Brooding cloud covered the sky. The Darkness had arrived. It was still daytime, but the clouds were so thick that they banished the light. The villagers knew it was Tenebris and his dark magic. The women, children, and elderly gathered on the far side of the village near the forest as directed by Melea, Sensei Lux's wife.
The battle had begun. They could hear the clashing of steel
the screams of the lives being taken, and the growling of those horrific, forgotten ones. The foul smell of rotting flesh could be caught in a gust of wind, a stench by which one would always know the Darkness was near. They were nervous. Generation after generation had known that Tenebris would be coming for their lives, yet it was still unnerving for them to hope against hope that their training could overcome his growing Dark Magic. Thunder boomed, and lightning crackled in the skies of the valley. They saw flashes of light clashing with the dark in the middle of the battlefield in the distance. Finally, the sky was filled with a light so bright that they had to look away. A thunderous crack filled their ears and shook the earth.
The Staff of the Almighty! Melea thought.
She fell to her knees from the tremors. Will I ever see my beloved husband again? she pondered. Was his training and teaching of the Almighty enough for this Dark Overlord? She looked up. The sky began to clear, the sounds of clashing steel from the battle, which had been deafening, had trailed off. It was silent a moment later. There were no more clouds, and the darkness was gone. "They've done it!" Melea shouted. The Light Walkers broke out in a war cry, filling the valley with shouts. But Emerald, her daughter, where had she gone? She was nowhere to be seen in the surrounding faces. Worried, Melea got to her feet and ran towards the battlefield. "Emerald!" she shouted. "Emerald, where are you?" Melea reached a small rock outcropping before the valley where the battle had taken place. She scaled up the rocks to see what had happened. Nestled in between two rocks near the top crouched Emerald. She had watched what had unfolded on the battlefield. "Emerald, are you okay?" Melea asked, concerned. "What happened to you? Emy, talk to me!"
EMERALD’S FACE WAS WHITE AS THE WINTER SNOW
Her eyes were blank and emotionless. Melea saw the distress in her daughter's eyes and glanced toward the battlefield. There was no one. Not a soul left in that valley. Confused, concerned, and distraught – she looked back at her daughter. She grabbed her with one palm on each cheek. "Emerald, what happened here?" A tear ran down her face and dripped off her chin to the dirt ground. Emerald closed her eyes in pain, the first sign of emotion Melea had seen on her face since she found her. Emerald looked up into her mother's eyes. "They're all gone, Mother… Papa is gone." She broke down, now crying in her mother's arms – the kind of cry that comes from within, where everything seems to break inside you as you well out in sorrow. Melea held her head tight to her chest, still confused about what
this all meant. She looked again towards the valley. It was empty, but she knew that the ground was still stained with blood from those that had given their lives in the glory of battle. They couldn't have just disappeared? she thought. Emerald withdrew her face from her mother's breast and looked into her eyes. Melea wiped her face clean with the sleeve from her gold-threaded kimono. Seeing the confusion and despair on her mother's face, Emerald reached up towards her and placed her two index fingers on her mother's temples, one finger on each side. "Let me show you," she said. Using the power of the Almighty, Emerald projected what she had seen into her mother's thoughts. Melea's eyes now glowed bright white. She saw everything.
MELEA’S EYES NOW GLOWED BRIGHT WHITE.
SHE SAW EVERYTHING
The battle, Tenebris's Dark Magic.
Her husband and his cheeky remarks, just to piss off that foul beast. She smiled. She saw the final battle. Light versus Darkness. The day they all knew would come had played out like the prophecies had always foretold. She never thought in a million years that her beloved Lux would be the great warrior to finally face Tenebris in battle wielding the Staff. She saw Tenebris defeated, lying on the floor. He was a weak and cowardly being, she thought. Now the curse. She heard him uttering that damning curse. White, glowing tears began to flow down her cheeks. She listened to the words ring in her head. "I shall return! My name shall rule these lands again! You accursed Light Walkers, Soulless you shall become!" She saw her Lux disappear. The love of her life, married at the age of 13, they vowed to never leave each other's side. He was gone now. Emerald began to take her hands away from her mother's face. "Wait!" Melea shouted. There was something else.
She saw the Staff of the Almighty fall onto the battlefield.
It lay there for a moment, but soon after, it was gone. But it did not disappear like the men. Instead, it levitated off the ground, and then, as fast as lightning, it flew off into the distant sky – far, far away from Zillarnia.
