‘His rage is eternal and his might is absolute. Tremble before his Fury and beg for forgiveness. Only then will he guide you away from the darkness of your sin. Only then will you be saved from Na’lek’s wrath.’ -From the Tomes of Regret, Verse 12 of Repentance.
The wind was singing today, and that was never a good sign. Surging outwards from the storm, the roiling wind churned as it sped over the shattered rocks of the wasteland. Its song was a terrible cry; a lamentful dirge for the dead as it whistled through the bleached bones that no one dared retrieve.
This wind soon came upon more hospitable ground, rising up against the watchtower and rustling the cloak of the young man who stood atop it. Kaven grimaced at the wind’s cold bite, placing his bow against one of the tower’s battlements in order to pull his cloak away from the wind’s grasp. The wind didn’t often rise like this, but when it did, it more than likely meant a storm band was coming. Or worse.
"Any sign of movement?" The Watchkeeper opened the trapdoor and stepped up onto the roof. The trapdoor, along with the main entrance, were the only wooden portions of the entire watchtower, and even that small amount still made Kaven nervous.
Nevertheless, this was not the place to be afraid, and Kaven saluted the Watchkeeper. This was a new commander, Kaven had only served under him a handful of times, and he found that he didn’t really like the big man that much. Kaven unconsciously brushed his long brown hair out of his eyes, then suddenly realized that he had forgotten to salute. He remedied that quickly, appearing perhaps a little too overeager.
"Nothing but the wind, sir." Kaven informed his commander, nearly having to shout over the constant gusts roaring past him. His hair still continued to whip into his eyes, apparently having unnerving accuracy. "Though from the look of things, something will happen soon."
Kaven winced as the Watchkeeper clasped an armored hand on his shoulder. “Something’s always going to happen here, lad,” he said. “Keep up the good work.” The man stared out at the horizon, frowning, and then turned and descended back into the safety of the tower, leaving Kaven alone with the wind once more.
He looked upwards, staring at the violet clouds high above, which twisted and writhed ominously with the wind. He shuddered at the sight of it, listening closely to the sounds of thunder. Out here in the Fields of Glory, thunder often meant death. Even on the outskirts of the storm, where the storm was weakest, it could be fatal. If Kaven looked out onto the horizon, far from the tower, he could see the true threat. A storm so terrible and mighty, that even thousands of years of war against it had accomplished nothing to dampen its rage.
This was the reason Kaven stood on a tower in a desolate wasteland. This was the storm that was home to all of his fears. This was the Fury. A storm that encompassed the center of the continent of Stormvault, the Fury was the curse of his people’s god, Na’lek. Composed of terrible winds, violet clouds and lethal lightning, the Fury was the manifestation of Na’lek’s wrath. The Fury had been placed upon Lantrelia countless ages ago, set to punish humanity by sending forth legions of monsters to conquer them.
The Zealots, the leaders of the Church of Na’lek, had long ago been gifted with the key to humanity’s survival; the Tomes of Regret. In the Tomes, one instruction was explicitly clear; fight the Fury to pacify Na’lek’s rage. As his father had fought the Fury, so now did Kaven. Just as Na’lek had commanded.
Kaven found himself entranced by the swirling violet storm, where thousands of men had given their lives so that they might live with Na’lek in Shilanti. The Fury was the ultimate symbol of humanity’s failure; their sin against Lantrelia itself. Na’lek had not created Lantrelia so that mankind could foul it. He wondered if...
Deafeningly loud, the thunder slammed across the Fields of Glory, vibrating the broken stones beneath the tower. A storm band was upon them. “Lightning!” He screamed, panicked as he sensed his own death approaching. He dashed towards the trapdoor.
The lightning came almost immediately. A bolt of black light arced downwards from the Fury, slamming down into the earth beside the watchtower. Kaven’s vision went dark, as if someone had covered his eyes. Kaven stumbled, falling beside the trapdoor, hands over his head in a futile attempt to stop the Fury’s attack.
