Hellooooo ladies and gentlemen! Yeah, it's been a while. School took over my time and I wasn't able to get much done that wasn't school related. That, and I had a hard time figuring out how to throw in some of the key elements of Darksiders into Symphonia's storyline, without leaving crater sized loopholes and inconsistencies. Gotta figure out how and when Lloyd will be recovering all of War's gadgets. Oh well. Still, I'd like to thank everyone that reviewed, fav'd and/or followed the story. Feedback will always make my day.
After last chapter's feels trip, this time around we go back to Lloyd and see how he's doing. I got a few good laughs in store in this chapter. Our lovable little twin-blade has a lot of things to do and ground to cover. But first, he has to get back on his legs.
The Lost Horsemen. Chapter 4.
In many ways, Sybak reminded Lloyd heavily of Palmacosta. The sound of waves filled the air, seagulls flying high into the sky, and not even the hum of the city life could drown it away. The docks on the far side of the city were as busy as the main streets, filled with seamen hollering and shouting at each other as they unloaded and loaded goods back and forth. Footsteps resounded off from the cobblestone roads and from the thick wooden planks that formed the many bridges that spanned the entirety of the docks. There were few animals around other than the seagulls, mostly just pet dogs barking at random people, or horses and other draft animals pulling along wagons and carriages. Interestingly enough, just like Palmacosta, both sea side cities took pride in being the learning centers of their respective world.
Yet, that was about where the similarities between the two ended.
Palmacosta had been the largest city by far in all of Sylvarant, and yet it held an aura of warmth and friendliness towards any who came to the city. The warm sun and the cool breeze somehow just brought the best out of the city's inhabitants, and even with the nearby Human, the city still fought on and thrived. The people there were no strangers to suffering, but they had always seemed to get back on their feet. Always eager to look on the bright side, and spring back up no matter what came their way.
Sybak in comparison, felt cold. The University Town was alive in a flurry of movement, people going to and fro, always in a hurry, and at the same time it was devoid of the warmth that the people of Palmacosta held. Lloyd didn't need to walk among its streets for more than a few minutes to realize that it was the people of the city who gave off such an oppressive feeling. There was a sense of sadness, frustration, despair, and cold hearted selfishness that seemed to cling to nearly every person in the town. The heavily armed guards that dotted several of the major buildings and crossroads did little to ease harshness of the city. As for the other citizens, most of the people paid Lloyd no mind, being far too engrossed in some book to barely be aware of their surroundings, or made disdained sounds and faces when Lloyd got too close.
Lloyd decided that he didn't like Sybak much. It felt closer to a Human Ranch that to a proper city.
Still, given his current situation, the newly made Horseman had no other immediate option. Tired, hungry, covered in scrapes and bruises, not to mention dirt and blood, he did not want to set out in a random direction in search for a friendlier town to rest in. Reluctantly, he asked around for directions to the markets and inns. Twice had Lloyd forced himself to calm down when he had been rudely told to get lost (Yes, he knew that he was in a sorry state but that did not mean people had to outright insult him), but eventually he did find what he needed. Some things, such as gels and other common medical supplies he was able to purchase for a fair price at the merchant stands near the larger library. Others, like a proper set in clothing (he hated to admit but his current attire wasn't even fit to be cut up into cleaning rags), he had been forced to leave the University's main plaza and head deeper into the city. Lloyd also made sure to sell some of the things he had recently 'acquired' from the bandits in order to not look like he had just waltzed into town with a large sum of money.
Once Lloyd had finished shopping for all of the important necessities, fatigue had started to set in. He booked himself a night at one of the inns he spotted tucked away in tradesman's district of the city. It was a quaint little place, with a rustic smell and feel to it (unlike the rest of the city), and was run by a friendly family of retired merchants from what Lloyd gathered. One full meal and a quick shower later, Lloyd had been more than ready to call it a night.
That was however when he noticed that he had changed. By pure chance he had stopped to see his reflection in the bathroom's mirror, and he almost didn't recognize his own reflection. His once unruly chocolate hair had turned silver like a midwinter's moon, eyebrows and all, and gained a few inches in length. His eyes no longer matched his hair, but now held a more of amber-like hue. If not for the same overall shape of his face, Lloyd would have thought someone else had stepped into the bathroom without him noticing. He might have looked thinner and in desperate need of sleep, but surely it was nothing that a few good meals and some rest couldn't fix. He might have been imagining that his voice sounded a little off. Lloyd was about to wonder about if his skin had grown a tad bit darker when War suddenly spoke up.
'Me… You are starting to look like me...'
'You look like me… but you didn't use to. But how?' War had seen a few images from Lloyd's past, and had managed to see what the younger swordsman had looked like prior to his meeting with the Council. 'The Charred Council… When you were imbued with my powers, it must have caused you to take on some of my characteristics… Perhaps that is why Chaoseater took to you so quickly as well. Had they planned that as well?' War finished skeptically.
Lloyd had never really cared much for looks, and even with the new reflection in the mirror he did not feel too bothered by it. It might even help him in the long run, if Cruxis and the Desians were still looking for someone with his old description. Maybe he was just too tired to really worry over it, but he was instead actually curious, because he did not know much about his predecessor at all. 'What did you look like anyway?'
'I… I was tall, even among my kin…' The former Rider began, still somewhat uncomfortable to thinking of himself as no longer a Horseman, constantly shifting between anger, resentment, begrudging acceptance, and in a few rare moments such as this one, sadness. 'I had silver hair that reached to the middle of my back and eyes that glowed silver to match. My skin was a few tones darker than what you now have. Unlike you, I was heavyset, broad chested and built for power. Out of the Four, I was often called the most normal-looking, the others having a few more evident demonic features.
'Like my namesake, I lived for battle. Countless times did I ride straight into entire armies and cut them down. Heaven, Hell, Maker, Fay, Undead, Primal, nothing stood in my way. I was unstoppable… Entire realms feared my presence, more often than not scrapping their plans and fleeing for their lives if they so much as caught a whisper that I had come. Death was the only Horseman that was more feared than I was…
'Get some sleep. We both need it.'
Even if Lloyd would have loved to hear more, War's tone left no room for argument. He was more than tired from all the recent events and knew that whatever questions he had he would be able to ask them later. Perhaps then War would be a more agreeable to share his past.
Lloyd fell asleep almost as soon as his head touched the pillow.
He hadn't expected to sleep for three straight days.
By the time he did wake up, he got to face some equally mad and concerned inn owners.
