To the people of Elatreus, a man is defined by his power, reputation and ambition. Even after he found the Flame of the Host, all the young Paragon had was some modicum of reputation and promises of righteousness and justice made by the angelic blade.
The Paragon had some power, proven by his stunning victories against the Northmen, and the Flame guided him west, to face the Thanish Kingdoms and its new leader, the Deathknight Shazn’Oegtol, Slayer of Kings.
The Flame promised victory, and with that promise and ambition alone he led the might of the Aelutian army against the Thanish Kingdoms. War broke out in the border between Silverleaf and the Badlands. Thousands died, and though the Aelutians fought with all their might and successfully defended Silverleaf for some time, they were ultimately defeated and forced to retreat by the armies of the Deathknight. The Paragon was forced to flee for the first time in his life, utterly humiliated and defeated by the Deathknight’s already incredible powers.
The victory that the Flame of the Host promised did not come, and the war left the Paragon enfeebled. He had sacrificed many loyal men and women for a hollow promise and discovered the hard way that ambition without wisdom is like a bird without wings.
How could he hope to defeat the Deathknight and bring peace to Elatreus?
Ambition had inspired his subjects to action, yes. But ambition alone does not guarantee victory. It cannot substitute the qualities that a leader, and a Chosen One, needs. The Paragon, at the time, was short-sighted; he knew little, and it was likely that his story would have ended there.
And then, from one of the men under his command, came a rumor. A rumor of a woman from the east wielding magical powers so unnatural it was unknown whether she controlled that power, or that power controls her.
This woman was Kira. One of the 12 Archmages of the Sorcerer City of Notarikon. The Witch of Notarikon.
The Paragon and the Witch
With few options left and convinced that this Witch held the knowledge he needed to achieve victory, The Paragon and his commander Elias Rodin rode to the Sorcerer City to find this woman.
Notarikon’s status as a neutral city state made things difficult for the Paragon and his commander. While entering the city itself was easy enough, none of the Archmages granted them audience and every time the two attempted to enter a governmental building they were escorted out by the Sentinel Guards.
Days passed, and the Deathknight came ever closer to destroying Silverleaf. Elias and the Paragon could only stay in Notarikon for two more days. Staying any longer would mean compromising the war effort, and the Paragon grew restless and desperate. Finally, being turned away at every approach and convinced that he should give up and return to the frontlines the next day, he and his captain gloomily chose to dine that night in one of the city’s most famous restaurants.
And then, as if the gods themselves smiled down upon him, a beautiful white-haired woman wearing an elaborate dress entered the restaurant, escorted by over two dozen Sentinels. For a woman, she was somewhat tall, at least 5’8”. Her black and silver-trimmed dress billowed with every step she took as she made her way through the restaurant. A dragon-scale bag had its strap slung over her shoulder.
She sat on an empty table some distance away from the Paragon, almost as if expecting someone. Her eyes wandered around the interior of the restaurant, scanning the decor, the food, the people, and finally rested on the only commoner in the room.
She then smiled, and beckoned him to sit on the same table with her. He did so, but could not say anything at this sudden turn of events. He simply sat there, dumbfounded and speechless.
“So, are you going to say anything, or were you looking for me just to stare at me?”
“I-I’m sorry.” The Paragon quickly averted his eyes, realizing that he was staring at her for some time, almost as if transfixed.
She laughed, and extended her hand. “I am Kira Kosakami, Archmage of Notarikon. I understand that you would like to discuss something with me…”
And so, the Paragon told her of his dilemma over dinner. He told her of the Flame of the Host, how he found it and of its remarkable powers. He told her that the blade had chosen him to lead the armies of the Aelutian Empire against the evil Thanish Kingdoms in order to destroy the Deathknight and bring peace to Elatreus. He then told her of the Flame’s promise of victory, and of his subsequent defeat at the hands of the Deathknight.
All this time, she only listened and did not comment. Occasionally she would nod, but her enigmatic smile never disappeared.
