Sephiroth fell back, stunned. How? How could this... mortal beat him? He stared wide-eyed at Cloud, his vision stained by blood. He dropped his sword, and he finally returned to the Lifestream. The sword, however, drifted off into the sea of green, until eventually it passed through a portal to another time and place.
Cloud returned to his friends, but that isn't important right now. The sword is.
Elsen Silverbead looked over his companions as he walked. Siffer Rangstan was large, about 6'7". He dressed in the average tan and grey traveling clothes seen often in the world. He carried on his back a weapon that was originally a two-handed sword, but Siffer had attatched a two-headed axe blade about halfway down the blade. It was strange to look at, but Elsen had seen it tear through demons like butter. He was more or less the leader of the group, and had come from Hajor, the city they traveled to now. He was about 38 years old, and in excellent physical condition.
Duran Overni was about 5'9", and was decked out in the platemail of a Paladin, though without the helmet. However, the armor wasn't completely shined, and at times seemed to emit a cold, dark light. On top of his bald, uncovered head was the mark of the Fallen Paladin. He wasn't evil, but instead had fallen from grace on a mission in the far east, when he had been forced to take the lives of four of his fellow paladin in order to save a city of over 100,000. The Church would have probably forgiven him, but there was not a church in the city. 100,000 unbaptized, non-religous people had been saved at the cost of four paladins. He had been cast out immediately, and the act had destroyed Duran's sense of worth. He had since been wandering the lands, looking for some way to prove, more to himself than to the church, that he was innocent and righteous. He had told them, when they met, that he was 57, and had spent the rest of his life leading up to the incident five years ago in pursuit of the light.
Off to the left walked Lindsi Geffer. She was a magician, and mostly specialized in the art of delving into other's minds. She was around five and a half feet tall, and dressed in long, shimmering silver robes. Her long blonde hair hung loose across her back. She was, like Elsen, an elf, and they had come from the same town, many weeks travel to the west. They had come with three others, who had all been lost when the demons had attacked Hajor. They had been there, ready to continue traveling east, when suddenly, without any warning, the town had been attacked by monsters, led by a mage named Iston. The city, along with it's entire army and most likely every other adventurer in it, had been lost quickly, but Elsen and Lindsi had managed to escape with the help of Siffer and another. They had met up with Duran at the Ruins of Actuay. Lindsi, like Elsen, was 19.
Then... Garet. Garet Jax. Legendary warrior, traveler of the planes. There were also rumors... it was said he was a mercenary. An assassin. Working for whoever paid most, or whoever seemed interesting to him at the time. Why was he here? They'd just met up during the escape from Hajor, and he'd traveled with them ever since. Never offering much, just speaking when it was needed. They'd already seen his strength, when he'd torn through lines of orcs, goblins, and other assorted stuff, holding off over 20 demons while the other four ran over the tiny bridge. That was yesterday, when they crossed from the western elven territories into the Hajor lands. He dressed all in black, and wore on his head a black bandana and a face wrap. Other than his hair, the only facial feature visible were his eyes: dark, grey, and stoney. He carried, strapped to his body, several dozen daggers, a few blades of varying lengths, a staff on his back, and another ten or so hidden daggers. Nobody was really sure of his age right now, or even what he really looked like.
Eventually, they stopped for the night. They picked a spot on a cliff, overlooking the plains between them and Hajor. Hajor, though now completely overrun by monsters and demons of all kinds, still retained a sort of beauty about it. Garet disappeared into the woods, black clothes moving soundlessly, to look for food, while the other four worked on setting up the camp. Shortly, Garet returned, dragging a dead deer behind him.
An hour later, they were all resting. Siffer and Duran exchanged tales of their travels, while Garet sat alone, leaning against a tree. Lindsi and Elsen talked about their hometown, which it now seemed they would never see again. Siffer pulled out his staff and looked it over. It was about six feet long, black, and instead of being straight, was slightly curved all the way down the length. It wasn't enough to make it weak, however. He had found it shortly after leaving his hometown, and something told him to keep it. It was a strong staff, and hadn't shown any signs of breaking in the last month or so of using it. He pulled his eyes off of it to see Garet Jax kneeling beside him.
"Elsen... let me see that staff."
Elsen shrugged and handed it to him. He weighed it in his hand a moment, and then began swinging and parrying against an invisible opponent. After a moment, he hesitated, and gripped both hands on the flattest region of it, right near one end. He then began swinging and parrying like it was a sword, and it actually seemed to perform better. Seemingly satisfied, he handed it back to Elsen.
"That staff is an incredible piece of work. Keep it. Never leave it behind, or lose it, so long as you live. If you do, you will live to regret it."
Elsen, somewhat confused, took it and nodded. Garet walked over to the cliff ledge and stopped short. He looked over his shoulder. "You should get some sleep soon. Tonight's the last night we have, and we'll be getting an early start tomorrow."
Lindsi and Elsen unrolled and got into their bedrolls, and Duran and Siffer began talking quieter. Lindsi suddenly tapped him.