"Boy, if I hadn't been able to hear ya snoring all the way down in the kitchen, I would have thought that ya died!" The inn keeper's mother, a petite old lady with silver spun hair tied up into a braided bun, clad in a well-worn dress and an apron that had clearly stood the test of time, scolded Lloyd at the same time she placed another bowl of stew before the swordsman, somehow smacking him good upside the head with the end of her cane. "Three days! I didn't know if I should have called a healer or a mortician!"
Sheepishly, Lloyd tried to make himself appear smaller before the worried granny (she had just as good an aim with a spatula and her cane as the Professor did with chalkboard erasers) to evade her wrath. Once the old woman had rounded the corner and had gone back to the counter, he quickly dug into his fourth bowl of stew, and gently rubbed the sore spot on the back of his head. Ever since he woke up, he had been starving.
"Good grief mum! Cut the boy some slack. He's up already!" The woman's son and current head of the household hollered back from other room.
The man who insisted that Lloyd call him Dolgan, reminded the swordsman heavily of his own dad, Dirk. Standing over six feet tall, Dolgan was getting up there in the years, his once deep black hair was fading out into a dusky gray, but his body was still as fit as the days he had commandeered a trading vessel on the wide blue seas. Even after a decade of having retired his sea legs, the former sailor merchant was as heavy set as Dirk was, barrel chested and arms thick enough to throw out anyone that pissed him off with ease, and if not for his cheerful demeanor he would have made a frightening figure. The sailor's short trimmed beard that might have looked somewhat reminiscent of Dirk's probably also helped Lloyd feel at ease around the man.
Not that it had stopped the old sailor from punching Lloyd square in the face when the swordsman had finally come around earlier that morning. Even War had to approve that the man knew how to throw a punch.
After which, while still mostly disoriented, Lloyd had been dragged down into the living room downstairs and had been fussed over by Dolgan, his wife Anabell, and his mother Jacquelyn. Needless to say, the two women were every bit as fearsome as the sailor and had quickly managed to strip one very red faced Lloyd down to bare skin and started tending most of his wounds, protests and all.
Only once both generations of innkeepers were satisfied with their work, was Lloyd able to run back to his room and put on some fresh clothes. Granted, he got a grand total of ten minutes of privacy before he was dragged down once again, thrown into a chair and a big steaming bowl of stew had been placed before him, with explicit orders to eat up.
'Is it that common for humans to treat each other like that?'
'I don't really know. I was raised by a dwarf, and dad did throw punches just like that whenever I screwed up big time.' Lloyd mentally replied as he slurped up the last of the stew.
War didn't know what to make out of the whole ordeal. Just like Lloyd, the elder Horseman had drifted away into sleep as soon as his container had lain down for the night. War had stirred from his slumber before Lloyd had, but not by much. Hunger had been what forced both of them to leave the room, and so they had been caught completely by surprise when the innkeeper threw a punch worthy of the Blackhammer himself, leaving both Horsemen too disoriented to put up much resistance to what that followed.
So, once everything was set and done, War was left utterly confused. On one hand, he would have violently fought back against such blatant manhandling, but on the other, those same humans had also treated the boy's wounds and (forcefully) fed him. Odder still was the fact that Lloyd had been surprisingly used to such treatments and hadn't put up too much of a fight. Instead of raving mad as War would have been if he still had a body, the boy had been more embarrassed than anything else.
But then again, among the Nephelim, compassion and kindness was nearly unheard of. And War had not really interacted in length with the other races to know what was the norm among each race. Even between the Horsemen, whatever bond they had between each other, usually involved a lot of violence, even when they were trying to be civilized towards each other. 'Though love' was about the only brand of 'love' that had existed among the Riders.
"Ahh, don't mind me mum too much Flint." The aged sailor sat before Lloyd, who had wisely gone and used his dwarven name, in case anyone of Cruxis managed to somehow find him.
Initially, War had been the one to come up with the idea of using a fake name. Lloyd however quickly put down that plan, knowing that he was just too scatterbrained to remember and respond to something else called on the spot. Luckily for him, he just so happened to have another name that was only known to two people, his dad and himself.
Lloyd Irving had been the name his mother had lived just long enough to pass onto Dirk. As per her wish, Dirk had respected the name, and used it for the most part day in and day out. However, once Lloyd had finally learned how to properly work the forge, his surrogate father had bestowed upon him a dwarven name, and Dirk's own clan name to go along with it: Flint Bronzefist. There was a reason why Lloyd learned so quickly to dodge his dad's punches, the Bronzefist clan was legendary at brawling back in the underground dwarven cities, taking on all sorts of armored foes with nothing but their bare hands, and winning.
That was also the main reason why the Desians near the house never picked a fight with Dirk. Especially after Dirk threw a good dozen of them around like rag dolls some fifty years ago.
Either way, Lloyd had only used his dwarven name once, when Dirk took him underground to meet the clan a few years ago. Dirk got some backtalk from the elders but they sorted it all out quick in proper dwarven fashion. Fists went flying, meats were roasted, ale flowed freely and much story telling took place for a day and a night. Needless to say Dirk had won the argument and Flint had been officially welcomed into the clan. On a side note, that had also been the day Lloyd experienced his first severe hangover.
When hearing his other name, Lloyd quickly looked up and saw Dolgan coming over, placing two mugs of frothy ale on the table, handing one over to the new swordsman before taking a seat across Lloyd. "She was worried sick. Both 'o 'em were. Haven't seen Bell so worked up since our youngest lass was getting wed. "
"Yeah, sorry." Lloyd apologized once again to the man. "I really didn't think I'd sleep for so long. Didn't mean to, honest."
"Aye… aye, we know." The man chucked at the boy's embarrassment. "Good think is, ye dun look like death rolled over anymore."
War raised an eyebrow at the expression but remained quiet otherwise. Meanwhile, Lloyd just sheepishly tried to hide behind his mug of ale. He had not placed much attention to himself when he took that bath the day he arrived, but he could remember how much trouble he had trying to scrub away all the blood, grime, dirt and muck that had created a second skin over him. He wasn't overly surprised by the comment. If anything, his old clothes might as well have told a story of someone that had been at death's doorstep. "That bad huh?"
"That bad boy. That bad." Dolgan ran a hand through his graying hair, clearly recalling the bad state the boy had been just a few days before. "What ye do? Ye looked like tousled a bear with yer bare arms, took on a brig full o' pirates, got trampled by a whole herd of armored boars, and all at da same time."
"Certainly felt like that…" The twin swordsman grumbled under his breath.
'You will have to tell him something." The Nephelim advised quickly. "Best not tell him the whole story… Being from a different world is not the kind of information we need loose. However, the part of the bandits attacking us should be safe enough cover. Maybe add some parts of your Journey of Regeneration before it all fell apart.'
