The dusky light filtered through the clinic's
curtains as Ularen Hope made his rounds. There were a few patients recovering
from various injuries or illnesses, but none were as injured as Shaunna
Nightshade. Shaunna had come in a little over a month ago gravely injured. Her
injuries had been nearly fatal. It had taken all his energy to heal them.
He was nearly to Shaunna's bed when the door to
the clinic burst open. A local fisherman rushed in carrying his daughter.
"Hope, please help us, she is
injured." The fisherman begged.
Hope smiled as he walked over, the ever present
sadness never leaving his eyes.
"Let's take a look." Hope said. He
took the small girl from his father's arms and placed her on one of the beds.
The problem was quickly discerned, A medium sized fish hook protruded from her little shoulder.
Hope lathered the area with a salve that would numb the area. After he was sure
he was not going to hurt her, he snipped the barb off the hook and pulled it
out of her shoulder.
He quickly added an antiseptic ointment to the
wound. Finally he covered the wound with his hand. He closed his eyes willing
the mystical healing light to flow into the small shoulder, but nothing
Resigned to the inevitable, Hope bandaged the
tiny shoulder so it would heal. He was frustrated that the healing light did
not heed his call any longer.
The girl threw her arms around Hope's neck.
"Thank you." She said.
Hope just smiled and handed her back to her
"No charge." He told the father.
"It was an easy one to heal."
Shaunna watched Hope as the patients left the
clinic. "Why do you stay here if you don't enjoy it?" She asked him.
She was sitting up now holding her ribs where
she had been stabbed. She was recovering as quickly as could be expected. The
blade that had pierced her chest had been poisoned, and the poison was
interfering with the body’s natural healing process. She was lucky that he knew
how to work around the poison, even if he didn't know how to get rid of it.
"What do you mean?" He asked
"You just healed that child, and the act
gave you no joy. Why do you stay, if you do not enjoy what you are doing?"
He stared out the window, into the failing
light, as he answered. "As the guardian of the healing light, it is my
responsibility to help people."
"And you can only do that here?" She
asked. "It sounds to me like you are hiding from something."
Hope smiled bitterly. "I am not hiding
from anything. I am waiting for something."
Without another word, Hope hurried from the
room, leaving Shaunna to puzzle out the cryptic meaning of Hope's statement.
Once he was in his room, Hope let the tears
flow. He was tired of trying to keep up the appearances. He had run the clinic
ever since his mother had disappeared thirteen years ago. He had been twelve
when this overwhelming responsibility had been thrust upon him.
Tears still streaming down his face, he grabbed
the long, cloth-wrapped bundle from under his bed. Carefully, he unwrapped it
to reveal a very large, very strange sword. The blade was made out of a clear
crystal that glowed with a white light. The hilt of the sword was gold
encrusted with diamonds. The smaller diamonds rotated around the largest
diamond, which pulsed with a steady rhythm that reminded him of a heartbeat.
"Maxx, is she okay?" Hope asked the
The soothing voice of the sword came into his
mind. "She is still alive, but she is dying. I am afraid that you will not
get to see her again."
"No..." Hope gasped.
"Maxx, I want to talk to her."
"I dare not." Maxx Answered.
let me speak with my mother." Hope Demanded.
"Think about what you are demanding,
Ularen." Maxx said. "I take a huge risk every time you have me check
on her. If I were to actually contact her, I would almost certainly give her
location away to the Dark Lords. That would undermine the mission that she was
Hope paced back and forth, attempting to
contain his anger. He could see Maxx's point, but that did not change the
facts. He had thought his mother dead for many years after the attack on
Paron's castle. He had been shocked when he found Maxx a few years ago and
learned that his mother is still alive. She had gone to another world at the
king's behest to protect one of the princesses from the Dark Lords.
"What if..." Hope began.
Maxx interrupted him "You are very much
like your mother. Whether or not Paron was correct, your mother chose to follow
the request of her friend. You would do her a great disservice if you forced me to give away her position now."
Hope could see the logic in the old sword's
thinking, but he did not like it. He wanted to speak with his mother. He wanted
to see her.
"I know this is hard for you,
Ularen." Maxx said. "You need to think things through and stop acting
like a child."
The statement stung Hope, as if Maxx had just
slapped him across the cheek.
Hope hung his head in shame. His cheeks blazing
red in embarrassment. "I am going to bed."
Maxx didn't reply.
