Episodic Series, Fiction, Lyorta

Lyorta: The Saga Of Retribution: Chapter 6

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Chapter 6: The Queen’s Errant

Elven Blood I

~ 868 RE ~

~ Far Western Iest Kingdom, The Port City Of Taber Nightfall ~

A constant clattering of cups and the banging of iron fill the dimly lit hall while the small talk was plentiful. It filled the air with wonderful music and cheer, along with the chatter of a small fire living at its center. From the kitchenette, the aroma of sizzling meat and fresh herbs and vegetables wafted out. A swaying young lady in a cobalt commoner’s dress stirred a charcoal skillet while wearing a patterned dress. Thick laughter covered the local mumblings when a joke was told.

Everybody was dressed as they would in their own country. Women in simple dresses with aprons and brooches of another color, while men in kyrtill tunics and belted trousers. Except for a group of rather dirty-looking men. Not that people with soiled clothing did not come in, but the style these men wore was of a more than reputable brand. They wore imperial coats, shirts made of delicate fabrics, and armor decorated with studded metals. On their sides hung blades forged by the finest artisans without the proper honorifics. However, their condition betrayed no respect. It looked as if they had been uncared for some time, with bloodstains that set everyone who saw them with anxiety.

An older man was garbled with a mouth full of chicken and rice, “No place better than the east.” He said. The man had a strong Azurian mainland accent, not a Marionian’s as one would expect. That alone is not the odd part, but it is the thickness of it. He grabbed a large mead mug and took a full swig, swishing his half-chewed food down. “This is living,” he said, slapping the back of the man next to him. His crow’s eyes are his most distinctive feature of him; a dark mask so piercing it is unsettling.

“I agree. Finally, we made it to paradise.” The other man smiled with his patchy grin. There are more than half a dozen missing teeth and the ones that are there were mostly damaged. Around the table, three other men sat. Their plates were filled with various foods and their glasses were overflowing with ale. “I dare say this is the best time since leaving the mainland.”

A patch covered one man’s eye, and it was not pleasant. Rather like a piece of old ripped leather, to call it a patch would be far too generous. He had just slouched the scrap over to keep the dust out. It was obvious there was nothing behind that patch but a sunken hole. The part underneath got sucked in by the pressure as he breathed, so if you looked closely, you would see it bellow. “I am just glad King Grandor kept his word. I thought once we landed in port, we’d be done for.”

“We are now the Blue Hammers, lad. All you see is ours in this region of Marion. We could as well be kings.” The elder of the men laughed. His gruffness could almost be excused. The crest that was patched into his vest was one of the royal Azurian Guard, a captain, in fact. With a good wash, he might have been a handsome old man, but the grime became layers built upon layers of dirt painting over his features, making him appear much older than his age.

Bar patrons try to ignore the obnoxious hollering while they continue drinking. No one dared to disturb these men. Everybody knew about the Blue Hammers. Since the day they showed up, they have become well feared throughout the region. It wasn’t so long ago that the Blue Hammers were an unnamed group of thugs. Nowadays, they are known primarily for being cruel mercenaries.

The group of marauders chuckled at the sight of the curvy young barmaid. “She is a cutie,” said the crow-eyed man with a smile spreading across his wretched face. All the guys gawked and turned their heads in agreement. She wore her milk chocolate-colored hair in two bunny ears formed by red ribbons. The rest was long curls extending to her mid-back, and short bangs just above her forest brown eyes. As she picked up plates from table to table, her smile became sweeter and sweeter.

Having grown up in the tavern with her father, she had become an accomplished tavern maid. Her practice at serving had made her graceful. As she bobbed and weaved around the tables in the lively hall, it was almost like an art form. Every knot and imperfection was known to her as she sailed through the channels of the wooden floorboards. The waitress escaped the various stubs sticking out of the wood. Her feet dashing just next to uneven places and all around them. Despite that, she never tripped. She always knew exactly where she was going. Her crimson, white-trimmed dress swayed as she weaved around the room. The flow of her frilly apron matched the rhythm of her steps.

Licking the corner of his mouth, the eye-patched man stuck out his tongue, saying, “Wouldn’t mind tasting that.”

“She must be a clean one too,” replied the crow-eyed man. “Not like those dirty clams whoring at the ports.”

The man with the gap-filled smile smirked at the rude jab. “Hey, waiter girl! Over here!” he yelled. After seeing the men in blue cloaks, she felt a sense of terror creep over her. A twisted smile spread across his face. What could they want from her? The girl wondered to herself. Her body became paralyzed as she walks over the lengthening room. “Com’mon we won’t bite,” he joked.

A fake smile appeared on her face as she approached the table. “How may I help you tonight? Are you done with your meals yet?” She asked with a cute tone of voice.

Due to his advanced age, the captain grumbled a tad. You have fun, you guys. I need to step out for a few minutes.” Seeing the older man leave the table fills the girl with a strange uneasiness she has never experienced before. Her heart beats faster. Looking over at her father, she observes him tending to the drunkenness at the bar. Then over toward the band but they shook their heads at her.

The crow-eyed man scooted his chair out. “Come on baby, take a seat,” he laughed, patting his lap. As though they were dogs peering at a piece of meat, the other men stared at her. In her mind, she could tell if she got into their grasp, she would be with them at least for the night.

As soon as she sat down, she knew this man would grope her in front of everyone. The sword by the man’s waist catches her eye as she looks at his tattered muddy blue jacket. This violent man wasn’t someone she wanted to be in the arms of. Rather than risk escalating the situation, she decided to avoid this gesture. “I cannot, I have other tables to attend to.” She smiles as brightly as she can given the circumstances. It was the smile she inherited from her mother.

Taking a drink from his cup, he wiped his mustache with a reflexive movement. “You’ve been working hard all night. Kick back a little, we want to talk,” said the man with the eyepatch. He drank from his cup.

“If I slacked off, my father would be upset.”

“Who’s your dad? We will shut em up,” the crow-eyed man said from his chair. He licked his lips. She was disgusted by his behavior. By spreading his legs, he beckoned her to sit. At that point, she noticed his palm on his sword handle tilting it as if to warn, “If you don’t, I’ll kill you.” At least, that’s how she interpreted it.

When she realizes they won’t budge, she sits on the dangerous man’s lap. As her bottom pressed against his leg, he made a sound, a shudder, that almost made her wretch. He sniffed her hair. It was fresh. Her body shook as he grabbed her waist with both hands. The back of her neck twitches as his breath rolls across it. The smell reminded her of the sludge they dumped out of ships. He whispered, “See not so shabby.” as he put his fingers on her hips.

He put his leg against her crotch, pressing against her. He was more forceful. Her face turned red with embarrassment. Something hard is pressed into her rear. Her eyes grew wide as she looked over towards her father who was just watching as he rubbed a glass.

There are two men seated at the bar who glance over at the men groping the young lady. Before turning his head, the man drinks the rest of his ale from his jug. His long elf ears poked out from beneath the faded and kinky white hair atop his head. The handsome features of his face rounded out his appearance. Silver eyes glared at the men as he stood to his feet. The other man placed his hand on the elf’s shoulder.

In the charcoal brown that hung against his stubble-covered jawline, he looked down on his drunkard of a friend. Considering that his skin was tan, he was clearly from another country. The tan gave his brown eyes a dirty, muddy appearance. Despite his thin build, he’s muscular. Turning his head, he saw the girl getting touched on the shoulder by the crow-eyed man. His face was covered in scars. As the elf turned away from him, he pressed his fingers into his back.

“Must you, Elward?” His tired voice asked. With piercing eyes of flamed silver, Elward stared at his companion.

“These are the ones we are looking for. Come, Rhomond,” he called, turning and walking toward the men sitting at the table.

Rhomund muttered under his breath, “Sure.” Thumping on the leather holster of his dagger, he unbuttoned the strap. While standing up, he looked at the ail he had barely touched before rolling his eyes and saying, “I wasn’t planning on finishing my drink anyway.” as he let out a long sigh.

Before he got away from the bar, the owner grabbed his shoulder. His face is rosy, and his eyes are filled with concern. “Wait, that is my daughter.” Rhomund nodded his head as he took several steps just behind Elward.

A moment of silence was followed by the man as the wrong teeth said, “Got a place to be, pointer.” Elward glared at the slur as Rhomund stepped forward and placed his arm on Elward’s shoulder.

Rhomund asked with the most charming look, “Care if we join you?”

Rhomund watched the man with the eye patch point his eating knife at him and rolled his wrist in a circle a few times. His index finger resting on the tang of the blade. “Who are you?” His face was unamused, and he was staring blankly at the pair. The waitress glanced at the men with feverish eyes. In a twitching gesture, the girl pressed her nails into her tender skin as nails dug deeply into her knees.

Even though she mouthed the word “No.” to the two, Elward just kept looking at them. From his chair, the man who had messed up his teeth lifted his dirty hand to the sword he held. It was evident that the people surrounding the area bent their necks and hunched over.

“We are just two errants. Now now,” Rhomund stuttered. “My friend here… he is rather concerned about that girl on your lap.”

This only caused the man to lick the girl’s ear, while he put his hand on her breast, cupping it as he squeezed. He said, “We are friends, isn’t that right?”.

“Yes!” she said without wanting to upset him.

“See she likes me. So go get yourselves lost,” the crow-eyed man snarled at Rhomund. As the man wearing the eye patch looked over at his buddies, he now grins, snickering.

Elward clenched his fists while holding his arms to his side. “Look at the pointer,” said the guy with missing teeth. “Well, are ya gonna do something?”

“I see, you are unfamiliar with the customs here. She is a waitress. She must be more than generous to you.” The girl’s face creases with fear. “You see this girl has signed her father several times. That bartender over there.” The man pointed to the brambly older gentleman. “And who I presume is her brother?” He points to a man with a guitar on his lap.

When her lips trembled, the maid rasped her breath. “What’s it to you? You might be wise to know who you’re dealing with.” As he scrunched up his face in anger, his crow-like visage got even worse.

As Rhomond gestures, he stretches out his fingers with both of his hands. As he continued, “I suggest you do not upset him. You see my friend here has a special set of talents you may not be aware of.” His fingers closed up, holding up only his two index fingers. “Granted, I understand you perfectly. She is cute.” He waves his hand after uttering each word. “Though my friend here. He thinks you’re not respecting her.”

“Yeah, your friend. The bloody pointer should know his place,” he said, extending his knife toward Elward.

Rhomund nodded his head. “I was saying the same thing. Men must be men. Though my friend… he does not see things our way. While I am fine with you, he is not.”

The crow-eyed man pulled a sword from his side, pushing the girl off his lap as he said, “You are threatening me.” The man pointed his blade at Rhomund’s neck. Gritting his teeth, he grunted. “I will put my sword straight through you.”

“I see,” Rhomund said, touching the sword’s tip with his fingertip. “That was a mistake, my friend.” As soon as Rhomund had finished speaking he pulled the blade from the man’s hand. The man could not utter a word before Rohomund drew himself in close. In his folded arm, he placed his elbow and the blade’s edge against the crow-eyed man’s collar. With squinted eyes he whispered, “Leave, you and your friends,” he said. “Live to fight another day. Am I understood, gentleman?”

Backing up a step, the crow-eyed man returned to his original position. Rhomond spun the blade with graceful handling and presented him with its handle. He reaches for it in a jerky, unfluent motion. “You wait,” he yelped. “When my Lords hear about this, we will burn down this place.”

“Is that so?”, Elward asked as he drew a dagger from his side and slit the crow-eyed man’s throat with inhuman speed. In response, the man with the messed up teeth backs up, but Rhomund has already moved behind him. He bumps into Rhomund, turns, and reaches for his sword but can’t feel it. He is surprised as Rhomund reveals his sword was in his hands and he inserts the blade into his throat. As the one-eyed man tries to run, Elward’s dagger plants itself in the back of his head. He stopped for a moment before falling to the floor with a bang on the back of his head.

The girl gasps for breath as she looks at the bloody mess. While Rhomund wipes the blood off his coat with a stray tablecloth, she backs up screaming. “I apologize, mam,” he says. “I’ll take care of it.”