Unfortunately, Lloyd sucked at lying, and he knew it. But War had a point. At the very least he owed Dolgan some answers after he and his family went out of their way to feed him and patch him up.
Coming up with a somewhat believable story right on the spot was not one of his strong points either. Still, like War had said, he could use tidbits from the earlier part of his journey, skipping any of the sensitive points, such as the Desians, Cruxis, the ranches…. Even Colette. Taking a swing at the mug before him, Lloyd prepared himself for what was to come.
"I… left my dad's home not too long ago. To make a name for myself." Lloyd began after swallowing some of the darker, fiercer memories that were far easier to recall. Looking back, he really had been a gullible fool. "Wanted to see the whole world for myself, before settling down and take up blacksmithing after my dad.
"I ended up traveling a bit with a group of mercenaries, in order to make some money…" All truths so far, save for the fact that in his old group there had only been one, albeit fake, mercenary but close enough. They did take a few odd jobs here and there when they were in a pinch. "Unfortunately one of them had other ideas. Bastard was part of another… bandit group." Lloyd had barely been able to withhold the sheer venom from his voice at recalling Kratos and Cruxis. Mass murderers would have been a more appropriate tittle, but dubbing them bandits was the simplest way to describe them given the situation. "He knocked me out in the middle of the woods somewhere. Next time I woke up I was pretty bruised all over and surrounded by bandits. I… managed to snap out of it and kill all of the ones nearby.
"After that, I took whatever I could find and patched myself up as best as I could, then tried to get out of the woods. Ended up here in Sybak." Lloyd rushed through his tale, squashing down at bile that had been forming in his throat, opting to get the story done as quickly as possible. He had already gone into detail with the Council and War already, but the pain was still too new, too raw, to bare his inner turmoil to anyone. Even a helping hand.
For a few minutes, neither man said anything. Lloyd feared that the sailor would inquire more details, details that he really did not want to dig up so soon, lest he be thrown to the mad house.
Not that he had noticed, but the old sailor had been watching the boy carefully as he wove his story. He saw when the boy became tense at certain points, the far off look in his eyes at times, the tone of voice that told so much more than words alone could convey. Life and death, balanced on a threadbare length of steel. Dolgan knew very well the look and feel of someone that had all their hopes and dreams crushed in a single moment. That single fleeting moment, that would make or break a man.
Lloyd reeked of it.
In fact, when the lad had first walked into his inn a few days ago, Dolgan could tell that the swordsman was on his last legs. Pure adrenaline had been keeping the boy upright. So he knew beforehand that the young man would not stir for over a day. The constant tossing, turning and pain filled whispers that he heard every time he walked in front of the boy's door said far more than the lad would willingly share so soon.
Whatever horrors the boy saw back there, had irreversibly changed him. For better, or for worse.
Still, the boy had survived hell and back. Now the question was, what came out of it? A broken heart and a battered body that would fall to the first gust of wind, or someone that could take on an army straight out of Niflheim with a smile on his face and live.
"I bet that ain't the whole story Flint." Dolgan began, earning a flinch from the swordsman before him. "But, I also know it won't be an easy story ta share."
Of all the possible answers, that had not been one that Lloyd would have expected. He had been bracing himself for being called out a liar, or even something worse, but Dolgan's earnest compassion and forgiveness just caught him completely by surprise. The old sailor had a look in his eyes that spoke of untold volumes of understanding and wisdom that Lloyd could not help but be drawn to.
Maybe Dolgan had taken pity on the boy, maybe it was those big, child-like doe eyes still filled with unshed tears, or the way Lloyd had trembled and grasped at the table or at the mug with both hands as he told his story, or maybe the vast amount of injuries that had not been well tended to, or something else altogether. Either way there was just something about the lad that he knew that right here and now, above all else, Lloyd needed someone to reach out to him and show him that life is still worth fighting for. A light in the darkness, and a helping hand.
The old sailor smiled softly at the boy before growing serious once more. "I''ve been a sailor fer over twenty years lad. The world out there, beyond our walls an' docks, 'tis every man fer himself. Out there, some men are no better than a bunch o' beasts. Sometimes, mankind is even worse." Dolgan stopped there so that his words had a chance to sink in while he shifted in his seat to lean on the table.
Lloyd fumbled with a response to that. The sailor was right on so many accounts. Just what drove people to do such unspeakable horrors? Was hate and anger enough of an excuse to justify the actions carried out by Desians? What of bandits and other thugs? Such… chaos, so much destruction, and for what? Just because they could?
Suddenly, Lloyd felt a thick hand gently clasp him by the shoulder. Dolgan looked at him, a dozen or so emotions coursing through the old man's weary eyes. "Lad, hear out an old man will ya?"
Not trusting his own voice, Lloyd deftly found himself nodding at the elder.
"I know first-hand how wrong the world is out there. I lost a son ta pirates, and a brother ta thieves. I have no love for either, and I've sent more than my fair share o' criminals ta the bottom o' the ocean. Fer revenge? No, no." The man shook his head as he let go of Lloyd, shifting back to his own seat. "Nothing will bring me son or me brother back from the land o' the dead. But for every mad man I've put down, countless others have been spared from a wrongful blade."
'To kill to protect others...' War, who had kept to himself up until then, mussed within the deeps of Lloyd's mind. Even the age old Rider could draw some similarities between the retired merchant and his own peacekeeping.
Keeping Creation within balance was no easy feat. More often than not, it revolved on cutting down anyone from whichever side was growing too powerful, or too dangerous, to be allowed to live. Other times, their plans and machinations where brought forth, and destroyed in plain view for all to see, even if their lives had been spared for the most part. Abaddon himself, high general of the White City, had required frequent visits to remind him that weapons of mass destruction were not to be tolerated.
However, the former Horseman was not one to snide some well-earned revenge. He would have not held back if someone had mocked any of the other Horsemen, or his own name.
As for Lloyd, the words of both the sailor and his new mentor echoed within his mind. Had that not been the reason why he had originally joined Colette on her Journey of Regeneration? Had he not traveled with the others, infiltrated two Desian ranches and aided in their destruction in order to spare the people from their heinous activities? Kvar and Magnius had been savages that needed to be put down. All those that served under them willingly and without remorse where no better than the Grand Cardinals themselves. If they had run in and killed only the ranch's respective Overseer, someone else would have sooner or later taken control and do the same, if not worse, than their predecessor.
Lloyd did not like killing, but understood that it was part of life itself. During the Journey he had taken many lives in order to protect Colette and his friends. For the villages and towns and cities that had lived so long under the shadows of the Desian Ranches. For the whole of Sylvarant.
