The Nightingale sat in the Shade hidden from view, watching those who moved about the town of Fortune’s Bend. So many adventurers, all with their own stories, their own desires and goals. All of whom were aligning themselves against Ravvin. He loved to watch them, some dozed and napped, fighting was as easy to them as sleep and they went from one to the next as readily as breath. Others trained to fight harder, practicing in the field near the Alentina. Yet others read books upon books, heaped at their feet mastering spells unknown to the world at large. In the background was music from bards, and those caregivers who felt the call to bring whatever they could to the fight, to keep bellies fed and the hearth warm, in many ways, a gentle reminder of exactly what they were fighting to protect.
“Why did you call us here? You know you will suffer for it, you broke the deal we made.” The First One spoke quietly, standing next to him and observing the people.
“I’m not the sort for rules.. neither were you, remember? These people need more than I can offer. Each of us… we sacrificed something great, but our change in the world is finite.. limited, there has to be another way, I’m going to do something, and.. well, you’re not going to like it.” His tone was levied with a sort of stern determination, a focus as he watched the bards in the distance practice.
“So what do you think you’ve accomplished by bringing the realm here? What do you plan on doing?” Her stern voice caused him to recoil a bit, wary.
“It’s my mantle now Gail, and there only needs to be one of us. The realm was there so that we could come get guidance from our past selves. but we’ve been locked away. I’m going to destroy it, and put that power to better use.” He clenched his jaw, looking towards her. The others were in view in the shadows, watching him. More than the other three, but dozens in the distance in half forms. All the heroes standing and watching the town with him, spread throughout the Shade, all drawn to the realm, to the laylines of shadow he had woven like a great web across rues.
“What about the rest of us? Where will we go?”
“Phantoms and Wraiths, all of you. All dead and gone in one form or another, memories and nothing more. We don’t need to be remembered right now, we don’t need a home, we need to do something real. They’re fighting an angel, and they’ll all die if they don’t win. Besides, the Tabula Rasa forbade us from coming back anyway… I’m just keeping our end of the bargain.”
“Show me your conviction then, and we’ll see how the story unfolds. I’m not going to let you destroy it without a fight.” She unsheathed her sword and leveled it at his chest.
The Shade quaked as he faced off from the first hero, the one who stood with purpose in defiance, and paid the ultimate price… everything was silence, and for a moment a whole realm of the Shade dissipated, absorbed into his body. He smiled softly, almost sadly and leveled his bow towards her, red fletching quivering under the strain of the draw. He was nothing if not inventive, and he had planned a long time.
“You’re the First. You gave up everything for a people you love, and you were a far better person than I. Perhaps I’ll be the Last. We sacrifice, but we do not give up, we fight with everything we have and hope that it will be enough. I hope to see you again.”
The fight itself was short and brutal, neither held back, and at the end, her sword struck deep into his heart, piercing from front to back. He loosed his arrow a final time, and a groove appeared on her cheek as it sliced and flew past her wide, a pure tone ringing out as the arrow struck steel off in the distance.
“You missed.” Her words had a ghost of sadness.
“Depends on the target..I still have things to accomplish..”
As he fell, a shockwave of red fire and feathers blew out from his body, immolating his flesh to spirit. The realm of the Sacrificial Hero shattered into pieces and scattered to the wind, following laylines of shadow that he spent the past year building. They acted as guides and channels, funneling the shards deep into the very hearts of those heroes of Fortunes Bend, finding their homes and beds, hearts and souls, no matter how near or far, and the world felt an exhale as each bit of feather and flame found a new cage in the hearts of the Purposed, strengthening their spirits for the fight to come.
The First looked around as she drew her sword clean from the fading remains. For a moment she seemed resigned, almost dissapointed, but then as she looked towards the tavern she saw his arrow, neatly buried in the post under the bell of death, the knocker still swaying, she let out a light laugh and shook her head. “I see. Well… let’s play this out. I hope your faith in them is well founded.”
She slung her sword and turned, beginning to walk away..the Phantoms of the former heroes gone into the Shade in various directions. With no home to turn to, they would have to find their own way.
Somewhere in the distance, The Whipporwill began to sing in earnest, a song of dangerous joy, she was free of her cage and ready to fly.