War of the Spirits

Saphira is the future leader of the isolated mountain village Natallian. However, just as she left to being her training, an incident takes place in the naboring town that changes her course of life forever

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5. Chapter 5

Saphira made her way over to the castle gate, her cloak on and her blade strapped to her back. She had been woken up by the sound of two maids panicking outside of her window, constantly muttering something about the party. She hadn't expected it to start at daytime, so she wasn't really prepared for it. The woman from the day before had left a small map of the castle in her room, but Saphira was still unsure about how many guards were on duty or where they stood. So she still had to be cautious. She tried to find an easy place for her to climb over the wall, which surrounded the entire castle.

"They couldn't have made the wall a bit shorter," Saphira grumbled as she circled the wall. She noticed a part with a few cracks in it, and a tree just on the other side. "Perfect," Saphira began to climb up, jumping from the wall onto the branches in the tree, the leaves thick enough to keep her hidden from the windows of the castle. She moved along the branches, voices underneath her making her stop all movements. This entire party was a trap, so she couldn't risk getting trapped in the middle of it herself. She carefully looked down and saw some soldiers talking below her.

"I really hope this plan works. It's bad enough that we can't have too many people on guard duty, but we're also placing Prince Marik's life in danger," She studied the soldiers a bit closer, and noticed that one of them wore a slightly different attire compared to the other one. Maybe he was higher ranked than the one he was talking to. But the emblem on their armor was still the same, so he wasn't in the same position as Nate.

"General Paul believes that this will make it more likely for our enemies to fall for it. And it will prove how dangerous these people really are," the soldier with him said. They way he spoke also seemed to suggest that the man was someone important.

"Yes, I'm well aware," the man said, Saphira sensing a ting of sadness in his voice when he spoke. "I sometimes wonder what would happen before this war escalated if the King was well. We've made many poor decisions since this war started,"

"Now is no time to reminiscent about the past Captain Halder," Saphira instinctively flinched when another voice spoke up. She looked around a bit and saw a man in a black uniform. He didn't wear any armor as far as she could see, but she did see a few medals on his jacket. "We must instead look ahead to the future, and make sure that no more innocent blood is spilled,"

"You have no right to make claims like that, General Paul," Halder snapped, Saphira surprised by how obvious he made his anger. "You're the one who made the biggest mistake by killing Marchell in cold blood, and started this war," Saphira hadn't heard of Marchell before, but the scenario he mentioned sounded familiar

"He lead Dragon Scale, who were a problem. And I took care of it. And he was not an innocent man, as you claim him to be," Paul retorted, Halder glaring at him.

'It seems like there is some conflicts between the General and his Captains. Or at least this one.' Saphira thought. Halder didn't answer Paul and instead left to walk in the opposite direction from where Paul had come from, while he and the soldier went back that way. Saphira carefully climbed own the tree and began to follow Halder. He knew something about the incident that triggered the war, so the information he had would be valuable to her. He began to walk to a place out of view, which made Saphira wonder if he was aware of her presence.

"There is little point in hiding from me. I know you are there," Halder said suddenly, Saphira hesitated for a second. But she did eventually come out of hiding and walked up to him, her hood covering her entire face still. "You do not seem to be a guest, so what exactly have you come here for?"

"I'm here to make sure this 'plan' of yours doesn't get out of hand," she answered him, hopeful that he would be more liable to tell her about the incident with Dragon Scale if she was honest with him. "I also caught the argument you had with General Paul," When she said that, Halder turned around and glared at her.

"An intruder and eavesdropper, quite the few titles you have gained in such short period of time," he said, Saphira not answering him. "Why would someone who hides their face in the shadows care for a petty argument such as that in the first place," His voice seemed a bit calmer than it did when he first told her off, but she could tell she hadn't gained his trust just yet.

"I'm interested in the man you mentioned, Marchell, was it? The former leader of Dragon Scale," Saphira answered, his expression turning from irritated to surprise.

"What exactly do you know about Marchell?" he asked, Saphira trying to remember everything she already knew about the execution of the man.

"Nothing, aside from what you and General Paul mentioned," she said, Halder sighing. The Captain grabbed her by the arm and pulled her between two buildings of sorts, as if he wanted to hide their meeting.