And then, he told her that he needed someone’s wisdom to guide him in his role as the Chosen One.
To this, Kira’s smile disappeared. She frowned a little, and the Paragon suddenly felt cold as though someone had stabbed his spine with an icicle.
“You do know that the Sorcerer City of Notarikon maintains and protects its neutrality in matters of the world do you not?” She coldly asked.
“Yes- but this is beyond Notarikon. We’re talking about the fate of Elatreus! Of the world!”
Every single patron in the restaurant stared at him, just after he finished that sentence. He hadn’t realized that he had raised his voice to the point where he was almost shouting. The young captain’s cheeks flushed red and he sank into his chair.
“You’re very confident in yourself, aren’t you?” she said rather cynically, almost as if she was questioning his legitimacy as the Chosen One. She then finished her drink, and continued; “So I have a question for you. If you answer it to my satisfaction, then I will help you. Do you agree?”
“I need your help.. So yes, I agree..”
She paused, regarding him coolly, her eyes seemingly peering deep into his soul.
“What’s so special about you?”
To this, the Paragon was stunned. He had no idea how to answer her question, and the first answer that came to mind, though true, came out without strength or conviction..
“I, uh, the Flame chose me to bear it because it said I was, er.. It said, said that it saw the contents of my heart and that I was to be ‘the one’. I do not fully understand, but it chose me because my, er, heart is pure.. And because, this is what I was born to do..”
“Seriously?” Kira responded, raising an eyebrow.
“Uhm, I was also commended several times for valor in battle. My commander, Elias Rodin, could vouch for my accomplishments.”
“So could a thousand other people I’ve met.” She said, a cold, disappointed look upon her face.
He had no more answers, at least not at this time. He really had no idea how to answer her question.
“I…I don’t know.”
“Well then…” Kira got up from her chair, smiling as if she was satisfied by his inability to answer her question. She then called for the bill and then paid for it.
“Farewell, then, Paragon. I hope you enjoyed your stay here in Notarikon.”
She was leaving.
She ignored him, and simply walked to the exit. The Paragon jumped out of his chair, and then rushed towards her.
“Give me a chance! Please!” He yelled, just as he grabbed her left arm. Big mistake.
One of the Sentinels on her left quickly unsheathed its runic sword and in a single movement brought its edge underneath the Paragon’s chin. If he stood just an inch further, his throat would’ve been cut. The entire restaurant went silent. He lets go of her arm in that instant.
The Sentinel complied and released the blade from the Paragon’s chin but it did not sheathe its blade. Kira’s sapphire blue eyes met his green eyes once again.
“You wear your convictions well, Captain, despite your ignorance. I’ll consider it, but under one condition; an appropriate answer to my question, before this time tomorrow. You can find me in my study. At the Spire. I’ll be expecting an answer.”
And with that, she turned around and left the Paragon in the same state as he had been before he met her. Her Sentinels followed suit. Every single patron stared at the insolent commoner who had just made a commotion in front of everyone.
The Paragon then returned to his lodgings, his mind desperately trying to formulate an answer to her question along the way. He did not sleep that night.
Twenty two hours flew by, and still he could not find an answer. Instead, it was Elias who came up with one. The two men decided that bringing the Flame to her would be a sufficient answer. The Paragon slung the blade over his back and prepared to leave for Kira’s office.
It was then that the two men decided to have an audience with her once again, this time in the Spire, the great tower home to Notarikon’s central governing board of 12 Archmages built during the city’s construction over 800 years ago. As they entered the building, the Sentinels that had booted them out countless times before simply stood aside as they made their way to her study.
Her study resembled the interior of a great gothic palace. Beautiful carvings and etchings were made into its walls and ceilings. The floor was made of marble, polished to a mirror-like sheen. However, there were no statues in her room, a sharp contrast to the rest of the décor in the Spire and even to the entire city, which had statues everywhere. There was a table in the middle of the room, probably made of mahogany or teak with two leather chairs in front of it and a massive high-back chair behind it. In the wall behind that table, at the very end of the room, lies a glass door flanked by two massive windows that stretch almost the entire height of the room.
