Zalfron’s Tale 02: The Renegade Crusader

By October of the year 1500, all the great cities of Munkloe: Harp, Tenta, Chick-Chaw, Drathernan, and Sereibis, were occupied by the Bishopry under Gerda Ipativy, one of Loki’s daughters. Unorganized groups of rebels still hid in the canopies and among the roots of the massive jungle trees but the only organized resistance left had abandoned the mainland to reside on the island of Jungloe which sat east of Munkloe. There, early in the month, the leaders of the rebels, Saint, Theseus, Quonon, Hodur, Apache, and, though other’s might not include him, Crimson, the half elf’s trusty hound, were met by the captain of the Saluman Sailors, a Tadloen band of privateers. He, as many of the beer smuggling pirates of that time, had become the rebels’ naval defense. Captain Shirahama Kemplor had been sent by Apache to seek aid with the Bishop of the Sands in northern Sondor. Shirahama brought a half-satisfactory reply: Bishop Barenchi Kou would join in their plight, however, not until a victory seemed possible. Two bishops against ten would do little to change the tide. This did anything but instill hope, as did the Bishopry’s sudden assault of Jungloe. In the chaos, Saint and his friends were forced to abandon Apache and flee on board Shirahama’s ship, the Rising Sun.

The Rising Sun raced across the Drauburn Sea with the original intention to bring Saint and his party to Tadloe but plans quickly changed when Eir Ipativy, an eye-patch wearing naval captain for the Hundred Empire Alliance, appeared hot on their tail. Another ship was nearing on the horizon so Shirahama, fearing the new vessel to be another enemy, decided to turn and attack Eir rather than wait to face two at a time. As a result, Rising Sun sank and Saint, Theseus, Quonon, Crimson, Hodur, and Shirahama found themselves at the mercy of their captor. Her mercy was little needed, for the nearing ship belonged to the Bishop of the Sands and was captained by the bishop’s daughter Vali Kou. There’s one thing you need to know about Vali, other than tales of her beauty, the Archbishop wanted her dead, despite who her father was. She had instigated numerous riots and acts of violence against the Bishopry. In order to keep his seat, her own father, who funded most of her exploits, had to publicly rebuke her. In short, she was no friend of the Ipativy. Having heard of Saint and the rebel’s war waging in Munkloe, she swiftly plucked up Saint and his comrades and left Eir Ipativy empty handed.

As Vali took the crew back to Sondor, she revealed to Saint that she had actually known his mother when she was young. The two talked the entire ride and by the time they made it to dry land, they had spent at least one night together between the sheets.

 

– – –

 

“Woh, woh, woh! He is thirteen!” Joe exclaimed.

“Yessiry!” Zalfron grinned, “Saint always hadda way with them ladies!”

“Which be funny cause he be celebate now!” Nogard interjected.

This was no laughing matter until Joe was convinced that there was no peddophilia involved, “You said she knew his mom! How old was she?”

“Valay knew his ma when shae was little. They were maybe six or seven yaers appart…” Zalfron shrugged, “She wan’t even twenty…or was shae?”

“That’s still-”

“What make a boy a boy?” Nogard asked Joe, “Innocence? Ignorance? Irresponsability? Ya, mon, das what make a boy, not da age. Saint be long grown by dis time. He seen death, he killed a man, and he had no parents to hold his hand.”

“Ain’t none of his father figgers were gonna coddle em, they were all hardened werriors – even Quonon, at this tahm, had put his nonvahlence philosophy to the sahd.” Zalfron concurred.

“Fine.” Joe shook his head and tried to rid the thought from his mind, “But from here on out, you don’t have to tell me when Saint gets some, okay?”

“But thas parta the story!” Zalfron complained.

“That should be his business, not mine!” Joe countered.

“Calm down!” Zalfron muttered, “It’ll help ya make some sense of the fahnal third of the story.”