Hope hurried through his nightly routine,
hoping that he would not have any more conversation with Maxx. He didn't have
to worry about that. Maxx didn't try to speak to him for the rest of the night.
The young Elf slipped into bed. He had trouble
falling asleep and had ever since his patient in the next room had mysteriously
appeared on his doorstep a little over a month ago. He had recognized her
immediately. Her presence here was a painful reminder of what he had once had.
She had been at Paron's castle on the day that his mother had disappeared. He
remembered playing with her just hours before the dragon's attack had come.
Shaking his head, he rolled over on his side.
Sleep came to him as he performed the exercises that would clear his mind,
though it did not come nearly as quickly as it should have.
The dreams were always the same. He had been
playing with Shaunna and the princesses in the gardens of night. He always had
fun with them, for they were the only ones that really accepted him as a normal
person. Every other member of the Elf kingdom, with the exception of the royal
family and his mother, considered him marked because of the full head of black
hair that he had. The Elves were very unforgiving of what they considered to be
His father had died when he was a baby, so he
had been raised bouncing back and forth between the castle and his mother's
healing clinic. At the age of ten it had become apparent that he had inherited
his mother's mastery of the mystical healing light, so he had been helping her
in the clinic for the past two years.
"Ularen," His mother called. "It
is time for you to be going."
He hugged Shaunna and the princesses
goodbye before turning to leave. He wasn't able to say goodbye to the young
prince, as he had been confined to his quarters.
"I will see you all soon." He said as
He hurried out of the castle behind his mother.
Their wagon was waiting for them, the team of horses having already been
hitched to it.
"Mom, can't I stay just a little bit
longer?" He asked.
She smiled warmly as she looked at him. "I
am sorry, my son. The clinic is unattended, and there are matters that I need
to attend too here. I need you to get back to the clinic and watch over things
He was reluctant to leave, but he obeyed his
The trip from the castle to the clinic took
about six hours. He was very tired when he reached the small building that his
father had built for his mother to house the clinic. The clinic was empty as he
entered, but there was a coldness about it that he had never felt before. He
quickly stoked the fire, but it did little to assuage the cold.
He wandered around the building, the coldness
turning into panic, as he searched for the source of the unpleasant feeling.
After an hour, the answers he was seeking came to find him.
A large crowd of people, many of which had been
gravely injured, all showed up at once. The wounds were of varying types, some
suffered from major burns, some were suffering from frostbite, but it was clear
that these people had all come from the town that had surrounded the royal
palace. The tales that he heard chilled him to the bone. The castle and the surrounding
town had been attacked by a flight of dragons an hour after he had left. These
people were the only survivors.
He worked all through the night trying
to heal as many as he could. He could wield the blue healing light, but many of
these wounds would take more energy than his twelve year old body would be able
to supply. He knew that many of the Elves that were under his care were
probably going to die.
He went around the main room, applying salves
here, using his light when appropriate, and healing as many as were possible.
He was trying very hard to do as his mother would have expected if she had been
Morning dawned cold and clear. Several of the
more seriously injured patients had passed on during the night, but he was able
to save the majority of them.
"You have done well, young Ularen."
One of the Elves complimented him. "Your mother would be proud."
"I thank you for the compliment, but
please just call me Hope" His speech was a bit slurred as he spoke due to
lack of sleep.
"Get some sleep young Hope." The man
suggested. "There is nothing else that you can do here."
Hope stumbled to his bed, collapsing into it.
As soon as he awoke, he saddled the horse and
hurried back towards the castle. He needed to see it for himself. He needed to
make it real. He needed to find his mother's body. From the descriptions that
he had been able to glean from the rambled
mutterings of the wounded, the castle had been completely destroyed, and everyone
in it had been killed.
The trip back to the castle was uneventful. It
didn't take him as long to get there, as his horse was not pulling a wagon. As
he approached the site, his heart stopped. Where the castle had stood before,
there was now a pile of concrete blocks and rubble. The Gardens of Night were
still smoldering from the dragon's fire that had ignited them the day before.
Hopes healer's instincts kicked in immediately, so he began to
look for survivors. His hopes were not high as he began his search, and after
several hours they had not improved. He had found a few bodies, Shaunna's
parents and horse body of a centaur, in the gardens, but he did not find his
mother, nor did he find Shaunna's body. This fact kept him looking.
He found Shaunna's body not far from where her
mother's body laid. She was buried under a pile of rubble, and she was somehow
still alive. She was definitely injured and she was unconscious.