"I wanted to be sure he wasn't listening..." She was referring to Garet. "I couldn't dive into his mind. I've been trying since we met him to get in there and learn something, anything about him. His mental defenses are extremely powerful. But..." She looked back over at Garet. He was leaning against a log, looking out over the plains towards Hajor. "He couldn't hide the surprise he felt while handling that staff. Something about it was recognized, something he didn't feel like telling us."
Elsen shrugged. "If it were dangerous, he would have told us."
Lindsi shook her head. "We can't be sure. Remember, we don't really KNOW anything about him."
Elsen shrugged again and closed his eyes. The truth was hidden from him.
Elsen awoke the next morning to the smell of cooking wolf. He sat up looked around sleepily. A pile of wolf furs sat to his right, and a large amount of meat was cooking slowly over the fire. Garet sat cleaning one of his blades, and the others were all still asleep. He looked questioningly at Garet, who answered with a nod towards the pile of furs. He walked over and counted. Ten of them. Garet had...?
After awhile, the others began to awake and met with the same results. Garet had killed all ten of them without even waking any of them up. They ate silently, and then began their journey to the city.
They traveled in absolute silence, each one contemplating what they were walking into. Garet looked towards it as simply another fight. One side would lose, and one would win. He would survive.
Siffer saw it as the end of his journey. One way or another, it was the end. either he would die, and that would be it. Or, he would be victorious, and would probably look for another path in life. He'd been traveling, usually alone, for over ten years now. It was getting tiring.
Duran had no doubts about his power. His strength, both physical and mental, would serve as needed. What he doubted was his faith. Would his faith be enough for this challenge?
Lindsi looked forward to the chance to test herself. She was by no means naive, and had a good idea on what they were in for. She had been developing her powers every night during their journey, and never had had a good chance to test them out.
Elsen had no true, outward fear. Not from courage, but in that he had no guess what was going to happen. He'd been around for little fights, five on five, five on ten, but never anything like this. It would be the five of them against hundreds. He couldn't even begin to grasp what would happen. However, he kept up with the rest of them, and showed no sign that just because he didn't know what lay ahead, he was afraid.
Eventually they made it to the walls of the city. Garet pulled his sword and knocked it hard against one brick. A whole section of wall swung open, revealing a torch lined passage. The filed in and the door shut behind them. They followed the line until they came out in a large room. Elsen gasped.
They were within the city, down what had once been a side alleyway. Now, it was simply a cluttered path, obscured from view by two ruined buildings. All up and down the streets, they could see monsters sleeping contentedly. Silently, the group edged to one entrance and looks out. >From here, they could see the Mage Tower rising up over the city. It was still intact.
Garet nodded and motioned the others closer.
"One way or another, this world is ruined."
They all gasped, but quietly.
Siffer shook his head. "You're saying we can't win...?"
Garet nodded. "More or less. If we're killed, then there's nothing stopping Iston from leading his hordes across the world. It's over, then, all inhabitants doomed to a life of slavery under the forces of darkness. Sure, some armies will appear, and some more parties like this will try, but after now, he'll be unstoppable."
He took a deep breath. "Or, more unlikely, we win. We fight through and kill Iston. Sounds good, right?" The others all nodded. "Did you know this plane is unbalanced?" He shrugged. "It's true. There are eight orbs, located at certain parts of the plane, that keep it from folding up into a cube and collapsing in on itself. The orbs would be at the eight corners. Each day, the spells need to be renewed to keep the plane going. It used to be the mages of this tower, but now, Iston must be doing it. He dies, there's nobody within a day's travel that can renew the spells. A day later... poof. The plane collapses."
Everyone stared at him, stunned. Lindsi shook her head. "Everything...? Gone...? Why? Why not just leave? We can get away, and the population will survive!"
Garet shook his head sadly. "Which would you want? A lifetime in slavery, knowing that your children will meet the same fate? Or death, plain and simple, knowing that Iston had been stopped from taking over other planes? Some would say this is not a choice for humans to make. I say we have no choice. However, there is something of an alternative..."
He had their full attention. "We destroy the orb itself. Then, the outburts of power will keep the plane going for... about an extra ten minutes. However, the problems will be very obvious: earthquakes, volcanoes, tidal waves, and the like. The energy, however, will also throw open every single portal on the plane. So, seeing that their plane is dying, the smart ones will jump through the nearest portal and hope for the best. The rest will die. However, it's better than letting it run out and die quickly, with no way for the general populace to get out."
They all stood, silent, knowing now that the Mage Tower looming over them kept the plane from collapsing.
Garet waited. "Right now. Any who want out can go. You won't be stopped."
Nobody said anything. Garet studied each one's face in turn, giving a slight nod when he finished.
He stood. "Alright. Duran, you lead. Siffer, you next, then Lindsi. Elsen and I will bring up the rear. Once we get in, Siffer, Duran, and I will take the front, and Elsen and Lindsi stay behind."
