Following the picnic that Gisen, the General of the Rune Knights Combat Corps, had organized for the entire Rune Knights cast, Shane had been taken by the sheer tranquility of Peace Village. True to its name, the village was as if a separate entity from the rest of Fiore or other villages where dark mage attacks seemed to be non-existent. Even highway bandits or mountain bandits would keep themselves away from the place, wanting not to waste their time for low returns rather than being afraid of the village. The mages in the villages were also at an all-time low, the only few in here using their magic for more advanced crafts like ceramic ware, pottery or being the local handyman or repairman.
It was the last day of his weekend getaway, having rented a small cottage in the center of the town from a lovely couple and just allowing himself to soak in the cheery and warm atmosphere of the small village despite the coming winter. Today was the day of the Midsummer Solstice, where their weather would take a turn for the colder, heading towards winter where days grew shorter and night approaching earlier. It was a day of celebration in Peace Village, and despite their population, their preparations for the festivals were grand.
It had started the day before and the moment Shane had exited his cottage on the morning of the Midsummer Solstice, the air was abundant with the festive mood. All of the houses had been decorated with gathered herbs and tied to the doors in bunches. When Shane turned around to look at his cottage’s door, he smiled, pleasantly surprised that someone had decorated it as well. The owner of the cottage, a genial old man in his sixties, walked up to him and gave Shane a great big grin as he put his large hand on Shane’s shoulder.
[color:4212=# cc99ff]“You definitely picked the right time to visit, young man,” the old man known as Ham said. Once known as Hammer as the village blacksmith, it had gradually been shortened and stuck as Ham. Not that the man minded. He found it funny and had laughed it off, encouraging it.
“I definitely did, Ham,” the Rune Knight replied, chuckling.
“Wait till it’s night. It gets better,” Ham said again, and then taking his hand off Shane’s shoulder began to walk off. “I’ll leave you to your business. Just make to return to the village square by evening. We are CELEBRATING!”
The man chortled as he walked off, a few other man joining him as he walked down the street, their laughter coming in spades from an unheard joke.
For the longest day of the year, the evening had arrived relatively quickly. A gigantic pile of wood had been placed in the middle of the village square, resembling an obelisk. And it had been lit, Shane watching the fire bursting out of the base of the obelisk to everyone’s cheering and then snaked upwards to the top, which was when the cheering had reached its crescendo. The ones setting up the wood pile had masterfully used some unknown method to force a ‘path’ for the fire as it licked upwards, allowing the flames to rise up in the form of fairies, getting plenty of oohs and aahs from the crowd. And when the flame had finally reached the top of the obelisk, a shower of sparks ensued.
They had attached fireworks to the top of the wooden obelisk, scattering the evening sky in a myriad of fireworks that threw different colored lights on the watching villagers. Shane couldn’t help grinning at the sight, marveling at their work.
And that was when it had all gone to hell.
As if a beacon, the moment the fireworks ended, an orb of light stayed in the sky just above the peak of the burning woodpile. It pulsated and then began growing at an incredible rate. The villagers thought it was part of the show and were silent with anticipation as they continued watching intently. But Shane had a different opinion. The magical energy coming from the expanding orb of light was off the charts, and he had a feeling that his own magical abilities were being suppressed. When the orb of light finally grew large enough to resemble a miniature sun, hovering over the entire village square, it shattered into small dots of lights that floated in the air, like a million fireflies. It was beautiful.
But what caught Shane’s attention wasn’t the small lights, but the company it had brought along.
“Just my luck,” Shane muttered, shaking his head in resignation. “What are the odds…”
Floating in the air, watching the crowd still affixed to the scene, was a large goat-like creature. Shane knew not what it was, but it towered above them, standing at the height of two full grown men. And its expression was not benevolent. Behind the being were two glowing lights taken on human form, light elementals. They hovered in the air, behind the goat-like monster, now obvious to Shane it was the leader. And having gone unnoticed as they walked out from around the burning woodpile, a female and male mage.
Fire seemed to emanate from their bodies itself, yet the two remained unperturbed. Rather, they looked like they were giddy from excitement.
“Kneel down to the Lord of the Hunt, the Horned God, CERNUNNOS!!” the male and female mage shouted at the same time, their voices ringing together in sync. And their Lord, tilted his head backwards and bellowed loudly, the sound covering at least fifty kilometers all around them. The two of them raised up their hands and began shooting streams of fire into the air at random, and for the moment the sky was lit up by the flames, Shane caught sight of the small fairies circling the group of hovering creatures. Panic began to take the crowd, as the villagers began running away back to their homes, screaming and shouting but Cernunnos was having none of that. A barrier of light appeared out of nowhere, fencing all of the villagers in the village square.
“Find bliss in the knowledge that you will all be sacrificed to Lord Cernunnos, the master of light and fire!!” the male mage shouted again before laughing loudly. And that was enough for Shane. When the whole chaos had started, his Requip weapons had already appeared on his body. His twin guns, Huntsman and Knight, appeared together with their holsters around his thighs, and his shield, Patriot, strapped to his back on a harness that ran across his back in an X and secured by one strap on each shoulder.
The Rune Knight pulled out his weapons and began shooting at the two mages, magic bullets approaching them with rapid succession. But before they could even near them, the bullets seemed to hit an invisible barrier, sizzling into nothing while the two mages smirked.
“We have been empowered by our Lord, so ease off with the party tricks,” the female mage remarked and laughed in a pretentious high tone while the male one merely smirked. Cernunnos who had kept his silence while hovering above them, his arms crossed across his massive chest, finally spoke.
“I will give you a chance, human. If you can complete all of the trials I have prepared, maybe you shall find the salvation you seek. However, if you lose, your lives shall be forfeit. To me!” Cernunnos spoke, his voice akin to thunder as it rumbled through the entire village and its surroundings. “It will be a futile attempt, but gather your allies if you will.”
The moment he finished speaking, the God of the Hunt spread his arms open widely, and various objects began to materialize around the village square. As the Rune Knight watched the appearance of the “trials”, the only thought that was running through his mind was: You’ve got to be kidding. But the man remained unfazed. Still holding his guns but lowering them so that they pointed at the ground, the blonde Rune Knight shouted back.
“I’m Captain Stern of the Rune Knights! I will play by your rules, but until then, you won’t touch a single hair on these villagers,” Shane growled in response and began his attack, charging at the two mages.
[Solo WC: 1398 / 7000]
Last edited by Shane Stern on 6th July 2019, 5:44 am; edited 1 time in total