The sea breezes howled over the cape. Wild waves crashed against the wharf’s seawall. At the far end of the mountain ridge crossing the rocky peninsula lay a castle. Beneath an overcast sky, three figures headed toward the castle stopped, one after another.
The first was an old man, cloaked in a brown robe. His clothes were decorated with an intricate pattern of crimson and deep blue. From his sleeve protruded a wooden staff. His hood concealed a dignified face wrapped in a turban. The other two figures looked to be his followers. One may have been forty, the other a young lad awestruck by the castle. After comparing the lead-colored clouds with the rust-colored sea, the eldest looked down at the fishing village beneath him.
In the central square of the village lay a destroyed, abandoned trawl. The hearty voices of fishermen were nowhere to be heard. Several badly damaged smacks were tied together in the inlet, where they floated calmly, deserted forever.
"What is this world coming to..."
A sudden gale pulled back the hood of the old man.
"The king is waiting. Let us make haste," the youngest reservedly suggested.
The eldest silently pointed his staff at the vast ocean. It then slowly floated across the village, further beyond, until it came to a halt above an inaccessible, rocky island. Despite the thick layer of clouds that blocked all sunlight, a single ray of light managed to seep through and faintly illuminate the island’s barren rocks.
That austere scene suddenly transformed into a stronghold, as if one had been summoned directly from the netherworld.
"That is the prison island Bellsaddce, as demanded by King Badorrer... An ill-advised demand, I might add..."
"Please mind your language, Sage. Modesty would be most befitting before the king."
This time it was the forty-year-old follower that spoke.
The sage scowled at Bellsaddce with an expression so grim it rivaled the atmosphere of the island itself. He stood motionless until his followers urged him to continue on.
The waves continued to crash, and the sea breezes continued to howl.Return to top
Chapter 1: The King & the Prophet
The Earth moves according to Heaven's laws.
Some seek power, others long for fortune, and still others immortality.
And some desire all of these.
The wickedness within mankind shall not perish as long as the earth moves.
Time and time again, man's pursuit of their desires led them astray.
The Root of Omnipotence – the same source of power once possessed by the guardian dragon of Vittoria – was sought by more than only the fallen king Bistalle. At the very same moment that a certain chasm opened in northeast Banourd, the prophet Benedicte was invited to the royal castle of Bundevia, which bordered the vast ocean. Halfway along his journey to the kingdom, Benedicte began to feel a formless wickedness wrapping around him, like the haze that cloaked the land.
The king of Bundevia was once great, but as his vitality waned with age, so did his dignity and power. His heart's unrest was publicly projected as misgovernment and vain shows of power. The construction of the prison island Bellsaddce was one such show. That king, Badorrer, planted himself firmly in his throne and waited.
"Thank you for coming, great prophet Benedicte."
"I came as you asked," the old man responded somewhat curtly.
"My, my, it seems Our request has upset you. Do forgive Us. A little bird had told Us that the great prophet Benedicte had been making a name for himself in the world, and so We decided to summon this great prophet hither. You see, We would very much like to borrow his power."
"My power, hmm... Before I answer, can I ask you something?" Benedicte inquired as he looked into the king’s cloudy eyes. "Upon my arrival in Bundevia, I saw little of the land that used to promise flocks of seabirds soaring over immaculate beaches and a serene sea. It made me wonder whether this sudden change is, perhaps, retribution from Heaven for the indiscretion of the land’s monarch."
This statement, an unequivocal critique of the very king that sat before him, turned all officials and soldiers in attendance ashen. As they stood breathless, the prophet continued:
"Rulers the world over hold countless desires, so what is it that you desire, King Badorrer?”
"As expected of a great prophet; you speak with ease. Our wish, naturally, is to live forever and rule as We do."
"You are a slave to your own dark designs. Tales have spread of even innocents being imprisoned on that island. You are aware that Heaven, earth and sea wail, are you not? This is all because a fool has disrupted the balance of nature. The power to control all creation is not for man, but is reserved for Heaven and Heaven alone.”