Kira was busy scribbling something in one of the books stacked neatly on her table, not even noticing the two men that had entered her room. A Sentinel stood by her side, its right arm holding a massive halberd longer than it is tall, and it towers over both men. The Paragon noticed that this one was far taller than the ones that escorted her the night before. And far more intimidating. Almost as if its hands could collapse a bear’s ribcage with a single punch.
“Lady Kira, the Paragon and his friend is here.” The Sentinel suddenly spoke in a deep mechanical voice without moving its mouth.
“Thank you, Gunther.” She responded as she slowly raised her head to greet her guests. “I trust you have an answer for me, Paragon? Oh and please have a seat, make yourselves at home.”
“My thanks, Lady Kira.” Elias answered for both of them.
The two men slowly made their way to the leather seats in front of her table. Elias’ movement was graceful and confident, befitting of a noble. But the Paragon moved slowly and anxiously, somewhat intimidated by the steady gaze of the sentinel Gunther that stood over 7 foot tall.
“Are those the epaulettes of a Field Marshall? Now I see why the entire city’s restless since you’ve arrived…” Kira said, her eyes scanning the newcomer.
“Well then, your answer, Captain?”
“Show her, Wilkins”. Elias ordered him, and the two men did not notice Kira’s eyebrow shooting up at an angle at the mention of the Paragon’s real name.
The Paragon raised his right hand, and suddenly the entire room was bathed in the holy light of the Flame as it materialized in his hand. The light then subsided, revealing the blade’s flawless form and superlative construction impossible to duplicate even by the world’s greatest smiths. The Paragon was confident; this was the answer she was looking for.
But her reaction was not what he expected.
Kira buried her face in both her hands. An entire day’s worth of unwarranted expectation to the gods’ new Chosen One went out in a single sigh that escaped her lips. Rising from her chair, she stalked towards the window behind her, throwing her back towards her guests. To her, the view outside is certainly a better sight than the disappointment behind her.
How could this be? What kind of answer does she want?!
“If I may, milady, the Flame of the Host isn’t his answer.” Elias quickly interrupted. Both Kira and the Paragon’s eyes shot at him, surprised at his sudden exclamation.
She then gestured for him to continue.
“You mentioned that you’ve met thousands of other people, yes? People with pure hearts, respected heroes, men and women from all the lands and all social status? Well, the fact is; they weren’t chosen. This boy is. And the Flame of the Host would choose no other. Yes, the Paragon might share many qualities with those people, but both of us can’t determine why he was chosen. And frankly, I think it’s irrelevant! He was chosen, and I believe him. So do tens of thousands of others, and in a time like this, that is more than enough..”
To this, Kira quizzically titled her head. Moments passed. No reaction.
And then she smiled. This was the answer she was looking for.
The Paragon nodded to her, and an innocent and pleased grin washed over his face. Elias couldn’t help but smile as well. They’ve succeeded.
“So, when do we start?” She asked, returning the Captain’s smile.
A True Enigma..
Kira stood apart from the other characters in our stories. The others are defined by their wants and ambitions, but Kira is a true enigma. No-one truly knows or can predict her actions. Thus, it is impossible to say why she had decided to help the Aelutian Empire, or what she saw in the young Captain. Perhaps she saw that he was destined for great things, or perhaps decided that a world ruled by the Deathknight isn’t a world worth living in.
Whatever her reasoning, she decided to help the Paragon. Her wisdom was a light in the darkness. And under her guidance, the Paragon was reborn as a powerful leader.
With wisdom and pride, The Witch and the Paragon did a great many things. Their leadership was tempered by wisdom, and the Empire began pushing back the Thanish Kingdoms..
