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The Gauntlet of Feona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[] THE CURSE OF THE SEVENTH SWORD

 

 

 

 

BOOK ONE: THE GAUNTLET OF FEONA

 

 

 

 

KELECHI E. AGU

 

[] COPYRIGHT

Copyright © 2016 Kelechi E. Agu
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Published in the United States of America

Second Edition

ASIN B00J7SG8F2

 

[] DEDICATION

As I write this dedication, a few faces come to mind… A few voices with words of encouragement and belief.

 

My late grandmother, whose courageous battle with breast cancer taught me the lesson of being strong in the face of adversity, of being brave enough to smile in the face of absolute despair and of being compassionate enough to help others, even when faced with helplessness yourself.

 

My late uncle Emma, who taught me about the power of belief and was the first to recognize a young boy’s love for creativity.

 

The love of my life Magdalene, who would let me cuddle her and read the book from start to finish, and then read it again herself. I have such a dependable partner in you, my love. And I am grateful that you are still here. I love you always.

 

Kelechi Agu.

 

 

[]CONTENTS

THE CURSE OF THE SEVENTH SWORD 2

COPYRIGHT 3

DEDICATION 4

CONTENTS 5

PROLOGUE 7

CHAPTER ONE (A Massacre in the Forest) 14

CHAPTER TWO (The Arrival of the Death Class) 34

CHAPTER THREE (Ovar’s Rescue) 67

CHAPTER FOUR (Rikard Miljorn) 102

CHAPTER FIVE (The Journey Begins) 132

CHAPTER SIX (First Encounter) 166

CHAPTER SEVEN (The Dragol) 213

CHAPTER EIGHT (A god is here) 243

CHAPTER NINE (Seeds) 326

CHAPTER TEN (The man and the goddess) 355

CHAPTER ELEVEN (The Enemy Approaches) 384

CHAPTER TWELVE (Hello Son) 413

CHAPTER THIRTEEN (In the Beginning) 445

CHAPTER FOURTEEN (Davydd’s Armada) 480

CHAPTER FIFTEEN (To catch a Pirate King…) 515

CHAPTER SIXTEEN (Wraiths at Dawn) 547

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN (The Calm before the Storm) 585

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN (I have come for what is mine) 610

CHAPTER NINETEEN (The gauntlet of Feona) 637

CHAPTER TWENTY (I Will Return) 678

THANKS AND SECOND BOOK PREVIEW 714

CHAPTER ONEWAR 716

CHAPTER TWOHOPE 741

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY 763

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[] PROLOGUE

The lush green grass covered the field as far as the eye could see. As the grass bathed in the sunlight that washed over the field, growing taller and taller day by day, it provided sufficient food for the animals that grazed on it, and they in turn were destined to forever be the meal of the animals that preyed on them. But today there would be no hunter or hunted – at least not for the animals on the field. A force of death more deadly than the fangs, claws or poison of the most fearsome predator was approaching and fast. The animals scattered as two enormous, roaring armies collided in bloody combat. Like all battles in history, this one was a massacre with the loss of life, staggering.

At the end of the battle, the once green field was crimson red from the spilled blood of so many warriors. It seeped into the soil, forever cursing the land where such tragedy had taken place. There was no sign of life within the vicinity; all that was left, was death. She danced around happily and unseen to mortal eyes. She let out loud bursts of laughter as she withdrew the souls of man and beast from their lifeless bodies, pronouncing final judgment on them. The sun had long retreated behind the dark storm clouds that had covered the earth beneath. It was not long before the heavens opened up. Rain poured unto the land, drenching the blades of grass and washing them free of the blood that had sullied them. It was then that the soldier’s armor glistened as he navigated his way through the sea of lifeless bodies. The soldier crawled on all fours; his breath labored as he painstakingly inched forward, leaving a trail of blood behind him. His golden armor, banged up and dented, glistened in some parts, revealing its former glory. He stopped to catch his breath. His vision was beginning to blur and he could feel the life draining from him. Still, he had to move on. He gathered his strength and crawled on, while the heavens beat on him and everything else around. Finally, he had reached it. Just in front of him lay his sword. It was his one true companion in battle and how many had they won off the edge of this sword? How many times had his life been saved because his sword had stayed true? However, it was not the same today. They had won the battle and they had almost won the war… but not quite yet. He tried to reach out for his sword but his body had gone numb. His breathing became labored as anxiety took over him. I’ve failed you! I’m so sorry! It was then that a figure in a brown cloak appeared in front of him. The soldier looked up at the aged arms of the figure in the white overalls and black cloak. Even though the figure stood right in front of him, he could only just make out his features. The figure stooped low and picked up the sword, handing it over to the soldier. The soldier, finding one final wind, grabbed the sword but the strain on him was visible. After going through a bout of gut wrenching coughs, he spoke.

“Matilom… you… finally… made it…”

The elderly man called Matilom grabbed the soldier’s hand, clasping it reassuringly. He had tears in his eyes. “I told you I should have been by your side. But you’ve always been so stubborn.”

“I… I…couldn’t risk your death…you know he’ll need you.”

Matilom nodded his head in agreement. The soldier looked at Matilom, his dying eyes begging the question that weighed heavy on his heart.

“They are safe.”

“Good… My apologies… Matilom. I cannot leave… this with you.”

The soldier said looking at the sword. Matilom understood. If their enemy were to get their hands on the sword, the human race was finished. The soldier scribbled something unto the blade of the sword, with his own blood. He leaned the sword in closer, and whispered an incantation. Upon whispering, the sword’s blade seemed to absorb the scribbles in blood, into itself, and it began to glow a deep red, while shaking in the soldier’s hand. He looked at Matilom, who clasped the soldier’s hand tighter before letting go. “You can let it go now… it’s okay… they are safe. I promise.”

The soldier released his grip and the sword whizzed off skywards, disappearing in the distance.

The soldier’s breathing got shallower as the minutes passed.

“My… time is up… Matilom.”

Matilom nodded slowly. “You can go home. You’ll find peace there.”

Finally, the soldier lay still and lifeless. His grip on Matilom’s hand had gone limp but his right hand remained firmly curled into a fist. Matilom reached out and closed the dead man’s eyes. He noticed the curl of the dead soldier’s fingers and tried to pry them open, to no avail. In the distance, he could hear the support infantry approaching.

“Your majesty! Your majesty!” They cried out as they searched the dead bodies in the field. Matilom looked back at the dead soldier.

“Long live the King.” He muttered under his breath.

 

 

 

 

[] CHAPTER ONE (A Massacre in the Forest)

23 years later…

The market square of Gor was abuzz with activity on this sunny mid-week afternoon. Traders yelled, displayed, and demonstrated their wares and services, all in an effort to attract the attention of potential customers. Gor was one of the smaller towns in the kingdom of Angweleth. It was surrounded by the misty forest, which led into Windhaven, the next town. Despite the forest surroundings, Gor was easily accessible to foreign traders and as such, it was famous for its market days. Today was no different as buyers from all corners of Angweleth had flooded the quiet town, transforming it into a hub of activities.

“Aren’t you done yet?” Asked the impatient soldier as the blacksmith worked on his helmet. The blacksmith turned his muscular frame around and looked at the soldier. Despite a beer gut, he was a well-built man with broad shoulders and strong arms. He looked like he could tear into the soldier and rip him to shreds if he so desired. Despite his imposing frame, he had a kind face with dark graying hair and beard. He on one hand looked intimidating and on the other wasn’t such a menacing sight at all.

“If I was done, I’d have my money by now and you’d have your helmet.” The blacksmith replied. “You really banged this up in your drunken brawl last night. But give me a few more minutes and it will be ready.”

The blacksmith turned back to the helmet and kept working at it. Soon the once banged up and dented helmet had been restored to its original shape and shimmer. The blacksmith turned to the soldier just as another man walked up to his stall.

“There. That will be 5 pieces of gold.”

The soldier shook his head, as he dug into his pouch. “You’re charging me a pound of flesh here.”

The man who had just walked up to the stall smiled. “I told you to take off the armor, Segmiatus.” He turned to the blacksmith laughing. “He thought his opponent, who was just as drunk as he was would shoot him with an arrow.”

“I was being cautious, Davydd.” Retorted Segmiatus defensively. “Besides, even drunken fools can sometimes find their mark, as he did with my helmet. And where were you when I needed your help? Charming the lady servers?”

“I am a hunter, and while I occasionally indulge in certain pleasures and sins, fighting isn’t one of them. I apologize.”

“No worries. I just pray the gods send a fight your way one day, my friend. I’ll show you support then.” Segmiatus put a friendly arm around Davydd’s neck as they both shared pleasant laughter. “Oh! Thank you for the helmet Ovar. Hopefully I won’t be bothering you with such pettiness in the near future.”

“Not a problem, impatient young man. Stop by later on. I believe Davydd is going to be hunting for some Deer meat soon. Aren’t you, my boy?” Ovar turned to Davydd, who nodded in agreement.

“Well then I’ll be sure to stop by. See you two at meal time.”

Davydd and Ovar watched as the soldier walked off. When they had determined he was beyond hearing range, Ovar turned to Davydd.

“Alright I know why you are here. You did it again, didn’t you, Davydd?”

Davydd smiled and pulled out a small black bag he had kept in his hunting pouch. As he placed it on the table, it jingled. Ovar stared down at the bag and back at Davydd. “How much did you take this time?”

“There are thirty-five gold pieces in there. Not that the landowner I stole it from would miss it terribly. Besides, you need it father.”

“I know I do. But all the money in the world would be for nothing if I were to lose my only son. I cannot risk that.”

“I understand, father. I have been, and will continue to be careful.”

Over glared at him for a while and Davydd held his breath nervously. Finally, his father spoke. “Be careful son.” Ovar picked up the black bag and hid it in his toolbox. “Now off you go, and do some real work. See if you can catch enough game to feed us and to sell as well. Earn the gold you possess.”

Davydd laughed. “Is that a challenge, father?”

Ovar shrugged. “Surprise me. Now off you go.”

“See you when I get back.” Davydd picked up his hunting bag and waved his goodbyes as he walked off. Ovar watched him for a little while and then went back to work in his stall.

 

The caravan made its way through the misty forest, on its way out of Gor and headed towards Windhaven, which was the next town. Windhaven was about a day’s journey from Gor, and the caravan was making good time. The caravan consisted of three horse driven carriages and fifteen horseback soldiers. The central carriage was circular in shape and adorned with beautiful golden crown patterns around its edges. Inside the carriage sat two beautiful young women dressed in green and pink-laced gowns, with golden necklaces and bangles adorning their neck and wrists.

“That was a good visit to Gor, wasn’t it?” The lady in green asked.

The lady in pink had a wry smile on her face.

“Gor has always been one of my favorite towns.” The lady in pink responded.

The lady in green pulled her dark brown hair back behind her ears.

“Your father won’t be happy with you giving the royal family’s wealth away though.”

“You mean the people’s wealth and gold.” The lady in pink said, rather quickly. “I don’t know what’s become of him. Ever since my mother died he’s changed. He would have been a great king. At first I thought it was me being too young to understand, but as I grew older, I realized that everything I saw was the truth.”

“Princess.” The lady in green said. She reached out and held the princess’s hand. “Let us not speak of such things now. Even for you, speaking out against the king is unacceptable.”

“Then let us speak in hushed tones, Jaynea.” The princess interlocked fingers with Jaynea’s. “I have something that I must tell you. Something so serious, it scares me…” The princess’s voice had fallen to barely a whisper.

Jaynea’s face wore a worried look of expression.

“You know you can tell me anything Vannera.”

Princess Vannera nodded in agreement and took a deep breath.

“There is a room, in the north wing of the king’s quarters. Two huge doors mark the entrance to this room. But they are designed in such that unless one was to witness them open, one would not know that they were there.”

“You’ve been spying on the king, Vannera?”

“I have been observing my father. I see no crime in that.” There was a brief pause and then she continued. “No one goes through those doors but him. As far as I can tell, no one knows about that room but him. When he steps into it, there are always six figures sitting around a long rectangular table, waiting for him.” She leaned back into her seat.

“At first I thought they were trusted members of the council he regularly convened with…until a fourth moon ago that is.”

“What happened?”

“I found another way in. It was a secret passageway from the palace gardens that led into the same room. It might have been the one used by his mysterious guests… I don’t know. But… what I heard… Jaynea, all of mankind is in danger.”

At that moment, they began hearing noises outside. Princess Vannera peeked outside her carriage. She called out to the horse back soldier riding on the left side.

“What’s happening, Garreth?”

“Your highness, we’ve spotted incoming riders approaching us up ahead. Please stay in and remain calm. If there is a situation, your safety is our priority.” Garreth flashed a reassuring smile. Jaynea pulled the princess back inside. She had a very worried look on her face.

“What’s wrong, Jaynea?”

“Vannera we’ve been friends for a very long time, but… I haven’t told you everything about me… I’m sorry…”

“What do you mean? Jaynea…”

“No time Princess.” Jaynea was suddenly serious. “You have a good heart and a stronger will than your Father. Unfortunately you’ve dug too far for me to protect you by myself, but maybe for now, I can do one last thing for you.” The princess looked at her clearly confused. It was at that time they begun to hear screams and swords clashing.

“It has begun…” Jaynea said softly as she looked outside.

“What has begun? Jaynea, tell me something!” Jaynea looked back at Vannera to see that she was clearly in distress. Their carriage rocked sideways and shook as the horses became more and more alarmed.

“Vannera, look at me. Breathe… breathe… You have to live. You can’t die with what you’ve learned.”

“What I learned… you mean… my own father…”

“Your mother was an earlier casualty of this battle. It all makes sense now and Matilom was right.”

“Matilom?”

“You must find Matilom and you have to tell him what you found out. He’ll know what to do.”

“How do I find him?! What about you?”

“I’ll make sure he finds you… I know you have a lot of questions, Vannera and by the gods I wish I could answer them. Right now, I want you to know that I love you. You know I always have.”

The battle raged on outside and after each scream, the guttural growls they were sure was being made by the intruders, got closer and closer. Another soldier was screaming.

“Garreth! The princess’s carriage! Jahn’s dead… take over and get a…”

He was cut off as the sound of sword cutting through bone was heard. The next sound was the last agonizing scream of a dying man. One more soldier was dead.

“I love you too.” The princess replied. Jaynea smiled amidst tears from the both of them. She clasped Vannera’s head gently in her hands and whispered in her ear.

“Remember me from time to time. Here is your new life. Be strong.” Vannera looked up at her and their faces inched closer as they locked lips in a passionate kiss. When they pulled back Vannera was in shock. Jaynea looked just like her. Vannera instinctively looked at the small mirror she had kept by her side on their trip. She looked just like Jaynea. At that moment it hit her all over again.

“Jaynea!!! No!!!!”

She turned around only to meet a dagger to her stomach. Vannera looked down at the dagger, almost in disbelief. She looked up and could barely convince herself that it was Jaynea who had stabbed her.

“Breathe…” came the words as Vannera fell into unconsciousness. Jaynea looked at her as the carriage toppled over. The impact caused their bodies to suspend in midair momentarily, before crashing back down to the ground. Jaynea looked Vannera over. She was still alive. She then ripped off a piece of Vannera’s garment and placed it under Vannera’s left palm, which she placed on the wound. Finally, she took Vannera’s crown and placed it on her own head. Garreth could be heard screaming as he battled countless assailants helplessly.

“Someday I hope you forgive me.” Jaynea said as she climbed out of the carriage. She looked up and saw the huge humanoid figures of the monsters that had set upon them in the forest. They gnarled at her through lizard like faces and razor-sharp teeth. Their scaly flesh made her skin crawl. But through her fear, Jaynea smiled in defiance and pulled out her dagger.

“You came for me. Well… take me if you can.”

The monsters descended on her at once.

 

Davydd crept silently through the forest with cat like grace. Stealth had been a skill he had honed as a hunter, and as a thief. He weaved his way through the thick vegetation and crouched down a few paces away from his prey – a deer drinking some water that had pooled together in a clearing in the forest. Davydd pulled out an arrow from the sac strapped around his shoulder. He placed it on the string of his bow and pulled back till it was taut. He steadied his breathing, his coiled finger muscles ready to fire, and his aim true. In that moment, the deer’s ears shot up and it raised its neck looking around anxiously. Soon after, it darted away, disappearing into the bushes. Davydd, putting back the arrow in his sac, was visibly perplexed. Why did the deer run? He was certain it wasn’t him because he had been careful not to reveal his presence. Then, he heard it. The sound of crackling wood as fire consumed it. Davydd broke into a sprint. Stealth wasn’t the main skill needed now. Speed was. If his hunch was right, someone’s life possibly depended on it. As he ran through the thick vegetation, his eyes spotted a carriage lying on its side amongst two others. He could also see the dead bodies of humans and horses alike, strewn across the forest path. The fire had been started on the carriages, and had spread towards the surrounding areas. However, the vegetation was very lush and in time the fire would die out from the forest moisture. Two of the carriages were charred remains of what they used to be, while the third was only partially burned. Davydd looked around for any signs of life but the longer he searched the less hope he had of finding any. After calling out a few times to see if anyone responded, he shook his head in resignation and turned to leave.

“Help.” A soft voice called out. It was so weak it was almost a whisper. Yet it was strong enough to carry its way to his ears. Davydd froze in his tracks, wondering if he had actually heard a voice or if it was a part of him hoping someone had survived the carnage he’d just seen.

“Help… please…”

Davydd ran back to the half burnt carriage. He mindlessly pulled away smoking ember after ember. The adrenaline rushing through him numbed any pain he might have felt. Finally a hand reached out from under the wooden splinters and broken pieces. Davydd grabbed at it and soon he was helping out a beautiful woman with long dark brown hair. Her light hazel eyes looked empty and distant as she collapsed unto him.

“Woman, what’s your name? What happened here?” Davydd asked as he laid her down gently on the grass a safe distance away from the fire. She had been burned a bit and she was bleeding from a stab wound to her abdomen. Davydd slapped his head in self-annoyance. Now was not the time for questions. She needed help.

“Don’t worry. I’ll get you somewhere safe. Just hold on and trust me. You’ll be fine.”

Vannera was falling in and out of consciousness. She was sure she had died but somehow, something inside her had willed her to live. To whom did the strong arms that lifted her out of her cold well belong? Who owned this voice that seemed to calm her even while her soul was in turmoil?

“Stay alive.” There it was again… that voice willing her to keep breathing, to keep living.

“What’s your name?” The voice asked.

“Va… Jaynea” Vannera was slipping again.

“VaJaynea?”

Somewhere deep inside, Vannera smiled. He was silly. How could she tell the voice belonged to a he? Every sound she heard echoed and reverberated in her ears. She realized she didn’t care whom it belonged to. That voice was keeping her in this world, so she held unto it.

“Vannera” She finally said. “Vannera”

The fire burning in her stomach was finally receding and a cooling sensation came over her as she fell into a deep sleep.

 

[] CHAPTER TWO (The Arrival of the Death Class)

Ovar sat nervously on his chair, shifting his weight from side to side and drumming on his armrest with his fingers. The sound bothered him, but he couldn’t stop. His mind was racing with thoughts. Davydd had gone hunting the previous afternoon and was to return later on in the evening. During that period, news had reached Gor, Windhaven and other neighboring towns in the southern region of Angweleth that robbers had attacked the princess’s caravan. Everyone had been killed, including Princess Vannera. Her companion on that trip was apparently nowhere to be found.

Robbers. Please, Davydd let this not be your doing.

Despite his worries, Ovar was pretty sure this was not Davydd’s work. He and his gang operated within certain rules and one of them was that none of their victims was to be hurt by any member. Another important rule was to try as best as possible to steal without the victim knowing he had been stolen from… at least for a while. Finally, Davydd never went along with a robbery plan that was too risky and could endanger the lives of his men or himself. Robbing the princess of Angweleth was such a risk. Besides, all those highly trained elite soldiers were decimated. Ovar knew Davydd was an excellent marksman but that was as far as his combat skills went. So the question remained, who out there was capable of annihilating an entire elite soldier unit? And was Davydd somehow caught up in this as a victim? Ovar had to find out and to do that he would have to go into the misty forest. There was only one problem. Most of the towns around Gor including Gor itself had been put on a curfew since word of the princess’s death spread. No one was allowed out of their home after the first sign of dusk. Ovar clenched his right fist in anger and suddenly lifted his frame out of his chair. On his face was an expression of unwavering resolve. He had to find Davydd, curfew or no curfew. Ovar slung a black robe over his clothes and then made his way to his room. Beside his bed, lay a long box made of dark oak wood. He reached down and opened it, revealing a long sword, encased in an ornamental sheath. Its hilt was golden and carved in with intricate patterns. Ovar stared at it for a while. All these years and I hoped I’d never have to wield a sword again. Ovar shook his head, silently chastising himself. It was more a hopeless wish than a hope. This day was always fated. He bent down, picked up the sheathed sword and strapped it to his belt. Finally, he put on his hat and made his way out of the house. After making sure he wasn’t seen, he disappeared into the night.

 

All around her, she could hear the sound of the forest. It was as though it had two souls and when the forest’s daytime soul departed with the last ray of daylight, the soul of the night and its sounds slowly but surely took over. Owls hooted intermittently, crickets chirped incessantly and every now and then, she could hear the hiss of a snake, as it tasted the night air hoping to catch the scent of a nearby prey. She opened her eyes and saw the figure of a tall man seating next to her. They were lying on an intermeshed hammock he had probably built. She stared at him for a while. He was a well-built man but not overly muscular. He had long straight but unkempt brown hair that fell to shoulder length. He wore a dark blue tunic and brown pants with black leather boots. His eyes seemed like they missed nothing as he stared into the blackness that was the misty forest at night. His facial features were strong and she found him strikingly handsome. He turned to look at her. She suddenly found herself short of breath and it slightly annoyed her.

“You are finally awake, I see.” He said leaning forward towards her. Vannera panicked and began frantically trying to crawl away. As she turned to flee, she felt his hand grab her by her upper arm.

“No sudden movements. If you destroy the hammock, we’ll be taking a nasty fall. Besides, you don’t want to worsen the wound on your stomach, you know.” Vannera looked down to see that the hammock was a bit up high and connected at its ends to four tree trunks. When she turned back, the man had drawn nearer and as she turned, he placed his hand on her forehead.

“Your fever is almost gone.” He smiled. “That’s good… VaJaynea.” He chuckled as he sat back on his side of the hammock. Vannera looked perplexed for a while but then she remembered. It was mostly a blur to her but she couldn’t help but smile a bit. The smile soon vanished as an overwhelming emptiness and sadness engulfed her. As the tears fell down her cheeks, she covered her mouth to keep from wailing loudly. She looked over at the man and could see the look of concern written all over his face. She pulled her knees close to her chest and buried her head in them as she tried to gather her thoughts. What could she do now? Her own father had tried to assassinate her and the only person she could trust was dead.

Oh Jaynea, you fool! I can’t do this without you.

“You must be hungry.” The man sitting across from her said.

“I cooked some tortoise meat while you were unconscious. Would you like some?”

“Tortoise?” Asked Vannera visibly troubled by the thought of eating tortoise for a late night dinner. The man shrugged.

“I know it’s not your everyday meal, but it’s really not that bad.”

“I’m really not that hungry… thank you.” Vannera’s stomach groaned. She glanced over at the man and quickly back down. The man smiled and handed her a sizeable morsel of tortoise meat on a clean wooden plate.

“Eat.” He scooted back and began to look into the darkness again. Vannera watched him for a while and once she thought he wasn’t looking, she grabbed the plate and began biting into the meat like her life depended on it. Right now, anything edible was good enough for her.

“Good?” The man asked. Vannera nodded a yes while still biting into the surprisingly delicious meat. After she was done, the man handed her a small leather container of water with a cap on it.

“I thought you’d be thirsty.” He said smiling. Vannera took it and drank till it was almost empty. She felt like a little kid being pampered by her parents. The analogy made her sad again.

“Father…” She stopped herself, realizing she had spoken out loud.

“What was that?” The man sat up as he asked the question.

“Nothing.” Vannera looked away.

“Did your father die in that fire? Or was he killed by your attackers?”

“No… just a good friend of mine… all good friends of mine.”

“Then you must have people looking for you.”

Vannera nodded. “Yes…”

“That settles it then. Tomorrow I’ll take you to the Gor outpost. I haven’t seen you around Gor but I’m sure they’ll be able to take you back to wherever…” The man stopped as Vannera held his hand while shaking her head.

“No, no. I cannot go back please… don’t take me back.”

“Relax. Everything will be fine. Once you are at the outpost, and on your way, you’ll be safe.”

“No! You don’t understand! I won’t be… nowhere is safe for me in Angweleth!” Vannera burst into tears once more.

“What could you possibly have to fear so much so that you cannot feel safety anywhere?” The man reached out and wiped her tears. His touch was gentle and cautious. His caution was probably for fear of scaring her, but the truth was that she wasn’t. He was wrong about her not feeling safe. Right now the hammock they sat on was probably the safest place for her in all of Angweleth. But it wasn’t just the hammock. He made her feel safe and she had only just met him. Yet he had already saved her life, nursed her back to health and fed her. Despite probably having a life to get back to, he had stayed with her and was even trying to get her back to where he believed was her home. She did owe him the truth but she couldn’t risk it.

“Thank you.” She finally said. “Thank you for everything.”

“No need. Look, let us sleep and then at dawn you can decide what is best for you.”

“Yes… I agree.” She nodded.

“Good.” The man lay back down.

“What is your name?” She asked.

“Davydd.”

“Davydd… Goodnight.” She lay back down thinking about the name and the man who went by it. Davydd suited him. Somehow she couldn’t imagine him being named anything else. …At dawn you can decide… The truth was she had already made a decision. At least she had gotten the chance to express gratitude. She closed her eyes. It was time to rest; after all she would need all the strength she could use.

 

Davydd opened his eyes. He had been asleep for a while but he could tell from the light purple color of the early morning sky, that day was almost breaking. He thought it odd, that he would wake up now for he usually didn’t until the rays of the sun hit him. It was almost as odd as the girl’s life he had saved. Vannera. Somehow, the name just didn’t suit her. She was beautiful but for some reason he wouldn’t have picked Vannera. Her looks did not compliment her personality. If he didn’t know better he would have thought she was a soul living in another person’s body. He peered over to watch her sleeping and then almost turned white in terror. No one was there. She was gone!

 

Davydd sprang into action, gripping unto the hardened branches of creepers and winders that had used their host tree’s strong trunks as a way of reaching the sun. They made for excellent natural ladders and Davydd used them to good effect, as he made his way down to the forest ground. They hadn’t been that high up so even if she fell she would have survived, though she might have sustained some injuries. However, there was no bleeding unconscious body awaiting him when he got to the ground. What if she had moved while hurt? There were no signs of blood around the area. Davydd concluded that she must have run away. He was relieved that she wasn’t hurt but at the same time he was annoyed. A part of him wanted to forget what had happened and leave her be. However his conscience wouldn’t let him do that, especially if what she had told him was true.

Very bright Vannera.

Davydd stooped down on one knee and examined the soil. As expected, he could see foot tracks on the soil and grass. Judging by how depressed the ground was, he could tell she hadn’t left too long ago. This meant she couldn’t have gone far and he could catch up with her before she was in any real danger. Davydd broke into a run hurrying along the path Vannera had taken. He weaved in between tall tree trunks, ducking under low hanging branches and jumping over exposed root trunks effortlessly. The tracks were getting fresher, which meant he was getting closer to Vannera. She was running. He could tell from the spacing between each foot track she left. He caught a glimpse of her as she ran past a tree.

“Vannera!” Davydd picked up his pace as he tried to close the distance between them. She was surprisingly quick. He hadn’t expected that, but he was gaining on her.

“Vannera, stop! Plea…” Davydd stopped just as a metal blade flashed by his face. The blade stopped right in front of his eyes, vibrating in a low hum from being re-directed quickly towards him. Davydd ducked just as the blade threatened to cleave off his head. He fell into a roll and came back up just in time to side step another swipe. He caught a glimpse of his attacker. It was an Angwelethean soldier.

“Why do you attack me?”

The soldier did not respond. Instead he launched a thrusting attack aimed at Davydd’s heart. Davydd tried to step back but soon discovered he had backed into a tree trunk. He closed his eyes and prepared for the worst. It was then he heard the clang of metal on metal. When he opened his eyes he saw another sword positioned horizontally across his chest, blocking the sharp menacing tip of the soldier’s sword. Davydd looked to see its wielder and was filled with shock and happiness at the same time. The man in the black robe tipped his hat at Davydd.

“Son?”

“Father?”

“It seems like I found you in time my boy.” Said Ovar, smiling. The soldier spoke for the first time.

“You two have violated the recent curfew imposed by King Sidion and as such, shall be apprehend.”

“Apprehended?” Ovar asked, chuckling sarcastically. “You weren’t going to apprehend him; you were going to kill him. Davydd. Go after her.”

“But father! You…”

“Go now! I’ll be fine.”

“Once I find her, I’ll come back for you father.”

Davydd hesitated for a moment and then bolted after Vannera. Ovar waited till Davydd was out of site.

That woman looked like Jaynea. Yet Davydd called her Vannera. If this means what I think it means, then it might be time Matilom.

Ovar turned back to the Angwelethean soldier and spoke.

“Actually, you were trying to kill the both of them weren’t you?”

Ovar blocked as the soldier moved in with a downward thrust. He sidestepped, allowing the soldier’s forward momentum to throw him off balance. As the soldier stumbled, Ovar moved in behind him and thrust forward, but the soldier caught himself and placed the blade of his sword behind his back, blocking Ovar’s thrust.

“Judging by your skill, you are not one of the glorified guards that patrol Gor’s streets either are you? Let me guess. Death Class?”

The soldier flicked his sword back around to his front, parrying Ovar’s sword and breaking his stance in the process. He whirled around and attempted a low swooping attack at Ovar’s feet. Ovar jumped over the attack and launched into his. The soldier blocked and they both went into a series of attacks and counters, both evenly matched for the duration of their duel. Ovar glided very quickly to the right of his opponent, and swung his sword at the soldier’s neck. The death class soldier bent low under the attack and launched into a side slash aimed at Ovar’s mid-section. Ovar blocked in turn with the steel gauntlet on his left arm and then connected with a left punch to the fore head of the soldier. The soldier staggered back and Ovar moved in, attacking the soldier repeatedly. The soldier parried most of Ovar’s attacks until a low swipe, which delivered an immobilizing blow to his left thigh area, struck him. The soldier dropped to his knees. Ovar placed the tip of his sword under the soldier’s jaw line and slowly raised it, forcing the soldier to lift up his face.

“Tell me why you came here.”

“Haven’t you heard? The princess is dead.”

“Then you should be investigating that, not attempting to kill innocent people.”

“Innocent? That man? You both were out after curfew hours and he was chasing after the princess’s friend, whom I have been commanded to bring in. Now you however, you interest me greatly.”

“Really? And why is that?”

“Your skill with the blade is enough to best me and you are knowledgeable in the class of Angweleth soldiers. It leads me to wonder who you are. However, time must have eroded your memory. You forget one thing.”

“And what is that?”

The soldier smiled menacingly. “Death class soldiers always work in pairs… but… this time, we are three.”

Terror seized Ovar as the realization set in.

Davydd!

Ovar made to run but felt a searing pain burn through his lower back. He reached behind him and felt the wooden stem of the arrow that had embedded itself in his lower right back. He fell to his knees. His opponent forced himself back up to his feet.

“We aren’t done with you yet.” He struck Ovar viciously across the face with the handle of his sword. Ovar fell to the floor unconscious. A figure emerged behind the trees and walked over to the unconscious body of Ovar. He wore a similar uniform to that of his compatriot. They were dressed in black steel plated armor with underlying chainmail protecting vital and exposed areas. They also had a black cape that fell down over their shoulders and covered their backs. On it was the insignia of Angweleth, a shield designed with a tiger holding a sword by the blade in its mouth. Their left shoulder armor plate was adorned with five skull shaped medals lined side by side. It showed their military class, which was ranked by skill as well as authority. The wounded soldier who had fought Ovar spoke first.

“Jaynea and the boy ran off that way.” He pointed in the direction were Davydd had gone.

“I cannot give chase with this wound. So you aid Brutus in pursuing them. I will take this one back to the Gor outpost for questioning. Also Farok, try and bring her in alive if you can, but kill her if you have to. I don’t care much for the boy, so kill him. Besides, there’s no telling what Jaynea might have told him. We don’t want any loose ends. Now go.”

“At once.” Farok moved swiftly in the direction the apparent leader of the team had pointed.

 

Davydd was gaining on Vannera once more. Even though it felt like they had both been running a long time, she showed no signs of slowing down.

Where does she get the energy?

He finally caught up to her and as he reached out for her, they both tripped and fell. Davydd held her tightly as she tried to wriggle free.

“Let me go!” She yelped.

“Calm down! Do you know how much trouble you’ve caused?”

“There wouldn’t be any trouble if you had just let me be!”

“Let you be? So you can die here? Have you not noticed that there are high ranking Angwelethean soldiers after you?”

“Yes! I know!”

“Why then?”

“I can’t tell you…” Vannera looked away her eyes watering.

Davydd heaved a sigh of exasperation.

“Vannera. My worried father is locked in a fight to the death with a soldier who just tried to kill me. This is your last chance to let me help you and if you refuse… I am going to leave and go help my father. It was on his orders that I went after you… that I am here right now instead of by his side.”

Vannera sighed.

“Alright. Let’s go help your father and then… Davydd behind you!”

Davydd heard the whooshing sound of metal as it sliced through the air. He dived to the ground, grabbing Vannera with him as the sword swung past where his neck had been. On the ground, Davydd frantically searched for something he could use as a weapon. He found it in a hard branch lying just within his grasp. Davydd grabbed it and rolled on his back just in time to block a fatal blow from the sword.

“Stay back Vannera!” Davydd screamed as he warded off another blow. He thrust forward with the tree branch but the soldier easily evaded his attack. The soldier was moving so quickly; Davydd was having a hard time keeping up. He instinctively blocked a few more hits but was unable to avoid an unexpected kick to his mid-section. Davydd felt the wind knocked out of him as he fell to the ground. He coughed and gasped for air as he crawled away from the soldier, who was now stalking him slowly. In that moment, he realized where in the forest he was and all of a sudden he had a sliver of hope to hold on to. With renewed energy, he struggled to his feet and ran in Vannera’s direction. Before she could react, he grabbed her hand and they both took off. The soldier gave pursuit.

“What are you doing?”

“Just do as I say, when I say, for both our sakes. Understand?”

“Y…Yes.”

Davydd led Vannera through the thick vegetation, weaving in and out of branches and trees. The soldier remained hot on their trails. They were approaching a clearing were a small pond had formed.

“Right before we get to the clearing in front of us, we are going to jump alright?”

“Okay.”

They drew nearer and nearer towards the clearing with the soldier gaining on them. Vannera glanced back.

“He’s close.”

“Good.”

“Good?”

“Jump now. Jump as high and far as you can.”

Davydd and Vannera jumped right as they were about to enter the clearing, falling into the pond as they did. The soldier approached the clearing and kept running. By the time he realized what had happened, it was too late. The ground beneath him caved in under his weight and he plummeted downwards into a hole filled with sharp wooden stakes. Davydd and Vannera heard a mortal scream of pain, followed by guttural sounds and then silence.

“What happened?” A perplexed Vannera asked. Davydd stood up and reached out to help Vannera out of the pond.

“I’m a hunter. I lay traps for animals. I guess they are also good for something else. We need to go back for my father now.”

Davydd turned around and received a blow to his nose from the hilt of a sword. He fell back into the pond, with blood rushing from his nose.

“Davydd!” Screamed Vannera.

Davydd emerged from under the water and stumbled as he tried to regain his composure.

“I see you managed to kill Brutus.” The soldier said.

“You are very intelligent. It’s too bad that a promising life ends here and now.” The soldier unsheathed his sword and made his way towards Davydd.

Vannera ran over to Davydd’s side as he staggered backwards.

“Leave him alone!” She yelped.

“Don’t do this Jaynea. I don’t have to kill you, but I will if it be necessary.”

As the soldier made his way towards Davydd and Vannera, there seemed to be a distortion in the space between them. The soldier stepped back in surprise. Something seemed to be pushing him away from them and pulling them into itself. The force sent both Davydd and Vannera’s heads spinning. Soon they felt a floating sensation and then a falling sensation. Davydd rolled around trying to focus his vision. His nose throbbed and he felt like he had just been struck multiple times in the head.

“You should be glad I found you in time Jaynea.” Davydd and Vannera looked up to see a man dressed in a green tunic, black pants and a pair of dark green boots to match. He wore green gloves and had a green hat on. Underneath his hat fell natural black twists of hair. He had a thin beard layer above his dark skin and kind brown eyes. He took of his hat and nodded politely.

“You definitely gave us a scare.” He said smiling.

Davydd looked lost and confused. “Why is everyone calling you Jaynea?” He asked as he turned to look at Vannera? “And where are we?” He turned to look back at the stranger who had saved their lives.

“Who are you?”

The man in the green uniform laughed.

“He’s full of questions isn’t he?” He said amidst chuckles as he looked at Vannera. Vannera did not return the humor. The man stopped laughing and took of his hat again. He nodded.

“The name’s Maxweil, but you can just call me Max.”

Vannera spoke up for the first time.

“Max… you knew Jaynea… didn’t you?”

Max looked at her quizzically.

“Are you okay? It seems like you asked me if I knew you. I know you’ve been through a lot but…”

“I’m not Jaynea, Max.” Vannera interjected.

“What do you mean?”

“Jaynea died two days ago… she was protecting me.”

The expression on Max’s face was one of pain. He punched the soil in frustration as the news sank in. Then as if to regain control over his emotions, he took a deep breath.

“So I take it then you are Princess Vannera?” Max finally asked.

“Princess Vannera?” Davydd asked looking stunned. “But she looks nothing like the princess. What’s happening?”

“Who is he?” Max asked.

“He saved my life. Max if you knew Jaynea then would it be safe to assume you would know of a Matilom? Jaynea said I should find him and it is of the utmost importance that I speak to him.”

Davydd put his head in his hands. He rose to his feet.

“I’m going back for my father.”

“Was he fighting one of those soldiers?” Max asked.

“Yes. Why?”

Max sighed.

“He’s probably dead by now.”

“I don’t believe you.” Davydd turned to Vannera. “I hope you are happy you have found what you are looking for. But just remember that the life of Ovar Tardust might be forfeit because of you.” Davydd began to walk away just as a hand grabbed him by the shoulder. Davydd turned around to see that it was Max.

“Did you say Ovar?”

“Yes… and he needs my help.”

Max shook his head.

“Not yet. You both need to come with me.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you.” Davydd replied.

“Look… I want to help your father as much as you do… but we can’t just go after him blindly, especially if he was taken by a death class soldier.”

“Death Class?”

Max shook his head.

“You have a lot that you need to know Davydd.”

“How do you know my name?”

“Save your questions for Matilom.”

The space around them warped once again.

 

 

 

 

[] CHAPTER THREE (Ovar’s Rescue)

Another blow landed on Ovar’s left cheek, jerking his face violently to the right. Ovar wheezed and coughed out more blood from his mouth. His face was swollen and bruised. He was also bleeding from a cut above his right temple.

“May I ask why you choose to suffer?” The soldier he had fought leaned towards Ovar.

“You could save yourself all this pain by just telling me what I need to know.”

Ovar laughed and rolled his head tiredly.

“Say… I forgot. What was it you needed to know?”

“Who is the boy?” The soldier inserted a sharp spike into the tip of Ovar’s left index finger. Ovar shook in pain as the metal punctured his skin and drove in.

“There is one spike for every finger and toe you have. You can save yourself the trouble. Who is the boy?”

“I…already told you, he is my son. He is a hunter and that’s all there is to it.”

“Why is a hunter out in the forest with the princess’s closest friend and only survivor of a massacre? Why is he out there after curfew?”

“He is out there because he went to hunt for game before the massacre. He never knew anything about it. He’s been out there for three days. He probably ran into the wreckage and saved her. I went to find him… to bring him home.”

