Little Richard slept for seven days straight, only opening his eyes when the sun shone into his room on the seventh.
The first thing he did when he woke up was to run out of his room and look for his mother. Finding her in the study, he threw himself at her immediately, exclaiming, “Mother! Guess what I got from the Moon Goddess’ shrine?”
Elena turned around and caressed his head gently, “Let me guess… My Richard always wanted to be a mage. Did you get the blessing of elemental compatibility?”
However, the woman who’d turned around to face Richard was someone he’d never met before. He was dazed for a bit, but he still had his own way of recognising people. He sniffed around for a bit, smelling a familiar scent, “Are you… my mother?”
“My dear Richard, this is Mother’s real form. Am I pretty?” Elena cooed with a smile.
Richard nodded his head, “Mother is the prettiest!”
Elena, or rather Elaine, had always been the prettiest, most beautiful woman in Richard’s little heart. But now that his mother had revealed her true form, the beauty of the silvermoon elves that was on par with their magic had revealed itself.
Children were an impatient lot, and Richard didn’t have the restraint to let his mother continue guessing. “I got wisdom and truth!”
“Truth?” Elena was shocked. She knew about the blessing of wisdom, but she’d never heard of a blessing of truth before.
Richard furrowed his brows, trying to explain with his newfound wisdom, “Truth is… Hmm, the blessing of truth is something that lets me see the powers of the world more clearly. It isn’t very useful right now, but it can be enhanced in the future and let me look farther, listening more clearly.”
Elena hummed in response, her hand on Richard’s shoulder as she told him to cherish his newfound abilities. She also spent an entire hour, at least in Richard’s view, nagging at him not to forget her teachings either. He made a funny face in response to his mother’s unending speech; he was a smart boy with an excellent memory in the first place, and with his blessing of wisdom he wouldn’t need to listen to the same thing twice.
Elena finally stopped once she realised she’d been going on too long, “My Richard, do you want to see Father?”
Richard furrowed his brows again, thinking hard for an answer that wouldn’t come. Elena ended up interrupting him before he came to a decision, “You’ll be able to see him very soon. He sent some people to pick you up, they’re on their way now. Now, you better remember to be on your best behaviour, alright?”
“Huh?” This was coming all too fast, and Richard didn’t even have the time to formulate a proper response. He suddenly realised, “What about you? Won’t you be coming as well?”
“No, Mommy is not going.”
“Then I won’t go either!” the child said with resolution.
Elena smiled in response, “No, you have to go. Mother has a wish you need to help fulfil.”
“Don’t worry about that, Mother! I’m already all grown up; tell me what you want, I’ll get it done by hook or by crook!” Richard said with confidence.
Elena’s warm tone completely contrasted the intense gaze she levelled on her son, “When the day comes that you’ve grown to become a real man, I want you to bury me in the highest layer of your father's family tombs.”
The boy nodded his head, albeit a little too enthusiastically. He was still too young to understand what this wish really was, but a mountain youth wouldn’t ever back down…
Mornings in Rooseland were normally calm and quiet, but the serenity of the village was broken by light tremors today. The vibrations increased in scale, eventually shaking even the slowest of the village elders out of their slumber. The villagers peeked out of their houses, looking at the end of the road, feeling cold.
The mountain winds were cold, causing even the bravest of warriors to shiver and tremble. However, the chill they felt today was a different kind, one of the heart that foreboded of something bad to come.
The villagers all gathered at the village entrance as the tremors continued, shaking the mountain to its core. They could see smoke rising in the distance, the trees swaying in a menacing manner as the birds fled their nests, flying straight for the mountains.
A demonic knight suddenly rushed out of the forest on horseback. His black armour was covered in spikes, with a skull on his breastplate. Even his horse was nothing like what they’d seen before, at least half a metre taller than average. It too was adorned with thick, spiky armour, indicating that the spikes weren’t just for defence. Beside the horse were two huge swords, looking like they each weighed over a hundred kilograms. Such power wasn’t something you stood up against.
