[24th of December, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Thedam Castle Rooftop]
A calm, clear sky decorated by the fading light of descending sun served as a reminder to Sorin. It reminded him about the oncoming attack in Oelaans and the defense set up to stop it. He wondered if Korbin and his Blood Ravens would be there, but Sorin remembered that there was no chance that Korbin would miss out on the opportunity to cause some wanton destruction. Sorin had to believe that despite Korbin’s efforts, Thekohn would be able to hold its own against the inevitable onslaught brought on by the Ameci military. It was a strange feeling to consider the people of his homeland enemies, but Sorin had to believe that everything would work out. He had to keep believing that his name would be cleared and that Isaac and Foundation would be brought down. It was the only way to make everything right.
Sorin took a look at the buildings all over the kingdom. Many of them had already turned their lights on to compliment the illuminated lamp posts by the street. If there was one thing Sorin was happy about, it was that the calmness of the kingdom helped to serve as a contrast to the chaotic landscape that plagued the rest of the Thekohnian Region. Even with a mixed reaction to his presence whenever he walked through the city, there was no sense of hostility coming from the citizens. Some had come up to Sorin and asked if he really did kill the chancellor, while others were quick to assume that Sorin had no involvement whatsoever. Even though it meant little, Sorin was happy to be in a place where the animosity was little at best.
“You’re up here?” Eva asked.
Sorin turned around. At the top of the stairs stood Eva, who wore a thick coat as she walked over to Sorin. He watched as she decided to share the view of the city with him while she placed her hands into the pockets of her coat. The cold air was more apparent than before as Sorin reached for his scarf.
“You know, I bumped into Luna earlier,” Sorin said. “She asked about you, and I wasn’t sure how I could respond.”
“What did she ask you?”
“She just wanted to know how you’re doing,” Sorin replied.
“You couldn’t respond to that?” Eva asked.
“Well, it’s not like I didn’t say anything,” Sorin said. “All I said was that you were okay, that’s it.”
“If that’s all that you said, then I have no problem,” Eva said.
“If you say so,” Sorin said. “Although it seems Luna’s got a grasp of things even if she doesn’t know the full story.”
“Don’t tell me that you’re still worried about me,” Eva said. “I’ve told you not to feel that way. I’ll be okay.”
“I know, I know that,” Sorin said. “I’m not saying that I’m worried, though. I’m saying that Luna may be worried and if so, she’s only worried because she cares about you.”
“She barely knows me at all,” Eva replied. “Why would she even care about my well-being?”
“Because… Because whether you want to admit it or not, people do care about you,” Sorin said. “Everyone here cares because you are a good friend and an ally that we can depend on. You’ve trained me and even have an admirer in Mina.”
“Mina’s like that with almost everyone she meets,” Eva said. “I’m not that special or interesting.”
“Even if you don’t think that, Mina certainly does,” Sorin said. “And Gavin and Law consider you their friend, too.”
“They do, I guess…”
“Nobody here thinks less of you,” Sorin told her. “I know I don’t and I know that the others don’t, either.”
Eva sighed and pulled up the collar to her coat. “It really is quite cold,” she said. “Are you sure that you want to stay up here?”
“You came up here, too,” Sorin said. “Everybody else is sitting in the war room right now, so I just decided to get some air.”
“That makes two of us, then,” Eva said. “Sorin?”
“What is it?” Sorin asked.
“You’re not afraid, are you?” Eva asked.
“I mean, I am worried about what these people will do if we don’t try to stop them,” Sorin said.
“No, not that,” she said. “Are you afraid of dying?”
“Of course,” Sorin replied. “I think most people would say they’re afraid of dying. Um, may I ask you why you asked that?”
“I don’t know why I asked you that,” Eva replied. “It was a stupid question, just forget about it.”
“At this point, I don’t know if I should,” Sorin said.
“Forget it,” Eva said. “I’m going downstairs.”
Perplexed at Eva’s sudden decision to head back downstairs, Sorin decided that it was best to go down as well. They had to be prepared for anything, even if the chances of attack were low. Sorin, however, could not shake from his mind the ever increasing struggle that Eva seemed to be going through. Despite her best efforts, Eva had made it clear to Sorin that there was more to what she was saying. He wanted to know more, but with the situation as it was, Sorin could only wait until later to find out.
