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Old March 21st, 2009 (9:33 AM). Edited March 27th, 2009 by RaikouRider243.
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Until I get this story caught up with the other forums, I will be updating very quickly....probably around two to three times a week.

*Cross-posted from...about four other forums*


Yes, this is fanfic, and yes, this is based on WOTC's latest world for Magic the Gathering. I became so fascinated with Alara when it came out that I made interpretations and extenuations, using the likely circumstances as a base. After the release of Conflux, I have discovered that there are inconsistencies between my history of Alara and the story to be told, and what Wizards actually created. I try to follow canon as much as possible, but do not point out things that aren't canonical. Bear with me.

Magic the Gathering, Alara, its five shards, and all related characters and indicia are copyright 1993-2009 Wizards of the Coast. I do not claim these items.

Chapter 1-1: Bantian War
Chapter 1-2: War Briefing

The Mending of Alara

PROLOGUE: The History of Alara

Far away from Dominaria was a fertile and peaceful world that went by the name of Alara. Rich in mana and natural resources, many considered the land to be a utopia. Vast plains, forests, and oceans covered the plane; there was no sign of anything resembling wasteland. That world died out centuries ago, as a massive magical explosion shattered the plane into five distinct sub-planes, cut off from each other. In the process of being cut off from each other, they were also cut off from two types of mana, and thus, cut off from any magic requiring the missing types of mana. Alara had become five separate worlds: Bant, Naya, Jund, Grixis, and Esper.

Bant, being cut off from black and red magic, was a political and natural utopia. Though there was warfare, it was mainly civil, and battles were often settled by throwing their best men at each other in one-on-one arena combat. Angels flew overhead, glorified in the light reflected off of the many sigils the knights carried, as well as their flashy armor that only protected them from frontal and side attacks. After all, who would employ such a dirty tactic like striking from behind?

With its lush plains, deep jungles, and rolling hills, Naya was a land of paradise at first glance. But first impressions can be deceiving: colossal beasts known as Gargantuans roam the land, crushing trees and buildings in their wake. Most beings would fear them. Instead, the elves revered them as gods, even worshipping them. The leonin, the cat warriors of Naya, pretty much ignored them. The humans revered the beasts to a lesser extent, but they have also harnessed the power of some of the lesser Gargantuans. As such, there is dissent between elvish tribes and human settlements due to humans using these beasts for their own benefit.

Jund was a land of survival, cut off from white and blue magic. If Naya was the gentle side of nature, Jund was the savage side. There was no such thing as the long-term here; humans rarely lived longer than thirty-five years. Alliances were short-lived, and were kept between parties only when necessary for survival. After that, the parties were likely never to see each other again. Jund was tectonically unstable; the land was flooded with volcanic activity, and thus, its populations were very nomadic. Additionally, dragon attacks forced settlements to move to a safer location. Jund was a land where survival of the fittest was the law of the land, and humans weren't the fittest; in fact, they were two steps below the top of the food chain. The viashino, the lizard-people, were above humans, and dragons were above them.

As hard as it is to believe, Grixis was far worse off than Jund for life. Being cut off from both green and white magic, the magic of vim and vigor, the place was a dark wasteland covered in thunderclouds. A playground for necromancers and undead, life force, called either vitals or vis, was a precious resource, dwindling every day. About 98% of the population either utilized necromancy or other forms of black magic as a substitute for life, or was undead to begin with. They hunted the other 2% down. The remaining forms of life not only had to avoid this undead army, but also had to cope with the unhealthy environment. Because of the constant cycle of death, the smell of rotting flesh filled the air almost everywhere on the plane. The atmosphere was anything but healthy to breathe. Even after adapting to the environmental conditions, the reality of mortifying creatures hunting one day in and day out would drive any sane person to suicide.

Without red or green magic, the magic of nature, Esper was a technologically advanced world. Nature had been 99% tamed, and many of its remaining forces were controllable. As such, almost of nature's unruly elements were confined to places away from cities. The sky was always starlit and grey, with white grid lines dividing even the clouds. Without nature to interfere, Esper was a world of aesthetic perfection. Back when Alara was one plane instead of five, Palandius, the largest city on Esper, was said to be the most beautiful sight in the world. Every being native to Esper was infused with a magical alloy called Etherium. The degree of infusion was connected to how good of a mage one was. If one was deeply rooted in the arcane, such as a sphinx, large portions of the being's body were infused with the silver-colored metal. If just a beginning mage, the infusion covered just one limb, or even a part of a limb.

Even cut off from two of the five types of magic, each of the five worlds had reached a point of stability. For over a thousand years, the split worlds existed separate from one another, no idea what the others were up to. Shortly after the Sundering of Alara, the five worlds slowly began to drift back toward each other. It took over a thousand years, but the five worlds became one again; this was the event known as the Mending of Alara. Contrary to most what Esperites expected, the reestablishment of Alara's mana bonds was a quiet affair--so quiet that only those deeply rooted in magic or those who lived close to the borders between worlds would know.