“Who are you two?” she asks, looking at them both. “Do you realize what you have done?” Everyone is running out of the pub in a frenzied state.

“This is my friend Elward… and my name is Rhomund. We are the Queen’s personal errantry.”

~ 868 RE ~

~ Iest Kingdom, Afternoon On A Merchant Road To Port Branderfel ~

“Damn it. The axle broke and we ain’t getting anywhere for a while,” said an older man wearing a straw hat. It was a warm day in the breezy canyon, as the sun beat down on the caravan of travelers. “I don’t like being in these parts.” he said. “Unsavory things lurk around in this canyon. One time, I saw wolves out here. “They had already found their pickings, though.” He said standing beside a horse-drawn carriage. A snapped wooden rod protruded from the bottom of the front wheel, which lay on the ground. The two horses pulling the carriage stand calmly.

Raven-haired youth glanced over at the wagon master. “So we’re stuck out here then?”

“That’s how it’s looking girly. I said I’d bring you to Port Branderfel and that’s what I intend to do. You have my word. It will just take a little to fix this. As a precaution, you wait behind the carriage.” He bent down and looked beneath the carriage. A man dressed in tattered and dirty clothing emerged from the back.

“If we will be here for a while, then I guess I will go pee.” he quiped as he walked over to some shrubbery.

Suddenly the man under the cart shouted, “I warned ya already ‘bout the things out here. If you get bitten, I won’t be able to get ya to help. I may haf’ta heft off your leg and I don’t want to deal with that bloody mess.”

Having looked out across the canyon, she sighed, then walked to the back of the carriage. Above them, on the step of the canyon, a few men hold sabers and pole arms in readiness to encircle the caravan. As they descend to the ground, they make themselves known to the stranded group. “Bandits. Diyano, you have cursed us.” The wagon master grumbled as he saw several pairs of boots from the ground under the cart.

The raven-haired girl turned around to see the group of men approaching. “Looks like you need a touch of help. We might be able to help. It will cost you. “Of course, this highway has a fee to travel it.” protested a man with a torn strip of cloth surrounding his mouth and nose. Having long brown hair and a sword, he appeared frightening. He was covered in frayed and torn rags, uncharacteristic of his armor. Similarly, the other men were armed.

A man gripped the girl’s arm with his brown leather gloved hand whilst wearing a shrill bag with eye holes on top of his head. “Aren’t you a cutie? Heh, old man, you want to live right. The girl is your tax.”

The girl tugged her arm free from the man’s firm grasp. “Get your hands off of me!” she added, taking two steps back.

An axe-wielding short man laughed. “She told you.”

“Yeah, but that’s all right. I like them feisty,” he laughed. “So what do you say, old man?”

A large pair of eyes swept over the girl as the wagon master glanced over at her. “I am sorry.” He whispered, closing his eyes firmly.

“What!” She cried out in terror. Trying to escape, she twisted and screamed as the bandits grabbed hold of her. They then pinned her in their grasp and started dragging her down the dusty road.

With arms spread out, the other man dived in to separate the group from the girl. “You must not let them take her.” As soon as he had finished, the man in the sackcloth stabbed his saber into his stomach. When he fell to his knees, holding his belly, its contents spilled out onto the ground, his eyes glistening. Looking up, he saw the group of bandits dragging off the screaming girl.

“My queen, I swear on my honor. Throughout the merchant roads, there are corpses everywhere. This was the first time I saw something like it, I thought it was wildlings. Originally I planned to go to Taber, but saw so many bodies I became fearful.” said a man bowed down to the young Queen Gazalia. In response, Aschiles’ advisor raised an eyebrow. His gaze wandered over to Queen Gazalia, who nodded approvingly.

Gazalia stood up and placed a hand on his shoulder. “You have done a good thing by returning my dear servant. Wisdom dictates that a person avoid what he cannot overcome. There will be no harm done to you or to your family inside these walls.” She looked at the man on his knees with her hand still on his head. “What do you have to say about this Lord Achiles?”

“Wildlings do not act in this fashion. Their brutality in battle and terror during wartime makes them a nation’s nightmare. You said you came upon a family that was hung from a tree?”

“Yes my Lord,” said the man whose head bowed.

“Wildlings skin their victims and tie their skins to the trees to intimidate. However, they do not hang their victims. They would consider it nothing but waste of good meat.” Lord Achiles muttered in a hoarse voice.

Gazalia removed her hand from the man’s head. “If not wildlings, who else would stand against me in such a manner?” she asked.

“Humans. Not petty bandits, but bandits nonetheless. My queen, they were sending you a message. They are claiming the merchant roads as their territory. Thus, they may have been backed by a powerful group, even an empire larger than themselves. Still, old tribal conflicts still haunt Iest. Surely some factions of the old empire still have not declared themselves to us. We should pay attention and put an end to this before the people see that as weakness.”

The queen slowly returns to her throne and sits down. “Please have my knights guard the roads from the Kingdom to Port Branerfel. Also, have another group of knights travel towards Matrick. Instruct them to hunt down and kill any bandit they find without mercy. Ask them to disguise themselves as commoners and hide their weapons and armor. We will show these crooks whose kingdom they are trying to rob.”

“At once my queen.” said Lord Achiles bowing before her throne.

“No one will threaten my people. Every traveler in my land must be protected by the shield of my kingdom. Achiles bring me my Lord Knights. I have an errand for those two.”

~ 868 RE ~

~ Far West Iest Kingdom, In The City Of Taber At Nightfall ~

An eerie violet glow permeated the night. As Elward looked out from atop the tavern, it revealed a city of ruins and decaying streets. As he watched the outside and waited for any sign of the gangsters approaching. With a twitch of his ears, the sound of the balcony door opening diverted his attention to the side of him. His silver eyes stare at the barmaid in front of him carrying a large horn mug and a pitcher of clear liquid. The water smelled pristine. “You ought to sleep,” he said to the girl.

When she poured water for him, she shyly added, “I thought you might be thirsty.”. With her horn, she offered him a drink. He took her container graciously. The girl blushed slightly. “It was very you to protect me. Thank you. Sorry, I screamed.”

He smirked a smidgen, “That is quite alright.”

With a sheepish look on her face, she asked, “Is it true… that you’re an elf?”

Elward shook his head. “My father was human.”

“What about your mother?”

As Elward turned to face her, he said, “My mother, people say she was an elf, but I do not know.”

“Really?” she questioned.

He nodded his head. “I do not remember her.”

“That’s a pity. I don’t think all elves are that cruel, because I think you’re really kind,” the barmaid said with a sweetness in her voice that rubbed Elward the wrong way.

Elward looked at her his eyes shining white. “Is that so?so?so? ” he smugly replied, revealing his true eyes to her. His paling face was obscured by her hands. Afterward, his eyes grew dim and his gaze returned to normal. “I would be afraid of them, and that is my advice to you.”

As soon as the girl regained her composure, she asked, “So who is that man you travel with?”

“That is the man who killed my mother.” He said coldly. “And I intend to return the favor as does he.” She was stunned by his reply. “We are under oath to work together, but if truth be known we are enemies. Alas, child enough stories it is late, and you should be sleeping.”

“Aren’t you going to sleep?” the girl asked Elward.

He shook his head before saying, “I don’t sleep.”

~The Next Morning~

“Thank you for saving my daughter,” said the bartender. At this point, the tavern hall was quiet and everyone had departed. There was no longer any fire, but the lingering smell of the night’s dinner remains. The young girl’s father sat at a large table with Rhomund and Elward. There was a sharp light streaming through the pub’s windows. “Do you believe we are safe now? Do you think they will return?”

“We hope they do,” Elward said, polishing his blade.

The bartender scratches his head. “These Blue Hammers you called them, they have become troublesome,” Romund gestured by making circles with his fingers. “To everyone.” On the table, the weapons the bandits carried were spread out. Among the armor pieces were a few garments. The ornate designs and skilled workmanship indicate military equipment. “As you may have noticed these weapons are valuable. I doubt a group of bandits would have supplies like this.”

Elward nodded firmly. “I believe these are Azurian made weapons; from Flaggard.”

Looking at the two men, the middle-aged man sighed. “Flaggard. Isn’t that on the other side of the world?”

“Never been there,” said Rhomund. “I can tell you though it is not close. Got a whole sky to travel to get to it. So why are they in the hands of these Blue Hammers? This is a port town, isn’t it? Travels to and imports from the Southern Kingdom as I understand it.”

His chin was stroked as he nodded his head in agreement. “Yes. Although recently we have seen fewer merchants and more bandits. They are everywhere I am afraid.”

“Interesting. I am not familiar with the leadership of Taber. Tell me, where is the city guards?” Rhomund asked.

“That’s the shameful part. King Kerchov has himself hid up in his manor. The city guards for some time have only guarded the royals in the northern province. The coward was the heir. His uncle died ‘bout two years ago. That’s when things fell apart here. When he claimed his place as the “lawful” Baron, he proved to be little more than a greedy man. Taxes and taxes and the loyal guards refused to follow his orders. He disbanded the old guard and hired marauders from the surrounding lands. Calls em’ common guards. So while he has real guards, he allows the common guards to do what they will. As long as it is not causing him any trouble that is. I am not even sure if he is the one who raises taxes anymore.”

“Interesting, Taber does not have a King, it has a baron.” Elward commented.

“Well, no offense to the two of ya but the Iest Kingdom has been long forgotten. Until now I believed the Iest Kingdom had forgotten us as well. If I speak with honor I do not trust the two of you.”

Elward grinned. “We are not to be trusted. Until some time ago Rhomund and I were traveling sellswords. More or less men who kill for the highest bidder. Yet we now are under the service of a different ruler. She has another vision of Iest Kingdom. One that lives up to the old glory it used to be or perhaps something more. Yet, she is but a child.”

“Elward enough, it appears we have business with this “King” of Taber,” Rhomund rose from his seat.

With stone pillars and baroque statues, the main streets of Taber are ornate. However, the façade of elegance conceals a maze of buildings. These buildings appeared to have been sprouted from wood scraps. It was as if the street networks grew out of the ground. It reminded Elward of a garbage dump. Anything like this would burn to the ground in the Fae world because it was so hideous. The thick mud of waste lined the sides of the streets and the smell was far from pleasant.

Although the two wended their way through crowded streets, Rhomund nevertheless felt at home. There was almost a feeling of him poised to collide with someone but never did. Despite using more elegant steps, Elward had to put more focus on how he maneuvered. The simple act of not colliding with another person took a great deal of effort. Several minutes later, they arrive at their destination after negotiating the tangle of streets. A large gateway with several gruff looking men in armor guarding it appeared before them.

The guard on the right immediately called out stopping the others from pointing spears at Elward. Rhomund tried to explain, but the guard did not lower his spear. Elward stared at him with a boredom look that he could muster. With his back to the wall of the gate, the older guard stepped over and spoke to the younger guard. Laying down his spear, he moved aside so that the two could walk past. Suddenly, they had arrived in what seemed to be another city. A few chariots could pass through the streets once one passes through the threshold. Many buildings are in good shape, as well as the main streets.

An expanse of white stone road leads to a palace topped by many domes. There are several spires surrounding the castle that look like spikes reaching into the sky. They appear to be sharp against the heavens. From the south, the open blue skies and the lower levels of ports can be seen. On a large bridge, Rhomund and Elward were mere silhouettes. Through the crossing, they enter the palace’s courtyard.

An enormous dome crowned this massive building. Around the side of the building, towers, walls and spires can be seen. Rhomund thought that it could house an army. Elward, meanwhile, was intrigued by the structure. His impression was that it didn’t seem to be a Marionian building. With its paintings and love of art, its design had an Azurian influence. However, Marion wasn’t keen on that. There was also a differing cultural viewpoint as well.

“He likes to keep his guests waiting.” Elward stared at the baroque pillar as they stood in a corridor with many delicately carved ivory pillars. The carvings depicted colorful pieces of local history. The three tribes, the first men arriving in Marion on gliders, the old queen who conquered the lands and the history of a man’s conquest over the dragons. The towering glass structures behind which the city loomed revealed a vista of the city. Through the city, both its past and future blend into a harmonious whole. Elward looked at the columns with amusement as he studied them. Besides him, Rhomond was walking slowly behind him pointing at a carved dragon. “Dragons,” He said in a sharp tone getting a small chuckle from Elward who then rolled his eyes as he looked away.