The soldier raised his chin boss and pursed his lips.

“So all of this is coincidence then?”

Ovar nodded. “Or it could be a misunderstanding.”

“You attacked me.”

“You… tried to kill my son.”

“You bested me… your son managed to kill one of my men and the other claims he and Jaynea vanished in midair. Could you perhaps explain that?”

“Well…”Ovar chuckled. “I guess we were just better than you two th…”

He was cut short with a brutal blow to his mid-section.

“Any more jokes?”

Ovar did not respond. His head hung low and still. The soldier examined him for a few seconds then spoke to a younger man and woman who had been standing by the entrance of the room.

“He’s unconscious… yet again. Take him, treat his wounds and feed him. I will send for him again when he has recovered a bit.

 

Davydd woke up with a terrible headache. He squeezed his eyes shut as the throbbing pain seared from one temple of his head to the other. Davydd put up his left hand to touch his nose and quickly withdrew it. The pain was still sharp, though it had been treated. He sat up and took in his surroundings. He was in a room with no windows, but for some reason had several holes in the ceiling. The wooden bed he sat on had a soft plush mattress and pillow, which felt very comfortable indeed. To his right was a small bedside cupboard and on the far right wall was a big bookshelf filled to capacity with various books. The walls were wooden and concave in shape and the bookshelf was shaped into a concave as well to fit perfectly on the side of the wall. Daylight filtered in through the strange holes in the ceiling in small thin rays. But the rest of the room was dim. Davydd swung his feet off the bed and got up. It was then he noticed the door opposite his bed and made his way to it. He opened it and stepped into a hallway with a door on either side of his. There was only one door on the opposite wall of the hallway, which he noticed wrapped around on each end. The small holes in the ceiling were present and as usual they let in a small ray of sunlight. Davydd opened the lone door opposite him and walked into what he deemed to be the living room. There were two long seats and three couches in the room. To the left was a section that had been made out to be the dining area. It had a decent sized oval shaped table with 8 chairs around it. On the table sat a bowl of ripe, succulent fruit and a jug of water to its side. His stomach groaned and he remembered he hadn’t eaten much the past three days. He went over to the fruit bowl, grabbed some apples and devoured them in no time. He sucked off the fruit juice that had spilled on his fingers and then made for the jug of water, which he downed to about half way empty.

“I see you are making yourself at home.”

Davydd whirled around and saw that it was Vannera. She had come in from a different door in the living room, no doubt from another room in the hallway that wrapped around. She wore a white dress that stopped just above her knees and exposed a fair amount of her cleavage. A blue scarf was wrapped around her shoulders. Davydd caught himself staring and then looked away.

“Hmmm, you are a hunter, a rescuer and a gentleman.” Vannera sat down on one of the couches.

“Do you know where we are?”

The princess shook her head. “No. I woke up and found myself in a very strange room. I had a horrible headache as well.”

It was at that moment that Davydd noticed his headache had subsided, though his nose was still hurting as bad as it did when he woke up. A door behind the oval table Davydd had been eating from, opened and the man they knew as Max, walked in. He turned towards them and flashed a friendly smile.

“You are both up. Thank goodness. I was beginning to feel bad.”

“Why is that?” Vannera asked.

“Well… portal travel takes some getting used to and I subjected the both of you to two of them within a short period of time. You both were unconscious by the time we got here.”

“And where is here?” Davydd asked impatiently.

Max shifted his gaze to him and then back to Vannera.

“I understand you both have questions that demand answers. And you shall have them. You, my lady have been searching for Matilom. I present him to you both.”

An old man walked into the room through the door Max had just entered from. He wore grey overalls and a black cloak. He had long unkempt hair and a thick long beard. Despite his aged appearance, he walked with a surprising amount of strength and little labor. Matilom took his seat on the third couch facing where Davydd sat. Vannera was seated adjacent to the two men. Max jumped on one of the long seats and sprawled across it lazily.

“Excuse Max.” Said Matilom chuckling. “He is a free spirited one.”

He shifted his gaze to Vannera, then to Davydd and then back at Vannera.

“Alright.” Matilom sat up and leaned forward. “Tell me everything you know. Start from the beginning.” He turned and looked at Davydd once more. “And if you don’t mind young one… listen very carefully.”

Davydd sighed. “I honestly don’t know why I am here. I think you should let me go. My father could be dead.”

“You’ll know why you are here soon enough my child. Speak Vannera. You came all this way because you have something to tell me.”

Vannera took a deep breath and begun.

“When my father succeeded the last king Rikard Miljorn after his death, he was a good king. He wanted nothing but the best for all of Angweleth, and I grew up knowing I was in a loving and happy home… until my mother died when I was eight. Then my father changed. He became ruthless and unkind to his people. He began to embark on unnecessary war campaigns to expand the kingdom. He stopped taking the advice of his council and made his decisions without much thought as to how it affected his kingdom, his people or their views of him.” Vannera took another deep breath and interlocked her fingers nervously.

“He grew distant from me as I grew older. But by then I was no longer waiting for his approval, his acceptance or his love. I had a good friend who stood by my side even in my loneliest hours in that castle.”

“Jaynea…” Max said, sitting up.

“Yes… She became my closest friend. In that time I grew more resentful of my father and sought to bring about whatever respite I could to my people. I began making yearly voyages to every town of Angweleth that I could visit, since I was sixteen. Jaynea followed me on every one of those trips and my father was not particularly happy that I was spreading ‘his’ wealth across the kingdom. In that time I also noticed strange actions from my father. He would disappear for long periods of time and then return without speaking a word. Soon it was as if he was not even there. I noticed that during his time of absence he always went to the north wing of the castle. I decided to follow him one day, and I observed him open two huge double doors and walk through them. They always closed behind him, but I was able to see figures seated around a table, waiting for him. I was never able to make out their faces as they always covered their features in hoods. I gave into my curiosity and sought to find a way into that room. After a year, I discovered a secret passage that led from the palace gardens to the same room where my father convened in with those beings.”

“Beings?” Davydd asked.

“Yes… beings. I thought them to be the members of the council at first but last week, when I snuck into that room to listen in on their meeting, I was pretty sure they weren’t…”

Matilom rested back on his seat. “Someone knew you were there. What did you learn that made your life forfeit?”

Vannera looked at everyone in the room and then cleared her throat.

“They mostly talked about my father’s progress in helping build an army that could take on the might of the other six kingdoms. It felt as though he had no choice. They threatened to destroy Angweleth unless he helped them take over…our world. But apparently the destruction of some artifact is key to their plans.”

“Artifact?” Davydd looked perplexed. “What artifact and who are these beings?”

“I don’t know who these beings are… I can tell you they are not human. Their voices seemed to contain a power that envelopes one in evil. It was all I could do not to tremble so much that they would hear me. My father might not be the best of men, but he fears very little and even he seemed to cower in their presence.”

Vannera looked at Davydd. “The artifact is called…”

“…The gauntlet of Feona.” Matilom interjected.

“How do you know this?” Vannera asked.

Matilom got up and paced around for a bit.

“Jaynea’s task was to sneak into your Father’s castle as your friend and find the location of the gauntlet. Once she found out the location, she was to escape the castle and report it to me. Only then could we begin our mission. However, it seems she let her feelings get in the way.”

Matilom turned and looked at Vannera.

“She sacrificed herself to protect you. She must have seen something special in you to be drawn to you so.”

Vannera blushed and pushed her hair behind her ears.

“Well… we were… very close.”

“Indeed you were. Even till her untimely death. But as close as you were I’m sure you must be tired of running around Angweleth not looking like yourself.”

Davydd burst out laughing. “I see. I think I know what’s going on now. I was wondering why you were claiming to be the princess Vannera when you looked nothing like her. Then again, I always thought there was something slightly off with the way you looked when I first saved your life. So it is safe to say, the figure and face I gaze upon is that of Jaynea’s.”

Vannera nodded her head in agreement.

“Now you know where VaJaynea came from.” She said with a wry smile.

“I do.” Davydd replied while returning the smile.

“Still, that must have been some powerful spell to have lasted this long.”

“It is very powerful indeed.” Matilom concurred.

“For it is one that would require strong physical contact between the two to have lasted this long.”

“Physical contact?”

“Such as a kiss for example.”

Davydd turned and looked at Vannera in shock. Vannera shrugged and looked away blushing.

“I was… am young… and curious.” She finally said.

“Now then.” Matilom said, stepping in front of her. “It is time to make you, you again.”

Matilom began chanting an incantation as he stretched his arms over her. Midway through the incantation, Vannera closed her eyes and grimaced as like dirt is blown of a dusty table by the wind, Jaynea’s image was blown off of hers. As Matilom finished the incantation, Vannera’s true image was revealed. She was stunningly beautiful. Her green eyes seemed to accentuate her red hair as it fell across her face, behind her neck and shoulders. Her lips, half parted, were a mid-tone between red and pink and they were lush and full. Her skin seemed to have a glow of its own. Davydd caught himself staring and though he tried, he couldn’t look away. Vannera caught his gaze, smiled and then looked away shyly. Max, who had been sitting up, sprawled back on the long seat and whistled.

“I always knew Jaynea had great taste.” He said laughing to himself.

“Indeed.” Said Matilom as he made his way towards the fruit bowl and plucked some grapes. “Your beauty is a sight to behold from afar. It is indeed hypnotizing in person.” He put the grape fruits into a bowl and handed them to her. “Here you go.”

“How did you know I like these?” Vannera asked, pleasantly surprised.

“Jaynea talked quite a bit about you. As I’m sure you know; she was very fond of you.”

“So I’ve been thinking.” Davydd got up suddenly. “You found Matilom and told him what you know.” He said addressing Vannera. He then turned to Matilom. “You probably assume that King Sidion knows where this gauntlet is.” He finally turned to Max. “So why am I still here? Take me back.”

At that moment, the door opened and a man in blue tunic, black pants, blue boots, blue gloves and a blue hat stepped inside the living room. His clothing apparel was very identical to Max’s with the main difference in the colors and the fact that while Max had two small sheaths for the daggers he carried on either side of his waist, this man had a long sword slung across his back.

Matilom turned and addressed the man.

“Well, I see you have returned Leo. Are our fears confirmed?”

“Yes they are. Ovar’s been captured.”

Davydd clenched his fists in anger.

“I knew I shouldn’t have stayed.”

Matilom walked over to him and placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

“You wanted to find out where you fit into all of this right?”

Davydd nodded.

“Well, you will most definitely find out once Ovar is rescued. I haven’t told you anything because it is not my place to, but his. Now then, let us prepare ourselves.”

 

Ovar’s head hung low as another drop of blood fell to the floor adding to the pool that had gathered beneath were he sat. 8 of his fingertips had been punctured with spikes. Only his smallest fingers remained untouched, though he knew that wasn’t going to be the case for long. His face was swollen and bruised to the point that he could barely see from either eye. His mid-section felt like it had been turned inside out twice over and his joints were still on fire from being racked. It was very possible he could be put on the rack again.

“Are you ready to talk? Look at you. Subjecting yourself to this.”

Ovar slowly raised his head and rolled his eyes.

“I…have been subjected… to this…”

“You had a choice. You still have a choice. Tell me who you really are. For some reason, there is no record of an Ovar Tardust before twenty-three years ago. Now why is that?”

Ovar hung his head low without saying a word. He had to hold out and hope that somehow, Davydd had made it to Matilom. He wouldn’t be broken, even if it meant his death.

I won’t fail you again Rikard. I won’t.

Ovar heard the sigh of his interrogator.

“I didn’t want to do this, but I suppose I have no choice.” He brought out a small but very sharp serrated knife and brandished it in front of Ovar. “For every question that goes unanswered from here on, you lose a fingertip.”

At that moment, the door opened and Farok entered.

“We have a carriage approaching the gates.”

“It probably brings more prisoners to this wretched outpost. Nevertheless, tell the gate guards to find out who it is and then report back to me immediately.”

Farok nodded and backed out of the room, closing the door. The soldier turned back to Ovar.

“It seems fate has given you a bit of a respite. If I were you, I would use this time to reconsider your defiance. When I come back, for your sake I hope you would have made the right decision.” With that, the soldier walked out of the room.

 

The carriage was a cheap one, drawn by a horse and made of dry wooden frames that were covered in a torn, black ragged cloth with cut out squares in it for makeshift windows. Concealed inside the carriage were Matilom, Davydd and Leo. Max sat outside and steered the horse. “So, how do you plan to rescue my father from an outpost populated with fifty guards or so?”

“Wits my friend.” Replied Leo. “Wits and a lot of luck.”

“This must be awkward for you Leo, but you know what you must do.” Matilom couldn’t help but smile mischievously as he lowered his head.

Leo sighed. “Sam should still be in position. Don’t tell him about this. He’ll die laughing.”

“Tell him what?” Asked Davydd as Matilom burst into loud laughter.

“I’m sorry my friend.” Said Leo. Davydd looked at him inquisitively. Suddenly, Leo lashed out and landed a right-handed punch square on Davydd’s cheek.

“You bastard!” Davydd yelled as he returned the favor, landing a punch square in the middle of Leo’s forehead. Davydd pulled his hand back for another punch but Leo caught it.

“That’ll do.” He said laughing.

“What was that for?!”

“Strong physical contact.” Matilom replied still chuckling.

The chariot approached the large steel gates of Gor’s military outpost and slowed to a stop. Max stepped off the carriage horse and made his way towards the gate. Almost instantly, there was a whooshing sound and a man was suddenly walking beside Max. Max turned around and saw a thick trail of dust behind him. He turned and looked at the man walking beside him. He had dirty blonde hair hidden underneath his red hat, a light layer of beard that covered most of his lower jaw and the sides of his face, and light aqua blue eyes. He wore a red tunic and black pants with red boots and gloves and carried a sword with a sheath hung low on the left side of his waist in traditional fashion.

“Show off.” Max said smiling as he looked back at the settling trail of dust.

“I was a bit far away you know.” Sam said returning the smile.

“So what’s the plan?”

“Leo goes in and we make sure he comes out with Ovar alive.”

“Ah a three man job as usual.”

“Four man job.” Max corrected.

“Of course. Davydd. How is he dealing with all of this?”

“He still has questions. Time will tell.”

As they got up to the gate, a small viewing window in right side of the gate opened up and a face underneath a helmet looked through.

“What do you want?” He asked in the most unpleasant manner he possibly could.

“We caught someone sneaking back into their house this morning right before curfew was lifted, so we apprehended him and came here. Maybe he has valuable information concerning the princess’s murder.”

The viewing window slid shut for a few minutes, and then opened back up.

“Bring him in. We’ll open up when he arrives at the gate.”

Sam put two of his fingers between his lips and whistled. Leo and Davydd came out of the carriage, with Davydd’s hands bound together behind his back by a strong rope. Leo kept shoving Davydd ahead. When they both got to the gate, Max knocked on it one more time. The viewing window slid open again and the same unfriendly face was seen peering at all four men outside. The viewing window slid shut and a few seconds later, the gates slowly swung inwards, opening up. Just behind the gate on either side, were two concrete watchtowers, accessible by a long ladder that went all the way to the guarded room at the top through an access hole at the bottom of the room. Each watchtower had four windows on either side. The entire outpost compound was square shaped and hidden behind high reaching stonewalls. There were three main buildings in the compound. The largest building was the furthest away from the gate. It had one upper level and was used to carry out official matters such as trials and sentencing. It was also where the Overseer stayed, as well as high-ranking military officials when they passed through Gor. The other two buildings were on either side of the largest one and at 90-degree angles to it. The one to the left was used to house the soldiers living at the outpost, while the one on the right was used to house prisoners. It was midday and as such, most of the soldiers were out patrolling the streets of Gor, leaving the outpost less protected. As Davydd walked through, he was escorted by one of the soldiers in the compound, while two others including the one who had answered the gate, blocked the path of Max, Sam and Leo. They waited till Davydd had been escorted into the administrative building and then spoke.

“Thank you for your service to your kingdom. You may leave.”

“How many men did you see in the compound Sam?” Max asked.

“I think I counted fifteen heads.” Sam replied.

“Ah so with these three down and out we are left with twelve.”

They turned and looked at each other as the three soldiers stood perplexed by their banter.

“TWELVE” they both said simultaneously.

“Alright, out you go.” The unfriendly gate guard moved in with his spear. He and the other guards swung the long handles of their spears at Max and Sam. By the time the guards had finished their swings Max and Sam were already behind them. Two of the guards fell to their knees and then to the ground unconscious. The gate guard turned around surprised to see that his spear had been sliced in half. His eyes widened in fear as he pulled out his sword and violently rushed towards Max. Max quickly opened up a portal and was again behind the guard by the time he had swung his sword. The guard turned around in a sideswipe but had his swing deflected downwards by one of Max’s daggers. He looked up only to meet the handle of the other dagger rammed fiercely into the side of his head. He too fell unconscious. Max glanced at Leo who had been standing there in shock.

“He was yours to take out you know?”

“Well… well… I…”

“Don’t explain yourself to him.” Sam interjected smiling. “He’s just teasing.”

“Gentlemen.” Max said, stripping one of the unconscious guards of their armor. “It is time to become proud soldiers of Angweleth.”

 

Davydd stood in front of the lead death class soldier who had been interrogating Ovar, with his hands bound in front of him by chains and a metal lock. The soldier stood with his hands behind his back, appraising Davydd. He walked behind him slowly and deliberately, and then circled his way back around.

“This is indeed a pleasant surprise. Though in some ways, I’m rather disappointed. You see I was looking forward to the chase… looking forward to hunting you down like the animal that you are.”

“My apologies for ruining your fun.”

“Oh not to worry. There are other ways to have a good time. You see, I have questions for you.”

“And I will answer them as best as I possibly can… on the condition that you let my father go.”

The soldier shrugged.

“Depending on the validity of your answers, that can be arranged.”

“Fair enough… I understand that I am in no position to make demands but before I answer any of your questions, I have one more request.”

“And what might that be?”

“I’d like to see my father first. I want him to know that I am alright.”

The soldier looked at Davydd for a while.

“Very well.” He finally said. “Guards!”

Two other soldiers stepped into the room.

“Take Davydd to the prison quarters. After he has exchanged a few words of reconciliation, bring him back here.”

He turned to Davydd.

“Do not mistake my generosity as a sign of weakness. Indeed if you come back here making demands or refuse me the answers I seek in any small capacity, I will visit upon you a kind of pain that would make even Feona herself flinch. Now be gone.”

One of the soldiers grabbed Davydd by the arm and led him out of the room while the other walked in front of them. They walked down a flight of stairs and out the door of the main building. At the gate and watchtowers, Leo, Max and Sam watched with the utmost concentration, as the two guards led Davydd into the building where prisoners were kept. The interior of the building was dark and dreary. Cobwebs hung precariously low from the wall corners and ceiling. The door led into an open space that had been converted into the dungeon warden’s office. There was a wooden table with a slow burning oil lamp on it, as the only source of light and the warden, who was seated behind his desk, strained to write into a big black book he had in front of him. When he saw the soldiers enter with Davydd, he closed the book, which had a lock built into it. He picked up a key, inserted it into the books keyhole, and turned. There was a clicking sound. The warden shoved the book aside and stood up addressing the soldiers.

“Another prisoner?”

“A visitor.” The soldier holding Davydd’s arm replied. “At least for now.”

“Can you take us to Ovar Tardust’s cell?” The other soldier asked.

“Follow me.” The warden walked through the open space that was his office, past an archway and then followed the pathway that turned left. The guards, along with Davydd, followed suit. The pathway taken by the warden extended both ways across the warden’s office and also had a junction heading straight ahead from the office, which formed a T-shaped hallway system. Prison cells lined the walls of each hall way and in between each cell was a flame torch casting a flickering yellow pool of light, amidst the darkness. They walked past seven sets of cells before the warden stopped and pointed to the cell on the left.

“There he is men.” He said with an air of authority. Inside the cell sat Ovar, leaned against a wall with his face bruised, his hair and clothes matted with blood. His eyes widened with surprise when he looked up.

“Davydd?” He stumbled and crawled to the cell’s metal bars.

“Is it really you?”

Davydd walked over to the cell and clasped his hands over Ovar’s, reassuringly. Slowly Ovar’s happiness was replaced with concern.

“Why are you here? You shouldn’t be here! You need to leave!”

“That’s enough.” One of the guards said, moving towards Davydd.

“You’ve seen the pitiful sight of your father. Up on your feet.”

Davydd did not move. Instead he fixed his gaze on Ovar as his deep-sea blue eyes slowly turned hazel. Ovar looked on in surprise.

“You… Leo…” The words were barely audible

“It’s beginning to wear off.” Leo responded. “Don’t worry. I will get you out of here.”

 

 

[] CHAPTER FOUR (Rikard Miljorn)

“On your feet!” Yelled the soldier again as he made to grab Leo by the shoulder. Right as he made contact, Leo whirled around and rammed his right elbow into the soldier’s face, who staggered back and fell to the floor. The second soldier drew his sword and thrust it at Leo, who promptly used the chains binding his hands to block and stop the forward motion of the sword. Leo twisted his hands clockwise and yanked them down, pulling the sword down unto his raised knee. The sword landed, flat face first, on his knee and the resulting pressure, popped open the lock. As the chains fell off, the first soldier got up to his feet and unsheathed his sword. Leo stood with his hands to his side as the two soldiers pointed their swords at him.

“I suggest you surrender quietly prisoner.” The first soldier said.

“You have no weapon and I’d hate to kill you in cold blood.”

“I am sorry.” Leo replied. “But I can’t do that.”

“Regret that in the realm of Feona.” Said the second soldier as they both began their attack on Leo. Leo quickly put his hand behind his back and in one swift motion brought it forward parrying their sword swipes simultaneously. Before both soldiers could react, Leo thrust his hand forward and a stab wound appeared on the first soldier’s abdomen.

“Wha…” A blow to the side of the neck cut off the second soldier. As he fell to his knees clutching his bleeding neck, he looked up at Leo in fear and shock before his eyes rolled and he toppled over. Both soldiers were dead. The warden turned to run but Leo put his arm in front of him. The warden stopped dead in his tracks. He looked at Leo’s arm and saw that his fingers were curled around as if he was holding something. Slowly, a hilt came into visibility and then the base of a blade and then the whole blade. Drops of the dead soldiers’ blood splotched unto the floor right in front of the warden’s feet. Sweat poured down the warden’s forehead and face.

“I have heard stories about a power such as this before.” He said in a shaky voice.

“Men dropping like flies from the blows of an unseen attacker or an attacker with an unseen weapon. You are a man who fades away with the wind and the one who exemplifies the unseen nature of death. You must be one of the guardians of Angweleth.”

“Right you are. And if you want to keep breathing, you will tell me which one of those keys opens Ovar’s cell.”

With shaky hands, the warden reached down towards his belt line and unhooked a bunch of keys. He fiddled with it until he came across the one he was looking for. He separated it from the bunch of keys and handed it to Leo. Leo took the key from the warden.

“Thank you. This will hurt a bit.”

He reached back and slammed the hilt of his sword into the side of the warden’s head, rendering him unconscious. Next, he slowly laid the body down to the ground and then went to free Ovar. Leo helped Ovar out, supporting his weight by propping himself under Ovar’s left arm.

“L…Leo.” Ovar said weakly.

“Not now master. Let’s get out of here.”

“Your illusion is beginning to wear off.”

“Well… they can’t tell I’m not Davydd if they can’t see us. Not that it matters now.”

At that moment, Ovar and Leo became invisible.

 

Meanwhile, in the main building, the death class soldier paced back and forth impatiently.

“Don’t you think too much time has passed Farok?” He said stopping.

“I agree. I’ll go check on them.” Farok turned and left the room.

Outside, Sam and Davydd kept watch from the two watchtowers, while Max stood at the gated entrance. They watched as Farok stepped out of the main building and headed towards the dungeons.

“Don’t you think we should do something?” Davydd asked as Farok stopped at the entrance.

“Not at all.” Sam replied watching intently. “Leo has the uncanny knack of remaining unseen. We do nothing unless we absolutely have to.” Davydd sighed and looked around the tower room. Much to his pleasant surprise, he saw a bow and a bag of arrows sitting next to it. Davydd picked up the bag and slung its handle over his neck and shoulder. He pulled out an arrow and got a feel for the bow and its tension, before setting himself up. Next, he placed the arrow on the bow’s string and found his mark on Farok’s chest. He would shoot if need be.

 

In the meantime, Ovar and Leo tiptoed quietly as Farok stood outside the entrance, calling out to the warden and the two soldiers that had gone in. He was standing very close to the door but far enough so that Ovar and Leo could sneak by. As they attempted to do this, two other soldiers in the outpost made their way to Farok’s position.

“You two get in there and grab a torch for light.”

Ovar and Leo quickly pulled back as the two soldiers made their way towards the warden’s quarters. One of them grabbed a torch on the wall. Ovar and Leo had already made it back to the entrance and as Farok stepped in, they stepped out. That was when it happened. Ovar’s leg stepped on Farok’s cape long enough for him to feel a slight tug as he walked in. Farok turned around to see no one behind him. Ovar had already gently lifted his foot from Farok’s cape. He and Leo crouched completely still and in dead silence as Farok looked at his cape suspiciously. His eyes moved from his cape and stopped at the place where Leo and Ovar lay crouched.

In the watchtower, Davydd pulled back on the bowstring and took aim at Farok’s chest plate. Max, who had opened a portal up to his watch tower, spoke.

“It seems we might have to intervene after all. When I say so, make sure you do not miss your mark my friend. This will all happen very quickly.”

“I wouldn’t miss in my sleep.” Replied Davydd as he recalled the broken nose he had suffered from Farok during the forest chase. Back at the entrance to the prison quarters, Farok had crouched low and was reaching out towards Leo and Ovar. Davydd held the arrow steadily on the bowstring.

“Now.” Max said as he disappeared. Davydd let go of the arrow and it flew through the air with a thwack sound coming from the recoil of the strings. Max appeared in front of Farok, swinging his dagger down on Farok’s outstretched hand, menacingly. Farok instinctively recoiled and then drew his sword. The arrow hit the left side of his chest plate with such force, that it pierced a hole through it and pushed him back. It was all the time Max needed, as he turned grabbed both Ovar and Leo and portal traveled back to the gate.

“Guards!” Farok yelled as he struggled to get back on his feet.

Sam had already begun opening the gates of the outpost.

“We need to go now men!” He yelled. Max was watching Farok get back on his feet. As Farok straightened up, Max appeared in front of him, in midair and with his dagger swinging towards Farok’s neck. However, much to his surprise, he looked down to see Farok had leaned over backwards avoiding his swing, and was swinging back with his sword heading for Max’s waist. Max vanished right as the sword swung through. He reappeared near the entrance of the outpost.

“Get together everyone.” He said as the soldiers raced towards them. Everyone squeezed in together around Max, and they were gone by the time the Soldiers got to them. Farok grimaced in pain as he tried to pull the arrow from his flesh and armor. It had barely missed his heart, but it was still embedded just below his left shoulder.

“Don’t.” A hand stopped him. Farok looked up and saw that it was his fellow death class soldier.

“Trudor…” Farok muttered through clenched teeth.

“We’ll take you to the healer who will properly tend to your wound. I need to send word back to Alvo. These men were no ordinary men and that boy Davydd… he almost killed two of us in two days.”

Farok scoffed.

“He was lucky on both counts.”

“Luck sometimes favors the strong my friend. I will leave the soldiers here with orders. We need to return to Alvo as soon as we get this arrow out of your chest.”

 

“You were born into a world at war, and in turmoil. At a time when darkness was all your parents knew; you brought a new light and a new happiness into their lives. Your father, Rikard Miljorn, along with the kings of the other six kingdoms of Terrianus, had been fighting a long war that was half way through its seventh year. It was a surprise we lasted so long. Our enemy was faster, stronger, just as smart and sometimes wiser. They were known as the Dragol. Despite their power, they lacked something that we had… heart. The Dragol are a race born from Chaos. They had been cast into another realm that ran parallel to ours, when the seven great gods were born from their elder god, Chaos. Left all alone in the darkest crevices of existence, their anger at the gods grew and so did their jealousy towards us… humans. They sought revenge against the gods for deserting them, and to do that, they sought to wipe out all of humanity.”

Ovar coughed and Davydd brought him some water in a wooden cup. Ovar half sat up and gulped down the cup’s contents before laying back down slowly.

“You don’t need to speak any more, father.” Davydd said with a worried look on his face. He looked at the others who were all seated around the room’s curved walls except for Matilom. They nodded their agreement. Matilom stood silently near the door with his walking stick. His face was serious but his eyes showed his concern. He nodded his agreement as well. However, Ovar was adamant to finish.

“Don’t worry about… me.” He said amidst heavy breathing.

“I’ll be fine.”

He motioned for Davydd to sit back down next to his bed. When Davydd had done so, Ovar continued.

“You are probably wondering how wiping out humanity would aid the Dragol’s cause for revenge against the great gods. And I tell you now; it wasn’t just because our deaths would aggrieve the gods. The gods need us for their very survival.”

“How is this so?” Davydd was visibly perplexed.

“After the seven greats were born from Chaos, they fought an endless war amongst each other for control of all that is. But each of the seven is evenly matched against any of the other. No one can defeat or destroy the other without being killed themselves. Also, their struggle was beginning to destroy all that is, itself. They had to find a way to stop the fighting. To do this, the goddess of life created the stars and the worlds. She created everything we can see in the night sky and then she created life… us. Everything in all that is, is sustained by the power of the gods, and nothing needs more sustenance than living beings… like you and me.”

“So… we draw power from the gods…” Davydd said as if in an epiphany.

“Yes and in turn, it leaves them too weak to fight and squabble amongst each other, but powerful enough to reign supreme over us and everything else.”

“Everything else… except the dragol.”

“Exactly. The dragol are the only other beings apart from the gods themselves that are capable of killing a god. Being born from Chaos, they are remnants of a once powerful force and as such the seven great gods have no sovereignty over them. But to kill a god is a monumental task even for a dragol of immense power. To kill a human on the other hand is not so difficult.” Ovar turned to Davydd.

“It is in your eyes. Now you see their plan.”

“Yes… wipe out humanity, and power returns to the gods. Power returns to the gods, and they will recover the urge to fight. Watch them destroy each other and take control of all of that is for themselves.”

“That was the plan. However, plans seldom work out the way we intend them to. Humanity proved to be a very worthy adversary for the dragol and the seven great kingdoms, stopped warring amongst each other, uniting against a common enemy. But we were not alone in our quest to defeat the dragol. While we all worship all the gods, each kingdom as you know, has a patron god. Ours is Feona, the goddess of death. Each god lent its power to its kingdom in the form of powerful swords. These swords contained a part of the very essence of their godly makers and with their power; we turned the tide on the dragol. Of course, your father received a sword from Feona as well. However, Feona is the goddess of death for a reason. Her duty is to transport the souls of the dead to the afterlife and she rules in her dominion. She also craves the strongest of souls, the purest of hearts. Warriors and heroes alike sparkle to her eyes like diamonds among stones and my boy; your father was a cave filled with diamonds. So while she gave him her sword, she did so with a condition.”

“What condition?”

“He had to defeat the dragol and permanently seal them in their realm in seven years. He could only use the sword of Feona for seven years and any day after the seventh year, he could lose his life, if he kept the sword.”

Davydd stood in stunned silence as he tried to digest all Ovar had been saying. He looked around the room towards the others and then back at Ovar.

“I was born half way through the seventh year… It is what you said.”

“Yes you were… And the world was in turmoil. The battles raged on endlessly, but with the power of the swords we had pushed most of the dragol forces back to their realm. One final push remained. However, there was discord in the house of Angweleth. Your father commanded one of the fiercest armies known to man, and his foremost military strategist, the commander of his army, had been key to the war thus far. However, his reputation and his pride began to sway his loyalty…” Ovar reached out with great effort, and placed his hand on Davydd’s shoulder.

“My boy… no other being in existence knows how to sow the seeds of chaos the way the dragol do. They were born from chaos and they could sense and smell the animosity growing between King Rikard and his right hand man… Sidion Vror.”

“Father…” It was barely a whisper but Davydd knew the voice, and so did everyone else. They slowly turned to look at Vannera. She bent her head down and avoided everyone’s stares.

“That’s how he became King? He betrayed Angweleth? He betrayed humanity?” She said.

“The promise of power and the lust for it can corrupt all but the most virtuous of men my princess.” Leo responded.

“Don’t call me that. I’m no princess.”

“Yes you are… Not by virtue of your father, but by virtue of your heart.”

Leo nodded reassuringly when Vannera glanced at him.

“He’s right.” Ovar added. “You are one case where the apple falling far from the tree is a good thing. You are definitely not like your father. It didn’t take long for the dragol to sway him to their side, and it didn’t take long for him to corrupt a significant portion of the army. A key battle was to be fought at the field of brave souls. This battle could have ended the quest of the dragol. However, Sidion Vror had other plans. On the day of the battle, Sidion and your father went over final strategies. They were to split the Angwelethean forces in half and Sidion was supposed lead his half behind the dragol when the battle had gone on for a certain time. The other kingdom’s forces and the rest of the Angwelethean forces were on the way. Sidion never showed up… at least not in time, and your father’s army was overwhelmed by the strongest of dragols. But your father fought valiantly and he defeated three of the ten principals single handedly. In the course of the battle, he received a mortal injury. His sword failed him that day…”

“His sword?” Davydd interrupted.

“The sword of Feona bestows upon its user a deadly set of powers that once the user masters, can make them quite the formidable foe. None of those powers worked when he needed it the most. Remember that the swords were given to us so we could have a fighting chance. When Feona’s sword failed Rikard Miljorn, he lost that fighting chance.”

Davydd paced around the room for a moment, running his hand through his hair. He took a deep breath and then spoke.

“What about me? What happened to me? Why didn’t Sidion kill me?”

“Your father suspected Sidion’s betrayal. He asked his closest friend to protect you, while Sidion entrusted the execution of you and your mother to his best assassin.”

“Who was my father’s closest friend?”

“Me.”

“So you killed the assassin?”

“You could say that.”

“What? What happened? Who was the assassin?”

Ovar kept quiet for a while and then spoke slowly.

“I… was the assassin.”

Davydd stood shell shocked, staring at Ovar. Tears fell from his eyes as he slowly backed away towards the room door.

“You…”

Ovar got up to his feet with great effort. “Davydd… Wait…”

“You… you…”

“Son…”

“Don’t call me that!”

“Son… my allegiance was never ever to Sidion.”

Davydd kept staring at him, backing up as Ovar stepped forward.

“Yes… you are dead. But this is by my word to Sidion.”

“You faked our deaths?” Davydd said suddenly finding his voice again.

“You faked our deaths.” He repeated the words as if confirming it to himself.

“Yes. I faked both of your deaths.”

“Where is she?!”

“In time, you will meet her.” Matilom interjected.

“How did you do it? How did you fake our deaths?”

“I had a wife who was with child. Our son… They both died during childbirth… You… you became that child for me… and for my wife’s body… Matilom… he…”

“I performed a transformation spell.” Matilom said, finishing Ovar’s sentence.

“Afterwards, I faked my own death… It was not hard to do.” Ovar said, finding his voice again.

“You did that for me?”

“Yes… for you, for your father and your mother, the kingdom of Angweleth, for Terrianus… for the memory of my wife and child.”

“I don’t understand. How could all of this happen? If things had gone one way, I would be a prince and if things had gone the other… I would be dead.”

“There are no random events in life.” Matilom said stepping forward. “Everything happens for a reason, and you are here now for a reason. The only things in life you can control are your choices and you have the chance to make one now. But be forewarned, destiny runs more strongly with some than with others. With you, destiny is overpowering.”

“So… what are you asking of me? You want me to help defeat the dragol?”

“Oh no your highness.” Max said whirling his dagger. “We are asking you to be king. To be the man you were born to be. Defeating the dragol is merely your first and your greatest task.” Suddenly, as Davydd was about to respond, Max put his finger on his lips signaling for him to be quiet. In a flash, Max was gone through a portal. No sooner than he was gone, was he back clasping an Angwelethean soldier around the neck with his dagger on the windpipe. “It seems as though we have a spy.”

“How did he find us?” Sam asked as he walked over to Max and the soldier.

“What is your name?” Sam asked.

“Segmiatus?” Everyone turned to look at Davydd who was staring at Segmiatus in shock. Ovar walked up and gently pushed away Max’s dagger.

“How did you find us?”

“Word spreads fast in Gor. I heard of your arrest Ovar. I tried to come visit you, as I feared for your safety, and Davydd’s. However, you weren’t allowed any visitors. I had no idea what to do, until the rescue… or rather, the escape. I was in town when it happened, so I decided to do a search by myself. I couldn’t think of any place better to start than the misty forest and luckily, Davydd had taught me how to track… but the tracks of your carriage, stopped right where I was. I was about to give up till he appeared out of the blue. Davydd what is going on here?”

“Segmiatus, did anyone follow you?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“I was not followed.”

“Davydd.” Matilom called out as he walked towards Davydd. “Time is of the essence. Will you accept your rightful place as King of Angweleth?”

“King?” Asked Segmiatus

Davydd turned to Matilom.

“Even if I did… am I to walk straight into the castle in Alvo and declare myself ruler of all? Who would follow me?”

Leo walked up to Davydd and genuflected on one knee, bowing as he did.

“You are your father’s son. You are Davydd Miljorn, son of the great Rikard Miljorn. You will do just fine and I would follow you.”

“My Feona! Davydd. You?”

“Shocking isn’t it Segmiatus? All my life I never felt much like royalty.”

Davydd turned back to Matilom.

“And where were you all these years? Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t Father? Why didn’t anyone tell me or prepare me?”

“Fool!” Matilom said as his eyebrows creased together in an intense frown. “We all had to keep our lips sealed all these years to keep you alive. If Sidion Vror had gotten the slightest hint of the possibility of your survival, he would have turned the entire kingdom of Angweleth upside down just to find you. And the bloodshed and all the people who would die during that search would still be nothing compared to the disaster and destruction that awaits humanity should you walk away now. You asked me why I never showed up. Why I never walked in with words of truth? Because I didn’t have the heart to bring up another boy who would become like a son to me, only to stand by their side while the life bled away from them! I wanted you to live some semblance of a normal life because I knew the day I stepped into your life, I would have to take you away from every form of happiness you might have. Your father fought and gave his life to give you a chance and to give humanity another day to live and exist. And yet, even on his dying breath, he was thinking of you. He would never lay eyes on you again and it was crushing his heart. If you agree to accept your heritage, by the gods I swear, I will take you away. There will be hard times ahead but I promise you one thing. I will do my best to make you the greatest king Terrianus has ever seen. And it is my wish that this time, you will bury me instead.”

Davydd turned and looked around the room. His eyes went from Ovar to Segmiatus, and from Vannera to Sam and Leo and then to Max. Sam got up and walked up to Davydd. He looked at him smiled and got down onto his right knee and bowed his head.

“From this moment, I will follow you until death takes me away my king.”

Davydd ran both hands through his hair and closed his eyes briefly.

“I was really looking forward to going back to hunting.” There was a short period of silence that felt like an eternity.

“I would really like to get to know more about my… royal father, and meet my mother. But they tried to kill the father I know and love. I accept. I accept my heritage.”

 

 

 

 

 

[] CHAPTER FIVE (The Journey Begins)

A man lay fast asleep on the cobblestoned street leading up to the massive doors of Alvo’s castle. Suddenly aware that the prickly and cold sensation he was feeling on his right cheek was indeed bare ground, he awoke and sprang to his feet. He rubbed his eyes, trying to focus and remember where he was. Finally realizing he was outside the castle, he banged on the doors with his right fist.

“Guards!” He banged on the doors again, this time with both fists.

“Guards! What is the meaning of this?” He checked to make sure his sword was with him. It wasn’t there. It was then that the man heard footsteps walking towards the two doors from the other side. The man stepped back and the wash of moonlight, fell over his silver armor and cape. On his cape was the insignia of a tiger, holding a sword in its mouth. The doors slowly swung open and a figure in golden armor slowly stepped out of the wash of light from oil lamps, into the silver blue wash of moonlight. His golden armor seemed to absorb the light and a blue glow seemed to surround it. His deep-sea blue eyes stared intensely at the other soldier. He was strongly built, with a tall and powerful presence about him that was only accentuated by the regality of his golden battle gear. He had long brown hair that was tied into a ponytail and a layer of brown beard. The man in the silver armor spoke first.

