A slightly muffled chime rings in my ears, awakening me from my slumber. My eyes snap open to meet the kingdom of Cinedime smiling at me from afar. I am surrounded by a vast starscape filled with little twinkles floating along as wisps in this sea of black. These are my brethren. Bound by an eternal duty, we are brought to the sky to rest as stars after an untimely death. When our time comes, we are released from the sky, destined to fall back to the planet.
It’s my time now.
A tranquil blue light envelops my body as I plummet toward the surface at full speed. The clouds fade to reveal the tainted beauty of Cinedime before my eyes. The withered trees, the rivers, the rolling hills, and the nearly set sun to the west. A sealed grave awaits me after passing through a thick layer of leaves and branches.
It doesn’t take long until I climb out of the grave, only now it lies as a crater. I take a few breaths and run my hand through my auburn hair. My forearm still has the same marking. Drawn in the same blue color as my Auryn, my emblem forms a shape depicting a sword piercing cleanly through the full moon.
This is the mark of the Netherbane, rulers of Cinedime. And now, I hold the title of King Triton, Flamekeeper.
I stroll out of the woods and find a trail cutting toward the east. Climbing hills and kicking rocks beneath my boots, my eyes dart, searching for signs of life. Then, when I look toward the sky and notice the moon shines brightly, I let off a slight grin. The moon comforts me just like it did when I was a child. It’s always guiding me toward a bright future.
Even now, she proves to be my beacon again. The moon hovers over the outskirts of a small village, and I enter without care. Most would be asleep at this time of night, but perhaps one could spare me a warm meal.
Alas, the hope in my heart fades as soon as I enter the drab, empty village. An assortment of shoddy wooden buildings surrounds me, with a sign standing nearby displaying the word 'SALSBURY' sloppily written in black paint. There are no civilians, no livestock, not even the sounds of any mechanisms working. There’s a mill built by a small stream, with its giant wheel turning slowly from the flowing water, but nobody is gathering flour. Over a small bridge arching over the stream is a wooden chapel, and seeing the majestic building brings a smile to my face. This village has Vim! I can hardly wait to taste that sweet nectar once again.
Vim is life. Though it burns like an average fire, this holy light represents purity, righteousness, and brilliance. My people worshiped this great flame for centuries, and I’ve been taught how to harvest it. Chapels scattered around my kingdom were safe havens where Vim was honored.
That was a long time ago. Perhaps times are different now.
But then, I feel a pulse in my chest. I know this feeling. The moon’s watchful eye tells me something hostile has set its sights on me. Soon, they appear almost instantly from the ground, inside the houses, and around every other dark crevice. Globs of darkness, almost shaped like humans. I know those foul red eyes anywhere.
These are the Fiends- pure darkness, only existing to kill and extinguish light—the light within me.
I’m no match for them in this state. I dive through an open window and press myself against the wall. I hope they’ll leave soon.
"Are you okay? Did they hurt you?"
A gentle prayer echoes through my head, like wind coursing through a cave. My people could communicate with our thoughts, a shared connection between us. However, she sounds young and innocent.
“Hello? Who are you?”
"My name’s Ameline."
"Ameline. That's a nice name. My name is Triton."
"Are you here to save me? Grandpa said he was going to go get help, but that was a few days ago."
"No, your grandpa didn't send me, but I'll help you get out of here. Stay where you are, then I'll come and find you. Okay?"
"O-Okay. I'm at the chapel, up on the roof."
When I peer out the window, amid the sea of squirming dark spirits, I can see the girl resting haphazardly up on the roof of the chapel. Her long blue hair covers most of her body. Seeing her alone makes me move quickly between covers. If I’m quiet and careful, the Fiends will wander past me. When they notice me, just as I’m in front of the chapel, I run for it.
Shutting the doors behind me, I see the chapel in shambles with wood every which way. But I sigh when I spot the Celestial Well standing near the back wall, ideally in the center of a small pedestal. These ancient crevices spare no water; instead, they act as pathways to springs of Vim buried beneath the earth. They were prayed to and given offerings to burn in my day, and for us Netherbane, the Celestial Wells provide our legendary power.
Focusing on the center of my palm, I envision a tiny ball swirling in my hand. Soon, little blue embers start to form, and my Auryn appears cradled in my fingers. Then, just as I remember, my Auryn glows a tranquil blue. Its glow represents the power within my soul, however small the orb may be. After I drop the Auryn into the crevice, the Celestial Well instantly begins to thrive, with tiny blue flames creeping up to its top.
And now, I must recite an ancient prayer to the mystical fire.
O great flame that burns so bright
Bless me to carry thine light
For as I vow to remain pure
I serve thy grace forevermore
A rush of heat courses through my body. His Auryn has been rekindled and is now burning within my chest again.
But then, a man appears from a shadowy corner and growled much like a Fiend himself. His eyes are red and senseless, just like theirs. But he wore the traditional monastic robes to symbolize his affiliation with the Ring of Fire, the group of great Heralds that ruled chapels such as this like kings. This Herald, however, has been taken by one of those dreadful Fiends.
He has become a Shadowheart. Devoid of their human souls and now replaced with the will of the Fiend, these men and women have challenged the Netherbane for centuries. I’ve fought only some in my younger days, but that was when they scarcely showed themselves.
But now I fear the worst. Even a good Herald can be made into one of them.