"He was the leader of Dragon Scale back when it was composed of dissatisfied exiles. He was also a former member of the Royal Army, and acted as the advisor for the King. Once the King fell ill, Marchell did what he could to try and lead the Army in a way that the King would approve of," Halder began to explained, Saphira not expecting Marchell to be a soldier of the Army who got him killed. "But General Paul had begun to manipulate Prince Marik while Marchell was busy with the Army, and the Prince gave the General full authority over every decision that would be made until his father recovered. Needless to say, Marchell knew that the King would never agree to this. So he tried to help the victims of General Paul's new power, and that lead to his execution. Thinking back, things would have never gotten to this point had General Paul never gained that sort of power,"

"Was there some personal motive behind the execution? It does seem like General Paul has more than reason enough to do something like that," Saphira asked, and noticed that Halder tensed up for a second. She could already tell that this was a topic he did not want to discuss any further. "Well, I appreciate your help," She bowed her head slightly before she turned around to leave. The Captain spoke once again, however, before she got a chance to leave.

"If you truly intend to involve yourself in this mess of a war, choose your allies carefully. One word too many to the wrong person, and it could cost you your life," he warned her, Saphira giving him a nod to signal that she had heard him. She turned the corner and found a place with in open window to get inside of the castle. Not wanting to waste anymore time, she climbed up and made her way through the window and carefully observed her surroundings from behind the curtain. She could hear some noises from the other room, but she didn't hear anything in the room she was in. As she stood up, though, she was grabbed from behind her slammed into the wall. Her hood fell off as Saphira winced in pain as she clutched her back.

"Wait, you're the one from Milline," Saphira froze as she looked up and saw Erik, who wore a surprised expression on his face. She assumed that the sound she heard in the other room must've been some members of Shadow Knight. "Are you actually the hooded person from Sektories and Milline, or someone acting as a decoy for them?" Saphira didn't expect him to think of her as a decoy. Did it really seem that unlikely that she was the same person?

"No decoy. I'm the same person, Lieutenant," she told him. She knew Erik was smart enough to not be tricked into thinking she was just a simple decoy. Their encounter in Milline before Dragon Scale arrived proved that. And who knows, it might not be too bad.

"What kind of game do you think this is? There's real lives at stake!" he scolded her, Saphira really unsure what to think of Erik. He was concerned for Flarenix in Milline, sure. But now he seemed worried about her. Whether it was because he thought she would cause more harm or because he thought she couldn't take care of herself, she didn't know. "This isn't your fight, go home before you get seriously injured,"

"Well, so far, three other people disagree with you on that part. And besides, I know far too much at this point to just stand by and do nothing," Saphira said as she began to put her hood back on. But Erik stopped her and stood right in front of her, his face very close to hers. Saphira felt her body heat up slightly, unsure what to do with Erik so close to her.

"Whatever knowledge you have, it's useless if you keep it to yourself. Please, stay out of this war. I've seen enough 'heroes’' recklessness to last me a lifetime," Saphira could hear a slight crack in his voice, knowing that Erik was serious about this. She still wasn't sure how long this war had actually been going on for, but it seemed like it had lasted for quite a long time.

"I don't know what you've experienced in the past," she began as she carefully pushed him away from her. "But something about this war just keeps pulling me further and further in. Heck, Sektories was the first place where it got me involved against my will. And I've been lead from place to place since then," She walked past him and exited the room, Erik's words and concern still nagging in her head. She shook her head and tried to regain her focus. She had a job to do.

"How rude. You should invite your friends when you host parties, you know," A voice came from below, Saphira quickly moving over to the rails and looked down. She looked down into a ball room, which was filled with people. Most of them were underneath her, though, as armed men were in the center of the room. She looked around for Paul, who was standing beside Nate and one other person who hid behind her brother. Saphira assumed that he was Prince Marik, as Nate was his guard.

"How desperate are you, barbaric people? Attacking the Prince during his own party where he can spend time with his citizens," Paul said, Saphira looking around for a place for her to get down. She saw that there was an area without any people and in the shadows. She made her way around the rails and began to climb down the column so she was on the same floor as them.

"Says the man that murdered and innocent man purely out of spite," the one from Dragon Scale pointed out, all of the people letting out gasps. Saphira was behind Paul, so she wasn't able to see his expression. She carefully moved around through the shadows. When she was able to get a good look at the man from Dragon Scale, she recognized him as the one who spoke in Milline. She saw that Paul and Nate had their hands on their weapons, as did everyone else who was armed. Just as Paul was about to draw his sword, Zach appeared in front of Paul while Erik stood in front of the Dragon Scale members.

"If you start a fight here, you two will make quite the reputation for yourselves," Erik said. Saphira could feel her body stop moving for a minute, hesitant to actually get involved now. Even though she did admit to Erik's claim herself, she now began to regret her decision. He must've told the others at this point, and that could make everyone else know who she is as well. And with Nate here, they would also know exactly how she looked. Needless to say, she was taking a huge risk right now.

