The sun was almost completely set over his left shoulder, the last glimpses of light cutting through the icy wind. It would have made for a glorious sight had the circumstances been different, it now only served as a reminder: the world would change, the day would end, and a conclusion would settle for the time of the curtain call. All would be decided before the light returned.
Night soon engulfed the area, the temperature dropping almost instantly. He continued to force his way through the snow, creating long tracks behind him. Up ahead, not too much further, he spotted light peeking just over a fairly steep hill. The relative silence he had experienced on his long trek was soon to be broken with the familiar sound of metal clashing and magic crackling through the air.
Zorn could see the mansion now as he pulled himself over the crest. They were ready and waiting with their torches burning brightly; the only remaining soldiers of their cause. Row after row of man stood clad in armor surely filled with fear but they stood, none the less, and at the front was a lone man: Kabalstin.
The youth pulled free his sword with his right hand, in the other he held tight the blade of Enki. Each step he took now was like the drone of a war drum. With nothing but the wind's howl to slow him he continued on until the light of his enemy enveloped his form. The rows of men seemed to ripple as they spotted him; various words could be heard amongst them, though the man he had come for stood still as death not to say a word.
The two stared one another down as Zorn continued closer. The hatred rekindled anew at the sight of his foe and he could feel it all spilling out. His vision became sharp, all color seeming too bright and his breath began come in quick, guttural, growling rasps. His body burned as if it were ablaze; he wanted destruction, he desired to cause pain. He could feel his face contorting as tears filled his eyes only to overflow and stream down his face.
"First you take my parents from me," Zorn's voice shook and cracked. "Then you take my life from me, and all I had known! You caused me years of pain as I watched my people suffer. You had the audacity to take my friend and her daughter away. You murdered children, and families. Just when I think you couldn't hurt me anymore, when all I had fought for was within my grasp, YOU KILLED HER!"
The youth paced back and forth, shaking, as he held his distance from the group. "She was all I had left, and you took her from me!"
Kabalstin huffed his indifference as he spun away to face his men. "Kill him."
"Don't you turn your back on me you fucking carcass!" Zorn laced his weapons with wind magic and swung blades of air at his target. Kabalstin blasted away the blades with his own magic as he let his army flood past him towards Zorn.
Zorn charged and began hacking away at the closest thing he could find. He caught glimpses of armor, gleaming in the torch light, just before everything went red. He felt liquid splashing on his body, burning hot as it clung to his form. He could hear them screaming, he felt their bodies tear beneath his blade and it was his world now. This was all that was left for him to enjoy.
The youth retreated momentarily and wiped his face clean of blood with his sleeve. The soldiers held back, some sizing him up and moving slightly closer, others keeping a body between themselves and him.
Zorn pulled his arms back, the motion pulling two soldiers from the bunch towards him. The men screamed as they flew through the air before being impaled on each respective sword held at the ready. The youth sent a wave of heat into the bodies and flung them back at the crowd. As soon as the bodies made contact with the front row they exploded, sending flames to flow through the men.
He didn't waste any time in jumping back into the fray. His form was a blur, his blades cleaving in jagged patterns. Catching movement out of the corner of his eye Zorn dodged just as a bolt zipped past him into the snow. Up the front steps to the mansion stood a small group of archers and a lone mage.
Zorn sent a few fireballs their way and the mage threw up a shield to catch each shot, protecting the archers. The youth dropped his form low and kept the enemies close to him in the path of the archers. He slinked back, drawing in his attackers as he pulled the cold from around; letting it build for a few moments he unleashed a wave of ice that crashed its way through the trail of bodies. The ice slammed into the mage's shield, blinding all whom were protected by it.
Moments later their attacker cut through the shield with an overwhelming flame; Zorn burst through the flowing, hot tendrils and cut down the mage. The archers could only claw at their boiling skin as the magic protecting them faded. The scene calmed only to reveal the death around him; not a single soul stood to defy him as he entered the mansion.
Zorn didn't even bother to check if anyone was waiting for him, he sent blades of air bursting through the area in front him. The air turned red with the mist of death, bodies dropping in clumps from their trauma.
The youth felt his lack of control over the amount of magic he was releasing, evidence of this was written across the entry hall. He could feel the stream of energy struggling to correct itself all around him; in some areas it would pool while in others it was sparse and flowing at a higher speed. It was an unseen chaos that he hoped would ruin this place for years to come.
With nothing to stop him he continued forward, only changing course to avoid the bits of flesh scattered about, he stepped through the doorway opposite his entry. A living area greeted him, though there was no one left to enjoy. First looking to his left he saw a door and without so much as another thought he set for it.
Now in a kitchen with only a large pot and a door on the right wall at the far side; the youth felt no sympathy at the lack of opposition. Not willing to waste time he continued still, taking a right in the next room through another door before finding himself in a small room that seemed like it could be a cell; though in this weather whomever was left in here would surely perish as there was a barred window to allow for the cold to enter.
