The city of Baron was burning.
Everywhere Cecil looked, pieces of his fortress lay shattered across the shadowed cobblestone. Flames danced upon the faces of ancient tapestries. The stone walls dripped white embers. Ash covered the motionless bodies that lay in the corridor.
His wife’s name ripped from his throat in a frothing scream. As his mouth opened, the smoke-poisoned air rushed into his lungs, plunging him to his knees. Cecil gathered his strength and dragged himself forward.
His vision blurred crimson. The floors of the castle flowed in dark rivers of blood. It was boiling to the touch.
One hand slipped. Cecil felt himself plunging forward. The world jolted as he landed in a roll. A cool breeze shifted past his face, casting the scent of burning flesh upon him. His body reacted in a violent retch.
Then Cecil heard it.
Laughter. It was smooth… cold… silver… and so chilling.
He lifted his head to find himself crouching in one of the castle courtyards. It was strangely peaceful in the silence of the night. The scent of roses mingled with that of flame-licked stone. The single disc of moonlight capered upon the calm surface of the fishpond.
The voice that called his name was different. A golden sound. He recognized it at once and lifted his head.
A man was standing there, his face turned away from Cecil. He seemed to be gazing up at the blazing pillars that had once been the castle towers. His silhouette was immense. Pale mist rose around him, arcing above his head, tracing wide wings of silver.
Beside him crouched another man, slightly larger than the first. He was broken, doubled over with pain. The rivers of blood ran from his body. Very slowly the man turned, long white hair framing a face both familiar yet obscure. His eyes shown brilliant green as he cast a pained gaze upon Cecil.
“Golbez…?” the name slid between the Paladin’s lips. It was the image of his brother, defeated and dying, there on the courtyard floor.
“Cecil…” the choked voice answered. “Run..!”
“No! I’m not leaving you here!” The sting of emotion rushed through Cecil. Emotion that he didn’t realize he possessed until then. Deep concern — he discovered that he didn’t want his brother to die.
He struggled to get to his feet, slipping in the crimson flow.
The other man turned, his vast silver wings unfurled as the sheen of a sword glittered in the moonlight. A haunted smile crept to his lips as he raised it over the exposed neck of the other.
“BROTHER!!!” Cecil recoiled as the sword sliced down. A metallic sound filled his ears as something heavy landed upon the stone at his knees. A strangled gasp ripped from his throat.
But only thing that he could hear was the sound of the cold voice, “You are nothing but a piece. A fragment. You cannot even dream of succeeding against me.”
The flash of the blade rose up in the moonlight. Then everything was obscured by the silver mists.
Cecil awoke with his senses reeling. His heartbeat drummed heavy in his ears as he cast his emerald eyes around. Then, he realized…
It was only a dream…
He was safe… In his bed. In his room. In Baron Castle. And Rosa was there, curled up beside him in peaceful slumber.
This dream. It was the same as the one that I had before Golbez came.
Except this time, his brother was not the dark looming shadow. It had been some other large, winged man. A cold man, whom Cecil had never seen before, surrounded by silver mists. And Golbez had been the one who was…
Before Cecil realized what he was doing, he pushed himself out of the bed and into his slipper-shoes. A churning flurry rose in the pit of his stomach as he scrabbled towards the doorway, grabbing his sword along the way. Behind him, the Paladin could hear the muffled voice of Rosa asking after him, just having been awakened by his rousing dash.
There was a chance it was nothing but a dream. There was a chance that everything would be fine. But it was far too strange that everything in the dream was so similar to what it was before. And that dream had been the one that had predicted that Golbez would be returning to Baron.
Of course… it didn’t happen in a river of blood and fire like the dream said it would.
But that still didn’t stop the sinking feeling that weighed down Cecil’s spirit.
The night guards gave him strange looks as he jogged down the halls, heading towards the guest wing. And maybe it was true that he was over reacting. Maybe he was just making a fool out of himself. A dream was just a dream, after all. Right?
It doesn’t hurt to check it out.
Cecil slowed his step a bit as he rounded the corner near the guest rooms. Just in case there really was nothing wrong, he didn’t want to bust in and alarm everyone for nothing. A small troop of curious guards followed him at a safe distance. They seemed concerned, but also knew that the young King liked to have his privacy.
Especially when he was acting on one of his odd moments.
