A young hero goes in a quest to restore a once enchanted land now in ruins.
Nimbus leaned against the balcony wall of the kingdom of Nimithar overlooking a huge plume of smoke in the distance. His youthful face was slightly tanned with sea-blue eyes that captured the glisten of the sun.
“Nimbus, I must talk to you about something very pressing,” said a voice behind him.
Nimbus turned round to face his master, Arch Mage Ativus. “Yes master.”
Ativus came to Nimbus and put a hand on his shoulder. “It is no good to dwell on dreadful things. Come follow me.”
Nimbus followed his master to a stone arch and down a flight of stairs.
“What do you wish of me master?”
“It is time for you to learn the reason for the fall of Zealous.”
Nimbus’ heart quickened and his eyes widened at as a fluttering tension gripped his stomach.
“Come, let us go to the Sacred Keep and there it will be told you when wars began in Zealous.”
Nimbus felt a trembling rush surge through his body. “The Sacred Keep!?”
“Indeed,” uttered Ativus.
They descended the tower stairs to a large room with tall wooden beams that held a vaulted ceiling. They turned to their right to a large metal door with a keyhole. It was guarded by two muscular soldiers.
“Greetings Arch Mage Ativus,” said a deep voice from the left soldier.
Thalon contorted his face. “If I may Lord Ativus, why is your young apprentice allowed to enter?”
“Peculiar things have come to pass recently my dear Thalon. Our young apprentice is to know our greatest secrets.”
Thalon frowned. “It must be dire indeed for such thing. This had never happened before.”
“Even so, he must be shown.” Ativus withdrew a key from his robe and unlocked the door and the two soldiers heaved it open. He and Nimbus entered and the door was shut behind them. A set of seven steps led up to a blue marble cylindrical block. Two white stone lions were on either side of each step. On the smoothed, polished circular block surface was the large gold covered book with twelve small blue diamonds in a circle.
“Come and I will show you its pages.”
“Nimbus’ face lit up. “You’re going to let me look inside it?”
Ativus led Nimbus to the book on the platform and opened it to a page with an illustration of a red heart.
“What is this?”
“It is called the Heart of Zealous. It was this holy object that protected and kept the old realm of Zealous from war and suffering.”
“Some say it was stolen, destroyed, or that it just lost its power,” explained Ativus.
“What do you think?”
“I do not know. But that is partly why you are here.”
Ativus led Nimbus down the steps and to a small metal door. His master opened it and Nimbus froze with gaping mouth at the beautiful sight before him. It was a large crystal that floated in mid-air. Within it was a glowing speck like a blue star in the heavens.
“What is this marvel?” asked Nimbus.
“It is the Crystal Glyph-a living entity that has been here for over two-thousand years. Yesterday, however it spoke.”
“It talks? What did it say?” asked Nimbus.
“It asked to speak-to you.”
Suddenly a voice like the hum of a crystal goblet being stroked came from the floating object. “Hello Nimbus.”
“You do speak!”
“Indeed. Yet I have been silent ever since the Heart was found missing two-thousand years ago. ”
“Why are you now speaking?” asked Ativus.
“Young Nimbus had to turn sixteen. That is when his humble, pure and noble heart that excels all others would reach its strongest.”
“And why have you asked for this young apprentice?-why not a mage or a knight?”
No army, mage or sorcerer can undertake what is in store for Nimbus. As I said, it is for his heart that he has been chosen.”
“What exactly has he been chosen for?” asked Ativus.
“I have been revived to send him on a quest,” answered the glyph.
“What kind of quest?” asked Nimbus with a frown and a tremble in his voice.
“You will restore the whole kingdom of Zealous.”
Nimbus shook his head and stepped back. “Me?-but how?”
The Glyph spoke with its entrancing voice. “The Heart of Zealous can still be made whole.”
“You mean it was not destroyed? Was it stolen?” Nimbus spoke raising his tone.
“Not quite. A powerful force attempted to undo its power but it could not completely wipe it off the face of the realm.”