“You can’t be here. You can’t…”

The man in the golden armor smiled.

“But I am.”

“You are dead. You have to be. I… I…watched you die. I saw Matilom close your eyes.”

“And I’m sure you did. Now be gone.”

The silver armored man looked at the vast castle from end to end. He brushed his black hair away from his eyes and rubbed on the brush of beard growing on his jaw.

“Go where? This is my home. This is my Kingdom.”

“How does it feel to have it taken away?”

“No one’s going to take it away! No one!”

The man in the golden armor smiled again.

“I am merely bringing you a message Sidion. Your time is running out. He will be coming soon.”

“Who will be coming?”

The man in the golden armor turned around and began walking back inside. Sidion tried to follow but he felt a force push him back. Or was it that he was walking in place? The doors began to close again.

“Who is coming? Rikard! Who is coming?”

“Someone greater than I ever was.”

The doors finally closed.

“Who? Rikard! Rikard!”

Sidion Vror opened his eyes and shot up from his bed breathing heavily. He was completely drenched in sweat, despite a cold and gentle early morning breeze, sifting in through his window. It had been a dream, or rather a nightmare. Sidion got up from his bed and paced back and forth in his room trying to make sense of what he had just experienced. He noticed that his hands were trembling, and it annoyed him. He was afraid, but he didn’t know what it was that terrified him. He decided he needed a bath to clear his head. Sidion walked past the elegant curtains of his bedroom into another that had freshly plucked sweet smelling flowers stashed on each side of its walls, in concrete holders that had been built specifically for them. In the center of the room, was an artificial hot spring, which he promptly immersed himself in. He leaned against the wall of the spring and let the hot bubbling water sooth him. There were also beautiful naked women who were on their knees surrounding the room. They knelt below each stash of flowers awaiting orders of any kind from Sidion. It didn’t take long for Sidion to beckon for one or two to join him and give him a scrub. As they gently scrubbed his back and abdomen, Sidion closed his eyes and took a deep breath. At that moment, a guard walked in to the king’s chambers and stood at a respectable distance, waiting to be acknowledged.

“What is it?” Sidion finally asked.

“Your highness, lord Trudor has returned from his trip to Gor, and requests to speak with you. He says he brings news that can hardly wait.”

Sidion sat up and motioned for his robes.

“Very well. You are dismissed.”

The guard nodded respectfully, turned and left the room.

Sidion dried off with a woolen cloth and then slipped on his silk red robe and a pair of sandals made from animal skin. He walked around the hot spring towards a door that led into a hallway lit with flame torches hanging from either side. Sidion followed the path as it turned right and descended into a set of stairs that led to what seemed like a huge study or library. It was a grandiose circular shaped room lined with huge bookshelves that stood like massive wooden giants. The ceiling arched into a dome made of the most expensive stained glass paintings in the kingdom of Angweleth. The floor was a well-polished marble, covered in different sections with highly decorated mats and rugs. On top of the mats and rugs were study desks and chairs. There was a huge table in the center of the room on which lay a spread out map of Angweleth. Trudor stood at the other side of the table.

“I see you have returned.” Sidion spoke. “You were away a bit longer than I expected. What did you find out?”

“Your highness.” Trudor nodded his head lowly. “Jaynea is alive but I have confirmed that the princess was killed during the attack… I am sorry your highness, I couldn’t get there in time.”

Sidion’s gaze shifted downwards toward the marble floor and almost as suddenly, a wave of grief came over him. But soon enough, he regained control over his emotions. Taking a deep breath, he asked.

“You say Jaynea lives. Have you brought her to me?”

“Therein lays the problem your highness. She seems to have found friends with skill enough to deter my team from apprehending her… It is as a result of this unexpected resistance, that Brutus is dead.”

“How is this possible? No group of men could possibly best you and your team Trudor, unless they are of reaper class.”

“There was one man that could your highness… At best he fought on par with us your highness, and as I said, he wasn’t alone. He had a group of fighters, each seeming to possess knowledge on the arts of magic.”

“Describe this man to me.”

“He was big and strong in frame. He wielded a sword as if it was a wand, and his form and stance had no weaknesses. He had dark graying hair and beard. We were able to overpower and arrest him. Before he was rescued by his friends, I did my very best to get some answers. All I found out was his name… Ovar Tardust. His son Davydd Tardust seems to have an interest in Jaynea.”

“Ovar Tardust…” King Sidion said and then trailed off.

“Your highness”. You seem to know him.”

“Knew. I knew him. He was a young soldier who fought during the Great War and was a student of my partner. A pauper with great dreams and a lot of promise, if I must say. He died before his time, much too early in the war. Another ambitious young warrior cut down by the Dragol.”

“It would seem he survived after all.”

“Oh no. He’s dead. Very dead.”

Sidion turned and surveyed the map of Angweleth.

“You say his son is Davydd Tardust. You would not happen to know what the boy looks like do you.”

“I do.” As Trudor proceeded to describe Davydd’s features to king Sidion, the king’s eyes widened ever so slightly in fear. Someone greater than I ever was.

Could this really be happening? At this time nonetheless?

“Baximus Bastien.” King Sidion finally said.

Trudor was briefly caught off guard but then regrouped.

“Yes your highness. He was said to be the greatest of reaper soldiers, and a man to be feared in his prime. Each of us in the death class brotherhood learned our combat skills based on his principles in hopes that one day we might approach something in comparison to him. But why mention him now.”

The king looked at Trudor in a manner that conveyed his shock at his ignorance.

“How do you meet he who you aspire to be like and not know you are in his presence? You said yourself that he bested you.”

“You mean Ovar Tardust is…”

“Baximus. Baximus Bastien.”

“But I thought he committed suicide in grief after the death of king Rikard and his family, and Baximus’s own wife and child at child birth.”

“I suppose we were wrong about that as well. The fact that you fell at the edge of his sword and lived to tell the tale has helped salvage your competence Trudor. Now, take me to my daughter’s body. We shall prepare to leave for Gor in a day.

Trudor nodded. “Yes your highness. Follow me.” Trudor led the king down a set of steps that led into the large courtyard of his palace. They walked across the courtyard to the muted greetings of “long live the king” from the guards and dignitaries who were languishing in the area. Since word of the princess’s death had spread, tension within the city of Alvo had risen. Those closest to king Sidion had kept their distance for fear of attracting the grieving man’s ire. King Sidion ignored their greetings. He and Trudor walked unto one of the side pavements that lined the square shaped courtyard, going on to open a door on the other side of the yard.

“We prepared her as best we could.” Trudor said, as the king stepped inside. The body of a female form was covered in white linen sheets from head to toe. The king’s face betrayed his grief all over again. His eyes reddened as he walked slowly to the figure’s side, and slowly peeled away the sheet covering her. What he saw, took both he and Trudor completely by surprise.

“This… can’t be!!” exclaimed Trudor looking at the body as if seeing it for the first time.

King Sidion sighed in relief.

“It would seem the princess’s best friend was more resourceful than we thought she was. My daughter is alive.” And there is a chance the blood of Miljorn still lives under my very nose. “Prepare a team! We shall leave for Gor immediately!”

 

It was nighttime on the fifth day, and everyone was gathered in the living quarters of Matilom’s underground lair.

“It would seem we are ready to begin.” Matilom said, as he walked in their midst.

“Where are we headed?” Davydd asked. “We don’t even know where the gauntlet of Feona might be.”

“No we don’t.” Matilom replied. “But we know where it last was, and that is the field of brave souls.”

“But you were by my father’s side as he died. You couldn’t just take it?”

“No. The gauntlet will only respond to Miljorn blood. Any other mortal who attempts to wear it, loses their soul. However, it seems somebody was able to at least remove the gauntlet from his arm. To do so, would take very strong magic indeed.”

“You are a wizard are you not? If there is anyone who possesses such power, it is you.”

Matilom looked down. “Well… yes… but my power was greatly depleted at the time… It has been ever since.”

“And why is that?” Davydd asked.

“You need not concern yourself with that. However, I want you to know we did everything in our power to find it. I suspected Sidion Vror of taking the gauntlet, but when we discovered he was searching for it too, that suspicion waned.”

Matilom turned to Max and nodded his head. He turned back to Davydd as Max gathered everyone around.

“I will explain everything on the way but we have to go now. Segmiatus awaits us above, with the carriage and horses.” With that Max opened up a huge portal, which immediately transported them to the surface of the forest, where Segmiatus awaited with a two-horse carriage, and three other horses. Davydd walked up to the Angwelethean soldier and clasped his hands around Segmiatus’s.

“This is where we part ways my friend. Wish me luck.”

Segmiatus looked at Davydd perplexed.

“Where we part ways? I’m not going anywhere Davydd. This quest, your quest, is mine too. I’m going with you.”

“No you’re not. I cannot ask you to risk your life for me. You are too valuable a friend.”

“And what does that say about your feelings towards your other comrades?” Segmiatus asked with a bit of anger in his voice.

“Isn’t Ovar too valuable a father? I’m not risking my life just for you the friend. I’m risking my life for the true king of Angweleth, for Angweleth herself and for Terrianus. And after all I’ve heard, and all I’ve witnessed, you can’t expect me to just turn around and go back. We are in this together.”

Davydd smiled. “Thank you Segmiatus.” He said as he climbed on board the carriage along with Princess Vannera, Ovar and Matilom.

“Don’t thank me yet till this is over or until I am killed.” Segmiatus said with a laugh. Leo, Sam and Max had also mounted their horses.

“We are pressed for time.” Sam said. “Segmiatus, we will be heading for Windhaven. Matilom has friends there who can shelter us while we stock up on more supplies for the journey towards the field of brave souls.”

“Yes sir.” Segmiatus replied.

Sam made to begin moving, but stopped briefly and turned his horse towards Segmiatus once more.

“Take heed that my two guardian brothers and I do not trust you as much as Davydd does. If any one of us even suspects that you are a traitor, you’ll be dead before you know it… especially if it’s me.”

Segmiatus’s skin went pale as he listened to Sam’s words. Then he went red with anger.

“I would never betray Davydd. He’s like a brother to me. Shall we begin? We need to make ground before dawn.”

Sam nodded and the journey began.

Inside the carriage, Davydd looked out through the window at the misty forest, and back in the direction of Gor. He wondered if he’d ever see his home again. He thought about his friends and in his heart he wished them the best until they met again.

“So, why are we going to Windhaven?” Davydd asked, looking at Matilom.

“Well… it is a whole day’s ride from here, and we do need supplies for the rest of our journey. Also, I have an old friend there. He will be of great help to us. Are you alright Davydd?”

Davydd sat in silence for a while. “I… I am hardly ready to shoulder this responsibility. How can I lead a kingdom? How can I lead an army? I… I don’t even know how to fight.”

“Fighting is not all that is required of a king, Davydd. Though I will admit that in this war, you will have to learn.” Matilom smiled. “Luckily enough, you have some of the best warriors in all of Terrianus to teach you.”

Davydd looked at Matilom and then at Ovar, before turning to Princess Vannera. They were all giving him reassuring looks.

“And my people will follow me? What if I am not the leader you say my father was? What if I fail them?”

Matilom smiled again.

My people, you say.”

Davydd looked back up at Matilom. It dawned on him the phrase he had used.

“One does not become king in a day young Miljorn.” Matilom continued. “It is a lifetime’s journey. And there will be days such as this one, through all the crests and valleys of your reign, when you will question yourself. But never forget who you are, never lose yourself, and never stop believing.”

Davydd nodded and rested his head back as he stared out the window of the carriage.

Matilom looked at him for a little while longer. He evoked memories of Rikard Miljorn. It was an unpolished Rikard Miljorn, but still Rikard nonetheless. He could only imagine the kind of pressure they were putting on him. A few days earlier, his life had been normal if not perfect. To take all that away, felt cruel. Yet Matilom had to accept the cards that fate had dealt him ever since the day Rikard Miljorn died. If there was any hope of turning the tide of the war, he would have to shape and mold Davydd, as fast as possible.

Matilom leaned towards Ovar.

“We do not need to spend more than a full day and night at Windhaven. Once we are there, you can commence his training.”

Ovar nodded in agreement. It really had begun.

In the forest concealed by a cover of thick grass growth, a resident of Gor watched the group head in the direction of Windhaven. For a second his eyes and Segmiatus’s met. It was only for a second and then it was gone. The man turned around and headed back towards the town of Gor.

 

There was a buzz in the town of Gor. Sidion Vror, the king of Angweleth had arrived that morning and proceeded to turn the entire town on its head. Soldiers on his command, had gone into stores, homes and taverns, in search of the men the town of Gor knew as Ovar and Davydd Tardust. The soldiers beat up anyone who put up even the slightest resistance or were remotely suspected of harboring the two wanted men. All the while, the man who had spied on the group as they left sat in his hut quivering in fear and wondering if and when the soldiers would kick down his door and try to beat answers out of him. As fate would have it, that was not to be. Before the soldiers reached his hut, King Sidion had determined that fear and force were not proving to be effective means of getting what he needed. By evening, a reward had been placed out for the capture of Ovar and Davydd and any other allies they might have. Three hundred gold pieces would be given to the first man or woman to provide useful information about the whereabouts of both men, and five hundred would be given to the man or woman who could aid in their capture directly. The man’s hands trembled at the thought of such money. All he needed to do was tell them what they needed to know and his life would be changed forever. However, many men have been known to fall victim into the trappings of greed and this man was no different. So as quickly as he had decided to share the information he had, he devised a plan to bargain for a larger reward instead. He would withhold what he knew until they had settled on a price higher than five hundred gold pieces. Finally summoning up the courage and putting on a face of dogged determination, the man got up from his creaky wooden chair and made his way outside. He was scruffy and unkempt, wore torn clothes made out of animal skin, and had a couple of bad sores on his hands and legs, which he scratched periodically as he walked. His hair let off a foul stench and looked just as unappealing. As he walked up to the soldiers, they covered their noses and let out condescending remarks. Their facial expressions did not hide their contempt or disgust. Despite the obvious resentment, the man walked on until he approached Farok.

“I believe I can point you in the right direction of the men you are looking for… that is if the reward is true of course.”

Farok turned to the unkempt man and flashed a well-practiced friendly smile.

“Of course the reward is real, if what you tell us is real.”

Suddenly the smile turned a bit more menacing.

“Also if what you tell us happens to be a lie… well… there is a reward for that too.”

The man clutched his trembling right arm with his left arm, as he struggled to regain his composure. By now, more soldiers had gathered around him and were waiting to hear what he had to say.

“Well I’d like to speak to the king himself. He’s the one looking for the rebels…” The man looked around at the menacing faces staring down at him. “And… and… five hundred gold pieces isn’t enough for what you want. I think… I think… seven hundred is a better offer.” There was a brief moment of silence, and then raucous laughter erupted among the soldiers.

“You want to bargain with the king?” Farok said laughing throatily.

“The likes of you shouldn’t even begin to dream of such things happening.” And with that, Farok kicked the man in the chest, sending him crashing to the floor. The action was greeted by another loud round of laughter. However, the man got back up and turned to Trudor, who had been standing and watching him all the while.

“I… I didn’t want to do this. But I see you need to believe me. The man who bested you was with them.”

At his words, Trudor unfolded his arms and stormed towards the man. When he got there, he gripped the man by his neck and barked at him.

“How did you come about this knowledge?”

“I was there… that night…” The man struggled with his breathing and gestured to Trudor’s right arm. Trudor let go and the man went into a bout of coughing. When he had caught his breath, he continued.

“Just as I was there a night ago… when I saw them take their leave.”

“What more do you know? Speak!”

“Well to tell you more, we need to revisit the topic of the seven hundred pieces of gold I spoke about earlier.” The man could literally taste his personal victory. With seven hundred pieces of gold, he could begin to return to his former glory as a rich merchant plying his trade in the town of Gor. He had met his downfall at the hands of Davydd Tardust and his band of thieves, though at the time he could not prove it.

What’s wrong with giving the people the illusionary drugs they so craved? He asked himself once more. He would knock out two birds with one stone as it were.

Trudor smiled. “Of course we do. Come now, let us talk like civilized men, away from prying eyes and curious ears.” The man nodded, and they made their way to the soldiers’ outpost in a small wooden carriage. But instead of heading straight to the security outpost, the carriage deviated from its path and made its way towards a partially hidden cave by the hillside where the outpost stood. Once in there, Trudor violently shoved the man out of the carriage. Inside the cave on a small sized throne, sat king Sidion. Upon seeing Trudor come out of the carriage, he stood up.

“I ask you to bring me back knowledge of the whereabouts of Ovar and Davydd Tardust and instead you bring me a beggar?”

“This beggar knows where Ovar and Davydd have gone. However, he remains tight lipped.”

“Are you sure he is not lying?”

“I am your highness. He spoke to me in detail of the night I first confronted Baximus. He will not speak because he believes five hundred pieces of gold is too small a reward. He requests seven hundred pieces instead.”

King Sidion turned his gaze towards the man and addressed him as one would address an unwanted rodent or weed in his farm.

“I see. I offer you more money than you have probably seen in all your years and instead of repaying my kindness with what I need, you choose to bargain with me.”

The man trembled in fear.

“Speak you insolent fool!”

Despite his trembling, the man remained defiant. The king laughed in amusement at his stubbornness. He nodded to Trudor who picked the man up and placed him on top of a rack, which had been set up next to the king’s makeshift throne.

“No, no!” The man yelled, as he kicked and thrashed. “What are you doing?”

“You were given your chance.” Trudor said as he tied the man’s hands together and above the man’s head, to a rope, while his legs were secured to bands that fastened them to the base of the wooden rack. The man was now laid flat and spread out on the rack, with the ropes around his hands and neck connected to a pulley and the legs of a horse.

Trudor then mounted the horse and waited on King Sidion’s orders.

“No! Wait! Wait! I…”

“Pull!” The king yelled. And with that, Trudor rode the horse five steps forward. The ropes pulled the man’s neck and arms a bit taut.

“Okay wait! They left two nights ago, under the cover of darkness. I believe they were headed in the direction of Windhaven.”

Trudor turned to look at the king.

“If we gather the troops in Gor and leave tonight, we can capture them by tomorrow night and bring them back to Alvo for trial.”

King Sidion leaned forward and addressed the man writhing in pain on the rack.

“How many of them were there that left for Windhaven?” The horse was moved two steps forward by Trudor. The man choked and gasped for air as the rope around his neck tightened. His arms were also being stretched, and he felt like they would be ripped from his shoulders at any moment.

“Ei…Eight of them… Eight o…of them your highness.”

“Anything else?”

“I’ll… take the five… hundred pieces. I was…. overcome by greed. Absent of mind, I have made a poor judgment. Please spare…”

“Anything else!!!”

“Yes! Yes! Yes! You… have a traitor in your ranks. A… gah! A soldier was among the group…”

“And do you happen to know the name of this soldier?”

“No… no… no… your highness.”

“Are you sure? You don’t want to lose seven hundred gold pieces over a lie now do you?”

“I swear on Feona that I have told you…guh! All I know.”

“Good. Good.”

“Please… let me go.”

King Sidion motioned to Trudor, who promptly backed the horse back towards the rack, reducing the tension in the man’s arms and neck. King Sidion walked back and picked up a small sack that had been lying next to his throne. He tossed it on top of the man’s chest.

“There are one hundred gold pieces in there. If you utter a word of complaint, I will have your head decapitated through this rack. Are you absent of mind towards that now?”

“No… no your highness.” The man said as he scrambled off the rack.

“I thank you for your…”

“Be gone from my sight!”

The man nodded silently and scrambled out of the cave with the bag, staggering down the hillside as Trudor and King Sidion watched on.

“Thieves from the town will beat him half dead and steal his money before he reaches home.” Trudor remarked.

“That may be, but it does not concern us at the moment. Gather your men and tell them we leave at dusk. That way we arrive by cover of the next night.”

“At once your highness.”

 

 

 

[] CHAPTER SIX (First Encounter)

Davydd weaved in and out of swings by Ovar but eventually lost his balance, tripping over a fire wood log. He kicked the log away in anger and looked up to see Ovar’s sword plummeting down towards his heart. Davydd rolled to his left, barely avoiding another fatal blow. He reminded himself that they were using wooden swords, but the skill with which his surrogate father wielded the sword was frightful. Ovar watched Davydd stagger to his feet and put his wooden sword up defensively, every muscle in his body twitching as he anticipated the next attack.

“Unsheathe your sword before you fight. Calm yourself. Have my words not reached your ears?”

“Apologies father but your movements are too swift. I can neither predict nor react in time to your attacks.”

“Swift? Look at me boy!”

Davydd scanned Ovar’s huge frame and beer gut hanging loosely in front of him. He said nothing.

“I am a far cry from the man I once was. The warriors you are going to fight will move like lightning compared to what you think you perceive from me. Again!”

Davydd stood straight and sheathed his wooden sword, as did Ovar.

“Begin!”

Davydd and Ovar began to unsheathe their swords. Ovar was the quicker of the two and he launched into another attack. Davydd’s breathing became more frantic and as Ovar approached swiftly with cat like grace. Davydd panicked.

Draw your sword before you fight.

Davydd drew his sword with outstretched arms that trembled so violently he almost dropped his sword.

Calm yourself.

As Davydd evaded the first forward thrusting attack from Ovar, he breathed in deeply and willed his hands to stop shaking. His grip on the sword relaxed from a frantic death grip to a firm assured grasp. Ovar switched from a forward thrust to a sideways swipe in an instant. Davydd parried the blow with his sword and swung upwards, towards Ovar’s face. Ovar swiftly spun around the attack to Davydd’s right side and swung at him. Davydd dodged by crouching and tumbling forward. He sprang up and blocked another one of Ovar’s attacks, following up with a swinging kick to Ovar’s feet. Ovar jumped over the attack, landing a hard right-handed blow on Davydd’s chest. Davydd fell back first on the ground and as he made to get up, Ovar pointed the tip of his wooden sword at Davydd’s neck.

“Better.” Ovar said. “But you made three costly mistakes there. You showed your back to me, you executed an unnecessary roll and you surrendered your balance to me.”

Ovar held out his hand, and helped Davydd up to his feet.

“We are done training for today.”

Davydd got up and dusted off the dirt on his clothes. His eyes caught Vannera’s gazing at him and he flashed a smile as he walked over to where she was sitting. She returned his smile. He sat down beside her and for a few seconds took in her beauty. He realized he hadn’t really looked at her again since the day they first woke up in Matilom’s underground layer. He took in her red hair, her glowing skin, her light red lips, and her green eyes. He found himself being blown away all over again. Vannera was talking.

“…I could train with you if you like.”

Davydd was brought back down to earth.

“What? What was that you said?”

Vannera looked at him and giggled. “Where were you off to in that head of yours?”

Davydd smiled again. “Somewhere red and green… Now what was that you suggested? You would train me?”

“Does it sound so absurd?”

“Oh no… I mean… I didn’t know you were skilled in the art of combat that’s all.”

“Well I’ll tell you this much.” Vannera said as she leaned towards Davydd.

“I could put up a much better fight than you did against Ovar.”

“We should have a demonstration then my master.” Davydd said sarcastically.

“I’ll get a wooden sword… though I would prefer metal but we wouldn’t want to hurt you now would we?”

Davydd laughed as she walked to get the sword.

“You do know I just practiced all morning with the specter of a raging bull.”

“In that case you should be able to hold your own against a harmless butterfly.”

Princess Vannera returned with her sword and assumed her stance. Davydd rose to his feet but his eyes roamed down to catch her exposed thighs and feet. As if reading his mind, Princess Vannera spoke.

“A long dress would be clumsy to fight in now wouldn’t it? Besides it seems my first weapon already dealt its blow.”

And with that, she attacked, swinging down at his shoulder. Davydd blocked with his sword and counterattacked, with a swing towards her mid-section, which she in turn parried.

“Remember to keep your balance.” She said as they dueled.

“You do know how to fight.” Davydd said with mild surprise.

Princess Vannera suddenly jumped and attacked Davydd with a two hand downward slash. Davydd blocked but the force was surprisingly strong and knocked him down to the ground. He was quickly up to his feet and reassumed his fighting stance.

“As a matter of fact I do.” She finally replied. “Now let’s try again. Try to keep your balance this time.”

“You performed a flourish on me. Ovar said never to flourish.”

“I’m fighting a novice. I can afford to get a bit creative.”

Princess Vannera attacked once more, but Davydd easily parried and evaded all her attacks. After sidestepping one of her forward stabs, Davydd glided expertly behind her and held his sword to her neck.

“You were saying?”

“You should check yourself before you revel in your victory.”

Davydd looked down and saw her wooden sword pointed towards his abdomen. He hadn’t noticed her switch sword hands, nor had he felt the poke of her sword. He had been so excited about finally besting someone and it cost him. He lost.

“It is one of my father’s favorite moves.” Vannera said.

“Your father trained you?”

Princess Vannera nodded.

“If our duel was real, would you have paused or would you have slit my throat?” She turned around to face Davydd who was looking at her in shock.

“My father always told me ‘never hesitate’. You would be wise to heed those words too. If… no, when you do face him, and you will if you wish to take the crown of Angweleth, hesitate and your life will be forfeit.”

“Have you really chosen sides Vannera?” Davydd asked.

“What is your meaning?”

“Well I am the man who might in order to take my place as king and to save Terrianus someday… today, tomorrow, three moons from now; I could be your father’s killer.”

“Yes. And if not for you, my father would have been my killer.” She gazed at him and then walked away to drop their training swords. In the distance, watching from the entrance to the inn in which they were staying stood Matilom and Sam.

“The way he beholds her, I say he fancies her.” Sam said proud of his assessment. Matilom looked at him bemused.

“A blind man can see that. I am more concerned about his readiness. There will be travails ahead. How will he respond to them?”

“You do not believe in him?” Sam asked. He wore a look of surprise.

“Do you?” Matilom asked in response.

“I believe I was a bit more of a handful when you found me, master.” Sam said.

“You still are a handful young one.” Responded Matilom as he tapped Sam’s shoulder in a friendly manner. “But you have come a long way.”

Sam smiled mischievously.

“I can imagine his confusion. Give him time to be the king we need.”

This time, it was Matilom’s turn to be surprised.

“Wise words from you Sam. Who would have thought?”

“We all have something more inside us. Sometimes it just takes a moment to realize that. He will soon enough. We leave tonight master?”

“Yes. Ergol the town leader has been helpful in providing us with manpower and supplies for our journey. I shall be going to see him now.”

“I suppose I should go relieve Max. He has been on watch all morning. See you at the feast tonight.”

And with that, Sam was gone in an instant.

 

The dancers, all of whom where women, gyrated and swayed their hips to the beats of the drums and flutes as they played festival sounding tunes. And indeed it was a festival, celebrating the harvest season in Angweleth, and more specifically, Wind Haven’s harvest. The flickering flames of the bon fire threw a wash of pulsating lights on the dancers and in its own way, moved to the rhythm of the tunes and drums as well. Many of the men and little children sat and clapped in rhythm, cheering on the dancers. Other girls and boys served food and wine to those seated. Soon, everyone that could join in on the act did and danced with each other. Davydd remained seated and clapping, until Vannera walked up to him and pulled him to his feet.

“Aren’t you a boring man?” She said chuckling.

“I was just enjoying watching everyone have a good time.”

“I’m sure you were. But so should you.”

“Well thanks for thinking about me too.” Davydd said as he danced awkwardly. Princess Vannera arched her neck backwards and laughed out loud.

“You don’t do this often do you?”

“Well…”

“Well nothing. Follow my lead.”

And Davydd did. They danced around the fire, the heat emanating from the flames warming them from the cold of the night, accentuating the touch of their bodies against each other. As they stared at each other, Davydd found himself being lost in her green eyes.

“Feona help me…” he whispered.

Vannera smiled.

“And what would the future king of Angweleth need her help for.”

“More air in my chest. For you have stolen all I have away countless times since I met you.”

“You surprise me… you certainly have a way with words Davydd Miljorn.”

Vannera beheld the man she was dancing with, the man who had saved her from the burning carriage and had nursed her back from the dead. He was the same man who had chased her through the forest, putting his life in danger to save her from her fear and callous actions. She caught herself admiring his strong frame and features. What was it about him? Again, in his presence she felt so safe. It felt like the world couldn’t hurt her. No, not while she was with him. It had only been a few days and in the most dire of circumstances, but she could no longer run away from the truth that she loved being around him… with him.

“Air you said… No Davydd, Feona won’t help you tonight.” She gazed at him sensuously, slowly closing in, her eyes falling from his eyes to his lips. “Let me steal it all away.” And with that, she closed the rest of the distance, planting a passionate kiss on his lips. Davydd felt a surge of warmth flow through him. He wrapped his hands around her as they kissed, dancing to the music, which had slowed to a soft tempo. In that moment in time, for the two of them, the world didn’t exist and nothing else mattered.

 

The town of Wind Haven was protected by an immensely tall fence made from large tree trunks cut into logs of wood. A gate had been carved out of the fence, marking the entrance to the town. In this way, it was different from Gor, which was an open town. It was a bit smaller than Gor and lacked a market place. It did however still have small merchant stalls scattered around the town. Wind Haven’s buildings were largely made of wood and had very few houses made of brick. The town had been designed in such a way that the wind was channeled through it, hence the name. A few meters away from the gates of the town, stood Sam. He was dressed in his usual red tunic, black pants, red boots and gloves. His light aqua blue eyes scanned the clear field between the Misty forest and Wind Haven. His eyes shone their color, due to the magical energy flowing through them. Sam was using a spell of sight taught to him by Matilom. He had been keeping watch since early noon, and it was time for Max to take over. It had been decided that they alone would alternate roles as lookouts, since they both could cover considerably more distance in a short amount of time, unlike Leo and the others. As Sam turned to go, his enhanced sight picked up a fast moving object, heading directly for him. Sam ducked and the arrow flew over him, landing a few feet away in the grass. To his left he could hear the oncoming rushed steps of boots.

How had he missed them?

Sam quickly deduced that they had to have canceled out the abilities of his spell with one of their own. He evaded the sideways slash of the soldier, getting his neck clear of the swing just in time. Another swooshing sound behind him could be heard. Sam flipped over the attack and landed behind his would be assailant. The second assailant couldn’t stop himself in time and ended up slashing the abdomen of the first. Sam’s first attacker fell down to the grass, dying. Before the second assailant could gather his thoughts, Sam’s sword had pierced his throat from behind. Choking on his own blood, the man fell to the ground dead as well. Sam heard another whooshing sound and his reflexes helped him deflect an arrow with his sword just in time. He spotted the shooter and was off in his direction in an instant. The shooter turned to run but was tackled by Sam, at the edge of the misty forest. He held his sword to the shooter’s chest menacingly.

“How many?”

The shooter remained silent.

“How many?!” Sam yelled angrily.

The shooter forced a victorious smile. Upon seeing the smile, Sam pierced the shooter’s left palm with his sword, drawing out a pained scream from the shooter, who twisted violently in agony.

“How… many? What spell is this and who is the caster?”

“Arrrgghhhhh!!! 50 strong!” Came the agonized reply.

“50…” Sam repeated as if to believe the number.

“What is their class? Tell me!”

The shooter chuckled. “Death… and undertaker.” Sam’s grip on him lessened as he contemplated what he’d heard. The shooter was happily laughing now amidst the pain.

“There is also one reaper class with them… I’m sure you know who that is…”

An enraged Sam knocked the shooter unconscious with the guard of his sword. Sam got up and was off in a hurry towards the gates of Wind Haven. What spell and who is the caster? He never got those answers but there was very little time. He needed to warn the others and he needed to do it fast.

 

The clang of metal right behind Davydd’s neck startled both him and Vannera, but it was the fusillade of arrows into the group of Windhaven villagers that really set off an eruption of fear and hysteria, as innocent villagers fell to their deaths after getting impaled by some of the arrows. Davydd turned around to face the direction of the clang of metals he had just heard. Slowly but surely, Leo’s figure materialized into visibility, as did another man’s figure. The man’s sword position and swing belied his initial intentions – to kill Davydd – and Leo’s sword had prevented what would have been certain death. The man clashing swords with Leo wore silver coated battle armor with the caped insignia of the kingdom of Angweleth falling down his back. His dark hair was slicked back and fell down to his neck. He turned to look at Davydd, and for a brief second the expression of utter shock on his face, was unmistakable. However, it was for a brief second and soon, it was replaced by a rather menacing smile.

“So this was the reason for your disappearance Baximus!” Sidion yelled out.

“Your child and wife die and you find yourself a replacement. You betrayed me. You betrayed your king! And to add insult to injury, you hid such a secret from me, but right under my nose.” With those last few words, Sidion who had been looking around rested his brown eyes back on Davydd. They now had a cold and menacing glimmer to them. The tip of a sword blade rested on the back of Sidion’s neck. Davydd could see that behind Sidion, the wielder of the blade was none other than Ovar.

“You were never my king to begin with. And it is with great shame that I admit to being momentarily swayed to betray the man I had looked up to, my entire life.”

Sidion shook his head somberly.

“Then I hope that you find that man somewhere in the land of the dead when you get there.” At that moment, Trudor’s blade was swinging in fast towards Ovar’s neck from behind. But yet again, another blade blocked the death class soldier’s swing. Sam’s blade buckled under the force of Trudor’s swing but he managed to withstand it and push back. Farok emerged from the darkness and took a swing at the unguarded Sam, but he never hit his target. In an instant, Davydd, Vannera, Leo, Ovar and Sam, had been moved from their current location, to a few yards behind where the bonfire was. Max and Matilom stood in front of the group, glaring at Sidion and his soldiers. Sidion smiled and clapped his hands.

“The current incarnations of the three guardians of Angweleth seem to be as formidable as ever. You definitely have yourself a frightening team Baximus.” His gaze shifted back to Davydd.

“But it seems your key stone is not ready. Surrender yourselves. Your little misadventure is over.”

“It seems we are being surrounded.” Leo observed as Angwelethean soldiers climbed up top huts and buildings, some of them taking position and aiming at the group with their arrows, while others maliciously attacked the villagers who had been hiding in their homes.

“So what do we do now?” Davydd asked. He looked at Ovar. “Baximus? Your name is Baximus?”

“Steady.” Sam said. “Soon all hell will break lose here and you have to seize your moments to stay alive. Master dare I say we retreat for now?” Sam turned to look at Matilom.

“It won’t be that easy Sam. We eventually need to retreat, but we do have to fight in order to do so… The odds are against us and we are outnumbered.”

An arrow flew through the air and struck one of the soldiers on the roof in the eye. The soldier arched back from the force of the impact, and his limp body slumped over the edge, falling to the ground with a thud. A couple of villagers armed with battle axes, cutlasses, old rusted swords, shields, and a few bows and arrows came running out onto the roof tops and on the ground. As they ran, they attacked the soldiers with their weapons, besting a few of them with the element of surprise. A man dressed in a top made of animal skin, with long unkempt graying black hair, black pants and grey thick boots made of animal skin, joined Matilom and Max at the front. He had a bow and arrow in his hand.

“It would seem I took just a bit too long wizard.” The man said, looking at Matilom.

“You did take your time Ergol.” Matilom replied, while managing a wry smile.

“I’ve gathered the bravest men in Wind Haven, just as you asked. They are my most loyal, and have been instructed to lend all of their strength to your fight as they would to mine.”

“The words are comforting Ergol. And you have arrived not a moment too soon.” The wizard gestured his head towards Sidion and his men.

“Soldiers!” Sidion yelled. “Kill anyone who puts up resistance, but that boy” He pointed to Davydd “and that man,” He pointed to Ovar “belong to me.” The soldiers fanned out, as did the Windhaven warriors Ergol had gathered, along with Matilom’s group. Both groups clashed violently, seeking to end the other’s lives as quickly as possible. The Angwelethean soldiers showed their battle prowess and mastery of the blade in the way they effortlessly cut down the less proficient but brave Windhaven warriors. It was an initial lesson in combat tactics as the shield and sword were used in a deadly combination of defense and fatal offense. Soon the Windhaven warriors realized that their best chance at taking on the Angwelethean soldiers, especially those with five skulls on their shoulder plates, was to team up against them. The strategy worked and the tide of the battle was beginning to turn.

“Are you ready son?” Baximus asked Davydd as he glared at Sidion.

“Yes.” Davydd said without much conviction. This was not lost on Baximus, but there was no time to address that.

“You remember what I’ve taught you thus far?”

“Yes.” Davydd nodded. Baximus tossed him a sword without taking his eyes off of Sidion. Davydd caught the sheathed sword and stared at it for a little while. It was much heavier than the wooden version he’d used for practice. He unsheathed his sword and looked at Sidion, who had been staring at him.

“It seems you only bear a physical resemblance to your father. Your heart is not the same.” As he said this he began to jog towards Baximus and Davydd, putting his helmet on.

“Follow my lead.” Baximus said as he began to move towards Sidion as well. For a brief moment, Davydd stood in shock. This was really happening. If they lost this battle, they would die. But that wasn’t what really bothered him. He wasn’t sure if Ovar had noticed it, but he sounded different. He sounded cold. Gone was the kind-hearted blacksmith he had called ‘Father’ for all of his life. Was this the ruthless warrior, called Baximus, in some distance past? Davydd heard the clash of swords, and snapped out of his thoughts. He ran to Sidion’s side and swung but he was too slow. Sidion, who had been engaging Baximus, saw Davydd out of the corner of his eye and lashed out with his right leg, which caught Davydd square in the chest. Davydd was knocked off balance and fell to the floor. He scrambled to get to his sword, which had fallen out of his hand during the fall. Sidion side stepped an attack by Baximus, pivoting on his left foot and swinging in with his right hand. Baximus switched from a forward thrust into a sideways slash, only to meet Sidion’s shield, which he had dropped behind him in the pivot, with his left hand. Sidion completed his swing, but Baximus ducked underneath, and rolled out of harm’s way. Sidion kept up the attack swinging upwards to catch Baximus at the base of his jaw with the sword tip, but the former reaper class soldier parried with his sheath and swept Sidion’s feet from under him. Sidion fell with a thud to the ground and Baximus went in for the attack. However Sidion fell into an immediate roll and blocked Baximus’s attacks by alternating between sword and shield as he rolled. Suddenly he swiped up at Baximus. The blade barely caught Baximus’s abdomen but was enough to rip open a non-fatal gash. Baximus had barely stepped back in time. He clutched at his wound and staggered back as Sidion rolled to his knees, pivoted towards Baximus and lunged forward, thrusting his sword. A blade came in swinging at Sidion’s mid-section and only the current king of Angweleth’s reflexes with the shield, prevented him from being severed from the waist down. The force however knocked him off course and he fell a little distance from where Baximus had been standing. Sidion turned to see that it was Davydd who had attacked him. A trio of death class soldiers formed a human barrier between Sidion and the duo of Davydd and Baximus, thus preventing any chance of them taking advantage of his temporary defenseless state. Sidion got to his feet quickly, sword still in hand.

“You.” He pointed his sword at Davydd and stepped forward as the soldiers parted to make way for him. “You interest me greatly. Why do you fight? Can you give me a good reason for you to join this madness?”

Davydd was temporarily caught off guard by the question. He tried to regain his composure.

“I fight… I fight for the future of… Terrianus.”

Sidion burst out into laughter.

“You don’t even sound convinced of that statement. Not too long ago, you were living the life of a hunter and a thief.” The king smiled at Davydd’s growing shock. The fighting was also beginning to subside at this time as the warriors turned their attention to Davydd, Baximus and king Sidion.