Joe conceded, “Fine…”

 

– – –

 

As soon as they arrived in the capital of the Kou Empire, Sandtown, Saint began to speak with Bishop Barenchi Kou, weilder of the Mystak Blade, about his plans to reform the Hundred Empire Alliance. Saint believed that most people felt as the bearns of Munkloe did. He was right. Nearly all the colonies felt contempt for the Ipativians and it was a common held belief, though quietly discussed, that the Alliance gave privileges to the Ipativians no other Empires seemed to receive. Solaris was quickly becoming Loki’s world. Barenchi had Saint trained in military combat during the day and taught him of the political landscapes at night: The Fou Empire of Tadloe was helping Munkloe keep up the resistance, the spirits of Manaloe were peacefully protesting, and the Fang Sacha was growing to such prestige in Batloe and Foxloe that they could operate almost solely on their own paying no heed to the doings of the Ipativy.

His stay in Sandtown was short. Naval Captain Eir told her grandfather that the renegade princess Vali was hiding Saint in the Koustan. Barenchi was not yet ready to break free from the Alliance so he told Vali to take Saint through the Plainsmen’s lands to the Marble Empire of the south. The Plainsmen’s Bishop was Zion Cage 3 was wealthy, much like his merchant people, and happy with the Archbishop’s mass-micromanaging. He was warned Saint might flee into his lands and he did his best to intercept, in fact, he would have caught Saint had he not been seduced by Vali and tricked into letting them go. They made it safely through and for that Saint was thankful, but the little heart throb was a tad bit sore over seeing Vali tend to the desires of another man.

The southern end of Sondor, Mannistan, was ruled by the Bishop of the Barbarians who was one of Loki’s three daughters: Sigyn. Before Sigyn, the “Barbarians” – who called themselves the Marblemen – had been ruled by a native named Etamladip Eninac. Etamladip had been removed in 1487, accused of the murder of Baldura Ipativy – for the Marblemen’s Marble Empire had originally been incharge of Dogloe. After this the Eninac Family and the rest of the Marble Empire single handedly lost their right to self-rule as, one by one, Deacons unwilling to sell out their congregations were eliminated or excommunicated. Much like Munkloe, Mannistan was now unhappily ruled by the Ipativians.

It wasn’t long after Saint’s arrival that Vali Kou was able to find the would-be-Bishop, the daughter of Etamladip, Takia Eninac. Takia and those loyal to her family had been planning a bloody coup. With the arrival of Saint and the few hundred men he came with – some from Munkloe, some Saluman Sailors, but most from the deserts – Takia was confident enough to bump the day of their revolt up to the middle of December.

At a party, two nights before their plot, Takia and Saint got a little carried away partying and-

 

– – –

 

“Shut up! Are you kidding me?” Joe cried.

“Nah, man! They hooked up!” Zalfron exclaimed.

“Wait…” Joe paused as thoughts swirled around in his head. He was trying to keep all the names in the right spot, but something didn’t seem right. He was killing she, she was screwing he, but somewhere in all the mess two names, tethered together, orbitted his brain. Eninac and Ipativy. Etamladip Eninac was framed for killing Baldura Ipativy, Saint’s mother. Saint was a half elf and half what? Half human? Joe’s eyes lit up as he aimed another question at Zalfron, “Was Etamladip Saint’s father?”

“Ya mon.” Nogard nodded.

“And…and Takia is Etamladip’s daughter?” Joe continued.

Nogard’s head continued to bob as his grin grew.

“Ew! Now yall can’t deny that this time, it’s pretty messed up.” Joe said.

“Maybe gettin wid his sis be why he went celebate.” Nogard snickered.

“I swear to god, if this isn’t relevant later-”

“It is!” Zalfron promised then he hesitated, “Kanda…Now lemme finish!”

 

– – –

 

The day comes and the capital building, at Yelkao, is blown up from underneath. With their troops rising from tunnels carved from miles away, they stormed the Bishop’s palace. Saint found Sigyn, the two fought, and Saint killed her. After news spread that the rebels had the palace and the bishop was dead, the soldiers, most of them humans who identified as Marblemen, surrendered. Renouncing the Bishopry, the Deacons of the independent Marble Empire elected Takia Eninac as their Queen.

Unfortunately, the glory only lasted until January. A furious Loki ordered Zion to attack, after all, his failure to stop Saint made him partially responsible for the death of Loki’s daughter. Zion would have been capable of defeating the Marble Empire if the Bishopry to its north hadn’t pitched in. Barenchi Kou was finally convinced. He attacked the Bishop of the Plainsmen from the north, forcing Zion to split his forces and promising a stalemate.