Upon opening the large doors to the court, a meaty guard announced, “His highness is ready to see you.”

Astonished by the throne room’s extravagance, Rhomund and Elward could not believe their eyes. The floor was made of smooth polished stone that reflected light. On either side of the throne stood two decorative columns supporting the balcony above. Throne itself was atop a platform above the rest of the room, connected to it by a staircase. Paintings on both sides of the platform depict the gods combating the primal forces. In fact, the walls were covered with gold and painted depictions as well. “This is a shrine to history.” Elward said abruptly.

“I see you noticed,” said a man standing by the throne. He walked down the stairs with his hands open, considering the gesture. He wore purple robes with golden dragons print. The white and purple striped rope tied off the black toga that covered his chest. “If I could do one thing for this world I would preserve its history.” He had the smile of a Howl celebrity. “What brings the two of you here?”

Rhomand did not seem as impressed as Elward, who stood up straight before speaking. “I have orders from the Queen to ensure the safety of her territories. Baron Kerchov, I presume.”

“Ah, yes.” Kerchov’s face became puzzled. “You are?”

“Queen Gazalia’s errants,” Elward replied in a proud tone.

“So, you are the two wandering knights. I have heard stories about you. Mighty fine warriors, duel to the death ended by a Queen’s orders. I must pay a visit to our Queen. She sounds most magnificent. And here are two legends in the flesh. So, what can I do for the two of you?”

“You can start by looking after your people. The two of us had the pleasure of meeting bandits within the city borders. They seemed to have no fear of city guards either. In fact, we killed them, and still, no guards showed up to even question us. This is a severe problem wouldn’t you agree?”

“I see… that does sound like a trifling affair. I must get my guards to be more prominent in the lives of common folk,” he said. “Allow them some freedom and they become savage as wildlings.”

A look of interest crossed Elward’s face as he looked at Rhomund. “Well, we can assist you in this. There is already a patrol of guards from the Iest Kingdom conducting road checks. We can have them establish a city watch.”

While he turned away to face his throne, Kerchov licked his lips. Rhomund looked up as he turned back to him after a few steps. “I could not bear to burden you with the problems of my city,” he paced the floor. In the midst of deep thought, Kerchov raised his hand for silence as Rhomund attempted to speak. In addition to pacing a few more times across the polished floors, he looked up and down. “I have a better plan of approach I believe. I must assist in setting up these road checks. This will give my guardsmen the proper training they need.”

“They will learn more from being within these walls with Iest Kingdom’s finest soldiers,” Rhomund said immediately after asserting his authority.

A sigh escaped Kerchov’s lips. “There is a cultural aesthetic you are failing to appreciate, my dear Rhomund. I am sure such a nobleman as Elward would agree with me, seeing as how he appreciates… what I have done here. Taber is not merely a city. It is a sanctuary of culture! We may be a mere port but isn’t a port a grand cauldron to cultivate the ideals and ideas of the people. We are kindred spirits can’t you see?”

Rhomund’s eyes grew wide from the strange remark. “You’re joking? This city is falling apart.”

Kerchov grunted, “Falling apart. It is steeping. You will see what will grow out of my kingdom.”

“Your kingdom. About that, I see you have a crown?” Elward said pointing at Kerchov’s head.

Kerchov nodded his head a few times while blinking. Observing his strained effort to avoid eye contact, Elward took note. “That is punishable and considered treason you know,” Rhomund added.

There was a short silence before Kerchov spoke, “I am King of Taber, a crown is suitable for a king.” he rubbed the back of his neck.

“Really?” Elward said. “Last I knew Taber was under the rule of a baron and not a king. Queen Gazalia will be displeased when we return with news of a descent. Perhaps we should return you to her to explain yourself in person.”

“Really there is no need for this. It’s semantics anyway. So I won’t use the name King any longer.” Kerchov raised his hand rolling his head slightly. “I am Baron Kerchov, fine by me.”

Rhomund walked up backhanding him in the face and knocking the crown off his head. “Put it on again, and you will wear it to the grave. Understood?”

Grabbing the side of his face, Kerchov stood shocked. “Of course. You clearly appreciate mercy.”

“Watch it. I could do worse still.”

Kerchov took a step back and cowered. “You would not dare. Remember it is my halls that stand in.”

“Rhomund, let him go. He’s from Javel.” Rhomund looks disgusted for a moment. After that, he stepped back. An oozing stream of blood poured from Kerchov’s nostril.

“Javel, that explains things but how did you know that?”

“His appreciation of art and history. Yet he has no leadership skills, and he is a coward.” Kerchov stared with an angry glare that folded into absolute terror. “Isn’t this true Kerchov?”

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Episodic Series, Fiction, Lyorta

Lyorta: The Saga Of Retribution: Chapter 4

The previous chapter may be worth reading first if you have not already done so. To access the previous chapter, click the button below.

Chapter 4: The Noble Hunt

~ 865 RE ~

~ Southern Kingdom, Sacred Grounds Of The Aria ~

Hundreds of feet of crimson orange moss cover the ground. The thick glade was punctuated by the occasional patch of grass or twisted tree. Birdsongs and insect chatter ring from the forest surrounding the open meadow. Under the shade of a tangled tree, among the tall grass, one could easily overlook a band of neros hunters.

As the pack moved over the fields, low to the ground, it was suddenly stopped by the raising of Lymric’s hand. Within arms reach of her father, Belairus gazed over the open grounds. As her father whispered in the most silent of voices, she followed his gaze pointing her vulpine ears towards him. “What do you see, Belairus?”

After softly brushing her hands over the reeds that concealed her, the reeds bent to reveal a two-legged creature standing alone several yards away snapping its tail. Belairus noted that it was covered with deer fur and resembled an animal with a body like a rhino. Its mouse-like nose sniffed the orange fungus while its two large avian talons bit deep into the soil. The long horns on its head resembled a crown Belairus thought. “This is an Elken,” she replied, recalling their description from tales told about them in the village. As the field beast studies the surroundings, it lets out a small groan. Taking a foot off the ground, the creature bends over and sniffs at the moss again.

A freshly-faced neros moves up behind Lymric and whispers, “See those horns. Their length is impressive. It’s an old, powerful one. It’s swift yet delicious. Lymric, your hunt is worthy of the young princess.” His face is adorned with elaborate designs and swirls around his right eye.

“Uncle Asgar is right father… don’t you agree?” Belairus said feeling the firm grip of Asgar pat upon her shoulder. Lymric looked over to see his brother’s pearly whites grinning from ear to ear.

Lymric bent forward toward Belairus’s ear. “This one will run away if you make a noise. You must be,” Lymric paused for emphasis before he said “silent, slow, deliberate.” He pointed his claw at the throat of the animal. “It will run, but if you get a good poke at it, it will fall.”

A purr of excitement erupted from Belairus. As she stepped out from the cover of foliage, she quieted herself.  With her hands inches from dragging as she crawled almost on all fours, she got closer as the creature tapped the ground with its long thin tail.

Lymric whispered to Asgar “Let’s see your worth brother.” Asgar smirked, knowing he taught her well.

Without warning, the elken raised its head, standing straight, its eyes widening with fear in place of its once relaxed stare. Without moving a muscle, Belairus froze, knowing if she moved, she would scare off her prey. Her heart pounded when the creature turned its head toward her. There was a chill in the air as suspicious eyes watched her. They were attentive and careful, intent on finding any predators. She froze, unable to breathe. Watching silently, the pack anticipated her next move.

As if by magic, the sigil of victory appeared. The elken lowered his head. Her ruse had succeeded, she thought. As it poked its tongue out of its mouth, it picked up a thick layer of slimy moss before returning to its mouth. With careful steps, Belairus sunk her foot into the slimy moss, leaving behind a splotch. She looked to see that her foot was buried ankle-deep in the fungus. While lifting her foot, the anklet on her leg slipped off. Aware of the sudden loss of something, she looked to the ground, but she immediately lost her footing in the slimy muck. Stumbling forward, her other foot came crashing down onto solid ground. The sound was loud causing the color to drain from her. Her head jerked up immediately. To her dismay, the elken was looking right at her, its eye growing larger like ink spreading through water.

Now was the time for her to act. She leapt from the ground and charged at the elken. Attempting to lance the thing, she braced her spear against her side. Whirling its tail, it whips up dust on Beliarus with a loud crack, slapping her across the face. Trying to catch herself, she landed on her bottom, watching the beast run swiftly into the thick wood. Raising her hand, she felt a stinging on her cheek. The air is damp with the smell of iron. As she lowers her fingers, she notices that her finger tips have turned red. As she looked back at the group, who have now emerged from their cover, she let out a heavy sigh.

“It will take time, but you will be a skilled hunter.” A tall, muscular woman said, lifting Belairus to her feet. “I am surprised you got that close.”

Belairus glanced at the others and pouted. “But it got away.”

A hearty laugh erupts from Asgar. “Narin is right little flower. If no one ever got away, we would be too fat to hunt, and the forest would be empty.” He grins widely adding, “Even the mighty Asgar has lost many a hunt. You better smile, not pout, it happens to the best of us.”

Belairus sulked after snatching rabbits, foxes, and other small game. Her mind was consumed with her lost catch, and she embarrassed herself in front of her tribe. While rummaging through a bush later in the day her eyes caught sight of the hairy hide of creature. The opportunity presented itself for her to impress. She approached fiercely, clutching her spear tightly around its leather wrap. With a few careful strides, she identified a boar just as it turned its head to face Belairus, lowering its tusks with a snort. Without time to call the others, she froze.

Belairus’s eyes widened as he heard the boar snarl, diving from the grass. She appeared to be dwarfed by the beast in her own eyes, as if it were an enormous creature. As she evaded the beast’s charge to the side, she raked her claws across its thick flesh, leaving a nasty gash.

“Belairus!” Narin shouted, the first to witness the fight. At the rear of the group, Asgar charged out of the brush as the boar turned swiftly back to Belairus. Once more, the hog tried to impale her with its elephantine tusks. The boar didn’t have time to turn before he met the sharp end of Belairus’s spear between the eyes. Her weight helped push the spear deeper as it reared, sending Belairus flying higher and higher. After jumping off the polearm, she landed on the boar’s back with her claws, stabbing it in the neck. Squealing in pain, the boar kicked hard, knocking Belairus off of its back. She slid down onto all fours after rolling around several times on the dusty soil. In front of the beast, she narrowed her eyes as it dragged its hoof to the ground.

Lymric raised his hand to signal Asgar to stop and whistled. Asgar stared at Lymric with narrowed eyes, his fingers moving across the shaft of his spear in readiness to attack. When Lymric closed his hand, he shook his head in disbelief. With his eyes focusing on his niece, Asgar sighed, wishing that she were winning the fight against the wild boar. Although the beast rushed Belairus, she managed to grab hold of the spear still stuck in its face. Her hands slipped back onto the shaft and turned along with its gate as she redrew the spear from the boar’s skull. As the wound is opened, blood leaked out of the boar’s face. The animal screamed in anger as it made another attack on her. After sidestepping the boar again, she attacked it with her spear, slamming it into the boar’s spine knocking it to the ground as it passed her. As her rage flared, she jabbed the spear into the boar several times, ensuring it was indeed dead. A sense of pride welled up within Belairus as she looked upon her bloodied kill. Her father, whose face is covered by a huge smile, looks up at her with similar delight.

“Who would have thought that my flower would become a fearsome beast-slayer?” Asgar said with a voice that was thick with emotion.

“She is absolutely your daughter,” Narin replied. Her body is propped up against the spear, which is stabbed into the ground.

Asgar chuckled. “Smile.” Belairus obliged with the biggest toothy grin she could muster. “Good, that girl of your’s brother, she won’t be bested by any of us, will she?” he exclaims as he inspects the creature she had downed all by herself. “Oh look at it. A bearded boar. Rare to find one of these… if you aren’t looking for it.”

Lymric walked over to Belairus and grabbed her under her arms, lifting her up. She clung to his side. “Your first hunt is a bearded boar. You make your father proud”, he said tickling her belly, causing her to giggle.