Unfortunately, one of those people was Sedris. Shortly after the Sundering, he sold his kingdom and people to archdemons in exchange for becoming a lich. He quickly rose to even greater power, leading Grixis in a spiral of death and destruction. He terrorized the remaining living beings under his dominion, then sucked the vis right out of them when he had his fun. With the supply of vis dwindling, though, he became content to let the forces of chaos lead the people instead. At least he'd get a laugh out of that from time to time.

After the Mending, Sedris had legions of new victims to prey upon. The only others that even knew about it were the sphinxes of Esper, and their people had not seen combat since before the Sundering. The remainder of the world was completely unprepared for the raid. Even if they knew he was coming, Bant had not experienced true war since pre-Sundering times. Nayan elves and humans were preoccupied with Gargantuan affairs, and the denizens of Jund only cared about their immediate survival. If nothing was done, all of Alara would become like Grixis: a desolate, lifeless landscape.

A mere ten days after the Mending, a young knight of Valeron and a young ranger of Eos made a discovery that would change Alara forever. This is their story.
A mere ten days after the Mending, a young knight of Valeron and a young ranger of Eos made a discovery that would change Alara forever.

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Old March 24th, 2009 (6:34 AM).
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CHAPTER 1-1: Bantian War

"Chance of war more likely," Josh, a twenty-year-old knight of Valeron read the headline on the front page of the newspaper after eating a late lunch. "What else is new," he thought. "At least I'm off duty for the day." Ever since he became a Knight of the Reliquary at the young age of fifteen, almost every morning he woke up to updates on the situation between his home country of Valeron and the seafaring country of Jhess. Though Jhess was the smallest of the five Bant nations, covering just a few islands and a small landmass on the west side of the Pristine Strait, they were not to be taken lightly. Though Valeron had a more experienced cavalry, the Jhessian navy was the most powerful in all of Bant; it would take a heroic effort as well as a mistake from a Jhessian admiral to win a naval battle against them.

Normally, Knights of the Reliquary were only drafted from the Inner Three nations of Bant, those nations being Eos, Akrasa, and Topa. Because of the leotau mounts commonly used in those open areas, they could travel Bant quickly in search of the ancient, corrupt civilization that the angels had to fight against before the Sundering took place more than a thousand years ago. Each artifact they discovered was another step closer to understanding what Bant was like before the Sundering. This order of knights was not called into battle as often as the Order of the Skyward Eye, but as Josh discovered when he filtered through the remainder of the mail he had accumulated from being out on a mission the past few days, they were required to serve their time in battle when necessary.

"It's from the military branch of the government of Eos. Probably just another war bulletin." he sighed as he opened the white envelope stamped with a small, golden emblem of a leotau's head in the upper right corner. The same seal was present in the upper-right corner of the letter itself. The letter read as follows, addressed with today's date:

Sir Josh, Knight of the Reliquary:

This is an official summons from the Southwest Castle of Eos.

War has officially broken out between Valeron and Jhess, and you have been chosen by lottery to do battle with the Jhessian forces that have already taken the three largest Valeronian port towns by storm. We are sending a large force to these areas, but due to the gravity of the situation, we cannot be too prepared. At noon tomorrow, there will be a war meeting in the Southwest Castle of Eos. Your presence there will be required.

Do not forget to bring this letter with you, as it will be required to enter the castle.

We look forward to seeing you there.

--Department of International Affairs, Eos

"They just have to interrupt my first day off, don't they?" Josh sighed. "It sure would be nice to have a few uninterrupted vacation days, so I don't have to worry about the war day in and day out. Oh, well. I should get going." Getting back into his armor just hours after taking it off felt like going back out into the hot savannahs less than an hour after being in the cool, Mediterranean climate Valeron experienced. It was reasonably heavy by the standards of any other world, but by Bant's standards, it was light, and thus, less impressive. Most knights of Valeron rode horseback, but because Josh's travels took him into the Inner Three nations, he had gotten special permission to care for and ride a leotau mount within all of Bant.

Josh coming and going from town attracted spectators, as most Valeronians never get the chance to even see the large, lionlike beasts. His leotau was of the Mherva subspecies, and was smaller and physically weaker than other subspecies. In exchange, they were the swiftest mounts in Bant, faster than even the hardiest horses in all of Jhess and Valeron. They could achieve sprinting speeds of sixty miles per hour, and could run at speeds of around forty miles per hour for long distances without tiring. Most leotau ridden into battle were of the Grohm subspecies, which were the grandest of them all. They were the largest and strongest of the leotau, most being over ten feet tall compared to the other subspecies, which were seven to eight feet tall. The final subspecies was the Orasil, preferred by Bant mages due to their relatively small size and mysterious ability to aid in spellcasting. Upon reaching the north end of town, where his feline mount was stationed, he climbed onto its back and sped north to the castle.