Hope held her tightly and let the healing
energy flow from his body into hers. The light turned blood red as soon as it
touched her body. Hope was not able to see what happened after because the
energy drain was so great that he blacked out.
When Hope came too, Shaunna was gone. He was
too light-headed to mount a search for his young friend at first. By the time
that he was in a condition to look for her, the sun was setting. She had been
gone for several hours.
"Be safe, little one." He prayed.
Shaunna was quickly lost to his thoughts as the
real reason that he was here resurfaced. He needed to find his mother.
He searched all night. It was approaching dawn
when he made the discovery. He had found the broken body of the king, but he
had not found any of the children. He had also not found the bodies of any of the kings honor guard, his mother included. Not far
from where he had found the king there was a sheer cliff. He methodically moved
towards the cliff as he continued the search.
He was so tired that he could barely put one
foot in front of the other by the time he reached the cliff, and the one castle
wall that was still standing. Without thinking, he leaned against the wall to
rest. He wasn't aware of sliding down to the ground, nor was he aware of
It was midday when he awoke. There were carrion
birds and scavengers picking through the remains of the town. As he climbed to
his feet, he startled a pair of small animals that had been scavenging
something not far away.
He ignored the animals, and turned his
attention to the wall in front of him. There was no way that the wall should
still be standing, unless it was attached to the wall of the cliff. As he
examined the anomalous portion of the castle, one point grabbed his attention.
On one of the bricks, so small you would miss it if you were not looking for
it, there was a figure of a black unicorn.
As he brushed his finger over the small
picture, the brick shifted ever so slightly. There was a small click and a door
opened silently into the cliff face. Hope hurried through the door into the
passageway beyond. Natural luminescence negated the need to light a torch or
provide any sort of external light. The passageway was completely smooth. The
ground was covered with a thin layer of loose sand.
Hope hurried down the passageway, noticing as
he went that the sand muffled his foot steps, making
it nearly impossible to hear his approach.
He was moving at such a great pace that he was
completely unprepared when he reached the end of the tunnel. The enormity of
the cavern took his breath away. Even with the light he was unable to see the
far side of the room. Stalactites and stalagmites dotted the ceiling and floor.
In the center of the cave was the most wondrous site he had ever seen.
In the center of the room, stood one of the
mythical WarBirds. Machines of legend, spoken of as
both savior and destroyer of the world. They had supposedly arrived with
visitors from the cosmos. They had come at a very turbulent time. The Drake
Wars were being waged and the coalition of races was finally beginning to win
the battle, thanks to Paron Elloy and Derek Fantis. They had created a new type
of weapon that had turned the tide; the Crystal Blades. Things were looking up,
until the visitors came.
When the visitors had entered the atmosphere,
an unknown substance on their ships had interacted with something in the air,
creating and releasing the techno-virus. That is when things had gone horribly
wrong. The technology became infected and had become a bigger threat than the
dragons had ever been. Suddenly the world was crawling with mechanical insects
that were intent on the destruction of everything organic.
The two exceptions to the reaction of the virus
had been the Crystal Blades and the four WarBirds
The Crystal Blades had been brought to life,
but had been able to resist the virus' changing affects. This was not
necessarily a good thing, as half of the race had turned evil. The Dark Blades,
as they had become known, had gone into hiding. This was due to their fear of
the father blade, Maxximillian Crystalblade. This,
however had greatly weakened the coalitions forces, as now they had
significantly fewer wielders to combat the "techno bugs"
The WarBirds, being
the carriers of the virus, had been unaffected. The kings honor guard --Sareth
Hope, Griffith Wolftracker, Seth Silvermoon, and Taranna Bowsmith-- had found
the four WarBirds and had used them to destroy the
biggest of the techno bugs. After the bigger techno bugs were gone, it was
relatively easy to track down the smaller ones and dispatch them.
He had never really believed the stories that
his mother had told him. He was incredulous that even she could have lived so
long, the stories said that the WarBirds had arrived
about nine thousand years ago. Yet here was one of them. The machine was large,
and the seat in the cockpit looked to have been
modified to accommodate someone very large. Someone like... a centaur perhaps.
He looked back the way he had come. He had seen
the remains of, what he thought was, a centaur. Here was a lone WarBird, on the ground there were fresh tracks that
suggested the other three had recently left.
