|Series||His True Destiny by Azaelia Silmarwen|
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|Next||His True Destiny: Chapter Five|
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Chapter Four: The ArenaEdit
Once back at the Guild, Rowan went looking for a new Quest Card. As he was reading through his options, the Guildmaster made his way over to him.
‘Congratulations on your latest victory, Rowan,’ he said.
‘I don’t know if I’d call it a victory,’ Rowan muttered.
‘Call it what you will. Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that Maze wants to see you. He’s up in his chambers.’
‘I’ll head there now,’ replied Rowan, making his way to Maze’s quarters. He vaguely wondered if it was normal for the Head Hero to constantly request a newly graduated Hero’s presence so much.
When Rowan entered Maze’s quarters, he saw the older Hero standing in front of the fire place.
‘The Guildmaster said you wanted to see me,’ said Rowan.
‘Indeed I did,’ replied Maze, turning to face the teenager. ‘How did you visit to the seeress go? Do you know where your sister is?’
‘I do,’ replied Rowan, before telling Maze everything that happened.
‘So you really found your sister,’ Maze muttered thoughtfully once Rowan was finished, ‘before losing her again. Not many could achieve such an outcome. I would have never imagined her living among bandits.’
‘You and me both. I was that shocked, I literally dropped my sword and forgot all about the bandits around me.’
‘Listen, before you go wandering off again. I have a favour to ask of you,’ said Maze. Rowan’s eyes widened. Maze was asking him for a favour! ‘An old friend of mine has gone missing. He calls himself the Archaeologist. He may have stumbled onto something big; perhaps big enough to put his life in danger. There’s a rumour he may be hiding somewhere in Witchwood. That is, if he isn’t dead already. You can use a cullis gate to get there. I only hope it isn’t too late.’
‘I’ll head there at once,’ Rowan replied, before hurrying from the room. He couldn’t believe a great Hero like Maze needed his help.
Rowan ended up teleporting to Witchwood cullis gate. Once he was in the area he made his way, through the rain, to the Archaeologist’s rumoured location. When he was heading for the exit of the area, he ended up facing a rock troll, before entering Witchwood Stones.
Just inside the region was a Demon Door, which was supposed to be able to help Rowan find the Archaeologist. Of course, it would only be useful when opened and to open it, Rowan had to fulfil a certain requirement.
‘I only open to those who know my name,’ the Demon Door informed the Hero. ‘Only one person knows my name, but I doubt you’ll find him… even at the Temple of Avo.’
‘So if I go to the Temple of Avo, I’ll find the person who knows your name?’
‘I did not say that!’ the Door replied with a hint of worry.
‘You didn’t need too!’ Rowan laughed, running off to the Temple of Avo where he found the man who knew the Demon Door’s name.
Unfortunately, the man wouldn’t give the information freely. His price was a ruby. Rowan, who didn’t have a ruby and did not want to waste the little gold he had on one, may have “accidently” threatened to put an arrow through the man’s head if he didn’t tell him what he needed to know. Scared that Rowan would do as he threatened, the man told Rowan the Demon Door’s name; Hits.
Now knowing the Demon Doors name, Rowan returned to it.
‘So, are you going to open up for me now, Hits?’ he asked innocently.
The Demon Door grumbled something incomprehensible under his breath as he opened for Rowan. The Hero immediately entered to the area beyond and found the Archaeologist.
‘So, you found me,’ Maze’s friend said, not sounding too happy. ‘That’s just grand. If you can find me, so can they.’
‘They?’ Rowan questioned.
‘Jack and his men,’ the Archaeologist grumbled. ‘If I had of known he was interested in those Focus Sites I never would have started studying them.’
‘Jack who?’ Rowan inquired, while wondering what a Focus Site was.
‘Jack of Blades,’ replied the Archaeologist. ‘Look, I don’t have time to explain, but you can read my journal if you want. I don’t want it anymore.’
He threw it at Rowan’s face, before running off.