“Yes Davydd” Sidion continued, “You are actually quite notorious in Gor. You are willing to throw your life away for a cause you don’t believe in? A man who has no cause to fight is bound to lose that fight. See, you have no skill in wielding your sword and yet you are blessed with the opportunity to learn from one of the greatest swordsmen in all of Terrianus. You have no will to be a part of this.” Sidion nodded his head but it seemed to be to no one in particular. Davydd wore a distant look on his face. He was lost in his own thoughts but more importantly he felt a growing anger at himself because he actually agreed with king Sidion. What was he really doing here? For all he knew, what his father, Ovar – or was it Baximus? – had told him could have all been a lie. Even if it was the truth, how come his mother hadn’t bothered to show up at least once in twenty-three years? While lost in his thoughts, Davydd did not notice the sword swinging in ferociously behind him. Just then, his body was shoved out of the way by Segmiatus, who had come rushing over. The sword slammed into Segmiatus’s upper back, causing a deep gash. Were it not for Segmiatus’s own forward motion and the jump, he would have been decapitated. Segmiatus and Davydd both fell to the ground. The soldier made to attack, but was impaled by an unseen force. Leo emerged out of invisibility, his sword piercing the soldier’s heart. A distant look, and then a backward roll of his eyes, revealing the white, followed the soldier’s last expression of shock. He fell to the ground dead. Segmiatus writhed in pain as Davydd scrambled up to examine him.

“Segmiatus! Segmiatus!!”

“Remember… Davydd.”

“Se…”

“It’s okay… Davydd… ” Segmiatus laughed through his pain and when he saw Davydd’s confused look, he continued.

“It seems the gods have sent a fight your way… and now you know what support is… to fight for something… other than yourself… to live for an idea… Davydd… a belief and dream, you… you have to… fight.”

The words and the memories they evoked, struck a new found resolve in Davydd. Max opened up a portal to Segmiatus and emerging half way, lifted the wounded soldier up.

“I’ll tend to his wounds in a safe place.” He said giving Davydd a reassuring look and with that, both he and Segmiatus were gone. Davydd turned his gaze to Sidion and for a brief second Sidion flinched. The gaze was eerily familiar.

Baximus stepped forward to where Davydd was, as Davydd got up.

“Are you ready?” He asked.

“Indeed.” There was no lack of conviction in the word. Baximus couldn’t help but smile wryly.

“Follow my lead then.”

“With my life, I will.” And with those words, the surviving warriors of the two sides clashed one more time. Davydd and Baximus headed for Sidion but were intercepted by two undertaker class soldiers. Baximus dispatched of his easily. Davydd evaded his attacker’s first downward swipe, his sword ready to block the change in direction to a sideways swipe. It came as he had expected and he parried it.

Calm yourself. Davydd stopped his backward motion with his right foot, landing softly.

Keep your balance.

He sprung forward a little bit and then danced around a forward thrust by the soldier. The Angwelethean warrior instantly brought his shield over to his right to protect the expected incoming blow, but Davydd had anticipated that. He swung down low sweeping the soldiers feet off the ground and cutting them at the same time. As the airborne soldier screamed, Davydd came down with his sword stabbing the soldier through the spine and slamming him to the ground. The scream was abruptly cut off, followed by deathly silence from the man. Davydd picked up the soldier’s shield and ran off in the direction of Sidion and Baximus. Baximus and Sidion continued to attack and counter each other, neither landing any blows nor gaining an advantage for too long. As Davydd entered the fray, Sidion attempted to catch him with a kick again, but Davydd easily evaded this time. Sidion twisted his body so that his sword first went in an upward swipe towards Baximus, who dodged, and then into a downward swipe towards Davydd who blocked. The shield came up next towards Baximus, and he was forced to dodge again. Sidion jogged away from and around Davydd and launched into a series of thrusting and sideways slashes. Davydd ducked and weaved around them; similar to the way he had done against Baximus when training.

Calm yourself.

Davydd blocked one of Sidion’s sideways slashes with his shield. Sidion’s sword bounced back and an opening was created. Davydd launched into his own attacks but Sidion’s experience and battle prowess showed, as he recovered and evaded. He ducked as Baximus tried to decapitate him from behind and spun away from both Baximus and Davydd. As he spun he gave up his back to both Davydd and Baximus.

You showed your back to me.

Davydd attacked.

“No Davydd!” Baximus screamed as Farok stepped in and took a swing at Davydd’s mid-section. Davydd barely blocked with the shield and was sent careening into the ground. Sidion had taken the opportunity to survey the battle and realized that his forces were losing, mostly due to the interventions of Matilom, Ergol, Sam and Leo. He looked over to Farok and Trudor, giving them the signal to retreat.

“Pull back! Pull back!” Trudor yelled as the soldiers began to back off. Sidion caught sight of his daughter Vannera, as she ran over to where Davydd had fallen. Baximus prepared to take advantage of the momentary lapse in concentration, but was stopped by Matilom.

“Nistam’s already cast his barrier Baximus. You know the consequences if you make contact.” Baximus sighed and nodded.

“You should have come back to me daughter.” Sidion said.

“But maybe this is for the best. You are safe where you are.”

“You tried to kill me!!!!!” Vannera yelled out, the pain pronounced in her voice.

Sidion wore an expression of anguish on his face.

“Daughter… I know what you are thinking, but everything I have done and am doing is for Angweleth. I’m just happy… you weren’t a casualty the way your mother was.”

He looked at Davydd.

“Why do you fight son of Rikard?”

Davydd sat up glaring at Sidion.

“Every man deserves a right to live in happiness. I’ve grown up under your rule and I see it for what it is. I fight to stop the end of the world. An end you seek to bring.”

Sidion shook his head as his soldiers began to disappear into a trail of light.

“You’re wrong boy. I fight to bring the rebirth of the world.” And with that, Sidion vanished into a trail of light as well.

Davydd grimaced in pain

“You’re hurt.” Vannera said.

“Me?” Davydd managed smile. “Right now I’m not… If you let go… well then…”

Vannera laughed.

“How can you joke at a time like this?”

“People could do with some laughter at a time like this.” Davydd struggled to his feet, while being helped by Vannera. He examined her and noticed that she was unhurt. Though her clothes were stained in blood, they weren’t hers.

“You seem to be fine. I’m glad.”

“Yes… it’s strange. The soldiers wouldn’t attack me, even when I attacked them. They merely defended.” She paused for a bit.

“It’s almost as if they were ordered not to attack me. If father wanted me dead, he could have done it now.”

“Maybe you have mistaken your father?” Davydd said as he began to walk towards Baximus, Matilom and Ergol.

“Have I? I know my father well enough to know he is not without a wicked heart.”

“Maybe, but it would seem your death is not something he wanted nor was your mother’s.”

It was then Vannera recalled what he had just said. It hadn’t struck her then but it did now. You are safe where you are…I’m just happy… you weren’t a casualty the way your mother was. Could the dragol’s attempt to kill her have been an act carried out against her father’s wishes?

“Where is Segmiatus?” Davydd was asking Matilom. “Where did Max take him to?”

“Follow me.” Matilom said as they began to walk through the houses and elevated huts in Windhaven. The destruction in the aftermath of the battle was glaringly apparent. Some houses were riddled with arrows, while others burned as the fires ate away at the wooden structures. There were bodies strewn everywhere. A sword had cut some down, while arrows had impaled others. The soldiers in their wake had cut down men, women and children. As they walked through the destroyed town, they could hear the cries and wails of the survivors. Ergol clenched his fist in anger.

“Matilom… aiding you has cost me dearly…”

Matilom made to speak but was quickly cut off.

“Do not say anything.” He looked over at Davydd.

“This is the boy you’ve spoken of for years? He is hardly ready!”

The group stopped at the bottom of a house that stood on wooden supports and was only accessible by a ladder at the bottom. As Ergol made to climb, he turned back and looked at Davydd and Matilom.

“I will help you still. But in exchange you must promise me that you will fulfill the task at hand and while at it, plunge a sword deep into the heart of that tyrant!!!” With that said, he began to climb up the ladder, as the others followed silently. They got to the top and walked to the inner building through a bridge with high railings on each side. From this vantage point, they could see all of Windhaven. It was a breathtaking sight of different shades of brown. The wooden structures came in different shapes and sizes and heights. The people of Wind Haven were excellent wood crafters and there was no more apparent example of their ingenuity than in their town itself. As they walked in to the room, Davydd caught sight of Segmiatus laying on a bed, with Max watching over him. Davydd ran over to his side and was about to speak but Max motioned for him to be quiet.

“He’s asleep and it’s best to leave him be.” Max said in a tone barely louder than a whisper.

He read Davydd’s expression and offered a reassuring smile.

“He will pull through. He was very lucky to not have suffered a deeper cut. I suggest leaving him behind as we continue on our journey. We don’t know when we might be attacked again and he won’t be ready for a fight in a number of days. I’m sorry Davydd.”

Leo tapped Davydd’s shoulder.

“We do what we must.”

Davydd nodded somberly. “How long will he be like this?”

“I cannot say with certainty.” Max replied. “Only he can determine this. He lost a lot of blood. I cleaned and dressed the wound so he should be safe from infection. But it needs time to heal.”

“So there is…”

“Davydd…” Matilom stepped in front of him. “Max has a point. If we take him along with us like this, then there’s every chance that he will die in the journey. You must think about that.”

Davydd closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

“I am thinking about it… but you are only thinking about this quest.”

“The quest is bigger than any one man!”

“That… man is the reason why you still have your key stone in this quest!!! That key stone happens to be me.” Davydd looked around at everyone. “All this time, since the beginning of this… this madness, I have had to go through shock after shock and in only a matter of days my life has very nearly been snatched from me on a number of occasions.” He turned to look at Ergol. “I am sorry about those you have lost today, but I am not a tool for the victory of mankind. If I really am the rightful heir to the throne of Angweleth, these are my people too.” He turned to look at Segmiatus. “And so is he. I will not leave him behind. I have always longed to change things and bring happiness to the people around me. You don’t have to push me to do it. I will… with or without your help. He comes with us.” Davydd walked up to Ergol and stared directly into the town leader’s eyes. “And if you too should get a chance, then plunge a sword into the hearts of any that would try to take away your freedom.” With that, he began to walk away towards the ladder. Baximus followed him and climbed down after him.

“Davydd…”

“Was Ovar Tardust also a lie?”

“Yes it was. But it was a necessary one. My name is Baximus Bastien.”

“Who was Ovar Tardust?”

“He was a young soldier under my command during the great war. Taking his name, moving to Gor, it was all in order to protect you.”

Davydd nodded slowly and looked away, before looking back at Baximus.

“I want you to train me.”

“I already am son…”

“No. I want you to train me as you would any other soldier. Train both Segmiatus and myself. I never want to see those I hold dearly to heart get hurt on my account again.”

Baximus sighed and nodded.

“Alright” He finally said. “I only hope you are truly ready for this.”

“I am Father… I am.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[] CHAPTER SEVEN (The Dragol)

The king of Angweleth pushed on the wall located at the north wing of the Castle of Alvo. The wall became two enormous doors enamored with stained glass and metal decorations that reflected the moonlight in glistening brilliance. They swung open, creaking as they did. Sidion Vror entered a huge room whose walls were lined with bookshelves as tall as four gigantic men on the magnitude of Ivan the terrible, standing on top of each other. The room was circular in shape and its walls shot up far above the floor of the room, with the walls angling inwards in a cone like shape, but leaving a smaller circular skylight at the top, which allowed a wash of light to fall straight down unto the large oval table that sat right in the center of the room. The room was designed to illuminate the table by sun or moonlight, while leaving everything else bathed in relative darkness. Sidion approached the table at the head of the oval table, drew back his chair, and sat down. There were eight chairs in total with two at the head and end, and three riding around the bulge of the oval shape on either side. Six hooded figures were seated on the chairs on the side while Sidion sat at the head and Trudor sat at the end.

“It seems as though you have run into unexpected problems Sidion.” One of the hooded figures leaned forward a bit and turned its head in Sidion’s direction. The wash of moonlight caught its face, revealing scaly skin, thin pupils and an orange colored cornea. The scales on the skin and the flesh beneath them were a grayish asparagus color. The creature opened its mouth to speak again. It had a masculine voice. “You’ve been away for a few days.” It continued.

“I was handling pressing affairs.”

“What affairs?” The question was asked by a different figure. The voice was feminine.

“They do not concern you. Have you made progress with the other kingdoms?”

“Sidion” called out the first voice. “Remember your place well. Remember what could happen to your people if you begin to make… callous decisions.”

“I am well aware of this…”

“Then you will tell us what we need to know.” A third whispery voice spoke up. Sidion chuckled a bit and then burst out into laughter. He leaned back in his chair and placed his left hand on his belly as he did so.

“Have you gone mad from your trip?” The very first dragol who had spoken said in a slightly raised voice. Sidion suddenly stopped and glared at him.

“Why are you so interested in this trip of mine? It is my kingdom to travel in as I wish is it not?”

“Sidion…”

“King Sidion!” He yelled harshly. “You speak of consequences. Remember that your plan is made that much more perilous without my aid. After all, the length of your presence in my realm is still very brief. You threaten every soul in my kingdom with death, and yet the two souls that mean the most to me… are no more.” Sidion got up from his chair and walked slowly and deliberately around the table. The room was dead silent except for the tap of his footsteps on the ground. He made his way around the oval table and stopped at the chair of the first dragol who had spoken. Sidion leaned in and rested on the table so that his head was at about the same height as the sitting creature. He looked around the table at everyone.

“Do you really think I have that much to lose?” He finally said.

“Your hatred for the gods is all encompassing. One decimated kingdom would never satiate it. I promised you vengeance upon them. You promised me dominion over the new beginning. I will have what is mine and you what is yours, but do not think me a pawn, or else we will have neither… but…” Sidion glared with a stern face at the dragol he had leaned next to.

“I’ll still be king!” He finally yelled. He looked at Trudor and motioned to him. They both began walking out of the room.

“I’ll find the relic you crave so much. Left behind by of all people, a man you hate, a man who killed three of your siblings.” Sidion turned around at the door to face the six hooded dragol who sat still at the table.

“Tell your Omni Principal that he has nothing to worry about.”

“We will be sure to…Sidion. Though I doubt that there is nothing to worry about, considering that the relic King Rikard left behind is still out there. Do not fail human. If you do, death to you and your people will be the least of your concerns.” The dragols stood up.

“I will let you know when we have made considerable progress with the other kingdoms.” The first dragol to speak said with an air of finality.

And with that, they vanished instantly.

“Come Trudor. We have some work to do.” Sidion pushed through the huge doors and stepped out of the room, walking briskly as Trudor kept pace behind him.

“Your highness was it wise to provoke them so?” Trudor asked.

“Sometimes, brash moves need to be taken as well.” Sidion responded, while keeping a steady pace.

“Your highness you withheld the truth about Rikard Miljorn’s heir. They could be of use in ridding yourself of that threat.”

“They would also rid this world of my daughter along with him. They already tried once. I will not set them upon her again.” King Sidion stopped and slammed his hand on the side of one of the cylindrical columns that lined the bridge way leading to the north wing of the palace.

“Foolish girl! She should have known her place.” He breathed in deeply and briefly closed his eyes as he recollected himself. “Right now Trudor, the safest place for her to be, is with him.”

“Your highness…” Trudor trailed off.

“What is it?” Sidion asked.

“Well… you say it as though you believe that the boy’s silly quest will succeed.”

Sidion turned and stared at Trudor briefly. His gaze shifted towards the expanse of buildings that fell away with the receding slope, beyond the compound of his castle. The moonlight had turned a black night bluish.

“Let us focus on what must be done. Trudor give Nistam instructions to speak to him about the gauntlet. Find out if he knows anything and listen well for what you might hear. I need to make preparations in turn. Report back to me all you find discover.”

“Your highness” Trudor bowed respectfully, and walked off briskly, leaving King Sidion to his thoughts.

 

Six portals opened and through them, raced six winged figures, soaring in the night sky, which had a purplish hue and cast a light of similar color on the land below. The land was carved up into large and deep crevices such that whole men could fall in between them to their deaths. But men were not the beings that existed in this realm. Yellow flames welled up from the crevices licking the surface of the terrain and charring it black. Spiked crystalline tree like structures with thorns instead of leaves could be seen scattered across the land below. They sparkled in the purplish hue that draped the entire environment. Voices could be heard from the crevices and every so often, large groups of lizard like creatures, dragol, would slither unto the surface. The six dragol flapped their wings occasionally and soared along through the night sky.

“Why didn’t you rip his spine out Balek?” The dragol with the feminine voice asked. “A mere human should never be allowed to speak to us that way!”

“Calm yourself Viritania. We still need Sidion and his loyal dogs. Omni has made it clear we are not to kill him. His personal greed for power will keep him under our control.”

“I believe he knows we are responsible for his daughter’s death.”

“His daughter is not dead, though he does know that we attacked her, the same as he knows you brought his wife to her end. They left us no choice. Human females are even more unpredictable than their male counterparts.”

“She’s not dead?”

“When he leaned next to me, I caught the scent of her life energy. He was drenched in it. No corpse could give off such a scent. However, that is the least of my concerns.”

The six dragol banked left in their flight and approached a massive structure in the distance. It seemed as though the terrain had collected upon itself and built up into this enormous wide and tall tower that reached into the clouds above. The features were very similar to the rest of the terrain, with glowing flickering lights from flames burning within the structure. All around it were flat rectangular protrusions, which jutted out underneath large rectangular openings. Other circular openings released plumes of smoke into the air constantly. The six dragol pulled in their wings and dropped altitude, extending them again and flapping to land softly on one of the rectangular protrusions.

“What are you talking about Balek?” Viritania asked, as she along with the other dragol retracted their wings into their back. The wings became stub protrusions on each shoulder. Their tails swayed slowly back and forth as they walked towards the open rectangular window.

“The gauntlet of Feona is not the only relic Rikard Miljorn left behind… For unless he lives, the other life energy I sensed off of Sidion Vror was of Miljorn origin.”

“Then we must hurry to Omni.” One of the other dragol said as he walked faster ahead of Balek and Viritania. “No wonder he was not forth coming about his whereabouts. His daughter is with a Miljorn descendant.”

They stepped inside the structure and made their way past other dragol patrolling the interior structure, standing guard, or engaged in other activities. The interior of the largely cylindrical structure was divided into different levels with ringed platforms defining each level. These platforms extended all the way from the edge of the interior wall and stopped close to the center. Therefore, there was a hole in the center of the structure created by the ringed platforms aligned on top of each other. At the very center of the structure, was a massive metallic sphere with many shifting plates and pieces representing the land masses of Terrianus. A number of dragol walked around the sphere, monitoring it and then manipulating machinery that inscribed letters in a language unknown to any human, unto steel slabs. These slabs were then carried off by other dragol. The six dragol made their way through co-joined rooms that led to other rooms through open doorways with no doors hinged to the walls. The last room opened up to a large set of steps that led to an open roof area. When the dragol got to the top, there was one more awaiting them. He was a bit larger than the other six and stood with his bat like wings – they all had bat like wings – extended as he watched the terrain stretch away from the building. “You’ve come back.” The large dragol turned around. As he did, the other dragol bowed and dropped to a single knee.

“So, what progress have you made?”

“Our seeds are slowly getting closer to their targets. Once they have come within striking distance, they will not fail and the humans will watch as their world collapses around them.”

“What about Sidion? Has he come any closer to locating the gauntlet of Feona?”

The six knelt silently for a while, not speaking. The larger dragol stepped forward a step or two.

“Do you not here me speak?!”

“He is searching as we speak… Omni…” Balek said finally.

“Are the words you utter lies or truth.”

“They are nothing but the truth.”

“Then why do you hesitate?”

“Sidion… I believe he’s trying to keep a secret from us. I picked up life energy from him during the meeting. It was Miljorn life energy.”

“What? Can you be sure?”

“I fought alongside you Omni, when three of our siblings were killed. I’ll never forget that life energy.”

“Omni” Said Viritania “Do we place a seed on him as well?”

The dragol put his hands behind his back and paced back and forth for a bit in deep thought. Finally he came to a stop in front of the other six dragol.

“No. There would not be enough time. Besides, those who have surrounded him will surely see through that. Balek can you trace his life energy?”

“Yes.”

“Then I shall unleash you upon them. You have half a moon in the human world. Take whomever you need.”

Balek smiled menacingly.

“The blenders will do just fine.”

 

The sword raced across the air in a sideways swoop. Its blade glistened reflecting the sun rays that struck its smooth surface, back skywards. In that instant, it looked like a blade of light sweeping gracefully through. Strands of brown hair were sliced off as the sword continued on its arching sweep. Davydd took a quick step back, finding his balance and blocking the follow up sideways slash of Baximus Bastien. Baximus stepped back and evaded Davydd’s counter sideway strike by stepping to his left while parrying Davydd’s sword blow with his sword. He then shifted his weight towards Davydd, swinging his sword downwards in a fast and hard motion. Again, Davydd stopped the attack with his sword and pushed back up on Baximus’s sword, while sweeping his right foot to take Baximus’s feet from under him. Baximus jumped to evade the tackle, but was caught in the mid-section by Davydd, who had pivoted on the right foot and slammed his left foot like a sledge hammer into Baximus. Davydd’s back hit the floor and almost instantly he shot up from it and sprang to his feet, evading another head decapitating blow by arching backwards. He and Baximus clashed swords repeatedly, blocking and weaving and countering attacks. Davydd launched into a series of thrusting lunges at Baximus, who managed to slam down his sword on Davydd’s, thus breaking one of the thrusting attacks. He then twisted Davydd’s right arm clockwise, forcing Davydd to pivot around. Baximus then locked Davydd’s arm behind his back in a vice like grip, and rested his sword right below Davydd’s jaw.

“Got…” It was all he would say in the moment. Davydd head butted Baximus and slammed his sheath into his armpit by tilting it downwards, thus making the rest of sheath swing upwards. With Baximus disoriented, Davydd slipped down beneath Baximus’s sword and swung with his sheath in his left hand, taking Baximus’s legs from under him. Baximus fell with a loud thud, to the ground and Davydd pressed his blade to Baximus’s neck. His left knee pressed on Baximus’s sword holding right arm as well.

“Got you.” Davydd smiled as Baximus panted and returned the smile.

“Your improvement is remarkable.”

“It has only been made possible with your teachings father.” Davydd said as he helped Baximus up to his feet. They sheathed their swords and walked back to the forest area where the others were located.

My father always told me “never hesitate.”

Davydd had used that to avoid defeat during their training. He frowned.

“What concerns you boy?” Baximus asked, noticing the frown.

“The next time I face Sidion, I will be ready.”

Baximus sighed as they began to navigate their way through the brush and foliage.

“I see that you and Vannera have gotten close this past moon.”

“Well… I…”

“It’s okay son. You are young. This is the time to love, to dream, to want and to yearn. I have no quarrels with you on that.”

Davydd smiled as they kept walking in silence for a while.

“Have you discussed this with Vannera?” Baximus asked as he stopped and turned to face Davydd.

“Yes… we have… back in Windhaven.”

“And…”

“She tells me she will not lose sleep over his death…”

“You don’t believe her do you?”

“No…”

“Davydd, the man you speak about killing happens to be the father of the girl you have taken interest to. Think about it… If I betrayed you and our paths led us on an inevitable clash, would your heart be devoid of turmoil?”

Davydd kept mute as they resumed walking and began to carefully make their way down a steep slope. Above them in the upper canopies of the forest, the day time birds and animals chirped and called out to each other in an odd combination of cacophonous sounds and singing melodies that combined to create a sort of forest music.

“Maybe Sidion’s heart’s in turmoil too.” Davydd finally said.

Baximus looked at him inquisitively and Davydd continued.

“I don’t believe he sent those monsters… the dragol, after her. If Sidion really wanted her dead, he could have had it so during the battle at Windhaven, but he didn’t. Instead…” Davydd trailed off as he recalled Sidion’s words.

Daughter… I know what you are thinking, but everything I have done and am doing is for Angweleth.

“Instead?” Baximus asked, trying to urge Davydd along.

“Instead he tried to reason with her… with us.” Davydd sighed.

“The dragol… They took it upon themselves. If that’s the case… then they could very well take it upon themselves again.”

“You believe Sidion is locked in a power struggle?”

“Yes… I need to understand him a little better.”

They came to a clearing where Leo stood watch as Matilom and Vannera sat on the grass, legs folded and facing each other, with their hands raised up slightly as if carrying two rocks on each palm. Davydd turned to Baximus.

“You knew him best it seems. So please father… whenever you can share.”

“Of course.”

Davydd and Baximus walked over to where Leo was standing and observed the old wizard and the princess.

“What are they doing?” Davydd asked.

“She’s learning to see the unseen.” Leo replied with a smirk.

“See the unseen? Is that possible?”

“Yes… for one whose magical aura dictates as such. Princess Vannera here has a natural spirit sense.”

“Meaning, she can see the unseen?”

Leo chuckled.

“Meaning she can sense that which we cannot and in some cases see that which we cannot as well. Listen closely. What do you hear?”

Davydd looked in the direction of Matilom and Vannera, and strained his ears to pick up any sound he hadn’t already heard but he couldn’t. He turned back to Leo.

“I don’t hear anything.”

“You haven’t listened hard enough Davydd. Listen again.” Davydd sighed and wore an exasperated look at Leo. Despite that, he focused on Vannera and Matilom once more. A few seconds passed by, and then he heard it. It was a faint whooshing sound, made in intervals. Davydd slowly stepped closer to Vannera and Matilom. On the forest ground, Vannera could also hear the whooshing sound and Matilom’s voice in her mind as he guided her.

Do you feel it yet? Strip away the veil of the world that isn’t, so you can peer into the world that is.

Vannera concentrated and then opened her eyes, which had been closed up until that moment. In front of her she could see the form of a rope fade in and out of visibility as it swung from side to side, between her and Matilom. Pieces of the rope would appear and then suddenly dissolve back into nothingness. She looked up and could see the tree branch from which the rope had been tied. Parts of the rope tied around the branch could be seen, but others couldn’t.

You have a hold of it Vannera. Now, tear it down.

Vannera took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly, relaxing her nerves. As her eyes fell back downwards, the rope slowly dissolved into visibility, and she could see all of it. As her eyes leveled, she saw the smooth spherical rock that had been tied to the other end of the rope. Every time it swung past, it made a whooshing sound. Her perception of the ball was a bit distorted but when it came into complete focus she could see it clearly. Vannera breathed heavily in excitement. At this time Matilom opened his eyes as well.

“Invigorating isn’t it?” He smiled at her.

“Yes!” Vannera said still breathing heavily. “Yes, yes it is.” She looked around her smiling and then back at Matilom.

“Teach me more.” She said with a look of enthusiasm on her face. Matilom smiled again.

“A bit at a time dear one. For now practice what I’ve thought you. When you master it, come back to me.” Matilom picked up his walking stick and gave her a friendly pat on the shoulder as he rose.

“You can release the spell now Leo.” He said as he walked over to Baximus. Leo walked over to Vannera and grabbed hold of the invisible string. It quickly became visible again to everyone there.

Davydd wore a look of shock as he saw the average sized smooth rock attached to the rope. He turned to Matilom.

“Isn’t that… dangerous?” He asked still bewildered.

“Don’t trouble yourself boy!” Said Matilom chuckling. “We are all in this together, and you are not the only one working hard to get stronger. Your friends are all working hard too. This very moment, Segmiatus trains with Sam.”

“With Sam? I thought they would practically kill each other.” Davydd said laughing.

He caught Vannera’s warm smile at him and returned it. Her smile broadened and she walked to him and wrapped her arms around him in a warm embrace. Vannera pulled her head back a bit and whispered in his ear.

“Walk with me.”

Davydd smiled and looked back at Baximus and Matilom.

“Well off you go now.” Baximus said smiling.

“Don’t stray too far.” Matilom added.

Both Davydd and Vannera nodded and walked off, holding hands.

Baximus watched them go for a little while.

“Your love for the boy is great.” Matilom said, cutting Baximus away from his thoughts.

“Of course I do. He is my son after all. I love him like my own flesh and blood.” Baximus rubbed his chest area, where Davydd had slammed his foot on him, during their training session.

“He also can deliver a brutal kick too. It is strange, it was much harder than I expected, and considering the position from which he delivered it.”

“He improves quickly.”

“He does, exceedingly so. And his friend, Segmiatus’s recovery is strangely remarkable.”

“Do you think he’s ready now?”

Baximus shook his head.

“No. Not yet. He is still a rough diamond yet to be properly polished.”

Matilom nodded.

“And yet, a diamond he is.” The wizard said as darkness began to creep over the forest.

 

[] CHAPTER EIGHT (A god is here)

The small room’s sole source of illumination was the oil lamp that had been set up on a high book shelf on the right most wall of the room. It cast its flickering light across the room, but left parts of the room poorly illuminated as well. An elderly man lay on the bed breathing shallowly. He was surrounded by three women and two men. Their facial expressions conveyed the emotions of sorrow they felt. One of the women was in a kneeling position beside the bed. She constantly dipped some cloth into a bowl of water, squeezed out the water into another bowl and then used the moist cloth to wipe the perspiration from the elderly man’s forehead. The elderly man was too weak to talk and any last words to be said between him and his loved ones had already been said. In this moment, it was a wait for death. The woman looked at the man’s eyes which were beginning to flicker underneath his eye lids.

“He’s… leaving…” She said in a tone that almost conveyed disbelief as it surely conveyed the supreme confidence of one who had seen this happen time and time again. She stood back and let the other women, a wife and a sister, along with the two men, a brother and a son come closer and mourn the loss of their loved one at the hour of his passing. The women held the elderly man’s hands and sobbed and cried on his chest, while the men tried to console them, scarcely able to console themselves as well.

“No! Stop! Don’t cry! I’m fine!” The old man practically yelled at his family and yet they sobbed on.

“Has false grief made you lose your hearing?” He asked slightly infuriated. The elderly man looked at his wife who was sobbing uncontrollably.

“Aga!” He yelled.

“The grief is not false.” The voice came from the left side of the room. The elderly man cocked his head to the left and his eyes beheld a beautiful lady in a green dress, with brown hair. She had wide gold bracelets on either hand, with gold and silver finger armor on her index and middle fingers, also on either hand. The lady got up and walked towards him. As she walked, her feet hovered slightly above the floor of the room. She stopped by the now trembling elderly man’s bed. He looked around at his still sobbing relatives and then back at the lady. No one seemed to be paying them any attention.

“W…What are you?” He asked frightened.

“I see. What you ask, instead of Who?

“No human I have seen, does that.” The old man looked at the lady’s feet, which were still hovering slightly above the ground. She smiled dryly and reached out her hand towards him.

“You are dead. Your last breath was taking only moments ago. I have been waiting patiently while you struggled futilely with what little mortal strength you had left. Come, let us depart.”

“I can’t.” Replied the old man as he motioned to his family members, who were either holding his hands or resting their head on his chest. The woman let out a sigh of exasperation and pulled the elderly man up by his arm. The man felt himself yanked right through his relations who were still letting out loud cries and wails on and around him. He staggered on his feet and looked behind him, towards his relations. He beheld himself lying still and lifeless while his family shed tears around him. The wailing had quieted down to painful moans. He turned back to the lady in front of him.

“I can’t leave them like this.”

The brown haired lady stared at him for a little while before speaking.

“You’ve already left them.”

“But… what happens to them? Look! Look at them!”

“They will mourn, they will grieve and in time, their pain will ease and they will smile again.”

“They will forget me?” The elderly man asked as he was overcome with sadness.

“No Soma… They will remember you.” The reality of the moment crashed on the man with the force of a thousand oceans. He turned back to look at his family one more time. His gaze rested on his wife who was staring off into the distance, not really looking at anything. However in that moment, it was as though she was looking at him. He leaned in and his essence touched her lips in a final kiss. Her eyes closed as tears fell effortlessly and her lips slightly moved in an unknown response. Soma pulled back.

“Let’s go.” He got up and walked up to the lady, stopping beside her. The lady turned around to face the left most wall and lifted up her right hand, with her index finger pointing at nothing in particular. She used her index finger to draw a vertical line from a height about eye level all the way to the ground, bending down to complete the line as she did. Soma saw that it was more of a very straight tear than a line. The tear expanded as a bright glowing light emanated from the gap it caused. The light was a fast pulsating one that suddenly weakened and then stopped when the opening had completed its expansion. On the other side was a bare rocked muddy cliff that was battered by large rain drops. The woman began walking through the rectangular opening and was closely followed by Soma, who trembled at every sound he heard. Large bolts of lightning flashed across the sky, followed by immensely loud claps of thunder. Some lightning bolts struck the cliff side which opened up to a titanic gap in the earth. The gap was filled with what seemed to be boiling blackish water. Soma shivered from the sharp cold which he felt as he walked through the storm. As if reading his emotions, the lady spoke as she led the way to a swaying wooden bridge.

“Do not be afraid. Soon you’ll realize that it isn’t a chill you feel, but fear itself.”

“How do you know this?”

The lady stopped by the edge of the bridge and motioned for him to begin walking across.

“I had to realize it for myself too.” She finally replied.

The man approached the bridge cautiously and observed it sway wildly in the wind from side to side. He finally shook his head.

“There has to be another way across.”

“This is the only way.” The brown haired lady said calmly. “This is your test. If your wrong doings way heavily on your soul, the bridge will snap and you will live out the rest of eternity among the lost souls.”

Soma looked down and saw that there were numerous faces and limbs breaking the surface of the black boiling water. He heard the screams of anguish and pain coming from them and he saw some mangled and twisted bodies try to crawl out of the ocean. They tried to crawl up the steep sides of the cliff, but the slippery cliff did not cooperate and soon they were plummeting back down. However, they looked like they had lost all reason and sense and were more beastly in nature than man.

“Feona help us.” The man said, wrapping his hands around himself.

“Fear again. You are not cold.”

“What is happening down there?”

“They are caught in the hell of their worst fears, their worst thoughts, the most gruesome images their minds can conjure, and their worst regrets.”

“So…”

“Walk.” The lady said in a stern commanding voice that still somehow maintained calmness about it. Soma stepped on the bridge and began to cross it. He was followed closely by the lady who seemed to be unaffected by the violent sways and unsteadiness of the bridge. He struggled to hold his balance and he stumbled this way and that, constantly. They walked for a long time in silence. Finally, they got to the other side of the bridge. The old man rushed unto the other side of the cliff and stumbled upon grass. He looked up and saw a lush green field that extended unto a downward slope. There were mountains in the distance, with snow caps at the peaks. A cool and refreshing breeze blew by gently from the right side of the land to the left. At the valley, which started at the edge of the slope, there was a small town, which looked to have inhabitants.

“Where is this?” Soma asked.

“This is Hovan. It is your new home.”

“This? This is paradise?”

“Yes. What you see is only a small part of it. Follow me.” The woman grabbed the elderly man’s hand and they walked back towards the edge they had just come from. Instead of the unsteady bridge and troubling sight beneath it, what met them was a view much like that of a clear starry night. The sight was one to behold. The old man could see each realm as a gigantic spherical body moving slowly across the space of all that is. Occasionally, flashes of lights so long it would take eons to traverse them, would shoot from one realm to the other and instantly be gone.

“What are those?” Soma asked quizzically.

“Those are beings crossing over from one dimension to the next.”

“Beings? Not human?”

The lady nodded.

“They are so far… so far away. How is it that I can see them so clearly?”

“You are a creature of life herself are you not? You are a creation of one of the seven great gods aren’t you? This power has always been yours. You just did not know it.”

Soma stared at all before him, still in awe.

“Come. You are a free spirit now and an element of all that is. You have all of eternity to experience everything you wish to. Become whatever you wish to be. Eventually, you will find that everything you discover helps them.” The lady pointed at another realm hovering slowly, below the other realms. Though Soma had never seen it before, he instantly knew that it was Terrianus. The old man smiled at her and nodded. He turned around and slowly made his way to the town situated at the valley. The lady watched him for a while and then reached out her right index finger, drawing another tear from eye level all the way to the ground. The opening expanded as before, and she stepped through it. She emerged on the other side and stepped into a dark area with no apparent walls or edges around it. It was completely black except for a glittering path that went forward in a straight line for a few meters and then expanded into a large circular glittering floor. Standing there was a tall slender woman with long black hair that fell to about shoulder length. It was straight and glistened from the glittering lights on the floor. She wore a long sleeveless dark brown gown that fell all the way to her feet flowingly. Around her neck was a silver necklace with a diamond pendant attached to it. She wore a full gauntlet on her right hand. It was a black and brown colored metallic gauntlet with engraved patterns on the part that covered the wrist and the palms. She also had black metallic boots that were sharply pointed at the toe area.

“I see you are back. Did the guidance go smoothly?” The slender woman asked.

The brown haired lady sighed irritably.

“He was full of questions.”

The lady with the black hair turned around and smiled. Her skin was a bit pale and her bright red eyes beheld the brown haired lady for a moment.

“You were like that too when I came for you.” She finally said in response.

“My passing was not particularly pleasant.”

“It would have made little difference. I have guided souls for thousands and thousands of years. Have you ever been asked by a little infant why the world is so cruel?”

The brown haired lady gasped at the thought; while the other lady encircled her letting the notion sink in properly.

“Yes Jaynea. An infant killed by an uncle who should help protect it. Instead, greed made him dismiss to the afterlife the heir to his older brother’s riches. For if he could keep his brother childless, he and his family would inherit it all. Believe me when I say to you, that your death was a kindness compared to all I’ve seen of your kind.”

“You shouldn’t be so harsh with her Feona.”

Both women turned around to see a tall lady with golden colored hair and a glistening white and blue dress walk graciously and elegantly towards them. She radiated a warm light that while not blinding was glorious and brilliant at the same time. Jaynea stood transfixed and unable to turn her gaze away from the stunningly beautiful woman whose bronze like skin evoked an unparalleled strength and regality. Her light brown eyes beheld Jaynea lovingly as she walked up to both her and Feona. Feona’s face wore a slight expression of malice as she spoke. “Dear sister of mine. To what do I owe the honor of you gracing my chambers?”

“Your sarcasm knows no bounds does it? I come to converse with you sister. I have certain worries to share.”

“And what worries you Lynda?”

“Events that threaten to happen soon. There is a force of death heading Davydd’s way.”

“Oh how did you come about this? I was just on my way.”

“I have not the time for games Feona. I must warn them without interfering.”

“And yet you are divided for you have other pressing matters to take care of.”

Lynda looked away, unable to come up with a response. Feona sighed.

“Don’t worry Lynda. I go to do what you won’t do.”

“Feona, you know we have sworn not to steer the hand of fate.”

Feona, who had already opened up another tear and was walking towards it, stopped and looked back at Lynda.

“We all steer the hand of fate one way or another, gods and humans alike. What are you prepared to do?” And with that she turned around and continued to walk through the opening.

“Come Jaynea. This promises after all, to be the moment you have been waiting for.”

Jaynea nodded and followed suit. The opening closed behind them and the light was gone. All that was left was the goddess Lynda and the glistening floor lights that illuminated her sister’s rather dark chambers.

 

Davydd and Vannera laughed out loud as they lay in each other’s arms on the forest bed. The space above them was also clear of blocking branches and leaves and as such, they could gaze upon the night sky.

“All of my life in that castle, I never once did anything like this.” Vannera said still chuckling a bit.

“Of course you didn’t princess. You were too busy being betrothed to every prince and man of note in Terrianus.” Davydd said jokingly. Vannera sat up and observed him briefly.

“Is that jealously I sense?”

“Me? Jealous? Oh no. You haven’t made vows with any of them have you? Have you?” Davydd nuzzled her tenderly and she giggled, embracing him.

“You are silly aren’t you?” She smiled at him, rubbing his cheek with her right hand. Davydd leaned in and kissed her and in that moment they were again lost in each other. The kisses were long and passionate and eventually got frenetic as they clawed at each other, desperately hungry for more. Davydd rolled on top of her and the lower part of her dress fell to her waist, exposing her thighs. Davydd gasped as his eyes took in all of her. She rested her palm on his chest.

“Your heart.” She said softly. “It pounds heavily.”

“It is through no fault of mine.” Davydd said breathing heavily as his hips sunk slowly in between her thighs. “I know not a man’s heart that wouldn’t tremble at such a sight.”

Vannera smiled warmly as she pulled Davydd’s face close to hers and wrapped her lips around his in another loving kiss. She arched her hips up to meet his and the connection between their bodies further ignited the flames within them.