But things did not always go smoothly, nor to plan – and the second time the DeathKnight and the Paragon clashed cost him his left eye, shattered his face and nearly disemboweled him on the battlefield – but before the DeathKnight could finish him, the Witch steps forward and using guile and magical powers not seen since the War in Heaven, is able to save the Paragon and damage and humiliate the Deathknight.
It took a full two years to overcome the injuries, as no magical healing could restore the damage, and the black wounds were as a creeping pestilence, taking all of his willpower and all of her magical powers to prevent them from overcoming him.
It was during this time, in a moment of feverish weakness, he despaired and told her what he really felt – that there was nothing special about him, that the DeathKnight was too powerful and that he felt the Flame had chosen the wrong man..
And it was then that she revealed of herself too, that she was tired of her immortal burden – that she had seen so many people she cared about pass to dust that she no longer cared at all, and in her heart of hearts, was not only unafraid of death, but welcomed it..
Somehow, this revelation gave him strength, and it made him feel something for her that he had never felt before. And when the darkness of his wounds seemed poised to overwhelm him, he called for her – thanked her, and told her what was in his heart..
“I love you..”
“Then don’t die.”
For the rest of his days, his love for her never waned, but neither was it returned. When the wars were finally over, he did all he could to convince her to rule by his side, but even if it had been in their future, the great disaster at the Sorcerer City of Notarikon that killed everyone she had ever known caused her to turn her back on the world, and she entered a long stasis from which she has only recently awoken..
But their story is not yet over. Indeed, it has only just begun..
Hero or Villain?
There is some considerable moral ambiguity about the Deathless Witch, and in the Aelutian Empire in particular, how she is perceived is quite complex.
For her role in assisting the Paragon, confronting and humiliating the DeathKnight and nursing the Paragon back to full health (which led to the eventual Downfall of the Kingdom of Thane and the rise of the Empire) you would think she would be remembered as a hero.
But soon after the wars were over, one tragic event changed the popular perception of this figure -Kira was selected by the council of Arch-Mages to lead an experiment to tap into the limitless power of other dimensional energies, but despite her experience, raw power and knowledge, something went wrong at the worst possible time..
And instead of drawing the energies, perhaps hovering on the borders of reality waiting for a chance, having seen two other Golgoloth come through, the failed spell opened a rift in time space and ushered in KURZATCHAL, the Life Ender who tore the city apart before anyone could stop him, killed the Archmages, and nearly killed her before she could finally banish it back to where it came from..
But the damage had been done. And exhausted, ashamed, despondent and tired beyond human endurance, she slipped into a thousand year stasis from which she has only recently awoken from..
It is this event, her raw power uncontrolled – that taints her previous exploits. And over the years, no doubt fearful of her power and unsure of her true motivations, in her absence the Empire has steadily demonized her..
Perhaps they wanted to remove her from the history books, to glorify the Paragons deeds and his family bloodline rather than admit the truth – that she was the love of his life and without this woman’s assistance, the Paragon would almost certainly have failed to overcome the DeathKnight. Or perhaps it was the sheer scale of the devastation at Notarikon, and the policies of a new faction of Arch Mages seeking to clearly break with these terrible past events, that caused this dark opinion of her to form.
But her return from Stasis some 40 years ago has not been warmly received by the Empire. Doomsday cults, fearful of the symbolism of the new millennia, named her as the next DeathKnight – one that would destroy the world. And the arguably insane 16 year old Crown Prince hates her viscerally and has put out the largest bounty on her head ever offered by the Empire.
However, the high Priests of the church of Paragon know better.
They know that she is careful to avoid killing innocents and never abuses her power – and that the events at Notarikon were a tragic mistake. And they know that the Paragons spirit watches over her – indeed, some have even received direct instruction from their god that not only must they not interfere with her plans, but they should assist her, putting them in a very difficult position..
And as she becomes more active, and her flying fortress Temple Nimbus and her Sentinel army grows in power and influence, a terrifying confrontation seems inevitable. Only time will tell if cooler heads will prevail, for a war between the Empire and her own private army and incredible magical powers would be truly horrific in scale and nature..