The war hadn’t waged long before Vali was ready to return to her desert home in Koustan. When Saint said he would stay and lead the rebellion after the Marble Empire had stable footing, Vali told Saint that the woman he was currently in love with was actually his half sister. This changed his mind. Takia stayed and Saint and his crew returned north via one of Shirahama’s pirate friends. Their stay in north Sondor was short, long enough only for Barenchi to give Saint the Mystak Blade. Then he headed to Dogloe, to reclaim the land of his birth for the Marble Empire.

On the way, low and behold, they ran into Eir Ipativy and the Hundred Empire Alliance’s navy. Knowing they couldn’t fight their way through the fleet, they changed course and plunged into the fringes of the Iahtro Storm in a suicidal attempt to escape. Surprisingly, almost all of the rebels survived, but Saint, Crimson, and Captain Shirahama were thrown over board with the minority that didn’t. They washed up on the beach of Panta where they woke up in jail. Apparently, Eir Ipativy had washed up with them but was unrecognized because her eye patch had been torn off her by the gusts of the storm, leaving her crow eye – the sign of a shadowmancer – plainly visible. The Archbishop’s black sheep grand daughter was assumed to be an associate of the rebels and thrown into jail along with them. Saint and his men managed to over power the naval officers, who’d been imprisoned with their captain, and kept Eir from being able to convince her captor’s of her true identity. The Deacon of Panta was unsure whether or not the half elf was the half elf the Bishopry so urgently sought, it took a week spent consulting numerous advisors before the Deacon summoned up the courage to report his finding to the Archbishop. Loki himself decided to come and identify the boy. In the two or so weeks they spent imprisoned, Saint had to protect Eir from many of his own men who got rowdier as escape seemed less and less likely. A mutual respect had manifested between the two, as well as a secret romance.

 

– – –

 

“Saint was sleeping with the enemy too!” Joe laughed.

“Well, ask a historayan, they’ll tell ya Eir Ipativy was quaht the looker.” Zalfron said.

“With a name like Saint, I expected him to be some sort of poster child for morality.” Joe shook his head.

“Come on, mon, da boy went from scoopin shit to leadin a revolution!” Nogard defended his Emperor, “He grew up in a country where dere weren’t no girls for him ta look at.”

“Less hae lahked em with fur.” Zalfron added.

“I doubt he’d tell em no.” Joe muttered.

“Hey now, love be a powerful tool, just as powerful as war.” Nogard reminded.

“Alright, alright,” Joe chuckled, “back to the story.”

 

– – –

 

With no other way out, Saint put his faith in Eir and allowed her to reveal herself to the Deacon in hopes that she would protect him from her grandfather. Now it was Shirahama who had to protect Saint from the men. The rebels were furious! They felt betrayed, even Shirahama was a little frustrated with their leader’s soft heart. Their rage was justified for Eir was not true to her word. Fortunately, the rest of the rebels arrived in Panta before the Archbishop could make it. After the storm, which had been worse than expected, they had retreated to Jungloe (where Apache had been able to re-establish some safe-zones for the resistance). As soon as they intercepted word that the Archbishop was on his way to confirm the captured half elf castaway as the forbidden child, the rebels sailed to Panta. They broke Saint, Crimson, and Shirahama out and left Panta with Eir Ipativy in their custody as well.

Instead of sailing directly to Dogloe, as planned, they made their way to Manaloe. Throughout the year of 1500, the Christian spirits of Manaloe had began to express their disdain, through nonviolent means, for the new theology enforced upon them by the Bishopry. Christianity originated in the Vanian Mountains and spred to the elves through Zannon, Cannon, and Bluff. The theology split in two shortly after the First Void War with the finding of the unabridged Gospels, polarizing between Thoran or Mystakle Christianity which took root among the Sentry and the new form of Christianity, Thoran, which grew amongst the Ipativian. The Ipativian version, Thoran, added hell, miracles, made Jesus God’s only son, and exchanged the merciful God for an omnipotent one. The spirits of Manaloe learned Mystakle Christianity by minotauren exiles that’d fled as Islam spread in the Vanian.