Zorn Caught a glimpse of his enemy through the cell window. For a moment the two locked eyes just before his form was blocked from view. The youth sent a blast into the wall beside him and rushed through the opening, only to another cell. Enraged he sent a second blast through the barred window and dove through.
Kabalstin watched as his would be assassin rolled onto his feet and began to stalk towards him. "To have cornered me, the only one left, are you proud to have come this far?"
"Shut up!" The youth swung Enki's sword, catapulting a blade of ice.
The sorcerer dove away from the reckless attack with ease; the boy was dangerous, of that he was sure, but rage had all but blinded him and with it came a lack of tactfulness. Kabalstin swung his fist, energy crackling in his wake, sending bolts of lightning.
Zorn brought up his blades; the energy absorbed into the metal with an unnatural screeching sound as his form was pushed back from the pressure. With his swords awash with power he rushed his enemy. Kabalstin ducked and weaved his way through the attacks, blocking all he couldn't avoid with his gauntlets. With each collision some of the energy would arch from the blades to the closest grounded surface it could find.
Kabalstin knocked the youth back with a small gust giving himself enough time to draw his own blade. Zorn felt his stomach rise as his eyes caught sight of his enemy's rapier; the sword that had taken his old life and cut away his desires stood at attention, poised to strike down what it had left in tatters years ago.
The sorcerer took advantage of the youth's momentary distraction and let loose a flurry of jabs. Zorn swung his blades in a circular motion, knocking away his attacker's advances. The youth back peddled, hast as Kabalstin pressed further; Zorn could feel the blade inching its way closer with each thrust.
Sensing his attempts to block were fruitless the youth swung; forcing his foe to jump back. Zorn laced his weapons with air, the energy already housed within attaching itself to the added magic. The energy arched its way through each blade of air as it was hurdled forth.
Kabalstin spun, his hand reaching out to redirect the blasts. Several blades made contact with a walkway overhead sending stone up high to rain down upon the duo. Zorn threw up a barrier to catch the falling rocks, then hurled them forward.
The sorcerer dove, letting the projectiles slam into the wall behind him. Before Kabalstin could regain his footing, Zorn was upon him. Each slash came closer than the last; the sorcerer held off the attacks as he struggled to his feet. With the youth now on the offensive there was nothing he could do but take the onslaught.
Zorn could barely contain himself, the vibrations coursing through his arms with each clash only seeming to fuel him further. If it were not for his speed with the two blades Kabalstin could surely recover, and with that in mind he pushed himself further with the knowledge that his enemy's rapier could only take so many blows along its length before the weapon would succumb. Sensing he was at a disadvantage the sorcerer launched himself into the air, sending balls of fire back at his target. The youth in turn followed, slashing through each and every flame like they were a child's play thing.
Kabalstin spun to face, anticipating his opponents drive to follow, and drew in the energy around him. As Zorn blew through the final flame, his vision clearing, he caught sight of the sorcerer just as he launched more electricity at him. The youth threw up his weapons to block and was blown back to the ground at an alarming speed; throwing up a shield Zorn crashed, a crater forming around him. Kabalstin was upon him instantly, energy arched around his shield erratically as the sorcerer dropped his weapon to focus all he could down into the crater.
Zorn thrust the swords into the ground, barely able to hold the shield as he averted his focus; he let the shield crack. Energy poured down the walls and into the blades, it traveled up through the hilt and into his body. The youth let it build within him for a moment then let out a roar, the energy following the path of his breath shot back through the opening directly into Kabalstin.
Zorn, still holding his swords crawled from the crater and stood, a great feeling of fatigue washing over him. Seeing bodies around him, the youth felt surprise at seeing they were now back outside the manor. A short ways away the sorcerer slowly pushed himself to his feet, the strain evident in his face.
"I don't know how you performed redirection like that, you should be dead with the amount of energy I threw at you."
As if on cue, Zorn felt his knees give way, the fresh snow rising up to meet him. He felt the cold permeating his being, each fallen snow flake burning upon his skin. The youth was very uncertain of his ability to continue, it was a wonder he was even conscious now.
Heavy boot clad footfalls could be heard with each step Kabalstin took towards the boy; his pace slow but sure. "I would suggest you get up, though I would hate to kill you while you are down I will not waste this opportunity."
Zorn struggled to his feet, leaning heavily upon his swords as though they were crutches, his knees knocking horribly with the strain. Everything felt heavy and his arms were unable to lift his weapons, all the while Kabalstin continued his trek. The all-encompassing numbness he felt was far more than he had ever endured; no amount of training had even come close to preparing him for this. It was as though his entire body had shut down, trapping him inside.
Kabalstin was standing before him now, though all he could do was stare back as his body shook uncontrollably. The sorcerer sheathed his own blade and grabbed at Zorn's, easily pulling his hands away from the pommels. With a kick to the chest the youth was sent onto his back, the haze he felt only allowing for a tingling sensation along his spine.