‘Hey! Wait!’ Rowan yelled running after him, but he eventually lost him.
‘Why do I keeping finding then losing people?’ Rowan muttered angrily, teleporting back to the Guild. That was probably the last quest Maze ever trusted him with.
‘How did it go?’ Maze asked when Rowan appeared in the map room.
‘I found him, alive, but then I lost him when he threw his journal at me and ran off to find somewhere else to hide from someone called Jack of Blades,’ Rowan answered, handing Maze his friend’s journal. He did not notice Maze’s panic-stricken look.
‘You did well, boy,’ Maze said distractedly. ‘Listen, Knothole Glade is having problems. Why don’t you go there and see if you can help them?’
-----HIS TRUE DESTINY-----
When Rowan entered Knothole Glade, he was welcomed by two balverines that weren’t too happy about him being there. Then, when he approached the village, he saw the gates were locked and several people were outside, banging on the gate, begging to be let in. As Rowan approached them, three more balverines appeared. Rowan was able to shot them before they could harm the villagers.
‘What’s going on?’ Rowan demanded, walking over to the people.
‘They’ve locked the gates to stop the balverines from entering the village!’ one of them explained. ‘But they’ve locked us out and won’t let us in just in case a balverine comes as we’re going inside. They just left us out here to die!’
‘We’ll see about that!’ Rowan growled. He walked over to the door next gate and looked through its window. He saw the gatekeeper staring at him from the other side.
‘Open the gate and let us in at once!’ Rowan ordered.
‘I don’t think so, sonny,’ the gatekeeper replied. ‘I can’t risk a balverine getting through.’
‘There isn’t a balverine in sight at the moment. Now open this gate!’
‘Who do you think you are giving me orders?’
‘I’m a fully qualified Hero of Skill,’ replied Rowan, showing the gatekeeper his Guild Seal. ‘Maze told me to come here to help, but I can’t do that out here, can I?’
‘Very well, just make sure you hurry. There could be more of them out there!’
The moment the gate was opened, the villagers ran inside. Rowan slipped in too as the gates were closed once more.
Glaring at the gatekeeper, Rowan made his way over to the Chief of Knothole Glade, who was standing nearby.
‘Bloody balverines!’ he was grumbling to himself. ‘In all my years as Chief, I’ve never seen anything like it.’
‘Well, hopefully you won’t have to deal with them much longer,’ said Rowan, stopping before the Chief. ‘I’m Rowan, qualified Hero of Skill. Maze sent me.’
‘Ah, thank goodness you’re here!’ the Chief exclaimed. ‘We might have had a chance by ourselves if the bloody beasts weren’t following a white balverine. It comes into our village and kills whoever it wants.’
A roar suddenly echoed around the village, making everyone jump.
‘It must be attacking the warehouse at the bottom of that hill!’ the Chief said, looking nervously towards the warehouse.
‘Leave it to me,’ Rowan said, knotting his bow, with one of the silver tipped arrows he had purchased at the Darkwood Camp, as he made his way towards the warehouse. When it came in sight, Rowan pulled back the bow string as far as it would go, before releasing it. He managed to get it right through its heart.
Smirking, Rowan went down and retrieved its body before carrying it back to the anxious Chief. He dropped the body at the Chief’s feet. He then bent down and removed his arrow from the creature’s chest.
‘I don’t believe it,’ the Chief whispered as people slowly began to come out of their houses. ‘You managed to kill it with one arrow.’
‘I am a Hero of Skill,’ replied Rowan.
‘Even so… the Heroes of Skill we’ve had in the past have all used more than one arrow.’
‘I’m not your average Hero of Skill,’ Rowan said, throwing all modesty aside. ‘I never miss my target.’
‘Well, you have our gratitude, Hero. A Hero of your stature deserves the glory of fighting in the Arena. We’ll send a nomination form, nominating you to the Guild. Oh, and speaking of the Guild, they sent this letter for you. It’s from your sister.
