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Arcane Awakening

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Chapter 1 The Enigmatic Dream

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Eldor’s senses were adrift between reality and illusion, teetering on the precipice of consciousness. 


He was lost in a void where dreams bled into memories, and the boundaries between life and death blurred like smudged ink on parchment.


Was he alive? Dying? Already a specter of the past?


He saw himself as a young boy, wild and curious, roaming the mystical forests of Aetherwood. The trees there whispered secrets in the rustling leaves, and the air was thick with the scent of magic. It was in these woods that he first encountered the Lumina Academy.


Scenes of rigorous training flashed by. Eldor recalled the stern face of Master Kael, the leader of the academy. Kael’s voice was a constant presence, always preaching the delicate balance between power and wisdom.


"Strength without purpose is chaos," Master Kael would say. "Harness your abilities not just to conquer, but to protect."


Eldor often bristled under this constant scrutiny. His natural talent was undeniable, earning him the title of the "Arcane Swordsman," yet he was still a novice in the eyes of the academy. The rules felt stifling, the teachings too rigid for his adventurous spirit.


Why hadn't he seen the truth in those words before? 


The Lumina Academy, with all its constraints, had molded him into who he was. 


Regret weighed heavily on him. If only he had embraced the teachings more fully, if only he had pushed himself harder, perhaps he could have altered his fate.


"Do you wish you had chosen differently?" The voice was gentle, familiar—Master Kael. 


"Yes, Master. I regret so much. I wish I could have been stronger, wiser," Eldor whispered.


"Regret is a heavy burden, my student," Kael’s voice was soft. "But know this: the essence of Lumina is not lost. You are its legacy."


"Master..." Eldor could almost feel Kael’s comforting presence. 


"Because it is the Lumina Academy," Kael's voice echoed, fading into the ether.


Just as Eldor began to feel a semblance of peace, he was jolted back by a sharp, throbbing pain.


"Ahhh! What is this agony? It feels like my head is splitting open!" Eldor’s hand shot up to clutch his throbbing temple. Was it an attack? Had the dark forces he fought not been vanquished?


The response came not from a menacing enemy but from a querulous, gravelly voice. "Oi, are you awake now, you lazy sod?"


Eldor opened his eyes to see a face staring down at him, twisted with annoyance and grime. A beggar, his face lined with the hardships of life, dressed in tattered rags and clutching a knobby staff.


A beggar? 


Eldor blinked. The man’s attire was rough, marked by a novice’s belt—he was a newcomer to the streets.


"What’s happening?" Eldor muttered


"Heh, you’ve got some nerve! Sleeping while the rest of us are out scrounging for a bite to eat!" The beggar’s voice was thick with irritation. 


He gave Eldor a light but firm jab with his staff.


"Wait… am I being threatened by a beggar?" Eldor’s mind reeled. 


This was far from any nightmare he’d ever had, yet it felt disturbingly real. The corners of his mouth curled into a smirk.


The beggar, taken aback by Eldor’s sudden change in demeanor, stepped back. "What are you smiling at, huh? Think this is funny?"


Eldor’s smirk widened.


Eldor’s bemused smirk didn’t fade as the beggar’s staff hovered threateningly close to his face. 


The situation was absurd, almost comical. Who was he again? Eldor, once a celebrated warrior of the Lumina Academy, a prodigious student whose swordsmanship and command over the arcane arts were unparalleled. 


Even at the academy's zenith, few could match his prowess. He had been hailed as the "Arcane Swordsman," his techniques blending the grace of the blade with the mystique of magic.


Yet here he was, confronted by a raggedy beggar who dared to menace him with a crude stick. A thr—what?


The beggar squinted, his face contorting in confusion. "Are you laughing at me?"


"Look here, kid," Eldor began, trying to make sense of the surreal scenario. "I’m not sure what's going on, but you can put that stick down."


The beggar's expression twisted with incredulity. "Ha! You think this is funny?" He laughed. "This isn’t a joke, you fool! Everyone else is out scrapping for a meal, and here you are, sleeping like a pampered prince!"


Eldor’s scowl deepened. The nerve of this beggar! To treat him, of all people, with such disdain. 


Before he could react, the beggar swung the stick. 


Eldor instinctively raised his arm to block, but his movements felt sluggish, as if he were wading through molasses. The staff descended with alarming speed, far faster than his hands could intercept.


Whack!


Pain exploded in his skull as the stick made contact. 


Eldor staggered, his vision blurring from the impact. Why were his reflexes so slow? This wasn’t right. With his training and speed, he should have caught that stick easily. Was it his injuries? Something more sinister?


Desperate to fend off the attack, Eldor caught sight of his own hand reaching out. But it was small, frail, and moving with a lethargic slowness that was utterly foreign to him.


The beggar didn’t pause. He swung again, the stick landing another brutal blow. Eldor collapsed to the ground.