And now he would do it all over again, willingly, for both worlds, and all of those trapped within Cruxis' machinations. And for Creation itself.
This time however, he would do it as the Horseman War.
Seeing how realization dawned on Lloyd's face, the old sailor nodded in approval before continuing his speech.
"But always remember one thing lad. Never forget who you are, and why you are fighting. I've seen far too many good men fall prey to greed and vice."
Lloyd blinked at that, confused by the sudden turn of events. How could someone fall so low if they were good people? "How come? Why did they fall?"
"Depends on person to person." The sailor sighed, as he looked up at the various odds and ends adorning the inn's main lobby. Flags, trinkets, figurines, even a few old weapons that somehow did not seem out of place. All of them sporting cracks or dents or missing pieces, making them nearly worthless at first glance, and yet each item had a story to tell. Keepsakes from Dolgan's sailing years, and reminders of lessons that had been learned. Some, at the cost of a friend or a life.
The innkeeper allowed his eyes to wander a bit, recalling some not so dusty memories, before turning back to address the younger man before him. "Some started as champions of justice and bravery, but as they rose through the ranks and gained power over others, it got to their head. They became the very evils they had long fought to end. Sometimes, there turn out even worse."
At that point, Dolgan stood up, grabbed both mugs and went over to the bar to fill them back up. "Others, couldn't stop themselves afta' taking revenge and just kept on killing, guilty and innocent alike. Grief drove them mad. 'Til someone finally stopped them." The man grimaced as if he had tasted something particularly unsavory, but nonetheless his large hands moved with surprising grace, gained by years of practice, putting down one filled mug on the counter then placing the other under the tap.
Lloyd too found a bitter taste reaching the back of his mouth. He had met several prime examples of good guys that turned out to be evil. Gov—Former Governor Dor had been quite the example, selling his own city and people to the Desians for an antidote that did not exist. So caught up in his grief had the man been that he failed to realize that his own daughter had been killed and replaced by a Desian informant. Asgard also came to mind, where the villagers had become so desperate that they began to feed damsels to the fake Summon Spirit.
But at the same time, the old man's words scared him as well. He had not bothered to look back but killing had become a lot easier as of late. Back at the start of the journey, he hadn't liked killing all those bandits and Desians, but as time went on he didn't stumble as much… when he woke up after receiving the title of Horseman, killing those bandits and looting them hadn't even so much as fazed him. True, he did not take pleasure in any of it, but there was still something undeniably wrong with taking a life!
Had he too started to slip down that dark path? Had he cut down people that did not deserve to die?
His thoughts were brought to a halt when Dolgan decided to renew his lesson, slamming two now-full mugs down on the table with a little more force than necessary. "Then you have those that are driven to the edge by need. Forced ta steal or kill once and their conscience haunts them. But when they keep repeating it, sooner or later they stop feeling remorse at all. Until one day killing and stealing becomes the only thing they know how to do."
Lloyd flinched at that. Dirk had drilled into his mind that any man worth his salt had to learn something other than just to wield a blade. Thievery was not taken too kindly by dwarves, be it goods or life. Dad used to go on and on about how in the ancient dwarven cities underground, every man and woman knew two things, how to fight, and how to create. Dwarves were craftsmen by nature, and some of the best all around. Even those that worked as guards almost always had workshop where they could go unwind and keep their hands busy.
Dwarven Vow #47, stand tall and proud on your own achievements, earn your keep and build your future. And Dwarven Vow # 49, any man that reaps from another's hard earn work is no man at all.
Who would have thought that Lloyd would hear his old dwarven teachings on another world? The wording was a bit different but the core of the lesson was still there. And all from a sailor that probably had never even met a dwarf in his life. Either way, the reference brought about a few pangs of sadness. Dirk might not have been his father by blood, but he'd be dammed if he hadn't been a dam good father.
Even if he was a world away, he could still make his old man proud.
"And lastly," Dolgan continued after taking a long drink. "You have those that lose sight o' themselves. They get distracted, forget who they were, what they stood for. Quite often, they fall prey ta vice or two or more. In the end, they become something so distorted ya can't even recognize them anymore."
Lloyd took in the elder's words. Nostalgia aside, the man had many a good point. The newly named Horseman couldn't afford to screw up now, with the fate of both worlds possibly ridding on his shoulders. Cruxis had to be stopped, even if—even if they managed to get Collette's body, they won't magically disappear and leave both worlds be.
It hadn't dawned on him until just now, but in all likelihood, his old friends were now dead. Genis, Collette, Professor Raine, and even Sheena who joined their little odd traveling group. There was no bringing back the dead, but for them, for their memory, he would forward and put a stop to the madness that was Cruxis. For their sake, and everyone else that suffered from the atrocities caused by Cruxis and the Desians, Lloyd would fight on to the bitter end.
'You won't be riding out alone, Lloyd. I'm here and I will make sure you rescue my brothers and set your world free.' War announced his stance, confirming in his own way that he was not about to abandon Lloyd to his task.
'Not alone…' Lloyd repeated internally, smiling at the elder Rider's backing, and the warm feeling that started to bloom within him. His earlier loneliness fading away along with the last remnants of his worry and doubt. He had started off on Colette's Journey of Regeneration with little to no clue as to what he had been doing, and he still pressed on. Despite everything, they all managed to release the Seals and reach the Tower of Salvation. Lloyd might have been the only one left alive, but he was not about to throw away everyone's sacrifices.
With a determined grin spreading on his face, Lloyd reached out to his new mentor. 'Yeah, I'll never be alone. Not anymore. Even if everyone else is gone, they are still with me in memory and in my heart. And with you by my side War, we will make Cruxis pay for everything they have done.'
For a second, Lloyd would have almost sworn that he had felt War smirk from the back of his mind.
"Good, I can see in yer eyes that you've paid attention."
"Yup!" Lloyd proclaimed enthusiastically, fire burning bright in his eyes and newfound energy coursing through his veins. "Even if I have to remind myself each and every day, I won't back down and I won't let all those bastards get away with their crimes. All my friends, my dad, and the people that taught me and helped me along the way, they depended on me to get the job done and I am not going back on my word. I'll make them all proud."
"Now that's the spirit!" Dolgan got up, reached over and clapped the swordsman on the back, a mad grin on the old man's face from ear to ear. "Now, seeing as you are feeling better, ye still owe me a few nights rent. So how about working off yer pay by helping this old man fetch some goods eh? I'm sure can call in a few friends and see if anyone needs an extra hand."
"And if he ain't back by sundown," old Granny Jack's voice hollered out from the kitchen, the end of her cane clearly visible waving back and forth in the window between kitchen and seating area. "I'm making him swab every last plank in the inn on his hands and knees while carrying me on his back!"