Rowan practically snatched it out of the Chief’s hand and quickly read it.
I have always known you were special, and now I have found proof. The book that I have sent with this letter – The Bloodline – describes a bloodline from the days of the Old Kingdom, and its connection to a sword powerful enough to rule the world. It is a bloodline Mother belonged to, I am sure of it. It is also the bloodline we belong to. Perhaps with your eyes you will understand it better than I do. I speak to the pages, but they don't speak back.
‘Where is the book that came with this letter?’ Rowan asked abruptly.
The Chief mutely handed it to the Hero before walking away. With the book and letter in hand, Rowan returned to the Guild where the Guildmaster was waiting for him.
‘Congratulations, Hero,’ the Guildmaster said cheerfully, handing him an Arena Nomination form. ‘It would seem that your exploits haven’t gone unnoticed. Many people throughout Albion are impressed with your unbelievable skill. I still have trouble believing what I’m seeing is real. So, why don’t you run along to the Arena in Witchwood and show the people what a real Hero of Skill looks like.’
‘Will do!’ Rowan chuckled, before eagerly teleporting to Witchwood and making his way to the Arena.
He couldn’t believe that he was actually going to compete, and to compete was a great honour. After all, it wasn’t as though the Guild handed out nominations to anyone. They only handed them out to people they knew were ready and could handle it.
Outside the Arena, Rowan approached one of the guards and gave him his nomination form.
‘Ah, you must be that remarkably accurate Hero of Skill everyone’s talking about,’ the guard said, taking in Rowan’s weapons and age. ‘I don’t think we’ve ever had someone so young compete before. If you’d follow me…’
Rowan followed the guard to the required destination.
‘Welcome to the Hall of Heroes,’ the guard said entering the main building. ‘Now, I’ll take you to the Arena Preparation Area.’
As they walked through the Hall of Heroes, Rowan looked around with great interest at all the statues of great Heroes. The guard noticed this.
‘I tell you, the history of his place is wasted on the public,’ he said conversationally. ‘These are the Arena’s first Heroes. Our land’s heritage, but do the people care? No.’
‘I wonder why,’ said Rowan.
‘I don’t need to wonder, son, I know why. The people don’t want history. All they want is the Heroes of today. Still, I suppose every era needs its only Heroes.’
‘Even so, it’s a shame that they forget all the great deeds these Heroes have done. All their sacrifices and, in some cases, the misery they caused. Though I can understand why the latter of the two deeds would be forgotten.’
‘Who knows, maybe one day there will be a Hero everyone will remember throughout time. Maybe you’re that Hero.’
‘Ha, every Hero secretly dreams of being remembered for all time for doing something amazing,’ Rowan laughed as they entered the Arena Preparation room.
‘Just go and stand with those contestants over there, and you’ll be filled in what you have to do,’ said the guard, nodding to a group of men. ‘Good luck, kid.’
‘Thank you, sir,’ Rowan replied, going over to join the other competitors. Most of them snorted at his unthreatening appearance.
Moments later, a man with a green warrior stripe hairstyle, joined them and explained what was going to happen.
‘Welcome to the Witchwood Arena,’ he said. ‘A couple of basic points first. First of all, I must remind you to keep your aggression for the Arena itself. Anyone caught trying to cut up his rivals in here will be in trouble. You have been warned. Secondly… the way out. You can come in after each round, not during a round.’
‘Roth, it’s getting really ugly out there!’ a guard exclaimed as he hurried towards them.
‘Alright,’ Roth sighed. ‘Chameleon, you have heard all of this before, so go on for the first round and keep the crowd happy.’
‘No problem,’ a big, muscular guy, roughly the same build as Thunder, replied casually as he walked off. ‘This’ll be easy.’
