Twenty Years Ago.
“Father,” I asked, “What was your father like?”
My father and I were walking on a private beach outside the Cynd Palace. To our left, the waters of the Grand Diamond Lake periodically crashed against the sands. Our twin moons, Solum and Serenus, looked over us from above, and aside from the crashing waters, the night had been silent until I asked my father that question.
My father, Hector Cynd, paused. “What do you mean?” he asked, turning to his right to look down at me.
I was eight years old back then. Very young. Still learning my way around the elements, still trying to grasp my role in the world and what I would one day have to become. My father’s skin was the color of our moons, his hair as dark as our starless night sky, and his eyes the same blood-red as my own.
For the first time in my life, I read uneasiness in my father’s face. He clearly wasn’t prepared to answer this question.
“Your father.” I said, “Grandfather. He looked like me, didn’t he?”
Hector nodded. “Yes. Dark skin and beautiful white hair. His reign was shorter than either mine or his father’s, but I’m sure he could have been an amazing King had things gone differently. One day I hope to see you be what he could have been.”
I bit my lower lip in consideration. “What happened to him, father? I was reading in the library earlier today, and nobody seems to know what happened in the Fall of Blusk. Do you?”
His face changed again. I didn’t recognize this expression yet, but I would one day realize that the look on my father’s face that night was pain. Guilt.
“I do.” he said, “He was sealed away by the Great Beasts. So he couldn’t hurt anyone else.”
I blinked. “Who did he hurt, father?”
“Me.” he responded, “And many other people. And the creatures who served beneath the Great Beasts. He…after he lost his father, my father changed. He became a man I didn’t recognize.”
I nodded solemnly. I was young back then, yes, but something about my father’s story just made sense, just filled in the blanks in the man who raised me. Who always tried to speak to me gently. Who nearly cried with me the first time he shouted at me, wrapped his arms around me and promised he’d never do it again, that I would always be safe with him.
He wanted to be, for me, what his father wasn’t for him. It all made sense.
My father knelt on one knee to reach my height, looking deep into my eyes.
“I’m sorry, Father.” I apologized, “I didn’t know.”
He wrapped his arms around me gently, and I returned the gesture.
“It’s okay.” he said, “We need to know the stories of those who came before us so we don’t make the same mistakes. When you’re older, you’ll have to make many difficult decisions, and when those times come, you need to be prepared to make the right choices.”
Father leaned back from his hug, and I nodded again. “So by understanding the mistakes of our fathers, I can make the right choices?”
“Yes.” Hector replied, “But you don’t need to worry about all of that now. You’re still young. You should be learning about the world, the elements. The responsibilities of a King aren’t yours yet, and with any luck won’t be for a long time.”
“I understand.” I said, “But…will Grandfather ever come back?”
Hector shook his head. “No. The seal is strong, stronger than either of us, and even if it weren’t it’s somewhere that none of us can find it. My father will never return to terrorize this world again.”
“But what if he did?” I asked, “What would happen?”
Fear. My father’s face couldn’t hide his fear as he responded.
“Then Trine would be brought to its knees, to ruin.”
Season One: Recursion
Episode Seven: Ruin
A few hours after my battle with Michael Lockheart, I woke to discover my wounds were fully-healed and my body rejuvenated.
This didn’t surprise me: Cynd blood is self-regenerating and is capable of healing nearly all wounds. It had been a while since I’d been impaled- or wounded at all in a fight, really- but we Cynds are pretty difficult to actually kill. I would’ve been disabled for much longer if Lockheart had managed to damage my heart or my brain, though, so thank Meiro for that.
What did surprise me was that I wasn’t in a place I recognized at all. Before I even opened my eyes, my Darkness senses activated and indicated to me that I was in a cave behind a pouring waterfall. The cave itself didn’t seem to have any light sources, but the moonlight pierced through the falling water and gave the place a light blue glow.
I was on my back, facing the exit to the cave, my body resting on bundled blankets as a makeshift bed against the moist rock. As I opened my eyes and pushed myself into a sitting position, I found yet another surprise.
A man- a man who had completely evaded by Darkness senses, which is supposed to be impossible- was sitting, cross-legged, at the entrance to the cave. He was wearing tight, white robes and scarlet bandages covered the entirety of his head and face, all except his mouth. He faced me silently, unmoving.
“Who are you?” I asked him, grabbing Celeste off the ground to my right and placing my feet on the floor.
“My name isn’t important.” he responded, “What is important is where you’re headed. Or, more specifically, where Michelle Lockheart is right now.”
“That sounds just wonderful,” I said, “But answer my damn question.”