The battle horse destroyed the gravel path in its wake, sending stones and mud flying all around that left dents everywhere. 20 more followed the first knight, and behind them was an army of warriors, all equipped with shiny magical bows and sophisticated armour. An army like that could easily wipe out Baron Tucker’s castle, but here they were invading their small village.
The villagers paled. The hunters may be brave, but they knew they didn’t stand a chance against these knights. Even the village chief picked up on some signs from the unusually tall horse— his military experience and instincts told him that these knights were very strong.
The knight brought his steed to a halt, its hooves creating yet another dent in the humble path as a gust of fire swept out of its nostrils. The knight scanned across the villagers, expressionless, “Do any of you know where Elena stays?”
The villagers looked at each other, puzzled. There wasn’t a woman named Elena in the village. The blacksmith and village chief seemed to recall something, but they chose to stay mum as well. The knight turned gloomier by the second.
However, Elena emerged from her medicine shop before he could speak, “Did Gaton send you here?”
The knight’s expression changed almost the very moment he looked at Elena. He swiftly got off his battle horse, landing in front of the elf. His helmet was removed as he bowed his head in respect, “I am Mordred, a knight of the Lord. I’m here under his orders, to bring you back.”
Mordred had spiky maroon hair, and even with his head bowed down his aura was no joke. Everyone near the medicine shop trembled in his presence.
Elena’s own dress waved slightly, but she didn’t back away. It felt like she was standing atop a gust of wind as she spoke, “That makes me feel much safer.”
Mordred laughed heartily, “Thank you for your compliment, my Lady.”
Elena grabbed Richard from behind her, putting his small hand in Mordred’s, “This is the one Gaton wants. His name is Richard…… Richard Archeron.”
Mordred looked at the child carefully, before taking Richard’s hands in his, “I am at your service!”
The knight looked up to Elena, “I believe you’ve already packed, my Lady. Let us set off immediately, Lord Gaton must be very anxious to see the two of you!”
“There’s something important I have to take, please wait here.” Elena walked back into the shop, closing the doors. It left Richard alone with the big and mighty Mordred. The child stared right at the knight, and the knight returned the favour. After a while, Mordred burst into laughter for no apparent reason.
However, his smile then froze upon his face.
A sudden burst of flames emerged from the medicine shop, blasting its roof almost ten metres into the sky. Even a powerful knight like him hadn’t noticed when the explosion occurred!
The knight let out a shout, charging into the medicine shop. The walls were like cheese to him, even the raging flames unable to do the slightest bit of harm. Inside he was greeted by the sight of an elegant Elena. He wanted to save her, but was shocked to see that the flames were coming out of her body. Elena had set herself on fire!
She smiled once when she saw Mordred— And then she burnt and disappeared, leaving no traces behind.
Mordred stood up straight, his body still engulfed in flames as that smile was etched into his memories. So beautiful, so elegant… And yet, so complicated.
Richard was hysterical, kicking at the other knights that were stopping him from entering the shop, but his efforts proved futile. The place crumbled down right in front of him, Mordred walking out of its ashes to see a devastated child crying like his life depended on it.
He remained silent for a short while, before saying, “You had a great mother. Let’s go, I’ll bring you to your father.”
The abrupt event stupefied the villagers of Rooseland, as they watched the flames die down in a daze. They didn’t want to believe that the medicine shop that had been there for them these past ten years had been ruined in the blink of an eye.
Mordred stayed behind with the army as the remaining knights got back in formation and escorted Richard out.
He didn’t intend to have Elena buried— she’d been lost entirely to the flames. Only a crazy genius would be able to burn themselves completely, and it gave Mordred a newfound respect for this woman he’d only met once. The corners of his mouth curved into a smile as he looked at the ruins, mumbling to himself, “This woman truly is worthy of my Lord.”
A knight approached Mordred from the side, “What should we do with the villagers here, Sir Mordred?”
He glanced at the folks that gathered round the commotion, caressed his prickly stubble and saying with indifference, “This village has too many grown men, the Lord will not be pleased. Kill everyone!”