Barieve, another warrior that guarded the group, grinned before he said “Fantastic.” He then audibly licked his lips. “I can hardly wait to dig in.”

Asgar lifted up the dead boar behind his back and nodded his head in agreement. “This is a noble hunt Belairus. Lumaria smiles upon you. The boar is a stronger creature than a girl. The hunt will be told in stories.” Belairus’s toothy grin beamed with joy.

On a log covered in dense moss, Belairus sat alongside her father. Over a small fire, a couple of wooden branches are used as spits to roast the boar. Barrieve stood above the group, on a tree branch looking out over the distant woods for any sign of danger. In the meantime, Asgar spun the spit gently roasting the meal as Narin relaxed on a flat rock, sunning herself. Asgar intently watching the fires. The smell of the meat cooking made the young neros mouth water. Then, Asgar turned his attention to her. “Belairus, do you know what Barieve is looking for?”

Belairus shook her head. “We’re in the land of a winged god.” Her eyes lit up. He said, “Yes, my girl, a winged god.”

“Are these the same winged gods we praise at the wisdom tree?” Belairus inquired.

“This one lives here in our world. The others fled long ago to the land of the wisdom tree.” Lymric said calmly, rubbing her head. “The winged goddess is called Visaraliel, and she is the queen of the forests. I have never met her, but Barieve has.”

Barieve glanced at Lymric with a sly grin. “And I wish not to again.”

Belairus stared up at Barieve in astonishment. “You met a winged god!” she exclaimed. “What was she like? I mean what did she look like?”

His eyes slowly pan down at Belairus for a moment, Barrieve turned his attention back toward the distant horizon. “Her body resembles the body of a feathered viper, and her horns are like those of a ram. Her wings are so large they block out everything but fold tightly on her back. Like a mastodon, she had massive arms and legs. Seeing her tree-like tail, I was terrified. She told me to leave, and I did.”

“What happened to the winged gods?” Belairus asked.

“They left. Nobody knows why they left. They just left.” Asgar said. “When the world ends, the priests say they will return to battle with the gods of the sky.”

As Beliarus watched the boar cook staring deeply into the burning embers, she said under her breath, “When the world ends…”.

There were no birdsongs to be heard among the timbers. Narin sniffed the air, her eyes widening with anger. Belairus sniffed too, smelling an odd smell in the air. She glanced at her father who had also noticed the strange scent. She heard Asgar whisper, “I know that salty smell. It’s a human.” Asgar, Barieve, and Narin lower their ears, and their tail fur bushes out, claws extending out of their fingers, and their pupils grow into thin slits. “They’ll die.”

“Not unless I command it.” Lymric snarled at Asgar. They followed the scent and saw a earless person dressed in a strange dirty jerkin vest. His bulging eyes and trembling body suggest to Belarius that he was in a panic as he stumbles through the brush. Lyrmic placed his palm on Belairus’s head “This is a worthwhile test. Belairus, what shall we do with this human?”  

“Is this truly a human? He doesn’t seem so scary or strong, does he?” she asked curiously. “Shouldn’t we see what he is up to before we do anything?”

Asgar wrinkled his nose. “And dishonor our lands? Not I.” Asgar gripped his spear walking toward the man. Lymric placed his hand on Asgar’s shoulder holding him in place. “And why not?”

Lymric bared his fangs at Asgar. “She must learn how to lead. I am curious to see how she would handle this.”

“By the Lumaria, I think you are making a big mistake listening to little flower.” Asgar groaned.

Belairus said, “Father,” placing her hand on his chest at which he lowers his fangs. Then she turned to face Asgar directly. “We have formed an alliance with the humans of Haven. Have you forgotten the honor you owe the Aria? Would you like me to sully the Hukoten clan in the eyes of the Aria?” she asked pointedly.

Asgar widened his eyes in response to Belairus’s statement. “Little flower thinks too highly of herself.”

“We honor our word to the Aria above our own interests,” she said with a firm voice.

Narin hisses indignantly, “He’s on our territory. That is breaking our treaty.”

“Would you have me kill him?” Belairus asked.

Barieve licks his lips and said “Yes and eat him.”

“He smells terrible Barieve. You would eat that?” Belairus asked in a joking manner.

Lymric stepped out from cover and walked ahead of the others. He is followed by the rest of the neros. He looks up, his mouth immediately widens. “Where do you come from?” Lymric asked in a slow, deliberate tone.

“I am lost, please help me.” Pulling his pants pockets out of his side, the stranger stammered, “I am not a threat. See no weapons, I swear, I am unarmed.”

Lymric lowered his head, slamming his spear into the ground. “That’s not what I asked.”

“I am from Haven,” he cried in absolute terror. “Please forgive me. My caravan was separated from me. I’ve been heading north for some time, but I seem to only be getting into denser jungles.” The man said with a hint of dread in his voice.

Belairus grabbed her father’s shoulder and pulled him down to her level. She whispers, “North… He’s confused. South… He’s headed south.” Lymric’s eyes met hers, a glint forming at their core. He looked back at the man.

“My daughter saved you from certain death. You should be grateful to her,” said Lymric. “I would have killed you if she hadn’t been here. We do not tolerate trespassers here.” Lymric growled, letting out a snarl. With a toothy grin, Belairus approached the man. She reached out her hands toward him. He grasps her palms as she helps him to his feet.

“I must be in the wildling lands?” he asked in a shocked tone. “I appreciate your kindness.”

Belairus stared at the man inspecting him as she walked around him. Biting his bottom lip, he watched the other three look like they want to kill him. He swallowed a lump that formed in his throat. A growl erupted from Asgar, “What brings you here?” Lymric’s gaze darted to Asgar’s.

“My caravan was attacked by thieves. Think they were from the Golden Kingdom. Not sure but they plundered our carts. During the fight, I got scared and ran off. I thought I was heading north, but I was heading south instead. This is quite a surprise. Could I have an escort… out of your land? I don’t mean to intrude.”

Lymric glanced over at Barieve who is salivating. “Barieve, can I trust you to take him to our border?”

Barrieve’s expression is cartoonishly pained. “Of course.”

“He can’t be harmed. Not even a little,” said Lymric.

After looking over the man for a moment, Belairus stands in front of him. “I have never seen a human before. Where is your tail? And what happened to your ears?”

He smiled briefly. “I don’t have a tail.” He showed her his hands. “Neither do I have claws. My ears are on the side of my head.”

“Your eyes look funny. They look like dots.” she chuckled. “We are different, aren’t we. I am pleased to have met you human. Go in peace.”

As he looked up to see Barieve standing in front of him, the man gulped. He turned back to Belairus and bowed his head in respect. “Thank you. You are most gracious.”

Asgar growled “Get moving human… ” as he turned to walk away. Barieve took the man with him down another path. Belairus glanced back at the man before she said, “He sounded kind and terrified at the same time. What makes humans such a threat to us?”

“They are not, and we should have killed them all a long time ago,” Asgar growled before running forward.

Belairus sighs as Lymric looks down at him. “Long ago, we fought the humans. It was before I or any of us were born. Nobody remembers why we went to war, but we have been at war ever since. For a long time, the humans of Haven were our friends. Now, not so much. Our relationship is strained. It’s surprising you know about that alliance. However, they have an extremely significant role to play. In the absence of them, the humans from other lands would overtake the Aria with their weapons. Therefore, we protect them from those other kingdoms.”

Narin snarled. “Not that long ago, Lymric. It was not nearly long enough to forgive them for their betrayal. I have not.”

“Those were not the true leaders of Haven,” Lymric said to Narin.

“Fenrir told me of the human alliance, and the dangers of humans, but I do not understand. If the humans are our friends why do we not trust them now?” Belairus wondered aloud.

“Haven was captured by a people from another land. They attacked the Aria, and our elders were forced to slaughter the people of Haven. They did not kill all the humans, though.” Lymric said. “Most of us Hukoten are still bitter towards the Haven people. Aria demanded that the pact remained in place. This is why we hate humans, Belairus. You are too kind to them, and they will kill you when your back is turned. They hate us as much as we hate them. If the people of Haven had their way, they would certainly like to go to war with us, but they know they cannot because we would overpower them.”

“That is sad,” Belairus said as she continued walking.

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Episodic Series, Fiction, Lyorta, Perosnal Journal

Lyorta: The Saga Of Retribution: Chapter 1

The previous chapter may be worth reading first if you have not already done so. To access the previous chapter, click the button below.

Chapter 1: The Priest’s Of The Aria

~ 865 RE ~

~ Southern Kingdom, Sacred Grounds Of The Aria ~

Belairus was as stiff as a fence post. Around the young neros girl, a circle of trees was illuminated by midnight fires. Her ears twitched as a slag-smothered smoke blew from a burning log. She could not help but hear strange stories of sacred spirits whispered in her mind. In the warm glow, she could see ancient carvings etched into the trees. A great arm curled around her back as she clung to her father and buries her face in his stomach, but that did little to ease her pounding heart.

Her eyes traced the stranger who brought her to the druids. He had shown up in her village and they traveled for days. A wanderer by the name of Fenrir. His tale was a wild one told in the Aria. The Hukoten people were moved by the story of their goddess come in the flesh, even though she did not understand it. According to her father, they were sworn to uphold a sacred duty. Fenrir and Belairus, along with her father, traveled the long distance to the high priests of Aria.

Her opinion of him was unfavorable. She seemed to be the object of his unhealthy fascination. He’s a dirty warung and shady at that. His robes are black, like the ash-strewn soil around him. While traveling, he had been referred to as a mystic by a few, and a witch by most.

Belairus peered up the head of an incline, past her father’s side. In the bonfire’s flare, vast shadows of people wearing red cloaks and drenched in gold trinkets watched, silent, reminding her of hanging stars. Her eyes dart from one side of the cliff to the other. She saw a pair of naked, white-furred beasts. Both were holding torches that conjured images of strange creatures spouting fire from their open mouths. The red hoods covering their faces added to the impression. There was something dreadful about them. Yet, what is worse are the enormous swords embedded deep in the earth. No one could swing such powerful weapons. Even her father, Lymric, was not strong enough to deal with blades of that size.

As she watched the fire, a snapping branch caught her attention. Her heart skipped a beat when she noticed a shadow in the flames. The impossible image became real when another branch was snapped. Despite the flames, her eyes did not lie; a shadow in the fire stirred through them. The girl grasped her father’s arm with both hands. “Someone’s in the fire! Father, do something!” she shouted. Lymric responded with a harsh hush.

An uninjured man emerges from the fire unharmed by the heat and fury of the blaze. “Maybe it is a ghost,” she speculated. Although she was tempted to flee, her father kept her anchored to the spot.

She tried desperately to look away, but found herself unable to do so. Her once thin irises are now large black spheres, as a mixture of fear and enchantment took over her. The man of flames held a massive iron stave half as tall as himself. When she was a child, she had heard stories about high priests and those large staves they carried. The priest’s robes extinguish, unburned as if the fire never touched them. That large stave must be hot, Belairus reasoned.

She whispered to her father, “I don’t like this place,” with the childish hope that he will take her home. Sadly, the familiar touch of Lymric’s hand on her head was her answer. As soon as she felt that gentle stroke, she understood. As her pointed ears turned sideways, her tail brushed against the ground, moving back and forth.

Her heart sinks as a rather dull and monotonous voice from behind the black and red wooden mask called “Belairus come forward.” Her tail bushed out much like a duster. Sheepishly she took a step, as if dipping her toe in cold water. Belairus looked back up at her father, who bent down to push her. With a deep breath, she walked across the warm ash-covered earth, painting her pale feet as black as the twilight skies.

The masked man motioned limply with his hand. “Come now, child.”

Her fear of upsetting the elder caused her to leap over the dust. In the firelight, the golden accents on the mask glittered. The priest towered over her; far taller than she expected. He may even be taller than her father. And that brutal heat; she could feel its intense kiss on her face as a chill ran down her spine. The man lowered his hand while exposing his cloth-wrapped palm. The long bony fingers of the high priest curled around Belairus’s sweet appendages as she raised her hands in greeting. Belairus wondered, “He is cold. But how? The heat. Is he really that cold?”