“What happened then?” asked Nimbus.
“I do not know who perpetrated the assault on the Heart or for what purpose,” said the floating crystal.
“How is it that you do not know this? You are the great and wise Crystal Glyph,” said Ativus.
“The other magical power that brought about the fall of Zealous clouds my some of my senses. There are other magical forces than just me or the Heart of Zealous.”
“Do you think it was a sorcerer or a sentient object like yourself that undid the Heart’s power?” asked Ativus.”
“That is also obscured from my magical senses. I only know that it was shattered into three pieces and was scattered across the land.”
“And what is my quest?” asked Nimbus.
“You must find the Heart pieces and rejoin them together again,” answered the Glyph.
“But how is he to know where to look?” asked Ativus.
Then the glyph began to crack and a shard of the crystal fell to the ground.
“I have given a part of myself that will guide you. It will shimmer blue when it is pointed to the closest Heart piece.”
Nimbus picked it up. It was warm and completely smooth. He faced Ativus and the shard glowed and vibrated. “When do I leave?”
“Immediately,” said the voice from the Glyph.
“First you must be equipped with a sword and shield,” said Ativus. “Go to the gate of the castle and you will be given a horse and implements for your journey.”
When both had returned the way they came, they went out the metal door and Nimbus made for the gate. He turned around-Ativus was gone. After thirty minutes, a servant was bringing Nimbus a steed with a sword and shield on top of it along with a bag of provisions.
“Arch Mage Ativus instructed me to inform you to be careful and take care of the crystal shard. He bids you farewell.”
Nimbus hopped on and withdrew the shard from a satchel where he had put it, and held it out. He turned it about and it shimmered at one point. With a flick of the reigns, the horse sped off. Nimbus went through the outer cities and villages of the kingdom where he lived, Nimithar. Soon he was in the open wilderness and was among large oaks, and birch trees along the banks of the Twisting River. He was hungry and fatigued so he stopped to sit under the shade of an oak to eat and rest. He dug into a bag and pulled out some dried mutton and almonds.
As he ate, he wondered about his mission. He thought of the danger of meeting a hostile territories and hoped would not have to go there. The threat of bandits was an ever present danger along with violent animals. He looked at the sky and saw elongated clouds he could see move in the wind. He turned to his right and saw a group of riders in armor carrying the standard of Thayless.
It did not take long for the riders to meet Nimbus. A friendly looking man with steady eyes spoke in a raised but gentle tone. “Hello there.”
“Greetings people of Thayless,”
The man stopped as the rest of the men rode past him. “From which kingdom do you come from stranger?” questioned the man.
“I am of the kingdom of Nimithar,” Nimbus said as he stood.
“Ah, one of the three neutral lands. You know it is just a matter of time until you are drawn into the war.” The man shook his head slowly. “Those blasted servants from Thair are very close to your kingdom. An attack is surely to come. They’re an evil brood they are-and their allied realms.”
“Forgive me, but why do the nations continue to quarrel?”
The man snuffed. “Humph! Why is a murderer to be punished?!”
“I know the various reasons and battles that have been wagged but I have no knowledge of what action started it,” explained Nimbus.
“Whatever the case, it must have been one of our foes that began it. Thayless and our allies would never assault an unwary peaceful people.” The man shuddered and jerked his shoulders. “Well, I must go on with my men.” He waved Nimbus off and rode on. Then he stopped and turned to the young man. “Warn your king about what I said concerning Thair. Tell him to prepare for the worst. Farewell lad.”
He remounted and went on his way. Soon he followed the shard into a forest that cleared his mind and steadied his heart beat. He took a deep breath and took in the moist Pine smell. Soon he found a red object embedded in a large boulder in a pond and the shard was not just shimmering but flashing!
“That must be a piece of the Heart!”
Nimbus stepped in the pond and approached it and pried it out with his sword. It fell to the pond and he picked it up. Nimbus turned around and a flash of light appeared and before him stood a man in a white gown with stork wings on his back. Nimbus’ breathing halted and his body froze then he dropped the Heart piece.