They filed out, moving incredibly quietly, staying in the order Garet had assigned. Elsen noticed that there were no monsters sleeping near the Tower.
They walked slowly, picking their way carefully over sleeping monsters and around pieces of roof and debris. Now and then, when a monster nearby stirred, Garet would bring his sword down on it's head swiftly.
Finally, after what seemed like ten hours instead of minutes, they arrived at the door. Garet crouched down again. "Alright. Everyone, put your hand on top of mine." Each one did, Elsen last. "Repeat after me. I swear on my family, my race, my plane, that I will arrive at the orb and destroy it." Each said the same thing quietly. Then, Garet muttered a few words in a foreign language. Elsen made out, 'Elen sila lumenn maegovenn'. It seemed like a form of Elvish, and Elsen later correctly translated it as, 'A star shines on the hour of our conflict'.
Then, the door was opened and the group went in. It closed swiftly behind them, like a reminder that there was no turning back.
Garet spun and sheathed his sword quickly in a large serpent creature, then resumed thinking. He was fighting for the sake of an entire plane. However... He put away the long blade and pulled out his two shorter blades. He turned just in time to knock away a large, clumsy, orcish blade, then spun to plant the other one in his stomach. He withdrew it and swung both in a pincer motion against a second orc nearby. He blocked one, but didn't notice the other one, which jammed in his kidney. He yanked it out, swinging the other through a waist-high were-rat at the same time. He regained control of both and leapt on top of the fallen orcs to be on fighting terms with the Ettin there. It swung a large club towards him, but a bit of magic from his necklace pushed into the sword, which sliced the club in half easily. In a moment, the power was gone, and so were the Ettin's heads. He leapt over the huge carcass to begin sparring with a pit fiend. As he fought, he wondered what the deeply pressing sensation on his soul meant. He'd heard others describe it, then in battle soon afterwards they died. Did this meant he would die? No. No! The thought tore through him and filled him with new energy. Suddenly, he sheathed both his daggers and pulled the long sword back out. He chopped the pit fiend in half and bounded across the room, slicing up anything that got in his way. Nothing could stand before him. He put himself into a spin and cut into orcs, wolves, imps, and anything else that got in his way as he reached for the stairs. He jumped up onto them from the side, and within moments, had cleared the stairs of life. He charged up onto the next floor and was tearing into the hordes there as well before he realized that none of the others were there with him. He was alone again, fighting only for himself. All thoughts of death and destruction left him, and he fought not for the plane, but to survive.
He felt truly alone. As he ended lives one after another, he imagined the sword of this orc removing his head, or this wolf eating his flesh. However, he always managed to stay alive, as he had done all his life. One after another, enemies fell. As he lived, somehow the feeling of dying alone grew. Then, a huge blast of energy plowed through the ranks to his side, and he knew he was not alone. The feeling of fighting for a cause, not for himself, returned to him, and he continued. In all this time, his fighting ability had not been hampered by the fear of dying alone. No, he'd grown past that long ago. His thoughts and desires very rarely affected him. He pushed aside all thought and concentrated on winning.
Duran turned. The rune on top of his head flared, and he plowed through a clump of goblins, flinging them aside like toothpicks. He stopped and swung his great sword in a wide arc, dropping another five. He felt something on his back, and reached back. He grabbed hold of the squirming thing there and bashed it into an orc that was about to put his sword in Siffer's head. The rune flashed again, and he pointed his sword towards a demon, said the word, 'mordor', and the demon dropped like a stone. He turned and leapt at a group of imps that were trying to get a firing line going with their crude bows, and they scattered, unwilling to fight something like Duran. He smiled slightly, and the rune reacted by lashing out at a nearby were-rat. The body disappeared, and the power flowed through to another thing.
However, a flaming sword dropped through the line, and it severed, sending bolts of pain back towards Duran. He dropped to one knee, feeling nothing but the pain in his brain. Eventually he fought his way back to awareness and he found himself covered with smaller creatures and dripping blood from his face. The Sign of the Dark Paladin burned angrily, and everything within five feet of him disappeared. He rose and went looking for the pit fiend that had hurt him so badly.
Siffer dropped to one knee, blood streaming from his chest. As soon as the devil got close to deal the killing blow, his muscles tensed. As the sword came down, he leapt back and, taking advantage of the devil's imbalance, slashed it's head off. He heard a scream, and leapt over to where Lindsi was cornered by something that seemed to continually change shape. It seemed to move in a pattern, and Siffer struck out at what seemed to be the most vulnerable part of one part before it appeared. It appeared in mid-swing, and the part flew across the room, splatting against a wall. It gave a sort of squeal and sprouted wings. It tried to fly away, wounded, right past Siffer, who cut off a wing and left it behind as it crashed to the ground. He spun around, looking for a new opponent. Another arrow found it's home in his back, and a new bout of pain reached him. He took full advantage of the rage it gave him, though, and rushed to the lines of imps. One by one, they dropped under his sword. He whipped around and leapt at an ettin that had it's back turned to him, hung by it's hair, planted his feet on it's spine, and began hacking away at it's back, trying to get at the vital organs inside.