“Then let us see both hearts erupt in ecstasy.” She said, smiling seductively. Davydd could not resist any longer and they both began a slow and sensuous dance in rhythm to music that only they could hear.

The early morning was filled with a thick fog that enveloped most of the forest floor and extended up high to some tree tops. The branches of the trees rustled as unseen figures landed heavily on them and bolted off almost as instantly as they had made contact with the branches. They could not be seen. The only evidence of their presence was the depression of the branches under their weight, and the way those same branches sprung back to their original position, when the invisible figures bolted off again. Flying just above the tree line, a figure could be seen, with its bat like wings spread out and flapping occasionally. Balek surveyed the blenders as they rapidly made their way through the forest. They had gotten more and more animated and it told him they were closing in on their prey. He swooped down low and flew speedily over the tree line, howling as he did. The blenders picked up their pace, and began to spread apart into formations of four. They were now very close. After days of searching for Davydd’s scent, they had finally found it along with that of Vannera’s. To think they had traveled this far towards the shores of Angweleth. Balek let his mind wander to thoughts of victory. He imagined the feeling of killing Rikard Miljorn’s son and finally destroying any lingering hopes the humans might have. He was still lost in these thoughts when instinctively, he barely dodged a black and brown metallic gauntlet that suddenly appeared in front of him, with the fingers pressed together to make a spear like shape. His eyes briefly caught the figure of two women and a glowing rectangular opening in the sky behind them. Part of the sharp talons of the gauntlet caught the top of his head, scraping of scaly flesh, arching his head backwards and drawing blood. As he was falling and spinning out of control, Balek flapped his wings violently, trying to regain control of his flight. He whirled around to see who the women were but was met with a punch to the stomach that felt like the force of an entire mountain of diamond, dropped on him. The air in his lungs was forcibly expelled from his mouth. His eyes, nose and mouth spouted blood as he plummeted to the forest ground. Balek, realizing he would not be able to regain his flight in time, retracted his wings and fell through a series of branches before hitting the ground with a resounding thud. He howled loudly and sprang to his feet, while unsheathing a wavy shaped serrated blade that was stored in a strap on sheath, on his right shoulder. It was then he caught sight of his attacker. A tall, slender woman with black hair and a dark brown flowing gown, descended steadily until her feet gently touched the soil beneath her. The early morning fog gave her a ghostly appearance, as her pale skin was barely discernible amidst the cloud cover and yet her bright red eyes illuminated in the dim early morning light. Balek took a step forward, his face wearing an expression of disbelief.

“Feona?”

“In the flesh… as it were. I must commend you on your reaction Balek. I meant to take your head off.” She smiled.

“Why are you here?!” Balek growled. “Gods do not interfere with the fates of humans. Leave!”

“Do you say that out of concern for me or do you say that out of concern for yourself and your underlings?”

Feona started walking towards Balek. Her flowing dark brown overall began to constrict on itself and separate into different pieces. These pieces began to solidify into armor pieces. The chest piece formed first, conforming to her torso and cleavage, then the shoulder pieces. The boots however, remained the same. The rest of her overall formed a skirt lined all around with metallic adornments and engraved rectangular shaped metal slabs that bore engravings on them. They clanged with each other as she moved towards Balek.

“If it is indeed the former that concerns you, then you are foolish. However I think it is the latter. Your life was forfeit the moment you ran into me, Balek.”

Balek, regaining his composure, growled at her and laughed.

“You seem to underestimate me on the basis of a few lucky blows. I am one of the ten principals! And I have brought with me over a hundred blenders to erase that bastard son of Rikard from existence. Besides, it would seem you are still without your sword of power, and one of your gauntlets. Was it wise of you to come here?”

Feona smiled menacingly.

“Enough small talk. Your life is over.” At that moment, Jaynea materialized behind Balek with a dagger in her hand. She thrust the tip towards Balek’s neck. Balek bent forward just enough to make Jaynea miss her mark. Before she could react, his tail smacked her viciously into a tree. Balek had begun to walk towards her, when his jaw was caught by a ferocious kick from Feona. His body lurched upwards and fell to the ground from the force of the blow. Balek forced himself to his feet coughing up blood as he did. At that moment, Jaynea was forcing her way out of the tree trunk she had been slammed into. Her eyes glared in anger, as did Feona’s. Balek observed them both for a time. He wasn’t terribly worried about Jaynea, but he knew if he stayed and fought Feona, she would kill him and he could not imagine how she would choose to do so without wincing. Feona was the goddess of death after all, and her reputation preceded her in the world of the Dragol. Balek took a step back and growled at his invisible blenders.

“Move!” He yelled and immediately jumped into flight in the direction of Davydd. The chase had begun. Feona and Jaynea rapidly portal travelled in the direction of the Dragol, landing on branches and tree trunks, and propelling themselves forward with their legs on each landing.

“Get to Davydd!” Feona yelled at Jaynea. “Warn them about the impending danger and kill as many blenders as you can. I will handle the principal.”

Jaynea nodded and portal travelled ahead, fatally stabbing and slashing blenders as she did. Her immortal eyes allowed her to see them despite their disguise. She barely dodged a blender’s tail swipe by flipping over it and slicing it off with one of her daggers. Jaynea landed on her feet and subsequently dodged two otherwise lethal blows to the torso by the blender. She parried the third blow with her left hand and quickly stepped toward the blender, slicing it from neck to waist in rapid and vicious succession with her daggers. The blender shuddered for a moment and then fell from the high tree branch, already dead. Another blender was at that moment, closing in on her, its two three toed feet drawn together in a manner similar to an eagle swooping down to capture its prey. The lethal intent was clear, as the talons were fully exposed. Jaynea pointed her left dagger at the incoming blender, as her right pointed in the opposite direction of her left. A portal opened in front of the blender, enveloping it before it could react. The portal opened up on the other side half way up the blade of her right dagger, and the blender was immediately stabbed through the heart when it materialized on the other side. Jaynea flipped her blade and cut upwards, splitting the blender in half from the chest up to the crown of the crown of the head. She jumped away from the branch just in time to evade two other blenders who had crashed through it and used a tree trunk to propel her way forward in search of more to kill, and towards Davydd. She was moving faster now, seemingly as fast as Sam could move on the ground.

Feona rolled out of the way of a falling burning tree, and immediately arched backwards evading the tail swipe of a blender. She came back up and parried three simultaneous blows coming at her, and almost immediately punched a hole through the chest of the three blenders that had thrown the blows at her. She jumped away from a stream of fire bearing down on her from above, as Balek attempted to burn her with his flames. The principal swooped down and using his momentum, swung downwards at her with his curved serrated blade. Feona parried it with her gauntlet, while her right foot shot out behind her and slammed into the face of a blender attempting to impale her from behind. She pushed off Balek’s arm just as another blender launched itself at her, growling loudly. A portal opened up in front of Feona and she was instantly behind Balek. The blender hit the ground and Feona’s gauntlet, impaled Balek’s back. The principal lashed behind him and caught Feona on the right cheek. The sheer force of the blow knocked her to the ground. She tried to get up but was struck in the left rib by Balek. The force of the blow pushed her across the forest ground. Her body tore through the soil, ripping through giant tree roots, and earth in a trail of mud, dust and splintered bark. A large ball of fire descended on her, and engulfed her. The impact pushed her further back still, and into the ground a bit. It was then that Feona realized that the forest had gone up in flames. She slowly got up and glared at Balek who was staggering forward and bleeding rather profusely from the puncture wound in his chest. A trickle of blood fell from Feona’s lips as well and she smiled rubbing it off. Balek growled at her as he kept staggering.

“Come goddess of death! I shall put an end to you! I shall show you the power of a principal!!” Balek fell to his knees coughing profusely as he labored to breathe.

“Your kind was wise to declare war against humans and not against us… you pathetic lizard. While it would give me great pleasure to end your existence, I cannot. I believe we both know that. However, my work here is done.”

“So you came to slow me down Feona? It is one thing to fight against a god in such a condition and it is another to fight against the humans. I will still kill them.”

“Right you are lizard. As far as you know, right you are.” A portal opened up as numerous blenders descended on Feona. However, she was gone before they could reach her. Balek pushed himself up to his feet with much difficulty. He used his sword as a support while he looked on ahead. As far as you know, right you are. What did she mean by that? Balek was suddenly apprehensive about pursuing Davydd and his group, but he was even more reluctant to fail Omni and hence, incur his wrath. He forged on.

 

The sounds had spread towards Davydd and his group’s location. They had heard the cries, growls and clashes that had roused every forest creature that morning. The experienced men, Ergol, Ovar and Matilom had concluded that the sounds they all heard were that of Dragol. However, that was all they seemed to come to an agreement on, as they each bickered loudly about the next course of action. Sam, Leo and Max along with Ergol’s men and Segmiatus watched on unsure of whom to back with their own words. It was then that Davydd and Vannera appeared from behind the brushes with a look of worry on their faces.

“Something’s going on!” Davydd exclaimed.

The others turned to look at him with a look of exasperation on their faces. After a little while, they all turned away to continue their conversation. Segmiatus was the only one to come up to Davydd and Vannera.

“Where have you two been?”

Both Davydd and Vannera moved to respond.

“Well we… errr…”

“Look don’t worry about an answer.” Segmiatus shook his head. “As we speak it has been determined that Dragol are moving upon us. We do not know how many or what kind of Dragol, but you’ve heard the sounds.” Segmiatus pointed in the direction. Davydd followed his hand and his eyes caught plumes of smoke rising in the distance.

“And seen the flames.”

“What?”

“Turn.” Davydd grabbed the back of Segmiatus’s head and turned it towards the direction of the plumes.

“We need to warn them and move.” Davydd said, walking towards the group. As Davydd walked up to them, Ergol flashed him a disdainful glance. Davydd noticed this, and looked back towards Vannera who smiled reassuringly. He remembered the words she had said to him the night before.

I don’t know how to lead these people Vannera.

Yes you do. It is inside of you. It always has been.

Vannera… being the son of a king does not make one a king.

Well then you are the son of a blacksmith and you are a thief. Davydd had looked at her quizzically and she had laughed at his expression.

You don’t have to be a king to lead, Davydd. A king can be a leader but not always. A leader on the other hand, can inspire much more than a dynasty of kings. So lead Davydd. Lead.

“Whatever plan is being devised can wait. We need to move now.” The bickering died down and Ergol turned to Davydd.

“And this is your plan. Move. Move to where if I might ask?”

“We move to the shores as we have been doing. There is a fire coming our way.” Davydd responded.

“He’s right.” Segmiatus chimed in as he pointed in the direction of the plumes of smoke. “Over there. As Davydd said, we need to move now.”

“And since when do we concur with the boy on what to do?” Ergol asked without bothering to hide his disgust at the thought.

“Go back to sleep princesses. We will wake you when we have arrived at a decision.” Ergol’s men burst into raucous laughter at the taunts. Davydd was enraged but he walked up to Ergol calmly.

“Do not approach me boy!”

“You can leave.” Davydd said without the slightest hint of passion in his voice.

“You and your men.”

“Who gave you the…”

“Silence! Can you wield the sword of Feona or wear her gauntlet? Are you the son of Rikard Miljorn? If I were not here, would this journey have purpose?”

“Facts you have known for barely a moon! We are in danger while you sleep and explore the false king’s daughter!”

“However long I have known them they still stand very true. If not, why am I here? And if you ever talk about princess Vannera that way again, I’ll show you what danger is.” Davydd walked up to a high rock above the forest ground and addressed the group.

“Many of you do not believe in me and neither does your leader, Ergol. However, there are those here that do and they have put their trust in me. I will protect Angweleth and Terrianus with just them if I have to. Rikard Miljorn was your king before his untimely death and he left me a task to do. If you do not believe in me, leave. I will not hold it against you. However if you choose to stay,” He turned and glared at Ergol “Do not attempt to make a mockery of me, make any decisions without me or divide my people. The choice is yours.”

Ergol turned to Matilom.

“Has he lost his mind?! Say some…”

“Ergol” Matilom said sternly. “My king has spoken. You will respect him, or you will leave and we will find another way.” Matilom left the shocked Ergol standing where he was, and walked up to Davydd. He leaned in and whispered.

“I hope this is a start my boy. If you want to win the complete trust of these men, events like seeking pleasure amidst danger will not help your cause.”

“It won’t happen again Matilom.” Matilom nodded and patted Davydd on the shoulder. It was at that moment that everyone heard Vannera scream. Davydd turned around and ran towards her.

“Vannera! Are you okay?” He approached her and his eyes quickly examined her for injuries or anything that could give him clues as to why she screamed. But there were no injuries that he could see. Her skin had turned pale and her face was white with fear.

“What troubles you? Vannera?”

Amidst heavy and frantic breathing, Vannera barely managed to lift up her hand and point it upwards towards the tree area right over where Max was.

“Has she run mad?” Ergol asked.

Davydd followed Vannera’s finger direction and her eyes. However there was nothing in the air above them where she was pointing.

“Vannera this is not the time for games.” Davydd said, still perplexed. It was then that Vannera found her voice.

“I’m not playing games! There… it’s her! She’s right there!!”

“Who?!”

“I… don’t believe… this.” It was Leo’s voice but he could not be seen.

“Is that really you, Jaynea?”

There was a gust of wind in response and what sounded like a thousand voices echoing at once. Jaynea slowly became visible to everyone. To them, she appeared not as a fully solid being. There was something airy and light about her. Everyone there stood in awe of what they were seeing. While she could not be seen clearly by all of the others, Vannera and Leo in his invisible state could see her as clearly as she had been when she was alive.

Davydd’s eyes were wide with shock and amazement. He was looking at the very first sight of Vannera he saw. So this was the woman whose sacrifice had saved the life of the princess who tugged so greatly at his heart now. Jaynea descended slowly to the ground, but her feet never touched the ground. She looked at Vannera for a little while. Their eyes conveyed the numerous words that weighed heavily on their hearts. The pain they felt was unmistakable and almost unbearable. However, Jaynea did not speak to Vannera. Instead, she turned to the rest of the group.

“I have come here to warn you. As we speak, numerous blenders and a single principal are heading your way. If you do not prepare to fight, or prepare to run, you will die standing here. Personally, I suggest the latter.” She turned around and began walking off.

“How many?” It was Vannera’s voice. It shook and trembled as she fought against crying further. Jaynea continued to walk away from the group.

“Answer me Jaynea!! How many blenders are there? At least say a word to me before walking away into oblivion again!!” The tears had come now. Vannera fell to her knees and cried profusely, letting her tears soak the rock and grass beneath her.

“Did I not tell you to breathe and be strong the last time I was by your side? Is this as far as you are able to go?”

Vannera looked on in shock as Jaynea’s words sank in.

“Jaynea?” Davydd called out to her. “We still need to know how many dragol are on their way.”

“At this very moment, there are about a hundred blenders and one principal on their way here.” This voice did not belong to Jaynea. It was Feona.

“Matilom!” Leo screamed. “A god is here!”

Matilom, eyes widened in fear like he’d never shown before, quickly said some incantations and immediately disappeared from Feona’s and Jaynea’s sight. However, he was still visible to everyone else. He moved away from his location just as Feona dropped down there with thunderous force. Everyone could see the depression it made, but not her.

“Mat…” Davydd was cut off by Sam who had instantly closed the distance between them and put his hand over Davydd’s lips in one move.

“Do not give away his position.” Sam whispered.

“What is going on?” Davydd whispered back.

“Remember when you asked him why he could not use strong magic to retrieve the gauntlet?”

“Yes… he avoided that question.”

“Well there’s your answer.” Sam nodded in the direction of the depression. “He uses most of it, to hide from the goddess of death.”

“No matter.” Feona said as she made herself visible.

“I do not have time for the wizard’s games. I will have his soul soon enough.” She turned to Davydd.

“Well then. What will you do…king?”

Davydd turned around to face the rest of the group.

“Gather arms!!” Davydd yelled.

The command set the group in frenzy as everyone rushed to arm themselves with a weapon. Davydd walked up to Feona.

“What do you know of the blenders?”

“Davydd!” Baximus yelled. “That is lady Feona! The goddess of Angweleth. We do not…”

Baximus fell silent when Feona signaled him to stop. She looked at Davydd with her piercing red eyes and smiled inquisitively.

“Do you not know who I am? And what makes you think I know anything more about the blenders?”

“I know who you are well enough. You are the one responsible for my father’s death. And as for the blenders, you’ve fought them. The marks on your body say as much. The only beings I know capable of drawing the blood of a god are the dragols.”

Sam turned to Max and whispered.

“Do you see any injuries?”

“I do not.” Max responded. “I know not what he’s thinking.”

Feona smiled again.

“You are very brave. I wouldn’t expect any less from the son of Rikard Miljorn. Very well then. The dragol who chase you are called blenders, not just because they can remain unseen by becoming invisible, but because they can become anything and anyone that they touch. They are very smart when using this and unless you have a mortal with the gift of the sight…” her eyes darted to Vannera and then Leo “you won’t be able to tell who is a blender and who isn’t. But there is one thing that a blender does not like.”

“What is it?” Davydd asked.

Feona suddenly rushed towards him and thrust her gauntlet wearing hand at his chest. Davydd quickly unsheathed his sword and blocked the blow. The clang reverberated around the area and then became a high pitched scream. It finally died down and all that was left was the low hum of Davydd’s sword and Feona’s gauntlet vibrating in tandem.

“Sound… That sound.” Feona said. It is your fighting chance.”

“And the principal?”

“Oh… That?” Feona slowly lifted her left hand up and over the blade of Davydd’s sword and let her index finger gently rest on his heart.

“There. That’s your fighting chance.” And with that, both Feona and Jaynea began to fade away from visibility. As Jaynea dissolved away, she looked at Vannera.

“Be strong. Remember, here’s your new life.” She said as she vanished completely.

Davydd turned to Baximus and Matilom.

“What do we have that makes that humming noise?” Matilom turned to one of their horses and searched through a bag attached to its saddle. He came back a few minutes later with his hand holding a bunch of small daggers by the handle.

“These daggers are made of a rare metal that hums in a similar manner when it vibrates.” Matilom smiled mischievously.

“I can cast a spell on them that will make them spin faster and impale any blenders that come near.”

“And remember!” Baximus yelled to the group.

“Some of you have never fought dragol before. As such I tell you honestly that not all of you will survive this. The dragol are weak in the chest and stomach area. If you get a chance, do not waste it. And do not hesitate even if the blender is proven to mask as one of you. It means he’s already dead.”

“There is one problem.” Matilom added.

“To spell these daggers, I’ll need a dead blender.”

There was a murmur among the agitated group members. It seemed almost impossible. They had to kill an invisible enemy in order to gain the only advantage they had.

“They come! They come!” Vannera said in barely a whisper as the sounds and growls of the creatures filled the forest around them. Tears fell down her eyes as she began to relive the moments that led to Jaynea’s death. The sounds were nostalgic… as was what she could see. They were still at some distance but closing in fast. It was almost as though they could see through her soul.

“Matilom! Get your spell ready.” Davydd said as he picked up his bow and arrows. He walked over to Vannera and kissed her on the cheek, while gently but firmly pulling her up to her feet.

“Everything will be fine. I need your help. Point me to the one out in front. There is always a fastest one in a herd. Trust me.”

Vannera was breathing heavily but she closed her eyes and calmed herself. When she opened them, they scanned the forest area in front and her right arm slowly lifted up and pointed to an area high on the right. Davydd nodded and concealing his movements from the area the dragol were approaching from, placed the arrow on the bow’s string. He pulled the arrow back until the rope was taut and waited. It wasn’t long before he heard the distinct growl of a dragol coming from the direction Vannera had pointed in. The execution was instant. Davydd whirled around, his balance sure and his aim steady. His right hand was pulled back as far as it could go and his fingers uncoiled like a spring. The arrow flew with ferocious velocity, and whistled through the air. It stopped on an invisible target with a thump. What followed was a series of loud guttural noises with the arrow appearing to be yanked about. The blender slowly became visible as it fell lifelessly from a high tree branch to the forest ground below.

“Max!” Davydd yelled.

Max nodded and a portal opened up around the blender. Max grabbed the blender and opened up a portal in front of Matilom, dumping the body there on the ground.

“Whatever you need to do, do it now.” Davydd said to Matilom.

Matilom nodded and chanting out some incantations. He had laid the daggers in a row on the ground. As he lifted his hands the daggers were raised up from the ground by some unseen force. They all impaled the body of the dead blender and slowly began to glow with a bluish aura.

“That’s one unfortunate blender.” Max said to Sam who managed to smile at the joke. The growls had gotten closer and the group got even more agitated. However, Matilom’s spell concluded with the daggers pulling back out of the blender’s body and floating to each member of the group. They spun slowly at the back of their necks.

“Do not be afraid.” Matilom said.

“They will not cut you. However, if they spin faster and make a humming sound, there is a blender nearby. I hope the gods give you sight to see it before it sees you.”

“Angwelethean warriors!” Davydd called. “I am not asking you to lay down your life and fight for me. You are here because you believe in our land, our right to live and our freedom.”

The group responded with a chorused ruahhh.

“I believe in those very same things. It’s why I’m here. It’s why we are all here!”

Ruahhh!

“This will be the first of many battles and challenges we will face, the first of many we will overcome!!”

Ruaaahhh!

“Whatever happens here today, you are all warriors of Angweleth. Warriors of Terrianus. Never forget that!!”

Ruaaaaahhh!!!

“So I implore you, to help me. Help me and by the name of Feona, FIGHT!”

RUAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!

Davydd walked over to Vannera and motioned for Max to come to him.

“Vannera. I need you to be our eyes. Matilom’s spell is reassuring, but I need you to watch over us.” Vannera nodded and turned to Max.

“You heard my king. Can you be in many a place at once?”

Max smiled at the question.

“My princess I am always everywhere.”

“Sam! You are in charge of seeing as many blenders on the ground to their deaths. You are the fastest.”

“It would be my pleasure.” Sam nodded.

“Leo. I leave you to your element.”

“Your highness.”

“We head towards the shores!” Ergol yelled. The growls were upon them. “Move!!!”

It had begun. Some of the men mounted their horses and began racing through the forest as branches fell around them. The fire had caught up to them and it engulfed the trees around them, including the roots and smaller plants closer to the forest bed. As they ran, they could hear the occasional whirring of the daggers followed by the cries of one of their own, being mauled by the savage blenders. Despite their fears, they turned to fight the unseen blenders, and the bloody clashes resulted in the occasional victory for one of Ergol’s men. Davydd ran after Sam, trying to follow the trail he left. His dagger whirled faster and hummed.

“Davydd! Behind you!” Vannera yelled.

Davydd unsheathed his sword and rolled to his left, dodging the slam of a blender’s arm and claws, aimed to rip him to shreds on the first blow. The whirling dagger was taking its effect, and the blender staggered and howled loudly, while it covered its ears with its arms. The dagger projected forward and pierced the blender in the abdomen. It wailed in pain and tried to rip the dagger from its belly, but Matilom had spelled them so that they could not be removed, once they had impaled their victims. Davydd seized the opportunity to plunge his sword deep into the chest of the blender. The dying creature wailed loudly and extended its claws in a last ditch effort to slay Davydd. However, its hand never made it that far. An unseen weapon opened up a deep wound on the blender’s arm, which quickly dug through the entire arm until it had been cut off from the elbow joint.

“Thank you Leo.” Davydd said as he sprinted away.

Baximus blocked four blows by four different blenders in quick succession. The blows forced him this way and that, and he struggled to stay on his feet. This wasn’t just an attack. This was meant to be extermination. There were still so many of them and all the while, he could see the figure of the great principal flying overhead. The spinning dagger behind him whirled loudly again. He arched backward as a huge scaly arm shot forward where his upper torso had been. No sooner than he’d finished dodging that blow, did he have to twist his body back up to avoid another one. He grabbed the first blender’s arm which was recoiling, to help pull him upwards and regain his balance. Baximus let go as that blender attempted a swipe at him. He bent low to avoid the blow, which caught the other blender behind him. The distraction gave him an opening and he pivoted on his left leg, slashing with his sword clockwise. All four blenders received deep gashes to their mid-sections and after a series of deep guttural sounds, they slowly dropped to the ground, with their insides spilling out. Baximus was already away from them, running towards the shores.

In another part of the forest, Matilom rode his horse as quickly as he could. He could not use any magic, as all of his concentration was invested in the enchanted daggers, and also rendering himself beyond Feona’s senses. As such, Matilom focused on moving through the forest as quickly as possible. He was the only one without a spinning dagger, for as much as it’s loud whirling noise upset the blender’s enough to make them lose their camouflage, it did not stop them from attacking and thus ripping their victim to shreds. All around him, he could hear the sounds of the battle ensuing. He could tell which side had earned a kill. It was always the blenders who let him know. There was a loud and powerful roar when a blender killed a human, while a shriek and cry of pain was heard when a blender had met its end. The deaths of the young men tore at Matilom’s conscience. He battled between throwing caution to the wind by helping them now, and believing in them and thus saving himself for the long haul when he would perhaps be more useful. He knew that if he even so much as revealed himself, Feona would claim his soul.

“Coward!” He cursed at himself under his breath. His breathing was heavy and labored now, and as the horse galloped on, he lurched over and wrapped his arms around himself. He didn’t even notice that he had let go of his staff which fell on a tree root and made a noisy thud as it did. Matilom soon followed. The horse neighed loudly and galloped away through the forest. Matilom got to his feet and held his breath as the blenders closed in on his location. He could barely make out two of them. Their figures just barely distorted the things around them as they moved. He could hear them and feel their stares on him and yet he did not move or make a sound. There was a loud growl and then the figures prepared to attack. Matilom took a deep breath and lifted up his palms. If he was going to die, he’d rather it be by Feona than these monsters. He dispelled the magic that hid him from Feona’s view, as fire began to form and encircle his hands very quickly. The fire did not touch or burn him, even though his hands shone bright red and the heat radiating from the flames was almost unbearable for the blenders. They started to pull back. Matilom let out a loud yell and released the flames. They rushed forward from his arms and engulfed the blenders, including their surroundings. The monsters let out loud screams of pain, running around helplessly as the flames burned through their scales and devoured them alive. Matilom took deep breaths of relief and bent down to pick up his staff. When he straightened back up, Feona was standing in front of him. In that moment, terror seized Matilom. He looked directly at the goddess of death. Fear would not let him break his gaze, though he tried his best to hide the dread that had engulfed him.

“Two decades and three years you have eluded me wizard.”

“O… Oh my. It’s been that long already? I really thought it was shorter than that.”

“Don’t worry wizard. It won’t be longer than this.” Feona reached back with her gauntlet and thrust it forward towards Matilom’s chest. Matilom held his breath and braced for the worst, but Feona’s hand never reached his chest. A portal opened up in front of Matilom and he was immediately dragged in. Feona slowly pulled her hand back and sighed heavily. Jaynea appeared behind her at that moment.

“He has evaded me once again. That mortal… Max, had to master one of the most useful powers of mine didn’t he?”

“You… could always take it away.” Jaynea said shrugging.

Feona looked at her.

“You know I can’t do that… without consequences.”

They both observed Segmiatus dive under a thick tree root that had risen above soil level to evade a blender’s blow. The blender took a step forward but one of Matilom’s spelled daggers whirled loudly and impaled the blender in the foot. The blender stumbled and fell beside Segmiatus on its back, exposing its belly. Segmiatus quickly got up to his feet and stabbed repeatedly, until the blender was dead. He heaved and panted, trying to regain his breath.

“Oh my Feona.” He exclaimed under his breath as he darted off again.

Feona sighed again.

“And I absolutely hate it when he says that.”

Jaynea could barely suppress a smile.

 

The portal opened up and Max pulled out a weakened Matilom.

“That was a close one master.” sighed Max in relief.

“Thanks to you I live to take another breath.” Matilom said in gratitude.

He caught Vannera staring at him curiously, out of the corner of his eye. “Is something the matter other than my close encounter with death?”

“Well… there’s… this black aura around you… and it’s pulsating outwards. It is barely there and then it’s really there but it’s…”

Matilom took another deep breath and slowly began to sit up.

“…it’s fading away. What is it?” Vannera asked.

“I didn’t think you’d be able to see life energies this quickly. The stress of this battle must have forced a monumental improvement to your sight.”

“So I see your life energy?”

“Yes, and because you see it as a black pulsating light, it means I was close to death.”

“I… see… Well… it’s a blue-white now.”

“All mortals have a blue-white aura as the color of their life force, except for the dragol, who have a violet or purple aura. Blue and white are the colors of Lynda, the goddess of life.”

Vannera looked all around her, at the trees, their branches and leaves. She looked at the birds and all the other animals living on the upper canopy of the forest and those living on the forest bed. Vannera then turned her gaze to Max. All of them including Max had the same blue-white aura around them. However, the auras seemed to have different characters. Some were steady, while others seemed to move and shape shift the way tongues of fire do as they burn through an object, others still pulsated at different rates.

“This… is… incredible.” Vannera said as she was awestruck. She turned to Matilom.

“Do god…”

“We have to move, my child.” Matilom said interrupting her.

“Max can you transport both of us and still cover the area.”

Max nodded and three portals instantly opened up, enveloping the three of them before closing up.

Davydd pressed his back to a tree trunk and slid out of Balek’s line of sight. He waited till he could no longer hear the flapping wings of the principal and bolted off again. At this point, he was certain that the principal was looking for him. He wondered if he was the main reason for this attack and for all the lives that had been lost. Davydd felt sick to his stomach, for he knew answer to those questions. One of Ergol’s men ran past him, but Davydd caught hold of the man’s left shoulder, pulling him back towards him. The man whirled around screaming, as he thrust his sword at Davydd. Davydd parried the attack and grabbed the man by the neck. He pulled him around and slammed his back into a tree trunk, fiercely but surprisingly quietly. His vice like grip had cut off the man’s air and silenced the scream. When the man had calmed down, Davydd slowly released his grip.

“How many of your men are still alive?”

They both coughed violently as the smoke from the fire thickened in the air around them.

“I don’t know. It’s been horrible. All I hear are screams. Sometimes I know who it is… sometimes I don’t. I’ve killed and killed. Yet they come.”

“We are near the shore my friend. Do not give up.”

“And when we get to the shore, what do we do?”

“We fight, we survive, and we live. But we do not give up.”

The man nodded his head frantically.

“Come. The whirling has stopped. Let us move.”

They darted through the forest once more, and soon the vegetation began to thin out. As they neared a clearing, they could see that it was the sea shore covered in white sand. They could also see that the other members of the group had made it there safely, including a few of Ergol’s men and Ergol himself. Davydd took a quick look at them and noticed the absence of Max, Matilom and Vannera. He wondered where they were and if they were safe and began to slow down.

“What’s the matter?” The man of Windhaven asked.

“Nothing. Go ahead. I have to look for some others.”

Ergol’s man ran ahead into the clearing as Davydd began to turn around.

“Davydd!!!!”

Davydd did not think. He didn’t have time to. All he knew was he had heard Vannera’s voice and he had barely evaded the powerful swing of the principal whose aim had been to cleave his head off his shoulders. The sword had missed, and Davydd had rolled behind the dragol, only to get caught in the mid-section by his powerful tail. It sent him careening across the forest floor and into the clearing that was part of the long expanse of the sea shore.

“Davydd!!!” He could hear her footsteps as she ran towards him. Davydd rolled to his left side with great effort as he struggled to get up. Vannera reached him and embraced him as a mother embraces a child she wants to protect.

“No! No! Do not get up.” She pleaded. “Max, Leo and Sam will fight him.”

“He wants me Vannera. I can’t ask anyone else to fight my battles for me.”

“We are fighting with you!”

“Vannera…” Davydd said holding her firmly around her shoulders.

“What did you tell me to be?”

“…A leader…”

“Yes… So… let me lead.”

Davydd struggled to his feet, helped by Vannera, who still held on to him tightly. Davydd caught sight of Balek who was standing in front of Leo, Sam and Max. The trio had their weapons drawn, and had formed a defensive wall in front of Davydd, to keep Balek at bay.

“Take everyone to the ship. Make sure they are safe.”

“But Davydd…”

“Vannera… please…”

Vannera nodded and fell back with Max, Leo and Sam, while Davydd stepped forward towards Balek. Balek stood still trying to regain every ounce of his energy, but also because he was caught off guard by Davydd’s striking resemblance to Rikard Miljorn.

“Incredible.” He finally said.

“You are just like your father… brave and foolish.” He stepped forward.

“You must think you have a chance because you see my injuries. Make no mistake human, I Balek, principal of the dragol, will destroy you despite my waning strength.”

Davydd stood still and did not utter a word.

“Did you really think you would succeed where he failed?” Balek continued.

“He was more worthy an adversary than you ever will be. You…”

“Balek wasn’t it?” Davydd said interrupting the dragol.

“Remember the name human. You…”

“Shut up.” Davydd said calmly as he broke into a slow jog towards the Dragol.

“Do something!” Vannera whispered to Baximus.

Her wide eyes betrayed her terror. Baximus put his hands on her shoulder and squeezed them reassuringly.

“Have faith princess. Have faith. This is his fight now.” Baximus looked down again at his chest and massaged it. It still hurt and he wondered why. It was a mild throbbing pain. He reflected on the kick once more.

Did it really have that much force?

He made up his mind to ask Matilom later.

Davydd ducked under a sideways swipe from Balek, rolled to his right, and pushed up to get behind the principal. He swung forward with his right hand from left to right with his sword, attempting to strike Balek’s back. However Balek was quicker, as he struck Davydd in the side with his tail. The blow sent Davydd straight to the ground once more. He rolled and tumbled across the sand before coming to a halt in the wet sand, where the foamy sea waters repeatedly soaked the shore. Davydd pushed himself up with his hands. It was a slow labored effort. He had only been struck twice, but he felt as though his whole body had been flattened by a boulder. Blood trickled from his lips to the sand as he struggled to his knees and feet. There was a ringing in his ears. The sound was muffled but he heard it still. It was the whooshing sound of something heavy coming down fast on him. Davydd arched and twisted his torso out of the way as Balek’s tail slammed down on the sands. The dust flew up in the air and caused Davydd to shield himself briefly. However, he still had the presence of mind to evade a forward thrust aimed at his head from Balek’s blade. Davydd whirled around and slammed his sword into Balek’s, causing the dragol’s arm to move up and out of the way, leaving the dragol open. Davydd moved in for the fatal blow, but had to block Balek’s tail once more, with his sword sheath. Balek moved in for a counter attack and Davydd blocked and parried equally with both sword and sheath. He ducked in and out of Balek’s blows and made to slash Balek with his sword. Balek prepared for a counter but was caught in the rib section by Davydd’s sheath. Davydd spun his sword in his hand, by its handle and switched to a downward slash. Balek was again open, but brought his tail to block the blow. However, Davydd’s swing was more powerful this time and the sword left a gash in the dragol’s tail. Balek let out a loud groan of pain as Davydd ran to his left side and leaped in the air. His right hand came down hard on the dragol’s face, knocking him to the ground. As Balek fell, he swept Davydd’s feet from under him with his tail, causing him to fall as well. The dragol spun on the ground, his tail a whip lash slamming down hard at where Davydd was. The tail struck its target, but Davydd had long removed himself from harm’s way. The dragol’s back was open. Davydd leaped in the air, his sword strong and steady, his intent unwavering. He came down on Balek with the tip of his sword aimed at Balek’s heart. Balek desperately swung his mighty wavy sword at Davydd’s sword, deflecting it just enough to miss and hit the ground near him. Davydd retrieved his sword and retreated just in time to evade another whiplash like strike from Balek’s tail.

It was a dance with death. Davydd knew that one more direct strike from that massive tail could shatter every bone in his body. However, he could also tell that Balek’s speed was decreasing with every passing moment, and the blow he had delivered to his tail had taken off some of the power it possessed. The other wounds the Dragol had sustained in his fight with Feona were also beginning to take their toll. Balek was up to his feet now and he was breathing heavily.

In the distance, Matilom and the rest watched the battle unfold. Ergol walked up to Matilom.

“Is this the same man I saw fight with fear and hesitation in Windhaven? Wizard… I know he is the son of Rikard Miljorn, but Rikard was a trained warrior and tactician, who honed his skills in combat from the very moment he could walk. A moon ago, Davydd didn’t know how to swing a sword. Yet I see him here fighting, seemingly on equal strength with a dragol who has centuries of experience.”

“The dragol is badly wounded Ergol.” Matilom replied.

“Don’t play with me Matilom!” Ergol said angrily.

“That is a principal. Even wounded he has the power to wipe out portions of an entire army. Yet I see this Davydd strike a blow hard enough to take him off his feet with his bare hand Matilom!”

“Ergol.” Matilom called in a tone that bordered on menacing.

“I implore you to keep your words and thoughts to yourself. Right now, all we can do is to give him the strength of our prayers.”

All the while they were talking, Baximus massaged his chest but not because of the pain. It was fast receding. He massaged unconsciously and deep in thought, absorbing the words of his friends and comrades. He was not alone in this. Vannera was also in her own world, her eyes fixed on the man after her heart. The man who in one moon had been her savior, protector and lover. Who was he really? She understood that the fault was not Davydd’s. He barely knew who he was himself. Her gaze shifted to Matilom. His face was plain, though his eye brows were squeezed together in concentration. His aged face betrayed no other emotions and yet she knew that in that mind of his lay buried all the secrets of Davydd Miljorn and she was determined to get to them. She turned back to Davydd and watched him as he dueled on with Balek, and fell back into her own little world of thoughts.

All mortals have a blue-white aura as the color of their life force. That is what Matilom had told her. That is what he had said. If that was true, then why did Davydd have a golden aura instead?

Davydd blocked Balek’s attempt to cleave his head off and made contact with his sheath, slamming it across the dragol’s face. Balek staggered back and took in a massive amount of air. Davydd saw the fumes seep from Balek’s clenched teeth and immediately ducked when the Dragol opened his mouth. A ball of fire shot out, lighting up the vicinity briefly. Even though his body was pressed completely to the ground, Davydd’s could still feel the searing heat of the fireball prickle his skin. Davydd got back up to his feet as Balek took in another deep breath. As the dragol prepared to bellow once more, Davydd broke into a dash towards him. Balek was caught off guard. He had expected Davydd to run and avoid getting burned rather than charge into the heart of danger. He unleashed his fireball, but it was less powerful than the first one. Davydd dodged it easily and plunged his blade into the Balek’s chest, right below the gaping hole left in the wake of his battle with Feona. The dragol looked at Davydd as he continued to plunge his sword deeper, until it pierced through the other side. Balek slowly fell to his knees. He tried to move his hands but they would not move. He tried to whip his tail at Davydd but it merely shuddered. He was dying. It was a death dealt to him at the hands of a human.

“Unbelievable.” He said as he looked at Davydd, his fast fading consciousness recalling Feona’s words. As far as you know, right you are.

Balek laughed as his eyelids flickered.

“That… Rikard… he definitely left… behind… a relic…” He chuckled some more.

“Your words hold no meaning.” Davydd responded.

“Ah… I know… Shame… you do not know who… who… you are… what you are.” Balek looked up at the sky.

“Well played… Feona.”

His eyes, weary, fell back on Davydd.

“You… should… have… that.” His eyes fell to his sword.

“A trophy?”

“And… proof… that you are… the slayer of Balek… one of the ten principals.”

Balek smiled.

“Omni… will avenge me and reclaim my sword. For now… use it… well.”

The dragol’s head dropped and he was finally silent and still. Davydd slowly withdrew the sword from Balek’s chest. The dragol’s body remained in a kneeling position. Davydd slowly closed Balek’s eyelids and picked up the principal’s sword. He staggered back up to his feet, taking deep breaths as he did. His entire body throbbed in pain. He was so lost in thought that he barely heard the chants all around him. Davydd slowly and wearily turned around to face the men screaming and cheering. They had placed their trust in him so completely, in the direst of circumstances. Davydd stood in awe at his men, taking it all in as they continued to chant his name.

Daaavydd!!! Daaavydd!!!Daaaavydd!!!Daaaavydd!!!!

In the air above, the goddess Feona and Jaynea watched on.

“Finally… his legend is born.” Feona said.