Kaven’s vision cleared quickly - the Fury’s darkness didn’t last long - and he peered over the side to see where the strike had landed. Where the black lightning had struck, a round hole, big enough for Kaven to sit in, had been carved out of the ground. Unlike a normal storm, the Fury’s lightning disintegrated what it touched. The only good thing, if it could be called a good thing, was that the thunder came first. Na’lek had given his people this one merciful warning. After centuries of being assaulted by the Fury, thousands of these lightning pits covered the Fields of Glory.
Another clap of thunder echoed across the wasteland, and Kaven leapt to his feet, wrenching open the trapdoor and throwing himself down the hole just as the sky grew black again. The trapdoor slammed shut and the lightning hit the tower’s stone wall.
Kaven hit the wooden floor of the tower’s second level with a rather undignified thud. He groaned, but managed to look up at the stone roof above him. The lightning strike had not penetrated the tower. The watchtowers were all built to be thick, that way they could withstand multiple strikes. Once a week, a sorcerer would come to repair the damage, lest the tower crumble.
Kaven stood, dusting himself off. Six soldiers looked up from where they were seated around the edges of the tower. They were here to provide the first defence against the Fury. Kaven pointed upwards, “There’s lightning.” He grimaced, knowing full well that the soldiers were already aware of the storm band.
While on the watchman’s shift, it was Kaven’s job to stand atop the tower and watch for the Fury’s attacks, which he couldn’t do if there was a storm band active. There was, however, a secondary way to observe the wasteland, thank Na’lek.
Kaven made his way to the center of the circular room and lifted up a second trap door. He descended down into the base of the tower, using the ladder this time.
As Kaven stepped down onto the floor, the Watchkeeper nodded towards him. “Glad to see you survived.”
“I appreciate that,” Kaven replied, unable to keep a hint of spite out of his voice. He detested being put on the rooftop while the other soldiers lounged inside. There wasn’t any need to risk two lives atop the tower, and everyone had to work the shift. Kaven knew he shouldn’t complain.
Inside this room were four square holes, where stonework had been strategically removed. A soldier could look through the stone in order to see the Fields. This view was drastically limited compared to the rooftop view, but it would serve while they waited out the storm band. Three of the soldiers from above had already come down to stand in front of the holes, and Kaven positioned himself before the remaining opening.
They all looked up instinctively as another roll of thunder sounded. “It’s been three days since the last attack,” the Watchkeeper said. “We’re overdue. Stay watchful.”
“Yes sir,” Kaven chorused with the other soldiers. He dutifully watched the Fields of Glory, but he saw nothing but the distant violet clouds on the horizon, blowing in the wind. During the next hour, thunder rumbled occasionally, the storm band soon passed. With strong winds like today, the bands blew by quickly.
As he watched the broken rocks, which were sometimes blown into a pit by the wind, Kaven suddenly thought he saw one of them move. He tried to peer closer. Yes, there was something there. It was a black shape of some kind, darting between the pits and drawing closer.
“Sir,” he called back, feeling a wave of fear. “Sir, I think you should see this.”
The Watchkeeper ordered Kaven aside and looked through the spyhole. “It’s a Silent One!” The man’s face went pale. “There’s two, no, three of them out there!” He rounded on his command. “Assemble your weapons and report to the roof! Na’lek send there’s only three.”
Silent Ones! One of the many kinds of fearsome monsters conjured by the Fury, Kaven had heard far too many stories about the Silent Ones to ever wish to see one. Quickly, he unslung his bow and climbed upwards with his fellow soldiers, as the warning was relayed to the men above.
Kaven, joined by the ten other men, quickly rushed to the top of the tower and positioned themselves behind the protection of the battlements, where they nocked arrows to bowstrings. Kaven pulled his string taut with sweaty fingers, heart hammering as he aimed at the three dark shapes moving silently towards the watchtower.