“Hello Nimbus. I am Thadius, a messenger from the One who created the Heart of Zealous. I’ve come to tell you of a strong foe that you will meet.”
Nimbus felt a chilling rush spread through his body. He picked up the Heart piece. Then he took a soothing breath and all the anxious tension in his stomach and slowed the surging blood that throbbed in his head. Next he felt a wave of stillness come over him.
“What foe do you speak of?”
“A powerful being of magic.”
“Who or what is this magical being? Does this entity have a name?”
“He is called Gorinoth, a dragon of the East.”
The young apprentice ran his palms down his face and exhaled deeply. “What am I to do when I meet this dragon Gorinoth?”
Thadius raised his arm and a shining blade appeared in his hand. “This is the Sword of Righteousness.”
“Where did this awesome weapon come from?” Nimbus said with open mouth as he slowly neared it.
“It was forged by the Celestial Emperor long ago. You shall slay the dragon with it.” Thadius put the sword in a scabbard. “Take it and wield it with courage.”
Thadius held it out to Nimbus. His hand trembled as he reached out and grabbed the hilt. It was cold and smooth. A rush of a tingly buzz went through his body like static. “How do I find him?”
“Continue straight through the forest to the east and when you emerge from it, you will see two hills with towers atop them. Between the two hills he has his dwelling place.” Here I will leave you. May the grace of the Celestial Emperor keep you.”
Nimbus frowned. “Wait!”
Thadius disappeared without an answer. Nimbus had to carry on with his mission. He took the Sword of Righteousness and tied it to his leather belt, gathered his things and rode onward. The forest thinned out as he continued on his horse. At last he broke out and saw the two hills. His heart started to palpitates as he thought of facing Gorinoth the dragon. He wiped sweat off his forehead and inhaled deeply. “Celestial Emperor,” Nimbus spoke to himself. The name gave him peace and he was calmed.
Laid out before him was a grassy wilderness with a few trees that grew in the lush expanse. Nimbus rode up a gradual incline and soon spotted a narrow river. He went to the bank and dismounted then let his horse drink from the blue glistening flow of water. The young traveler filled a water skin and drank himself.
The sun was setting in orange-red clouds in the East behind the two hills. When twilight had fully come, he made a fire with from a branch from a tree growing along the bank and made a circle of river stones around it. He rolled out a knap sack and nestled into then quickly fell asleep. That night he had a strange dream.
He found himself on the pinnacle of the Castle of Thadia yet things were different. There were no war scars on the land and he saw group of Phoenixes fly overhead. And the cities and towns of Thadia were full of happiness and peace. It was as though the battles and conflict of the seven kingdoms had never occurred. It was like living in an ancient day. Suddenly he was somewhere else. It was very bright and filled with thousands of winged beings like Thadius. Ahead of him was a set of stairs that had a luster like burning silver.
At the top was a platform full of clouds that sparkled with small multi-colored beads of light like stars in the sky. Situated there at the top was a shining human figure siting on a throne. Nimbus saw the figure on the throne that stretched forth and cupped his hands. Then in flashes of scarlet lightning that erupted from His palms, a glowing heart appeared. Two winged beings took the heart and Nimbus looked as a portal opened in the light below him. In the portal was a bird’s eye view of the surface of the Earth. The two winged entities descended into it. Then instantly he was on the ground watching them come down and fasten the heart to the base of a square shaped obelisk. It was centered amidst a circle of monolithic, erect stones. Then he awoke. Without a doubt, the heart shaped object was none other than the Heart of Zealous and the One who created it was the mysterious Celestial Emperor. Near the end of his dream there was a large dragon with a glowing sea-blue opal embedded into its forehead. The opal fell from it and the dragon died. Nimbus awoke.
“What a strange dream. There is no doubt it was of great importance.”
