Maerik a few Durks.

“Have it your way.” Maerik grinned.

He was escorted out to the street. Strangely they seemed to think they were big and bad. Maerik would have to hold back to avoid killing them. They definitely were hybrid. They didn’t require blood.

They were roughly six foot two inches, more than two heads shorter than Maerik. They had brown hair and short pointed ears.

The boss raised his fist. Maerik was hit hard by one of the lackies. Maerik spat blood on the ground, acting like he had been gravely impaired.

“Glad you took the first blow because I will be giving the rest,” Maerik replied.

He grabbed the lacky that had punched him. Maerik raised his fists in a deceptive boxing pose. The lacky laughed before realizing Maerik had broken his arm and broke his knee cap. He then knocked the second lacky into the first. Finally, he confronted the boss. He smashed his arm, making a compound fracture.

He smiled to himself at his work. Popus came out the front.

“Nice to see your handiwork. They won’t be harassing my patrons for some time.” Popus jeered.

He started to leave the Pub. The fight was nothing to worry about. Lyra came up and hugged Maerik.

“Did they hurt you? Are you okay?” Lyra gushed over him.

She examined him thoroughly. He felt her compassion and concern for him.

“Lyra, don’t worry about him. I suspected Maerik could deal with simple thugs.” He bid Maerik off.

Maerik grabbed his hoverbike and left swiftly. He traveled east, crossing the river of Ranthea, but this time on the border of his family’s 250,000-square-mile estate. This land had been in his family since the late Fourth Age. Three major complexes existed on the property, and several cities bordered the edges. In the North was the Teslek Family Crypt, a place of memorial and a feeling of strange peace. South and directly east of Maerik’s position was the immense multi-generation complex of the Teslek Manors. It was comprised of over 130 Manors. His father, grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather, and so on; lived in the complex with their spouses. The hundreds of manors, halls, courtyards, gardens, and courts comprised the massive complex. It had over a million square feet. Maerik being the oldest, would one day join them, adding his family to the complex, or he would choose one of the many vacant Manors. This jumbled collection of buildings was comparable to a massive, elegant garden. The buildings were surrounded by beautiful landscaping and a melding of manors.

For miles east of the complex were fields of grain, vegetables, and fruit. South was the orchards.

Finally, there were the grazing prairies for raising beasts and the village of Tetorak, where many manors and homes of relatives and workers lived. Many of his relatives had left Uublai and settled on many other planets. The immenseness of Uublai’s farming industry made it impossible to compete with any other industry. Some, however, chose to live on Uublai, such as his siblings and their spouses. His sister and brothers-in-law ran the financial end of most transactions. His brothers and sisters-in-law were mechanics.

They had to keep the various types of machines and farming equipment running. The Machines practically ran the farm’s harvesting. The machines had no artificial intelligence; therefore, they were guided by the work hands.

He passed the village, avoiding his extended family, and traveled to the Teslek Manor. He had the start of his home within the complex. He had built it after returning five months prior, from being off-world traveling and living among all races.

His exploits were Legendary. His names were numerous; many did not know him as Maerik Teslek. They knew him by his titles. He was Kel Kavoeg to the Hamterein, which meant “Honored One.” These burly anthropomorphic canids were sociable and honor-driven. He was Kliichoet to Zekarin, which meant “Risen One.” These were the Vamperein’s fallen relatives reclaimed from their own darkness.

He possessed many more titles, much of which were buried in exaggerations and legend. He hated to admit it, but the stories he heard he kind of liked. He found it hilarious when he heard workers in the field speak of fallacies of his exploits. He was quick not to let it get out of hand. He would have continued to travel among the races.

The Curse, however, rampantly took hold. He needed the comfort and assistance of his family. His mother and father did not know of his whereabouts for over six years. Before his wanderings, he had been part of an elite order of warriors known as the Shiekuu Brotherhood. Apart from this, what he needed most of all was his love.

He reached the Complex’s Garage, where he parked his hoverbike. The crackling stopped abruptly. The garage inventory dinged. It was Maerik’s parents' way of keeping track of him. He made his way to the Main Hall.

The Main Hall was the site for meetings with members of high society and the agricultural community. The Tesleks' were one of the oldest living families, with wealth, antiquity, connections, and honor to their name. The ten royalties and the Teslek Clan were well acquainted. The First Royalty were closest to the Teslek Clan, just as ancient and less than a few thousand miles apart.

The Tesleks owned the Teslek Mega Farm corporation. They had more wealth than even the First Vamperein Royalty. If food was on your table, it most likely was farmed on one of the hundreds of thousands of mega-farms owned by the Tesleks.

Maerik stood in front of over seventy generations of work, possibly more. The Main Hall was over eight stories high and connected each additional area with scaffolding and walkways. All the living first-born descendants occupied a manor. Many of his predecessors had transcended to Itslaemwai. He had chosen to add his addition due to his wish for a smaller home.

Most of his relatives either lived in the nearby Tetorak City or off-world.