Lindsi's fingers danced through the air, renewing her magic. She motioned towards a nearby wolf, and a bolt of energy lanced out at it, scorching it's whole body. She motioned again at another three wolves, and a fireball exploded right inbetween them. They ran, burning, through the battle, setting fire to most everything they touched. She set up a shield around herself and waded through the conflict, following the others as they entered the fourth floor. She rushed to the front of the group as the door opened and threw wave after wave of energy into the creatures waiting there. They fell back before her onslaught, and after another two minutes, the survivors were retreating up the stairs. The others seemed impressed, but she shrugged it off and renewed her powers again.
It was the last floor. The entire room swarmed with hundreds of monsters of every type imaginable. Elsen hadn't seen too much combat yet, but he had been wielding his staff constantly, with a feeling like he could take on the whole horde himself. As they went, he found himself fighting more and more. Siffer had fallen behind, his clothing shredded, holding himself together by a prayer. However, he tore anything that came near him to pieces. Duran's armor had begun to fall apart, and the few areas that showed were bruised and bloodied, though he never slowed down. The rune on his head seemed to keep anything from really affecting him. Garet moved through the flow of the battle, taking every opponent down. Lindsi still threw her magic around, almost enjoying the constant victories she scored. However, she didn't move quite as quickly, and her reflexes were somewhat more dulled than when they had first started. The constant strain was taking a toll.
Then, Duran went down nearby Garet. Siffer, seeing this, charged into the battle with the last bits of his strength. He shoved straight through a line of daemons, killing four, and began hacking away at the creatures that surrounded Duran. After a short while, an arrow went through his arm and he fell.
They would have both died then if not for Garet. Noticing Siffer fall, he made a running leap across the room from where he then was to where Siffer struggled to live on top of Duran's armored body. Immediately, goblins and imps began flying away from the spot. Garet took a few hits but just shrugged them off like nothing.
Lindsi screamed and went down next to him. An orc stood over her, ready to end her life with a quick blow to the head. Something happened, then, which Elsen was never able to truely explain. He whirled his staff and gripped the end like a sword, exactly as Garet had. He leaped to Lindsi's side and, with the skill of a weapons master, sliced the orc in two. He blinked, and the staff was gone. Instead, a long, curved sword stood in it's place. He didn't question this: for some reason, he simply accepted that it had happened and charged directly into battle. The sword flicked this way and that, moving of apparently it's own will. One after another, his foes dropped around him as he made for Garet, who was now feeling the blows dealt to him. Anything that stood between them or tried to attack Elsen found itself dead.
Then, he was there. Duran was fighting again, and Siffer was still somehow clinging to life. Garet stood with his back to them, trying to hold off the push of monsters that threatened to overwhelm and consume them all. Elsen knew, somehow, that if Garet fell, none of them stood a chance. Elsen leaped to Garet's side, helping to hold off the monsters while the four backed against a wall. Duran dragged Siffer slowly, while fighting off anything that got between them. After about a minute, Garet seemed to notice for the first time that it was neither Duran or Siffer that fought beside him, but Elsen. His eyes widened, then narrowed again as he returned to his work. Garet and Elsen seemed matched in skill. For every one that Garet killed, one fell beneath Elsen's blade. It seemed endless.
Elsen swung at an orc, and stopped his blade quickly when he found that it wasn't there. Nobody other than the five were at all. They all stopped, fighting blindly at air that had once been monsters. Everyone hesitated and looked around, eventually spotting a door off to the side.
After a few minutes of bandaging up, they regrouped wordlessly at the door. Garet looked them all over again. So far, he hadn't mentioned Elsen's amazing change. He nodded.
"Beyond this door is the final run. Two open areas seperated by a single door. Then there's a spiral staircase, a barren plateau, and the final run. As soon as we enter that door, we've entered another plane, so be ready for the unexpected. Once we succeed, we'll run back out through here, go down to the second floor, jump out the window, and jump into the nearest portal. Got it? Good. This is it."
He opened the door. There was considerably less light on the other side, and as he entered the door, Elsen noticed that it was significantly hotter and mustier.
They regrouped, with Garet and Elsen in front, Siffer in the middle, and Lindsi and Duran holding up the rear. They began moving across the room, when suddenly a cry rang out and a horde of imps poured out of an invisible door.
Elsen gave a yell of warning, and they threw themselves headlong into the rush. Garet quickly moved through the pack, suddenly finding himself completely surrounded, but not challenged in the least. Everything that looked into his face found death there.
Suddenly, three huge demons pushed through. They were about five feet high and probably about 1000 pounds each. Their heads were oddly shaped, and their whole bodies seemed built to support the massive horn-type structure that protruded from their spines and shot out straight above their heads. After surveying the situation for a moment, they put their heads down and charged.
Garet swiveled around the middle one and managed to get on it's back. He jammed his sword down into it's back, killing it. However, the momentum kept it going, and eventually it slmmed down o the ground, throwing Garet from it's back.
