• ~Begin Chapter 8~

    Nico slowly opened his eyes, his head pounding. He slowly sat up. It took him a few moments to take in his surroundings. He was in a small cave, the only light coming from a small lantern sitting a few feet to his left.

    Nico tried standing up, the cave's ceiling was so low, he had to nearly double over.

    "What am I doing here?" he thought to himself, when suddenly it all came rushing back. The quest, the charms, his charm stopping the rain, the cat, the cave, the dark wizards, the vision into the past.

    "What the hell was that?" wondered Nico aloud. "That was Mephestis, the man who destroyed the Orndae, but he didn't seem evil..."

    "That's because he wasn't."

    The sudden sound made Nico jump, or at least bang his head against the cave ceiling. He turned around slowly, heart racing. Behind him, concealed in the shadows was the cat, Loki.

    "Careful," said Loki. "If you make too much noise, you'll wake the bats further down the cave." Maybe it was Nico's imagination, but he swore he heard small chuckle escape from the the feline's mouth.

    Rubbing the back of his head checking for blood, Nico looked up. Loki had moved from the shadows and was sitting patiently next to the lantern. Nico was cautious of the creature, his chest aching from when it had transformed itself and tackled him.

    Not sure what to say all Nico could say was: "So, what are you anyway?"

    "Not very on topic, though i suppose i haven't established the topic yet." said Loki. "I, to put it simply, am an embodiment of the Earth's will. I sprung from soil itself roughly 17,000 years ago, in order to teach your distant ancestor." and then added, with a sarcastic tone: "I weigh 24 pounds and 7 ounces, from nose to rump I am 28 inches, and i have 9,346 hairs in my panther form. Anything else you'd like to know?"

    "Why did you bring me here? And what was up with that vision?" Nico asked. While Loki didn't seem to be threatening him, he was still on edge. "Also, where are we?" he added as an afterthought.

    "For your first question, i brought you here so that the sorceror who has been following you for the last 4 days wouldn't be able to continue with her surveillance of your movements. For the second, the vision you experienced was my memory of Hurin's death. I wished to show you the truth behind the stories you've grown up hearing. You now know the truth, Hurin never destroyed the Orndae, because they never existed."

    "What do you mean?" Nico asked. "Never existed? That's impossible! Do you think that an entire race of people could really be just be a hoax?"

    "It's easy to lie about something when the people you're lying to never question you. You were taught that Hurin Mephestis obliterated the Orndae, yet you were never shown any proof. Your teachers never recieved any proof either, they were merely braiwashed like the rest or your civilization. and you should probably keep your voice down, i wasn't kidding about the bats."

    "What about the charms?" said Nico, raising his left hand, the iron ring glittering in the dim lamplight. "These were created by the Orndae."

    "The ring you're wearing is old, even older than me, and it is powerful. But the charms the other wizards were given were simple trinkets. They may seem magical, but all those things can manage to do is hold energy. They were probably put together in a few minutes by Septum."

    Nico didn't want to believe it, it went against everything he had ever learned. But Loki spoke with such certainty, and what he said was logical. Nico had no way of proving that the Orndae were real.

    "Why would Septum lie about the Orndae? Nico finally asked.

    "Simple, if you believed Hurin had committed such a crime, you would never even ask about him, never want to learn of his real history," answered Loki calmly. "Controlling people is easier with a scapegoat. And the Church of the Light has been controlling this empire for thousands of years."

    "Then why send us to the crater?" Nico said, desperate to cling to his sense of reality, to find some way to explain this whole mess.

    "Because of the spirit stones," replied Loki matter of factly. "Living crystals that house either dark or light energy. As soon as a person touches one, either their dark or light power becomes dominant. This grants them great magical power, but changes them. The wizard goes insane, becoming obsessed with their own power, viewing themselves as near a god. The dark wizards see everything as worthless, so beneath them that it must be destroyed. The light wizards grow obsessed with cleansing the world, taking it over a obliterating everything they dislike.

    "Years ago, Septum discovered the stones, and touched one. The light energy inside his spirit became dominant, and he gained an uncontrollable desire for power."

    "But, light energy is good! Whats bad about becoming good?"

    "There is power in both light and dark magic, neither one is naturally good or evil. It is when humans take either one to an extreme that they become destructive.

    "Darkness destroys when it becomes too powerful, it is the most direct in it's vexation. Light magic doesn't destroy, but instead tries to take over everything in it's sight. Light wizards try to convert all those around them to their beliefs, and punish those who don't. The Light Empire's desire for conquest was the reason behind the battle you saw in the vision. Garen, the leader of the light wizards, wished to destroy the dark sorcerers and gain control of the continent, Hurin tried to end the battle, to bring peace back to the world, but the one thing the armies had in common was that they refused to back down. The Dark army's moto was simply 'kill all in the way!' While the light's saying was 'convert or we kill you!'

    "That still doesn't answer why Septum would send us to the crater. What if we had touched one of the dark stones instead?"

    Nico was scared. He wanted to find a hole in the cat's story, to find something, anything, to keep his reality intact. There had to be some inconsistency that would prove Loki wrong, some loophole to escape the terrible revelations.

    "People are drawn to one stone or the other by their own nature. Septum assumed that you would all choose the light stones, after all the preachings and sermons you grew up with, you would of course chosen the 'righteous' path."

    "I can't believe this!" Nico shouted at the top of his lungs. "This isn't possible! Septum is a good man! Darkness is evil! You're obviously some evil creature, trying to trick me!"

    "If i was truly evil, wouldn't I have killed you already?" said Loki calmly. "Look inside yourself if you don't believe me. You know i don't wish any harm upon you."

    Nico looked into Loki's round, yellow eyes. The coal-black cat's luminous globes never wavered, no malicious intent in his gaze. Nico realized that what Loki was saying made sense, there was a reason behind everything he had told him, nobody could construct a story such as this without any holes in it. But the truth was too hard to comprehend, everything he'd ever known couldn't be a lie! How could he deal with such a revelation?

    Nico was broken out of his swirling thoughts by the sound of Loki's voice.

    "Ah, I almost forgot, to answer your last question, the question of where we are. To put it bluntly, we are in the catacombs beneath the area you know known as 'The Crater of Mephestis.'

    ~End Chapter 8~