"Wait, I can still see it!" said Melea. "Don't stop, Emerald! I still have a vision of the Staff. It lay in a Garden. A lush garden. I see fruit trees and flowing waters. A great booming waterfall in the distance. I do not know this place. I have never seen this place, but it seems to still be in this realm. The Staff is still with us!" Emerald took her hands off her mother's face. Melea's eyes returned to normal, and tears ran down her cheeks. They embraced and cried for the loss of their father and their people. "What now, Mother?" Emerald asked. "What do we do now?" "I don't know, Emy. But we need to find the answer. We need to know more about this curse. Then, we will free your father, and we will be prepared for the return of Tenebris – to end this once and for all."
A few months later...
Melea stood tall on a large rock in front of the whole Light Walker Clan. Behind her was the Forbidden Forest, as they called it – a forest that was rumored to have a mind of its own. Constantly changing, you'd be lost and never return. She addressed her people. "Our beloved warriors, husbands, and fathers are gone. They sacrificed so much for our safety, for us to live at peace again. They fulfilled the great prophecy of the battle of light and darkness, but the curse of Tenebris still haunts us. There is more to the curse than we could've imagined. It takes away our firstborn sons at the age of eighteen. For the men left in the Clan, if they so much as wield any weapon or practice in the ways of the Almighty, they turn to stone. "So what are we to do? Are we to lie down and die? Would our husbands and fathers want to see us this way? NO! Women of the Light Walkers, we must rise! We must protect at all costs what is left… we must be fierce. We must be smart.
“But the world won't understand our curse; the world will not accept us”
The Dark Ones who follow the teachings of Tenebris are still out there, searching for the Staff of the Almighty. Tenebris is still at work to destroy our Clan and the Power of the Almighty. I have trained day in and day out with my father as a child and with my beloved LUX. They've taught me how to harness the power of the Almighty. We know the blade, the blade favors our touch, but we need time. We must prepare for the return of Tenebris and find the Staff of The Almighty. "This is how we free our loved ones. This is how we break the curse, but we must withdraw. To protect our Clan, keep our curse a secret and stay hidden until we are ready to fight again for our freedom! We must withdraw ourselves from our beloved Zillarnia."
Led by their new leader, Melea, the Light Walker Clan withdrew into the Forbidden Forest
It took them time to figure out how the forest moved and worked. It was as though it was a living being, reacting and moving to those that entered it. As she was able to connect with the forest's energy by using the power of the almighty, Melea led the Clan to the center. To their surprise, there was a lush opening in the middle of the dense and almost impenetrable forest. The trees opened up, the sun shone through, and a beautiful, calm lake met their gaze on the far side of the cleared land. Here is where we will build back up, thought Melea. And that is just what the Light Walkers did. They did what they knew best – they thrived. The land was fertile, the wood for crafting was plenty, and an underground spring that created this beautiful lake was unending. They had found their new home. The men took to the fields, building out their sustainability and crafting a new village, but they missed their training. They longed for their blades. A piece of their souls had been lost that day. The curse forbade them to learn the ways of the blade, but they would do anything for their people and their families.
The women, on the other hand were set on a new path.
They were to be the Clan's protectors, to prepare for the return of Tenebris, and to free their loved ones from The Citadel. Unlike other women who trained the blade in simple ways to hunt and keep the tradition, Melea was trained as a young girl by her father to be one of the fiercest women warriors the Light Walkers had ever seen. Her father never had a son, so he turned to Melea, his firstborn daughter, and taught her the ways of the blade and the power of the Almighty. Her father always said, "There will come a day, Melea, where you will need to pick up the blade for your family and for your people. Our training is not in vain. I feel the presence of the Almighty on you while we train. Don't lose heart – for your greatness will be needed one day." Melea remembered her father's words. She remembered her training. Even her beloved Lux always said, "You, my dear, are destined for greatness. There will come a day of darkness when you will need to be strong. You will need to step into a role that you may have never wanted, but you will be ready. You must be ready!"
Was this all predestined to be? She thought.
How did they always know? How were they so in touch with the almighty, his power, and guidance? She longed for that. She strived for that, and her time had come. The new order was here, and things had to change fast. Every firstborn daughter of every family would become one of the Hogo-sha – the guardians of the Clan. The elite ones, chosen to not only guard and defend the forest from the Dark Ones, but to be trained and understand the power of the Almighty. The women grew strong. The ancient ways of Lux and his men – the training, the diligence, the master of weaponry – were all passed on to the women by their leader Melea. Their wits and stealthy physique were their weapons, but their strength from the Almighty grew and manifested in ways the Clan had never seen before. Day in and day out, training and honing their skills, they became the fiercest warriors the world had ever seen.
But the world would
Never Know Them
They were now the protectors of a lost people group that slowly, through generations and generations, disappeared from all historical Legends. They were a myth, but they still lived… deep in the Forgotten Forest… waiting for the day that they would find the Staff of the Almighty and break this damned curse for once and for all.