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Veil Of The Forbidden

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Alexias, a young mage, is the only survivor of a massacre. Her savior is an unlikely hero; a Templar soldier. According to the law, he should execute her immediately for her alleged involvement in the total destruction around her, but... Instead, he wants to protect her. And love her. But why?

01. The Rebellion

"Are you all right?"

Thrown on the ground, feeling my back, arms and skin burn like the flames of hell, I can't answer the question of the strong, handsome man wearing armor.

Not just any armor, but Templar armor.

"Hey! Answer me! Are you hurt?"

I cough twice before gasping and finally managing to open my mouth:

"I'm fine."

The stranger holds out his hand to me:

"Come on."

I understand what he's saying, but my body and mind are still spinning.

It had all happened too quickly: I was sleeping in the dormitory with the other mages, so the smell of smoke clogged my nose, causing me to wake up coughing and teary-eyed.

After leaving the room, trying to understand what was going on, I was attacked. Not only by hideous, monstrous creatures straight out of a nightmare, but also by a Templar soldier.

That's what Templars were made for, stopping dangerous wizards. But I wasn't a danger. I was just trying to escape the fire...

Trembling, I hold up my gloved fingers and almost scream when I feel a small shock between us. I pull away.

"Sorry," he asks, removing his gloves. Now it's pale, long, slightly hairy fingers reaching for me.

This time, I manage to hold on to his hand. I stand up. We look around at the scene of total destruction.

Fallen bodies, shapeless monsters that are just as dead, disfigured men and women. Were there any more survivors? I doubted it very much.

The Templar looked at me. His eyes were an unusual shade of gray. The rest of the man's face was covered by his helmet.

"We have to get out of here, and fast," he said, looking for a path that seemed safe enough.

"Wait," I whisper.

He stares at me in silence, waiting for me to say something.

"Who are you? Why are you helping me?"

As if to add to the question, I point to the man who now lies dead on the ground, the victim of a mortal blow from my savior. Moments ago, that wizard had tried to kill me and used fire magic against me.

Thanks to my gift of healing, however, I had greatly minimized the damage. My back still burned, unfortunately, but anyone else would have been seriously damaged.

The Templar raised his chin.

"I could never let that happen."

"Let what happen?"

"That you die, Alexias."

So this wasn't just any stranger. It was a stranger who knew my name.

I blink, frightened.

"But... But how did you-"

"We need to get out of here. I swear I'll explain everything, but we're in serious danger."

I look around; at the walls of the Arcane Shelter, swallowing hard. Yes, what was supposed to be my home, my safe haven (for some, even a prison)... Now it was just a promise of pain and destruction.

"I thought the Templars would be happy about that."

The man looks extremely offended.

"Do you think we're responsible?"

"I've seen Templars kill mages too!" I retort, feeling nervousness spread through my body. "They don't seem to be worried about us!"

"It's a bloody rebellion, Alexias! Don't you get it yet?"

"What do you mean?!"

The stranger seems to hesitate before explaining, probably because of the pain and hurt in my voice. He still holds the sharp, blue-handled sword; the blade is dirty with the blood of the man who tried to attack me.

"Alexias," he whispers, like an apology.

I take a step forward.

"What do you mean?" I repeat, clenching my fists and feeling tears welling up in my eyes.

"Your friends, I mean, I don't know exactly who and how many, but... This... This chaos, this destruction, the death of everyone... This was planned. That's what they wanted."

"I don't understand what you mean!"

"This rebellion was fomented not only here, but in all the other Arcane Shelters. That was a declaration of war, Alexias. The mages no longer want to live under the Templars' watch. They... They've rebelled."

I feel my heart racing in my chest. Before I can ask any more questions, however, he walks over to me and stands very, very close to my face, as if he wants to touch me but can't. "Trust me.

"Trust me. If I had the slightest inkling that something like this was going to happen; if I..."

His eyes are getting watery, and his tone of voice is also changing.

Why did that Templar care so much about me? How did he know my name? And why did he personally want to protect me?

"I don't understand. I don't understand," I whisper.

"Calm down. We'll get out of here, I promise. Trust me."

Slowly and hesitantly, the soldier's still gloveless fingers touch my hand. It's impressive that, even in this totally chaotic situation, he still manages to keep his own skin warm. Mine, on the other hand, was sweaty and clammy.

Our gazes remain fixed on each other for a brief moment, and I feel a strange connection forming between us. The tension in the air is palpable, a mixture of fear, confusion and something else, something I can't quite decipher. Words seem insufficient to express everything that is going through my mind at that moment.

He breaks eye contact first, looking away and carefully releasing my hand.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have gotten so close," he mumbles, clearly embarrassed.

But something inside me wishes he had stayed close. Something inside me is intrigued by the way he speaks, how his eyes watch me with an intensity that goes beyond words.

"No, it's okay," I say, surprising myself with the calmness of my voice. However, thinking about all the complexity of that information immediately makes me nervous again. "Just... explain to me more about this rebellion. I want to better understand what's going on."

He nods, grateful for the change of subject.

"Sure, I'll explain everything. But let's do that while we find a safe place to shelter. We're not out of danger here."

I nod, letting him lead the way.

As we move through the destroyed corridors and rooms, our shoulders occasionally rub against each other, sending goosebumps across my skin. The sensation is strangely comforting, as if his closeness is giving me strength in the midst of the chaos around us.

"There's a secret exit on the upper floors. We can use it to escape from here," he comments with determination.

I can't reply.

Because as soon as I open my mouth, a huge shockwave knocks us to the ground. An explosion, deafening and terrible, has just happened right next to us, shattering one of the walls.

A hideous creature appears in our field of vision.

And it's about to kill us.

02. The creature

The creature that emerged from the explosion was a grotesque abomination.

Its body was a distorted fusion of flesh, bone and dark magic. Glowing yellow eyes stared at us with evil intent, and sharp claws twisted out of its deformed hands. The monster's entrails pulsed and squirmed, emitting an aura of corruption and death.

The Templar soldier and I quickly stood up, our expressions of shock soon turning to determination. Instinctively, I reach for the mana inside my body, which is now flowing like blood through my veins.

I take a deep breath and take a few steps back. After all, we mages were no use in hand-to-hand combat.

The Templar doesn't hesitate.

With a powerful lunge, he advances towards the abomination, slicing the air with his sword. The creature reacts with surprising speed, dodging his attacks and retaliating with a swipe of its claws.

My hero deftly dodges, but the creature's

Heroes

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