Lloyd choked out an embarrassed laugh. He really didn't doubt the old woman's words for a single second. "Guess I better hop to it." He said softly before getting up.
Within half an hour, Lloyd was fully dressed and geared, Chaoseater strapped to his back but under an illusion that made it look like a plain broadsword (a trick that War claimed that all of riders had come up with, for whenever they needed to not be recognized immediately) and followed the old sailor around the storehouses of Sybak.
The rest of the day went by swiftly. With Dolgan as his guide, Lloyd found the city to be much friendlier. There was still a cold bite to it, like that to the still air one would find after a heavy snowstorm, but nowhere near to his experience a few days before. Granted much like Lloyd had done before, Dolgan tended to stay well and clear from the heavily armored Papal Knights, claiming—under his breath at that— that the Knights didn't help much when it came to keeping peace within the city and crime off the streets.
That aside, Lloyd got to see a new side of the city. Several of Dolgan's old friends took an immediate liking to Lloyd, after seeing the lad's endless of energy, cheerful disposition and work attitude. Most of what Dolgan had him do involved finding certain items or containers, counting out goods, and loading or unloading crates and barrels. Grunt work maybe, but Lloyd was thoroughly enjoying the good workout, his body finally getting back into the swing of things after having slept for so long.
It also proved to be an excellent place to get the grasp of current events and figuring out the local landscape. The sailors, dockworkers and deckhands were surprisingly chatty and quite eager to share information around. The drunken ones were an even better source of information. So far he had learned that the major cities nearby were Meltokio, which in turn was the capital, Flanoir, a cozy getaway tucked within year-round snow in an island somewhere up northeast, and Altamira, a tropical vacation resort (whatever that meant, but Lloyd guessed, with a little bit of War's help, that it was a place where people went to enjoy themselves). He also heard in passing a few mentioning's of a town named Ozette, a trading post half hidden deep within the forests and known for good lumber, crops and medicine.
Other, not so important (but just as useful) tidbits Lloyd picked up involved details more related to day to day life. Seamen were preparing for the season's next big catch, crabs and shellfish. Trade by sea was slowing down due to tropical storms making the waters too jagged to cross. Recently harvested grains were being bound or milled, preparing them to be sent to either Flanoir who couldn't grow any, or to the capital, who had the biggest demand for it. All of this in turn meant that there were plenty of job openings to go around. It wouldn't be overly hard to grab a job, and Lloyd planned to make the best of it as he began exploring this new world.
War hadn't been too happy about having to play errand boy, but he knew that they needed intelligence on their current world quickly, and it would be better to stick to some of the locals. And should anyone try to back-stab them, well, they would be answering to Chaoseater.
It was going to be a pain though, without the Council's magics to travel great distances in the blink of an eye, or Ruin's assistance, they were potentially looking at worldwide exploration on foot. But that was something to worry about later.
The irony of it. A Horseman without his horse.
Missing steeds aside, Lloyd had enough to keep him busy. As it turned out, Dolgan was still owner in part of a local shipping company. He had officially retired from manning the ships, but he still kept a tight shift and a close eye on the ledgers. Having one of the ships just arrive in port meant that there were plenty of goods to unload and sort out, and just as many things to prepare for the next venture. Lloyd quickly got himself situated helping out with the loading and unloading, as Dolgan kept track of all movements.
It was slightly chaotic, with everyone and everything seemingly moving at the same time, but Lloyd enjoyed himself. Even picked up a few shanties from the singing sailors. War might have grimaced a bit at Lloyd's silliness and overall bad singing. The other sailors didn't mind any, instead they laughed whole heartedly and kept encouraging him to do better.
By sundown, they had finished loading up the trading ship. After wrapping up a few loose ends, Lloyd followed Dolgan back to the inn. They were greeted back with a hearty plate of steaming vegetables and roasted duck.
"You did good out there today boy." Dolgan spoke up after finishing his meal. "I'd wager you did more than enough to cover what ye owed and fer tonight's stay and meal."
"Sweet!" Lloyd proclaimed between bites of his second helping. He did work up a good appetite after all that heavy lifting and was immensely glad when the innkeepers encouraged him to eat his fill. Raine quite often had to rein him in and keep him from pigging out (he really could out-eat the rest of the group put together after a long day of fighting) when they had just enough money for small helpings for everyone.
As luck would have it, when Lloyd tried to limit how much he placed on his plate, old Granny was having none of it. She gave him another smack with her cane for skimping out, and even went so far as bringing out a large meat pie to the table, saying that he was scrawny as a twig and really needed to put some weight on his bones. Lloyd pouted at the comment, but dug into the pie as soon as the old lady had turned her back to him, earning several laughs from everyone else in the room. Later, when Granny Jack came back again with a bowls of banana custard, he also made short work of the dessert.
Sweeping the old grannie into a near bone crushing hug and twirling her around in the air a few times might have been a little over the top, but Lloyd was seriously loving the old woman's cooking. And judging from Granny Jack's reddened face after she finished spitting out halfhearted obscenities and demanding she be put down, and with Dolgan's howling laughter in the back no less, she had also enjoyed Lloyd's antics.
The rest of the meal went by in a more sedated manner. Lloyd even opted to share his ideas on trying to get a job the next day as either a bodyguard or a hired hand for one of the trading caravans or ships. Dolgan approved of Lloyd's initiative, and gave him directions to some of the warehouses that had been hiring as of late.
He bid his goodnights to the three innkeepers (with an extra hug for Granny) and headed up to his room to prepare for the next day.
"So much for a good start" Lloyd grumbled under his breath, running a hand though his now silver hair.
The day had started well enough. Lloyd had shared breakfast with the innkeepers once more and exchanged farewells before heading to the markets. He quickly stocked up on food and other provisions for several days travel, including a new set of mail armor to replace his old one that was no longer usable. It made Lloyd feel weird, no having his old fire red jacket, blue pants and suspenders, yet none of the stalls had anything to sale remotely close to his old outfit. He ended up settling for dusky gray pants, black leather boots, a long sleeved dark red traveling tunic with dark gold trims and some thick leather gloves. Not quite what he wanted, but it was close enough to his original outfit to bring him some sense of familiarity. He also grabbed a two spare sets of clothing to have for when the need arise, including a clock in case it rained.
Just as Dolgan had said before, Lloyd soon found several merchants looking to hire bodyguards and animal handlers. Most of the caravans preparing to leave where heading into the forest, towards Ozette and some other tiny port town on the other side of the continent. Something about getting goods to Altamira without having to worry about rainstorms destroying ships. There was however, one single caravan preparing to go towards Meltokio. Being the capital and the largest city on this world, Lloyd and War both ventured that it was as good as any place to start their search for the other missing Horsemen and the aftermath of the Great Kharlan War. (They had tried to go into the Academy library for information on the Great War and history, whoever they were turned away at the entrance, claiming that it was only open to academy students, researchers, or those with official papers.)