Another went for Lindsi, who just barely threw up a flame wall to stop it. She thought it would be gone, but she found a skeleton charging through the wall at her. The horn was pointed down, though the main part of the skeleton hit her hard, throwing her to the ground.
The third one hit Duran full on in the chest. The armor gave, but the horn became stuck in the chestplate. It swung it's head up, bringing him with. Elsen gave another yell and made his way over there.
However, it was Siffer who saved Duran. Suddenly straightening up and scattering a handful of imps, he leapt for the beast. Dodging Duran's swinging body, he came around and threw all of his weight into Duran, knocking him loose. He clattered to the ground and began reaching for his sword. He planted his feet and faced the beast straight on. It charged, but Siffer dodged around the spike and brought his sword down on the horn hard. It snapped, and half the spine seemed to snap at the same time. It collapsed. Then, Siffer did too.
Elsen charged through the group straight towards them. The great, long sword swung through the attackers like limburger. He backed up to between Siffer and Duran, the huge sword swinging beyond their bodies, keeping him safe while still defending the others well.
Then, Garet swung through, slashed the last few imps, and all was still. The ground was littered with bodies. After a few minutes, Duran could move around again, and Siffer was upright, at least. The horn had barely pierced the skin, but the swinging around had forced a lot of blood to his brain. Siffer...
He was covered by blood. However, after a bit of water, Elsen saw that there weren't a huge number of wounds. instead, there were several deeper wounds that had stained the skin and clothes red. He struggled up and leaned against the wall next to the door. Everyone was ready to go on with him.
Except Garet. Garet eyed him carefully. When Siffer noticed it, he smiled slightly. "You guys go on. I'll stay back here and buy you some time."
Garet nodded and turned away, but everyone else argued.
"But you're hurt!"
"Let me try..."
Siffer shook his head and pushed them all away. "I'll be fine. I won't die that easily."
Still protesting, the four others went through the dor, led by Garet.
Elsen swung his blade in a wide arc above his head, trying to clear the air of devils. They flew everywhere, little beasts on quick wings, some clutching tiny spears. They still hurt, though, and the devils weren't all there were to worry about. The air above him was clear for the moment, and he leapt forward to help Duran kill another of the huge winged demons that had appeared from the floor. He ducked under the huge flaming blade that swung at his head and brought up the long, slender blade into the beast's chest. He turned, seeking out Garet and Lindsi, as Duran lumbered off to find another opponent.
Garet, as always, sat right in the middle of the conflict. Devils dropped like flies around him as he held two demons at bay with a pair of short, wide swords. Elsewhere, Lindsi blasted out again and again with her magic; the energy arcing out around her clearing the air of winged ones and forcing back the demons while she prepared some stronger, more powerful spell to deal with them.
Then, an explosion rocked the chamber, and Elsen looked over by Garet to see a dragon burning everything, enemy and ally alike. Lindsi, though protectd by her shield, still flew across the room and crashed into the wall. Garet was quickly backing through the monsters to try to get away. Duran was nowhere in sight.
The flames subsided, and the dragon looked for another victim. The room was mostly empty, now, except for a few demons who had survived the flames and were being quickly dispatched by Garet. Elsen debated trying to charge the dragon from the side, and hope that Garet would see the distraction and finish him, but then Duran stepped out onto the scorched earth. He stood, motionless, for a time, staring at the dragon across the few yards of burnt ground.
Then, at the same time, the dragon inhaled, and the Rune on Duran's head flared.
The flames came first, huge, billowing, and red, heating the room to an almost unbearable temperature. Seconds later, a huge blast of dark light exploded from Duran's head and bashed into the flames. For a time, the two powers pushed against each other in a seeming stalemate.
Then, the dragon set his head and began walking slowly towards Duran. He could only keep up the same level of power, and he was forced slowly to fall back. The fire began to overwhelm his force and threaten to burn the life from him.
Elsen then made what may have been his most courageous move yet. Forgetting everything else, he charged forward straight at the dragon. Before anyone could stop him or say anything, he brought his sword down on it's head.
Nobody expected what happened next. The dragon's head severed and fell. Elsen, feeling a huge surge of power flow through him, backed off, allowing Duran to burn the body inside out. He then seemed to dive down within himself, and watched images of his past flow past him.
Then, he had the sensation of leaving his body and moving somewhere else. He was on a platform, with three pedastals along the edge. It dropped off into space, with planets, stars, and meteors flying by. Two of the pedestals had swords sticking out of them. They read,
'Sign of Kings Excalibur'
'The One Masamune'
The one that indicated the 'Masamune' was empty. He saw each of the swords in detail, then it turned around and looked at a person standing there. He was tall, about 6 foot 4, and dressed in white robes. His face was partially covered by a beard, but that's all Elsen could make out before his vision swung down to a long, slender, very familiar sword hanging at his side. As he examined it, he became more and more sure that it was his sword, and that it must be the Masamune. Then it looked at the man's face closely again, and if Elsen had control of his mouth, he would have gasped. It was him. He had a large beard, and was apparently several years older, but it was him.
