Chapter One: Vanir

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“Master Kas, you know I would give anything for this conflict to be over, but getting you killed is not included in this,” Jru said as he stopped before the start of the courtyard that led to the main gates of the Atrum. His long, black dreads fell away from his old, red eyes as he looked up at the castle that towered over them. The estus-infused purple light that rose from within it hit the sky as a beam, before spreading across most of the Suzerain Continent through the atmosphere.

Jru’s deep wrinkles fell further into his dark skin, as the Armsman tried to remember back to a time when things were much different. When the towering black stones of the Atrum didn’t make it the center pillar for Vanir’s warfare. When it was a place of hungry growls from a united populace trying to fend off starvation and the cold. Now it felt as if the somnus the Atrum Lord ruled over had traded their simpler sufferings for the price of all the decency left in the souls.

Overhead the damp, heavy light continued to drown out anything that might allow the memories of such a time to resurface. “Your father wants the Sanctus to burn, not be a part of his Empire.”

“No, today it is something else,” Kas replied as he came to a stop and his escort of Custos behind them did the same. His mentor’s melancholy thoughts were all heard and felt in his own psi.

As the Atrum’s soldiers came to a stop in their spiked, glinting black armor before them, he could feel the negative energy in the Animus Threads between both sides vibrate dangerously. Their eyes betrayed them in dark shades of grey. If the tension escalated anymore, the peace talks would be over before they could start; with a clash of weapons, claws, talons and teeth.

Kas glanced back to where Gwa seemed to be the closest to his snapping-point, as the griffin somnus straightened his white and grey uniform against the ayame and phelan somnus who walked past them. They left their comments of traitor and corrupt behind as they did. He was to be assumed as once of the Falls, who had become a traitor to the Atrum’s Order by siding with the Sanctus. But they knew nothing past the rumors that spread through the capital and Atrum City like a plague. Gwa may have been a griffin somnus, but Kas would never question how much his friend hated the Falls more than all of the Custos combined. You alright?

‘I’ll be better once we leave,’ Gwa voiced back to Kas by psi, as he caught the Priest’s bright-red eyes with his own brown, rare ones. Most griffin somnus had yellow eyes and white hair, but Gwa’s was white with rose streaks, which was the touch of his human mother’s appearance on him. The griffin somnus was usually light-spirited and calm, but today the young Custos, who was only four years younger than himself, looked twenty years older by the stress.

I will do my best not to drag this on. Kas looked back at the guards as they tried to remain calm. He could feel their fear and couldn’t help but wonder if his father had sent only two of them to serve as a feast of amusement. It was six Custos against two roughly trained phelan somnus, who looked barely capable of holding a blade. One of his older, monk-like guardians of the Sanctus could single-handily take on a small mob of these if necessary.

The Custos were warriors in service to the god Aragmoth, but they respected the other caels of Aster as well—or more importantly—the one Caelestis who was the Great Dragon’s right hand over it. As he thought about Asil, he missed the warm rays of the Soph Aur, and its little bit of light that did reach his mother’s home even more. Only in the Sanctus was there enough peace and safety for him to meditate and see her. After he had left her on the note of a fight, he had returned by Dreamwalking to find her gone. If Vanir had found a way to bring her from Earth to Aster, he had to know.

“Prince Kas, we are here to escort you the rest of the way.”

Kas blinked slowly. He regretted not bringing his glasses to counter whether he might be seeing and hearing things out of meditation.

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