The sun was low in the sky by the time the young knight reached the castle. This was one of only three of Bant's castles to be standalone, not surrounded by a metropolitan area. He stationed his leotau outside the castle, where rangers would guide it to a fenced-off portion of meadow on the backside of the premises. He waved to his leotau before showing the guards his letter of summons, which was his key to entering the castle. Even for someone who enters Bant's castles regularly, the beauty of the decor was hard to ignore. Statues of Eos' most successful knights, rangers, and other important figures lined the hallway to the throne room. Translucent curtains bearing Eos' golden emblem creating beautiful shadows on the floor or opposite wall, depending on what time of day it was.

A pair of guards in the foyer escorted Josh up two flights of stairs, to the guest rooms on the third floor. The hallways weren't quite as splendid as the one leading to the throne room, but the theme would still captivate any interior designer. "Your room is 316-B," one of the white-armored men said to Josh, tossing him a key. "Have a good evening, Sir Josh."

Even the guest rooms fit the castle's gold-and-white theme. It featured everything a first-class inn would offer: a comfortable bed, a table and a couple of chairs, and various other furniture. There was even a deck of playing cards and a chess set. "I see they still treat guests first class," he thought. "And at least I'm covered for food tonight."

As the sky began to turn red, Josh heard a knock from the door on the side of his room. He slowly walked toward the door and opened it. On the other side was a short young man dressed in casual, green clothing. "So you're my roommate, huh?" he greeted the nineteen-year-old.

"More like a war buddy," he replied in a sour tone. "We should get to know each other. I'm Eron, a ranger and beastmaster of Eos. I don't know why I received a summons...I've only been training animals for less than a year."

"I am Josh, a Knight of the Reliquary--"

"Then why the hell would they want you if your purpose is to explore Bant's history? Don't they have enough troops from the other Knighthoods?"

"Apparently not, because I'm not the only one here from the Fifth Knighthood of Valeron. They brought at least two other guys from there. Is Valeron that desperate to maintain control of the ports on the southwest coastline? They're fully aware that the Jhessian navy is beyond what we can deal with. They're just throwing lives away to a hopeless cause."

"The king would have my head if he heard this, but I agree with you. A life saved is better than an honorable death."

"It's more complicated than that. Though the Valeronian cavalry is far superior to theirs, we cannot overcome their navy. We could stop the war if we just surrendered the ports to Jhess. That would give the country a monopoly over sea trade, but it would put us at a stalemate with their army, and thus, the treaty table looks much more appealing to both sides. It would be a big financial hit to Valeron, but it's better than throwing away dozens of lives day after day. If higher taxes is the price to pay for saving lives, I wouldn't mind."

"Many higher-ups in both our government and the Valeronian government agree with us, but our kings still feel that conceding all her ports to Jhess is unacceptable. At least not without a fight."

"Would you like to continue this discussion over a game of chess?" Josh offered.

"It'll at least pass the time until dinner's ready," Eron replied.

"I'll change out of my armor and be right with you." Josh closed the door between his room and Eron's, then took off his armor, piece by piece. When he opened the door again, he was wearing a blue and white long-sleeved outfit.

"You wear long sleeves this time of year?" Eron asked. "It's still almost eighty degrees out!"

"It's even worse wearing armor in that kind of weather," Josh replied. "If I don't wear long sleeves, I'll burn my skin off. Metal is a good conductor of heat, remember?" The two sat down at the wooden table in Eron's room and opened the box containing the chess set. "So it's one of those special edition ones. Valeronian cavalry versus Jhessian navy, green and blue pieces. Go figure. Take your pick--I don't care which side I'm on."

"The heaviest armor I normally wear is chain mail, but I'm aware that metal conducts heat well," the young ranger said as he began setting up the game, Josh in command of the blue pieces. "It's one of the first things they teach you about armor."

Abuot halfway through the game, one of the king's servants notified Josh and Eron that dinner was ready. After taking all the potatoes, meat, and bread they wanted, the two of them took their disposable plates full of food back to their rooms and continued their chess game. By the time they finished eating, it was already nightfall. "Check," Eron announced.

"It's mate in two moves," Josh conceded. "You win. You're a competent player!"

"Thanks," Eron replied. "That was a fine game. Well, we need to be sure to be up early tomorrow, so we make it to the meeting on time. The Knight-Captain of the Second Knighthood of Valeron will have our heads if we're late."

"You sure use that expression a lot," Josh yawned.