Then, he heard a voice calling him, and soon he was looking into Garet's stoney-grey eyes. He sat up, and looked around. There was a second dead dragon on the ground, and Duran was kneeling near it. Lindsi was tending to a wound, and Garet was... unharmed. Big surprise...
"You alright? Thought I'd lost you..." Garet seemed truly concerned.
"Yeah, I'm... I'm fine. There was some weird vision... or maybe it was a hallucination. But... how's Duran...?"
Garet shook his head slowly. "He's going to stay behind as well."
Elsen nodded, knowing it was worthless to argue. He got up slowly and walked over to him. He was still kneeling, his face streaked with blood. "You gonna be all right alone here, Duran?"
Duran smiled slightly and looked up at him. "You know, Elsen. You don't need to ask me that. Go, Chosen One..."
Elsen looked at him quizzicaly, wondering what he meant. He obviously wasn't going to say anything else. Garet and Lindsi were at the door, waiting for him. Elsen reached out and grasped his hand firmly, turned, and left.
Elsen ran. Lindsi, with the help of her magic, was able to easily keep up with Garet, who ran on tirelessly. However, his strength was beginning to give. Garet apparently noticed this and slowed down to run beside him. They looked at each other for a moment, then Garet returned his gaze to the stairs.
"Duran was right. You are the Chosen One."
Elsen shot him a confused look. "The one Chosen by the sword. You have the mark on your soul. With the Masamune in your hand, you can stand against anything."
Elsen shook his head. "How? How me?... Why me?..."
Garet looked at him again. "Not by your choice. Or mine, or anyone else's for that matter. The Swords... they have their own consciousness. They wrote fate. Ragnarok wrote the wars, Excalibur wrote the common men, and Masamune wrote everything else, from the legends, to the kings, to the gods. Since the beginning of time, you were destined to wield this sword. Every fight you win, friend you lose, or wound you take, was destined. Like the rest of us, you are destined to die at a certain time. However much we'd all like to change our destinies, you can't escape it. There have been some... those who felt that their fates were to rot in some tiny town... they tried to escape their destiny by leaving for adventure. Well, that was part of their fate too. Everyone who has ever tried to 'escape their fate' was fated to do so." He shrugged. "I'll die too... it doesn't matter how good of a swordsman you are, when death is staring you in the face, that's it. You're dead."
Elsen stared at him. It was the most he'd spoken the whole time they'd traveled together. He returned his gaze to the stairs, and found it was getting lighter. Lindsi stopped just ahead, and the other two skidded to a halt next to her. Garet went on ahead and stopped right outside the door. The sun was setting, bathing the plateau and the few trees on it in reds and golds. It was truly beautiful, and Elsen almost forgot where he was. He dreamed for a moment of his home, where there was a cliff overlooking the ocean quite similar to this. Garet stood, staring across the way at the other door. Elsen almost ignored everything Garet had just said and shook his head. It didn't matter if fate meant for them to fail here, Garet, Lindsi, and he... they would win. Nothing could touch them. Garet motioned them forwards, and they began walking across.
Garet stopped them halfway across and whipped around. The door was gone. The entire tower there was bathed in shadow, and the door had disappeared in the blackness. Then, a part of the shadows detatched and moved forward towards them. The door reappeared: it had been blocking it.
Garet whipped out his sword and stood in front of Elsen and Lindsi. Elsen quickly brought out his sword and moved forwards. Garet, however, threw out a hand and stopped him.
"No, elf... this is my fight. You aren't meant to die here... go. Go on with Lindsi and destroy the orb... Destroy the orb and live..." He looked sharply at him. The sunset colors reflected off his eyes, but there was another fire that burned within... a fire that told Elsen not to argue. "It's what I've been looking for... a real fight. It doesn't matter if the Masamune itself hangs at your side, you have no chance against such a creature."
Lindsi stepped forward. "But if it's here, then Siffer and Duran..." She trailed off. "If it got past those two, then you..."
He shook his head violently, never removing his eyes from the shadow which was crouched across the field from them. The clouds had moved across the sun, leaving it in shadow. "I am not them. I am Garet Jax, and this fight was... destined for me. I will not lose."
Lindsi stepped back, having seen the same fire that Elsen did. They backed towards the door, and then the clouds parted and Elsen gasped.
It hadn't been darkness that had obscured their view: the creature there was pure shadow. It was completely black, with the only feature being two red eyes that shone from the darkness. it was vaguely man-shaped, with two long parts that seemed like arms, and a long part that stayed on the ground that was apparently a tail.
The thing and Garet moved at the same time, flying across the field at each other. Garet's long, slender sword shone from his black cloak, making him look almost like the thing he ran towards. The thing lashed out at him, the tendril elongating and growing to a razor edge. Garet twirled away, dodging the attack as if he were the shadow. The arm sliced open his cloak, leaving a huge gape in it. The sword sliced into the darkness, sending a bit of it off into the air to disappear in the sunlight. He landed and was just barely too slow in turning, and the darkness bit into his side. Blood slid off the blade like water.