‘Okay, when it’s your turn I’ll call your name and you will enter through the door Chameleon just used,’ Roth continued. ‘Once in the Arena you will battle foes from all over Albion. Every group of creatures you defeat wins you prize money, and increases the prize for the next round. The aim is to stay out there as long as you can to earn the big gold. Now, you can come back here at any time you like to buy potions or more equipment. Do this, though, and your prize for the next round will be zero. Not to mention the crowd will think you’re a big loser. Real Heroes get out there and stay out there! Whether you rest or not, the Arena Bonus Prize, given by Jack of Blades himself, will go to whoever gets through every single round alive.’
Rowan’s curiosity was peaked at the mention of Jack of Blades. He might have the chance to see the guy who was after the Archaeologist.
‘So get out there,’ Roth concluded. ‘Use your skills well, make sure the crowd enjoys it and if you have to die, do so bravely.’
While the other competitors went to stock up on potions, Rowan merely went and sat down, impatiently waiting for his turn. He made sure that there was nothing wrong with his bow as he waited.
Half an hour later, the guard from before approached Roth.
‘Er… Roth, bad news,’ he said. ‘I think Chameleon’s, er, you know, dead.’
‘What? Already? That idiot!’ Roth responded angrily before addressing Rowan and the others. ‘Right, people, it seems Chameleon only made it through three rounds before dying like a chicken in front of five thousand people. We need a new volunteer.’
‘I’ll go!’ Rowan informed Roth eagerly, before anyone else could say something. ‘All this waiting around is killing me.’
‘Your funeral, kid,’ someone said.
‘Ignore them,’ said Roth. ‘Just remember what I said. Now, talk to Al up by the door. He’ll let you into the Arena.’
Al turned out to be another guard and after making sure Rowan was ready, he allowed him to enter.
Ladies and gentlemen, the commentator began as Rowan entered the arena, for your entertainment, I give you Rowan, a newly graduate from the Heroes Guild, as a fully qualified Hero of Skill, only a short time ago. He is famous for quests such as protecting Orchard Farm and saving Knothole Glade from a nasty balverine problem! Like out other brave challengers, this up and coming hopeful has an eye on tonight’s grand prize, presented by Jack of Blades himself.
As the crowd cheered, Rowan readied his bow.
And now, we’re onto the first round! An old arena favourite… it’s the Wasp Horde!
Rowan could have laughed as he remembered the first time he ever faced these wasps. It was shortly after becoming a Guild apprentice.
Rowan calmly sheltered his bow and arrow, before drawing his sword as the wasps attacked him.
What’s this; a Hero of Skill fighting with a melee weapon instead of his bow? the commentator said. Well, I guess even these critters would give a Hero of Skill trouble with his marksmen ship.
‘You wanna bet?’ Rowan muttered, quickly knotting his bow and killing a wasp, just to prove the commentator wrong.
I take it back, he laughed.
For the rest of the round, Rowan continued to fight with his sword. These creatures weren’t much of a hardship.
He may be new to the Arena, but he got through round one and is now ready to take on round two. Let’s see how he does with this audience favourite. It’s the cruel, the smelly… hobbes!’
This time Rowan used only his bow. He never allowed the disgusting creatures near him. Why would he want to? Their stench was horrible to get out of one’s clothes. However, he did make use of some of the traps in the Arena.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the team rounds! Two Heroes… side-by-side… fighting together for their very survival.
Rowan turned to see who he would be working with. He couldn’t help but laugh when he saw who it was. This was going to be a new experience. After all, he and Whisper had never fought together, only against each other.
Rowan didn’t hear a word of the commentary as he was too busy watching Whisper, but when a group of balverines appeared, he began to focus real quick.
While Whisper went and met them in hand to hand combat, Rowan picked them off from the distance. Unfortunately, he didn’t notice the one behind him until it sent him flying to the ground and was then on top of him.
Looks like this might be the end of our Hero of Skill. As you all know, they aren’t very good with close up fighting. Will our Hero of Strength be able to get to him time? Hang on; she’s not even paying him any attention. This can’t be good.
Of course she wouldn’t be paying me any attention, thought Rowan. She knows about my Will power.