The wind howled, beating against them, as if purposefully trying to throw off their aim. In Kaven’s case, his own hair was trying to blind him. Though he couldn’t do much about his unkempt hair, he didn’t have to worry about the wind knocking his arrow awry. The watchtowers were all issued Spinereaver arrows, which moved so fast that they defied even the Fury’s mighty winds.
“Find your marks,” the Watchkeeper commanded, his own bow drawn and ready.
Kaven closed one eye, holding his bow steady despite his trembling fingers. The Silent Ones moved closer, living embodiments of Na’lek’s rage. They had come to kill. Kaven breathed in deeply.
Kaven released, and as one, ten arrows snapped from bowstrings, surging downwards with an incredible speed. He followed his arrow and watched it bounce harmlessly off the rock. Titans take me! His fear was momentarily trumped by his disappointment. Kaven’s hair had better accuracy than he did.
But the Silent Ones did not evade all of the shafts. The closest one died first, by a hairsbreadth, dropping with a shaft in his throat. The second Silent One toppled into a pit, struck through the heart, while the last one fell, the force of two arrows throwing it backwards.
The Watchkeeper nodded in satisfaction, “Well done, lads.” He squinted towards the horizon. “But I think I see more. Many more. Kaven, I want you to move out! We’re taking shelter in the tower, so bring a warning to Regelia.”
Kaven hesitated, beginning to protest, but the Watchkeeper shouted over him. “Go, Titans take you!”
Despite being cursed at, Kaven saluted hastily and he descended back into the tower before the other men. He sighed as he went, putting his bow back over his shoulder. Why couldn’t he aim? He had trained with his bow for years! Ever since he had failed out of his school, he had devoted himself to learning the art of the sword and bow. He kicked the hardwood door as he exited the tower, but immediately regretted it as pain lanced up his foot. He heard the door’s bolt click as the Watchkeeper locked him out, preparing to wait for the Silent Ones to pass.
Kaven immediately took off running, and not only because of the Silent Ones that were rapidly approaching. His home, the proud kingdom of Regelia, would need warning. The Fury was attacking.
He sprinted across the barren wasteland, dodging around the pitfalls. They weren’t terribly deep, but his ankles certainly wouldn’t thank him if he tripped into one. Another clap of thunder resounded across the Fields, and Kaven glanced back at the twisting clouds. In the horizon, he could see faint flashes of the black lightning. With a shiver, he realized that he must be racing Na’lek himself.
The race didn’t last long, however, as the Portal-Tower was close by. Standing alone in the grassy plains of Regelia, the tower was a forlorn sight. A crude wooden structure rising a good fifty feet high, with a wooden ramp which spiraled up and around the tower.
Atop the tower would be a portal, held open by four sorcerers at all times. The Four Kingdoms all had a dozen or more Portal-Towers, creating passages into other lands and spanning thousands of miles, if necessary. The Church maintained and operated them.
Operating a tower was one of the most dangerous jobs in Lantrelia. Portals were incredibly unstable, and could detonate if not handled with extreme care. The elevation of the Portal-Tower would help to limit the earthquakes that would follow in the wake of portal’s explosion. Crossing through a portal was one of the most harrowing experiences in Lantrelia, but Kaven had a warning to give.
Four sorcerers operated the portal, standing around it with their arms outstretched as they cast the spell. The portal itself was a round hole, almost like a glass-less window, displacing the terrain of the Fields with the land beyond.
In the forefront of Kaven’s view through the portal was the great Barrier-Wall. The Wall was dozens of feet high and wide enough to allow ranks of horses to ride across, and stretched through all four Kingdoms, encompassing the Fury entirely. The Wall had stood for perhaps thousands of years, shielding Lantrelia from Na’lek’s wrath.
Kaven quickly explained the situation to the sorcerers, and they all filed through the portal. Kaven couldn’t help but worry that the portal might snap shut at any second, severing him in two, or simply detonate and vaporize him. However, the portal did not collapse and they crossed safely to the other side.