“Old friend, why are you here with this child?” the high priest inquired to Fenrir.

Fenrir stepped forward with his chest outwardly prideful as always. “The pride land had rumors of a sacred child being born. When I followed these stories, I found Belairus. In my opinion, she is the perfect avatar. I have tested her and found that she does indeed possess the spirit of Lumaria. Her image alone can unify the tribes. I have come to pose that we should prepare her to become the avatar and be trained as a high priestess for all the tribes to follow.” Belairus always found Fenrir’s style of words to be one full of arrogance. She assumed it was because he looked down at her people. Now she sees that he was just conceded in himself.

The high priest straightens up without saying a word. The palm of his hand grips her lower cheek. His fingers forced her face to the side grabbing her jowl. He examined her left cheek, then her right, as if searching for a hidden inscription beyond the sight of other folks. Gazing into her royal blue eyes, he discovered he was smiling even as he examined her, though no one could see it behind the mask.

As the ambiance of fire drew out, Belairus could hear only the beating of her own heart. “Child,” a voice called out to Belairus. The voice is near, too close. It feels violating. As she realized the voice came from inside her own head, her irises became slits. “I see you’re listening. You speak as we do. Very interesting. That was not what I expected.” Another voice spoke in her head.

From behind the mask, the High Priest spoke, “Belairus?” In her head, another voice asked, “Have you learned how to speak like this?”

Belairus muttered inwardly to herself, “No.”

A small chuckle erupted from underneath the high priest’s mask. “That’ll do,” he said out loud. “Do you understand what Fenrir intends to accomplish with you, Belairus?” the high priest asked in a soft voice.

“He tells me I am the avatar. I will learn from you the ways of the Aria priests. At least that is what, he, says.” Belairus grew to believe this priest possessed some magic power that could see into her mind. Maybe he could even see how much she despised him.

Fenrir caught the high priest’s attention as he glanced at him. He asked, “Do you understand what being the avatar of the sacred Lumaria means?” His gaze never left Fenrir as he spoke.

She simply stated, “No.”

“Are you willing to give yourself up for another? To a stranger, you don’t know. Are you prepared to let someone else control and speak for you within your body?”

“No. That sounds scary,”

“Indeed, it is.”

“I will do what I must to make my family proud.”

After a low mumble, he said, “I’ve decided. It’s true what they say. I can see why they would call her the goddess. Though it is only silly superstition among the neros tribes. Paleness alone proves nothing. She is a girl. You should not lead a young lady like this astray, Fenrir. Belairus, tell us of higher things? Where are we from?”

She did not know what higher things were, she did not even learn what they were. Trees? That can’t be right. Probably he means the birds, since he wears a mask like that, though she knew nothing about birds. She considered the sky. She knew nothing about it, either. She shrinks back before stating, “I do not know about higher things. I only know we come from Lumaria, the goddess, and she is our homeland.” Her ears droop as shame seeped into her mind.

The high priest petted her head with those long fingers. “If you speak as we do, you have probably encountered many spirits. What do the spirits say to you?”

Belairus glanced at her father, who was now raising an eyebrow at her. “Stay away from their domains.”

“Domains?” He asked now sounding interested.

“The sacred places in the woods,” Belairus replied.

The high priest said, “See Fenrir,” with a warm voice. He goes on, “She’s a girl. Let a child be a child.”

Fenrir barked in a snappy tone, “You wouldn’t know the spirits of the Lumaria if they were incarnate in front of you.”

“Is it your suggestion that I would let an opportunity slip by?” remarked the high priest. His rod is aimed at Fenrir, rattling as the rings. The wind blew, causing the fire behind him to flare up into a blazing rage. Belairus clung to the high priest, burying her face in his robes as the fires swirl and dive around the high priest. “Here Fenrir, we don’t bow to the Tempest. Nor will we enter the Maelstrom like heretics. A hand pats Belairus’s back as the priest said, “You are safe, young child.”

“You’ve become a fool. Do you think our queen should be denied her right?” Fenrir asked in a low voice.

The high priest shook his head. “I will cast you into the fires if you don’t watch your tongue.” Fenrir swallows. Belairus assumes that Fenrir knew he went too far and has now angered the priest. A grimace appears on Lymric’s face as he glances over at Fenrir. “Your little scheme is not welcome here.” Fenrir remained silent.

He bends down to Belairus’s level and lifted his mask to reveal the warung’s wolfish face. “Belairus, you have great potential. I don’t want you to think wrong of me. If there is a queenship to be had, I am not going to deny you. But you aren’t the avatar. I believe you will play an important role. But not one that serves the Aria.”

Watching her father stare off with a wide-eyed expression and his mouth agape, Belairus turns her head. Gazing over at Fenrir, he then turns to face the high priest. Incredulous, Belairus thought, “How can this be happening?”

“Please,” her father said, causing the High Priest to lower his mask and turn to face Lymric. “Reconsider. Let her train with you at least,” the high priest stood to his full height. As he stood ajar in Lymric’s orientation, there was a moment of silence. “Educate her in the ways of being a high priest like yourself. I implore you.”

His tone of voice was indifferent when he said, “There is nothing I can do.”. Belairus raised a finger to her mouth and nibbled on the tip of her claw. Lymric opens his mouth to speak again, but the priest barks at him. “Nothing!” he demands. “I don’t think the priests should be teaching Belairus mystic ways. Have Fenrir train her; he believes himself to be higher than us as it is. Although, I believe that teaching her in such a manner would be a grave error. She would be better off training as a warrior. Not in the ways of priestly duties. The Hukoten have a proud history of being the noble warriors of the tribes.” Looking down at Belairus’s overwhelmed expression, he placed his finger on her cheek and a ticklish sensation overtook her as she couldn’t help but smile. “The responsibility for preparing her lies with you. I have seen monumental struggles in her life. Prepare her for it, or the stream of time for her will run dry. Now go…” said the high priest.

He pressed his bony hand against Belairus’s back. The young lady runs back over to her father. There is a look of disappointment on his face. It appeared that she had done something wrong and disrespected her father. Her face was filled with shock and shame. Lymric kneels down and embraced her. Holding her hand, he led her through the forest to a dark path.

As Fenrir turned to walk with the two, the high priest called out, “Fenrir you stay.” The three-stop and turn to look at the priest. Standing with his arm extended, he pointed a long claw at Fenrir. A small growl comes from Fenrir as he scowled at the high priest displaying his teeth. “I have meant to find you, and I am not through Fenrir. There is another matter I need to discuss with you.” The high priest then gestured to Lymric and Belairus with his waving fingers, telling both of them to go.

“What could that possibly be?” snarled old Fenrir. With his hand resting on Belairus’s back, Lymric urged her to continue down the path. She glanced at the mystics one more time. Their voices trailed through the woods quite a distance, speaking in strange tongues that she didn’t recognize.

In the shadows, Fenrir’s form was visible to the red druids. The fires snapped. “I have noticed your comings and goings recently. My curiosity is piqued. What are you doing these days? Why did you bring this child to me? Both of us know she is too young for such a responsibility. Whether or not she’s an avatar, why would you tell her now?” he asked.

Fenrir said under his breath, walking back towards the fire, “Oh, you’ve been watching me.” A small black plume of ash flew up with every step he took. Fenrir gritted his teeth in a measured snicker. “You would not let a man see his privileges. If you had any sense, you would have trained her. I was impressed when I first saw her in the Hukoten’s village. It is indisputable that her image alone is enough to convince others that she is a true avatar. In any case, she can be used to rally the armies whether or not she is. The smooth skins movement needs to be taken into consideration. Every year, Golden Kingdom folk expand eastward. We will be at war, and we must come together as tribes if we are to survive. She will be trained by me, and when she sits upon the restored throne of the Aria, you will be expelled from the temple.”

A chuckle erupts from the high priest. “Bitter words, my friend; angry words. We’ve had a tense relationship in the past. I appreciate this. You were not accepted by us when you were a lad, and now you spin tales with the surrounding tribes. Fenrir, you may convince them you’re an ancient seer, but you’re far from it. It has been many years since we were just children. By refusing you, Fenrir, I chose the right path. No, you chose a darker path, and it is a path you shouldn’t trust. You’ve aligned yourself with foul spirits. It’s been interesting to watch you wander about. Although you are searching within our lands, I am no fool. Do you intend to campaign?”

Fenrir jerks his head back and glared at the priest with his mouth agape. “You’re suggesting I’m a traitor, aren’t you?” Fenrir howls.

The high priest bowed his head. He said, “That remains to be seen…”

In Lymric’s arms, Belairus felt safe. A small fire pit in the middle of the leather tent heated the soft wolf’s pelt beneath her. Despite the mask of happiness covering her face as the two snuggled together, she could tell her father saw right through the smile. “What’s on your mind, Belair?” He asked.

Initially, Belairus shook her head. With Lymric’s stern gaze, she knew that the ruse was over. Her ears dropped to the sides. “Did I do something wrong, Father?” Her face was etched with disappointment, shame, pain, fear. Unlike her usual perky self, she slumped the entire way to the camp. So much so that her tail dragged.

He held her close to him and played with her hair as she smiled. “I am so proud of you. There is nothing wrong with you. Rather than believing you’re an avatar, they believe you’re destined to be a great warrior. The fact alone is something to be proud of.” Lymric chuckled, tears forming in his eyes.

There is one question on her mind that is tugging at her, and the meeting with the mystic just added weight to it. “What is an avatar?” Belairus asked.

“A sign to our people. Avatars will manifest as the goddess among us.” explains Lymric.

“How can I be that?” Her head hurts as she considers the impossibility of being a god. “Wouldn’t I recognize myself if I were the avatar?”

“Yes, I suppose you would.” Lymric paused, rubbing Belairus’ pointed ear. “Fenrir might have been mistaken. The man is driven to restore the Aria. To his own fault, he must have been blinded by his own ambition.”

As Belairus peered into the fires, she asked, “Is that so?” Her rosy lips were tinged with a slight smile, her fangs peeking out just beneath them.

Lymric clenches his jaw. “The elder believes you are capable of becoming a fine warrior. However, you must make your own decision. I will let you train with Fenrir if he allows it. Although he is not a priest of the Aria, he is a talented mystic. You can learn more from him than anyone else in the tribe about such things. Alternatively, I can let you train under your uncle with that spear of yours, learning the ways of the hunt and the spirit of the warrior.”

“That priest, he commanded the bonfire, and he was able to communicate with spirits. Maybe Fenrir also knows such things. But if I train under Fenrir, I would need protection from the tribe.” Belairus said, staring into his chili yellow eyes. “If I trained with Uncle, I could protect our kin and feed them when they were hungry.”

“Thinking about replacing me already.” Lymric smiled.

Belairus raised her hands in the air. “No father! I didn’t mean it that way.”

“I know that, little one.” After her outburst, she calmed herself.

“Why is uncle Asgar training me rather than you, father?” Belairus asked curiously.

A long, heavy sigh escaped Lymric’s lips. He said, “I don’t have the courage to train you, Belairus. I would never allow you to fail,” he said. Occasionally, the fires snap. Belairus finds this comforting, unlike the blaze at the tribal council.

Belairus pokes a stick into the burning embers at the edge of the rock circle. Small flames come to life and dance. She breathes gently so that the fires sway back and forth. Her smile grows brighter. “And uncle would?”

The twigs in Belairus’s hair tangle under Lymric’s thick fingers. Belairus bats at Lymric’s hand in an attempt to brush it away. “He wants to make sure you are the right chieftain to rule. You must be strong and powerful. You will have to fight to keep your hold on the tribe even now. Anyone can steal such a title away from you.”

It never occurred to her that she would succeed her father as chieftain. She would be the greatest leader her tribe has ever seen if she became ruler one day. She’d be clever as a fox and wise as a serpent. Despite the foul taste Fenrir left in her mouth, she must learn from it for her people. “Can I learn from both?”

Lymric nods without a moment’s hesitation. “That would be quite the undertaking. You won’t be able to play with your friends very often if you train under both.”

“Then, if Fenrir is as wise as everyone says… why hasn’t he learned to hold his tongue?” she asked bluntly.

