Long gone are the days of peace in the Lands between. The age of comfort and plenty dissolved when Marika the eternal shattered the elden ring in her grief and sorrow. The death of the beloved Godwyn the golden, had rocked the land. Stories of secret plots against the Golden order, against nature itself abound among the common folk. They know not for certain if any of the demigods could be responsible, only that it brought them pain, suffering and unending heartache. The shattering led to war between the great demigod children of Marika, some rose up in defence of the greater will, others in rebellion; and some refused to partake in the bloodshed.
But other more malevolent forces would drag them into conflict whether they would participate or not. Despite the atrocities that occurred throughout the wars, there were some, hardly remembered, who performed great deeds of valour and courage. Not for their own reward, pride or even honour; instead for the love of another. A desire to see them safe in spite of a world of horrors acting against them. It is here that we begin this legendary act of heroism. This tale of undisclosed desires and the deliverance from the outer gods. It is the tale of the knight Finlay and the love she had for her lady.
The rot was getting worse each and every day. Every step became harder, every breath shallower as she continued her way out of the ruins of Caelid. It ate away at her insides, she could feel her lungs becoming coated with the dreaded rot. There was nothing more feared in the lands between than the scarlet rot. And yet she had taken her vows in full knowledge of what eventually awaited her. She had been spared the sight of many of her sisters becoming corrupted by and falling to the rot. Many of them had died in battle over the years but a few were given a warrior's death. The memories came flooding back to her now, at the worst possible time. She tried to fight the intrusive thoughts but to no avail. Perhaps it was the rot, grabbing hold of her will. Was this really what Malenia had gone through for so many years. She was struggling to hold her own thoughts in check.
“One step at a time Finlay, come on, you’ve carried bales of hay before in training, this is no different” she murmured in an attempt to centre herself. Except this wasn’t just a bundle of hay. It was the revered demigod Malenia, Blade of Miquella. Her mind wandered to three days prior, to the utter despair she felt and the kindling of hope the sight of Malenia had brought her. She had been deathly afraid when she saw the Aeonia bloom from the other side of the battlefield. Her mind emptied of all thought except one. Concern for Malenia and what had become of her and how this had happened. Here she was the strongest demigod, undefeated in battle. As strong as the Starscourge was he surely couldn’t best her in single combat. However, in the end it didn’t matter.
As she approached the slowly dissipating fog of rot and dust permeating the thick hot air given off by the bloom, all that awaited her was death. Countless cleanrot and redmane knights were boiling alive. The rot ate away at their skin, the flesh decaying and liquefying as it continued its advance. The armour was left untouched but the rot seeped in through any gap, any crack in the armour and worked its deadly effects. The closer she got to the centre of the bloom, she wasn’t sure she could see any more people. Just vacant sets of armour and the sweet putrefying scent of the scarlet death. Her own skin had begun to burn as soon as she approached the epicentre but as a cleanrot knight she was given extra provisions to ensure they were always ready and prepared to carry out their sacred duty. To protect their lady and if need be die for her. She took one of the preserving boluses out and bit into it. It was soft and fluffy and soothed her almost instantaneously. The rot seemed to be lessened, instead of burning her, it seemed to run off her skin like water in a bath. She pressed on through the decaying wasteland until she came to a sight she did not expect.
The two demigods lay in front of her, greatest of the children of Marika reduced to a fragment of their lustre. Radahn, the great red lion of caelid was prone, face first into the ground, his great body resembling a small hill among the dead. He appeared to be breathing, albeit shallow ones that were few and far between. Was it possible his demigod vitality protected him somewhat from the rot? but even then she spied his feet beginning to sizzle. In that moment she forgot the battle, the animosity towards the redmanes that had caused her sisters so much pain and death. The Red Lion was known to be honourable and compassionate to not just his men but enemies as well. If any prisoners were taken they were treated fairly and spared torture. He was a man well worth worshipping, as his men did so vociferously. She pitied the great man and lamented the fate that had brought them together as foes and the fate that awaited the demigod. Before she could give him an end befitting one so honourable she felt her gaze drawn just a few metres to the left of the great hulking man.
There she was….the form of her lady Malenia. Her face showed no signs of discomfort or anguish, she was utterly at peace. It was as if the bloom of the aeonian flower gave her a momentary reprieve from the constant pain she suffered at the hands of the rot. Her mind began to quicken as panic and worry set in. The only way one could look so peaceful was because the rot had finally claimed her. It had ruined her life, isolated her so completely from all others but that wasn’t enough. It had to kill her too.
Finlay stumbled over, tears streaming down her cheeks, soothing the fiery grip of the rot. The tears evaporated in the heat given off by the rot and stung her eyes a second time. “Aaaaaaaaaaaagggghhhhhhh”. A blood curdling scream that would have made even the stoniest of hearts tremble escaped her lips. Collapsing by the side of the lifeless demigod she fell silent. Gently picking up her body, almost in an act of reverence, she pulled it close and held her. Time seemed to pass without end. She wasn’t sure how long she remained there for, it was as if she was in a fever dream. Of her own making or that or the poisonous fumes she could not tell. Suddenly she felt it. A small, almost imperceptible exhale fell on her cheek. She was sure she was dreaming, a cruel trick the rot played on her to get her to give in to the death awaiting her. But there it was again. This time Finlay placed her head next to Malenia’s nose and felt it. It seemed hope had not deserted her entirely.
As delicately as she could she wrapped Malenia in her torn cloak and lifted her onto her back. Her prosthetic arm she gathered in what remained of the demigods coat. She would not need the fur for warmth but it would soften the blade against her back at least as she placed it alongside her comatose passenger. Finally, Finlay took the winged helmet and with great pride covered her own head with it. Her own helm had been taken off by a foolish redmane hours earlier. It was a mistake that had cost the man his life as he stood there stunned he had managed to land a hit on a commander of the cleanrot knights no less. Before he could think to land the killing blow the sword of the cleanrot knight had pierced his abdomen. Taking no great pleasure in the death of her enemy, Finlay stabbed him again through the heart, granting him a quicker end. His mother, father, children or siblings if he had any, would never see him again. The least she could do was make it as quick as possible. The beautifully crafted winged helm offered her good protection whilst providing a surprising amount of visibility. Finlay had always felt reassured upon sighting the golden wings of the helm in days gone by. They couldn’t lose with their lady beside them and the helm was a symbol of hope among her and her sister knights. Her own helmet was fashioned out of reverence and love for the winged valkyrie. It now fell upon her to embody that symbol of hope that had brought comfort to so many over the centuries. Except she wasn’t a symbol for many, just the one. One that mattered more to her than any other. And so, with hope rekindled in her heart, Finlay set out on her passage throughout the lands between. With the sleeping demigod fastened to her back she slowly but surely climbed out of the ruined wasteland Caelid had become and edged ever closer to home. Ever closer to the haven of Elphael and the Haligtree of Miquella.