"Force of habit. Anyway, night." Eron closed the door behind Josh. The two tucked themselves underneath the sheets in their beds, and drifted off to sleep. As Eron had said multiple times, tomorrow was going to be a big day.

A mere ten days after the Mending, a young knight of Valeron and a young ranger of Eos made a discovery that would change Alara forever.

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Old March 27th, 2009 (8:40 PM).
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CHAPTER 1-2: War Briefing

Music Track: Majestic Kingdom //Dennis Martin
Album: The Legend of Dragoon OST

The next morning, the sunrise shined through the curtains as a gold and white shadow on each bed on the east side of the castle. What a way to wake its guests up for early meetings. "How clever," Josh yawned, as he had never been assigned a room on the east side. "They put the windows at exactly the angle needed to shine the morning sun right in your eyes. What a way to wake your soldiers up. Well, time to get ready for the meeting." Knowing the castle servants would make the bed and do what little cleaning up there needed to be done, he got into his rounded suit of armor, then walked to the door leading to Eron's room. When he turned the doorknob, he encountered resistance. "The hell's going on here?" He turned harder on the knob, overcoming the resistance force, only to encounter another resistance once he actually started pulling. After a few seconds, the door flew toward his face, and he found himself on the ground, Eron on top of him.

"Good morning, Josh!" Eron greeted him.

"What a way to greet your friend at 8:30 in the morning," Josh jeered back. Both of them laughed on the ground.

"I guess that door swings both ways!"

"I figured that when it came back and hit me in the head! That hurt! Now, would you please get off of me? We're going to be late if we dawdle any longer!"

Eron rolled sideways to get off of Josh, then the two of them stood up. Finally. "When we leave, what do we do with our keys?"

"When the people responsible for maintaining the guest rooms come, they'll take them. Just leave them in a place they can easily find them. I question the system myself, but I trust it."

"Alright. I'll see you in a little bit. Meet me in the hallway outside our rooms, and we'll walk to the meeting place together. I've been there before; I know the way."


Five minutes later, Eron came out of his room, wearing tightly woven chain mail over his clothes. On his back was a mid-range bow and quiver full of arrows. He carried a very short sword for close combat, but was obviously equipped for long-range fighting. "Alright, let's go." The ranger led the way downstairs, all the way to the second lower level. The only thing beneath this place was the dungeon.

"I wonder why they would ask us to meet way down here?" Josh asked his new friend.

"It's an old legend. Supposedly, Bant wasn't all there was to the world. There used to be a deep jungle to the south of Valeron, and a giant mountain range to the east. And to the east of that was a landscape much like the one here, but perhaps even more fertile than the land here."

"I've heard that legend from Valeronian royalty before. But it's a hard legend to believe. I've been all over Bant before. There is a highland in eastern Akrasa, but there's no mountain...just a plateau. Likewise with Valeron; the southern coast is nothing but beaches. There are forests, but only dense in patches. And about this other land, the only thing to the west of us is the island nation of Jhess. If you were to sail west of that island, you'd just hit Akrasa."

"This legend's been around for over a thousand years, most of its details public. A story that sticks around for that long has to have some merit to it."

"The Knights of the Reliquary have been trying to make sense out of the myths and legends of Bant. We've found evidence to suggest the world was like this, but it doesn't make sense geographically. We've found skeletons of gigantic beasts not native to Bant in the southern portions of Valeron's forests. We're talking huge--bigger than even the biggest leotau you've ever seen. Also the cliffs on the east end of Akrasa are huge. In the context of the legend, this all makes sense. But geographically and historically, this makes no sense whatsoever. It's a mystery we've been trying to solve for eight hundred years. Anyway, what does this have to do with the original question I asked?"

"Well, the legend suggests that there were spellcasters that not only cast defensive and healing magic, but destructive magic as well. Destructive magic capable of blowing buildings to bits and killing dozens of people in an instant. Thankfully, that magic died out a thousand years ago. That is the reason why everyone on Bant knows defensive or healing magic to a degree. The reasoning behind the meeting place being so far underground is back then, this offensive magic could even tear into the ground. This room is far enough underground that it would take a massive amount of mana to pierce this place. Even if such an amount of mana were generated, it would take enough time to gather it all that we could warn our troops and respond to the source of the mana buildup."

"So this was an old war room?" Josh asked Eron, the two of them arriving at a large room lit by a couple dozen torches.

"Still is. The fact that it's so far underground is a reminder of our past." Several knights, clerics, and squires had already assembled at the large, round, white table with the golden leotau symbol in the center. Even an angel was in attendance, her dozens of sigils circling around her forehead. The small golden circular objects reflected the torches' light, illuminating the area around her. She wore a white robe that made her further stick out in the dimly-lit room. Within the next few minutes, the seats at the table began to fill up. The last to arrive were the commanding officers: Cory, knight-captain of the Sixth Knighthood of Eos; Rose, knight-captain of the Eighth Knighthood of Eos; and Samuel, knight-captain of the Third Knighthood of Valeron. They were tall officers, and they beared at least a dozen sigils each on their suits of armor.