By the time the Bishopry began to govern Manaloe, the two faiths were so different that the Ipativians called the spirit’s version New Christianity despite the fact that it was the original. New Christianity and Mystakle Christianity was incompatable with the actions of the Hundred Empire Alliance. Prime examples being the slavery in Vinnum Tow and the devious debt rendering Energy Tithe. Even if the Bishopry wasn’t pressuring the spirits to adopt their theology and hadn’t permitted – if not created – such exploitative industries, the spirit’s saw bureaucracy as inherently sinful and did their best to refuse their part in it. In the end, their abstinence only served to leave them voiceless as Loki appointed his own Deacons and his own Bishop over them.

The spirits had begun to gather behind the speeches of a smart young flame called Brahim Phinn. Though Brahim loved the Mystakle Christian doctrine, part of which made no excuse for violence, he feared that their peaceful display of discontent would have little to no impact on Loki and the Ipativian presence in Manaloe. Still refraining from lifting the blade, Brahim began to lead marches in which entire villages of spirits would surround the palace of a Deacon until the Deacon resigned out of pure irritation with the inconvenience. It often took weeks. The last march had begun while Saint and his comrades had been in jail and it happened in the capital. Brahim and his patriots had the Bishop Valkyrie Ipativy surrounded. Valkyrie planned to repel these peaceful rebels with violence and a few spirits working for the Bishopry warned Brahim. Brahim could not back down. If the Bishopry resorted to violence then the world would not be able to deny the Alliance for what it was – more so what it wasn’t: a peace pact. Yet, if Brahim did not back down, how many of his fellow men would die? So, Brahim sent a spirit to contact the rebels led by Saint.

The rebels arrived in February, fashionably late. Valkyrie had already begun to carve through the peaceful occupiers, killing and arresting chunks of the masses gathered. With each day’s growing brutality, the troops of the Bishopry became less and less attentive and enthusiastic. Those that didn’t drop their guard, dropped their swords and deserted. By the time Saint arrived, the Bishop of the Spirits’ soldiers were unorganized and lacking in morale. The rebels hardly had to raise a sword before the Bishop Valkyrie fled Manaloe and the warriors she left behind laid down their weapons.

 

– – –

 

“Are there still two types of Christianity?” Joe asked.

“Naw. Thoran Christianitay jus about dahd with the Archbish-” Zalfron gasped and bit his lip, “Spoiler alert!”

Joe laughed, “Seeing as Saint is now Emperor, I sort of expected.”

“You Christian?” Nogard asked, eyeing Joe intensely as he puffed away on his pipe.

Joe nodded.

“Dey alotta Christians on Urt?”

“A good bit.” Joe admitted, then he asked, “What are you?”

“I be me.” Nogard said with a smile, “Don’t believe one way or de udder cause I believe in what I see.” He winked, “I believe dere be somedin bigger dan me, but dat don’t make it a god. Its like, I be bigger dan an ant but dat don’t make me its maker, ya know?”

“That’s how most gogo fiends saem to thank.” Zalfron said, laying an unimpressed, somewhat pretentious look on the chicken dragon before turning to Joe, “Ah’ma Christian.”

“That’s good,” Joe said to Zalfron but then he turned back to Nogard, “but I think everyone’s entitled to believe what they want. What really matters is how you act.”

“True, true.” Nogard nodded and slapped Joe on the back, “Spoken like a true Mystakle Christian.”

“Alrahty,” Zalfron cleared his throat, “back to Saint, ware almost through.”

 

– – –

 

The rebels stayed in Manaloe throughout February to help Brahim get things settled. Despite their distrust for letting one man rule over another, a very tentative government was established to make communications with other nations possible. Now Saint’s eyes fell once more on the land of his birth – Dogloe. Bishop Valkyrie Ipativy had fled there, to her husband’s domain. It seemed the coop would be easy for just as in Manaloe, the people of Dogloe had become unruly. Saint’s father, Etamladip, had been accused of his mother’s murder, the man was taken into custody and was never seen again. Since that time, the largest minority in Dogloe, Marblemen, had done all they could to make life difficult for the Bishopry. Once a week, a town would throw a revolt and a Deacon would flee to the capitol (or a head would arrive mounted on the end of a spear at the Bishop’s doorstep). So Saint and his fellow leaders, Theseus, Quonon, Crimson, Hodur, Shirahama, and Vali, decided they would take a small tactical force and storm the palace to overthrow the Bishop Gramur Woodfolk.