Lymric roared at Belairus’s short words. “That’s a mighty good question. Speaking of which, it’s late, so it’s probably time for you to go to bed.”

“But I don’t want to go to bed.” Belairus frowns with a kind of exaggerated disappointment that almost seems comical.

Lymric grinned, patting her head. “Silly. Before we go to sleep, I’ll see Fenrir. Now go to sleep. I don’t want you to get lost.”

“We are in Aria!” Belairus smiled smugly as she stated, “I am safe from harm.”

Lymric stood up when he uncurled his arms. “No, stay here. There is something to discuss. It will be a long walk back home tomorrow. You don’t want to be sleepy.”

Still arguing, Belairus moaned, “It takes seven days to walk back from here.”

“Seven days, but if you don’t get your sleep, it may take eight or even nine.” Lymric replied smugly.

“Fine… I will sleep. However, if I wake up early, I want you to wake up with me so I won’t be bored.” Belairus chirpped with a toothy grin.

In response, Lymric nodded his head. “Of course, my queen.” Belairus cast a bashful look at his comment.

The morning came quickly for Belairus. Her eyes opened abruptly as she peered over the tent and saw the blankets her father had slept in already rolled up and packed. Her father’s fire had warmed her during the night, but it had gone out. From the open doorway of the tepee, light enters the room through a small hole at the top. While looking outside, she notices that her father is nowhere to be found.

Fenrir, however, is seated on a log in front of the lifeless outer campfire. Belairus slowly gets up. With ash-covered hands, she rubs her messy hair and face. Her makeup smeared, and the crescent moon was no longer visible. Only a black mark remained.

As she sat up inside her tent, she said, “Morning, mystic.” in a groggy voice.

With his hood down, Fenrir looks over. A toothy grin appears on his muzzle. “You’re awake now, child,” he said. “I’m glad. Your father is out hunting.”

“Why are you hunting?” Belairus was puzzled by Fenrir’s idleness.

A chuckle escaped Fenrir. “Your father is better suited to such a task. Get up, child. It’s my job to teach you. It’s time for your first lesson.”

Slowly, Belairus crawled out from beneath the tent and over to Fenrir’s log. “O all right. I’m still waking up. I hope i’ll understand.”

“This is a perfect time, child. Look and tell me what you see.” Fenrir points into the cinders.

Belairus thought to herself as she looked at the empty campfire. Was there anything she was missing? With a downcast expression, she thought the question became absurd. “What kind of game is this?” she wondered, not knowing, but it was not one she liked. “A burnt out fire.” Glancing up at Fenrir, she sees him smile.

He snapped at her, “Keep looking.”

However, the fire had been completely extinguished. Still, “It’s a fire pit.”

A snort escapes Fenrir. “Look past it.” he said.

The stone circle’s center turns dark like ink as Belairus watched it. Ash covered the ground until it was a black circle. Rotted things stared at her. They frighten her. “The dead!” she cried. “I see the dead!”

“These are old ones. Listen to those who have lived a long time Belairus. Their guidance is most sacred.” Fenrir commented.

A deep voice speaks out of the darkness, “The child has seen.”

Another whisper follows, “The child has seen.”

“The child has witnessed.”

There are more voices in the darkness. “The child is the witness.”

Belairus closed her eyes and shrieked. “I don’t want to hear them any longer!” she cried. “I don’t want to see them,” she yelled. As Fenrir strikes the ashes with his rod, a plume of dust flew into the air. Belairus opened her eyes to find the burned-out campfire. “I didn’t like that.”

Fenrir smirked. “When I saw the old ones for the first time, I was frightened. They are attracted to fires. They can’t show themselves without a source of power. Fire permits them to live among us.”

“But they have already died. The dead should stay with the dead,” she said as her chest rose and fell with every breath.

“It is sometimes necessary to bring the dead back to life in order to gain knowledge. Keep that in mind, Belairus. We get guidance from our ancestors in this way.” Fenrir stood up. “Lymric, what have you brought for us.” Belairus glanced at her father as he walked down the path, several water otters dangling from a stick attached to his shoulder.

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Episodic Series, Fiction, Lyorta

Lyorta: The Saga Of Retribution: Prologue


The threat of war had always loomed over Marion. Through its brutal history, the soil had soaked up the blood of many, and so it is with this story. In 795 RE, an empire from the far west invaded Golgotha, a land encompassing Marion’s north-eastern half. For 45 bloody years, the two empires fought each other, resulting in the capture of Golgotha by the western empire known as Azure. Peace was about to reign again… but poison can be swift and futile to expose once infused.

~ A Rider At Sunset ~

~ 845 RE ~ Golgotha’s Capitol: Elitus, at Dusk ~

Along the old country road, dusty soil erupted as thunderous hooves barreled over bittersweet pastures. Riding at the front is a brave warrior clad in armor. His name was Guildred, a Lord Knight of the Azure Empire and proud leader of the griffon knights. From what I knew of him, he was an absolute terror on the battlefield. Renowned for being the first in the vanguard and never leaving until he slew his enemy.

As he advanced, an army of cavalrymen on horseback, armed with rifles and spears, followed him. They rode past the heart of death, a field littered with rusted weapons buried in the dirt that marked the graves of the fallen. It filled his mind with images of the dead stacked like walls and their fetid odor as he remembered the blood and mayhem of the battle. Horror pierced his heart as he heard the irons bearing down on each other and the echoes of their screams clashing together. Despite the terrors of war, Guildred sat tall with his chest outstretched, a picture of strength. The flowing white cape of his robe gleamed in the dying red sun’s rays.

They rode forward toward a castle that was obscured by a rusty haze. In his veins, the panic was pumping like the beat of a war drum. He could hear the creaking of his horse’s reins as he wrapped the cords in his hand. With his saber raised, he points towards the war-torn city gates of Elitus.

They already stationed several guards in blue uniforms at the gates. As Guildred’s hand rose in the air, the soldiers prepared their spears. The Lord Knight felt his heart crawl into his neck as his horse came to a halt. Two guards point their long polearms at the naked neck of the gallant knight within seconds. Snowy whiskers and deep chasmic wrinkles adorn the face of the elder guard. The other guard was much younger. Despite his youthful sense of invisibility, the guard tightened up, giving him away.

There was an unsettling silence in the air. Regardless, the result would be the same. In his mind, it was simply a matter of whether he would wet his blade. As the guard’s face lit up with wide eyes, the old man appeared to recognize him, much to the Lord Knight’s relief. Though he couldn’t tell if it was fear or respect. “Lord Knight Guildred, what was this about?” asked the elder.

“I’m here under the orders of High King Grandor to protect the prince! I have no time for pleasantries,” Guildred said firmly, brushing the spear’s tip away with his sword. “Let me through,” they met his commanding reply with a nod from the guards, who parted to let the cavalry pass. Guildred directed his band of soldiers to cross the threshold like a rushing river of bestial hooves.

It had been so long since he last saw Elitus without its fortifications. During the war, ramparts constructed from metal plates and wood surrounded every street. They armed even the littlest children to defend the city. Now everything was quiet, and it appeared peaceful, although that was soon replaced by hallowed silence and prayers. Guildred’s armor-clad warriors stormed the streets, shaking the earth.

The Lord Knight glanced down to his side and saw a man, wide-eyed and mouth agape, dressed in a well-worn cloak. Lifting his stance over the man and pointing forward, he sent the retrenched cavalry to their positions. They do this as a coordinated force, trained and adept at what they do. Two men secured each junction, clearing the way for the horses. Guildred remained composed, with men guarding doors to their shops, locking the windows, and fleeing the knights despite the widespread panic. Guardsmen approached to ask about the situation as the riders explained it.

He grumbled to a younger man beside him, “Traveling as a group will hold us back with this much panic.” He watched the alarm spiral into hysteria. A growing sense of urgency pierced his body. “Hm,” he growled. He thought to himself, “the time is running out.”

Snatching the reins, Guildred rode into the crowd while the young soldier yelled, “My Lord, wait!”

As people dive to get out of the way, Guildred steered his horse through the crowded city streets by instinct. In battle, riding a horse is one thing Guildred considered. The men knew when to step aside, and when they did not, the Lord Knight would cut them down. This is a game of avoidance; this was a game he had never played before. The feeling of imminent collision shook him to the core. Despite the tension they shared, his horse continued diving, weaving, and avoiding obstacles, both living and inanimate.

~ A Legacy Remains ~

Children’s giggles reverberated from the cool marble chapel. On a red blanket sprawled over the floor, an infant girl and boy play. In their midst was a group of dressed men in expensive attire. They cover their faces with carved wooden masks of animals. These masks depict a bear, a boar, a bird, a deer, a fish, a fox, and a wolf. The bird adjusted his cufflinks with obvious restlessness. Their swords rested on their laps. Candles flickered and danced, hungry for a feast, waiting for their sacrifice as phantom winds moved into the room. Almost no sound escaped their lips as their whispers dragged.

“Wham!” The burst echoed down the hall. As the clopping of hooves draws nearer, the men bound from their chairs. Huddling around the children, the men grabbed their brands for protection. The fox pointed at the door. The bear and the boar, the two more burly of the men, rushed out of the sanctuary and into the hall with their sabers drawn.

Guildred rode down the marble halls toward the strange masked men. The bear and the boar struck combative stances with their swords in hand. “Royals,” Guildred said to himself. He had always considered the lesser houses to be idle and cowardly. “This pair must find power in their authority,” the trained warrior mused. Their stature and attire clarified they were countrymen and betrayers.

Grandor’s fears of usurpers were realized. Guildred choked the shaft of the spear. As the boar rushed towards Guildred, he hollered with a sense of authority, “Halt.” If the situation were different, Guildred might have laughed; instead, it provokes anger. Responding with an unadulterated charge, he narrowed his eyes. A pulpy red burst of blood shot from his spear as it pierced the man’s chest. The thrust ripped from his face the wooden boar mask, showing a toothy, open-jawed scream.

Guildred stared deeply into the man’s blue eyes, filled with tears. The nobleman, who once stood proudly, gags for air as a strand of saliva escapes his mouth. The nobleman grasped at the spear’s tip as Guildred lifted the struggling man. In utter horror, the second man in a bear mask stared, his body still and yet trembling.

The Lord Knight released a subtle growl as he rode several feet with the impaled man roaring in agony. A thrust sends the boar’s body soaring from the spear. As he flew, he crashed into a wall, sending a tapestry tumbling behind him.

As the bear jerked at his knees and turned tail, he ran away from Guildred, who now appeared like a giant brute dressed in his silver armor. For a moment, Guildred considered pursuing the man, a feeling of almost animal thrill for the chase overtaking him. In the end, he decided it was wise to aim through the open chapel doors where the men came from. Guildred examined the bloody spear’s tip that once found itself buried in the man. His “royal” meat hung from its bent end, useless to Guildred now. In any case, he did not desperately need range. He threw the spear to the ground, and it rolled, leaving behind a bloody trail. As he rode into the open doors of the sanctuary, the rest of the men shrank back in fear. In the blink of an eye, Guildred lept off his horse, drew his saber, and rose to his feet. The men greeted him by pointing their ceremony blades in his direction.

His polished blade aimed at the three, shouting “Drop your swords in the name of Lord King Grandor!” He huffed, twisting his body at an angle. With his mouth down-turned, and his gaze focused on the children, Guildred released a deliberate exhale.

Yelping, the bird raised his hands and yelled, “Sir Guildred, you must understand.”

Guildred thought to himself. “They’re pleading their cases already?” He shook his head and spotted to his left the wolf, charging forward, hollering “Quick, kill the child!” with a gruff voice.

When Guildred noticed the fox standing over the young boy, he reached for his throwing dagger. As the fox raised his sword over the baby boy, he yelled, “It must be finished.” Guildred sweeps the small dagger across the room in one fluid motion. The blade struck the fox in the throat. Knife in his neck, the man tumbled backward, squelching, blood gushing onto the floor. The fox rolled on the ground as he reached for the hem of his co-conspirator’s cloak and let out a loud squeak.