[24th of December, 2740 AD; base of Ahnle Peak, outside of Glora, Ahnlikohn]
Before he went into the forest, Kirk lit the lantern he purchased from a city merchant. The quiet rustle of leaves only made Kirk focus more on what he set out to do at Ahnle Peak, the tallest mountain in Ahnlikohn. He wondered if Rysol even climbed the mountain, but continued on regardless. If Kirk was able to save Rysol, then it would help turn things in his and Sorin’s favor. Without the use of a hostage, that would weaken Harold and help in the fight against Foundation. All Kirk had to do was find his son.
Kirk thought back to the time when Rysol was born. He could never forget the joyful look in his smile when April first held him in her arms as Kirk cracked a smile. There was a certain peace that Rysol had brought and Kirk hoped that he and April would be able to share that peace for many years to come, those years including Sorin as well. The painful remembrance only served to motivate Kirk further as walked deeper into the forest. As the light at his side helped illuminate the path forward, Kirk found a familiar figure not far off in the distance. Kirk continued to walk forward as the other man turned to face him.
“Rysol, is that you?” Kirk asked.
There was no response. Kirk moved ahead, only to stop as he heard a man’s voice come from further away. The deep, hostile voice boomed between the trees as Kirk stopped.
“So you’ve taken the bait,” Harold said. “It’s been quite a while, Kirk Wilk, but now the time has come.”
Kirk wasted no time in setting down his lantern and drew his sword. It was as he feared: Harold was alive and well. Somewhere around in the forest, Harold was waiting to strike. However, Rysol came closer and brandished his sword as Kirk set his sights forward.
“Isn’t it amazing?” Harold asked. “Now you will meet your end as the son you hold dearly will be the one to kill you.”
“Rysol, don’t listen to him,” Kirk said. “He’s using you!”
“It’s no use trying to reason with him now,” Harold replied. “Rysol isn’t the type that will listen to such weak willed words, especially not from you.”
“You lie,” Kirk said. “You’re lying, damn it!”
“I’ll be sure to finish things here,” Rysol said. “Don’t worry about me.”
“You can’t,” Kirk replied. “Listen to me, Rysol!”
Rysol pointed his blade at Kirk and took one step forward as Kirk lifted up his sword. Kirk refused to entertain the notion of fighting by Harold’s rules, yet still, he knew that he had to prepare for the worst. Knowing Harold, there was only the fear that his influence got to Rysol. Now Kirk had to convince Rysol himself, no matter what had happened. He was going to save him. Kirk had to save him. He was determined to make it right and put an end to Harold’s plans right here and now.
“You think he’ll listen to you?” Harold asked. “After so many long years of hardship and abandonment, you think he’d even want to come back to you? Don’t make me laugh, Kirk!”
“Show yourself,” Kirk said. “If you don’t, I’ll find you myself!”
“Perhaps you should learn to be careful with what wish for,” Harold said. “Now, Rysol! Kill him! Make him pay for what he’s done! Spill his blood!”
Kirk set his feet as he watched Rysol move like a swift wind. Rysol swung his sword down at Kirk, who defended himself and turned away Rysol without any hesitation. Something in Rysol’s attack signaled to Kirk that there was more to this fight. There was more to Rysol than he let on, and Kirk could tell that all from one attack.
“You really don’t want to fight me, do you?” Kirk asked.
“I can’t back down,” Rysol said. “I won’t do that!”
Rysol attacked once more with a horizontal swing, but Kirk moved away before the blade could hit him. Hesitation. There was hesitation in Rysol’s form. Kirk had hope that he would be able to get through to Rysol now that he knew that his son was fighting with uncertainty.
“I can see it in how you swing your sword,” Kirk said. “You’re holding back because you don’t want to kill me… I knew that you wouldn’t fall so easily for his tricks.”
“Damn it, I can’t afford to fail, I just can’t,” Rysol said. “Why the hell did you even come here!?”
Again, Rysol darted at Kirk and swung at him without regard. Rysol’s out of control movements were easy to predict for Kirk, who could see each swing come down at him. Kirk continued to dodge each attack until he found an opening. As Rysol left himself open, Kirk breathed in. Now he had his chance to put the final end to Harold’s attempts at madness and trickery.
“Rysol, there’s no need to fear Harold anymore,” Kirk said, “I will take care of him myself.”
