By EM Malachi
The swirl of glowing mana surprised the young ranger, and his axe slipped. Instead of the sapling he meant to cut, Shamino hit his own leg.
The mana coalesced into a strange Moongate, and a young man stepped through. The stranger gave the bleeding ranger a look of shock and dropped what he was holding: a glowing serpent amulet.
The Bloody Plains
Each had brought an army. The king of Britain had marched from his capital, and Shamino had marched his forces west from a small fishing village called Vesper. Now they stood together for the final battle of the war. They would defeat Mondain’s forces, or they would perish along with the hopes of all Sosaria.
Shamino remarked that his friend was not wearing the amulet that had brought him to Sosaria.
The king nodded. “I am not going anywhere.”
The Throne Room
Shamino heard the whispers from the castle staff and royal officials as he headed into the throne room. The day he worried about had come, so he went to confront his friend. “Is it true that you’re leaving?”
Rule may have aged the king of Britannia, but his face still held the same solemn conviction as when they first met. “Shamino, I do this to protect all of you. I must keep the fragments of the Gem far from those who could misuse them.”
“But who will take your place?”
“If I offered you the crown, would you accept it?”
Shamino shook his head. “No. I have already failed one kingdom.”
The king gave his friend a sad smile. “You are better than you know. Someday, our people will need you to keep them safe.”
“How can I do that?”
“I am leaving something to help. The amulet that brought me to Sosaria is hidden for you to find. In a dream, a man in chains told me that there will come a day when you will need it.”
The Well of Souls
Startled awake, Shamino drew his sword and prepared for an attack. The old ranger sat across the dying fire from him, ghostly hands gripping the memory of a longbow. The shade watched as Shamino got to his feet. “This is no time to rest. There’s a storm coming.”
Shamino looked up at the night sky, but he saw no clouds in the world of the living. Still, he felt the disturbance. After Lithos had destroyed the capstone of the Well of Souls, more and more spirits got lost on their way to whatever came next. However, this was the first time a spirit had come back. The Ranger Barren had died seven seasons earlier, peacefully in his sleep.
“Why are you here?” Shamino asked.
The spirit gave him a strange look. “Can you not hear the Voice calling, brother?”
“No, I don’t. What’s it saying?”
The dead man seemed to fight off the influence long enough to give a hand gesture of warning. His face went blank again, and the shade started to walk out over the water. From the Well of Souls, other ghosts began appearing, streaming in eight directions.