The weight in his heart lifted. If the stories
were true, and he was beginning to think that they might have been, then his
mother was still alive. She had taken her WarBird to
He turned around to head back to the clinic. As
he approached the entrance to the exit tunnel , a
pulsing light caught his eye. As he approached the light he saw that it was
emanating from a very large sword.
He recognized the sword. It was the crystal
bladed sword that his mother had carried. He hesitantly reached toward the
sword, pausing before actually touching the golden hilt. The large diamond was
pulsing with a steady rhythm. His mother had told stories of this sword. How it
was the one that held the Dark Blades at bay. This was Maxx, the Father Blade.
The first Crystal Blade forged by Paron and Derek. This was the sword that his
mother had been the wielder of.
He was tall, even by Elven standards, standing
six and a half feet tall. The sword was easily as tall as he was. He reached
out to lift the sword, expecting it to be very heavy. As he hefted the large
sword, he was not prepared for how light it was going to be, and the overcompensation
caused him to fall on his backside. As he sat dazed a warmth ran up his arm,
across his shoulder, and into his head. He remembered his mother telling him
about when she had first bonded with Maxx. Now, it seemed, Maxx had chosen him.
"You are much like your mother." Maxx
He was not surprised when the sword spoke to
him. He was, however, disturbed that he had been chosen as the next wielder.
"What do you want with me?" He asked.
Hope wasn't sure, but he could have sworn there
was amusement in the swords voice when it answered him. "Is it not it
clear what I want? I am a sword, swords require a wielder."
"Why me?" Hope asked tersely.
"I have already answered that question,
young Hope." Maxx answered. "You are very much like your
"But..." Hope started, but Maxx
"I am not going to give you any more
information at this time." Maxx said. "You have all of the
information that you need for now. It is time to return to the clinic."
Sensing that he was not going to persuade Maxx
to divulge any more information, Hope strapped the large sword to his back and
headed back up the passageway towards the castle ruins.
Hope was groggy when he awoke the next
morning. He always felt as if he had not slept after having that dream. He missed
his mother terribly, and the fact that he knew she was alive, but could not
speak with her, tore him up inside. He could see Maxx's point, as painful as it
was. His mother would never forgive him is he compromised her location out of a
selfish need to speak to her.
"Maxx," Hope said quietly. "I am
sorry for last night."
"All is forgiven." Maxx answered.
"Maxx, do you think Paron was right? About
his children, I mean." Hope asked.
"I knew Paron longer than most. I think
the only person that knew him longer was Derek. Paron understood things in ways
that no one else did. It was his genius that is responsible, not only for my
being but for the ability that I have to combat the virus that destroyed so
many others. So yes, I believe that Paron knew exactly what he was talking
about when he claimed that his children were the four parts of the
prophecy." Maxx paused momentarily. "The better question is, do you
think he was right?"
Hope considered for a moment. "I know that
my mother differed in opinion on many things that Paron claimed. I also know
that she has lived for almost as long as he did. I remember seeing the marks on
the princesses. I also remember the wings on the prince." He paused to
gather his thoughts. "The marks are special in and of themselves, but the
fact that they were located on the only quadruple birth in the entire history
of the Elves makes them that much more special. Whether or not the kings children bear the marks of the prophecy, I don't know,
but they are definitely destined for something important."
"Your mother did agree to that logic, even
if she did not subscribe to the claims that they were the children of the
prophecy." Maxx explained. "It was this, above all else, that lead
her to accept the charge from the king to protect his daughter. Now her life is
coming to a close, and the mantle of Guardian is to be passed to the next
"Passed... what...?" Hope stammered.
"Yes Ularen Hope, you are to take up the
title of Guardian of the Balance. Your patient in the other room is also a
replacement. The vacancy she fills has been empty the longest. You will meet
others that have been chosen, and together you will take up the charge that
your ancestors before you cherished. The balance must be maintained, at all
Hope's head spun as he tried to assimilate the
information that had just been thrust upon him. He was not sure he wanted to
accept the calling that was being forced on him. He was less sure that he
didn't want to accept it.
"I... I need to think about this."
Hope said after many minutes of pondering.
Maxx just stayed silent. He knew that Hope must
decide on his own whether or not to don the mantle of Guardian. He knew how
important it was for him to accept, for the severing of the mindlink
between them would be most unpleasant for both of them. Besides, Maxx did not
know to whom he could turn to take Hope's place.
Hope's head was still spinning as he stepped
through the clinic door to go check on his patients.