Nimbus stretched and gathered his things. He stopped, took a deep breath and lifted his head to the sky. He closed his eyes and let his breath seep out between his lips. On and on he went, getting ever closer to the center of the two hills. At last he came to a small stone keep with an open entryway. The stone was black and as he passed through the entry way he smelled burning sulfur. The scent increased until he came to an abyssal precipice. He dismounted and picked up a stone and threw it into the black drop off. There was no sound. Suddenly a rush of warm air came from beneath as a blue dragon soared up and landed on the other side of the precipice.
“Who are you?” he asked.
He was light blue on the inside of his wings, neck and belly. A dark blue painted his face and back parts. His eyes grew red and his voice was as the sound of burning coals. And embedded between the eyes was what looked like a glowing blue pearl.
“I am Nimbus come to slay you!”
Gorinoth roared and lunged at the young human. Nimbus held his weapon and slashed at his snout, causing back blood to drip from it. Gorinoth breathed heavily as he glared at Nimbus. “How can I be harmed!?”
“I wield the Sword of Righteousness, the tool of your doom.”
Nimbus gripped the sword with white knuckles showing. The dragon spewed out fire that was deflected by Nimbus’ shield. Gorinoth opened his mouth and shouted. Quickly the cunning human cast his sword at the dragon’s gaping mouth. Gorinoth gagged choking on blood and writhed in agony on the opposite ledge until its long neck fell forward, making a crossway to the other side.
Nimbus studied the glowing pearl-like object. He recalled his dream of the dragon and the opal. He withdrew the shard of the Crystal Glyph. “The stone, I know it’s important. It’s like the shard is telling me somehow.” Nimbus took the sword and pried off the opal from Gorinoth’s forehead.
The young apprentice walked on the back of its neck to a pitch dark cave mouth. Nimbus withdrew the crystal shard and it was shimmering. With nothing more than the light it gave, he went on, leaving his horse behind him. He recognized the cave from his dream. Soon he came to a granite door with a circular indentation. It didn’t take much thought until he realized what he had to do. He took out the opal and placed it in the indentation. Then there was the sound of stone grinding against stone as the door opened. Nimbus’ eyes immediately shifted to a small pedestal with a chest on it. He took out the crystal shard and it was flashing like before. The chest had only two clamps which he opened reveal the second Heart piece. His spirit soared with joy as he laughed.
Suddenly there was a flash of light as Thadius the winged being appeared. “You have done well young human. The third and last piece will be the most challenging to find. It lay in the underworld, the realm of darkness.”
“How will I get there?”
“I will open a portal that you will use to enter the dark realm.”
A chill went down Nimbus’ spine and he swallowed. “What is the underworld like?”
“It a place of perpetual darkness,” Thadius said, elevating his tone. “Only the Crystal Shard will light your way.” With those words, Thadius waved his hand and a dark sphere took form. “Enter.”
Nimbus hesitated as he took an exasperating breath. “I’m afraid.”
“As long as you have the Shard and the sword, you will be safe. Now go.”
Nimbus stepped into the sphere and it was like his mind was being stretched across oblivion. He held his head and fell to his knees. The young human was in complete darkness and felt for the shard then pulled it out and he saw he was on a floating plateau. Nimbus walked in the range of the Shard light and found a short bridge. It led to another surface that was full of human-like figures of smoke. Nimbus brandished the Sword of Righteousness and the figures backed away. He came to an arch that brought him to a large enclosed room with none other than the last Heart piece suspended in midair shining like a red star in the dark heavens.
“At last!” Nimbus ran for it but a pillar of black fire appeared in his way. He backed away until the pillar took the shape and appearance of a human. He was dressed in a black mantle covering a green robe. The person was wrinkled in the eyes that were weary. His eyebrows lifted in sadness. “So, someone has been sent to restore the Heart of Zealous.”
“Who are you?” asked Nimbus.
“I am Zaltiar, former protector of the Heart of Zealous.”
“What happened to the Heart if you were its protector?”
Zaltiar’s expression did not contort neither was there any sneering smile. His face was relaxed and he spoke with a soft, steady tone. “I am the one who tried to destroy it. However no human weapon would harm it.”