Not all were eager to kill the Bishop and his refugee wife, one being, ofcourse, Quonon, but the other being Saint. Brahim’s religion had struck a cord with Saint and the guilt of his past murders were beginning to catch up with him. Christianity first intrigued him when Barenchi Kou spoke of it during his training in Koustan – plus his P.O.W. girlfriend Eir happened to be the daughter of Gramur and Valkyrie and a Christian aswell. Saint suggested they storm the palace with Eir in cuffs and force Gramur and Valkyrie, along with all those associated with the Bishopry who preferred not to be executed, to leave the continent or their daughter would be slain. Vali disagreed. She wanted blood. As did Theseus and Shirahama. Though, to everyone’s surprise, Hodur sided with Saint.

Hodur’s behavior wasn’t, actually, out of character. One of Hodur’s daughters, Hel Ipativy, was the Bishop of Dogloe’s top advisor which meant she received orders from Loki and instructed Gramur to carry them out. Since her father’s expulsion from the Bishopry, Hel, one of Loki’s most beloved pawns, constantly appealed to the Archbishop for her father to be forgiven. Finally, an opportunity presented itself. After a discussion with Loki, Hel risked her life to sneak into Manaloe. There she listened in and contributed to the planning through the mouth of her father who reluctantly cooperated. Though he felt obliged to serve Saint, seeing as he murdered the boy’s mother, he was first and foremost a father and he could not see his children unless he was forgiven by the Bishopry. So, though the rebels didn’t realize it, they were planning to put all the rebel leaders within the Bishopry’s grasp. Still the vote was tied. They asked Brahim for input. Seeing as either plan would involve violence, he refused to give his opinion but he did offer a solution: a coin toss. The coin was flipped and Saint, Quonon, and Hodur won – they would attempt to offer the Bishops a way out.

The rebels waited for a stormy day, to avoid the dalvary guards, and flew through the rain on the backs of lion dragons. They stormed into the courtyard of the famous Citadel with ease and fought their way to the royal family’s chambers with minimal casualties. Though they forged onward, they were all aware of the fact that the castle seemed under armed for such a tumultuous time. Gramur, Valkyrie, and Hel were waiting in the voluminous hallway, facaded with windows, that stood before the family’s quarters. When the rebels arrived, the dalvary guards broke in through the windows. Troops, who had been hiding, sealed the doors on either side. Despite the appearance that the tables had turned, the rebels offered Gramur, Valkyrie, and Hel an escape: to surrender, take Eir, and leave Dogloe. They refused. The rebels weren’t daunted. They’d been getting used to having their backs against the wall. Saint and his comrades made surprising headway against the dragon riders. As more flew in to replace those that had fallen, the rebel leaders made their way towards the two Bishops.

Hodur revealed his betrayal when Quonon bested Hel in combat. As the harpy prepared to strike his final blow, his banshee heart was pierced from behind by Hodur. Outraged, Saint attacked Hodur. The half elf was no match for the veteran warrior, who had taught Saint many of his tricks, but even after unarming the rebel leader, Hodur didn’t have it in him to kill his sister’s son. By this point, Theseus had slain Gramur and Shirahama had killed Valkyrie. Vali was hungry for blood. She stepped in front of Saint and took on Hodur. Hodur was the stronger combatant, but his heart was not in the fight and, after forcing a promise from Saint that Hel would be spared, he gave up and Vali cut off his head. The supply of dragon rider reinforcements was quickly diminishing what with their leaders dead, but still Hel ordered for more. As the rebel leaders turned to the double-traitor’s daughter, they were prepared to take her alive but that never happened. Eir, having broke free from her bondage in the chaos, was filled with rage. The original plan would have spared the lives of her parents. She saw their deaths as Hel’s fault. Picking up the blade of a fallen soldier of the Bishopry, Eir took on Hel and, quite easily, defeated her, driving her sword through the girl’s heart. The rebels continued the fight until the dalvary stopped coming. Upon opening the doors, the troops were reluctant to surrender until the rebels revealed the heads of their fallen leaders. One way or another, though they had lost Hodur and Quonon, the rebels had taken down yet two more of the twelve Bishops.