Tracking down the headmaster of the guild in charge of the caravan to Meltokio took some time. The man had been running around in a frenzy, going back and forth between storehouses and the nearby stables. After finally finding the man, it soon became apparent what had been the reason behind all the commotion. The headmaster was standing next to group of considerably damaged wagons, and was currently chewing off the equally bruised up group of hired hands. A nearby warehouse manager quickly filled Lloyd in with the damages, without the shouting. One missing wagon, eight escaped draft horses and another 10 injured, at least four mercenaries fled on the job, loss of several crates of goods and the remainder of the wagons were barely serviceable. All thanks to an ambush by a large pack of wolves close to the forest's exit.
Even Lloyd had to wince at the amount of damage. He knew firsthand how dangerous large packs of wolves could be, but a dozen or so armed mercenaries should have been able to put up a fight. Very rarely did wolves press on with an attack after losing one or two of their pack. Either those mercenaries really were a bunch of useless cowards, or they didn't know even the first thing about fighting.
"Hmph. This will set us back at least several days. Sorry mate, but if you were looking to join the caravan to Meltokio, you'll have to wait." The same manager informed Lloyd as he scribbled down on his ledger the losses of the ordeal. However, after briefly giving Lloyd a good once over, the man stopped and turned towards the Horseman. "I tell you what. I saw you working yesterday over at the docks and you did good there. Plus, you look far more capable than those half-twits. If you can recover some of those horses, I'll give you coin. Wrangle up enough of them and I'll put in word with the boss to add you to the trip to the capital. How does that sound?"
Lloyd broke out into a wide grin. "You got yourself a deal sir."
Both men extended their hands and shook, sealing the deal. "Good, good." The manager turned around and handed Lloyd a length of rope. "Three thousand gald per horse back. Look at their bridle, if they have the guild's insignia, it's one of ours. Find one that ain't, bring it back all the same, I'll figure out who it belongs to and see to returning it."
Lloyd got a good look at the guild's emblem and tucked the rope away into his backpack with a nod. "Where should I begin looking?"
The manager brought a hand to his chin and chewed on the end of his pencil in thought. "I'd start with the highlands northwest of here. Keep the sea to your left and you will see it eventually. Horses don't like the woods, too many twists and turns keeping them from running. They like the open grounds, so if you don't see them on your way over there, that's the next likely place for them to be. Hopefully the wolves didn't get all of them already."
"All right, thanks for the info."
A few hours later, Lloyd found the sight of the supposed ambush. Just as the manager had said, a few minutes into the forest (which was awfully dark in his opinion) he found evidence of broken wagon parts, and various containers of goods already picked clean.
"Someone sure was quick about it, if the attack really happened near dawn." Lloyd grumbled as he turned over another box, finding it empty as well except for a few glass shards.
'Something isn't right about all of this. We are a ways off from the main road. The ground is broken up and unfit for wagons. Something forced them to change course.' War added.
"Yea, it does look fishy." The younger horseman grumbled. "It definitely is the correct wagon though. The lids do have the right emblem. I hardly see any blood if there really was a fight."
Briefly, the thought of the same bandits that had attacked him after waking up crossed Lloyd's mind, but he had no way to prove or disprove it. After all he did kill all of the ones that had attacked him, so at the very least it couldn't have been their handiwork. Another group perhaps, or other members of the same group that took over after having lost several members to Lloyd. At any rate, he would be informing the guild master about his findings later when he returned to town.
Searching the rest of the area did not offer many other clues about the attack, or the missing items. A few scruffs of fur did show that there had been wolves in the area at one point in time, whether or not they were the original reason behind the attack was still a mystery.
'This is a dead end. We are not going to find much else. It would be better to continue searching elsewhere.' War advised after Lloyd come out empty handed for his efforts.
Running a hand to wipe off his brow, Lloyd agreed that it would be the best course of action. Before leaving for good, Lloyd made sure to grab and store away a few of the broken items bearing the guild's emblem as proof that they wagon had been already pilfered.
Seeing nothing else of note, Lloyd headed northward, until the trees started to grow thin and sparse, giving way to the wipe open, wind-swept and sea sprayed mesa. The Gaorrachia Highlands.
Best of all, he saw a group of horses running freely in the distance.
Getting close to them was a different matter however. The horses moved quickly, staying away from Lloyd and the roaming monsters that dotted the area. Despite trying to evade unnecessary fighting, Lloyd soon began cutting down the various hard skinned lizards, scorpions, buzzards and the odd coyote that mistook him for an easy meal.
At least he was getting in more practice with Chaoseater, even if he did miss his old swords.
It took a while, and some tricky maneuvering from his part, but Lloyd finally managed to chase the horses into a small canyon. What surprised him however was the sheer size of the group, at least two dozen strong. Hiding under the shadow of an overlooking rock formation, he got a better look at them. They ranged in all colors and body shapes, from the smaller and slimmer horses that looked to be true mustangs, to the larger, heavier ones that had to be escaped draft horses.
To his surprise, several of the horses, both large and small, had bridles or saddles on them, in various states of wear and tear. Seeing that a few of them wore bridles in fairly good shape, gave Lloyd reason enough to believe that those were some of the most recent escapees.
'How do you plan to catch them?' War asked his apprentice.
'Well, mostly I'd say to just wing it.' Lloyd responded, with a nervous smile. 'If I can catch and get on one with all the gear on, it probably would make it so much easier to catch the rest.'
'You didn't think this far ahead did you?'
Lloyd had the decency to hang his head in shame.'Am I really that easy to see through?'
'Yes.' War answered without skipping a beat.
'Well geeze.' Lloyd huffed. 'Can you at least tell me which one has the most complete set of gear on, mister professional Horseman?'
'At least you recognize it.' A slight edge of humor laced the elder Horseman's voice, showing that he did get some enjoyment out of pushing Lloyd's buttons. 'And go for the light brown stallion with the black nose and legs. That one is missing a few pieces, but the saddle won't slip or come loose.'
The horse in question was luckily near the edge of the group, happily munching away at some shrub that Lloyd could not see. 'Oh, I hadn't seen that one. I had been thinking on the big red one over in the back, or the gray spotted one taking a drink. Hmm, yeah, it does look like it has better gear on it. Hopefully it's fast enough to keep up with the draft horses.'
