A foul wind blew outside, swirling across the pristine streets of ever-spring Silvermoon, evident through windowless walls, as hundreds of other Adepts and I sat in the large communal hall, part of a large wing of the Order Temple, awaiting our fate. A massive recall, in the form of a hastily written and printed formal letter regarding poor and dangerous practices of the Light, that led to several unfortunate deaths, and that is the reason we were here – to be tutored, and trained away. The mentioned victims of the untimely, ill-fated ends lay ahead of us, in large, highly decorated urns, emblazoned with the Sun Phoenix of Silvermoon, behind them, various Masters, tutor-matrons, and Magisters, preparing themselves.
I looked around my immediate area. I sat on a very large, almost room-sized carpet, and to each side of me similar others – adepts who had been recalled here just like me – filled out the large hall. Several rows of people lay infront of me, behind me, and to my left and right. I had sat in the middle, much to my dismay. I hate being surrounded by people, and I’m aware I made it painfully obvious, a dull, nervous sweat enveloping my forehead. To my left, a large male, crimson of hair, his eyes dark, and encircled in sleep-deprivation. To my right, a lithe, slender female, blonde of braided hair, bright, open eyes of fel-fire, good bones, full pouty lips. Attractive, I’d decided. Infront of me, from left to right, a female, auburn hair like mine, a male of blonde hair, and another male, of slightly-dirtier blonde. They all seemed to be chattering amongst themselves, to the man or woman to the left or right. In fact, the only person who didn’t seem to be caught up in some form of gossip or chit-chat was me. I’d decided this was a good thing.
Rather suddenly and jarringly, my attention was quickly torn away from examining my surroundings and those that inhabit them. I found myself looking directly up front, almost against my will, toward a black-robed shadowy-figure, who looked to be casting something. Some sort of mind trick, I thought – the dozens or so other Adepts that I could make out in my peripheral vision were similarly enticed to look forward, and the hall was filled with a sudden, eerie silence - filled only with the dull breath of hundreds.
The robed man stood back, now, and took a bow toward the next person to stand forward – a frighteningly large Blood Knight Master, dressed in red-black battle-garb, proudly wearing the Blood Knight Tabard. He stood behind a podium, as if he were some sort of god-figure, or political representative, and indeed, he may as well have been. He, like a dozen others in this room, had the power to change lives. Our lives. His measuring, fear-striking eyes scanned the room, almost glaring as he looked around the well-lit room. A whole minute passed, a minute of anxiety, worry, and anticipation, before he spoke, interrupting the dull beginnings of idle chatter amongst the other Adepts one more.
“I am Knight-Lord Solanar Bloodwrath, representative of the Lady Liadrin as she stands ever vigilant over our renewed Sunwell. It is my duty tonight to see to it that each and every Adept here understands the dangers, strife, and anguish that await them should they practice their Light so dangerously as the ones that now lay before you, dead, in their urns. I will be asking several of you to step forward, and display these powers, so that we might demonstrate the terrible consequences you might be subjected to.”
His gaze met the middle of the room, and for a moment, I could have sworn he was staring right at me. Several of the others to my left and right exhibited the same signs of confusion, looking around, and pointing at themselves, confusedly.
“Those of you who have passed the tests of Light within the Order to a degree that we believe you will be able to hold these abilities responsibly, and be able to recover from them, will be the ones asked. You will be schooled in the usage of the Seal of Blood for purposes of the demonstration only. Anyone of you caught using these abilities on the field will see your name stricken from the roster.”
Such previously celebrated and powerful abilities that they now regard as dangerous include the infamous Seal of Blood, the strikes of which would rend horrific injuries in our enemies, but in return result in stigmatic blood loss within our Adepts and any Knights or Masters not fully, completely trained in it’s use, blood loss that can go unnoticed for days and weeks. Such practices are still not uncommon – many Blood Knights, including myself, call upon the latent arcane present in our blood to empower our abilities. It has resulted in blood loss for me, once or twice, followed by moments of dizziness, and illness. I swore to myself after the first time I would never use this power-source unless it was to save a life, either a superior, a friend, or my own. No one else was worthy of such dangerous near-sacrifice.
I looked forward once more as he began to call out names and ranks, once or twice fumbling with some of the more phonetically challenging names. Those of whom he called immediately rose and began to nervously approach the podium, forming a small queue. He spoke one name, however, that immediately caused my eyes to flare and my heart to skip a beat.
“Blood Knight Adept Sariella Sunblossom!”
I quickly hopped to my feet, more out of fear of the consequences if I tarried, than out of a will to show myself up. I followed one other, who seemed similarly nervous, her head held down, walking quickly and plainly. A few of us, on the other side of the hall, seemed to almost skip toward their fate, joyously, as if what was to come was to be enjoyed, or looked forward to. I didn’t expect this.
We approached the large steps, and ascended them, then fell in line behind another dozen or so Adepts. Knight-Lord Solanar Bloodwrath took position alongside us, hands crossed behind his back, inspecting us, eyeing us, measuring us. I caught his glance accidentally, his eyes and my own locked, his neck tilted forward slightly so as to look down at me with those dark, fel-green, power-filled pools of hate and anger, and he grinned, a most mischievous, plotting, evil grin. I wondered if this were just a game to him and the other Masters. A joke. A past time. I dared not ask. He raised his hand, and reached out to me, grasping my shoulder and tugged me out of line. I dared not protest or struggle, either. I simply stood there, in a half-shrug, head held down, eyes gazing up at his shaven chin as he continued to hold me. “This one.”
He shoved me forward, before the Shadow Priest of earlier, and dismissed the other Adepts, some of who mumbled disappointedly. I nearly made contact with the robed-man, much shorter than the Knight-Lord but still at least an inch or two taller and broader than me, before looking over my shoulder at the line of annoyed Adepts. Any of them could take my place, if they’d wanted, but I didn’t suggest it. There was a reason the Knight-Lord chose me. I didn’t ask what, either, eventually correcting my gaze to look at the Priest, him, in term, staring down at a Blood Knight Record. Mine.
“Sariella Sunblossom, yes?”
“You finished first in your class of 30 on average, in the 15 tests of Light, 5 of which were offensive, 5 of which were defensive, and 5 of which were for healing purposes and the cleansing of ailments. Correct?”
I nodded once more.
“Yet you came last amongst those with grades sufficient enough to face the final trial of initiation in the schools of swordsmanship, and general armed combat. Again, correct?
I nodded again. He grinned, past me, toward the Knight-Lord. I can only assume the Knight-Lord nodded, for the Priest, above me, nodded at him in turn, before looking at me.
“You will learn the Seal of Blood. It is this seal that many of our Knights have used in order to make up for their failings in the schools of armed combat. Empowering their blades with the most powerful and dangerous of Seals. I warn you, Adept. Two of the Knights I refer to lie behind you now, in urns.”
He spoke loudly, and clearly, so that all might hear him. Indeed, I couldn’t help but wince as every powerful booming word left his mouth, so loud were his ramblings. I nodded.
“Come with me.”