 

– – –

 

“So how many have they killed?” Joe asked.

“Huh? Lemmae thank…dayumn…” Zalfron blinked at his sudden realization, “They actually only killed thrae Bishops.”

“Ya but danks to dem, Munkloe, nord Sondor, soud Sondor, Manaloe, and Dogloe all left da Bishopry.” Nogard pointed out.

“True.” Joe agreed. Then, with a smile, he noted, “Hodur killed as many Bishops as the rebels when he worked for Loki!”

“Hows that?” Zalfron asked.

“Well, he strangled Baldura, killed her lover the Eninac guy, and didn’t you say he killed the Sentry Bishop in northern Iceload?”

“Hae didn’t kill Etamladip Eninac.” Zalfron stated.

“Then who killed him?” Joe asked.

“Noboday.” Zalfron said.

Nogard was fighting a smile, “He disappeared, mon.”

Joe’s eyes lit up, “Wait, is he-”

“Shut up!” Zalfron roared, “Ah’m almost there!”

 

– – –

 

By now, the rebels couldn’t help but turn their hungry eyes on Iceload. At the time of Dogloe’s surrender, only four Bishopries, outside of the icy three pronged continent, remained loyal to the Archbishop. One was the Plainsmen of central Sondor, though they were stuck in a long war with their neighbors to the north and south. Two of which were Batloe and Foxloe which were both controlled by the prominent chicken dragon family known as the Fang Empire. They were content with minding their own business and supposedly even sent a messenger to Saint saying that the rebels could do anything, castrate Loki for instance, and the Fang Bishops wouldn’t raise a finger as long as their lands remained unscathed. Aside from these three, there was Vinnum Tow, the slender desert islands renown for their enslavement of the dwarven natives.

Vinnum Tow was well aware that they would be next on the agenda for the rebels, so they sent a messenger to Dogloe. The nellafs of Icelore, who colonized Vinnum Tow, always distrusted the elves to their east and though they joined the Hundred Empire Alliance they maintained their disdain for the Ipativians and Sentrys. The Icelore were only truly loyal to their kin, thus were prepared to betray the Alliance in order to survive. The Vinnum Tow messenger was accompanied with a messenger from Icelore. The messengers said that if Vinnum Tow could be guaranteed one hundred years of peace – under which it was suggested the nellafs would be restructuring their society to prepare for the abolition of slavery – the rebels could use Icelore to invade the Archbishop’s capital in Zviecoff. After their last plan went haywire, the rebels were skeptical. Saint demanded some type of proof before they decided to blindly trust the Icelore. The nellafs had come prepared. The old messenger from Icelore was not a mere messenger, but the hundred year old Bishop himself – Heimdallure Darkblade 10. Impressed, they agreed.

As the rebels congregated in Icelore, Loki scrambled to organize his defenses. His foreign allies were either nonexistent or not listening. His northern neighbors, the Sentry, had given up hope on the Bishopry and cast out their Bishop, Bragi Ipativy, who returned to Zviecoff to be executed for incompetence. He did his best to have troops patrol the Vanian Mountains but they were constantly bombarded by the scattered remnants of the GraiLord Empire, still pissed from the Third War of the Blue Ridges. Meanwhile, half of his fire power had to be focused on Middakle, the middle peninsula. Zion Cage, the Bishop of the Plainsmen, finally raised the white flag, demanding peace in exchange for his noncompliance with the Archbishop. This allowed Munkloe, Tadloe, and the opposite ends of Sondor to send their own forces to attack the Bishop of Greater Iceload. Apache Dreb, Saigo Fou the King of Tadloe, and Takia Eninac met Saint and his comrades in Icelore to join in on the final raid.