Once through, the sorcerers let their portal close, and Kaven led them about a dozen feet forward and through the wide, ironwrought gates of the Barrier-Wall. As soon as they had stepped beyond the Wall, the gates began to close.
Now protected behind the Wall, Kaven could see his homeland stretching before him. The Kingdom of Regelia was a lush land that had never known the Fury’s wrath. The proud Regelians had fought the Fury ever since Na’lek had begun his war, and Kaven was honored to be a part of such a noble heritage.
Kaven hurried onto the Wall, following the stone steps beside the gate. “The Silent Ones are coming!” His shouts were soon echoed by the other Regelian soldiers, who began dashing across the Wall to prepare.
By the time Kaven reached the command post, Captain Maen was already having attendants strap on her armor. Tying her brown hair up into a bun, she slid a domed helmet onto her head. The front of the helm was cutaway, leaving her face exposed. Maen was a stunning woman, with prominent features and sharp eyes. Kaven had served with her ever since joining the military. She glanced down at him. “Silent Ones, eh Kaven?”
“Yes ma’am,” he replied with a quick salute. “We killed three of them at the northern watchtower. More are coming.”
Captain Maen walked across the Wall as soldiers formed ranks alongside the battlements. Kaven hurried to keep up, glancing down at the Fields as he went. There was no sign of movement along the ground; maybe the Silent Ones weren’t coming after all.
"How long ago?" The captain asked, her eyes darting up towards the twisting violet clouds. "How long since the tower was attacked?"
"About five minutes, Captain." Kaven tried to remember exactly how long it had been, but he hadn’t thought to keep track. Idiot, he thought, berating himself. That’s a cadet’s mistake.
"Five minutes," the captain mused, I sheathing her sword. "The Silent Ones are fast, they will be here soon. Did you see any storm bands brewing?"
Kaven shook his head, “We had a small one just before the attack, but it was quickly dispersed. We’re not going to get any lightning today, ma’am.” Thunder suddenly rumbled faintly, rising from the Fury to be carried towards them with the wind. Kaven winced at the sound. “Not yet, that is,” he added, feeling embarrassed.
Captain Maen smiled, “Not to worry, lad. Lightning we can handle easily enough.”
A soldier suddenly cried out. “Captain Maen! They’re here!”
Narrowing her eyes, Captain Maen stared out across the scarred land. Sure enough, the Silent Ones were there. Perhaps dozens of them were marching across the Fields of Glory, effortlessly navigating around the many pits as they approached.
“Take up your positions,” Maen instructed. “Make ready for battle. The Fury will not have us this day!”
A robust gust of wind arose from the Fury, and with it came debris from the Fields. Kaven quickly dropped to the ground instinctively, as did the other soldiers. Debris wasn’t often blown back into the Four Kingdoms, but when it was, even small pebbles could be turned into lethal projectiles by the wind.
Fragments of plant smashed into the wall, some were branches from trees or bushes, while others were things Kaven had never seen before. Bulging purple leaves, swollen as if they were filled with liquid, bounced against the erect shields of the guardsmen. Kaven leapt out of the way as a large black...thing...landed on the wall. The thing, Kaven guessed it was a rock, despite appearing gelatinous, sank into the wall like a stone thrown into a pond.
A massive green rock came hurtling out of the storm clouds above and smashed right into him. Kaven screamed as it connected with him...only to pass right through. Confused, Kaven straightened, his legs wobbling with fear. Had...had that rock been made of mist?
Kaven retreated to the back of the Wall, fearful of more debris. Fortunately, the wind began to calm once more, and the soldiers readied themselves nervously. Kaven began to feel more and more uneasy as he noted the suddenly fearful looks of the soldiers. What had made them…? His thoughts trailed off as he came close enough to see the ground. The Silent Ones were gone. He gasped, looking to his fellow soldiers, and followed their gaze upward...where he found them. The Silent Ones had been lifted up by the wind.