His lips curled into a smirk as he straightened his back, sighing softly. “I’m just a…concerned citizen, your highness. Don’t you want to know what I know about the fugitive?”
“I highly doubt you know anything the Royal Family doesn-”
“Oh, but I do.” he interrupted, “I do. I know where the Site of Sealing is.”
I paused. No way in Hell.
I watched his body language carefully as he continued, and I stood to my full height, scythe resting in my right hand.
“The Site of Sealing is where the seal that holds Maximilian Cynd II and the rest of the Ancestors is contained. The only people who are supposed to know of its whereabouts are the Great Beasts who sealed them away.” The stranger paused, licked his lips and sneered, ”This information was intentionally kept from the Cynd Royal Family and humanity as a whole to prevent anyone from finding and releasing their forgotten king.”
The stranger said all of this with utmost sincerity. I couldn’t see anything besides his mouth and his body, and my Darkness senses couldn’t detect his presence at all. I briefly wondered if I was simply hallucinating his presence, but something told me this man was very real and very dangerous.
“The Site of Sealing,” he continued, “Is where Michelle Lockheart is headed to now.”
“That’s impossible,” I responded, “She has no way of knowing where it is. My father couldn’t find it, I never found it. No one has.”
The mysterious man leaned back and filled the cave with uproarious laughter. “Oh, but she knows now.” he chuckled, “She certainly does.”
“How do you know that!?” I demanded.
“Because. Vincent Lockheart is alive.” He went still, and his mouth returned to a neutral expression. I got the distinct feeling that he was looking in my direction through his bandages. “Vincent Lockheart has been alive for centuries, of course, but his energy has finally gotten strong enough to reach through the seal and draw others who carry it to him.”
“The Lockhearts.” I sighed, “They all carry a fragment of Vincent’s soul in them. You think Michelle is being drawn to Vincent within his seal?”
“More than that,” the stranger continued, “Vincent is communicating with her. The Site of Sealing, despite its name, is not where the Ancestors were sealed away. Rather, it is where the power source that holds the seal is located. This power source, if destroyed, would break the seal. Michelle found the seal itself a long time ago. Vincent is leading her to the proper Site of Sealing as we speak.”
“I don’t suppose you want to tell me where that is?” I growled.
The sound of cascading water filled the cave as the man in white considered me. “Of course I’ll tell you, your highness. It is within Lamass, the floating islands. It is the power source that holds them afloat.”
I quickly made it to my feet. I grabbed Celeste off of the ground and set my scythe over my shoulder, focusing Dark energy to lock it into place. I moved to exit the cave.
The man in white did not move. He looked up at me and smiled wider than ever.
“You’re going to have to kill her.” he said, not being able to stop the joy from seeping into his voice, “You’re going to have to kill them all. The existence of the Lockheart Family is a threat to the safety of the people of Trine. You know that better than anyone.”
I closed my eyes and sighed. He was right, and I knew it. All currently-living members of the Lockheart Family were in hiding, on the run or in an eternal seal to keep them from ravaging the world.
When I opened my eyes, the man in white was gone, with no sign he had ever been there.
I used my Water manipulation to freeze the waterfall above the entrance to the cave, then my Earth manipulation to create a bridge that would allow me to walk out. Walking across the rock, I stared upward into the night sky, contemplating how I could bring myself to kill the Lockhearts in what was likely to be cold blood.
Trine’s twin moons, Solum and Serenus, looked back down on me. The rest of the sky was blank, devoid of starlight from all except our Sun’s light reflecting off of the twin moons. Trine is a lone planet, orbited by two moons, orbiting a lone star in an otherwise empty universe.
Our world is so small. Small enough that I know wiping out the Lockhearts will make a difference. Small enough that I know killing anyone is going to damage the lives of countless people, much less the eradication of an entire bloodline.
I don’t want to be a killer. This isn’t what I was raised to be. I was born to be a King, to lead my people to prosperity, to help them be happy, to rid the world of trouble where it arises.
I remembered my invigorating, exciting battle with Michael Lockheart.
Neither of us was going to die. I couldn’t do it and I don’t think he could either. I chuckled at that. Well, he did try. Even so…
Does he deserve to die? Does Richter, who has spent his life in service of Trine, deserve to die? Does Michelle deserve to die?
I stared at the empty heavens, silently praying for a response I knew wouldn’t come.
No. Not many people deserve to die. But some people have to, and if I let the Lockhearts run free, and they unseal Vincent and the others…countless lives will be destroyed. Not just theirs.
I exhaled. It’s three lives versus millions. There’s no choice to be made here.
I hardened my heart and began to walk into the night.
I guess that’s just how it has to be.
No time to waste, then.