In the middle of April, the rebels began their journey through the Vanian Mountains as Loki sat sweating on his throne. They orchestrated a simultaneously thrust upon Zviecoff with the rebel forces east of the city. The battle was still not an easy one. Apache Dreb fell as they fought to break through the castle walls, but it seemed the others might make it as they breached the Archbishop’s chambers. His royal guard was a force to be reckoned with and the old crone Heimdallure was the first to make it to Loki. The old men fought hard and, in the end, they slid their swords between the other’s ribs. As both fell, Heimdallure immediately died but Loki lived on. He might’ve escaped  had Crimson not caught his scent. Saint broke free from the guard and followed his hound to the Archbishop.

Loki lay at the feet of the white fox, who explained to Saint that he had been helping Loki aswell. The fox challenged Saint not to kill the old elf. Saint refused. He slit the old man’s throat while he laid on the floor. The fox mocked Saint for the pointless killing. After all, the war had been won, the capital had been overrun. There was no need to kill Loki for the old man was doomed to bleed out in mere minutes. In response, Saint threatened to kill the fox and so the fox revealed himself – he was Creaton. Saint did not recognize him and was undaunted. As the two fought, Saint made stupid mistake after stupid mistake, nearly costing him his life if only Creaton had capitalized. Finally, Creaton did.

But as Creaton’s blade flew, Saint was knocked out of the way – Crimson took the hit. His beloved hound had been watching the duel loyaly, as his master ordered, but when he saw Saint about to falter, he couldn’t let it happen. The dog died in Saint’s arms. Creaton laughed. As Saint wept, Creaton told the story of how Etamladip Eninac was captured by Loki and turned into a dog. As a dog he was to be executed to humiliate his people. However, somehow, the dog had escaped and found his son. Hearing this, Saint lowered his father to the floor and raised his sword once more. Creaton could see in the half elf’s eyes that even he, the original Moon Dragon Man, could not match this young man’s strength, so he fled.

You see, Creaton’s plan was to cast Solaris into chaos. As corrupt as the Hundred Empire Alliance was, left to its own devices, they might’ve eventually smoothed out the wrinkles. Though Loki had concocted it to extend the reaches of his power, the other rulers had consented because it seemed like a good way to maintain peace. When Creaton returned to Solaris, he saw how far from anarchy and how – in the name of peace – such horrible inequalities had been allowed to persist. He blamed the Bishopry and did his best to unravel it. He sought to upset the world order, present a brilliant new leader, then take him away and leave Solaris in the dark. He didn’t have to kill Saint to remove him from the picture. There was another way. At this time, the Stone of Krynor was held in Zvie Castle. So when Creaton fled and lured Saint to chase, he ran straight for the stone. By now, Theseus, Shirahama, Vali, Takia, and Eir had fought their way through the Archbishop’s guards and were running after Saint. Creaton ran into the Stone’s chamber then hid and, when Saint came in, he grabbed the boy and struck the stone with his blade. Theseus, Shirahama, Vali, Takia, and Eir arrived in time to see the two disappear. Though they didn’t know what would happen, they didn’t pause to ponder. They too strode forward to strike the stone. Just like that, the rebels won but lost their leaders. As the Hundred Empire Alliance crumbled, the people of Solaris were abandoned.

 

– – –

 

“What about the King of Tadloe?” Joe asked.

“Saigo?” Zalfron said, yawning, “Yeah, hae was still around, but that man was cray-zay.”

“Don’t forget, de moon dragon finally lands right after Saint and his buds bounce. So half de world be leaderless and den a giant dragon starts reakin havoc.” Nogard said.

“Well where’d they go?” Joe asked.

“They went uh…” Zalfron yawned again, turned away from the two, and rested his head against the window, “…they went…wenna…”

And just like that, the elf was asleep.

“I wish I could sleep dat quick.” Nogard remarked, then he laughed, “Widdout de gogo dat is! Suppose I’ma take a nap now too. Night, mon!”

“Night.” Joe returned though it wasn’t night. He rested his head against the side of the buggy, but sleep continued to hide from him. His brain had just swallowed too much to shut down anytime soon. The Emperor was once a nobody. Maybe I am qualified to be a hero, if the shit shoveler can do it…He spent the rest of the ride in silence with only his thoughts to keep him company.

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