Music Track: Uneasy State //Dennis Martin
Album: The Legend of Dragoon OST

When the commanding officers arrived at 9:00 in the morning, every other person in attendance, except the angel, stood up and bowed out of respect. "You may sit down," she said after the attendees held their position for three seconds.

"As I am sure most of you know," Samuel started the meeting, "journalists Bant-wide have been reporting that war between Jhess and Valeron is getting 'more likely.' Well, as of yesterday morning, the Jhessian navy has gained complete control over Valeron's ports. If something isn't done about this, the Jhessian government will have a monopoly on sea trade. I've spoken with the Minster of Finance and Foreign Affairs from all four of Bant's continental nations, and they unanimously agreed that this would put a gigantic strain on their countries' financial status."

"With the ports under their control," Rose continued from her colleague's statement, "war is looking more and more like the only option. With all the ports under their control, they won't succumb to anything but force. They don't have anything to win from diplomacy. We've already given up on taking the Jhessian ports; their navy is far superior to ours. If we can at least take back all the ports in Valeron, we may be able to reach an armistice."

Everyone stood up as Cory unveiled a large map of the southwest quadrant of Bant, placing it in the center of the table. He pointed to and drew lines around various spots on the map as he explained their strategy. "According to the Ninth Knighthood of Valeron, which we asked to do some scouting for late yesterday afternoon, the Jhessians have a sizable army. However, they have spread their troops thin in some locations, as marked on the map. The spread is particularly weak here, here, and here," he pointed. "So we're going to play a little trick on them. We're going to approach them head-on, then use our swift cavalry to our advantage and split off in three groups to attack the areas I pointed out."

"Since half of you are knight-captains," Samuel said, "you should bring with you any troops you have in reserve, particularly cavalry. They will be the key to success in this operation. All we need to do is overwhelm them by straining their forces' weak points. As for how we're splitting the groups up, we're just going to deal cards. If you are dealt a green card, you will be in the group attacking the south point. If you are dealt a blue card, you will be in the group attacking the north point. If you are dealt a white card, you will be in the group attacking the central point. There may be changes to the final setup, so don't get comfortable." The knight-captain began dealing out the cards, one for each person at the meeting. There were exactly enough cards so that the number of people in each group was the same.

"Make sure you all look at our maps again, so you know exactly what the plan is," Rose continued as the attendees peeked at their cards. "I cannot stress how important it is to recover these ports. If we lose, we will never have a presence in the seas again. We leave the castle at eleven this morning. Do not be late." Samuel collected all of the cards from everyone and put them back in their box.

Music Track: Majestic Kingdom //Dennis Martin
Album: The Legend of Dragoon OST

"So, what group are you in?" Eron asked Josh after most of the people had left the room.

"White, attacking central," he answered.

"Same. Looks like we will be buddies after all," Eron smiled. "I look forward to this."

"How good are you at mounted archery, Eron?"

"I'm a good shot, but I've never fired arrows from a leotau's back before. Never had the chance because they're always reserved for armored knights like you. I have fired arrows horseback before, and I'm still a good shot, thanks to the Sigil of the Straight Arrow I earned when I was eight years old."

"It's just like that, except because leotau are much faster, you'll have to lead your shots more. Also, holding on can be a bit harder, so your should prioritize keeping yourself balanced over taking a good shot. Anyway, let's get out of here and around back so you can familiarize yourself with my leotau. You'll thank yourself for when we actually go into battle."


Music Track: Troops March On //Nobuo Uematsu
Album: Final Fantasy VI OST

At half past eleven, the three commanding officers from the meeting brought their army to a stop just before the top of a large hill. Beyond that hill was the western coastline of Valeron, and the enemy would be able to see them when they started going downhill. Rose turned her golden-maned leotau around to address her troops. "Our destination is beyond the top of that hill, then half a mile down it. Once we get halfway to our destination, we split off into the three groups as planned. Stay with your group and do not stray unless otherwise instructed. I will give you a visual signal when the time is right. Now, let's go!"

First the infantry, then the cavalry lined up on the top of the hill, advancing row by row in a very organized pattern. From how the troops were arranged, a parade was being run from the top of the hill. After a while, Eron heard the hiss of arrows being fired through the air; the Dawnray Archers had been deployed across the sea to defend the Jhessian claim. He reached back for an arrow and held it in his right hand.

Once they reached the halfway point, Rose fired a burst of magical light into the air. "For Valeron!!" Samuel yelled. At that moment, the infantry fell back, and the many leotau roared seemingly in harmony, causing Eron to flinch.