"If you're that worried, do as the Lieutenant said and leave now," Flarenix said, Saphira flinching for a second. She quickly shook her head and regained her composure. She had started this, and was determined to see it through to the end.

"Well, it seems like the Dark Knights are trying to play the 'Knights in shining armor'," the man from Dragon Scale taunted, Zach getting slightly agitated by it. Erik, however, kept his cool and stood firm.

"You are all traitors to the throne, and have all placed the people of this land in danger. As the General of the Royal Army, it is my job to lead my men to protect those people that have suffered because of you," Paul said out of nowhere, Saphira glaring at him. She looked around and saw that just about everyone was already on Paul's side just from those few words.

"Stop paying attention to only their words. They're getting ready to tear each other’s throats out," Flarenix informed her, Saphira looking away from the citizens and towards Dragon Scale and Shadow Knights. Sure enough, everyone had drawn their weapons and were ready for a fight. Saphira tugged her hood a bit more to make sure it didn't fall off. She placed her hand on the ground afterwards and created numerous snakes of flames that clung to her arm. She tightened her muscles, and all of the scurried away from her and towards everyone who held a weapon and disarmed them. A mixture of screams and metal hitting the floor, Saphira waited for the sounds to stop before she finally got back up and walked out of the shadows. Everyone looked over to her, as all of the snakes went back to her.

"You're the one from Sektories, are you not?" Paul asked, Saphira not answering him as she looked to the floor to see the snakes. As they began to wrap themselves around her, she extinguished their flames and made then vanish. "Why have you come here? To aid your allies, the Shadow Knights?"

"First, no, not this time. Second, they're not my allies. It was just for the best to help them back in Sektories," she answered, Saphira looking at him now instead of the floor. "I'm no one's ally. You're all part of the problem, and you have all spilled innocent blood. And right here is one person whose death could throw this entire war into complete chaos," Saphira didn't think that Dragon Scale and Shadow Knights wanted Prince Marik dead after what the woman from 'Swallows Rest' told her. But right now, that's what the Royal Army believed.

"And here I thought I'd scare you away the last time we met," Zach commented, Saphira honestly surprised that he only mentioned that encounter. Did Erik really not say anything about her to them? She ignored that for now and kept her focus on the ones around her.

"So you're going to be the great hero who saves everyone? The one who will bring peace to the entire land?" the man from Dragon Scale asked, Saphira shifting her gaze to him. Saphira let out a small sigh as she snapped her fingers, creating walls of flame that separated the citizens, including Nate and the Prince, from everyone involved the war.

"If a hero existed, he would've already ended this war once the conflict got out of hand," she answered, the sound of someone behind her alerting her. She quickly turned and saw a Dragon Scale member behind her with his arm ready to swing down at her. She noticed a quick glint of one of the light on a piece of metal, Saphira quickly moving to the side to dodge his attack.

"You talk too much, brat. Don't get in our way," the man said, his voice sounding even more chilling than Zach's. "Garek, stop trying to be political about this so we can get this over with," The man looked over at Garek, the one who had been doing all the talking earlier. Zach grabbed a weapon, ready to fight whenever the opportunity presented itself. Erik kept an eye with Zach, which made Saphira feel a bit better.

"You're always so impatient, Shade. But you do have a point," Garek sighed. Saphira got back on her feet, ready to dodge another attack from whoever came at her next. "Although, as much as I hate to say this, I believe we've lost our chance thanks to this little warrior," Shade clicked his teeth before he walked away from Saphira to join the rest of Dragon Scale as they retreated. Shadow Knights left as well, nothing else to do there. A few soldiers ran after them on Paul's order, Saphira clenching her fist to extinguish the flame walls.

"Tell me, who do you fight for warrior?" Paul asked, Saphira turning to face him. Nate had walked up beside him as well, the Prince just behind him. Satisfied that he had been unharmed, Saphira ignored Paul's question and left the castle. She could hear someone behind her, but she was quickly able to shake them off. As she was behind some buildings, she entered her room in Swallows Rest and picked up her bag. She left through the window again, writing a quick note for the woman who assisted her before she began to head towards the back of the castle to leave Castrelia. She ended up in the woods quite aways from where Castrelia had stopped, her throat dry from the running.

"There's a lake just ahead where you can get something to drink," Flarenix informed her, Saphira walking a bit further to end up where Flarenix said. Sure enough, there was a lake only a few meters from where she stood. She placed her bag down and pulled out a flask and filled it with water. She took a few sips of it and filled it once again. "So, you have any idea where to go now?"

