Thunder, the drum-beat of war, woke him from a calm, waiting slumber.
He hastened to stand, holding his sword, his lantern, high to the sky as to cast forward the reaching rays into the starless shadow. The thud of some creature above continued, nearer and nearer, matching the heart that banged excitedly in his head.
What had he awakened? What hell had this sword opened?
From the sky dove the inconceivable shape of a monster, large and fearsome. It opened its wings wide to land - hooves, a horse, setting down inside the orb. A rider was perched arrogantly atop the snorting, steaming mount - a knight in black.
The armored warrior swung easily from his horse - that, just a moment earlier, Rider thought to be a dragon - and lifted a sword glinting black in the effervescent rays of its nemesis, the Syv'Awendale blade.
A shadow slipped, masterless, into the room. It moved smoothly before the woman, yet to notice his own watching presence.
"Wielder of Syv'Awendale," Was the voice from his earlier dream, now addressing him. He shuddered, gripping the hilt harder, unanswering.
Seeing as his opponent remained silent, readying for an oncoming attack, Melanion continued curtly, "There are several ways we can accomplish what is good for the both of us. As the single known ruler of this world, I am prepared to play a game of diplomacy in trade for the game of battle. As King, I can allow you an appropriate exchange for your sword. You give me the weapon, and I'll give you whatever you desire."
"You mustn't give up - you cannot give in. There will be temptations, and pain, and you will find yourself weak. But none will give you what you wish.
"Hold to your sword. Hold to Aya. Remember my words and find your way to me."
Rider swallowed, finding his voice. "As the Wielder of Syv'Awendale, I cannot give you the sword - for anything. Even if you are who you say you are - it matters not. You cannot give me what I want."
Melanion looked at him thoughtfully. He began his circular pace, the Wielder cautiously mirroring him. "Is this what you really want, Silas?" There was something soft in his tone, something very unlike the preconception of the dark figure. It was the human behind the mask. "To wander this world still, following this sword to earth's end? It leads you nowhere. Even as all may bloom around you as you journey on your endless quest, you will be a ghost to everyone and everything. You will never appreciate the flowers or the fish. You are alone. And always will be here on this earth.
"But with my power, I can give you what you want. Don't let others take advantage of you any longer. Stand up and do as your heart tells you. You are a slave to no one. So here and now I offer you this choice, a decision in which you make as a free-thinking man," Melanion lowered his sword and offered a hand. "Give me the sword and I give you your independence. A release from what chains you here.
"Aya awaits you in her heavenly realm."
Silas stared blankly at the hand, the silver sword hanging loosely at his side. All what the knight said struck him as truth. What bound him to the woman in white? What were her ends for him? She had never told him there would be one. Her magic enslaved him.
He slowly looked to the shielded face, eyes masked with shadow.
"...There will be temptations....but none will give you what you wish."
...Aya smiled at him from behind her wedding veil, her face so alive only to melt into the fragile skeleton breathless in his arms...
"You lie." Silas snarled as he tightened his hands on the sword. "You will not give me happiness. You were the one - the reason everything died in the first place!"
He charged the wicked knight, sword raised. Melanion caught the blow on his blade, sweating under the light's close heat.
"You have made your choice," he grumbled, their faces, bodies, near. With an angry growl, he thrust the Wielder off of him, sending the man tumbling backwards. "And you chose wrong."