Growling, Rowan grabbed hold of the balverine above him and began to send surges of electricity through the beast’s body. When it was dead, he pushed its smoky body away and grabbed his bow to help Whisper. Meanwhile, the commentator was going on about his Will power.
It’s amazing! It’s incredible! Before us is a Hero of two of the three disciplines!
‘Three out of three, you mean,’ Rowan muttered as the last balverine fell. He didn’t blame the commentator for thinking that he only had the two disciplines. After all, he didn’t look or act like a Hero of Strength.
The next round of creatures Whisper and Rowan had to fight was hollow men. To kill these undead creatures, Rowan used only Will. He sent fireball after fireball at them, then watched as they turned to dust. Unfortunately, by the end of the round, he found his mana low and was quite tired. He would have to use his bow and arrows in the following rounds.
Round five consisted of smug bandits, but they didn’t cause too much hassle, compared to the balverines. They were human, after all. Blades and arrows could pierce their skin easily, unlike the two earth trolls the Heroes had to fight in round six. Both of them took on one of the trolls each. While Rowan stood a good distance away, shooting his troll and easily dodging its attacks, Whisper was right in front of her troll and was constantly being knocked about. However, she was doing more damage to her troll than Rowan was doing to his, with her mighty blows.
The Heroes ended up experiencing the same problem in round seven as they faced two rock trolls. However, the trolls were nothing compared to the giant, scorpion-like creature, the Archanox, they had to fight in the last round. Whisper and Rowan exchanged a nervous look before they attacked it.
Rowan managed to blind it, by shooting out its eyes, while Whisper fought it up close. Together, with Whisper’s melee talent and Rowan’s skill, they were eventually able to slaughter it.
We have two winners! the commentator informed the excited crowd. Incredible! So what will happen now? Two winners and only one prize? Well as you know, we have a special guest here today. It’s the one, the only… the Hero of Heroes, Jack of Blades!
Rowan turned and looked up at the terrace overlooking the arena up at a man dressed completely in red, hooded and wearing a mask. So this was Jack of Blades.
‘I have returned,’ he said. ‘After an eternity away from you all, Jack od Blades is back. This Arena is all that is great in Albion and you all that is worthy in it. I am honoured to stand before you again. And I have a proposal to mark the occasion; one final round… a fight to the death between the two Heroes still standing.’
Rowan’s eyes widened dramatically and glanced at the pale Whisper.
‘The winner will receive a special prize,’ Jack continued. ‘The loser will have the privilege of dying before you.’
‘What do they think they’re doing?’ Whisper said to the shocked Rowan. ‘They can’t do this!’
‘Apparently they can,’ Rowan muttered.
‘Listen, I’m going to put on a good fight, but I’m not killing you. I can’t kill you. You are, after all, my oldest friend.’
‘I have a better idea,’ Rowan informed her. ‘Let’s just flat out refuse to fight. It’s not like they can force us to fight.’
Both Heroes turned and faced Jack, who was waiting expectantly.
‘You can keep the prize!’ Rowan informed him stubbornly. ‘We will not fight each other for your enjoyment. Best friends will never kill each other!’
With that said, the friends turned and marched back into the Arena Preparation room. Upon entering the Arena Preparation room, two voices met their ears. One of them was Thunder. Rowan tensed at his voice. He wouldn’t want to get into a fight or on the bad side of that Hero.
‘But, my dear Lady, it was mere luck!’ Thunder was saying. ‘He’s nothing but a–’
‘It wasn’t luck, Thunder,’ Whisper interrupted.
Thunder and the woman he was with turned to look at the young Heroes. The woman had shoulder length blonde hair and was wearing a well-fitted, slightly revealing, purple dress.
‘Ah, there you are,’ the woman said to Rowan. ‘The Hero of Skill they’re all talking about, though people are going to talk even more now knowing that you are a Hero of Will too. I’m impressed, and that doesn’t happen often. But I forget my manners. I’m Lady Grey, the Mayor of Bowerstone.’
