For the first time in centuries, Eradon could not bring himself to clean the blood from his sword.
He didn’t let the armorers stop him at the gate. A purple ooze dripped from his chest plate and onto the stone where he walked. The sunlight, limited to him, felt warm against his skin, and the air pure to breathe compared to the vileness of the Abyss. He filled his lungs as deep as he could with every breath, knowing soon he would have to go back.
He made his way to the Resting Point. His sword, a weapon forged from the stars, scraped against the stone behind him. It left a trail of ethereal sparks the color of celestial clouds. He dragged his sword until stopping at the three statues where he would soon become the fourth, resting for a decade, then waking after the years to fight once more.
The other Starforged Knights who arrived before him now posed as statues. Tela had her arm raised, sword pointed toward the sky. Her skin glowed with the essence of the galaxy. It wouldn’t be possible to awake her until the creatures of the Abyss returned. Aiken stood beside her, frozen in time with his blade in mid-swing. His hair spilling out from his helmet changed from a garnet red to a cerulean blue. Along with his armor, it rotated through the aesthetic allure of the galaxies' colors. Wymond, behind the two, knelt with his sword held over his shoulder.
Eradon approached. He would take his place among them and pose for the sake of the people, who would visit from across nations to see the statues that their saviors had become. Every ten years, when he returned from battle, there used to be thousands of visitors. They would bow, cheer, and parade for the Starforged. They would fill the town square, sitting on rooftops and crowding the streets as far as he could see. People would reach out for the Starforged Knights as they passed by. Rumors had it a touch from one could bring eternal luck. Now, apart from a few armorers, the town square didn’t hold a soul.
Eradon stopped before taking his place.
No. He would not stand with them. He would not become a statue. This time he would finally be free.
“Era,” a voice spoke behind him. He turned to face the fifth member of the Starforged. Kyoka stood with her armor shining, helmet held under her arm. Sunlight gleamed off of her silver hair. “You threatened the armorers. Why would you walk coated in the blood of our enemies? You will worry the people if you rest like that.”
“I don’t see any now,” Eradon said. A pool of purple blood, as slick as oil, grew beneath him. He stared up at the statues as he spoke—he would not become one of them this time. “They stopped holding parades for us ages ago. They use us, Kyoka. We’re tools to them. We’re shackled in an endless war they refuse to aid us in.”
“They are not shackles, brother,” she walked to approach him, her Starforged armor clicking against the stone. “We do what mankind can not. Cease this foolishness and remember your honor-”
“I’m leaving, Kyoka.”
She stopped. Her helmet slipped from her grasp and hit the stone. She turned to the other Starforged who couldn’t help her—they would be stuck in time until the next battle. In the abandoned town square, only the two sentient knights remained.
“We were human once,” Eradon continued, “were we not? Over the thousands of our battles, I’ve forgotten who I was. I've forgotten why the Starforged chose me for this duty. Yet, I know now that I regret taking this blade." He held the sword in front of him and stared into its depth. An endless pattern of cosmic dust flowed across its surface. “I regret now the life I’ve chosen, being stuck in this endless loop of fighting and resting. I yearn for freedom. A stop to this madness. Today I take my leave and make my own choices.”
“Era, if you renounce that blade you will wither away.” Kyoka placed a hand on his shoulder, “please, come rest. We will forget this conversation happened and we’ll continue in our duty of keeping mankind safe. It is not about the parades they throw us or the stories they’ll write, it is about honor-”
“To damnation with honor! Tell me, Kyoka, are we saviors, or are we prisoners? Are we knights, or are we the pawns of humanity?” Eradon turned to her and removed his helmet. He dropped it to the stone. “Are we following the path of honor, or are we following the path of the insane?”
She stepped back. A gust of wind blew past and hair flowed with it. “Speak none of this,” she said, “in time, humanity will find a way to purge the creatures of the Abyss. Our fight shall be over soon, my brother. We need to hold out until their research can end this war once and for all. They need time and we fight for it!”
Eradon laughed. Broken noises of exasperated gasps. The first time he had laughed in centuries.
“Don’t speak to me of time, for it has been an eternity.”
He gripped the hilt of his sword with both hands and brought it down against the stone. It broke into the rock with an explosion of astral light. Tremors shook the ground, and cracks in the earth trailed out in snaking patterns. Ethereal sparks flew off the sword until the patterns on it faded, becoming still, a static image of the stars. The Starforged blade rested in the stone, awaiting the next chosen.
Eradon had renounced his bond. The strength imbued to him faded, his shoulder plates now heavy. His agility vanished, and he no longer felt light on his feet. His balance left him, and he swayed from side to side, falling his knees, waiting for his skin to wither to dust. He waited for the thousands of years he had laid dormant to catch up to him. Kyoka watched in horror, yet nothing happened other than the constant drip of the violet blood off of Eradon’s armor.
He stood and he smiled. Freedom. A life he could pave as his own—one no longer stuck in an eternal loop of rest and battle.
“Eradon!” Kyoka called, “you can not leave us! We need you or we will fall in battle, the creatures will overwhelm us without you! Mankind will not last a day with your absence and it will cause an apocalypse!”
“So be it,” he said. “They’ve had their chance to help and I’ve served my sentence. Nothing you say will convince me to pick up that dreaded blade once more. Either you let me walk, or you kill me, sister.”
She turned to the Resting Point. “There’s no honor in murder,” she said, “you’ve abandoned and condemned us all.”
For the first time in centuries, Eradon walked a free man. He turned back to see Kyoka take her place as a statue, her face a twisted look of fear. In a decade the Starforged would awake as four instead of five, and they would fight a battle they could not win.
So be it.