“Was all this for that? To make sure Davydd killed Balek in front of everyone present?”

The goddess of death nodded slowly.

“I must admit, it was not the original plan.” She explained.

“I see… if they didn’t believe in him before, now they will follow him to the ends of Terrianus.”

“Yes… and this feat will spread like wild fire. It should inspire.” Feona added.

“You are terrifying.”

“I know.” Feona said, smiling.

Down below, Segmiatus heaved a sigh of relief and looked up at the sky. Though he could not see them, he happened to be looking in the direction of Feona and Jaynea.

“Can he…?”

“He shouldn’t be able to.” Feona Interjected. They both watched Segmiatus’s lips form the words…

Oh Feona, thank you.

Feona threw her hands up in exasperation.

“Shall we go Jaynea?” She said amidst chuckles from Jaynea.

Down on the ground, amidst the cheers, Baximus had taken Matilom aside.

“Certain things weigh heavy on my mind wizard.”

“What things?” Matilom asked, knowing the answer to his question.

“It’s about Davydd.”

“Ask away Baximus…”

“No lies. I deserve to know.”

The wizard nodded and Baximus returned the gesture.

“I’ll begin by asking this. Where is Davydd’s mother?”

 

 

 

[] CHAPTER NINE (Seeds)

The guard walked up a flight of stairs wide enough for two lines of alternating human traffic to walk through. The walls on either side were aligned with torches to illuminate the way. Once the guard had reached the top of the stairs, he waited for another guard to walk up to him. They both made eye contact and acknowledged each other. The second guard continued on his way, patrolling the upper level of the castle. The first guard waited till he was sure the second was out of sight before continuing along the walkway, turning right unto another walkway that led up to two large doors at its end. There was no other guard on this pathway. The guard broke out into a run, eventually leaping off the side of the walkway, through one of the spaces between the pillars in the walkway, and unto the wall that encompassed the outer castle layer. Suddenly, the guard’s body began to transform and disfigure until it assumed the shape of a lizard like creature; a blender. The transformation ripped most of the attire to shreds and twisted the metallic plates of the armor off. The dragol pulled itself up quietly to the window of the room with the huge doors and peeked inside. The room was dark, save for the wash of moonlight that illuminated an area of the floor near the window the dragol hung from. However, the light was enough to partially reveal the figure of a man lying on the bed, with his back to the window. He was covered in bed sheets and part of his exposed gray locks of hair fell on the bed, behind him. The dragol silently slithered its way inside the room, and swiftly meandered its way on all fours to the man’s bedside. The dragol got up on its hind legs and stared at the man for a brief moment. Then it struck, using its claws to rip through the figure halfway. The bed splintered and broke under the force of the blow and wood scattered everywhere. There was no blood, no torn flesh or broken bones. For a moment, the dragol stood still.

“Oh yes.” A voice said from the corner of the room to the right of the window.

“That’s how the king of Beathaleth dies. Is it not the way it was meant to be?” The figure who owned the voice, stepped into the wash of moonlight and it revealed his face. He was an aged man who looked to be in his early sixties, judging by his wrinkles. His face still conveyed the boisterous strength of his former youth and his brown eyes gleamed with excitement and intensity. He had a short beard which started as a moustache lining his upper lip and then connecting with his lower jaw beard around his mouth area. The beard was black with a few streaks of gray here and there. His hair on the other hand, had more than a few streaks of gray. His bushy eyebrows completed his grumpy look, further accentuated by the scowl which was currently across his face.

“…dragol”. The king of Beathaleth completed.

The king smiled at the dragol’s increasing horror. The dragol made to run but stopped as a sword was brandished in front of its face.

“You can’t leave so soon distinguished guest.” The wielder of the sword said. “You just got here.”

The wielder pivoted his sword so that the tip was facing the dragol’s neck. He wore a crimson red hat with a black band around it and black feather. Just as well, a black cloak covered the upper part of his torso. Underneath that, he wore a crimson buttoned jacket, and black pants that were tucked into black leather boots.

“And to pay king Darius Vitalis a visit nonetheless.” He continued mockingly. “So you see, there is so much you must tell us before you go… or rather, before we let you leave.”

Other guards emerged from the darkness in the room with swords and spears pointed at the dragol whose eyes were frantically darting from figure to figure, constantly coming to rest on king Vitalis.

“Make up your mind beast.” The sword wielder said. His blade tip threatened to end the dragol’s life. Suddenly the dragol whirled around; using its tail to knock the sword out of the wielder’s hand, simultaneously pushing him to the ground. It leaped towards king Vitalis, but was impaled in the shoulder by one of the spear wielding guards. The dragol howled loudly and leapt out the window it had come in from, bolting its way through the palace compound.

“Give chase!” barked King Vitalis. “Sound the alarm bells and notify all guards of the dragol’s presence. Do not kill it. We need to capture it alive!”

“Yes your majesty!!” The guards said in unison as they filed out. The sword wielder had gotten back on his feet and retrieved his sword.

“Obin.” The king said, addressing the wielder.

“My apologies your highness. I let it escape.” Obin replied, somberly.

“It hasn’t escaped yet, Obin. See to it that it doesn’t.”

“At once.”

The king sighed deeply.

“Your highness?” Obin asked out of curiosity.

“It’s that troublesome Angwelethean wizard. He’s always been a harbinger of bad news.”

“He seems to be right most of the time your highness.”

“That he is… unfortunately. Now go.”

With that, Obin leaped out of the window as well. As he fell, he pointed his sword towards the ground. At first nothing happened, and then seemingly out of nothing, a skeletal structure began to form rapidly, starting from the hoof upwards. As it formed, so did the nerves, blood vessels and muscles. Finally, the skin was formed just as Obin hit the horse’s back causing it to neigh. He winced in pain from the impact.

“Not one of my best ideas.” He said between gnashed teeth. With a quick pat on the side of the horse, he was off racing in the direction the dragol had gone.

The dragol was up ahead, zigzagging through the streets of the castle’s compound in order to avoid the fusillade of arrows that were being sent its way. It knew it had to get beyond the enormous walls of King Vitalis’s castle to have any chance of escape. As the dragol leaped in the air and over one of the small buildings lining the street, an arrow struck its side. The force of impact knocked it slightly off course, causing it to fall. The dragol quickly got up and leaped over a sword slash by one of the Beathalethean soldiers. As it pivoted in mid-air, it reached out and slashed at the face of the soldier that had attacked it, nearly ripping it off. The soldier fell to the ground dead, just as the dragol landed on its feet. No sooner had it landed than it was dodging swipes by two other guards, and backing into the wall of the building it had tried to leap over. The dragol bent down low to avoid swipes from both sides and used its tail to take the guards feet from under them. As it moved in for the kill, it was impaled in the abdomen by another arrow from the archers who moved in tandem with the other soldiers in their pursuit of it. The dragol howled in pain and leaped on top of the building. The soldiers gave chase on the ground while the dragol leaped from roof top to roof top. A guard who had climbed up onto one of the rooftops jumped out in front of the dragol and attempted to stab it in the chest, but he was quickly and brutally mauled with claws and teeth. The dragol picked up the guard’s long sword.

“Where is he?” shouted a soldier on the ground.

“I don’t see him!” A second soldier replied.

“He must still be on the rooftops. Get up there and check!” The first soldier barked.

“Do you see anything?” The second soldier asked a third soldier on the rooftop.

“No. But there is a pool of blood here.” The third soldier responded.

“Well get down here. Help us look for him. We must take him alive.”

The third soldier nodded and began climbing down after the second soldier who had climbed up. The first soldier had already headed off in another direction, in search of the dragol. As the other two soldiers continued searching for the dragol, the third soldier began to slowly unsheathe his sword. He began walking faster, gaining ground on the second. When he was right behind him he lifted up his sword and stabbed down. The clang of metal startled the second soldier who looked behind him to see Obin blocking the third soldier’s sword.

“Wh… why?” The second soldier asked.

“Why?” Obin asked. “This man you see here is the dragol we are looking for. Blenders they are called, but this one is an alpha blender… a stronger breed. Blenders are the weakest of the dragol but one of the most lethal if you ask me. They can turn into any being they come in contact with or kill and they can become invisible or change the color of their skin to match their surroundings. Very smart creatures they are.”

“My Lynda!” The soldier exclaimed.

“Ah… exactly.” Obin concurred. “Retreat for now soldier.”

“What? My lord I cannot possibly…”

“Soldier… if you stay here, this thing will kill you or if you are lucky, you’ll kill it out of fear. I have our majesty’s orders to bring it back alive. Now retreat. You’ll only hinder me.” Obin said as he continued to push back on the dragol’s sword.

“Y…yes my lord.” The soldier retreated and began to convey Obin’s wishes to the rest of the pursuing soldiers. Obin turned to the dragol, still in the guise of the soldier it had killed.

“Now then. Shall we begin?”

The dragol reached back and swung down with sword in hand. Despite being in the guise of the soldier, the beastly strength was still very much there. The ground in which Obin had stood was cracked by the blow of the sword. The dragol had instantly launched into a thrusting attack but Obin sidestepped the attack and swung horizontally with his sword, flat face first towards the dragol’s neck. Obin’s sword was an unusually shaped one. It started out at standard length but widened all the way to the tip which was at an angle, as the cutting side was longer than the dull side. Therefore the top of the sword blade was slanted. Also, through the length of the sword, were five small holes in the center of the blade that glowed with a bluish-white magical energy and left a streak of said colors in the wake of the blade, whenever he swung.

The dragol had managed to avoid Obin’s counter attack and swung with its tail, which it had temporarily released, at Obin. Obin moved in close to the dragol, to escape the impact of the loose part of the tail. He used his sword handle and left hand to parry what would have been a quick succession of fatal blows by the dragol’s temporarily released left claw. Obin backed into the dragol and yanked it by the neck, twisting it over his shoulder, and slamming it forcefully on the ground. His foot came down forcefully towards the beast’s head, but the dragol rolled out of the way, and pushed itself back up to its feet just in time to avoid the follow up swipe of Obin’s sword that would have surely lacerated its stomach. The dragol made to take a swing of its own but Obin parried and made a dash for the dragol’s left side. Before the dragol could react, Obin had slashed through its left torso and also down on its left thigh. The dragol fell to one knee, but staggered back up as it oscillated between its true form and the form of the guard it had last killed.

“It is getting harder to keep up appearances isn’t it?”

The dragol glared at Obin as they both slowly encircled each other. Obin observed the dragol and noticed its arrow wounds, including the ones he had just inflicted.

“Wouldn’t it be easier to lay down your sword and give in? Why go through more pain?”

“To let myself be captured by a mere human? The thought repulses me.” The dragol said, settling on assuming its original form. It launched itself at Obin.

“I’m glad it does.” Obin said as he tilted his hat lower on his head and began to outmaneuver the dragol, while negating all its attacks. Obin moved swiftly, and seemingly effortlessly. He was deceptively fast for being a fairly tall and yet muscular man. His strength was unquestioned. The dragol was panicking and Obin could tell. He smiled as he quickly parried three swipes by the dragol and opened up a gash in its chest before it could react. The dragol staggered forward and made to attack again, but froze when it saw the glowing essence from Obin’s sword brighten and pulsate. The holes in the blade suddenly fired a pulse of energy at the dragol, knocking it to the ground instantly. The dragol made to get up but could not move. Its entire body throbbed in pain. When it looked up, it could see that the tip of Obin’s blade was pointed in between its eyes.

“You will pry out no words of importance from me.” The dragol said defiantly in a deep masculine voice.

“Humans don’t need to hear the words of a pathetic lizard. There are other ways to know what is necessary. But, before we begin, I have one question for you. How repulsed are you now?”

 

King Sidion Vror sat in the all too familiar secret meeting room with the all too familiar principals and his trusted death class soldier, Trudor. However, there was one stark difference to this meeting. A chair was noticeably vacant.

“Two moons ago, Balek stated that he sensed the Miljorn aura around you.” Viritania said. “We sent him to confirm this, and to exterminate Rikard Miljorn’s offspring. Balek was instead, killed by this… Davydd Miljorn as you call him.”

“It was an unfortunate circumstance.” Sidion Vror said almost exasperated.

The truth was he secretly rejoiced at the death of Balek. The fewer principals there were to deal with, the better. Besides, he never did like Balek. Not that he liked any of the dragol, but Balek was an especially obnoxious dragol. What shocked him was the fact that Davydd had actually managed to kill a dragol, and not just any dragol. He had taken down a principal. The last time any human did that was two decades and three years ago, when Rikard Miljorn single-handedly defeated three. And the last time before that? Well… it had never been done before that.

“Unfortunate?” Viritania asked, obviously infuriated. “You lied to us about the reason for your trip. Now this Davydd Miljorn poses a threat to our plans.”

“I will deal with the matter of Davydd accordingly. I faced him. He is young, inexperienced and guided by a set of ideals that are not his own, but rather inherited. Once I have found him, and the gauntlet of Feona, I will crush those inherited ideals once and for all.”

“Do it expediently Sidion.” Another dragol said. He was not sitting at the table and revealed himself as he walked into the wash of moonlight coming in from the skylight in the ceiling above.

“O… Omni…” Sidion said, momentarily losing his composure.

“King… Vror. One of our seeds was killed two days ago in Beathaleth. They were well informed of our seed’s presence. Do you know who else is well aware of our current plan?”

Sidion Vror did not attempt to respond.

“I take it that you do.” Omni’s voice was full of deathly intent as he made his way to Sidion Vror’s chair.

“If you do not take care of Davydd Miljorn and his troublesome group, if you let us find him first, your daughter will experience a most excruciating death. This I promise you.”

Omni noticed Sidion’s look of terror and smiled.

“Yes king Vror, we know she’s alive. Her death at this point would be meaningless, so deliver Davydd’s head and she lives. Fail to do so and I will personally rip her head from her neck in front of you, after subjecting you to watch her suffer exceedingly.”

Omni, who had turned his back on Sidion while talking, and had his hands behind his back, turned his head to glare at Sidion.

“Now then, will we be hearing of any more unfortunate circumstances?”

Sidion shook his head, signaling a no.

“I will… take care of this.”

Omni turned to look at Trudor, who flashed him a glance and then looked away.

“Good.” Omni said. “I know you will. Do not worry human, the sooner you find the gauntlet and kill that boy, the sooner all your worries will be distant memories. Get to work. Oh and one more thing. The fact that I am here should tell you something. Our restrictions will not last forever Sidion.”

And with that, all the dragol were instantly gone, leaving the two men sitting in silence. After a short while Sidion spoke.

“Trudor, assemble as many soldiers as you can for my ship. Select death, undertaker and executioner class soldiers, and no one lower. Send word to prep my ship! We leave in five days.”

“What is our destination your majesty?” Trudor said, getting up.

“Sangwa.”

“We leave for Beathaleth your majesty?”

“Yes… we leave for Beathaleth.”

Trudor slowly nodded. “At once your majesty.”

“I will be taking Farok with me on this trip, not you. You will stay behind and preside over matters in my absence. Nistam will be at your command, but remember his loyalty lies with me.”

“As does mine, your majesty.”

“Good. From this moment we are to assume that king Darius is no longer our ally, as I am sure Matilom made him well aware of our plans here.”

“And king Darius believed him?”

“It’s no surprise. I should have foreseen such an event. They have always maintained a beneficial relationship and there is a fair amount of trust between them. Your first task will be to increase our military presence at our outposts, borders and shores. Despite their friendship, I doubt king Darius is the only one that troublesome wizard has managed to convince. Go now Trudor. Time is a luxury we do not have.”

“Your majesty.” Trudor said as he bowed and left the room.

 

The ship arrived at the docks of Sangwa just as darkness had begun to rapidly envelop the port city. As dock workers began to frantically secure the huge sea vessel, screaming commands at each other as they did, a step ladder was deployed from the side of the ship hull, coming down and resting gently on the dock’s platform. Its members began to slowly disembark soon after. Among them were Ergol and his men, Matilom, Sam, Leo, Max, Baximus, Davydd, Vannera and Segmiatus. Davydd walked beside Vannera, constantly stealing glances at her but not getting any in response. Vannera could feel his eyes on her and she wanted so badly to turn towards him, and say something. Anything. The tension was palpable. But fear would not let her speak to him.

How can I keep looking you in the eyes and not tell you the truth?

“Talk to me, Vannera.”

The princess didn’t respond. She kept walking with her eyes transfixed on something, or nothing at all. Davydd walked in front of her and placed his hands on her shoulders gently.

“Vannera… look at me.”

She slowly lifted her gaze as her green eyes met his.

“What troubles you?” Davydd asked.

“Nothing.” Her response was terse.

Davydd sighed heavily.

“I do not want to call you a liar, and yet I can’t tell you I don’t believe you, without implying as much.”

Vannera took in a deep breath and swallowed, keeping her lips pressed almost as though she was fighting back the words that struggled to escape from her lips. She looked at him knowing that the truth he sought from her was emanating from him, it was all around him and she could see it as clearly as she could see the lights beyond him in the inns and taverns near the dock. A chilly breeze was now blowing in and caused her to lean in to him, resting her head on his chest. She looked up at him and kissed him softly as she did.

“We should get going. It is unwise to stand out here for too long.”

Davydd nodded in agreement and stepped aside, letting her walk ahead of him. He stood watching her for a moment.

“What troubles you?” Max asked.

“What troubles her?” Davydd responded.

“Mmmm… women. They are the great mystery of life.”

“Have I wronged her Max?”

“Who says you did?”

“Then what could be the matter?”

Max shrugged.

“You really want to know the answer?” He finally asked.

Davydd shot him an exasperated look.

“Alright, alright.” Max said upon seeing Davydd’s frustration.

“Wait for it.”

“Max I don’t have time for…”

“Davydd… if you really want to know the answer, wait for it. Now, we are in a new town, so let’s become one with it shall we? And I’m looking at the best way to do that. Isn’t that so?” Max turned to Sam and Leo who were heading their way, after helping to off-load some of the cargo from the ship.

“Don’t forget about me.” Segmiatus said joining them. “It’ll be just like old times right Davydd?” Segmiatus laughed along with the others and Davydd joined in.

“I suppose so. Just don’t get into any fights this time.”

“I dare not, especially if you are too busy with the women to help me.”

The group began walking towards the town laughing and joking as they did.

Matilom, Baximus and Ergol watched as the younger men went off.

“Remember when we were like that?” Ergol asked.

“I don’t remember.” Matilom responded, drawing laughter from both Ergol and Baximus.

“Of course you don’t.” Ergol said. “Your time was up decades ago you old relic.”

“Right you are.” Matilom concurred. “But alas, I have unfinished business and a service to the Miljorns. I can rest afterwards.”

“Let us enjoy these few days of calm while we have it. We could all use a bit of well-deserved resting time.” And with that, they made their way to the inns of Sangwa.

In a room at one of those inns, Princess Vannera stood by the balcony and gazed in the direction of the taverns. In one of those taverns, was Davydd Miljorn. Even from this distance, she could see him as clear as day. He was unique. He sat like a diamond among stones. And yet he knew not who he really was.

I don’t want to call you a liar…

Hadn’t he been denied the truth long enough? She recollected the burning anger she felt when she discovered what her father was really up to, or when that discovery had nearly cost her, her life. There was also the anger she felt as she listened to Baximus tear Davydd’s reality apart with the truth on the night he was rescued from the outpost. She had secretly resolved then and there never to protect him with a lie. Yet here she was, ‘protecting’ him with the absence of truth. She made up her mind. She would wait on him, and when he returned to their room, she would tell him the truth. He deserved that much. But she would consult with Matilom first. With her resolve solidified, she lay down to rest a little while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[] CHAPTER TEN (The man and the goddess)

A lady sat on the ground in her circularly shaped chambers lined with tall bright white columns that towered up for seemingly forever. The floor of her chambers was translucent and emanated a blue hue. The sphere of Terrianus could be seen, almost as an image, through the translucent floor, along with all the other realms the lady had created. She sat with her legs crossed, head hung low and unmoving, in a meditative state. Her bronze like skin glistened in its stillness and her golden hair fell all the way to her lower back.

“How long do you plan on contemplating your decision, Lynda?”

Lynda slowly raised her head and looked behind her. A man stood behind her with his arms folded and leaning against one of the columns. His skin translucent skin was a teal – greenish color and when one looked at him, it seemed as though one could see all that is through his skin. His very essence was dissolved into the space about him, his eyes were a glowing white with no pupils and his hair was the same color as his skin. The teal skinned man wore a white top with a golden chest plate above it, white pants and golden metallic boots. He also had golden gauntlets on either arm, as well as a cape the same color as his skin and translucency. He unfolded his arms and began walking towards Lynda. When he got there, he sat down beside her in silence for a while. They both looked at each other and smiled.

“You look worried.” He finally said.

“It is painfully obvious isn’t it Arthros?”

Arthros nodded.

“So to what do I owe this visit from the father of void and all that is?”

“I am a concerned brother.”

Lynda smiled and looked down at Terrianus and then at Hovan.

“Have you come to dissuade me then?”

“I have merely come to make sure you are sure of this.”

Lynda nodded in understanding.

“And what do the others think?”

“My twin Barthros thinks you were crazy to involve yourself so directly, decades ago. But like the others, he preoccupies himself with his own duties. What about your twin?”

“Feona? You know her. She is unpredictable as always, but… I think she means well.” Lynda recalled Feona’s words to her during Balek’s hunt for Davydd.

We all steer the hand of fate one way or another, gods and humans alike. What are you prepared to do?

“I know what I have to do Arthros.”

“I know… that if you go… there’s a chance you won’t come back… in time.”

“I am needed.” Lynda said as she got up. She reached out her hand in front of her and a long sword in a white sheath floated into her grasp. When she held it, it dissolved into a bracelet on her right hand. Arthros laughed under his breath.

“What amuses you?” Lynda asked.

“I almost pray the dragol attacks with an army. It has been a while since I witnessed you ruthlessly lay waste to our enemies with your two swords.”

Lynda smiled.

“Alas I shall have one. King Vitalis has the other after all.”

“I am sure you will find a way. Besides, it would seem you have a successor. You must be proud.”

Lynda walked to Arthros and wrapped her arms around him. She pressed a kiss on his cheek.

“Thank you, brother.”

Arthros nodded.

“Remember, the more you interfere, the more you lose your godly nature, until you eventually will become mortal. If you do, you will not regain your powers till…”

“I know Arthros… You worry too much. I’ll be fine.”

“Take care of yourself Lynda.”

Lynda nodded as she used her fingers to open up a shining, pulsating tear much like the one Feona and Jaynea used. She looked back at Arthros one more time and he nodded slowly, reassuringly. She returned the nod and walked through the tear. It closed behind her.

“Are you fine, with letting her go this way?” Arthros said after the tear had closed.

“I couldn’t have changed her mind even if I tried.” Feona walked in from the shadows.

“You know what I mean. You didn’t say goodbye.”

“Who says this is goodbye? You forget whom we speak about. My twin is the goddess of life for a reason. I won’t be leading her over the sea of lost souls anytime soon.”

Arthros nodded.

“A war is coming Feona. If she turns mortal…”

“She intends to.” Feona interjected.

“What?”

“What is a human, Arthros? Humans are merely us without our powers, and our immortality. However, they have immortal souls though still human by nature. When she turns mortal she won’t be human, merely a mortal god, but a god nonetheless.”

“So the dragol would be fighting us directly instead…” Arthros shook his head as the realization sank in. “She’s offering herself as a sacrificial lamb.”

“No. She is merely steering the hand of fate. Do not underestimate our sister. Let us go brother. It is as you say. A war is coming, and we have much preparation to make.”

 

The front door to the house located high up on a hill opened up. The house had a short fence that went all the way around it in a wide perimeter, forming a fairly large compound. There was a separate building – which served as a barn – in the compound. The main house was made of wood and had two floors. A man walked through the front door and watered some flower pots that were sitting on the front porch’s fence. He was tall and strongly built. His muscles rippled with every move he made, a product of a highly trained body ready to uncoil into action when need be. His long brown hair and layer of brown beard seemed to accentuate his looks, and his deep-sea blue eyes were piercing. As he bent low to water the next flower pot, he caught sight of a figure standing at the fence, from the corner of his eyes. He turned to see a lady open the gate to his compound and slowly make her way towards him. Strands of her golden hair flew in the wind, and her bronze-like skin glimmered in the early morning sun. As Lady Lynda made her way to the man’s home, her lips parted unconsciously and she breathed in a tad bit heavier. She could feel her godly essence erupt and swirl inside her and her skin prickled from the heightened heat. When she got to the steps that led up to the porch, she looked up at the man who was standing there to receive her.

He smiled at her and extended his right hand towards her. She returned the smile, taking his hand and he led her inside his home. They walked through the dining area and sat together on the lone sofa in his living room, facing the fire place. They sat in silence for a while, before the man spoke.

“I know why you are here.”

She looked at him and observed his strong facial features. She beheld his form and his aura and it took her back to days long placed in a box of memories. She could also see the anxiousness on his face, though he tried his best to conceal them.

“I know you don’t want to be here… right now.” She finally responded.

He looked at her and smiled.

“Have you come to put me at ease angel?”

“Not just that.”

“You know you don’t need my permission.”

The goddess snuggled up to the man and laid her head on his chest. She could hear his calm strong heart beat and it soothed her, as it always did.

“You are after all, the goddess of life. Creator of all that we see, all that we are.”

She smiled as she ran her hand up and down the side of his arm.

“All that is true… But I am also yours as you are mine, and he needs me. But I had to consult with you first.” She looked at him lovingly. “I have to aid him in discovering his true self.”

“I know… If only your sister had not been so greedy, this would have been over long ago.”

“You know Feona and her nature, as you know me and mine.”

The man looked at the goddess and beheld her beauty. He took in the sight of her bronze skin and beautiful golden hair, her full lips and beautiful face. He observed her curves and womanly features. How long had it been? In this place where time seemed to collapse in on itself, it could have been yesterday or it could have been decades.

“How old is he now?”

“Two decades and three years.”

“Ah. He is a young man.” He smiled.

“He is in your image.” The goddess said smiling as well.

“Does he ask a lot of questions like you?” The man asked.

“I know not what you speak of.” She said as she sat up and folded her arms. The man laughed and leaned forward.

“Is Lady Lynda, the all-powerful goddess and creator of all that is, pouting?”

Lynda glanced at him and then back at the fire place.

“He’s in love.”

“Oh really now. With who if I might ask?”

Lynda took a deep breath.

“Vannera Vror.”

The man sat back and ran his hands through his hair.

“And she loves him back dearly.”

“Of all the girls in Terrianus…”

“Love makes no distinctions… You didn’t fall in love with a girl from Terrianus.”

The man looked at Lynda realizing she was right.

“I worry about how his love for her…”

“He will do fine; as you did… he’ll figure it out… with a little guidance.”

“You are excited aren’t you?”

“I am.” Lynda laughed. “For centuries I’ve been mother to all humanity, but this… this is different.”

The man sighed.

“I only ask one thing of you. Stay…”

“Alive? To whom do you think you are speaking? You have nothing to worry about.”

“There they are. Questions.”

Lynda laughed.

“Alright Lynda. Go.”

“Thank you. I wish you were still in the world of the living. They could use a man like you right now.”

“They have Davydd and soon you. They have all they need… but if it be necessary, I will strike a pact with Barthros and…”

“No. You’ve lived and you lived well. You are resting. No more wars for you.” Lynda got up.

“I have to go now. There is little time.”

She reached out her hand and began to draw open a tear when she felt the man’s touch on her other hand. Contact was made and there it was. A spark and a flame erupted. She whirled around as their lips met in a kiss so powerful it made both bodies tremble with desire. She pulled back and beheld the man she loved.

“R… Rik…”

He put his hands to her lips cutting her off.

“We have some time.” He said smiling.

She attacked him with another sensuous kiss as they spun around slamming each other into the wall next to the fire place. Their lips kept interlocking and Lynda reached out her hand quickly swiping down and pushing Rikard through the tear that opened up. On the other side they both fell out of the tear unto Rikard’s bed upstairs, lips still interlocked and rolling on top of each other, while kissing and groping frenetically. Lynda’s clothes dissolved into nothingness revealing her form and full non-obscured beauty. She tore away at Rikard’s clothes and felt his strength move inside her. She gasped and moaned.

“When… this is over, we’ll have for…”

“Forever can wait. Now Rikard. Now.”

Rikard smiled and from then on no words were spoken, only sounds and movements of the moment.

 

 

Matilom, Baximus, Davydd, Segmiatus and Vannera sat silently behind the huge desk, as the man sitting across from them, examined the old brown crumpled paper that had been handed to him. On the front of the paper, was a graphite image of a gauntlet. It was very similar to the gauntlet worn on the right hand of the goddess Feona. The old man examined it for a while and looked up at the four, who were staring intently at him, as they eagerly awaited his response. He put down the crumpled piece of paper in front of them, and his glasses came off next, resting on the desk.

“I’ve never seen this before.” He finally said.

“Are you sure?” Matilom asked. “It is very unique.”

“I know. That is why in more than fifty years of trading precious metal and prized possessions, a gauntlet such as this would have burned itself in my memory.” He glanced over at the graphite drawing of Feona’s gauntlet once again.

“Alas I cannot remember seeing one such as this. I am sorry I could not help you more.”

He’s lying!

Davydd jerked in his seat.

“Is something the matter my boy?” Baximus asked.

“Did you not hear that?” Davydd asked

“Hear what, Davydd?” Segmiatus wore a look of concern on his face.

“Are you alright?” He continued.

“I’m fine. It seems… we have nothing here then.” Davydd said as he got up.

“This golden gauntlet of power.” Davydd sighed. “It seems we’ll never find it.”

Davydd looked at the man searchingly. Suddenly, like a flash, it was there and then it was gone. It was the look of confusion, not at being uninformed, but at receiving contradictory information.

“Is… something… the matter?” Davydd asked, as his eyes stared piercingly at the old man. The man’s eyes darted up to meet Davydd’s and just as quickly, fell back down.

“I just… hadn’t heard the color… earlier.”

“We never told you the color.” Segmiatus said.

“Yes… yes… you never did.” The man wiped his glasses and put them back on. “But still, I have not seen it.”

“Of course you haven’t.” Davydd said as he leaned forward on the table.

“What do you want?” The man asked leaning backwards instinctively.

“I want the truth. We both know the color of Feona’s gauntlet is not gold. You’ve seen it before… haven’t you?”

The man began to tremble in fear.

“I cannot help you.” He began to clear the contents of his desk into one of the drawers on his right side.

“You should leave. Now!” He bellowed, as his fear gave way to anger.

“Why won’t you help us?” Davydd asked.

The man stopped what he was doing for a moment and looked at Davydd. He sighed heavily.

“It is not that I don’t want to help. It’s…”

The sound of shattering glass through the window, and the sight of the arrow impale itself in the older man’s neck, startled everyone in the room. The man’s shocked gaze at Davydd lasted only a brief moment before his eyes began to roll back into his sockets. He coughed and struggled to breathe before collapsing onto his desk and then slumping to the floor. He would never move of his own free will again.

“Get away from the window.” Baximus said as the group hurriedly got off their seats and pressed against the wall behind the window.

“Dear one, do you mind using your sight to locate the shooter.” Matilom asked, looking at Vannera. Vannera peered at the wall and tried to discern any life auras. However, there were too many and she couldn’t tell who was who.

“Where ever he was, there are many people there. He could be anyone of these auras I see.”

Davydd quickly crouch walked over to the door – which served as the room’s entrance – located on the wall opposite the desk and chairs.

“Ergol.” He called out in a whisper. “Ergol!”

“Yes, son of Rikard.”

Davydd cracked open the door and his eyes found the figure of Ergol standing guard on the left side of the door.

“Did you see anything strange out here?”

“No. What’s happened?”

Davydd opened the door fully to let Ergol in.

“We have an archer assassin. It seems he is alone.” Davydd said as Ergol walked in. As Ergol made his way towards the old man’s body, Baximus put his hand on his shoulder, pulling him down into a crouching position.

“The archer could still be out there.”

“That may be true, but we need to get out of here.” Matilom said.

Davydd made his way slowly over to the old man’s body, staying low the entire time. He extracted the arrow from the body’s neck and examined the metal tip.

“It is just as I thought… a poisoned arrow.”

“Terrifying.” Vannera acknowledged.

“Indeed. This man would still be dead even if the arrow had struck his limbs or just grazed him.”

“How did you know he was telling a lie?” Segmiatus asked as the group turned around and filed out of the room, and down the stairs immediately to the left of the doorway.

“I don’t know.” Responded Davydd, thinking about the mysterious warning he had gotten earlier.

At the bottom of the stairs was another door that led to the street outside.

“If anyone is out there, we are trapped in here.” Segmiatus observed.

“There is only one way to find out.” Baximus said as he pushed on the door which swung outwards. There was a crowd of people standing outside, pointing at the broken window. When they saw them, they pointed and shouted in anger. Baximus quickly shut the door.

“We are trapped in here.” Baximus said.

They ran back upstairs into the dead man’s office and locked the door. Downstairs, Beathalethean soldiers had begun slamming the door, trying to force it open.

“They’ll be here any moment. What do we do?” Ergol asked.

They heard the crashing sound of the door and the footsteps of the soldiers racing up the stairs.

“We brace for the worst.” Baximus said as they all drew their swords and faced the door. Suddenly, a portal opened up, engulfing everyone in there, just as the soldiers kicked through the door into the room. They all fell into another room. As they regained their composure, they could see the worried expressions of Max, Leo and Sam.

“It seems you found yourselves in a bit of trouble.” Leo said

“They shot an arrow at him.” Davydd responded.

“So that’s why the people in the streets were panicked.” Max observed. “We got worried when soldiers began to barge into the shop.”

“This is an unfavorable situation we find ourselves in.” Baximus said with an air of exasperation.

“How so?” Vannera asked.

“Well, some of these people have seen our faces. There’s a dead man in that shop. I’m sure they will ask questions and we will be hunted. We need to leave Sangwa and move in the direction of the field of brave souls.”

“But, we have no clue where the gauntlet is.”

“He’s right Vannera.” Davydd interjected.

“We’ve been here only three days and someone’s dead. We’ve drawn attention to ourselves by asking too many questions. If I had to guess, that archer sent a warning shot to scare us away. If we continue, chances are he… they will reveal themselves again.”

Davydd wiped sweat off his forehead which had collected and was dripping from his face. His hair was also matted. Vannera observed him and worried.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Are you?”

Vannera nodded. He was hiding something from her, as she was from him. She had wavered the night she decided to tell him what she knew. She couldn’t bring herself to as the fear of setting off an unexpected reaction had deadened her tongue. She used her sight to observe his golden aura and for a second, squinted away. It was brighter than before, and was swaying about around him wildly, almost in an agitated manner. Davydd too, was lost in his thoughts.

He’s lying.

It was a feminine voice. One he had never heard before but yet, one that sounded so familiar and comforting. Yet it stirred something inside him that was discomforting. Was it an ache or a pain? It almost felt like his soul jumped at the voice. What’s more, the voice was telling the truth. If his little mind game earlier was a shot in the dark, he had literally hit his target when the unseen archer’s arrow struck his. The man was lying.

Who are you?

There was no response. Was he going mad?

“Sam, Max, Leo.” Baximus called.

“Cover the area and work as a filter between us and whoever might be following us. Ergol, you and your men have helped us this far.”

“And we’ll help you further still.” Ergol said.

“That you will.” Baximus said smiling.

“But not by staying here. In light of new developments, it is important to keep a small group. Ergol, you were once a high ranking Angwelethean soldier, as I was. I need you to go back and rally some of the men.”

“Baximus, what you are asking is impossible. How can I sway the allegiance of those men from Sidion Vror?”

“Not impossible. I understand I have asked you a very difficult task. But you know some of the commanders in the army and you have their respect. Davydd needs an army. We cannot do this, fighting our own people.”

Ergol took a deep breath contemplating Baximus’s words.

“Get them and come back here as soon as you can Ergol.”

Ergol nodded and walked up to Davydd. Both men clasped hands.

“You stay alive, son of Rikard. You stay alive. I will return with men as soon as I can.”

“Thank you Ergol. I promise to keep breathing for as long as it takes to complete this.”

Vannera flashed Davydd a glance, which he caught and swallowed hard.

“And… long after.” He said with a nervous smile.

“Fair enough.” Ergol said nodding. He looked at the others.

“I suppose this is where we part for now. Good luck to you all.” And with that, Ergol turned around and began walking towards the door. Leo followed him and handed him a pendant.

“It’s still daylight. Squeeze this pendant and no one will see you. Its charm should serve you well till you reach the ships where your men are. Ergol nodded and embraced Leo. He turned to steal one last glance at them all before vanishing from sight.

Davydd turned to Matilom.

“So, we wait till dusk to move then?”

Matilom smiled.

“You are gaining familiarity with my ways. Yes we wait till dusk. We need the rest too. Sangwa is the closest port in Beathaleth to the Field of brave souls. However it is still quite a journey.

“It’s already been quite a journey.” Davydd said.

“Not quite yet young one.” Matilom responded.

“Not quite yet.

 

[] CHAPTER ELEVEN (The Enemy Approaches)

The winds howled and swirled, constantly changing directions, sweeping off sheets of ocean water with it, and ferociously spraying them on the sea vessels that plowed through waves large enough to engulf entire mansions. There were three ships, with the one at the center positioned a bit ahead of the other two. On a raised platform near the stern of the central ship, the helmsman stood against the elements fighting to control the direction of the ship. King Sidion Vror walked up to him and gave him an encouraging pat on the shoulder. As if buoyed by it, the helmsman fought harder to keep the ship’s control, expressing his struggles through contorted twists of his face. King Sidion had already left and was walking towards the foremast on the deck. All around, crew members were busy scampering and slipping as they struggled to contain and secure parts of the ship against the storm.

“It seems the gods have granted us an unfavorable journey.” Sidion Vror said as the figure of Farok approached him. Farok nodded in agreement.

“They certainly are not being kind to us, your majesty.”

“Mmm. It begs the question: Do they favor him over me?”

“Him?”

“You know of whom I speak.”

Farok nodded. “That I do.”

“So… your answer?”

Farok stood silent for a while.

“If I may speak truthfully your highness, I think they do favor him.”

Sidion Vror smiled.

“Good answer.”

Farok looked on in silence.

“Why do you follow me Farok?”

“Your highness…” Farok wore a perplexed look. “You are king of Angweleth. I would follow you unto death.”

“What if another was to rise. Would you follow them too?” Sidion turned to face Farok for the first time. “If another were to rise to take my place, and become king of Angweleth, would you serve him?”

Farok took a deep breath before speaking.

“I am an Angwelethean death class soldier. I serve whoever the rightful king of Angweleth is, for the benefit of Angweleth.”

Sidion Vror studied Farok for a while. The younger man had an air of honesty about his words. Sidion nodded and then continued.

“Do you know how I became king of the land of death?”

“As… I know it… the last king, Rikard, died during the Great War with the dragol. His wife and son were then murdered by Baximus Bastien. You were appointed king by the wizard Nistam, as Matilom refused to do so.” Farok looked down before continuing. “But now, the son of Rikard lives as it turns out. Baximus Bastien is his foster father and along with Matilom, they search for the gauntlet of Feona.”

“Ah yes. The gauntlet of Feona.” Sidion said, his eyes looking upward as if in thought.

“I believe I can trust you with these details Farok. What I am about to tell you, no one else in the Angwelethean army knows, not even Trudor. And…” Sidion’s gaze became very fierce.

“You must give me your word Farok that you will not tell Trudor what I am going to tell you.”

“My word to uphold your will, your highness.”

Sidion nodded in acknowledgement.

“There is a reason the dragol have not been able to attack the human realm again, even with the death of Rikard, and with the sword of Feona missing. You see, the gauntlet of Feona is closed up in a fist.”

“A fist your highness?”

“Yes, a fist. It squeezes the heart of a principal.”

“How is this possible?”

“It was a spell cast by Rikard Miljorn before he died. You see, the Dragol are all related to each other. Their hierarchy is borne out of seniority and a growth in abilities, from blenders, all the way to the principals. Not all dragols can develop into full-fledged principals. In fact, there have only been ten.”

