The Polyglot’s Rune—Chapter 3: That Man
Gazing towards the slowly rising sun, a handsome young man stood on top a watchtower. His pitch-black eyes glinted with an eerie glow, and a wry smile spread across his face.
He laughed to himself, “You old fools! At first you thought you could use the prophecy for your own gains, but now that you’ve attracted the attention of the other kingdoms, you will be torn to pieces!”
The notion elated him. He always wanted to smash them into dust, and now his plans were finally set into motion. It was he who leaked the details of the prophecy, and none of them had an inkling that it was him.
As the direct descendant of the Gnudeer family, he possessed a powerful soul rune. Furthermore, it was the extremely rare oracle rune. He had nothing to be ashamed of, but his accursed father refused to acknowledge the existence of him and his mother.
His mother was a mere servant, but she possessed true innocence and purity. It rivaled that of angels, and her smile could dispel any darkness. The king noticed her as a shining diamond and took her for his.
Later, when she was found pregnant, the king tossed her away because the current queen grew too jealous. Months later, he was born in a back alley and grew up watching his optimistic mother slave away as she foolishly dreamed of the palace. Everyday, she happily told him stories of his father, the so-called righteous king.
One day, coiling black clouds covered the night sky. Lightning streaked down onto the land, roaring in protest as rain poisoned the earth. Others said that it foreshadowed an approaching calamity, but to the child, it was the day his mother died. He was cast into despair, but he vowed to the world that he would have his revenge against the king!
For money, he started using his soul rune for making predictions and telling fortunes. He never revealed how much power his soul rune possessed, but instead craftily altered and dumbed down everything he had foreseen. It was all for the sake of this day.
Within a year he established a name for himself and attracted the attention of a mysterious Runist. He ran errands and did his biddings, but with his help, the boy learned the way of runes and swiftly gained the attention of the nobles.
The aristocrats brought him into the upper echelons, but the boy still harbored a deep hatred within his heart.
With the prodding of the mysterious Runist, he told the Royal Family about a great prophecy revolving around a Divine Rune, one that could forever change the world for better or for worse.
Thinking back on his cunningness, the young man smiled. What he had told them only contained shreds of truth mixed with destructive lies. No one could see through it, and others who possessed oracle runes only added to its validity with their hazy foresights.
“In the end, I will have that power, and I will rule above these four kingdoms! My only sorrow is that you’ll all be dead before you can bow to my glory,” he laughed to himself.
He felt a faint tug at his soul. His face paled.
“NO!” he roared. The images he foresaw of the future started blurring and warping. “Who did it?! Why is the future changing? As long as they listened to my carefully planned instructions, nothing should have changed. Those old fools! What did they do? Or was it that princess? That accursed Princess Emelyn, I told her specifically to follow my instructions perfectly.”
The young man started pulling at his hair until he calmed down. Slowly breathing out, he focused his spiritual energy onto his soul rune and started activating it.
A multitude of images appeared in his mind’s eye, but they were all blurred to the point of complete distortion. A frown flashed across his dashing face, and he cursed beneath his breath. There were too many variables. They made seeing the future impossible; he would need to wait at least a year.
Refusing to give in, he willed his soul rune to run at its max capacity. The haze remained, but a commonality among the scenes solidified. It was the vague outline of a brown haired boy with deep-blue eyes.
Quickly, the young man urged the images to converge. They haphazardly compressed and pieced together the shadows of the boy’s outline. Soon, a solid picture congealed in his mind.
Before him an unconscious boy spasmed and twisted in agony. A dark shadow leaned against him, trying to keep him still. A moment passed, and the boy stopped moving. His breathing returned to normal.
The young man could not concentrate his soul rune any longer, and the scene dissipated into a thousand colors.
“I swear I’ll be the end of you,” the man growled. “Just you wait.”
He grabbed a black stone from within his pocket. Purple lines pulsated on its surface to form a rune. Angrily flicking his wrist, he tossed the stone into the air. The lines expanded five meters outward, obscuring all vision; and with a flash, the man vanished.