Guildred’s eyes dart up just in time to see a dramatic swing aimed at his head. “Clang!“ Guildred blocks the wolf’s attack, their two blades groping, slipping, and ending their flash dance with a poke to the ribs. As the wolf released his sword, the man reached for the edge stuck in his lung. His shirt, wet with blood, is painted in broad, wet strokes. In the same manner, in which Guildred had plunged his weapon into the man, he expelled it effortlessly. In the process, the colored saber drips onto the ground, creating a small puddle at his feet. The wound became a fountain. The wolf feels his heartbeat betraying him. Among the children’s shrieks are tears and squeals of discomfort, besides the wailing of the remaining masked men.

When the deer and fish jittered, they drop their brands. The bird is too startled to do much. Behind Guildred, a procession of soldiers swarmed the room, pointing their spears. Suddenly, the bird cried, “Mercy!“ Guildred turned his sapphire gaze at him. He could tell from his voice that he was a relatively young man. The bird’s hands shot into the air. Suddenly, the sword rolled out of his grasp. The blade landed on the floor with a clunk, revealing a face flushed with a shade of pink Guildred had never seen before. His eyes, puffy and sullen, filled with streaming tears, he exclaimed, “I had nothing to do with this.”

Except for the crying children, the only sound was Guildred’s first step. There was an audible metallic clank. With the chapel’s ringing, its weightiness became clearer. Slowly and deliberately, Guildred marched toward the men, who cowered at his approach. Guildred stands over them. After loosening his right hand’s leather strap, he drew a quiver from the men. A similar reaction followed when he did the same with the left. With a bang, the gauntlets fall to the ground, fingers spreading, palms open.

Guildred squatted down and lifted the kids off the ground. “How do I stop their cries?” He wondered to himself. Then he recalled what his maid mother would do with his siblings. While humming a song he knew from the bards, the noble warrior gently bounces, cradling the pair. Russet infantile hands gripped his silver breastplate firmly. It wasn’t long before they stopped crying. Guildred doesn’t even bother to glance at the others as he rises to his feet. His soldiers parted as he walked across the sanctuary’s purple carpet. He paused his humming to add, “Arrest them.” He then resumed his croon, continuing out of the room.

“Please! Mercy!” a shout echoed. Mercy is the last thing he deserved, Guildred judged.

The young girl’s rosy sepia face is kissed by a pink digit that wags against it. Violet jewels looked up at Guildred’s sharp diamond features, crystal blues framed by sandy blonde locks. Her body is flattened against Guildred’s forearm. A smile spread across the brace knight’s face. “Rest well, Princess Talumn.” Guildred said.

Following Guildred are six marching soldiers. The young baby of a boy kicks in his other arm, struggling, curling, and winding in the knight’s arms, beating his hands and feet against the metal plate. “Papa!” he shouts, arousing Talumn from her slumber.

As a lump formed in his throat, Guildred muttered, “Silly kid.” He fought to contain his tears as he said, “Don’t worry, your father is coming.” The truth was, his father was dead, poisoned at a dinner a few hours earlier. Guildred approached a large silver door that is embossed with the image of a winged man reaching into the clouds. This door opened in the middle, revealing a circular room with transparent walls and a view of the village. Squirming, the boy tugged at Guildred’s white cloak, trying to get free. There are four more soldiers in the room with them. As the silver doors close, the room rises, expanding the view of the city as they climb higher. Guildred pointed at the window. “Look, Illian.” The boy’s blues become luminous with fascination. The boy turned his head slowly and smiled up at the Lord Knight. “I thought that might make you smile,” he said. “It’s your kingdom. Don’t forget it.” Guildred warned. “You get to leave this madness tonight.”

The climb took less than a minute, but it felt like it was for hours. After the silver doors open, a black sky and a red moon are visible in the distance. All four soldiers sprint across the castle’s reach. The warm summer breeze blows Guildred’s way. One soldier calls out, “All clear.”

In the distance, Guildred saw a massive airship en route. “We will get you out of here,” he said. In Guildred’s eyes, the goliath looked like a flying stronghold. However, it is much smaller, but anything that flies that size deserves a title. Its blue-white landing lights blinded the group as it drew closer. The large ship anchors itself to the castle wall; Guildred’s cape cracks in the winds generated by the large ship. Dropping loudly from the airship’s deck, a metal board landed with a clang.

Guildred squinted, turning ajar and shielding the children from the blinding spotlight. Two gigantic guards clothed in cloaks of blue cast shadows. Guildred compared their helmets to pointed metal hoods, similar to bishop’s caps, except they covered their faces. With large lances like cannons, the soldiers stood at least nine feet tall, crossing the metal bridge; their mere presence was unintentionally menacing.

As another man crossed, the light darkens for a moment. As before, he wore royal robes and was much shorter and unarmored. A hearty greeting awaits him from the fresh-faced man, “Lord Ashnod, it’s a pleasure to see you again.”

When he recognized the man, Guildred’s face lit up with delight. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Lord Gallion Gravios.” He trusted him as a child, at least at one point in his life. “The circumstances are far too grim to respect,” Guildred said, while Illian cried loudly.

Gallion reached out and took the children from him. “They will have a better life than they could ever wish for.” He narrowed his eyes, turning Guildred’s stomach. “Were the nobles trying to kill the royal family? Was it true?”

Guildred replied to Gallion, “It seems so.”

Gallion looked over to the ship and said, “I see. In that case,” He turned away from Guildred with a grimace. He muttered, “Kill them all.”

General Gallion paused when Guildred said, “I have three of them captured; should we not at least question them? So we can understand the situation.” Gallon stood still. Guildred swallowed uncomfortably, not wanting to undermine the nobleman’s authority.

“Kill every one of them. We would have had lasting peace between our two kingdoms if it weren’t for King Bridehan. The balance now rests in the hands of a crying child. Leave Bridehan, though… we will neuter him after this.” Guildred bit the inside of his cheek. An odd feeling came over him that there was something more going on than what appeared on the surface. As he watched Talumn sleep in Gallion’s arms, doubt entered his mind. Hopefully, Grandor will shelter them appropriately and they will prove him wrong.

Gallion turned back to Guildred while standing on the bridge. “I trust you will handle it for us. In the morning, we might require new nobles. Take control of Elitus and Guildred after the ride north. The bastards in Tidus need to see the true cost of what they’ve done. Leave the public out of it. Such things shouldn’t bother them.”

As Guildred watched Gallion turn away and board the airship, he said, “Yes, sir.” His guards followed and redrawn the bridge onto the ship. While the vessel ascended back to the skies, he stood wide-eyed. As he grips his saber, he turns to the guard standing next to him. “You heard him,” he says. “We have work to be done.”

23 Years Later

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Lyorta: The Chronicles Of The Divinity

– The Origins Of The Creation –
Before everything, there was only the Tempest for an unending moment. The potential of everything laid inside raw essence, power in the truest form; unformed and in darkness, constantly warring within itself. The powers of infinity swirled without time; the eternal chaos. The mills of the Tempest moved and from its fires came forth aspects of itself. These aspects were one with the Tempest and yet separate. However, as the elements formed, they were destroyed and sucked back into the Tempest’s unyielding tides. Though not every aspect was redrawn into the chaos. Some tore from the darkness and escaped the fires of the Tempest. Still, the flames of the Tempest sought to consume.

Sailing among the twilight dreams of the Tempest, the aspects became the Primordial Gods. Entities ruling over energies. Singular and plural in the same. Each one being a unique entity and a pantheon at the same time. They took up names for themselves and in that name was given their power. Grhtoth was the firstborn of the Primordials. A being mired in curiosity and knew of all things and a master of going to and from one place to another. In Grhtoth came time.

The second among them was Raoglak, who sensed the fires of the tempest. It grew to fear and desired to leave the Tempest, and so it fled through Grhtoth. Fhothotu, the third among them, wondered after Raoglak and knew Grhtoth.

Then there was a here, and a there brought forth by Maeg, fourth born. Lathos, the fifth then was here and then there among Grhtoth following Maeg. L’oia, the sixth, came to both Maeg and Lathos but first had to go through Grhtoth. After the three primordials came, there was a space between them and the Tempest, and none went near.

Bursting forth away from the tempest came another among them, Luyata the seventh, and with her a pulse and vibration. Nhurakal, the eighth appeared, and in the presence of the other Primordials clung to them. When the winds of the tempest blew, and its fires came among the Primordials they burned and among the fires came the last, Athyarn, who had a spirit.

Together, the Primordials brought forth aspects to embody them. In harmony, they shared in their power compellingly to escape the endless torture made known to them by Raoglak. L’oia convinced Grhtoth with the assistance of Fhothotu to always go forward and never go back, and so there was no more Tempest and its fires were kept away. And so the great barrier was formed. All creation had walls given to it.

In space, the nine Primordials commingled and brought forth children. These children born from the Primordials are given a name, and it was Aeon.

    The Aeons were born to an empty existence whose laws were in motion. Under the rule of the Primordials, they endured a world of chaos without order. Having the aspects of all the Primordials limited the Aeons, and they could not know the Primordials. Instead, they were left wondering as to what their purpose was to be. In their reasoning, they were blind to their existence and like weather the Primordials passed over.

The Aeons explored the vast emptiness, finding one another, and together they came to understand the effects of each Primordial but could not discern their form. In doing this, the Aeons began their great work. They stretched forth a space for themselves using the powers of Maeg, Lathos, and L’oia. In this, they gave themselves their first creation, locality. Luyata brought forth a gift for them, and the Aeons could touch one another in their locality. Raoglak moved them to feel one another, and so they loved one another, and so the Aeons reproduce and with their multitudes created and crafted existence.

The Primordials, however, brought forth entropy and ruined all the works of the Aeons. The Aeons quickly discovered the curse of Raoglak, pain. The Aeons hurt, weeping for everything they lost. They reasoned with the gifts of Fhothotu and said, “We will take up names of our own!” and so Xyreus began his first work. He traveled to and from everywhere and spoke with all the Aeons saying, “We must build a world of our own separate from the Prime Forces. Let us disassemble the Prime Forces into lesser forces.” With this, Xyreus gathered a significant number of Aeons.

Xyreus watched as the Primordials sailed among space and then he knew the Primordials by name. With his knowledge, he began experimenting on how to control their essence. A plot formed reign the Primordials under his control. Not understanding what was being done to them, the Primordials whispered to each other.

Madion wise among the Aeons watched and became fascinated to learn the Primordials had mimicked their creation and created beings of their own, the Ancients. Witnessing this, Madion gathered the other Aeons to watch the Primordials create. They grew fearful of the Ancients as they were beings formed from out of madness.

The Aeons argued what was to be done. Three factions formed among the Aeons. The most bold and loud wanted to make warlike beings to fight for them. A world and a space only for them to exist, where they would battle and slay each other until only a few remained. Ones who could gather up essence for themselves and eventually would be able to slay the Tempest.

The second group were cowardly and wanted to create a space to hide away. There creations would tend to their needs and worship them. They wanted to be done with their labors.

The third group simply wanted to rebuild, knowing it would be endless, but they shall rebuild and rebuild in an endless cycle of rebuilding.

The in end, the Aeons could not settle on an idea. Xyrues could not allow for these perversions to exist within his space, so he formed beings of his own whose sole purpose was to destroy the Ancients. He called these creatures dragons. It would settle their immediate argument and allow for the eternal debate to continue.

    The whole creation plunges into chaos as the Aeons and Primordials clash. Both sides suffered, and many Aeons destroyed. However, they prevailed. In the end, the gods managed to capture Maeg, Lathos, and L’oia and slew Raoglak, Fhothotu and Athyarn and in the final battle Narukal was fell by the hands of Xyreus.

They sacrificed Maeg, Lathos, and L’oia and sealed the Primordials behind a gate and called the gate Maelstrum. It became a pool of essence to burn eternally fueling the fires of creation. There, the three Primordials were driven insane and took up new names for themselves; Lathos became known as The Mad God, The Devourer, The Devil King Zsog, L’ola became The Curse Maker, Ruler Of Miseries, The Devil Queen Kelanys, and Maeg became known as The Blind, Fair King of Hell, The Devil King Elaugat; and there was endless war among them. They blamed each other for their fates, and great arguments broke out among them. They would whisper curses, and slowly their words would bring anyone who listened to madness.