“The ten principals.”

Sidion nodded.

“The ten principals. Three were defeated and killed by Rikard Miljorn during the war and Balek was killed two moons ago by Davydd Miljorn. The gauntlet of Feona holds one of the principals’ hearts. One killed by Rikard. He spelled it so that no being with a similar life force could ever cross into the human realm without having it’s life force completely torn from it while crossing, hence killing it. It worked for a time. But alas, it only served as prolonging the inevitable.”

“The dragol still cross over.” Farok observed.

“Yes, but only a few at a time. They developed a way to harness enough chaos energy to send themselves here for a certain amount of time before they had to go back. Every year that passes, Rikard’s spell weakens considerably and more dragol can cross over, for longer periods of time.”

“If I may ask, how do you know about the gauntlet’s current state?”

King Sidion paused for a while before answering.

“Because I was the one who had it removed and stolen.”

Farok’s shock was indescribable.

“W…Why?”

“It really was a favorable card dealt me by mother fate. You see Matilom had been killed during the Great War, just before Rikard Miljorn’s death. However, he had cheated his way back to life and used a considerable amount of his power to conceal himself from Lady Feona. No ordinary mortal would have been able to take the gauntlet off of Rikard’s body. However, there are always a few extraordinary mortals living at any given time. Matilom was one such mortal, but he couldn’t do so without breaking his concealment. The other such mortal is Nistam.”

“You had Nistam take the gauntlet.”

“Yes. And it was he who sensed the nature of Rikard’s spell. On his advice, I gave the gauntlet to a trusted servant and instructed him to stay back in Beathaleth. I knew that many would search for the gauntlet. Bringing it back with me to Angweleth would only serve to endanger the kingdom.”

“Your highness, where in Beathaleth is the servant you left behind?”

“Sangwa. Though he does not know we are headed his way. He ceased sending me word long ago and I dared not pursue the issue. We after all were doing this right under King Darius’s nose. If he were to find out, the consequences would be dire.”

“What happens if Davydd finds the gauntlet your highness?”

“If he finds it, it will respond to his Miljorn blood instantly. He’ll unfold the fist, and release the spell. The annihilation would be over before we take our next breath.”

Farok stood in silence as king Sidion’s intentions were finally becoming clear to him.

“So you see I have to try to stop him. There has to be another way. I have to bide time.”

“As you have been doing all these years… Your highness…” Farok said before continuing.

“Where do I come in?”

“Ah good question.” Sidion smiled.

“In the event that I draw my last breath too soon, I want you to take command of Angweleth’s army until Davydd Miljorn is ready to do so.”

Sidion Vror smiled at the look of shock on Farok’s face.

“But… your highness…”

“Remember what you told me Farok.”

Farok fell silent.

“I intend to continue on my path. I have been on this road too long to sway and I will test his mettle. If we should cross swords again, one man will prevail and that man will be your king. Whatever you do, do not let the dragol sway you as they swayed me and as they have swayed Trudor.”

Farok looked down and away as his thoughts momentarily moved to his comrade.

“Come now. There is much to tell you about the gauntlet, but we have to start with its previous master, the left hand of Feona, Rikard Miljorn.”

 

In a room situated in one of the spires that had elevated from the parched surrounding land, the tall figure of the principal Omni paced back and forth in thought. He had just returned from the realm of the humans, and the news he’d received had left him salivating at the thought of endless possibilities. With Angweleth more or less left without their king, all he and his siblings had to do was wait patiently. It did not matter how long it took. They knew that one day, the spell of Rikard Miljorn would completely wane and they were prepared to bide their time till the very day. However, the possibility that Rikard’s own spawn would let them lose from their ‘prison’ was ironically satisfying and encouraging.

How pleasing it is that the hope you worked so hard to build and gave your life for is going to be torn down by your own son. No revenge could be sweeter.

But this was not revenge enough, for Omni planned to destroy everything Rikard stood for along with the humans. Not a single soul would be spared at the end. It was the only way he could appease his fallen siblings. Omni turned to look at the four marble stone caskets that lined the right wall of the room while vertically standing. On the caskets’ slab like covers, was a hexagonal shape, and three of them had a soft organ placed in it. The organs were red in color, with two being a very pale red, while the third was still a fresh deep red. As he observed the caskets, another figure walked into the room from an opening in the adjacent wall.

“I knew I would find you here.” Viritania said as she walked up to Omni.

“I am merely sharing our progress with our brothers and sister.”

Viritania stared at the caskets for a while. Her amber colored eyes settled on the casket with the deep red organ in its hexagonal holding.

“I can still feel the life force from Balek’s heart. He hears you brother.”

“They all do.” Omni turned to Viritania. “Are we prepared?”

“Yes Omni. As we speak, Firon is gathering the rest of our forces together.”

“Good. Let us hope our wait is not a long one.”

“No matter how long it is, I would wait an eternity.”

Omni nodded.

“Our time will come Viritania. When it does, gods and humans alike shall perish beneath our breath and claws. I will keep them alive just long enough to see us rise above them, while they fall back into the chaos they have so long doomed us to.”

Almost as if in response to his voice, both Omni and Viritania could hear a large, resounding and deafening roar below. They walked out of the resting place of their siblings, unto one of the numerous platforms jutting out of the structure, and looked down below. When the multitude of dragol gathered below saw them, they roared even louder. Omni and Viritania scanned the surrounding land to see that it was filled with a sea of dragol, as far as the eyes could see. Their army was finally ready for war.

 

Dusk was fast approaching, as the group trudged ahead on horses procured by the trio of Sam, Leo and Max. There were seven horses in all, with Davydd and Vannera sharing one. She sat behind him on the horseback, resting her head on his back, her hands wrapped around him. They had been travelling for four days through open lands and scarcely traversed dirt roads, purposely avoiding the main paths Beathaletheans used, so as not to draw suspicion. As dusk approached, they found themselves on a rocky path, with high rising rocky hills on either side. The path and rocks were caked with white dust; a product of the rocks being battered repeatedly by forces of nature. Matilom’s eyes rested on what appeared to be caves in the side of the hilly landscape to the right.

“We’ll rest there for tonight.” He said, pointing to the caves.

“Oh that’s good. My thighs are screaming for mercy.” Sam said as they began heading towards the caves.

Once they got there, and were dismounting their horses, Davydd tapped Baximus on the back.

“Father.”

“Yes Davydd.”

“Walk with me for a moment.”

Baximus followed him for a while as they put some distance between themselves and the caves.

“What is it Davydd?” He finally asked.

Davydd turned around and took a deep breath.

“Back in Gor, at Matilom’s underground lair, I asked you… about my mother.”

Baximus looked down.

“Why have you told me nothing about her father?”

“In time my boy.”

“Matilom said these same words that day Father. It’s been four moons. How much longer must I wait for the answers I seek?”

“Davydd…”

“Father!” Davydd yelled. “I tire of the secrecy. I’ve noticed the way you, Matilom, Ergol and Vannera approach me these days. You are almost scared to look at me. Ever since I fought Balek, you act… like I’m different!”

“No son… it’s not…”

“Where is my mother? Who is… or was she?”

“She’ll come to you in time.”

“She’ll come to me? Is she here? Is she safe?”

Baximus laughed.

“Oh she’s safe indeed. Very safe. Davydd, you aren’t different, you are a special person. You have both your father and mother in you.”

“Why can’t you tell me?”

Baximus looked at Davydd for a while.

“You’ve been told a lot of things that have been hard to digest Davydd. For once, I’d just like for you to hear it from someone whose words might just have more meaning for you, than mine would ever be.”

Davydd slammed his hand on the rocky wall beside him.

“Leave me be for a while.”

“Davydd…”

“Leave!”

Baximus took a step back in surprise at the outburst.

“Alright Davydd… I’ll leave you alone.” Baximus turned around and walked back to the caves, while Davydd sat on a huge rock and looked down at the path below. He stared at it blankly, lost in thought. The last few moons had been a blur. He hunched over as he felt the weight of the moment crushing him, willing him to break. His mind flooded with thoughts:

If you fail, Terrianus is doomed.

If you fail, Vannera and the others will perish.

If you fail, Jaynea’s death, your father’s death would have been in vain.

You have no idea who you really are.

Davydd wasn’t sure when the thought crept into his mind, when he decided to cede to it, or even when his body reacted to it. What he knew, was that he was running as fast as he could, somehow pushing away the fear. The wind rushed through his face as he ran faster and faster. He had no destination in mind but at this point in time, anywhere but with them would do. He stumbled as he ran but kept going, until he was in an area of the terrain, he did not know. He looked behind him and realized he couldn’t retrace his steps. His mind could not think clearly now. Davydd slumped to his side and then rolled to his back. His right cheek was caked with the dust from the rocky ground around him. He could feel it in his hair as well. He didn’t care. He merely looked up at the sky as the stars became increasingly more visible in the ever encroaching darkness. Peace. It was all he asked for and all he wanted. His life was just fine before this. He wanted to forget it all. He wanted to forget that he was the rightful heir to the throne of Angweleth. He wanted to forget that Baximus or was it Ovar – he didn’t know anymore – wasn’t his true father. He wanted to forget Matilom and his students. Vannera… What about her? The thought hurt like a knife through the heart. Davydd closed his eyes and tried not to think. Not long after, he was fast asleep.

 

“Davydd!!” Vannera yelled.

“Quiet!” Matilom pulled her hand and she in turn yanked it away from him.

“Don’t you dare tell me to be quiet!”

“You are going to attract unnecessary attention to us. Do you want that?”

“Davydd is out there. He could die! He could be dead! Do you want that? On your insistence, we didn’t tell him a thing. You! After all he’s been through did you not think it unwise to keep more secrets from him?”

“Vannera…”

“And I believed you; because you with your sly old silver tongue convinced me it was best not to burden him.”

“Vannera.” Baximus stepped in front of her. “Please let go of your heart’s rage for now. We need to find Davydd.”

Vannera inhaled deeply and nodded.

“Yes. You are right. If you had only been honest when you had the chance, he’d be here. Let’s go.”

Vannera turned to walk but jumped suddenly as an arrow struck the ground directly in front of her. It was the same kind of arrow that had impaled the old man’s neck, back in Sangwa.

“Going where if I might ask?” A voice yelled.

The group looked up towards the direction of the voice to see a man crouched high up on one of the huge rocks. His formerly white – now brown – shirt and black pants were tattered and ripped in multiple places. The wind picked up and caught his black scarf which was wrapped around his neck, with the rest of it falling down to his back like a cape. On his hands were dark brown leather bands and black boots completed his attire. The man grinned almost excitedly, revealing browned teeth, as he placed another arrow on his bow and took aim at Vannera. He released the arrow and it flew rapidly towards her. There was a clang as Vannera put her hands up reflexively. When she looked up, Sam was standing in front of her, his sword unsheathed. The arrow was embedded in a rock to the left of the group, with a chink in the metal tip.

The archer looked shocked but quickly regained his composure and brought out another arrow. However, when he looked up, he could feel a dagger on his neck. The dagger pressed in a little slowly, forcing him up on his feet.

“Who are you?” Max asked with a steely voice.

The man laughed throatily.

“Who am I? Or is it who are we?”

At that moment, a group of what appeared to be twenty men emerged from behind various rocks and burst out into a sprint towards the group, yelling and brandishing numerous weapons from swords to axes. The archer up on the rocks seized advantage of the moment and stabbed Max in the thigh with the arrow he had pulled out to shoot. Max screamed and opened up a portal just as the man whirled around with a balled fist. The man missed, and Max who had re-emerged behind him, impaled him in the lower back with one of his daggers and used the handle of the other dagger to strike the man hard across the face. The man fell unconscious. Max quickly dropped down to one knee and ripped a part of the man’s scarf off. He pulled up his pants and inspected the wound, squeezing his thighs until more blood poured out. He winced in pain as he drained the wound of all the bad blood he could. He then quickly tied the ripped piece of clothing tightly around his thigh, and above the wound. When he was done, he picked up the unconscious archer and opened a portal behind him. They were gone in an instant. As the attackers approached Vannera and the rest, she turned to Matilom.

“I need your sword wizard.”

Matilom clasped his hands together and opened them with his left palm perpendicular to the floor and his right hand fingers curved in as if he were holding something. There was a flash of light and a long sword appeared in his hand, with the tip just touching the palm of his left hand. He handed the sword to Vannera, who turned just in time to impale an oncoming attacker in the abdomen. Vannera pushed the sword through until it exited on the other side. She then lashed out a kick to the chest of the mortally wounded man, who slid back out of the sword blade and fell to the ground. Just then Max appeared by her side, carrying the archer on his shoulder. He was crouched on his right knee and was breathing heavily. Vannera studied him for a moment.

“You’re hurt.”

“I’ll… be… fine…”

“It was a poisoned arrow wasn’t it?”

Vannera caught sight of an attacker coming in from her left side and swung to parry his attack. She blocked a second attack to her mid-section and then again when the man swung down vertically on her. It gave her the opening she needed and she kicked the man in his mid-section, causing him to lose his balance. She lashed out ferociously as he fell, opening up a deep gash in his chest with her sword. Vannera turned to look at Max, only to see that he had fallen over to his side. The unconscious archer lay beside him.

“Max!!!” She ran towards him. In front of her, she could see that more attackers were racing towards them. Baximus joined them and helped Max up to his feet.

“Max! Max!”

Max grimaced in pain as his eyes began to roll.

“Max stay awake!” Vannera yelled. She turned to Baximus.

“We need to retreat.”

Baximus nodded in agreement. They began to pull back with Matilom, while Leo, Sam and Segmiatus took the fore.

“Keep retreating!” Segmiatus yelled. “We’ll hold them off.”

“Words of confidence.” Leo said. “I hope there is truth to them. Without Max’s portals, this might very well be our last stand.”

 

 

Wake up!

Davydd closed his eyes tighter and rolled to his side.

Wake up son of Rikard!

The voice stirred something inside of Davydd. It thumped in his chest and he shot up into a sitting position, suddenly drenched in sweat. He could feel his heart pounding and the chilly air made him shiver.

Who are you?

Who I am does not matter. While you sleep and weigh your heart heavy, your friends fight for their lives.

That’s when Davydd heard the sound of metals clashing together. Davydd reached behind him and to his side for his swords but could not find them. It was then he remembered he had left them in anger back at the caves. As he panicked and got up, he caught sight of his two swords on the ground above where his head had been. There they were – Balek’s former blade and his. He stared at them in surprise.

Go Davydd. I will be with you.

Again the voice caused Davydd to jump. His sweating increased and his breathing was labored. But all that was pushed to the rear of his mind, by his sense of urgency. Davydd picked up his swords and broke into a sprint in the direction of the sounds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[] CHAPTER TWELVE (Hello Son)

Segmiatus, holding his shield in his left hand, caught an attacker in the right cheek with it. The man fell to the floor with a thud. Before he could react, he had been impaled in the neck by Segmiatus’s sword. The Angwelethean soldier ducked just in time to avoid being decapitated by another attacker. He swiveled around on his right foot and using his shield as a battering ram, slammed it into the attacker’s chest. The force pushed the attacker back and into others behind him. Segmiatus burst into a sprint and expertly sliced through all who had been knocked off balance. However, he had run too far forward and was now in the midst of about a dozen more men. Initially, he had counted twenty but now he counted fifty strong. How had they followed them for so long and yet manage to remain unnoticed? Segmiatus turned around quickly surveying the men around him. He realized his last moment could be very close, but he intended on taking down as many as possible with him. As the circle of men tightened around him, Segmiatus let out a loud yell of defiance and swung.

 

Davydd was still running towards the sounds, which were getting louder and louder. He thought he’d heard Vannera scream. He thought he just heard Segmiatus scream. Was his mind playing tricks on him? No it wasn’t, because he could still here Segmiatus screaming. Davydd got to the edge of the cliff and down below he could see the circle of men enclose on Segmiatus. There was no way he could make it in time.

Jump.

Davydd looked over the edge. It was fairly high. If he jumped, he would be mortally wounded at best or dead on impact.

You’re a crazy woman

Davydd could hear her laugh.

And I’m a crazy man

Davydd leapt in the air, hands and feet oscillating in a scissor motion as he began to plummet down. The men had pinned down Segmiatus and were about to impale him all at once with their swords, when they heard a loud thud behind them. They turned around to see Davydd, who had been crouched on his left knee, slowly stand back up. There was a depression in the ground were Davydd had landed, as well as cracks that extended all the way from where Davydd stood to where the men had held down Segmiatus. Elsewhere, the fighting had stopped, as the men turned to Davydd, shocked at his sudden appearance in their midst. The silence was almost deafening and then, just as quickly as it came, it was gone. Segmiatus took advantage of his assailants’ break in concentration and sliced through a slew of legs in front of him. A couple of the assailants fell down in pain as Segmiatus fought his way back up to his feet. The rest, who had been attacking Segmiatus, sprinted towards Davydd. Davydd took a step back and planted his left foot on the ground. His right arm reached behind his back, while his left arm reached across his waist. As the men drew nearer, he unsheathed the swords and took a step forward. The first assailant was quickly cut down with a slash to the chest. Davydd wielded both swords expertly in blocking two simultaneous attacks at him from either side. He rolled his right arm clockwise, forcing his sword blade to pivot and push down on the sword of the assailant to his right. Davydd slashed upwards. He ran forwards, leaving his victims behind as they fell to the ground. Now the men who had attacked Segmiatus were cornered between he and Davydd, and both men proceeded to decimate the assailants in between them, from either side. Davydd weaved in and out of would be fatal slashes, his hands firmly gripping his sword handles and wielding them with lethal proficiency, as he sliced through the enemies. He spun around using the swords almost as though they were extensions of his limbs and his execution was frighteningly quick. Davydd side stepped the last assailant’s forward thrust towards him, and clanged his two swords above and under the blade of the assailant’s, sandwiching it. He then flicked his hands counter-clockwise in tandem, yanking the sword out of the frightened man’s hands. Segmiatus lashed out a kick to the man’s face, sending him tumbling to the ground. Davydd was already in the air, his sword tips bearing down on the man’s chest area. There was no time to react. Davydd’s swords pierced through with devastating force as both men glared at each other through gnashed teeth, one knowing he was the victor, the other knowing his time had come. He turned around to see Segmiatus staring at him.

“Not now Segmiatus.” Davydd said as they retreated in the direction of Vannera and the others.

“No not now.” Segmiatus said as they ran with the rest of the assailants hot on their tail. “But definitely later.”

Up ahead, they could see Vannera supporting the slumping weight of Max, with the help of Matilom, as Baximus single-handedly kept more attackers at bay. Davydd and Segmiatus rushed towards them, helping Baximus defeat the rest of their attackers. Behind them, there was more fighting between Leo, Sam and the rest of the assailants. The two students of Matilom broke away and ran towards Segmiatus, Davydd and the rest. When they caught up to them, they turned around to face the oncoming attackers. Suddenly, Davydd’s breathing became a bit more labored and the perspiration around his neck and face was back, only this time it was more pronounced.

“Davydd.” Segmiatus called out. “This is not the time…”

“I know this.” Davydd snapped as he struggled to stand. His whole body was drenched in sweat now.

“Get him to the back.” Segmiatus barked. The assailants were closing the distance. Sam lifted Davydd up and withdrew from the front of the line. He winced under the heat of Davydd’s body and wondered if he had caught an infection during their journey. The assailants were now upon them. That’s when it happened. There was a loud thud right in front of Segmiatus as the ground beneath them seemed to sway and shudder from the force. In front of Segmiatus stood a tall bronze skinned woman, with long golden hair, wearing a glistening white and blue dress. A sword was in her right arm, along with two gauntlets on either arm. Davydd began writhing in pain and convulsing violently. A low groan evolved into a painful scream which then became a primal yell.

“Segmiatus is it?” The woman said without turning back to look at him.

“Yes?” Segmiatus said still in utter shock at the lady in front of him.

“Take him as far away from me as possible.”

Segmiatus nodded and motioned to Sam. They both ran in the opposite direction from the lady who had dropped from the sky.

One of their attackers made to give chase but was caught square in the forehead by a blow from the bronze skinned lady’s left fist. The man’s head snapped back violently before jerking forward again. Blood poured freely out of his gaping mouth as his lifeless body slumped to the ground.

“Pirates, I implore you for your own sake to retreat. If you choose to, you will live for now, until we cross paths again. If you choose to give chase however, your dead friend here would have received mercy from me, for I will ensure that I rip you apart limb from limb, till none can tell one from the other.”

One of the attackers made to move towards her but was stopped by another who was much older.

“Fool! It would be wise to heed her words. Do you not know who this is? Did you not listen to the tales your parents told you as a child? This is Lady Lynda, the queen of life. We should all be so lucky to have such an offer.” He looked at Lynda and bowed fearfully. “We thank you for your kindness and mercy.”

Lynda nodded in return and smiled.

“I thank you for understanding.” She looked down at the lifeless body beside her and back at the group of men. “You may retrieve your fallen. Give him a proper burial as befitting your beliefs.”

With that, Lynda drew down a familiar tear in the space in front of her, and slipped through it, leaving the cowering men behind.

 

The screams were agonizing to hear. The writhing of his body was difficult to watch. Yet the rest watched perplexed as Davydd turned and twisted in excruciating pain. His skin had reddened and vapor from his sweat could be seen rising through his clothes. Nothing Matilom tried had worked and even he was beginning to run out of ideas. Vannera made to move towards Davydd, but was held back by Leo.

“Let go of me!”

“Stay calm. We don’t know what’s wrong with him. If it is indeed an infection, it could spread.”

“This is no infection.” Vannera said as she looked at Davydd. The golden aura surrounding him twisted and shape changed like tongues of fire do as they eat through anything in their path. It would occasionally steady and pulsate, then break form and ‘burn’ again. “This is something else… something to do with his nature.”

“What is his nature?” Segmiatus asked.

Everyone kept quiet.

“Master… what are you keeping from us?” Sam asked walking to where Segmiatus, Leo and Vannera stood while fixating his gaze on Matilom and Baximus.

“I think we deserve to know.” Segmiatus continued. “I do. My friend is suffering. Leo and Sam do. Their friend is battling a poison as we speak.”

They all turned to look at Max, who was shivering in another corner of the cave, covered in a blanket made from animal skin.

“His nature is dual.” The voice of the lady startled them. They turned around to see the bronze skinned lady in their midst once more.

“You again…” Segmiatus said.

“Right now they are at war with each other.” The lady continued, ignoring Segmiatus. “One of them is agitated.”

She walked towards Davydd as his screams got louder and his body began jerking. Vannera began to watch both of them with her ‘sight’. What she saw amazed her. The bronze skinned lady had the same golden aura as Davydd. As she drew closer to Davydd, his aura erupted more wildly and seemed to reach out to meet hers. Vannera gasped.

“That’s her…” She said in almost a whisper.

“That’s who?” Segmiatus asked.

“Breathe.” The bronze-skinned lady said as she knelt down beside Davydd and placed her hand on his chest, right above his heart. “Breathe.”

Davydd grimaced and let out a suppressed yell.

“Take control of it like a feeling you keep suppressed and under your reign. Pull it back in.”

Davydd’s breathing became less labored and steadier. He opened his mouth as if gasping for air and breathed in as deeply as he could. Vannera watched in awe as Davydd’s golden aura receded back into him until it just shrouded him like it did first time she saw it. The lady ran her hand over his head lovingly. Davydd slowly opened his eyes. He saw the slightly blurred image of a beautiful bronze skinned woman with golden hair smiling warmly at him. His body felt like it was smoldering, but it was a relief compared to the agony he had been in for what felt like an eternity. He tried to move, but could not. His limbs would not respond. His eyes could not see past the face in front of him so he leveled his gaze on her again.

“Hello son. Rest for now. I’ll be here when you wake.”

Hello son

Davydd’s heart thumped so hard it could have crushed his ribs. It was the same voice he’d heard at the old man’s room, and the same voice that had awoken him from his slumber and ordered him to make a death defying jump. He wanted answers now. Rest could wait. However, despite his will, his flesh wouldn’t cooperate. He was fading.

“Rest.” The voice said again as Davydd’s eyes closed seemingly of their own free will.

Rest.

 

The warmth of the sunlight gently massaged his eyelids. It was soothing. Davydd turned his head slowly from side to side. He could sense a presence sitting next to him. As his eyes opened, his thoughts were confirmed. He slowly sat up and looked at her. She sat with her knees drawn to her chest, her arms interlocked in front of them and her gaze directed skywards. Her bronze skin glistened in the sunlight and her golden hair shimmered. She emitted a soft radiant glow that was barely noticeable but there nevertheless. Her blue and white dress flowed freely from the shoulder straps down to her feet. Finally, she turned her gaze towards Davydd, her light brown eyes beholding him as one beholds a priceless possession to be protected. She smiled softly.

“You are finally awake.”

Davydd stared at her speechless. Were the memories he seemed to recollect now fabricated? No they couldn’t have been. Her voice was the same one which had spoken to him. And though clearer now, her face was the same one he had fixated on when he was in agony. What had she said to him?

Hello son

His heart jumped again. It wasn’t fabricated. It was real. He could remember the shock he felt through the pain, when he heard it… as he was hearing it now. She had said it just now. Or was it thought it?

“You’re… not human… are you?”

“You’re not entirely human. Are you?”

“I am. I don’t have bronze skin now do I? I don’t… glow.”

“Do humans jump off cliffs and live?”

“Do human mothers ask their sons to jump of cliffs?”

“Do human sons agree to?”

“Would you two knock it off? I can hear you from the other side of Beathaleth.”

They both turned their gaze to see that it was Baximus coming up to them. He had a plate of meat, which he handed to Davydd. It was then Davydd realized how hungry he was.

“Thank you Father.” Davydd said. Suddenly he wore a sad expression on his face as he remembered their last conversation, and the events that ensued thereafter. “Father I am…”

“I have neither quarrel nor ill fillings towards you son.” He looked at Lynda.

“I’ll leave you two for a while.” He said as he turned to go.

When he was out of earshot, the lady laughed.

“Rikard was right. You do ask a lot of questions. Just like me.”

“Rikard? My real fa…” Davydd stopped himself realizing what he was about to say. The lady laughed and gestured to Davydd’s plate of food.

“You should eat before it gets cold.”

Davydd took a bite into the meat and chewed and then took another bite. He felt like a child again and he was in so much shock he couldn’t put together a rational thought. Hence he just ate and ate until there was nothing left on his plate but a few pieces of bone. Davydd licked his fingers. He caught sight of the lady looking at him.

“Don’t stare… it’s embarrassing.”

“Why? You were just hungry. Your body needed to recover.”

“What happened to me?”

“Your godly essence became agitated. It had never been in the presence of another so similar so it was drawn to it, more so when that essence is that of its mother… your mother.”

“So… I’m part god… from you.”

The lady nodded. “You are what we refer to as a halfing.”

“I’m not the first then?”

“No. My brothers have seeded children in the past. Most of them living and dying without knowing who they really are. We gods tend not to stay after our human seeds have been born.”

“Why?”

“We would become mortal and die.”

“Is that why you left?” Davydd asked as a bit of anger seeped into his voice.

“Oh no… My twin sister does not scare me.”

“Your twin…”

“Death… Feona.” Lynda explained.

“You… Then you must be Lady Lynda. You are the goddess of life and the mother of Terrianus.”

Lynda nodded.

“So… I’m your son?” Davydd laughed as if the thought itself was ridiculous. He lifted up his hands and looked at them as though all of a sudden, they were not his.

“The son of the god of life.” He muttered to himself.

Lynda nodded when he looked at her.

Davydd looked at her. He knew it was true. Everything leading up to this moment – the guiding voice, the tug in his heart, the eruption of pain when she first arrived and her soothing him – gave credence to what he knew now. If there was any lingering doubt, their question game had erased it completely.

“If not the fear of death, then why? Why did you leave?” Davydd finally asked.

“The fear of losing you. My presence put you in too much danger, and at the time I was powerless to protect you. I had stayed on Terrianus too long. Baximus was being searched for by Sidion and…”

“And a bronze skinned woman would have drawn too much attention.”

“Not at all.” Lynda said as her glow and skin began to slowly lose its luster and shimmer. She now looked brown skinned and her golden hair was a light shade of black. Her brown eyes remained and she looked fairly the same.

“I see… no one else knew you were you then.” Davydd said

“Only Matilom and your father knew. But not knowing did not sway favor our way. I could still be recognized as the queen of Angweleth. I was as close to being mortal as I could ever be, when I birthed you. After that, your father left… for the last time. My leaving you was part of an intricate lie concocted by Matilom. As you well know, he is of a secretive and wily nature. He does not trust easily either and his patience rivals ours immensely. He did not trust Baximus because for a moment, Baximus had been swayed by Sidion. Therefore, after leaving you in his care he fabricated a story about sending me off to faraway lands that Sidion Vror could not reach.”

“If Matilom did not trust Baximus, why leave me in his care?”

“It was the one reasonable way to hide you without rousing Sidion’s curiosity. I’m sure you understand. Besides, he had cast a spell of protection on you, should Baximus decide to take your life and I was back in the realm of the gods watching over you… as I always have.”

Davydd looked down and nodded his head.

“Son…”

Davydd looked away.

“Why couldn’t you reveal yourself to me? Why couldn’t you show up all these years even once? Why?”

“I am sorry Davydd. I was… I was afraid… I was too afraid to act. I knew that if I came, your life would change forever. I stayed away till the last possible hour.”

“I see. When you dropped from the sky unexpectedly?”

“No Davydd. It was when you almost shot me with an arrow.”

Davydd looked at her perplexed.

“I never… What do you mean?”

Lady Lynda smiled at him.

“Think Davydd. What were you doing before all of this started. What was the last normal thing you did before saving the princess?”

Davydd shook his head as he struggled to remember.

“It was four moons ago. A lot has happened. I was… I was hunting… I had spotted a deer.”

“And you were about to shoot it.”

“Yes I was… I was but it took off. It couldn’t have heard me. I remember thinking about that. How…”

Davydd looked at her. His eyes widened as the realization set in.

“You were the deer?”

Lady Lynda nodded.

“Why then? Why did you pick that day?”

“The dragol were beginning to regain full strength. Their attack on princess Vannera had been the second attack on a human since the end of the Great War. The first was on Vannera’s mother. As one of the seven gods I cannot directly steer the fate of any mortal, including yours.”

She flashed a wry smile.

“But there are many ways to do so indirectly.”

Davydd stared at her before speaking.

“Tell me everything. I want to know everything, about you, my father… our… family.”

Lynda nodded.

“We will have time to talk about everything. But right now, I can tell you the events that transpired after I brought you into this world, to give you a clearer understanding of what needs to be done.”

It was Davydd’s turn to nod in agreement. Lynda began but then stopped. She looked at Davydd, as he looked back at her. He was still in shock, though he tried to mask it. She could also see his pain even as he tried to put on a brave face. A tear fell down her cheek and she wiped it.

“You are so strong. I’m proud of you. I’m so sorry.” The rivulet had become a stream now.

“I’m so sorry.”

She felt his arms wrap around her in a warm embrace. Davydd had his head rested on her bosom. She pulled him close and rocked him gently.

“I have searched for you… my whole life.” Davydd said.

“I know. I know. I’m here now. I’m here. I’ve always been with you, and I love you so much.”

Mother and son stayed locked in their silent embrace, both absorbing the moment and cherishing it, wondering if this would be the first and last time.

 

A fairly large group of men could be seen walking across the barren and rocky terrain, towards an encampment situated haphazardly across the land. The terrain was not level and so the tents were elevated to different heights as the slabs of rocks, and the rises and the crests of the terrain would allow. Men could be seen going about their respective tasks in the encampment. They all wore ragged clothing such that the very unkempt nature of the attires became a uniform of sorts. The large group of men stuck together as they entered the encampment. They made their way past on-lookers, who would occasionally nod their heads in greeting and acknowledgement. Wafts of steam floated away from the meals people cooked and ate in the encampment. In the middle of the encampment, there was a tent much larger than the others around it. At its four corners were four men who stood at attention, with varying weapons in their hands, guarding the tent. The group of men stopped just short of the entrance and a few feet in front of the guards. They all lowered their heads and bent down as a man walked out of the tent’s entrance. At that moment, the two guards who stood at the tent’s front corners raised their weapons up and in unison proclaimed:

All hail Ivan the terrible!

The man towered above the guards by at least another foot. He had an imposing muscular and heavy set figure. He carried a large war hammer which a shiny engraved steel blade head. His hair was long and unkempt and had more than a few gray strands interlocked with its original brown color. He wore a white shirt underneath a black coat. The shirt was unbuttoned at the top which revealed a rather shocking crop of hair on his chest. The leather strap that bound his axe to his back, cut diagonally across his chest and wrapped around to the back, just above his grey and roomy pants. He wore black leather skin boots to complete his outfit. The man gestured for the guards to lower their weapons. He walked up to the kneeling group and scanned their numbers. His eyes settled on the elderly man who had ordered the group’s retreat at Lady Lynda’s offer.

“Horius where’s Kazan?”

“My lord Kazan acted brashly and was taken by the Angwelethean group.”

“What?” The giant Ivan stepped forward. “How did this happen? Horius?”

“My lord he went ahead of us and mounted an attack alone. By the time we emerged, he had been taken by them.”

“And why Horius, haven’t you taken him back?”

“We were going to but…”

“You were going to?”

“My lord!” Horius said as Ivan’s towering figure bared down on him. “My lord, Lady Lynda appeared. She came to their aid just as one of them was struck with… an illness it seems.”

“The gods never interfere with human issues… at least not so easily.” Ivan paced around a bit.

“The one struck with an illness… Can you tell me more about him?”

“All I know is, he was… different. He was not among them when we first attacked. However, he arrived soon after. He jumped from a cliff down to where we battled… and lived.”

“A cliff you say.”

“Yes my lord. It was too high for any mortal to survive.”

“But he was… mortal.” Ivan said as if thinking out loud. “Horius when did his illness start?”

“Right after the goddess Lynda appeared. Why my lord?”

“We need to head back to sea.” Ivan said as he turned back towards his tent.

“My lord?”

“Horius you disappoint me greatly by letting my son fall into their hands. If those are the same people who Kazan spotted asking about that accursed gauntlet in Sangwa, they will be coming for us soon.”

“Kazan would never talk.”

“It would be in his best interest if he did. And I pray he does. Lady Lynda is with them. You understand don’t you Horius?”

“Yes my lord.”

“Good. We depart immediately.”

 

[] CHAPTER THIRTEEN (In the Beginning)

How do you feel Lynda?”

Exhausted. But I’m fine. You are here.”

Rikard Miljorn grabbed her hand and squeezed it affectionately. They both looked at the little baby sleeping in a cot beside the bed.

He looks so peaceful.” Rikard finally said.

Ah yes. He calms your heart so. I can see it.”

Rikard smiled at her as she pulled their clasped hands to her cheek. He leaned in and kissed her softly. She responded just as passionately until he slowly pulled back and smiled again.

Tell me. I’m listening.” Lynda said looking directly at him.

You know me so well.” Rikard said nodding. “The dragol’s forces are depleted and we have them trapped in Beathaleth. They will try to advance past the field of brave souls. Lynda if we can stop them there…”

Then this is finally over.”

Yes. This is finally over.”

Oh Rikard how I long for…” Rikard placed a finger on her lips.

When I return.” He smiled as Lynda nodded. Then, her eyebrows creased together.

If they are trapped near the fields, all principals might be there. This is a last stand after all.”

I am well aware. Sidion has a plan.”

Sidion? Rikard, are you sure it’s okay to involve him so deeply?”

It is a good plan. Besides, I will also have King Vitalis and King Armrok aiding me.”

And if they don’t get there in time?”

They will.”

Lynda sat up and stared silently at her husband.

I wish you didn’t have to go.”

You know I do. I have to end this. I am… out of time.”

Lynda shook her head. “If anyone can do it, it’s you. I believe in you.”

King Rikard nodded, got up and walked over to his son’s cot.

Davydd. I have to leave you for a little while.” He nuzzled Davydd’s little nose and the baby chuckled, lifting his tiny arms to grasp his father’s face. Rikard laughed.

Take care of your mother for me.” He played with Davydd for a little while before lifting his tall frame back up. When he got up, Lynda was standing at the edge of the bed. Her robe fell loosely over her frame and its translucent nature revealed facets of her figure. Rikard looked at her for a while.

Is this one final effort to make me reconsider?”

Is it working?” Lynda said with a smile.

Yes.” He said as he walked up to her.

But you are still going.”

Yes.”

She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him sensuously.

Will you be home when I wake up in the morning?” She whispered in his ear.

Always.” He whispered back.

They embraced in silence for a while before letting go. Rikard looked at her and the baby. He nodded to her and she responded. With that, he was gone.

 

The storm raged as lightning flashed across the skies, briefly lighting up the earth below in a bright white flash before it plunged into darkness and grey again. Lynda stood at the balcony of her room in King Vitalis’s castle. She peered into the distance in the direction of the field of brave souls as her hands rested above each other on her chest. She was breathing heavily.

How is he?” She asked as the pale skinned woman in a brown dress emerged from the shadows.

He is dying. Can’t you see him?”

Lynda gasped and clutched her chest tighter. “I… can’t.”

You have lost almost all of your powers. You need to return.”

I can’t. I have a son.”

Sister, Sidion Vror betrayed Rikard Miljorn. He restrained the forces under his command from aiding Rikard in time. As we speak, Rikard fights for his life against the principals.”

All ten?”

Feona nodded.

How is he faring?”

Two of them are dead and a third is badly hurt.”

Take me there.”

I cannot.”

Feona…”

Lynda. I beseech you to think. You are all but mortal now. If you appeared on the battle field, they will kill you. Furthermore, it is as you say. You have a son. Should you go there, your true nature will be revealed and Sidion will know for sure that he is special. He will come for him with even more ferocity. Even now, if you stay, you endanger him as well. There have been whispers. Twelve years and you have not appeared to age even a little.”

What would you have me do?”

Entrust him to the wizard and return.”

Lynda sighed.

I have to go. Please be careful.”

You are going for his soul are you not?”

That I am.”

Dearest sister of mine, how could you be so greedy?”

We all have our nature sister. This is mine. His time is almost up.”

Lynda choked back tears.

Please… take care of his soul.”

Feona turned around and planted a kiss on her sister’s cheek.

As if you needed to ask. Take Davydd while you have what little godly strength there is in you.”

With that, she vanished into the darkness she came from, behind a bright shimmering light that briefly illuminated Lynda’s figure. Lynda walked away from the balcony and made her way towards Davydd’s cot. She picked up the little Davydd who began wailing.

Shhhh shhhh. I know. I sense it too. Everything will be okay.”

She pressed his little face to her cheek as tears rolled down them.

Lynda!

The voice startled her briefly. It was Rikard.

Lynda I know your powers are waning. You don’t have to talk.

Rikard!!

Lynda put Davydd back in the cot.

Rikard I’m coming to you!

No. Don’t. I am sorry… my love. I will not be able to return as I promised.

It’s okay Rikard. I… I can bring you home.

If you come here Davydd will be orphaned. Stay. I have a plan. I hold in my left hand, one of the principal’s hearts. I will use that spell you taught me.

Rikard you sound weak. If you use it…

I’m not leaving here… alive… Lynda. I will do my best to give Davydd… time. Baximus Bastien is on his way to you. He has been swayed by Sidion… but there is good in him. Please give him time to make his decision. Now go… take Davydd with you… Omni and his siblings have almost found me.

Rikard…

Lynda?

I will be there when you awake in Hovan.

Always…

Lynda nodded and wiped her tears, while turning to Davydd again.

We have to go son.”

You aren’t going anywhere.”

Lynda stopped in her tracks. “Baximus. Are you here to help me?”

No Queen Liliana. I am not.”

Lynda sighed. “I see. Your king trusted you. Do you know this?”

King Vitalis. I want you to pull back your army immediately. I shall briefly recollect my sword from you.

Do not lecture me on trust, especially the one I have with Rikard!”

So then you know… that what you are about to do… is wrong.”

Lady Lynda. We are close to the field of brave souls. King Rikard of Angweleth is there.