“Kaiden,” I heard an enchanting voice whisper into my ear. Followed by incessant shaking, it woke me from a blissful dream of eating homemade apple pie with my family. The tang of blood quickly replaced its sweet, savory taste.
I growled to voice my disdain of the robed figure, but no matter how much I willed, I could not bring myself to feel true disdain. It sunk me into deeper despair.
Curse his soul rune.
“You’re finally awake,” he said in an almost inaudible voice. “Stand up. We need to get out of here.”
We were in a dark forest, crouched behind some bushes. It looked like I was dragged here, and my jeans were unbearably tattered.
I peered upward, spying a beautiful sunrise that contrasted with the gloom of the forest. It took my breath away and made everything else seem so minuscule.
“Aaaaahhhh!” A frantic scream rang out, causing birds to take to the air. With fast reflexes, the egotist laid flat against me and ruthlessly held my mouth shut.
I heard twigs snapping and light whimpers. It sounded like someone was being chased.
“Please, no I–” A loud thump abruptly ended the person’s plea.
“Weak,” another man said. He sounded very close to us. “Is that all these Gnudeerians have? Pathetic.”
The egotist pushed down harder. He tightened his grip over my mouth, and I could feel him slightly tremble.
The man jumped out from behind a tree and landed heavily in front of us, causing dust and dirt to kick up. He wore a brown cloak and tattered boots. His arms were extremely thick, and every movement caused his muscles to ripple. A faint glow accentuated his bulky body and scarred face.
“You two are worse,” he said with a light snort. Three stone runes levitated around him, and as he plucked one from the air, it transformed into a large battle-ax. Blue strands of symbols circled around its handle. I could barely make out some words describing something about clouds.
“Crap,” the egotist said. He pushed against me and hurriedly jumped away from the man. “A rare enchantment ax with the emblem of a wolf…you must be a mercenary from the Appenhund Kingdom.”
“You’re pretty sharp,” the man laughed. He tightened his grip on the battle-ax and slid his right foot back. “Too bad you won’t live long. The one in the strange blood-covered clothes, I’ll be taking you.”
The egotist instinctively reached to his side, gasping when he realized that he had no bag. Compromising, he jumped backwards and started to move his finger to cast a magic rune. His hand danced crazily in the air.
Seeing his reaction, the man could not help but laugh louder. “Completely disarmed, and you still dare to try to fight me? Since I like you, I’ll let you die slowly.” Pushing off the ground, he leaped over me, bridging the large gap between him and the cloaked figure. He widely swung his ax.
The egotist crouched and leaped to the right, dodging the blade. With his free hand, he spread his palm against a tree while completing the magic rune with his right. The incantation flashed with the word “Anchor,” and its strokes slid onto his right wrist like a bracelet. On his left, it appeared as a faint tattoo dancing on his milky-pale skin.
The tattoo fluctuated with what I believed to be magic and caused a thin glow to appear beneath his left palm. It attached itself against the surface of the tree like a spinning disk.
The egotist leaped forward and, using his magic as a way to grip the trunk, swung his body in a half circle around the tree. As he released the magic, he launched a kick at the man.
The mercenary, true to his many experiences, hid his surprise and reacted quickly. He shifted his weight and twisted his body at the waist. His battle-ax, which he originally swung downwards, suddenly arched towards the egotist.
My body jumped from sheer fright, but when the blade touched the boy’s boot, it did not slice him. Instead, a light glowing disk appeared, showing that he had used his rune to anchor against the blade.
Borrowing the force of the man’s swing, the boy released his rune and launched himself towards me. Before landing, he performed a single graceful backflip.
The wind blew his hood onto his shoulders.
I could finally see his face. He looked much younger than I expected; he had delicate features and soft brows. His jaw was neither square nor round while his nose sat perfectly on his face. Accentuating his pale skin, his oddly purple-black hair framed the shape of his jaw, and although it was haphazardly cut, his hair still seemed extremely silky and smooth.