The order was restored to the space the Aeons created, and to their amazement, something new happened. A great tower formed outside but within their space out of the three dead Primordials. They sealed this place in Amu Ra Amala.

Xyreus watched alone, and he alone witnessed the fate of the last Primordial Narukal. It decayed and withered. In his curiosity, Xyreus watched the dead Aeons commune with Narukal to form another world. He called it Naraka, a devourer of souls, the world of all that is dead.

The remaining Aeons took their places and began restoring the world. Their names were Xyreus, Luniel the Peacebringer because she declared the end of the war between the Primordials and Aeons, Zaal the Wanderer for he measured the entirety of existence and stretched forth the space in which the new creation would be made, Satal the God of Pleasure because during the war he brought forth song to calm the hearts of the Aeons, Sonael the Maiden of War because she slew Fhothotu, Madion the Wise One because he understood the Primordials, Patum the Queen of Darkness because she dwells where there is no light, Eron the Keeper because they kept a record of events, Talek the Lord of Seasons because he punished the Lyorta with seasons.

The Aeons and their children decided that they needed servants. So the Aeons would create the Ora, innocent beings whose only desire was to serve the Aeons. They would serve at the direct orders of the Aeons and gods, to bring forth there edicts to the rest of creation. They would also serve as the high priests of worship to the gods.

They were powerful beings that would act as Lords over creation. In the celestial realms above, they held domains over the other beings. Great warriors that would deal with malefactors in creation. Anything displeasing to the Aeons and their children were theirs to hunt and remove from their world. They were speedy messengers who carried the orders of the Aeons to other entities. They also served to watch over the creation and gave a full report of all things to the Aeons.

Together they gathered all the essence and used it to create a new world. Not as grand as the Tera, but still beautiful none the less. The Terrestial realm they would create.

The Aeons sent out the Ora who crafted the land below and the waters. They would make the mountains and the vast plains.

The Aeons gathered around the space and called the lower portion of the space the Lyorta. The Aeons then created four orbs to maintain order over the Lyorta, Matsula the blue orb, Abula the red orb, and Dahula the black orb, the fourth orb the Aeons hung above the Lyorta and called it Tera, the world of the gods, the place they would dwell. In the center of the space the gods made the world and encased the world in a shell of water, and they saw it was suitable for creatures. The Aeons began their work and filled the world with animals, and when they had finished filling it, they watched their creation.

One day in the land of Lyorta, new Aeons rose to power among the dragons. They were defeated by the Primordials but were resurrected to new life do to the roaming essence. They returned to Tera expecting to be welcomed as heroes, but instead they were not welcome at all. Xyrues, King of the gods, met them at the gates. He asked them, “What are your plans for the future?” and the old arguments arose from them. Xyrues refused them.

This enraged the other Aeons, and they demanded a place in Tera along with the other Aeons. Madion offered a solution that they would put down their ideals and instead build a future worthy of their title. However, the other Aeons would not hear it. They began fighting among each other, the three old factions; seeing this Xyrues sealed them in the Lyorta then sent the dragons to destroy them.

A time of endless war met the Lyorta. Many dragons died, but so too the Aeons. Lyorta was destroyed — the land collapsed and the shards of the world floated throughout the skies. All the Ora looked upon their smashed work and cried out to the gods.

This was the age of the dragons. For a time the dragons were alone and patrolled their lands and sought forth a way to survive. They resorted to eating each other, and only the strongest of the dragons would survive this horrible age of desolation. The last of the dragons tore holes in the barrier, seeking a way of escape.

Fires from the Tempest shot forth, and the world was filled with new power and essences. The Ora looked down and saw life among the floating rubble of the land. They discovered a new power came to the world. They called this power the glyths. They were the remnants of the power the Primordial gods used. With the fires of the Tempest, the Ora came upon the world and molded it to bring forth a new generation of animals.

The Aeon’s of Tera spoke among each other and decided the world was ruined and that it was time to make their own world. So with their powers, they made a new world above Lyorta. All those they saw as worthy they brought up to the new Lyorta, and Talek drowned all others under the tides that swallowed the old Lyorta.

The destroyed Aeons who destroyed the old Lyorta were devoured by Naraka, the world of the dead. The Ora was charged with the uncorrupted essence back to the Aeons of Tera. However essence that was tainted too heavily with sin was to be guided to Naraka. If it was even too corrupted for the Ora, they would leave the essence for the devils below in Maelstrum to take the corrupted essence for themselves.

Though in the darkness of Maelstrum, the devils worked, hatching a plan together.  They sacrificed the scraps of essence among them to craft a sickness.  This new corrupting force raised up above upon Lyorta and the Ora that were bound grew enraged. They began to fight among each other.  The Aeons watched in horror as they witnessed anarchy form upon the land.  They sent their soldiers to quell the problem but found their numbers dwindling fast.  It became very clear to the Aeons that they needed to step in themselves.

When the conflict was over many of the Ora had died and their spirits were so numberless that the Aeons were struck with awe.  However, the essence was disappearing to where they could not see it.  This troubled the Aeons, and rumors of another Primordial being responsible for the missing essence began to spread throughout Tera.

Below in Maelstrum the devils saw the vast amount of essence and crafted it. While the veil was weak, they sent the spirits into the world while the Aeons were not watching. These spirits were called the demons who worshipped the devils.

There came a day when a great and mighty dragon by the name of Tambrion heard the curse of Maelstrum. He listened and found pride in himself. He went among the other dragons, telling them of what he heard. They gathered together flying to the court of the High gods and said to the Aeons “I am mighty and I am proud, why should one such as I serve my equal.”

Xyreus said to Tambrion, “If you are so mighty you should battle me, and if you win, then you shall truly be my equal.”

However, Tambrion was not only powerful but cunning as well and said to Xyreus “You are confident in yourself, but you ask us to call Patum god as well. Should I not prove myself to any god of my choosing?”

Xyreus unamused but knowing the weakness of Patum said to the crowd of dragons “Go freely as you wish.” And so a great number of dragons left Tera to serve themselves. However, those loyal to the gods were deified as a house of gods.

Lacking servants to maintain the creation, the High gods gathered and created lesser gods to serve them and their children. These gods while powerful were nowhere near as powerful as the dragons. They created hierarchies among themselves and served the gods without fault. The highest gods then rested and watched over the creation and the divine machine they set in motion.

Tambrions words sunk deep in Xyreus’s heart. He grew restless only watching over creation and felt unsatisfied with his power. He began to experiment again until he eventually began to forge essence like the Primordials. The other high gods grew concerned with Xyreus as he started to become like the Primordials. Finally, Xyreus is driven insane with power and begins to sacrifice the lesser gods around him. Madion pleads with Xyreus to stop his raids, but Xyreus declares himself to Madion, that he shall make himself into a Primordial.

Madion travels among the other high gods and informs them of Xyreus’s actions. Fearing the result of his experiments, the other High gods agree to banish him to another realm outside of the Lyorta and Tera.

When the other High gods confront Xyreus, they find him completely defiled and his servants dead but trapped within him. He battles the other Aeons, but Xyreus is bound under the same seals they placed upon the Primordials. They carry him to the threshold between here and there and before the Tempest, casting him into its eternal fires in the hopes of destroying him forever.

But sadly, he was not destroyed. Instead, his essence lived and became a world of wicked madness called Vulg.

Deep in space, Xyreus cries echoed and reached as far as the outer reaches of time, where they were heard. A Primordial unknown to the other Aeons responded, calling forth. The Aeons were terrified at this discovery and sent forth armies to find and destroy the Primordial. However, their armies returned without finding the Primordial.

Ages passed, but eventually the Primordial allowed itself to be known and gave itself a name, Gritoth, Lord of the Gates. The Aeons with all their might and power could not subdue the Primordial and watched as beings from Amu Ra Amala crossed over through the veil, Gritoth becoming their path. The gods retreated to Tera and forged new boundaries and hid away from the Primordial Gritoth’s power.

The beings that crossed over became known as the Fae and formed societies around Lyorta. They were strange people, but intelligent like the gods. The Aeons, however, did not take their eyes off Gritoth and watched the gate once close between the worlds as Gritoth left. Now that the threat of the Primordial was gone, the gods were free to investigate the beings that were nomads to their world. The Aeons revealed themselves and were received as gods, and the Fae worshiped the Aeons. Pleased, the gods considered them friends.

Amu Ra Amala however remained connected to Lyorta. The tower speared right through Lyorta, though could only be seen when Gritoth was near. The Fae eventually forgot that they once came from such a place and instead became true natives of Lyorta.

In the darkness of space, however, Gritoth was not the only Primordial to respond to the echo. Another the Aeons had not encountered answered and made herself aware. She had escaped the wrath of the Aeons during the war and waited to create her creations, imbuing them with great powers and numbers. Her name is Lumaria and with her came the Wildlings.

She cried to Gritoth “Open a gate so that my children may avenge our kin.” and Gritoth obliged. Without the mighty gods’ protection, they conquered the world of Lyorta and convinced the Fae to end their worship of the Aeons. The lords of the Fae were convinced and ordered their armies to join the Wildlings in their conquest. They cleansed the lands of the spirits of Maelstrum and kept it pure. They also spread out into tribes, each with their own ways and perfections. Though at the call they would unite for war. Together their troops stormed the gates of Tera, breaking them asunder.

The Aeons fled to the holy city in fear of their numbers and the remaining dragons loyal to the gods battle vigorously against the armies but grew weak as the assault was never ending. Without any other choice, the gods turned to Xyreus’s works and used them to create beings like themselves. They called these people humans.

The humans, with their impressive mastery of essence and allied with the dragons of Tera, fought the invaders like an army of gods. The lords of the elves were first to egress from the battle, breaking their treaty with the Wildlings like cowards. The remaining war bands while still numerous were no match for the combined armies of Tera. They retreated to Lyorta, wounded and greatly outnumbered.

The lords of the humans were given crowns and told that they now ruled Lyorta, and they could claim whatever lands they pleased. After the great war, the humans found themselves scattered throughout all the Lyorta.

While the humans mostly remained the subjects of Tera, they traveled freely to and from the Lyorta. They began to build forts in the lands of the Wildlings while they swept their lands of the invading vermin. The steady onslaught forced the Wildlings to consolidate their tribes, and the warlords gathered to form an empire. The Wildlings called this Empire Aria, and as long as they stood together, the humans could not prevail against them.

The Fae, however, were now fugitive and considered traitors by the Wildlings and gods alike. It was not so easy for them to band together for protection. Instead, the wise lords of the Fae grew very weary of war. They feared the wrath of the Wildlings saying to themselves, “Now there is nowhere to hide.” The high priests of the Fae came up with a solution to their problem. If there were no places to hide, then they would make a place to hide. The Fae called these places glades, pocket worlds where they built palaces that were part of Lyorta but entirely separate. To their pleasure, their plans worked and the humans and Wildlings both passed through their lands, unaware of the magic that concealed them from their eyes.

While the Aeons were pleased with the humans, they also feared their new creations. Zaal came to the other gods saying, “They are too powerful and if they were ever to rise against us, we would all surely die.” The other gods agreed, and so they began subjecting the humans to cruel tortures for minor infractions. Their attempts to instill order quickly backfired. A group of humans gathered together and challenged the gods. The gods, however, proved to be far stronger and beat them into submission. They turned their challengers into horrible monsters and scattered them throughout Lyorta. The remaining humans did not escape the punishment ushered from the gods. As a result, the gods cast the remaining humans in Tera out into the Lyorta. They sealed off Tera, removing it from mortal reach forever as it rose beyond their grasp.

The first tribes of humans were the Belkurians, a people that was loved by the gods, who were placed in the far western stray islands, the Azurians, who were situated in the east of the continent of the west, the Borgains, who were placed south of the continent of the west, the Lagians, who were put in the north-west of the western continent, the Valdians, who were set in the south-west of the mainland of the West, the Sihayains, who were placed in the northern continent, the Iesians, who were put in the eastern continent, the Dalmians, who were put in the far east stray islands, and the last the cursed and most hated of the humans, the Talmians, whose hearts were full of vengeance, were placed in the core of the Aria in the southern continent. This marked the end of the age of gods and ushered in a new age ruled by man.