A deep silence lay over the hallway, broken only every now and then by a distant click-click sound. As the Paladin crept forward, he felt the hairs on the back of his neck begin to stand as his senses told him that something was terribly wrong there in the guest wing.
Maybe there was something to my dream afterall?
His pace quickened as he saw one of the doors left ajar, swaying back and forth to the breeze that came from the open window inside the room. Cecil realized that the clicking sound was coming from the tapping of the door handle as it rocked. Cautiously, he reached out with one hand, catching the lever and following the swing of the door as he pushed it open. His other hand tightened on the grip of his blade at his side.
This room had been assigned to the Lunarian girl, Joran. But now it stood completely empty. The only sound was the billowing of the gauzy curtains in the early morning breeze.
The Paladin King turned towards the group of guards and motioned. “Search this room for anything unusual. See if you find any signs of a forced entry.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” the nearest guard nodded as the group made their way into the room.
Cecil didn’t really believe they would find much, if anything, there. But at least a search in that room would give him time to look in the room across the hall without being disturbed. Considering he didn’t know what was going on, he felt a little more secure with some of his mind stationed closer by.
“Golbez?” Cecil called quietly at the door. He followed it with a light knock. Much to his consternation, the door swung inward at the slight pressure, showing signs of also having been left open. “Golbez… are you in here?”
“He is not,” came a gruff reply from within the chamber.
It took a moment for Cecil to piece together the sound of the voice to the figure in the shadows. His green eyes blinked, “Uncle FuSoYa? Is that you?”
“It is,” the Lunarian Sage answered, walking forward with a low grunt. “Are there no lights here within the rooms of your castle?”
“What? Oh… sorry,” the young King quickly reached over, pulling a torch from the wall in the hallway. Then he asked quickly, “What are you doing here? I thought you had returned to the Lunar Homeworld, Uncle?”
“I did. But I came back. I have grave news of the situation there,” FuSoYa pursed his lips, squinting at the yellow firelight. “I returned to find Golbez. But he is not here?”
“You didn’t happen to come in through the window, did you?” Cecil asked.
The Lunar Sage gave him a long droll look.
“I… didn’t think so…”
“What is going on, Cecil?”
“I…” the Paladin paused and decided against mentioning the dream revelation. Instead, he shook his head, “I’m not sure. I got word of a disturbance here in the guest wing. I just arrived, myself. It seems like Joran is gone.”
“Is that so?” FuSoYa arched one eyebrow.
“And you’re saying that Golbez is gone, too?” Cecil pursed his lips.
“I have only just come as well. But from what I see and feel, the boy is not here within the castle,” the old Lunar answered. “Which is strange. Because Incrytan is not here, either.”
“What?” the Half Lunar couldn’t keep the edge of panic from his voice. “What does it mean? You don’t think they’ve gone and taken the Crystal to do something foolish, do you?”
“Such as what?” FuSoYa asked.
“I don’t know?”
“Have they given any indications that they might be taking Incrytan with them for any particular reason?”
“No…” Cecil shook his head. “No. Nothing that I’ve seen or heard.”
“Mmmm…” FuSoYa murmured under his breath as he pushed open the door to the adjoining side room. Then he paused as a strange greenish light flickered across his face in a pattern like light playing off ripples in a pool.
“Uncle?” the Paladin quickly rushed to the old Lunarian’s side, peering with squinted eyes over his shoulder. He felt his breath catch in his throat as his eyes then widened. “What… is… that?”
It was a magical… something. Tall, slender and ovular in shape, it wavered in flowing green ripples on the surface of the air. There seemed to be some image on the other side, though it was hard to make it out for the distortion of motion.
“It’s a rift, of course,” FuSoYa told him matter-of-factly.
“Ah?” Cecil blinked at it, dumbstruck.
He remembered Golbez explaining about Wayrifts once, a while back. How they worked liked portals to other places, though the knowledge of making such rifts was shared by only a few. He also remembered seeing one used by the leader of the Daear, back in Troia — though it had only been for a moment and had looked different from this one.
“Golbez must have made it. Little doubt,” the Sage continued with a sharp frown on his face.
“And he just left it open like this?”
“He must have been planning to come back through it. Lucky for us.”
“Lucky?” Cecil echoed, feeling more and more confused.
“Yes. Because now we can follow him,” FuSoYa replied. Without so much as a warning, the ancient Lunarian walked forward, straight into the depths of the swirling rift. A moment later, he vanished completely, right in front of the Paladin King’s eyes.