He pushed the immense double doors open. He stepped inside and looked upon the colossal staircase and balcony network, which crawled up the Main Hall’s outer wall. The Main Hall was before him, with tables and furnishings for Family activities, celebrations, reunions, meetings with other groups, and banquets with many of the Family’s connections. Maerik could see his mother and father sitting at the central table, part of which was put away. His extended parentage, up to three prior generations, was present as well.

He approached them, feeling the intense concern and prowess held by his elders. The others must not have joined the intervention due to work matters. He stood before the youthful-faced individuals that rivaled his age almost tenfold. Luwela, his mother, sat with her arms crossed and was deeply concerned, almost indignant. His father, Malek, stood with his scarred four-fingered hand on her shoulder in support. Jarak and Svoeldiir, his grandfather and great grandfather, respectively, stood next to their spouses: Aen’ya and Gaerta.

“Son… We need to talk. You are Of-Age, and by all that right, Lethurea has preserved your mind from the Curse. Maerik, you must be bound. You are a danger to all of us and every other person you come across. Why are you ignoring M…” Luwela started.

“Mother, please, this isn’t the time for an intervention.” Maerik politely objected.

Jarak and Svoeldiir looked to Malek for his reaction. Maerik knew they were expecting a reprimand.

“Maerik, where have you been? Have you been off-world?” Malek asked firmly.

The color had left his face, and sweat dewed on his forehead. The other elders caught a whiff of what Malek was smelling. The foul odor of Malisik blood. It stained his clothing. It was on his hands but could be mistaken for dried mud. Malek, Jarak, and Svoeldiir had all served as warriors during their youth, and they were familiar with the scent. Malek had lost his leg and part of his hand to a plasma rifle blast. Jarak was blind in one eye. Svoeldiir lacked several fingers and toes.

 

“No, Father, my elders. I have been up North, sating my… thirst. We have a big problem.” Maerik grew silent.

“The Horde is here on Uublai.” Svoeldiir elaborated for Maerik.

He nodded firmly. “I encountered a scouting party, roughly fifty or so miles south of the Polar Crown. I had finished my hunting when a rift opened in the sky. I would estimate over a hundred vessels landed in the Polar Crown.”

Maerik’s hair stood on end. The air was charged with anxiety. The smell of fear emanated throughout the hall.

“Were you not able to avoid the scouting party successfully?” Jarak asked interestedly.

“Grandfather, you forget, I am Shiekuu. I slaughtered them all.” Maerik announced fervently.

His Elders sighed in a sliver of relief.

“We still have time. The Malisik will be delayed. Hopefully, for some time. They will wait for the party’s return. We must get word to General Commander Laezrik and King Orland.” Malek determined.

“I am quite aware of our situation, respectfully, my elders. But I have seen more war than all three of you combined.” Maerik interjected. “But I’m tired. I must rest before tomorrow’s journey. I have traveled nearly half a continent, and it has taken its toll.”

Maerik bowed slightly to his elders and left for his place of residence. He passed through the eloquent gardens that sat along the stone path he followed. Rain pattered against the glass-like dome that surrounded the multigenerational complex. He sighed softly, breathing the clean, fragrant air. He arrived at a simple building.

He brushed his hand against the door’s crystal doorknob, and it swung open. He entered and closed it behind him. The room was approximately forty feet wide, forty feet deep, and twenty feet high. This was the starting point for his Manor, if he would ever build one. The smell of the wood and openness of the room soothed him only slightly. He stared up at the chandelier and high ceiling. The chandelier began to glow, casting a pale light.

He was eight feet two inches. Taller than most of his species, but not by much. He had long, pointed ears that stuck out of the sides of his head roughly three inches.

Weapon racks, cloaks, and armor stands adorned the walls. The dark-stained wood was paneled on the wall. It gave a soothing twilight feeling. He had a chest made of similar wood, where he kept his clothing. His bed was a simple mattress with a shredded natural plant fiber foam. The frame was of lighter stained wood with ornate carvings. A nightstand with a chest on top sat next to the headboard. The far-right corner housed a shower stall, sink, and linen washing machine. The walls were tiled within the shower with complex hexagonal gray tiles. An alcove sat on the side of the shower with a bar of soap. The sink was made of silver metal and resembled a bowl rising out of the counter. Dark stone tiling with reflective crystals adorned the floor. It was a ruddy brown with a buffed surface.

A voice called out to him.

“Master Teslek, you are back. I feared the worst when you left so suddenly.” The voice said.

Maerik stared at the clear orb sitting on a pedestal. It was the housekeeper AI. She had control of nearly every aspect of the home. She could open doors, close doors, act as security, control lights, control the shower and water basin, etc.

“I’m fine Aniita.” Maerik lied.

“Your mother thinks otherwise, and I agree with her.” The voice said.

“Has mother been talking to you again?” Maerik asked.

“No…” Aniita lied. “Well, a little.”

“I’m going to uninstall your personality subroutines if you keep lying to me,” Maerik growled.

“Sorry, Master Teslek. I do not wish for that. Your mother is trying to convince me to talk to you. She told me not to tell you.” Aniita confided.