Music Track: Save Them! //Nobuo Uematsu
Album: Final Fantasy VI OST

"What a battle cry!" the startled archer said to Josh after the echo stopped. The three generals led their troops toward the chinks in the Jhessians' armor, as planned earlier that morning.

"Hold on tight, Eron!" Josh warned his friend. "This is gonna be quick!" The fleet-footed mherva leotau leaped into the air and landed close to Samuel's of the same kind. "Mind if we join you?" the knight asked his superior as the lionlike beasts rushed down the hill at over fifty miles per hour.

"Of course not!" the knight-captain shouted over the thundering hooves of both leotau and horse, blocking out almost every other sound. What a fearsome noise it was. Once the Jhessian cavalry charged to attempt to deter the swift leotau, Eron and the other archers began firing arrows of their own. Most of the enemy's arrows missed or bounced off the charging cat-beasts' armor. A few of them were hit, but not enough to stop the assault. Knights riding grohm leotau ran right over the Jhessian infantry, some of their soldiers crushed under giant hooves. Others took arrows to poorly guarded spots on their bodies, and still others found swords and lances through themselves. Both sides suffered casualties, but the Jhessians lost men faster than the Valeronians.

Music Track: Grand Maester Mika //Nobuo Uematsu
Album: Final Fantasy X OST

When the sound of trumpets faintly filled the air, the sound of horses and cat-beasts gallopping ceased. The sound of clashing steel ceased. Not even the hiss of an arrow could be heard. All that could be heard was the slow footsteps of a single leotau, straight west from Josh's position. Coming up the main street of Valeron's biggest port town was the largest mherva Josh had ever seen. It was the size of the typical grohm, but clearly had a golden mane. Only one knight had a leotau this unique: Rafiq, Knight-Captain of the Reliquary.

Music Track: Face Off //Nobuo Uematsu
Album: Final Fantasy X OST

To the dismay of the Valeronian generals, Rafiq was fighting for Jhess. A veteran knight wielding a greatsword bearing multiple sigils on both sides of its guard, he was the highest-ranked Sigiled-caste in all of Bant. There was no doubt in the minds of anyone that when he died, he would be reincarnated as an angel. He had so many sigils that he had to have them embedded in his armor, footgear, shield, and even his mount's riding gear. He had more sigils than even the average angel; so many, in fact, that he became known as Rafiq of the Many. His last name had been forgotten shortly after that name caught on.

When the bearded knight of about age thirty dismounted, the trumpets ceased. "Welcome, Knight-Captains of Valeron," he said in a low voice.

"You're fighting for Jhess, Rafiq?!" Rose exclaimed in surprise.

"I fight as my sigils require me to. Some days, I am an ally to Jhess; some days, I am an enemy. It's been this way for six years; you should know this by now."

"On a matter this pressing, you've chosen to help the minority in Jhess over the rest of Bant?!"

"Like I said, I fight as my sigils require me to," Rafiq repeated. "I have no choice but to side as I have. Shall we settle this in true Bant tradition? Your best three men against mine."

"As per tradition," Rose sighed. "Choose your fighters wisely."

"Likewise. May the best team win."

A mere ten days after the Mending, a young knight of Valeron and a young ranger of Eos made a discovery that would change Alara forever.

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Old May 2nd, 2009 (8:48 AM).
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CHAPTER 1-3: "The Seaside Arena"

Music Track: Face Off //Nobuo Uematsu
Album: Final Fantasy X OST

Rafiq and Rose led their armies to an amphitheater built close to the west coast of Valeron. Rather than having a mortar arena floor, the structure was built right into the ground; the terrain was grass on end and beach on another. There were even a couple of trees to hide behind on the east end. The entire Jhessian and Valeronian forces began filling the seats in the arena, with the exception of six units. Those units were Rafiq of the Many and two Dawnray Archers by the names of Josephine and Shane, fighting for the Jhessian side. The other three units were Rose, Josh, and Eron, fighting for the Valeronians.

Rafiq and his allies took the west end of the arena, the leader on his feline mount. Josh and Eron rode together, just as before, and Rose decided to forgo her leotau in exchange for being more elusive. Once everyone was assembled, an angel descended from the lone cloud directly above the arena. This angel looked almost exactly like the one that attended the war meeting at the castle. "Your judge," she gestured to herself, "and your timekeepers," she pointed to a pair of wizards in a boxed off section high on the south side of the arena seats, "will act in a fair and unbiased manner. We pray for the safety of all six involved in today's battle for the rights to the ports of Valeron, and we pray that the most skilled side wins."