Zorn was suddenly brought back as pain erupted in both biceps, the clarity being restored by the twin blades pierced through into the ground; the youth howled in pain. "You have certainly made it clear to me why my army fell, for that I thank you young man." Kabalstin spoke. "You set me back on my plans a good deal, but I'm afraid I'm not the type to dive into a war blindly."
"The Arbiter Grounds, as I'm sure you've heard of, is a place of great power. I will use that power to raise myself a new army; and finally my goal will be realized." The sorcerer pulled free his own sword and positioned it over Zorn chest. "With no one left to stand in my way and all due respect to the divine, I have one final question for you Zorn Haplen: where are your gods now?"
With a sudden and powerful thrust the rapier fell, its sharpened tip piercing through the youth's abdomen. Zorn's mouth hung agape in a silent scream, disbelief flooding him. As the light of the world began to fade the last thing he saw was the eyes of his enemy, waiting. His strength gone, Zorn's head fell, death having consumed him.
The youth slowly came to, a blinding light greeting him. As his eyes adjusted, Zorn attempted to look around, though all his mind could comprehend was the blur that was this world; that is until his eyes landed upon a being.
The being in front of him stood tall and was clad in light armor, though it looked to be more decorative than functional with the symbols etched into the front and the gold trim work. Chainmail peeked through the being's white tunic and a large dual helix sword could be seen hung off his back though he was unsure of the mechanism that held it in place.
Zorn looked upon himself, while all of his other equipment was gone he still wore the blue tunic and gauntlets that made up his image, both were pristine and a sight he welcomed in this unknown realm. Having centered himself, the youth gathered his courage and fixed his eyes upon the being. "Where am I, and who are you?"
"My name is Oni, god of passion, son of Din. I have brought you here to this place of judgement to speak with you."
Zorn stiffened. "Oni, I am honored to have been met by you."
The being chuckled. "You have always been a bit more on the polite side, I do so appreciate that; so many that come across my path choose to be of wrath and hatred. My mother seems to have the same trouble, maybe it runs in the family?" Oni shrugged.
It suddenly dawned on Zorn that he had heard this voice once before, the presence becoming familiar as the realization that warmth had consumed him surfaced. "Am I to assume that by the look on your face who I am to you is clear?"
"Yes, sir." Zorn nodded. "Though I have to ask, why did you speak to me the way you did? Why would you take away the power you gave me? I lost not only my life but Ruto's as well."
Oni nodded. "My words to you then and my leaving you was a test, it was in my plan for you to die at the hand of Enki so that we could speak here. My words were to offset you, make you vulnerable, so that you were more likely to fall. I had not anticipated Enki attacking both you and Ruto, that was unexpected and the blame for her death does not fall on you; I ask that you not speak as though it does, that is not your burden."
"I understand." Zorn hung his head, a feeling of shame washing over him at the anger now dying down.
"Given the circumstances I would expect you are quite upset, and I would not blame you, but if you should choose to let that anger for me go I have an offer for you."
Zorn eyed him, curious. "I am forgiving, though I of course wish to hear the offer and your terms first."
Oni smiled. "Of course, I would expect nothing less. My offer to you is a restoration of the power you once felt. Unlike before, however, this power will be given to you untethered. As for the terms: I will send you back to not kill my previous disciple but imprison him. As much as I'm sure you desire to at this point, I would rather he suffer for his disobedience than simply have his life taken."
The youth felt a wave roll through him at the revelation. "Kabalstin. Why would you choose such a man?"
The being scanned the sky above in thought. "I suppose I enjoyed the chaos about him, his desire to right what he believed to be wrong. Being a god of passion I seek those with great passion themselves, as I have you. Though my downfall will be my own passion you see, I have a great deal of passion for chaos."
"So then," Zorn scowled inwardly at the thought. "Your true deal here is for me to play the game you've set in motion and in return you will grant me power greater than mortal man?"
Oni broke a devilish smile, his eyes delighted. "You and I both know what I've set in motion must be stopped."
"And what of your mistake? Will Ruto be returned to me?" The youth's posture spoke of his rage, having swiftly returned.
"I am neither Farore, nor Nayru. You will need to strike a deal with them to bring her back. Once again, we both know you need accept my offer for such to even be a possibility; I am your foot in the door so to speak"
It was true. Zorn knew that such a request would go unheard should he not be able to even contact them. Prayer, while being necessary, was by no means a direct line to those whom dwelled in another world entirely. "Fine, I'll play your game. I accept your offer."
I apologize for the year long hiatus, I don't have an excuse other than I simply did not desire to work on this story. In a sense I lost my ability to write; every time I sat down to attempt getting some work done I would look at what was not finished and feel overwhelmed. Writer's block is an understatement in this case. I don't know when the next chapter will come and I am sorry for this. Thank you to all who are still part of this project, your support means a lot to me and I hope you enjoyed the hardest thing I've had to write to date.
The Sage of Water,