"I think we should focus more on Shadow Knight for right now. We know next to nothing about their plans other than their starting point," Saphira suggested. She knew about three of the four main players, but she still had absolutely no idea what they were planning.

"Make sure you're alone when you talk out loud to your Spirit. Or people will think you're insane," Saphira's hood was pulled off from behind, Saphira quickly turned to see Erik standing above her. "As for what we're planning, it's not too hard to figure out," She shot him a glare as she stood up on her feet, placing the cork on the bottle.

"Why didn't you tell them about who I was? Zach didn't know when he talked to me before," she asked him. She couldn't think of a good reason for him to keep quiet, so it didn't make any sense to her. Erik averted his gaze, Saphira waiting for an answer.

"I want your help with something," he said after a while, Saphira raising an eyebrow at him. "If you help me, I'll keep quiet about your identity in exchange,"

"Are you blackmailing me?" she growled at him, Erik not saying a word. Saphira wanted to just let him do as he pleased, but she knew it would hurt her if her identity got out. But at the same time, she would be tied down by Erik. She bit her lower lip as she tried to decide what would be the best course of action. She growled at herself as she got ready to answer. "Fine, what do you want?" Erik sighed after she answered, which confused her. What was he playing at?

"Have you heard of the city Katil?" he asked first, Saphira shaking her head. "It's a village close to here that worships feline Spirits. I don't know why so don't even ask," he explained, Saphira vaguely remembering something similar. "They let visitors in, but anyone who uses their Spirits and it's not a feline of any kind, they get thrown out without any hesitation,"

"So only a specific type of Spirit is accepted?" she asked, Erik nodding. "That sounds a lot like a Teronium," she whispered to herself. Teronium was a territory ruled by only one type of Spirits in the Spirit Realm, which explained why she thought it wounded familiar.

"Sorry?" Erik asked, Saphira just shaking her head. She didn't know how much he actually knew about Spirits, so she thought it would be better to just keep quiet about it for now. "Anyway, there is also a research facility at the edge of the town, where they keep out of control Aolis,"

"Out of control? Like, causing trouble by using their powers?" Saphira asked, Erik shaking his head.

"No, I mean that they run rampant and have no control of their powers. Haven't you heard of them before?" Erik informed her, Saphira carefully shaking her head. "How sheltered were you? Everyone has at least heard about it," Saphira just averted her gaze, unsure if she should tell him about where she was from. He knew enough as it is. "In any case, we're heading there to make a agreement with them, which involves that facility and its newest addition," he continued, Saphira looking back up at him.

"What good would someone like that do for you?" Saphira couldn’t think of a reason for a group trying to win a war to use a Aolis who couldn't control themselves. She didn't like thinking about another Aolis like that, but that was the only thing that made sense right now.

"Most Aolis who can't control their powers usually have really strong Spirits. So, if we train them, they can become powerful. And can really turn things around in this war," he explained, Saphira's eyes widening. If that was the case, then the facility would be of interest to the other two involved as well. But there was something else bothering her.

"Why are you telling me this? You said you wanted me to do something, but all you've talked about so far is your plan," Saphira asked, Erik walking a bit closer to her. Saphira backed up as he got closer, her foot ending up in the water. She reflexively moved forward to get it out, Erik standing right in front of her now.

"I want you to get there before us and get the guy we're after out of that facility," he told her, Saphira feeling her breathing stop for a second. Did he just ask her to sabotage his own plans? Why would he ask something like that? "Like I said, he's the most recent addition to the facility, and is the strongest by far. You should be able to locate him rather quickly.

"Wait, why are you trying to ruin our own plan? You the Lieutenant!" Saphira asked, Erik letting out a small sigh before he spoke again.

"Because I wasn't able to convince the Head Chief on my own. Too many lives will be lost if we go through with this," he explained, Saphira noticing a slight sense of desperation in his eyes. She stayed quiet for a bit, becoming more confused about Erik's intentions. Mostly due to his odd behavior.

"Alright, I'll do it," she answered in, Erik's face lighting up immediately as she said that. Saphira felt a little happy when she saw how pleased he became.

"Thank you, I really appreciate it," he thanked her, the sound of footsteps marching close by. "I have to go now. I'll try and stall some time for you as much as I can," Before Saphira had any chance to say anything, he left to join what Saphira assumed was his allies.

"He's something else, that's for sure," Flarenix commented, Saphira agreeing with her. "Well, Katil is just past this river. This path is rough and not very often travelled. So you'll get there faster than Shadow Knight if you take that path,"

"Then we better get a move on," Saphira took of her cloak and placed the bag, then swung it over her shoulder and jumped over the river as she made her way over to Katil.

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