Keeping to the shadows, Lloyd quietly made his way through the rocky alcove. The horses themselves had begun to relax after seeing no danger. They began to mill about, grazing at the nearby grass and vegetation, relaxing in the shade or taking a drink in a nearby spring. Only a few horses were still in high alert, indicated by their head being held high and the constant twitching in the ears. Lloyd took caution to move when those watchers had their heads down or had something to block the view.
Once Lloyd managed to position himself properly, just a jump's away from the saddle wearing horse, he waited patiently for the animal to stay still and not pay attention to him. He had almost spooked the horse a few times, but other than some brief shifting and ear twitching, the stallion remained calm. When the timing was just right, the swordsman took his chance and jumped.
Only to be suddenly tackled mid jump, throwing him off course and into a prickly tumbleweed.
Lloyd reacted quickly however, rolling away from the plant and from nearly getting his guts trampled by one very big and very pissed off horse. A large deep brown male, free of all tack, thick in legs and around the barrel, sharp eyed, wild manned and a fearlessness that Lloyd had seen in a small number of wolves, stared down on him in challenge. Somehow, it had spotted Lloyd as he had been creeping along and tacked him as soon as the swordsman had made his jump.
It took the horse no time at all to free its legs from the thorny bush, releasing a loud aggressive whinny, and instantly alerting the rest of the horses. Flicking away any stray branches, the horse made more aggressive noises while looking straight at Lloyd, as it scratched at the earth with its hooves, muzzle scrunched up in anger and teeth bared.
"Argh. Where the heck did you come from!?" Lloyd half swore at the horse, jumping back a few paces to put more distant between himself and the raging animal. Lloyd had not seen that one sneak up on him, and unlike the rest of the group that promptly bolted away at the first sign of commotion, this one was standing its ground.
As if sensing the insult, the animal suddenly charged. Lloyd dove away at the last second, hand flying to Chaoseater's hilt, as the male passed by him.
"Dammit, the only thing I really did not want to fight here." He grumbled as he was forced to jump away again. Man, could that thing turn in a pinch.
'You'll have to slay it. If it won't back down, you'll have no other option.' War said once Lloyd was at a safe enough distance.
"It already scared away the rest of them so there goes that. Dam this guy is—sonuva—" Lloyd managed to throw himself back, flat on the floor, then roll away when the stallion had suddenly stopped mid charge, throwing itself forward and bucking at him. Its rear hooves missed Lloyd's face by a few scant inches.
The horse did not stop there, barely giving Lloyd any room for a breather. It charged, bucked, stamped, and on a few occasions nearly managed to bite at Lloyd. The animal was relentless, even to the point where Lloyd could not fully draw out Chaoseater.
Only when Lloyd managed to jump onto a cluster of rocks, landing high enough so that the horse couldn't get him, was he able to catch his breath. The horse paced around in an agitated manner back on the ground below, grunting and snorting while keeping an eye on the swordsman.
'This one is far more aggressive than normal.' War told Lloyd. 'Even feral horses shouldn't be like this.'
"It's probably not a true feral. It's too big." Lloyd countered as he wiped the sweat off his brow. "It's not wearing any tack, and I don't see any markings or scars from any other kind of equipment, but if it has this bad of a grudge against people, then someone must have treated it pretty badly before it escaped."
'Perhaps. But that is another matter entirely. Right now, it will not let us escape. It probably will chase us down if we try to run away.'
Seeing no other way out, Lloyd sighed deeply and drew Chaoseater. He would have preferred to just catch and return the escapees. He really hadn't expected to see one put so much of a fight. If anything, the horse had clearly made up its mind and would only wreak havoc if it was returned to its original owners. The plows and fields and carriages that would have awaited it back in captivity was not how it wished to pass the rest its years. If it went down, it was going to be fighting.
Heck, this one looked like it could charge straight into a full scale battle, wearing full plate armor while carrying a knight on its back and everything.
For some reason, War shifted deep within Lloyd's mind at the sudden image. As if it had stirred something within him.
"I guess there's no other choice then." Dawdled the younger swordsman, taking a deep breath and he steadied his grip on the massive broadsword.
Mind made up, Lloyd pushed the mana within his body outwards readying himself to combat. Then in a single push, he released it as he jumped, sword held high. "Beast!"
The energy carried Lloyd into the air, then cracking the earth under him as he landed. He missed the horse, it having had moved away when it saw Lloyd first jump. It now stood a few paces away, staring at Lloyd as if sizing him up. Lloyd returned the gaze equally. He was done running away.
Both combatants stood in silence, as if waiting for the other to strike first. Still as calm water they were, neither side flinching and barely blinking. Then, at the flick of a pebble, they both charged in.
The horse had speed and power on its side, whilst Lloyd had quicker reaction time and better maneuverability. It forced Lloyd to keep moving, dodging, rolling and even diving right under the horse's legs, because if a single hit landed on him it was bound to be fatal. More than once had War saved him with his quick orders to dodge left or right. Counterattacking proved difficult, Chaoseater's massive size and weight placed Lloyd at a disadvantage against the fast moving horse. Most of his attacks hitting empty space.
But he got better. He stated to time his attacks earlier, taking into account the added range that Chaoseater provided. His Demon Fang Artes where a blessing in particular, the long energy spikes soon becoming a nasty hurdle for the horse to jump or move away from. And if the beast did not reach quickly enough, Lloyd could catch it with a well-placed Tiger Blade or Sword Rain. He even managed to throw in a few of War's old Blade Geysers if the horse tried to trample him. Sonic Thrust and Tempest were not as effective, due to the narrow area they struck at, and leaving him wide open.
Back and forth they went, trading blows and barely escaping from then other's onslaught. Horse and Horseman caught in a deadly dance, raising dirt and dust, and covering the area with scratches, cuts and debris, where the terrain itself became an ally one second, blocking away one attack, and an enemy the next when it left you flanked against the other contender. Still they both pressed on, until they were both covered in dirt, grime and blood. The horse came to sport a few long gashes along its legs and sides, but it had also left Lloyd covered in scratches and bruises from a few glancing blows it had managed to land.
The intense fight soon came to a draw, both sides breathing heavily. They stood at a distance, the horse having picked up the maximum range of Lloyd's Demon Fang and its variations, while the young Rider had positioned himself at an angle so that the horse wouldn't be able to charge at him in a straight line.
'Dam thing sure knows how to fight.' Lloyd thought as he spit out blood that had been pooling inside his mouth.
'Too well… It's… almost as if—' War trailed into silence, not finishing whatever he had in mind.
Lloyd in turn raised an eyebrow at the odd behavior. War wasn't really the time of guy to suddenly cut himself off mid-sentence. 'As if what?'