With his free hand, Kirk reached out and seized Rysol’s dominant arm by his wrist. The two swords were close to one another, suspended as Kirk looked in Rysol’s eyes. A warrior with fear in his heart, Rysol had been taken by surprise at Kirk’s calm motion and dropped his sword to the ground.
“I won’t allow you to come under any more harm,” Kirk told Rysol. “I hope you can hear me, Harold, because now I’m going to find you and deal with you myself.”
There was no response from Harold. Rysol continued to look Kirk in the eyes until he could no longer do so, turning away as he attempted to pull himself free from Kirk’s grasp.
“Let me go,” Rysol said. “Let me go!”
“Of course,” Kirk replied, releasing Rysol from his grip.
Rysol hurried as he picked his sword up from the ground and looked at Kirk again. Kirk continued to remain calm as he knew that Rysol would not attack him. There was no chance now that he knew what Rysol would bring. Kirk kept his sword out, but lowered it as he looked at Rysol and formed a small smile on his face. He had this confrontation under control and now he was headed for Harold once Rysol gave himself up.
“Harold has caused you a lot of pain and deception,” Kirk said. “It’s easy to see why you may have been influenced by him, but I won’t allow that to happen as long as I can still fight. Just sheath your sword, Rysol. That’s all you need to do now that I’m here.”
“You don’t… You don’t understand, father,” Rysol replied. “I’m not fighting because I want to kill you… I don’t want to kill you.”
“I know that you don’t,” Kirk said.
“Harold… he’s evil,” Rysol said. “I can’t… I can’t do this!”
Rysol then turned away from Kirk in the opposite direction and proceeded to head deeper into the forest. Kirk uttered a quiet growl as he knew Harold was still trying to control Rysol with fear. There was no other choice now for Kirk; he had to follow after Rysol if he wanted to save him. A deep laughter filled Kirk’s ears as he sprinted after his son.
“Look what you’ve done,” Harold said. “You’ve gone and ruined my plans again, Kirk.”
“I’ll never allow your plans to succeed,” Kirk said. “I know you’re around here somewhere, which I will put a stop to you before you can cause any more trouble!”
Harold laughed again. “I’m afraid it’s already too late,” he said. “Rysol isn’t far away from me now… You’re a fool to believe that you can kill me, Kirk!”
Kirk ignored Harold and continued onward. There was no telling if what Harold said was true, but Kirk chose not to focus on what was said but rather what Rysol was doing. He could not have gone far, Kirk thought. The pursuit soon turned into a climb, however, as Kirk found himself ascend up the mountain on the way to Ahnle Peak. With each step, Kirk began to feel the toll the steep path brought him. However, he found another spaced area surrounded by trees as he placed the lantern down once more and saw Rysol standing in the middle trying to catch his breath. Kirk withdrew his sword as he made his way to Rysol and spread out his arms.
“I won’t attack you,” Kirk said. “You have my word, Rysol.”
“Why… did you follow me?” Rysol asked.
“Because I care about you,” Kirk replied. “I care about you enough to chase after you and sacrifice myself should the need arise.”
“You truly are stupid,” Harold said. “But that is the will of you Wilks. The will of a man that’s already resigned to his fate!”
Kirk got into a defensive stance. He looked around as the darkness of the forest only served to benefit Harold. Even with the lantern as his side, Kirk had no response for the endless amount of shadow that Harold chose to hide under. It was a cowardly method, one that fit Harold well, but helped him all the same. That Harold could use a spineless trick to use against Rysol made Kirk fear for what would happen next. He looked to Rysol once more and saw him hunched over catching his breath. Harold had to be close now, judging from the moving shadows near Rysol’s side. With his sword out, Kirk charged in Rysol’s direction without a second thought.
“Rysol!” Kirk exclaimed. “Run!”
Rysol turned and saw Kirk head toward him. But before he could move, the leaves on the trees rustled. It happened all too fast. Kirk stopped short of two feet away from Rysol, the tip of his blade mere inches from his face. Kirk stopped in place as he soon registered what had taken place. Two sharp pains entered in his back and out of his chest, which soon became unbearable as Kirk began to cough up a copious amount of blood. He could not even breathe as he looked down and saw more red. The laugh echoed louder than ever before as Kirk wanted to look behind, but he already knew who it was that had stabbed him.
To be continued…