Most striking were his soft eyes. They were strangely deep-violet in color, and their gaze exuded an enchanting allure that could steal the hearts of any living soul.
Altogether his looks should have been a sin, but at the same time, I pitied him; there was nothing manly about him. Short, soft features, milky skin,…he was the most handsome yet androgynous boy I had ever seen.
It filled me with envy when I thought about my plain looks. The world did him a great wrong for not letting him be born a woman. If he was one, then even I, who does not place much importance on looks, would have fallen in love at first sight and been reduced to a heart-struck flirt.
The feminine boy kept a close eye on the mercenary. Scrunching his brows, he calculated our chances of survival. While raising his right hand up, he started casting another rune that seemed different than the anchor rune.
Acting aloof, the man examined his battle-ax and said, “I’ve never seen that rune be used in that way. The timing and control was so perfect that my ax couldn’t pierce you. However, seeing how my weapon is still intact, it’s not an attack rune.
“Looks like you’ve only got mobility and magic control going for you.” He wryly smiled and licked his lips. “I wonder how many times you can pull it off before I mangle that gorgeous face of yours.”
The mercenary madly charged at him again, but this time, one of the levitating stones started shining. The rune for “Dash” appeared on its surface, causing the man’s speed to sharply increase.
The boy barely managed to side-step out of the attacker’s reach, but he still continued to write his magic rune. Maintaining perfect concentration, he quickened his footsteps to dodge the ax. Whenever he could not, he took a defensive position and used the tattoo on his left arm to anchor against the blow.
On the fourth time, the boy lost his balance because he misjudged his surroundings. His real life battle experience seemed much more inferior than the mercenary’s, but by swinging himself around with his anchor rune, he managed to outclass the bulky man in agility.
After slipping on a tree root, the egotist swiftly rose his arm, but he could not make up for his stumble and the timing was off.
The anchor rune protected him, but the blade of the ax still pierced into his forearm and the force behind the blow slammed the boy against a tree. He hit hard, and his face twisted in pain as he restored his balance and dodged another swing.
The mercenary chortled at the sight of the boy’s blood. It seemed to invigorate him and fuel his blood lust. He started swinging his ax in a mad frenzy. He missed most of the time, but sometimes he would manage to strike the boy who would then use the anchor rune to defend.
Amazingly, the egotist was still casting with his right hand. It had not dispelled even once, and his concentration under pressure was admirable.
Soon, wounds covered the entirety of the boy’s left arm. Holding back the pain, he bit his lip and continued to use his free limbs to fling himself around trees and bushes. He tried so hard, but it became evident that the mercenary was only toying with him.
I admired the boy’s undaunted courage. He could have easily escaped, but he did not. The only reason I could surmise was for me. He and I both knew that I would be unable to flee and that at the moment I tried, the man would easily chase after me.
In my eyes, I saw that there was something more to this egotist than I had thought; I felt that he was my first true friend. I wanted to help him, but what could I do?
Somehow cast another magic rune? I’m still suffering from the last one.
The boy’s speed dropped as he started heavily panting, and the tattoo of his anchor rune faded into nothingness. Blood dripped from his nearly-mangled arm, smearing his now tattered robe.
The boy smiled.
Quickly lifting his right arm up, he flicked his finger. The rune that he spent so long to carve flashed with a purple light and expanded out in front of him to about a meter in diameter. The sight of it was completely dazzling, and its majesty caused my heart to beat faster in awe.
The mercenary abruptly stopped laughing and disbelief shone in his eyes with a tad amount of panic.
“Impossible,” the bulky man gasped. His scarred face frowned, and he regretted looking down on his opponent.
“Die!” the boy said. The rune exploded outward into translucent chains. They spread throughout the area and to my surprise, pierced into each location that the boy had latched onto with the anchor rune. All of his previous movements were not random; they were carefully planned.