"Those seeking to break with the status quo have always been the subject of rumor. It is left to history yet unwritten to decide whether or not they had truly been wrong. And furthermore, it is Our right..."
Badorrer smiled coldly and made a beckoning gesture.
”Bring in the book!”
As he announced his possession, he was brought a finely bound book, presented on a crimson cloth laid on a blackened tray. The king took the book in his hands and held it so Benedicte could get a glimpse of its writing.
"This ancient book has been slumbering in the treasure room of this castle. It appears to have been handwritten, and transcribed by hand countless further times. In fact, this very manuscript is over three hundred years old."
One glimpse was enough for Benedicte to conclude that it was written in ancient Vittoric. Not having noticed his reaction, the king asked the old man: "Are you familiar with the tale of how the nation of Vittoria was buried overnight?”
"Thought it may not be known to most, it is common knowledge among our kind."
"It has been most worthwhile to summon you."
"I have not yet stated I will lend you my power, King Badorrer. If you know why Vittoria fell overnight, you know that it fell because of the depraved actions of its corrupt ruler."
”We most certainly do. It is written in this book that tragedy befell the cursed nation after it obtained the Root of Omnipotence. In any case, in order to obtain power, it is paramount to offer appropriate compensation in return. There is nothing to fear if you know how to draw out the right power."
"Do you mean to say that a method could have been foretold for Vittoria to gain power?"
"Precisely. Bundevian scholars have thoroughly studied this book. They discovered that Vittoria and Bundevia were originally one civilization that diverged over a difference in views. Nonetheless, a thousand years ago, Our nation engaged in trade with Vittoria, and both nations shared the fruits of their prosperity. And so, it is indeed Our right to revive the power that was once bestowed upon Us."
The king feverishly described the history of his nation. It seemed that just thinking about it was enough to make his heart pound with excitement.
"Is that not a mere myth?"
"You may believe so, but We now have two firm reasons to believe it holds some truth. First, there’s the fact that books, like this one, written in ancient Vittoric have been found across Bundevia. As Our ancestors determined, this language is identical to the Dark Words, an archaic Bundevian language that has long since fallen into oblivion. And more recently, this language has even been discovered in the depths of Bellsaddce, making Our hypothesis more credible than ever. Second, found alongside this book was a statue, dating from antiquity. The book includes one paragraph about the statue."
Narrating as if he were conveying a revelation from the Gods, the king recited a passage that he had clearly committed to memory: "When the Root of Omnipotence awakens, the statue will radiate light -- and after a period of one month, the light will fade again. The power will then have been resurrected somewhere in this world."
Benedicte’s eyes glittered slightly.
"Where is the statue now?"
"It is enshrined in the highest floor of the tower. The statue is wooden, and carved into the shape of a coiled dragon. If you touch it, you should be able to learn the whereabouts of the Root."
"King Badorrer. The laws of Heaven are already set. My power does not grant me knowledge of everything nor the ability to put the power to control it in the hands of man. As long as you keep that in mind, we can proceed with the divination. But know that all of you present will have to accept this warning: The king lives under the illusion that he summoned me here himself, but it was the will of Heaven that led me here. If you, too, wish to learn the location of the power for the sake of the king’s ambitions, then I will tell its whereabouts to demonstrate the destructive path the king is about to embark on. Is that acceptable to you -- to all of you?"
King Badorrer put the ancient book back on its tray and started walking. In complete silence, the king and Benedicte moved across the red carpet laid out by the soldiers and headed for the tower, where the ancient statue awaited their arrival.
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Chapter 2: The Ancient Statue
Only the king and Benedicte entered the room at the top of the tower, while officials and soldiers waited outside the door during the ceremony that would follow. In the center of the silent room, the faint light emanated by the statue illuminated the pair’s faces. To get a better look at the statue, Benedicte kneeled on the floor. He reached out to the light with both hands while shielding his eyes. The closer his hands came to the statue, the more he felt a certain flexibility in its radiance, like a fiber of silk.