"Argh! Stop! It hurts! What is this?" He writhed on the cobblestones, every inch of his body throbbing with agony. It was a pain unlike anything he had experienced before, sharper and more relentless than the wounds he had suffered in countless battles.


The beggar loomed over him. "Understand your place, you lazy lout! You think you can lie around while the rest of us toil? I’ll beat some sense into you if it’s the last thing I do!"


Eldor’s cries grew more frantic as the beating continued. "Stop! Stop! I don’t even know who you are!" But his pleas went unanswered. The beggar's staff kept raining down, each strike more forceful than the last.


Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the beating ceased. 


Eldor lay sprawled on the ground, gasping for breath. He blinked away tears, his vision swimming as he tried to make sense of his surroundings.


"Please, no more," he groaned, curling into a ball to shield himself from any further blows.


The beggar, breathing heavily, glared down at him. 


"Consider this a lesson. Next time, do your part." With a final huff, he turned and stomped away.


Eldor struggled to his feet. He stumbled toward a nearby puddle of water. He leaned over the water, peering at his reflection, and froze.


Staring back at him was not the face he knew, the face of a seasoned warrior and mage, but that of a young boy.


His hair, once silver and flowing, was now a tousled mess of dark curls. His eyes, once bright and keen, were wide with shock.


"What in the…" Eldor muttered


This wasn’t his body. It was the body of a child, scrawny and weak.


"How did this happen?" He whispered. 


He splashed the water, hoping to clear the image and see his true self again. But the reflection remained unchanged.


A wave of panic surged through him. Who had done this to him? And more importantly, why? What dark magic had torn him from his reality and thrust him into this helpless form?


Eldor's reflection shimmered back at him. The face staring at him was young, much younger than he had ever been since leaving his childhood behind in Aetherwood. He had no memories of this face, but the youthful features didn’t trouble him as much as the fragility of his new body.


He brought his hand up to his face, tracing the unfamiliar contours. The skin was smooth and unmarked by the scars of countless battles. His cheeks were full, his eyes wide and bright, with none of the shadows that had settled there from years of hardship. 


It was, in fact, a charming face, perhaps even more so than his old one. There was a strange satisfaction in the youthful vitality he now possessed, but it came at a cost.


This body was small, weak, and woefully undernourished. His limbs were scrawny, his muscles untested and thin. He was tired, starving, and every inch of him ached from the beating. He tried to push himself up, but his strength failed him.


"Ugh, this is ridiculous," he muttered.


His old self, the Arcane Swordsman, was a figure of awe and respect. He had stood tall, a master of both blade and magic, feared by his enemies and revered by his peers. 


That identity, that power, seemed a distant dream now. 


Eldor clenched his fists. This was not the body of a warrior.


He took a deep breath. "Alright, focus. This means... I’m alive."


The realization brought a flicker of hope. His old self might be gone, but his spirit and memories had survived. 


"Is this some sort of dark sorcery?" he pondered aloud. 


Perhaps it was a curse laid upon him by the enemies he had vanquished, or some twisted form of reincarnation. 


He recalled tales of souls being reborn into new bodies, though he had always considered them mere stories, not something that could happen to him. Or maybe, just maybe, the dark forces he had battled had cast a vile spell to ensnare him in this frail form.


His mind churned with questions. What had happened to his old body? How had he ended up here, in this alley, at the mercy of a beggar’s wrath? And more pressingly, how was he going to survive in this condition?


Eldor pushed himself up to a sitting position, wincing as his bruises protested. He couldn’t afford to sit here and brood. 


He struggled to his feet, he cast a glance around the dingy alley. "First things first, I need to find some answers," 


His eyes landed on the beggars' tent. Perhaps the beggar who had beaten him could shed some light on his predicament.


He took a step, and his legs buckled beneath him. "Damn it!" he cursed, catching himself against a wall. 


The beating had left him weaker than he thought. He tried again, forcing himself to take slow, deliberate steps. His head throbbed with each movement, but he gritted his teeth and pushed on.


Eldor stumbled forward. "I’ll find out what happened," he vowed under his breath. "And when I do, I’ll make sure that beggar pays for this."


His progress was slow and painful, but he finally reached the tent. The flap was partially open, revealing a small group of beggars huddled inside. They looked up as he approached.


"Who are you?" one of them asked, a grizzled man with a long beard and a missing tooth.


Eldor took a deep breath, steeling himself. "I’m..." He hesitated, unsure of how to introduce himself. His old name felt like a relic of a past life, yet it was the only identity he had. "I’m Eldor. I need answers."


The beggars exchanged glances, then the bearded man spoke again, his tone wary. "Answers? About what?"


"About this," Eldor said, gesturing to his frail form. "And how I ended up here."


The man snorted. "You ended up here like the rest of us. Bad luck, no coin, and a world that doesn’t give a damn."


Eldor clenched his jaw, frustration mounting. "No, it’s more than that. I wasn’t always like this. I was... different." He searched for the right words. "I’m not supposed to be here. This body, it’s not mine."


The beggars looked at him as if he were mad.

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