A magical display of blue, white, and green lights filled the previously blank wall on the north side of the arena. The lights formed patterns akin to an electronic scoreboard that would be seen in a more technologically advanced world. Primitive, but it got the job done. "The round will last seven minutes," the angel continued, "and the team that has accumulated the most points will be declared the winner of the battle. When I jump back into the air, the battle begins." The combatants shot each other their game faces.


Josh had to pull back on his leotau to keep it from sounding a roar of aggression during the countdown.


Rafiq and Rose drew their swords, though one was clearly more intimidating than the other.


The three archers nocked arrows on their bows, ready to fire at a moment's notice.

Music Track: Normal Battle //Nobuo Uematsu
Album: Final Fantasy X OST

"Begin!" The angel took back to the air and started circling the arena, magically relaying information about the battle to the two wizards. The scoreboard updated the timer and totals every fifteen seconds The Jhessian archers grazed a pair of arrows by a weak point in Eron's light armor to land the first blow within seconds of the start of the match. It was like an animal scratch; painful at impact, but largely ignorable after a few seconds since it didn't bleed. With 6:45 left in the match, the board already read Valeron 25, Jhess 140.

The two leotau, commanded by Rafiq and Josh, circled each other, waiting for the other to make the first strike. Eron fired two shots, both harmlessly bouncing off his foe's sturdy helmet. When Josh's mount leaped forward, Rafiq's pushed it off to the side and almost into the north wall after a short period of resistance. This fight pushed it back just enough for Rose to deliver a slash to the beast's right side. Rafiq shrugged the blow off, and with a graceful dismount, dropped his heavy sword right onto his opponent's chestplate. Rafiq faced the Jhessian crowd and raised his blade in triumph while waiting for his enemy to get back up. The Jhessian army cheered when the angel awarded their team a large sum of points for the feat. Rafiq was the highest ranked Sigiled in all of Bant, and the Valeronian troops were discovering the reason why.

Though Rose's team was trailing by nearly two hundred points, there was still a little over five minutes in the round. Arrows continued to fly, most of them either bouncing harmlessly off the arena walls or off chest pieces. Eron was a quick shot, able to keep both of the other archers on their toes. No matter how rapidly he could fire, though, two opposing foes still had more brain power than he did. Josh heard the sound of Eron's groan above the clinging of blades. It was just as he feared; one of Shane's arrows nicked Eron in his left leg, bringing him to his knees. "Josh! Cover for me!" Eron continued groaning.

Despite wearing armor, Josh could still feel the power behind every arrow he blocked as Eron groaned pulling the shot out of his leg. "O Healing Power," his wounded friend began reciting, "soothe this wounded creature! Life Burst!" Eron's leg glowed with a white, refreshing light, and the wound began closing at a visible rate. Peeking at the scoreboard, the two of them knew they had to take action. It was all or nothing now. Once Eron was able to stand and fight again, Josh joined Rose in the fight against Rafiq.

The most powerful knight in all of Bant was easily capable of taking on both of them at once, but it at least made the fight fair. The fighters traded blows back and forth until the Valeronian allies landed a combination attack, Rafiq dropping to one knee for a second. When he stood back up, a faint green light flashed; this was the warning that there was only a short amount of time left in the round. The Jhessians were letting their lead slip away, but all they needed to do was hold on to a 1,060 to 925 lead and they were home free.

"Hold back! Utilize evasive maneuvers!" Rafiq shouted to his comrades. Listening to his wise words, the archers' eyes shifted around, keeping close tabs on all three foes. The way Rose's troops were rallying back, a single blow could make the difference between victory and defeat. Rafiq continued to parry blow after blow, trying to hold out long enough against two fighters. The ferocity of the blows increased as the seconds wound down. When the last second ticked away, all six fighters found themselves on their knees, catching their breath from the intense battle. Once the timekeepers made the final update to the scoreboard, the angel descended back to the ground and announced the winner: the Jhessian forces, by a score of 1,635 to 1,520. Rafiq's army cheered, crowding around him and jumping up and down. The Valeronian clerics and Eron pitched in to clean up the mess from the battle before heading back to the Southwest Castle, their heads hanging down in defeat and disgust.


Music Track: Majestic Kingdom //Dennis Martin
Album: The Legend of Dragoon OST

"So how did it go?" the king of the castle asked the three commanding officers of the battle that afternoon. They had brought Josh and Eron, the two combatants they selected, as well. "Were you able to drive them back?"

"Sadly, no," Rose answered. "The margin of victory was small, but we still lost. The Jhessian navy now has complete control of the seas of Bant. On the bright side, we were able to stop them from advancing farther east, so the mainland is in no imminent danger."

"How did they manage to get the upper hand? This doesn't make any sense."

"Samuel was the brain behind this operation. It would be better if I had him explain."