"What’s happening?" King Badorrer asked.
"This radiance... The statue is undoubtedly reacting to the power. Extraordinary power is leaking…from somewhere…”
”Somewhere? Where is this place?”
In response to the king’s question, the prophet concentrated so intensely it brought forth a deep furrow between his eyebrows. Putting his hands together, Benedicte imagined he was holding a ball of light between them. That ball of light would always allow him to peek into his spirit, whereupon an oracle would be bestowed upon him.
All he could see was darkness. In that darkness, he could feel a presence deep underground.
"Darkness... It’s underground... I learned that it’s somewhere underground. And if we were to follow the legend, that would suggest within Vittoria..."
The old man spread his hands with a spirited shout. A dazzling ball of light appeared, floating, in the room. Orbiting it were numerous smaller balls of light. They sped up and became brighter with each orbit. The moment Benedicte’s spirit was stilled, the air in the room began to vibrate, and an intense light suddenly gushed forth from the statue.
An image took form in the prophet’s mind.
Beautiful castle walls... at night... The tranquil surface of a large river, reflecting the beautiful moon.
"It’s the city... of the blue moon."
"City of the blue moon?”
Next, Benedicte saw a swordsman.
"I can see a man. Nothing has happened so far... He holds the sword in which the power is sealed away... And the sword... In truth, it's a mighty force merely disguised as a sword..."
The prophet uttered these words as they came to mind.
"Who is this man?"
"I don’t know... However, fate will bring him to Bundevia... Not now... In two years, yes... He will bring back the power from Vittoria and end up wandering into Bundevia... However, the Root of Omnipotence itself is no doubt hidden away even deeper. The sword is a mere fragment of its power..."
Suddenly, Benedicte groaned bitterly. Channeling the vision had exhausted his mental strength. Suddenly, the thread of light was severed and the power that had occupied the room disappeared, alongside the bright light it had brought forth. The room returned to its former state, illuminated only by the statue’s original, faint glow.
The old man’s shoulders slumped, and he tried to catch his breath. His advanced age was taking its toll.
"That is... what I... could learn."
It was when Benedicte stopped talking and fell to his knees before the statue that the king finally spoke again.
"I see. Thank you for your efforts." From behind Benedicte’s back, he laughed, drew a dagger, and then slowly plunged the dimly shining blade into the kneeling prophet’s side until Benedicte silently collapsed.
"Now then, what did the ancient book tell Us… How to properly handle the Planet Buster, hmm… And a swordsman who will return from the underworld alive... And how two years from now, he will bring back one fragment of the great power and end up wandering into Bundevia... The power will be heading Our way, then...”
Badorrer felt an irresistible urge to laugh and did so most audibly. It was this expression, distorted in ecstasy, this ridiculous face that he would use to greet the person to bring him his power.
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Chapter 3: The Wandering Swordsman
Some two years later...
A man walks through a desert, wrapped in a cloak to protect himself from the rays of the sun. A longsword hangs diagonally across his back, on top of the cloak. The sword boasts unique decorations on its fan-shaped guard.
The man's name is Ares. He is a bounty hunter and a common target for other bounty hunters. He is a man who leaves everything to fate, a mercenary and bodyguard wrapped into one, and a man who operates in the most illogical ways. The combination of his swordsmanship and the insatiable thirst for bloodshed that flows from his ripped body -- and it should be mentioned Ares’ physique is medium-sized, not your average giant -- fuels fearful rumors among other bounty hunters.
Ares stopped on a dune, barely able to see what laid before him.
He had arrived at the desert bordering Bundevia. The hills of sand obstructed his field of vision. There was not a single sign of civilization to be seen or felt. He had run out of rations. His wandering through the desert had slowly started to take its toll. His feet were moving forward, but he had forgotten how he wound up there to begin with. Just the sheer monotony of traversing a desert on foot was enough to paralyze his brain.