War offered no further explanation, and despite wanting to know what the Nephelim was up to, he dared not distract himself from the dark brown horse that was still grunting at him a few meters away. He knew that if it came to attrition, the horse would probably win. Out of the two of them, the horse was in better shape. The various cuts barely slowed it down, while Lloyd's injuries mounted up quickly. He had soon discovered that those three days of straight rest had slowed his body down considerably. It had been a near miracle he had lasted so long as it was. Unfortunately, he was nearly out of mana and orange gels, and he just wasn't managing to land enough hits to build up wrath at a usable rate. He had to land the finishing blow quickly, or the horse would finish him. And it was not going to be pretty.
'Dammit. Gotta make this count.'
As if sensing his intentions, the stallion released a loud whinny and came at him at full gallop. Lloyd quickly tightened his grip on Chaoseater and braced himself. He had only enough mana for one, maybe two low powered arts. His best chance was to roll away at the last second and Demon Fang the horse from the rear.
Just as he was preparing to roll away, War shouted 'No—Wait! Use your Sonic Thust!'
Against better judgment, Lloyd shifted his hands and followed through. "Sonic Thrust!"
Where he had briefly envisioned landing a nasty hit on the horse and getting trampled to death, he instead saw the mighty blade go through the horse with no resistance whatsoever. And then the horse went through him, as if it had been nothing but a phantom from the start.
"W-what—?!" Lloyd stared into empty space, where the grand beast had just been a few moments ago.
Quickly regaining his bearings, the young Rider turned around. The horse was there slowing down from his charge and then taking a leisurely turn back towards Lloyd.
'Ruin. We found Ruin.' Was War's sudden, all-explaining answer.
"The hell?! W-wait, what? What do you mean with Ruin?" Lloyd yelled, confused by the sudden turn of events.
War chucked deep within Lloyd's mind and then setting on an amused grin. 'Yes, Ruin. Every Horseman needs a Horse. And what is to follow War but Ruin?'
At that moment, the horse snorted softly once as the earth beneath it sprung into flames. From there, the fire expanded, catching its hooves and leaving behind cracked skin that glowed like molten lava. Soon the whole horse was engulfed in flames, and yet it continued to walk towards Lloyd as if nothing was wrong. Only when the fire receded did Lloyd see what had become of the beast. Skin as black as coal riddled with cracks that glowed as brightly as the fire on the ground, hooves and eyes of molten ever-burning slag, and a mane and tail of smoke and embers. Then, in a sudden burst of energy, metal, leather and chains began to appear, taking form of an imposing saddle, bridle and reins.
Ruin. A Horse fit for one of the Four Horsemen.
The mighty steed stopped just an arm's length away from where Lloyd stood.
"Ruin? As in YOUR horse?!" Lloyd asked astonished, barely able to believe what had just happened.
'Precisely.' War sounded incredibly pleased with himself. 'And looks like he has accepted you as his new rider.'
Speechless, Lloyd could only watch in awe as the horse that had nearly killed him off at least a dozen times not even five minutes ago, just stood there, watching him. As if waiting for him to get on. Ruin had made an imposing figure before, but now it was downright terrifying. Straight out of a nightmare even.
And waiting for him.
Tentatively, Lloyd raised a hand just over Ruin's muzzle, giving the horse ample room to move away if it didn't wish to be touched. "I guess we are a team now, huh?" He asked nervously. When the horse didn't move away, Lloyd softly petted Ruin along the nose and top of its head, earning a soft grunt from the horse. "I'm Lloyd by the way. War's sort-of apprentice." He couldn't quite bring himself to call himself War's replacement out loud. War was still touchy about that.
Seeing that Ruin remained calmed, Lloyd moved until he was by the horse's side. Swallowing his fear, he reached up onto the pommel of the saddle and pulled himself up. Learning to ride a real horse was going to be something different. He had only ridden on Noishe up until then, and he had never used a saddle or any kind of rope. He just sort of hanged onto the green and white extra-large dog's fur. Noishe never bucked him, even at top speeds. Ruin… probably was another story.
'We'll need to make a few adjustments to fit your height. Now let's see how well you do at riding.'
Lloyd paled. 'Martel help me.'
Aaaand Cut! Allrighty ladies and gents, we have ourselves a Horseman. Adding Ruin had been one of the key elements that had he running in circles these last six or so months. I scrapped like… four was it? Different alternatives but none of them felt natural. Eventually I just pulled a page out of some little Rulebook used by Pixar in their storytelling/movies: when something is getting way too complicated, remove everything and go for the straightest route. Not the exact wording but close enough.
I know I had promised to add Zelos into this chapter, but seeing how long it got with Lloyd's fight with Ruin, I pushed it back until the next chapter.
In case anyone starts to wonder:
1- Yes, Lloyd took on some of War's looks. He won't be the skinny little twin blade we all know and love for much. –wink- Someone will be getting into shape. Meeeowww.
2- The dwarven vows I listed are made up. Going by general dwarven lore from Dungeons and Dragons, Forgotten Realms, and a bit from WoW, dwarves in general are fairly close knitted and very family oriented. They stick to their clans for the most part and tend to not wander off much. But once in a while they do get a bit of wanderlust in them and go off in search of riches and stories to take back home, which was probably what happened to Dirk. Either way, dwarves take very badly to crimes in general, hence why added a bit more backdrop to clear that up. Anyone wanna use them for you own stories have at it. Do throw in a reference to me though. Let's all be nice here.
3- Lloyd's dwarven name is also made up. Gotta run around incognito when you are basically alone versus a god like bastard with an army in both worlds.
4- The OC's, the innkeepers, yeah they're mine. Someone needed to push Lloyd back into the right direction. Plus, I got some good laughs out of Lloyd's antics with them. Good old Granny Jack, one badass grandmum.
5- I mentioned the existence of a few other villages all over the world. Mostly cuz... well what kind of developed world only has only 4 real cities and 2 villages? I've seen maps from the Civilization games with more cities on turn 1. I'm calling Shenanigans, double cheeseburger. So yeah, I might add mention to a few smaller settlements here and there, nothing major.
Any questions or comments, or anything else that I forgot to explain, feel free to drop in a review or a PM! Feedback from readers helps me find out what parts are good, what's pure gold, and what needs fixing. Plus, I want to keep my stories enjoyable, without diving straight into my usual sarcasm or if suddenly the story grows too light. Darksiders does have a heavier, and well darker lol, feeling to it that Symphonia, so I'm trying to balance it all out.
And last but not least, anyone interested in being my beta for this story? Preferably someone who is familiar with both universes. Having played and finished the games is optional, but preferable.
Have fun folks. See you's next chapter.