Pride and the Fall: The Tale of Von Leon

Five people sit in comfortable leather chairs arranged in a semi-circle. The youngest examines an ancient piece of frayed cloth. “What is it?” he asks them. His clothing marks him as a Thunder Breaker.

The Night Walker among them raises his voice. “It’s a Cygnus Knight crest torn from a tabard. It was found many centuries ago atop the body of Ifnia, Queen of El Nath.”

The Thunder Breaker laughs. “There is no kingdom in El Nath,” he says.

The Blaze Wizard replies, “The story is that El Nath was supposedly the home of the Red Lion King, Von Leon. He was the first ruler to pledge himself to the Black Mage, and he launched an attack on the rest of Maple World. The Cygnus Knights fought back and eventually pushed him back to his kingdom. Rather than surrender, he cast a spell that supposedly killed every citizen of El Nath, turning them into ghosts and animal demons, and hid the kingdom away forever.”

The Wind Archer shakes her head. “That’s not quite true though,” she says. “The Red Lion King did pledge himself to the service of the Black Mage, but not until after we had invaded his kingdom first.”

“What?” the Thunder Breaker asks. “How can that be?”

The largest among them speaks up. “Because we were fools!” the Dawn Warrior grunts. “We had reports that the Red Lion King had joined the Black Mage. We thought that if we could only wipe out El Nath, we could stop the cult of the Black Mage in its tracks. We entered El Nath with overwhelming force in the hope we could get the Red Lion King to surrender with as little loss of life as possible…” he trails off.

“What happened?” the Thunder Breaker asks quietly.

The Wind Archer picks up the story. “On the night we marched into El Nath, Queen Ifnia was murdered and that piece of cloth was found on her body. Von Leon was convinced we were behind his wife’s murder.”

“Surely we were not responsible,” the Thunder Breaker asks.

“Of course not!” the Dawn Warrior replies. “But we invaded on the night his wife is killed! We shouldn’t have been there at all! Von Leon was a good man. El Nath was a peaceful kingdom. After his wife’s death, he became crazed for revenge. We ended up giving the Black Mage exactly what he wanted because we were blinded by dreams of glory!”

“A martyr,” the Thunder Breaker says.

“Exactly,” the Blaze Wizard says. “Even in his grief and rage, Von Leon still didn’t want to bow to the Black Mage. When we pushed him back to his castle though, he felt he no longer had a choice. He pledged himself to the Black Mage in exchange for a chance at vengeance against us.”

The Night Walker continues the story. “The pledge changed the people of El Nath. Those still alive mutated, changed into animal demons. The dead of El Nath arose in horrible new forms. They drove us out of El Nath and the Red Lion King became the Black Mage’s most loyal retainer. Meanwhile, the Black Mage used the tale of the slaughter to bring others to his cause. In a sense, we created our own worst enemies.”

“When the Black Mage was finally defeated,” the Blaze Wizard says, “the Red Lion King retreated to his castle and declared that when his Master returned, so would he. Since then, the peak of El Nath has been shrouded in clouds and no one who has gone there has ever returned.”

“Why are you telling me this?” The Thunder Breaker asks, though he fears he already knows the answer.

The Blaze Wizard clenches her fist and it begins to glow. “Because the Seal has been broken. The Black Mage is returning and with him the Red Lion King. We must defeat our greatest enemy and reclaim our honor.”

The Thunder Breaker says nothing. For the first time since he became a Cygnus Knight, he no longer feels like a hero.

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