“It’s fine, Aniita. Thank you for coming clean.” Maerik said. “Can you get the shower going and play some calming Vamperein folk instrumental music?”

He undressed, removing his blood-stained pants and tunic. He tossed his boots at the foot of his bed. Soothing melodic music began to play.

He stepped into the shower and rinsed the grime and gore from his body. He cleaned up as quickly as possible. He dressed in a pair of dark blue shorts for sleep. He wandered over to his bed and found an envelope. He closed his eyes and gestured his hand. The envelope flew into his grip. The First Vamperein Royal Crest was stamped on the envelope.

Cold chills ran up his spine. He was followed by anxiety creeping over his neck and scalp. His hair stood on end, and his skin burned.

“When did this arrive, Aniita?” Maerik asked, calmly hiding his anxiety.

“Yesterday morning.”

He broke the seal, knowing the writer enchanted it to notify them of its opening. He found a letter entitled to him. He heard the voice of a frail older man emitted from the letter.

Dear Maerik Teslek,

My dear boy, it has been many, many years since our last meeting. I had received word that you were on world and “Intact.” I have been meaning to invite you to the Palace. However, I have refrained, not wishing to overwhelm your return. Now at the time of this writing, One-Half of a Lethurean-Year has passed, and I feel we should reacquaint.

Princess Mera, my daughter, has missed you gravely. It pains me that she has not been informed of your arrival. However, we feared she might overwhelm you in your… “Intact State.” We have not wanted to tempt the repercussions of such an event.

Furthermore, I need your assistance, as does General Commander Laezrik, with the nature of war. I will not disclose such details if this is intercepted. Your knowledge is by far superior to any other individual of this era. The stories and Legends I have heard make me and your elders proud. There will be a high place for you in Itslaemwai.

Good Health and Continued Strength,

King Zuurik Orland of the First Vamperein Kingdom

Maerik read the letter over. He found a small crystal ball the size of a pea. He touched his Data Orb to it, and it absorbed the ball. It was a photograph. It was of a red hair woman. She was wearing a silver circlet and an elegant dress. The photograph was an older one he recognized. He felt a shiver go down his nape. Why the older one? It was probably to ensure he recognized who it was. She looked just like Queen Lesea. Lesea had died just over a decade ago. It was a sad thing. King Orland barely held onto life after her death. The torture of not being with his life-mate must be excruciating.

King Orland had known he was on world for more than five months. He had practiced discretion for reasons, one reason, Princess Mera. She was all that had kept him together during his darkest moments. She was his love. They had sworn to become life-mates before he left.

It pained him to think of the suffering she must be going through. His heart literally ached. The sharp knot-like feeling in his chest returned as he thought of her. King Orland knew of their sworn love. What did he think of him? Was he disappointed? He must at least be angry with him.

The man had mentored him in many fields of knowledge and gave him his love of languages. He was much like a second father and just as dear to him as his own father. The fire of anxiety filled his body. The state in which Mera must have been in and the disappointment King Orland felt must have been astounding.

Yet, he was no longer the Maerik she knew or King Orland knew. His demeanor was cold, rigid, and solemn. He had killed Malisik in the tens of thousands. He had even killed those of his own kind. The dark memory of a friend overcome by the curse still haunted his mind’s eye. The distant screams of a woman, the insane snarls, and babbling cries could still be heard in his mind. The screaming of a truly broken heart perpetuated in his ears. The sounds of bone and flesh as he ran his Kledrad through his deranged friend ached in his heart and mind.

More memories of the vivid smell of blood, disemboweled entrails, smoked, ozone, and blood-soaked earth churned his stomach. The screams from his comrades in true pain haunted him. As he remembered, the sighs and wheezing as they took their last breaths sickened him. These memories were all too much at times.

The memories were burned in his mind and would always be there. He closed his eyes and saw death. He opened his eyes, and the noises haunted him. He meditated like one of the monastery monks. He even took medication to prevent him from having night terrors. All this to stay sane.

Then there was the creature that was the curse. It clawed his mind and ravaged his soul. It wanted out, and he wouldn’t let it. His memories just fueled this creature. The “rampancy,” as they called it, would mean his end. Nothing would save him, only the blade.

He had a locket with a voxel image projector with the image of Princess Mera and a lock of her red hair. This locket was the only thing he had to remind him of her. He took it out, held it in his hand, and opened it. He kept the locket near his bedside. During combat, he wore it under his armor, close to his heart.

He stroked the hair with his thumb. He wanted to be the man Mera had loved, not the broken warrior he was now. Yet, was it kind or selfish of him to wait to heal? She had waited for him, but could she wait much longer. He teared up, staring at the images as he lay. If she were to pass, he would never forgive himself. Many questions buzzed around his mind.

“You’re thinking about her,” Aniita said sadly.

“Yes.”

“Don’t worry, you’ll see her tomorrow. I’m certain of it.” Aniita acknowledge.

Her orb began to throb a light blue indicating she had gone to sleep.

He set the locket down, popped two large brown pills, and quickly fell asleep.