‘It is a pleasure to meet you, my Lady,’ Rowan said with a polite bow.
She smiled and walked right up to him, until they were merely inches apart. Rowan gulped nervously. He had absolutely no experience with the opposite sex, Whisper notwithstanding, and he could not deny that he found Lady Grey attractive.
‘I can see you are a man of worth,’ she said quietly. ‘You should pay me a visit at my Bowerstone North Manor.’
‘My Lady, if I could only –’ Thunder began, but Lady Grey cut him off.
‘Thunder, I am tired of your protests and your jealousy,’ she informed him with a cold stare.
Rowan blinked. Was the mighty Thunder indeed jealous of him?
‘The time of your glory is long gone,’ Lady Grey continued. ‘You should learn to accept that.’ She looked back at Rowan and smiled at him. ‘As I was saying, Hero, I do hope you will accept my invitation. We have much to discuss.’
‘Of course, my Lady,’ replied Rowan. ‘I would be honoured.’
She smiled and left the room. Rowan visibly relaxed once she was gone, but he did tense up when Thunder came right up to him.
‘This is not over,’ he said coldly, making Rowan cower slightly. Thunder was scarier than the Archanox. ‘New blood spills just like any other, and yours will spill soon enough!’
He then wrapped his arm around Whisper’s shoulders and led her away.
‘You alright, kid?’
It was the guard who had led him through the Hall of Heroes.
‘Yeah… yeah, I’m fine.’
‘I must say, that was unbelievable,’ the guard continued. ‘I haven’t seen anything like it for a long time. Come on, I’ll guide you back through the Hall of Heroes. You truly deserve to stand amongst them.’
‘You remind me of someone who fought here many years ago.’
‘Really? Who was it?’ Rowan asked curiously.
‘My memory’s not what it used to be, but I think her name was Scarlet Robe. Yes, that was it. Ever heard of her?’
‘I think I heard my parents speaking about her as a child,’ replied Rowan. ‘Other than that I don’t know anything about her.’
‘That doesn’t surprise me. It was all before your time. She was the first female Hero to become an Arena Champion. That’s her statue there.’
Rowan casually glanced to his right before stopping abruptly. The guard, who was giving Rowan a history lesson on Scarlet Robe, didn’t even notice that the boy wasn’t following him.
Rowan couldn’t believe it. He recognised the statue of the woman, even though he had only been a little boy when he had last seen her. Scarlet Robe was in fact his mother. All he could do was stare up at his mother’s face and grief began to fill his heart. He did, however, start as a hand touched his shoulder. He turned around to see Jack of Blades standing behind him.
‘She was a fine Hero,’ he said. ‘She wasn’t nearly as soft hearted as you, but her dedication came at a price. After her final battle she was never the same.’
‘You knew my mother?’ Rowan questioned.
‘Yes, I know your mother.’
‘She’s alive?’ Rowan gasped, his eyes wide. Could it be that Brom was the only one to actually die that night? It certainly seemed that way. ‘Where is she?’
‘She lives now in complete solitude,’ Jack replied mysteriously. ‘She was crushed by her failure to save her family long ago and yet, here you are. I knew her son would end up here one day. It’s in your blood and in your sister’s too. You should bring her to me. I so long to reunite you both with your mother. Just think of the happiness it would bring her.’
‘I don’t know where Theresa is currently,’ Rowan admitted. ‘Can you take me to see my mother instead?’
‘No, it would be best to take you both together. It would make her truly happy to be reunited with both her children at once. Anyway, this is yours.’ Jack handed him a seal. ‘The Champion Seal is yours. People everywhere will recognise you as the winner of the Arena and it will grant you access to Bowerstone North. Don’t lose it. It is rather valuable.’
‘I won’t lose it, sir,’ Rowan vowed.
‘I know you won’t.’ Jack was smiling under his mask as he gazed at the innocent, fresh young Hero before him.
Written: 28 January 2013