Elsen tore his eyes from the fight and ran alongside Lindsi for the door. They whipped it open, and tore into the room there, completely heedless of what lay within. They ran down the narrow hallway, making for the door illuminated by light from one of the many narrow windows. Elsen reached it first and threw it open.
There, on a pedastal, was a large blue orb. It glowed strongly, lighting the entire room with an eerie blue light. Lindsi came up beside him and walked around to the other corner to examine it. A low growl came from somewhere in the room, and a creature flew out of the corner. It was vaguely dog shaped, and about the same size, but the back was spiked, the mouth was quite larger, and filled with about four rows of razor sharp teeth. Lindis tried to throw up a wall, but it got past her outstretched hands and ripped open her cloak, feasting on the flesh within.
Something within Elsen snapped. Some power, or maybe instinct, awakened and filled his body with power. Power unlike what he'd ever felt before. He slid the sword from it's sheath quickly and leaped across the room at the thing, yelling to get it's attention. It whirled it's head away from Lindsi's still form, drops of blood falling from it's mouth. It rose to meet the attack, still as incredibly fast as it had been before. Elsen was somehow faster. The sword whirled up, over his head, and down, slicing hard into the long, tough body. It gave a yell and leaped back. Instead of giving it the chance to regain it's balance, Elsen jumped at it again. However, it got up on it's hind legs and two long, swordlike bones came out it's arms, down near the paws. They extended out beyond the claws, giving it ample means to defend itself. It parried Elsen's few attacks, eventually forcing him back. Then, it leaped, now staying completely on it's hind legs. It slashed at him from the right, but he blocked, and then came from the left, but Elsen spun the sword around and blocked that too. It went low, but Elsen jumped over the attack and swung the sword down hard, trying to cut it's head in two. The other claw came up to block it, but Elsen deflected his own attack at the last moment and aimed for the arm just beyond where the blade came from. However, he misjudged the distance, and he barely broke the skin before he met with the bone and the blade was deflected. He jumped and rolled to the right, following the sword, trying to keep his balance. He had the vague feeling that he wasn't controlling his own body. It was ready, though, and slashed at him with both blades at once, one from both directions. He brought up the sword and held it level, and before he realized that it was the stupidest thing he could have done, the tip of the sword came up to deflect the left arm up, and dipped down to catch the other one on the hilt and bounce it down. The thing was completely off balance then, and he stole the opportunity to seperate the head from the shoulders. It landed and bounced once, and momentarily, the body and the head disappeared.
Elsen stood for a moment to catch his breath, and mentally praised the mage creators of this place for chosing such a good guardian for this place. He then dropped the sword and ran over to check Lindsi. She was dead. He cried silently for a moment, then pulled her cloak up over her head. She was beautiful, even in death, and it hurt him to look at her. Garet's words returned to him, and he hated them. He hated to think that she had been fated to die here and he couldn't do a thing about it. He sighed slightly... then pushed her from his mind, trying not to thing about it.
He walked up to the orb. It glowed slightly, as if anticipating the coming deed. He took the sword over his head and swung it down hard. The orb cracked cleanly in half. Suddenly, two distinct voices spoke from the air.
-Congratulations, wielder of the Masamune-
-Do not hurry in your escape-
-We will keep the world going until you get out-
Instead of questioning the voices, picked up Lindsi's limp body and walked out. The sun had set, and the moon was rising quickly. He strode with long strides down the hallway, wondering how everyone else was.
He opened the door, which had closed sometime within the last fifteen minutes, and looked around. There was no sign of either Garet or the thing. Shaking his head, he walked across the field, assuming both had gone elsewhere. He carried Lindsi over to the edge of the plateau and looked out. There was nothing over the edge... no water, nothing. He laid her down, then, thinking better of it, wrapped her in her cloak, picked her up again, and threw her from the edge.
It seemed for a moment, he thought, that she was flying. Then, cloak billowing around her perfect body, she fell, going on to see what was at the other side. A tear dropped from his eye and followed her down. He turned away from the spot and walked back for the door.
Then, he saw, a few feet up ahead, leaning against a tree, Garet.
Elsen ran over to him, but slowed as he drew near. He wasn't moving. He stepped forward and checked for pulse. There was none. Garet Jax, the greatest swordsman ever to live, was dead. He stared at the battered form for a moment, contemplating his last words. 'I will not lose.'
There was no sign of the thing, and he hadn't been ambushed while he was in the chambers, so he must have. Beyond that, he was Garet Jax. He said he had been looking for a real fight, and had found it. He would have not have lost it. Besides, it would have taken a thing of magic and darkness to kill him... nothing of flesh could have done the job. His eyes were closed, and he seemed finally at rest.
He left him there, undisturbed. Garet should be treated no differently now that when he was alive: untouchable.
He strode off the plateau and went down the stairs.