The knight-captain of the Third Knighthood stepped forward. "Everything was going perfectly at first. We had the upper hand, having the superior cavalry and the higher ground. Then the Jhessian commander threw us a curve no one could possibly have expected: said commander was Rafiq of the Many. He brought a small amount of troops with him, but they completely changed the course of the battle."

"And you let the pressure get to your head during the final showdown, didn't you?" the king asked the Valeronian, his tone not a happy one.

"I believe I made an error in selecting Josh as one of our three fighters. While Rose was fighting Rafiq one-on-one, he was back there covering for Eron while he was pulling an arrow out of his leg. He should have been helping Rose."

"But what would you have done in that situation?" Josh interjected. "He could have bled to death if I didn't cover for him!"

"There was plenty of time to tend to his wounds after the battle. He would have survived either way. He may have been put out of commission for a while if you had waited, but he'd have come back to fight another day."

"I figured the only way we were able to defeat Rafiq was at full strength. I had to make sure he was alright before assisting Rose, and that's exactly what I did. Once I made sure he was able to stand, I left him to cover for both of us. It's what any friend would have done."

"Perhaps there's been a communication mistake, then. I believe I said before the battle that if someone falls, it's their own responsibility to get back up. Did I not say that?"

"That was before we knew that Rafiq was involved! We had to fight him at full strength or we'd lose for sure!"

"If you're going to argue with me about this, leave the Knighthood! You can disagree with me all you want once I hear your statement of resignation."

The two continued yelling back and forth until the king interrupted their childish behavior. "Stop it, both of you! Now explain what happened out there."

"Go ahead, Commander," Josh offered.

"I'll be direct for a change," Samuel began explaining. "We lost, and the Jhessians now have full control of the seas. And from what I could tell, Josh here contributed the least out of the three of us. And not just by a little, but by a large margin."

"And you would knowingly watch one of your own comrades bleed to death before your own eyes in exchange for--"

"He has a point," the king interrupted. "Life is precious whether it's one or many. However, I believe all four of you were at fault. Some more than others, but all of you could have done something more to prevent this outcome. Rose, who did you select to fight against Rafiq and the Jhessian generals?"

"Josh, myself, and Eron, a ranger, who is not present right now," she answered.

"You knew how critical the mission was, so why did you choose less than your best troops?"

"To keep them off guard. The Jhessians had never seen those two people fight before, so they would have no idea how to react. But in retrospect, I should have gone for a more reliable plan, though it was more predictable. I made a wrong choice."

"I see." The monarch's eyes shifted toward Josh. "What could you have done better?"

"I've already said everything I'm going to say on the matter," the knight replied. "I'm not going to repeat myself again."

"I see. I've heard plenty from the four of you, and something's going to have to be done. Samuel, you will be relieved of your position as Knight-Captain of the Third Knighthood of Valeron, effective tomorrow."

Music Track: Despair //Dennis Martin
Album: The Legend of Dragoon OST

"You're kidding, right?" the disgruntled commanding officer replied. "You can't possibly fire me! Who would replace me?"

"There are plenty of other knights capable of leadership of the Third Knighthood. They'll find someone."

Samuel's blood boiled at the king's answer. "It's not fair that I am punished for Josh's mistake! This may be the last decision I make as a knight-captain, but it's one I won't regret. Effective immediately, Josh, I'm removing you from the Third Knighthood of Valeron."

The only Knight of the Reliquary in that organization, Josh was in complete shock. Was this an act of revenge? Or was Samuel acting in a matter of uncontrollable frustration? Probably a bit of both, he thought. Just as Samuel was about to storm out the door, Eron barged through it out of nowhere. "That's not fair to Josh! He thought of his friends before himself!" he started shouting. "He hasn't done a thing wrong!"

"It's beyond my power," the king groaned. "He is still technically the head of the Knighthood until tomorrow's sunrise, and he still has all the power that position entitles. I wish I could do something, but I can't."

"If you're expelling him from the Knighthood, you're going to have to sacrifice me, too!" Eron boldly shouted.

"You're willing to sacrifice your position as a ranger for someone you've only known for a single battle?" Cory asked, just as shocked as everyone else in the room.

"As long as I've been a part of the service, I have never seen anyone step in front of me, to guard me while I was down. They just left me to try to recuperate on my own, amid all the enemy fire. Josh, on the other hand, risked his life to save my own. I've never known anyone willing to do that. I can't repay him by just abandoning him. Josh, you and I are going to see this through together to the end...no matter what anyone tries." The ranger paused for a second, taking a deep breath. "Cory, Rose...I'm resigning, effective immediately. I'm leaving the Sixth and Ninth Knighthoods to you."

"It pains me to hear that," Rose replied, shedding a tear, "but I wish you luck...whatever path you choose to follow. I hope we see each other again."

A mere ten days after the Mending, a young knight of Valeron and a young ranger of Eos made a discovery that would change Alara forever.

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