“How did you break the Heart?”
“I left Zealous to the outer realms to see if anything there could destroy it. I found a man of dark magic and he versed me in sorcery and I became powerful in the enchanted arts.”
“But why? You seem a benevolent soul. I find it hard to believe that a gentle speaking man like you would do this.”
“Because it is unfit for the Nephaal to suffer pain, hardship and violence just for the sake of being unfortunate to be born that way. Either both they and those of Zealous enjoy paradise together or both live in pain together.”
“Who are the Nephaal?”
Zaltiar shook his head slowly and made a mocking chuckle. “So the Celestial Emperor did not think it to be important for them to be remembered.” He looked upon Nimbus who stared frozen and silent. “The Nephaal were the ones cursed to live outside the utopia of Zealous and its kingdoms. That is why I sought to destroy the Heart.”
“It was not your place to judge. There had to be another way,” said Nimbus.
“There was none. It was cruel for the Celestial Emperor to doom so many and have favor on so few.”
“How did you get here?”
“When I broke the Heart, there was a reaction and I was cast into the underworld with the Heart piece.”
Then Nimbus stretched forth his hand and his voice was like a commanding general. “Give me the Heart Piece!” he said as he pointed the Sword of Righteousness at Zaltiar.
“Never.” Zaltiar pulled out a sword of his own and rushed at Nimbus. The moment the two weapons clashed, Zaltiar’s shattered to pieces.
The defeated man fell to his knees and hands. “Why does it have to end this way?” he said in a drifting voice.
“Hand me the Heart,” Nimbus demanded.
As Nimbus held his blade to Zaltiar’s neck and he began to cry. “So be it then. Let the favored few live in perfection while the rest suffer!” he said sobbing. Nimbus was given the Heart.
He laid the pieces on the ground and put them together. A bright light came from the Heart that was made whole and suddenly both of them were back in normal world. Then a change began to affect the surface of the whole land, even those beyond the old border of Zealous into the territory of the Nephaal. Burnt forests that had gone long ago reappeared. The seven kingdoms were restored as though no war had tainted the land. And the places of the Nephaal were made lush with greenery, no longer being a barren wasteland.
Then Thadius appeared with a gentle smile. “You have overcome the forces of darkness and fulfilled your purpose.”
“What has happened?” asked Nimbus with shining, wide eyes.
“All that has happened has been the will of the Celestial Emperor. It was His plan that the Heart of Zealous would be broken and its pieces reunited to purify and redeem the whole world. Now all beings will enjoy paradise.”
Nimbus watched as a perplexed person in torn, dirty raiment was arrayed in a new blue tunic with white trousers with a brooch bearing the crest of the new Zealous. Then Nimbus saw his master Ativus among a crowd of people in awe and loss at what had happened to everything. Ativus approached with open mouth as he observed the magnificent being Thadius. “What are you?” asked Ativus.
Nimbus answered his master’s question. “He is a servant of the Celestial Emperor that made the Heart millennia ago.”
“And all this is his doing?”
“Yes,” answered Nimbus. He was silent for moment then took a deep breath and addressed Thadius. “Why didn’t Zaltiar use any magic against me when I came at him with the sword?”
“In his attempt to destroy the Heart, he was drained of all his power.”
“I knew you would not fail!” said Ativus with a smile as he patted Nimbus on the back.
“What happens now?” asked Nimbus.
Thadius smiled. “Now the world will be built and blessed by the Celestial Emperor. And the new Heart will be unbreakable so that darkness will never return.”
Zaltiar came forward. “Please forgive me. I was full of such bitterness and pity for the Nephaal.”
Thadius answered him. “You have a tender heart Zaltiar. That is why you were chosen to watch the Heart. But do not condemn yourself. The evil that occurred, the Celestial Emperor has made for good. You are forgiven.” Then he rose into the sky and disappeared. And so from that day on the world was ushered into a new era of peace, prosperity, and magnificence. All peoples were of one righteous mind and the entire world gave thanks to the Celestial Emperor.