In the next room, he found a strange man there. He was dressed in bright armor with a shining sword clutched in his hand. His head was covered with blonde hair, except for one spot, where a cross showed. Blood streaked his entire body. He leaned down and looked into his face, and Elsen found it to be Duran. He had really done it... he had found his retribution.
He shook his head again, thinking about Duran's long, bloody life. He went through the door and looked around. Just to the right of the entrance, Siffer lay, slumped against the wall. Blood streaked down from where he had been leaning, and he showed no sign of a struggle.
They were all dead. He was the only one left... It was fate, he knew, but he didn't know if he was brave enough to accept it.
He ran. He ran through the door there and into the plane he had been born in. He ran down three stairs and jumped out the window. Tears were streaming freely down his face now, as he remembered the strong Duran, durable Siffer, mighty Garet... and Lindsi. That name hit him like the sword at his side. He almost broke down, but stopped when he turned his eyes skyward. There, far, far over his head, was ground. Garet had been right; the plane was folding up into a cube. Gravity still held, but portals were flaring open all over the place. He remembered Garet's words: 'Destroy the orb and live...' He ran, crying, through the town, until he found a portal. He looked out over the plane of his birth, then looked up. It was beginning. The ground far above him was quickly growing nearer. His scream echoed off into eternity as he leaped through a portal.
His name popped up from time to time... the death of a plane was not a common event, and word got around quickly of the exploits of the five. Siffer was praised at many a bar as the greatest adventurer who had ever lived. Duran was pardoned by the church and made into a saint for his work in defeating Isdon. Garet was spoken of no differently: the greatest swordsman who had ever lived. Lindsi was forgotten from time to time, but was made into a god, eventually, by a group of people who worshipped elves as angels. However, this was millenia afterwards, when elves were nearly unheard of. Elsen was also forgotten. He was the one who had spread the story in the first place, but he seemed to have such a little part in it that he was forgotten. However, long afterwards, the adventures of an unknown man appeared in history again. He was known to carry the great sword Masamune, and he fought in many battles, always fighting for the forces of good. However, after several years, people began to take more notice of him. He was about 76 now, and, while that's not old for an elf, he was unchanged. He had barely changed since the incident, the only difference being he had grown a beard. His exploits became widely known across the planes, and eventually he was referred to as a 'Living Legend'. He walked under the name of Garet Jax.
Elsen stood in front of two of the Writers of Fate, with the third hanging at his side. He had grown to about six and a half feet, and his face was now covered with a blonde beard. He wore all white robes. He stared at the two swords on the pedestals as they silently wrote lives and wars that would not be imagined for thousands of years. He'd lived long, about 700 years by now, and had seen much. 700 was nearing the end for most elves, when they began to show signs of aging. Elsen, however, looked to be no more than 120. He was 97 when his journeys had begun. The sword gve him incredibly longevity, even far beyond that of the oldest elf. He stared into the cosmos behind the swords and thought, thinking that he'd someday be seeing what the swords were creating right now. He looked down at himself and realized that the vision had come true. A vision which had been shown to him by the sword a long time ago... over 600 years ago...
He shook his head. There was yet another conflict going on, now... one that he had been written into by his master, the sword that hung at his side. He took his view from the sight that few mortals had seen or ever will see and walked out, the portal opening at his command. However, he didn't go through yet. Momentarily, for the first time in hundreds of years, he thought back over his adventures with the others. Lindsi...
He angrily shook his head at his own powerlessness and walked through the door.
Elsen Silverbead, true wieler of the mighty Masamune, stood on a cliffside. No mortal would ever come here again after he was done. He had lost count of how old he was, but needless to say, he was old. He had lived long, done much, and was tired. He turned and looked out over the plateau, unchanged from that fateful day. The door still hung open, the tree still stood there, and the body of Garet Jax still rested there. Somewhere below, the body of Lindsi Giffer rested. Duran Overni and Siffer Rangstan lay unmoved in the corridors to his right. With this, the party was finished... the Masamune was here of it's own accord. It had told him long ago that it wanted to be here at the end... and the end was fast approaching. The end of time, when the swords would unleash their true potential. Elsen looked down at the flat grey colors at the base of the cliff. He stroked his long, grey beard thoughtfully for a moment, then removed the Masamune from it's sheath. It was still beautiful, but here it would stay. He jammed it powerfully into the ground, leaving it there to stare out over the sands of time. He removed his bandana, which he had worn to help play the part of Garet Jax for thousands of years now, and tied it loosely around the hild of the sword. He then spread his arms and jumped. His last thought was, 'Lindsi...'
There, you've wasted a lot of time and read my story. If you feel like wasting more time, tell me what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org. Needless to say, this story owned and copyrighted by me, Darkmoogle, and the Masamune, Sephiroth, Cloud, and anything else I may have said is probably copyrighted by Square, and Garet Jax is probably copyrighted by either Terry Brooks or Del Rey Books...
If you actually liked this one that much, look for my last story, which is named different things in different places, in various places on the web.