More than ten chains shot at the mercenary’s ax. He quickly threw it up as high as he could, diverting all but one chain. That last chain pierced completely through his thigh, aiming for a tree behind him.
Up above, the blue rune around the ax tried to protect itself, but under the onslaught it fluctuated and burst into nothingness. With the disappearance of the rune, the ax itself disintegrated into dust.
The boy looked extremely pale. Blood dripped from the corners of his mouth, but he smiled in victory. He humphed and smugly pulled his hood over his head.
“You haven’t won yet,” the man said. The “Dash” rune glowed, and he savagely yanked at his wounded leg. The chain tore through the rest of his flesh and blood sprayed onto the floor. He howled in agony, but vast amount of killing intent burst from within him.
I fearfully scuttled to the egotist’s side.
“Buck up; he can’t do anything to us with that leg of his,” he said. His short-sighted victory seemed to fuel his ego.
The third stone that levitated around the man finally glowed. The inscription “Heal” appeared, and my eyes went wide with panic.
“Run!” I pulled at the boy. “We need to get away while we still can!”
Another man appeared behind us, blocking our path of escape. It was the same guard who had given me the translation rune and had smiled when he discovered that he could understand my speech.
In his right hand, he wielded a steel longsword wrapped in blue runes. Blood dripped down the blade while giving definition to a savage wolf etched into its side. The image looked like it wanted to come out and devour me.
“Looks like you need me,” he said to the mercenary while letting out a wry smile. His sharp canines glinted in the light that pierced through the forest’s darkness. In the palace I thought him to be calm and amiable, but now he looked like a calculating fiend.
“Alaric, I don’t need your help,” the mercenary said. The dislike of the man shone in his eyes. “Let me kill the damn brats.”
Next to me, the violet-haired boy started trembling. His eyes were filled with disbelief.
“Alaric the Faceless?!”
The man smiled at the boy and gave a light, joking nod. Suddenly, his face distorted as his skin stretched and peeled. Cracking sounds rang out as his body moved in freakish ways.
He grew four inches taller, and his build thinned. His muscles became more pronounced while his eyes turned red and his hair blackened. His fingers grew longer and his bones became sharper.
He looked like a true devil.
The egotist watched the transformation in shock and horror. A hint of betrayal lingered painfully in his eyes. “W-what had you done to Mike?”
“You mean the guard I impersonated?” Alaric asked. “I killed him a long time ago. Years, in fact.”
The boy trembled from the onslaught of his sudden emotions. “T-Then my mother?!”
“Your mother?” Alaric paused for a second. A wicked glint formed in his eyes, and it looked like he was just toying with the boy. “Oh, so that’s who you are. I admit it; I might have had a hand in her death, but what can you do about it? Lycan, we’re grabbing both of them.”
The mercenary growled in protest and sharply pointed at me with contempt. “We only need him. Let me–”
“No!” Alaric said, snapping Lycan’s mouth shut.
Alaric stepped closer to us, and the egotist uncontrollably trembled. His mind seemed broken and lost, giving no resistance when Alaric wiped the sword’s blood onto his hood.
I wanted to punch him, but sensing my intentions, he sent me a deadly glare. The killing intent pierced into my soul, and I nearly fell onto my knees. I had never felt so useless before.
His sword flashed with blue light before changing back into a stone. He then placed it into a small enchanted bag. Using his right hand, he started carving out a magic rune.
All the while, I just stood there, watching the rune slowly come to completion. A long time passed, but once whole, the ancient words read “Warp: Crane, Appenhund.”
The rune flared with a blue light and towered over me and the egotist. The power it exuded over us was enormous.
I looked once more at the boy’s savaged arm and trembling figure. It filled me with a strong desire to help him.
He stayed here for me.
My veins suddenly pulsed with archaic energy and silence permeated my ears. Through instinct my hand shot out towards the blue rune with lightning speed. A crimson glow circled my finger and slashed a jagged stroke through a portion of the spell, changing its meaning.
In a fraction of a second, the rune warped the two of us away.