Fivelria, Banourd, Verun... Ares had always walked aimlessly. Every now and then he had his reasons to follow a specific path, usually when a bounty was involved. But regardless of his reason, he always managed to push through somehow. And so it was that he had been trudging through this desert -- for almost three days now.
But the desert had been uncompromising. No matter how long he walked, there was no end in sight - nothing but yellow sand as far as the eye could see. It was as if this sea of sand was there to tell Ares that his luck had finally run out. Had he had fellow travelers, they would have known what Ares was going through and shared his fatigue... but imagining companions is an easy trap for lonely people to fall into.
His feet were heavy. If he had turned around and looked for his footprints, he would have seen two lines leading up to his feet instead.
Ares realized that both his mind and body were fatigued more than he had initially thought, and the moment this dawned upon him, he braced himself and collapsed in the sand. He couldn’t help but smirk in self-mockery.
Sandstorms soared as if tracing the dunes in front of him. As the sound of sand and wind mingled, he faintly heard something else. The sound of hooves kicking up the dry sand. Then a neigh. The sound of armor rustling... He wasn’t sure whether it was reality or a hallucination. Ares tried to catch a glimpse of the top of the dunes, forcing his eyes into a tremor.
But there was nothing, only sand.
And just as he concluded it had only been a hallucination after all, a group of horsemen stormed onto the dune right before his eyes. It was a unit approximately ten strong. The group lined up on top of the dune and looked down on the fallen Ares. Though it was hard for him to say for certain, each of the soldiers looked to be equipped with cloaks to shield against the sand and sun, fully prepared to traverse such a desert.
(I have to fight...!)
Even in his exhausted state, Ares instinctively reached out for the longsword on his back. But it took him so long, he became annoyed with himself. Grabbing it, unsheathing, everything he did felt like a series of independent movements rather than a fluid action. When he thought he was finally ready to face his opponents, he realized his sword was too heavy for him.
One of the cavaliers held up his right hand. On that signal, the rest of the group came down the dune, heading for Ares. Their shouting, as if they were going to tear apart a sandstorm of men, reverberated in the sand as the horses’ hooves spread the scorching sand. Ares pulled himself back on his feet and held his sword above his head, ready to defend himself…
(What’s going on...?)
But he had no strength left. He was exhausted, as if the very sand beneath him sapped his energy through his toes. Despite his will to stand and fight, he fell to his knees in the sand while staring at the approaching cavaliers. Resistance would be futile. Even his consciousness started to fade again. He couldn’t move, as if he had been put under a spell.
(I see... This desert has been...)
The moment he realized that he had never had any chance at escape, his consciousness completely faded. His body felt like lead. With a dull thump, he collapsed onto the sand. A cloud of sand his size spread out from around him.
The cavaliers expertly gripped their reins and surrounded the fallen Ares.
"Examine his sword," said a man who looked to be the commanding officer.
The others got off their horses one by one and gathered around Ares. One of them picked up the sword Ares had dropped and studied it with deep interest.
"So, this is the Planet Buster," the only cavalier still mounted said.
Were Ares to have seen this man’s face, he would have smiled bitterly. It was Karl Caless, a wandering staff officer for hire and a well-known name in mercenary circles.
"Show me his face."
The soldier pulled Ares up by his hair so Karl could get a good look at him.
After a moment’s thought, Karl smiled calmly.
”Put him on your horse and and take him to Bellsaddce."
In accordance with the officer’s command, Ares’ hands were bound with a straw rope and hung over the saddle of the last horse.
Even now that Karl’s prey had fallen victim to the Desert Barrier cast by a Bundevian mage, his mission -- stealing the Planet Buster and dragging Ares back through the desert, unconscious -- didn’t sit well with him.
Bundevia and its surroundings moved, unquestionably, according to Heaven’s laws.