King Rikard is dead. If you go, you will die too. Hold your position. I am taking my swords now. It will only be for a moment.

As you wish my lady.

Prepare yourself queen Liliana. Out of respect, I will make this quick.”

You are too kind Baximus.”

Baximus unsheathed his sword and bolted towards Lynda. She stood still for a moment and then bent down. She placed her hands on the ground and two swords materialized in her hands. Baximus swung just as Lynda pivoted around with her left hand and blocked his swing. She twisted her body from left to right, swinging with her right hand, her sword steady. Baximus pulled back and parried her blow, instantly switching to parry her left sword which was coming in. Lynda leaped off the ground into the air, swinging her right sword as she twisted her body in midair. Baximus blocked as the downward force pushed him down to his knees. Using the force of resistance as a basis, Lynda pushed herself off Baximus’s blade with her hands and flipped, landing with her knees on Baximus’s cranium. A dazed Baximus fell to the ground. As he rolled to his back, Lynda’s two swords were pointed at him.

Who taught you to fight like that?” He whispered.

Lynda crouched and leaned in towards him. “My husband is the left hand Feona.” She whispered back. “Call the guards. This should be convincing enough.”

Guards!!” Baximus yelled in mock distress. Five guards came running in, and rushed towards Lynda. She stood up and using her two swords blocked simultaneous attacks aimed at her in quick succession. She spun around on her feet, her hands wielding the swords like bladed wings, and ripped open the abdomens of two of the guards instantly. Lynda blocked blows from two of the remaining three guards, who had flanked her on either side. She pointed the tips of her swords downwards till they just touched the concrete floor, and pushed herself off the ground with them, just in time to avoid a direct head long attack from the third guard. Forward flipping over him, Lynda landed on her two feet behind him and reached back with her left hand slicing him in the back from the neck downwards. The guard fell forwards just as Lynda pivoted around to block the guard now to her right with her right sword. She let the force of her swing follow through until she connected in the chest of the guard to her left. She swung her right sword back around to meet with the sword of the now recovered guard to her right. Her left hand followed through, cleaving off the head of the now kneeling guard to her left, and followed through until it stabbed through the abdomen of the guard to her right. She was now facing him with both swords pointed at him. Using the window of opportunity presented as he screamed in pain, she let her right hand push forward stabbing him in the chest right where his heart lay. The guard looked at her as blood oozed from his gaping mouth.

Oh… my… Feona… you… you…”

I am sorry.” Lynda said and pushed both swords in deeper. The guard was dead. She pulled both swords out and let the limp body slump to the ground. She turned to face Baximus who was standing there looking at her in shock.

His highness taught you all that?”

I’ve known him for twelve years. He taught me a lot of things. Are those all the guards Sidion sent?”

Yes. Did King Rikard, also leave you these swords?”

He did. I prefer using two…”

Baximus stared at her silently.

Thank you for choosing not to betray him.”

You have no need to offer me thanks. The act was necessary to fool them.” He gestured with his head towards the dead guards. “Though I suspect if I had chosen otherwise, I might have regretted it.”

If you please, give me time to get my child ready.”

Of course my lady. Don’t take too long. We have to go before Sidion gets back.”

I won’t.”

Baximus walked out of the room.

King Vitalis. My swords should be back in your sheaths.

 

They are, my lady. I am at the field of brave souls. It is as you say, King Miljorn is dead. There are no dragols around it seems.

Lynda shut her eyes tightly and breathed in heavily.

You have the swords. Search and make sure all remaining dragol forces are truly gone. My brothers and sisters will tell the other kings to do the same.

As you wish. However, without King Miljorn, we cannot seal the dragol for good. I hear queen Liliana brought a child, a son into this world.

She did. But he is a child. He won’t be ready for a long time.

We don’t have time, my lady.

Yes we do. King Rikard made sure of that. Is his gauntlet with him?

There was a brief pause.

No. The wizard Matilom is with the body. I do not see the gauntlet of Lady Feona.

Then Rikard has done all he can. Return to your castle. See to it that his wife is safe.

Of course my…

She couldn’t hear the last part. She was sure it was ‘lady’. But she hadn’t heard it. She fell to her knees panting heavily. Summoning her strength, she got up, walked over to Davydd’s cot and wrapped him in thick clothes. Outside, the rain was pouring from the heavens and the thunder and lightning were incessant. She looked at Davydd. He was asleep.

You are so peaceful.” She whispered. “I hope you stay like this for a while.” She stepped outside of the room where Baximus was waiting for her.

Follow me. King Vitalis should be on his way back with Obin and Matilom. I have a shelter we can stay in till the storm passes, and then I will find Matilom by morning. Let us depart.”

 

In the shelter, Baximus sat down and kept eyes on Lady Lynda, known as Queen Liliana to him, and her baby son, Davydd. The news had spread like wild fire. The dragol had managed to kill one of the kings of Terrianus. This was not just any king. This was King Rikard Miljorn, whom many considered to be the best of them all. However, King Rikard had not gone down without a fight. Three principals were dead, along with thousands of other dragol by his and his army’s hands. The dragol had at least been forced to retreat to their dimension, though no one knew if this was for the last time. All of this he could piece together from the murmurings and conversations of passersby. The night felt long and the storm continued to rage.

The gods must be grieving.” Baximus said.

Lynda did not respond. She cradled Davydd as tears flowed freely from her eyes. There was a knock on the door. Baximus reached for his sword and hurried silently to the side of the door. Lynda sat up, wiping her eyes and cheeks. She cradled Davydd as she scooted back on the creaky bed in the corner of the room.

Who is it?” Baximus asked coldly, the tip of his blade pointed in the general direction of where the heart of a man would be once he entered the room.

Matilom.”

Baximus looked at Lynda. “Matilom knows not where we are.”

Lynda shrugged. “He’s a wizard. I wouldn’t underestimate him.”

Baximus turned his gaze back to the door and slowly pushed back the wooden latch. He opened the door as a cloaked figure slowly stepped inside. He put down his hood to reveal his face. It was Matilom. He nodded at Baximus and turned to Lynda. His eyes were reddened and his face was stricken with grief. Matilom walked towards her and she got up to embrace him. He pulled back and looked at Davydd.

He’s fine” Lynda said “and oblivious to all that goes on around him.”

We need to leave Beathaleth now.” Matilom advised.

How do you propose we do that?” Asked Baximus. “Sidion Vror is expecting me to deliver two bodies to him.”

We will think of something. Right now, Sidion knows I am a foe to him. He has asked Nistam to crown him king upon his return to Angweleth. Let us get to Angweleth and there you can say you had to leave for fear of being discovered by King Darius Vitalis. It will give us enough time to fool him.”

I can get us to the ports before dawn if we move now.”

Baximus… can you keep us unseen for that long? Your powers are waning.”

I am well aware. Somewhere in Angweleth is my heir. But I still have enough left. Just stay close to me.”

Matilom turned to Lynda. “Queen Liliana, get everything you need.”

Lynda picked Davydd up and turned to Matilom. “I have all I need.”

 

The carriage raced through the cobblestoned paths of Alvo. The soldier at the front urged the horses to go faster. Seated inside the carriage were Matilom, Baximus, Lynda and her child. Baximus played with his fingers nervously.

You must be eager to see them… your wife and child.” Matilom said.

That I am. I am one of the lucky ones… to come back alive.”

Yes.” Matilom agreed. “Cherish these times. War always has a way of coming back around.”

I will cherish them even in war, for I will not be participating in any more bloodshed. No more wars for me.”

You think the dragol are gone for good?”

I don’t know what his majesty did, but they retreated. Three principals are dead.”

Matilom closed his eyes, saying nothing.

The carriage was slowing down and then finally came to a halt.

Baximus jumped out as an elderly woman came out through the front door of his home.

Oh Baximus.” She said as they embraced.

Mother Rachel. I am sorry I could not come back in time. How are they?”

Baximus…” Rachel’s voice cracked.

What happened?” Baximus was anxious now. “What happened?!”

Baximus ran inside.

Merith!” He yelled. He looked left towards the bed and saw his wife laying still. The sheets were soaked red.

Merith!!!” He rushed towards her and was held back by an older man who had been standing there. He turned to the man trembling. “What happened? Where’s my child?!!”

Baximus she lost a lot of blood. The baby… the baby never took breath.”

And you couldn’t save them?!!!” Baximus rushed at the old man and clasped his left hand around his neck.

You couldn’t save them??!!!!!!!!” His voice thundered.

Ba…Baxi….arrrrggghhh”.

Baximus!!!” Matilom yelled. “Let go of him.”

Baximus looked at Merith’s lifeless body again. His vice like grip slowly loosened. He let go and fell to his knees as his body trembled uncontrollably. Then he let out a primal scream of anguish. He hunched over, gnashing his teeth in an attempt to regain control just as a pair of arms wrapped around him consolingly. He looked up to see it was Queen Liliana.

They’re… they’re dead…” Baximus said in disbelief.

She hugged him tighter until his trembling stopped.

How can you be so strong?” He asked

Because I know, death is never the end. You will be re-united with them. I promise.”

Baximus nodded slowly as his body went limp. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When his eyes opened up, he turned his gaze towards his wife again.

I won’t let their deaths be in vain.” Baximus got up and walked to the elderly man who cowered in fear. Baximus stopped just before him and dropped down to one knee, bowing his head.

Forgive me. I was… overcome.”

The elderly man took a deep breath and nodded.

I am sorry Baximus. I did my best.”

I would ask one more favor.”

Anything.”

Prepare the bodies of my wife and child for Matilom.”

What?”

Prepare them. I shall… make their deaths seem violent.” Baximus choked back tears as he said this.

Why Baximus?” Lynda asked visibly shocked.

Remember what I said back in Beathaleth. Sidon Vror expects me to bring him two bodies. With Matilom’s help, I will deliver that to him.”

Baximus you cannot possibly…”

You and your child will live on as a memory to the sacrifice of my wife and child. Mother Fate has dealt me a grieving blow. I intend to take it in stride. I apologize if her majesty thinks me selfish.”

No Baximus… not at all.”

The elderly man had placed the dead baby next to his mother.

Baximus unsheathed his sword.

Forgive me… Merith. Are you ready Matilom?”

I am.”

And you can fool Nistam?”

I taught Nistam everything he knows, but not everything.”

Baximus positioned the blade tip above his dead wife’s heart.

This is my gift to you, young Miljorn. Live.”

The sword came down.

 

“Afterwards Baximus took those same bodies to Sidion. Both he and Nistam were fooled. He offered to reward Baximus handsomely but Baximus declined. It was then that he decided it best to raise you under the guise of Ovar Tardust. He faked his death and news spread that he had taken his own life due to grief. While the false news spread, we fled to Gor, a town as far away from Alvo as possible. I stayed with you as long as I could. However, at the urgings of my sister, it became clear that leaving was the best thing I could do. I had to leave. It was the only way to help Baximus fully blend in without notice… without danger.”

Davydd sat with her on the rocks, his head rested on her laps as they looked up at the night sky. They had spent the whole day there.

“And so you left.”

“I did not want to. It was the hardest thing I have ever done.” Lynda looked down at him and smiled. “You were a gift of love to us, son. And you are here today through that love, and the belief others like Baximus showed when needed the most. You are Davydd Miljorn, son of Rikard Miljorn and Lynda, the goddess of life and the true king of Angweleth. By virtue of being my son, you are the most powerful mortal in Terrianus.”

“I am?”

“Yes you are.” Came the voice of Baximus as he brought them dinner. “How are mother and son doing?”

“Very well.” Lynda and Davydd looked at each other and smiled. He felt like a child again.

“Well then that’s good to know.” Baximus said as he set their plates down.

“Father…”

“Yes my boy.”

“Thank you… Thank you so much.”

Baximus smiled. “You do not need to offer thanks. You have given me much happiness in my lifetime. More than I ever could have hoped for.”

“Baximus seems to have taken well to only learning the entire truth two moons ago.” Lynda observed.

Davydd looked at her.

“That’s right! Mother was known as Queen Liliana… Father… when did you know the truth?”

“In all of Terrianus it was only Rikard, Matilom and your mother. I only began to have my suspicions when this quest began.”

“Why?”

“Oh… many things. The rapid recovery of Segmiatus from his wound when we fought Sidion and his men, your improvement with the sword and a particular kick to the chest while we trained, and finally there was this fight with a principal in which you survived and dealt blows no ordinary mortal can. I asked Matilom and he told me… on our way here. He feared the truth would affect you in an unfavorable way.”

“Segmiatus’s recovery you said. That was because of me?”

“You are the son of Lady Lynda. You have an overwhelming life force. That power must have flowed to Segmiatus in reaction to your concern for him.”

Davydd sat in shock.

“I hate to come between this re-union but we need you Lady Lynda.”

“The prisoner will not talk. I heard.” Lady Lynda said.

“As is to be expected of a goddess.” Baximus bowed.

“Very well. Eat and recover your strength son. Join us when you can.”

Lynda got up and walked with Baximus.

“What about you? Won’t you eat?” Davydd asked.

Lynda turned back to Davydd and smiled.

“I require no sustenance from this world my son. At least… not yet.”

“Not yet?”

“The longer I stay in this realm with you, the more my powers will wane.”

“Then you must return to the realm of the gods. You have given me everything I need. I know who I am.”

“I left your side once before son. I won’t do it again. Besides, I haven’t given you everything. I must go now. You have a visitor who has been dying to see you.” She smiled at him and turned around just as Vannera emerged up the rocks. Davydd smiled at her and she ran towards him.

“Va…” Davydd was cut off with a ruthless slap across the face. He held his stinging left cheek, looking at Vannera in shock.

“What on Terrianus?”

“I understand that we kept the truth from you, and I so badly wanted to tell you Davydd. But don’t you worry me like that again! I’m sorry I said nothing. I thought you would die and I didn’t know what to do. You looked like you were in so much pain…”

“Vannera…”

“I know. I know. I talk mindlessly right now and…”

“Vannera…”

“Yes Davydd?”

“I’m sorry I worried you.”

Vannera gasped at Davydd’s smile.

“You are such a fool! Fool! Fool!” She beat on his chest and he grabbed her and kissed her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and attacked his lips.

“You know? There was a moment I thought I was going to die too. I kept thinking, I’d leave this world without telling you the truth.”

“What truth?” Vannera asked.

“I love you Vannera. I love you so much.” Davydd said as he stared into her green eyes.

“Oh Feona help me.” Vannera whispered as she kissed him again. “I love you too.” Davydd looked back at the wooden plates of food Baximus had brought.

“Well, my mother’s not eating. Care for dinner under the stars?”

Vannera smiled.

“I’d love that.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[] CHAPTER FOURTEEN (Davydd’s Armada)

Four soldiers stood in the upper room of a building in the city of Alvo. There was a nervous tension in the air, and they talked in hushed whispers. On the left shoulder plate of their armor were five skulls. The only door leading into the room opened up and Ergol stepped in. The hushed conversations died down and silence enveloped the room for a time. Ergol looked around the room at all the soldiers.

“I see everyone is here.” He finally said.

“You called us here on such brief notice Ergol.” One of the death class soldiers spoke up. “If you would be kind, tell us why.”

“I won’t waste your time.” Ergol began. “I chose to notify you four because I know you. We grew up together. We fought together in the great dragol war. But more importantly, we were loyal to our king, Rikard Miljorn.”

“Be careful how you speak Ergol. Rikard Miljorn is long dead. Our king is now Sidion Vror.”

“He is king, yes. But he’s not my king and neither is he yours.” Ergol waited. The soldiers stood there in silence and Ergol managed a smile.

“So I was right to trust you. What I have just said is tantamount to treason. I expected more than one of you to have drawn your swords. Yet you haven’t.”

“Out of respect for the man you were.”

“The man I was? No. It is not out of respect for that. It is because you four never really accepted Sidion Vror as your king. You knew right from the beginning that King Rikard’s death was orchestrated. I understand why you kept your lips sealed. If you spoke up against Sidion, you would be put to death.”

“Then why speak up now? The outcome would be the same.”

“I am not asking you to speak up. I’m asking you to help me take action and do the right thing. Fight with me, for our true king.”

The soldiers burst out into laughter.

“The man’s gone mad!” One of them said.

“True king?” Another said. “There is only one king, Ergol. His name is…”

A sword tip flashed at the soldier’s neck and the laughter instantly died down. The other death class soldiers unsheathed their swords and surrounded Ergol.

“Do not mention that name in the same breath as the one I follow as king.” Ergol said, his voice menacing.

“What are you doing Ergol?” The death class soldier at the edge of his sword asked. “You kill me and you won’t be alive another moment.”

“I do not intend to take your life, Clanner. But do not make mockery of me.”

“Your point is well taken. What do you want?”

“For you all to remember the men you were. What if I told you that the son of Rikard Miljorn lives? What if I told you that the rumors you have been hearing about a warrior who managed to defeat a principal, two decades and three years after Rikard did, was true. If I told you that this son of Rikard, this true heir to the throne was on his way to find his Father’s sword, would you believe me?”

“How can we believe you on the strength of just your words?”

“You can’t.” Ergol slowly lowered his sword and looked around him.

“If you may.” He said. The other soldiers slowly lowered their swords as well. Ergol backed up towards the door and using his right hand rapped on it. “Bring it in.” He said. He stepped away from the door just before it opened up and one of his men brought in a large bag made of animal skin. Ergol nodded at the floor and the man dropped the bag there. He backed out of the room and closed the door.

“What’s in the bag Ergol?” Clanner asked.

Ergol walked towards it and reached inside. When he pulled out his hand, the head of Balek came out with it. There was a startled hush around the room. The soldiers looked at the principal’s head in amazement.

“Some rumors have merit. I was there. I saw the son of Rikard battle the most powerful kind of dragol, and slay him. Make no mistake, this is but a simple victory in one of many battles that have been fought over the past four moons, and will be fought from now on. As I speak with you, the dragol are making their move. They already made attempt on the life of king Darius Vitalis and the other kings might be in danger as well. Sidion Vror is a harbinger of destruction my brothers. His lust for power has led him to believe that aligning himself with the dragol will give him all of Terrianus. You all served under Rikard, as I did. He commanded us and we followed. We were the most feared army of all not because of our skill, but because we stood together. Rikard did not fail to put an end to the Dragol. The other kings did not. But… treachery sowed the seeds of disaster.”

“What would you have us do?”

“What I asked in the beginning. I want to be the man I was before. So I ask you to gather arms and fight with me. I ask you to gather your trusted men and journey with me to Beathaleth and whatever lands this journey takes us to. A war is brewing my death class brothers, and your king… your… true… king needs you. What say you?”

There was silence in the room. After a while, Clanner spoke.

“You are well aware what doing this means. We will be placing our lives and those of our men against the entire Angwelethean army. We will be branded traitors and enemies to our home.”

“I am aware, Clanner. However, if you stay, you will be placing your lives and the lives of your men against the combined forces of all the other kingdoms. You will be killing your fellow man, not dragol and if you win, you will know that you all, by your swords, brought about the end of your kind.”

“Rikard’s son. What is his name?” Clanner asked.

“Davydd. Davydd Miljorn.”

Clanner nodded. “Consider me at his majesty’s service then.” He and Ergol looked at the other three.

“Hagswet, Bolr, Valimius. What say you?”

The other three death class commanders looked at each other and turned to Ergol and Clanner. They nodded in agreement.

“When do we leave?” Hagswet asked.

Ergol smiled.

“Gather your men as quietly as you can. We leave in two days. Be sure to gather only men loyal to you. I care not for their class, be them death, undertaker, executioner, warrior or infantry. We must be swift. In the king’s absence we have a chance. But if Trudor or Nistam receive news of this, we will be meeting with Feona sooner than expected.”

“Have no worry, Ergol.” Clanner said smiling. “We will be meeting Feona soon enough. But it won’t be by the sword of Sidion Vror’s pet.”

The men all laughed at the comment. They all clasped hands and began to disperse. As Ergol left the room with his men following, his thoughts shifted to Davydd and the others and he wondered how they were faring. He wrapped a black cloak around himself as he and his men disappeared into the night.

In another upper room, two figures stood by a window and watched as the death class commanders dispersed. One of them belonged to Trudor, while the other belonged to a middle aged man whose eyes were seared shut. He had short jet black hair with streaks of grey and no beard. Above his burnt eyes were bushy black eyebrows. He wore a long red robe and a white scarf around his neck. He looked to be a bit more advanced in age than Baximus Bastien, but not by much.

“How did you come about this, Nistam?” Trudor said as he turned to the wizard.

“I may not be able to see, but my barrier can extend from here to wherever in Alvo I so please. What’s more, I am aware of all life energy within my barrier and their movements. These four commanders were before your time Trudor. They fought with King Rikard and have begrudgingly served Sidion Vror. When I sensed them gathered together, you had to be told.”

“That man who cloaked himself… I saw him when we encountered Davydd and his rebels in Windhaven. He was on their side. I wonder if this means Davydd has returned.”

“I do not sense his presence anywhere. That man is Ergol. He is a former death class commander. He relinquished his position after Rikard Miljorn’s death. The cloak masks his presence to my senses. Only when he removes it can I sense him.”

“I see. I will have a few of my men follow them at a distance. Let me know of their whereabouts at all times. I intend to unravel their intentions.”

“You will not have them killed now?”

“Such a thing would not be easy wizard. Those men are highly respected commanders in the Angwelethean army. Their men will surely fight for them. Besides, if they are harboring Davydd, I must know. I will let them lead me to their secret before decimating them all.”

Nistam nodded. “As you wish.”

Trudor looked at him for a while. “Why have you been so loyal to king Sidion for so long?”

“His majesty recognized my relevance when others did not. I was brought in as Matilom’s student, but King Rikard never accepted me. Sidion did and he gave me purpose. That is all.”

Trudor smiled again.

“How interesting.” Come now; let us see what our friends are really up to.

 

Ten soldiers made their way through the streets of Alvo quickly. Their eyes darted about, observing the upper class citizens of Angweleth go about their daily business. They were all there; traders, merchants, taxmen, land owners, law makers and the like. Alvo was much different from the other cities and towns of Angweleth. It was a symbol of power. The architecture was grandiose and splendid. The citizens’ homes were like mini-castles, with only the occasional small stone or wooden cottage. The streets were either paved or cobblestone and there were about two or three temples dedicated to the seven gods of Terrianus and to Feona herself. It was no surprise that only the wealthiest of men could afford to live in such a place. The soldiers walked on, hastening their pace. Their sheathed swords clanged about the armor pieces around their legs and the wind, swept up their capes. Not too far off from the ten Angwelethean soldiers, were two more that followed at a safe distance, occasionally slowing down or stopping and pretending to merely patrol the streets. However, they never let the ten ahead of them, out of their sight. The ten soldiers turned left into a smaller street lined on each side by buildings, and the two soldiers behind them followed. When they turned the corner, there was no one there. They slowly stepped into the side street, leaving the path of the main street they were on. Suddenly a door to one of the buildings opened up and hands shot out, grabbing the two soldiers and yanking them in. The door shut behind them. The soldiers fell to the floor of the huge living room and scrambled to get up, before seeing that if they did, an intimidating number of blades were waiting to meet them. They looked around. The room was a bit dark, as the windows were closed and the curtains drawn together.

“You two make very poor spies.” It was the voice of Hagswet. “Did Trudor send you here?”

The two soldiers looked around and kept quiet.

“Of course it was.” Hagswet walked forward.

“Commander Hagswet. What is the meaning of this?” One of the soldiers asked.

Hagswet sighed. “I never thought one day I would have to take my sword to a fellow Angwelethean soldier.”

“Please my lord! We were only ordered to keep watch over you!” The second soldier pleaded.

“I know. And watch you shall. I will not kill you. But I need you to sleep for now. You are merely misguided.”

“Co..” The soldier was cut off by a blow to the head with a sword handle. The first soldier was dealt the same fate.

“Trudor knows.” Hagswet said, addressing the other nine soldiers. “From now on we use the underground pathways in the city. Send word to the others about this. We need to leave immediately.”

 

Nistam, who had been sitting silently in his chair, with his arms raised up on either side in a meditative pose, suddenly gasped for air.

“What have you found?” Trudor asked.

“There are many of them. They form an army within an army.”

“An army within an army.” Trudor repeated Nistam’s words. “It’s an army for Davydd! Nistam, do you sense Davydd’s presence.”

“No. I have not sensed it once.”

“Come with me.” Trudor turned around and left as Nistam followed behind him, walking out of the wizard’s room in Castle Alvo.

The gate of the Alvo military outpost slowly lifted up as Nistam and Trudor rode in on horses. There was a murmur going on amongst the ranks of soldiers. The outpost was huge. The architecture was similar to that of Gor’s outpost, only more grandiose in size and visual appeal. This was where the upper echelon of Angweleth’s military force convened and resided. The soldiers going about their business on the ground and in the upper levels of the buildings all stopped to look at the two men that had ridden in. Trudor disembarked the horse and slowly walked to the center of the compound. He turned around and stared intensely at all the soldiers silently looking at him before speaking.

“I’m sure you’ve all heard the rumors then. ‘The son of Rikard lives.’ ‘He wants to bring about an end to the threat of the dragol.’ ‘He even killed a principal.’”

Everyone burst out laughing at Trudor’s last taunt.

“I’ve heard them too. It is… my fault that I merely dismissed them as rumors soon to die out just as many before them have.” He looked around at the soldiers, making sure he held their attention, as well as scanning their faces for any hint of treachery.

“But it seems these rumors have a merit of truth to them. There is a man, who believes himself to be the son of Rikard. He believes he is a savior of mankind but instead he has divided our ranks. As I speak to you now, some of our brothers in the sword have turned against us. They move to overthrow our beloved King Sidion and elevate this imposter to the throne of Angweleth. Are we to stand by and let this happen?”

There were screams of ‘no’ and ‘never’ from the soldiers listening.

“Very well then. As protectors of Angweleth, we are sworn to defend her against all enemies outside… and inside! The great Nistam has uncovered their ploy. They slither and crawl like accursed creatures beneath our very feet. Shall we go then and make them regret their treachery?!”

The soldiers roared fiercely to which Trudor smiled. A soldier came up to Trudor as he mounted his horse once more.

“Divide the soldiers into three squadrons. One to check the underground passages and the other two shall guard Alvo’s borders as well as check every corner and hole in this city. The men we are searching for are under the command of Hagswet, Clanner, Bolr and Valimius. Let everyone know: upon engaging the enemy, do not hesitate.”

“Yes my lord.” The soldier bowed and retreated from Trudor’s horse.

“You won’t tell them about Ergol?”

“As you said, these men were before our time, but the others still serve under King Sidion. Ergol has been long gone and these men do not know his face. Besides, he is a wraith to your barrier. If we do find the others, we will find him.”

 

There was a buzz of activity in an underground storage room. The air in the underground layers was filled with all sorts of foul stenches. The concrete was battered and cracking and the ground was a culture of growing algae and fungi.

“How much longer do we have?” Bolr asked.

“No time.” Ergol said as he walked in. “Trudor has just declared us mutineers. Every soldier in Alvo is looking for us and a squadron is coming here.”

“Then we fight.” Valimius said.

“No. We cannot.” Ergol retorted.

“Why not?”

“He’s right.” Clanner interjected. “We need to get to Davydd with as many men as possible. A fight will leave us severely depleted or entirely decimated. We need to run.”

Hagswet rolled out a map unto the floor of the storage room. “If we keep pace down the passage westwards as planned, we will emerge at Croydon’s pass. It’s narrow, yet big enough for us and our men to pass through without difficulty.”

“Yet it is too small for Trudor’s squadrons.” Ergol inferred. “They’d have to go around or funnel through.”

“Knowing Trudor, he will do both.” Clanner said. “But if we make it there, the advantage is ours. Funnel through and they will only come in batches small enough for our men to engage. If they go around the pass, we will make it to the other side and the ships before them. However, one of us needs to hold the rear and stall their advance should the need arise.” There was silence in the room for a time, before Bolr finally spoke.

“I and my men shall do so.” The others nodded respectfully at him.

“Let us move then.”

The soldiers filed out and moved swiftly through the westward passage, constantly passing intersecting passages as they moved. Their eyes darted this way and that, watching for any signs of Trudor’s men. It wasn’t long before they heard the voices of soldiers not belonging to their groups.

They move along the westward passages. Hurry!

“We need to make haste now.” Clanner said as the soldiers quickened their pace.

“How could they know?” Valimius asked. He looked at the others and then shook his head. “The one person we forgot to take into account… Nistam.”

“It is not that we forgot.” Clanner interjected. “There is nothing we can do about it without Matilom here to help.”

“Then we fight… a little.” Valimius said, smiling.

The soldiers laughed.

“Always ready for a fight.” Hagswet said.

The voices were getting closer.

“Form defensive formations on both sides now!” Clanner yelled.

The soldiers unsheathed their swords and reached over their backs, clasping their shields. After that, the soldiers at the rear turned around and continued walking with the unit but facing backwards. The squadron Trudor sent had flanked the men on both sides of the passage. They could see them now ahead and behind them. Trudor’s soldiers roared and broke into a run towards them.

“Assume positions!” Clanner yelled. They were closing in on both sides. The soldiers split into alternating files of two so that one soldier on the one side was sandwiched by two on the other.

“Shields up!”

Huaaaaahhh!!!

The shields came up in front of them. Trudor’s soldiers continued to close in.

“Hold!” Clanner yelled.

The soldiers were upon them now.

“Break stance!”

The two sides clashed thunderously and fiercely. The men of Clanner, Hagswet, and Valimius met Trudor’s soldiers’ swords with their shields, pushing them back and breaking their stance as they did. As Trudor’s men fell backwards, the mutineers went on the attack. Hagswet, whose men were holding the rear, yelled out.

“Clanner! Push forward towards the end of the passage!”

Clanner cut down a soldier with his sword and then rotated his left hand, bringing down his shield to meet more soldiers swords. The soldiers behind him leaped ahead and cut down Clanner’s assailants and then raised their shields while Clanner and the men with him leapt ahead on the attack. The alternation between attack and defense was swift and deadly on both sides.

“Armadillo!” Clanner yelled. The soldiers collapsed in on themselves with their shields facing up and sideways, forming a mega-shielded moving unit. They moved forwards chanting as they did.

Huaaah! Huaahhh!! Huaaahh!!!

Within the shield, Clanner spoke to Ergol.

“You my friend, have free reign to take as many lives to Feona, as you wish.”

“And I would do so gladly.” The armadillo unit broke on the side for a moment and Ergol dashed out with his shield and sword, cutting down as many soldiers as possible. For every soldier who gained the upper hand on him, swords from the armadillo unit emerged between shields and impaled them. Ergol fell back and reassembled with the unit as they continued to move forward.

Huaaaah! Huaaaahhh!!

They could hear Trudor’s soldiers scream in fear.

They are demons! Fall back!

Valimius laughed. “These men would never have become soldiers under King Rikard’s rule.”

“Your sword arm must be itching Valimius.” Clanner said.

“It does. Let me know when to move.”

There were roars coming from the passage way.

“Bolr and his men have arrived just in time.” Clanner smiled. “Valimius. Satisfy your thirst.”

“Finally. Break!!”

A part of the armadillo formation disengaged from the whole as Valimius’s soldiers viciously attacked the opposing soldiers at the front.

Hagswet and his men stayed in the middle.

“Alright men this is going to be tricky. But do not be intimidated by Death class, undertakers or executioner. You are warriors and infantry. You are the base of the giant and the future of Angweleth’s military might. Attack with pride, kill with pride and die with pride if you have to, but stop anyone that breaks through those ranks. We march! For King Davydd and Feona!”

The group moved on and soon they were at the edge of the passage. Clanner and his men roared through first, followed by the rest. They had now over powered most of soldiers sent to check the underground passages. The passage exit, led to a red rocky and sandy desert area. Up ahead, areas of the flat land rose up into two hills with part of the land between them remaining level. It created a natural pass between the hilly terrains. Ergol, Clanner and the rest made their way towards the pass as they overcame the rest of Trudor’s men. In the distance, they could see dust particles swirling and rising around what seemed to be the silhouettes of horse riders.

“Trudor.” Ergol said.

“We have to keep moving.” Clanner responded. “Into the pass!”

The group ran as fast as they could, towards the pass. However, Trudor, Nistam and the rest of the soldiers of Alvo were gaining on them and fast.

“We won’t make it.” Bolr said as he began slowing down and gesturing to his men to do so.

“Yes we will!” Hagswet yelled. “Just keep moving.”

“I volunteered to hold the rear. It is time I fulfilled that duty. Go ahead now.”

“Bolr!” Hagswet yelled again.

“Hagswet! The man has made his choice.” Clanner said. He turned to Bolr.

“Send as many to Feona as possible my brother.”

“I intend to.” Bolr smiled. “Now go!”

The other commanders nodded and took off with their men, entering the pass. Bolr and his men turned to face Trudor and his men who had caught up to them. Trudor and his men stayed on their horses, swords and spears in hand.

“Shields up!” Bolr yelled. His men raised their shields in perfect synchrony. Their swords rested beside the edge of their circular shields, glistening in the sun along with their helmets and the rest of their armor.

“Commander Bolr.” Trudor said. “What is the meaning of this?”

“You want to pretend that you mean to hold banter Trudor?” Bolr retorted, not making any effort to hide his contempt.

“I want to know why you have decided to betray your own home before I send you and your men to the afterlife.”

“It is you who have betrayed your home!! You and that wretched pretentious king of yours. He holds you to his side like a bride while you feast yourself on the waste of his lies. Why don’t you come down from that high horse of yours and lecture me like a man instead.”

Trudor who was laughing as Bolr talked, sighed and readied his horse.

“I see.” Bolr said. “You choose to remain a coward to the end.”

“There is no end for me traitor.” Trudor retorted. “And this is strategy, not cowardice. Let that be a lesson to you as you meet Feona.”

Clanner and his men reached the sea shore where two ships awaited their arrival. The ship had crew members who had brought food and other necessary items required for the long journey. They urged the soldiers on as they began to board. In the distance, Trudor and his men were in hot pursuit. Clanner and the others boarded the ships quickly and the rowers began to maneuver the ships into the deeper waters of the river of visions. Trudor and his men arrived at the shores just as the ships pulled away.

“We must ready some ships and give pursuit.” Trudor said.

“No. I will not help you do so.” Nistam Retorted.

“King Sidion left you in my command, wizard. You would be wise to remember that.”

“And I am loyal only to his highness. You have lost four commanders of the Angwelethean army and a considerable number of soldiers. Yet, you wish to give pursuit and sacrifice more. Do you wish to leave Angweleth unguarded?”

Trudor kept silent for a while as he watched the ships pull further away.

“I see your reason Nistam. You will do me this favor then. Peer into the hearts of every soldier we have left. I must make sure that this does not repeat itself again.”

On the ship, Clanner consoled a grieving Hagswet before turning to Ergol and the others.

“Let us pay our respects to the lives we lost today… on both sides. We have been forced to kill our own.” He looked at Ergol. “We have been forced to abandon our own. I hope it is for the right reason.”

Ergol nodded his understanding of what Clanner had said. A few of the soldiers brought up the two soldiers they had taken prisoner in Alvo.

“What shall we do with these two?” Valimius said.

Clanner looked at them for a while.

“Welcome aboard our ship brothers.” He said smiling. “Misguided though you…”

“You are the misguided ones! How could you betray king Sidion?!” The first captured soldier yelled.

“No… we didn’t betray him.” Clanner calmly responded. “He betrayed us. You included. Long before you were born you were already betrayed. Now I have decided not to take your lives, but to show you the truth. The choices you make are yours from there on out. However, be forewarned, if your choice puts you at odds with me or my men, then I will be sure to take your lives.” Clanner motioned to Ergol, who walked towards the bound prisoners with a leather skin bag. He pulled out Balek’s head and dropped it in front of the two astonished prisoners. They gagged and spat as the decaying smell from the head invaded their nostrils.

“Let me tell you a story.” Ergol said.

 

 

 

 

 

[] CHAPTER FIFTEEN (To catch a Pirate King…)

The tavern was fully occupied on this night with men and women, drawn to gorge themselves in the pleasures of ale and each other. As such, there was a lot of talking amongst the many pockets of people that had naturally formed as the night went on. The poorly lit tavern, had a lot of dark blotches here and there, where light was all but absent. It presented itself as the perfect location for those who wished to be unseen to remain that way. In one such corner of the tavern on the upper level, two hooded figures sat opposite each other, slowly drinking ale from two large mugs. They had been there a while, saying nothing, yet absorbing every word they could from each tongue loosened by drinks and women. Indeed they had learned a lot.

“Your highness it seems your assumptions are correct. Davydd and the rest were here.” Farok said.

“Indeed.” Sidion acknowledged.

“They did not keep their presence a secret either.”

“No they didn’t. After all Tanak is dead.”

“Tanak… The old man they found long dead in his shop. He is the servant you spoke of?”

“Indeed. He was the one I sent away with the gauntlet. Someone must have discovered him.”

“The question remains, who did?” Farok asked.

Sidion smiled.

“That is what we are here to find out isn’t it?” He remarked.

“And to never send warning?”

“Someone here deadened his tongue. We need to find out whom.”

“And how do we do that your highness?”

“We talk to the person who hears more than they should or care to. The town’s grave keeper.”

“I suppose it is time I looked for him.” Farok said.

“I believe I already found him Farok.”

Sidion nodded his head towards a man seated alone at a table near the balcony of the upper level. The wash of light from a lamp hanging from one of the building’s wooden columns only partially lit his features. He was a thin and gaunt looking fellow, most likely in his fourth decade of life, but looking much older. His hairy arms picked up his mug of ale and directed it to dry and caked lips partly covered with a thick and unkempt shrub of beard and moustache. The man was mostly bald except for some graying hair at the back of his head which fell down to his neck. His reddened eye whites scanned the lower tavern area and the people there. The man put down his beer mug on an area of the table, where the light from the lamp lit up. It momentarily revealed his long dirty fingers and the numerous specks of dust trapped in his hairy arms.

“He’s been working tonight.” Sidion said as both he and Farok observed the man.

After looking around for a little longer, the man got up to leave. He put on a scraggly hat and quickly made his way for the stairs, walking at a brisk pace.

“We follow.” Sidion said.

They both got up and made for the stairs as well. On the lower level of the tavern, both Sidion and Farok made their way through the crowd of intoxicated men and women as best as they could, without drawing attention to themselves. Once outside, they quickly scanned the street for the man they suspected of being the grave keeper. He had put some distance between himself and the tavern, walking – still briskly – down the cobblestoned main street of Sangwa. The street was well lit in most areas but also had its blotches of darkness here and there. Sidion and Farok followed the man at a safe distance. The man turned right, off the street they were currently on. Sidion and Farok quickened their pace until they were upon the intersecting street the man had turned on. They turned as well and walked quickly until they had closed the distance between themselves and the man. It was at this moment he heard them. He turned around to see them walking quickly towards him and was seized with fear. However, before he could run, Farok who had anticipated this, caught up to him and grabbed him by the right shoulder. Fear gave way to survival instinct, and the man whirled around and threw a right hand at Farok. The punch never hit his target and before he could decipher Farok’s movements, the Angwelethean soldier had grabbed the man by the neck and slammed his back into the concrete wall of a building at the side of the street. The man choked and coughed due to the pressure of Farok’s grip. Farok slowly pulled the man sideways to the right, and out of the wash of light which illuminated them. Sidion was soon with them.

“Now, now Farok, there is no need to be so forceful.” Sidion said as he disappeared into the blotch of darkness as well. He motioned to Farok to loosen his grip, which the Angwelethean soldier promptly did. Sidion looked at the man and smiled.

“What is your name?” Sidion asked.

“Why would you want to know it?” The man retorted.

Sidion sighed and continued. “I suppose your name is of no importance to me. I was merely asking out of courtesy. The next few questions however, should be met with the right answer or else…”

Farok tightened his grip around the man’s neck for a few seconds, before letting go again.

“Do you understand?” Sidion asked. The man nodded as best as he could.

“Good. Are you the grave keeper of Sangwa?”

The man nodded again.

“Then you must have recently buried a rare items trader. He was murdered a moon ago or so. What can you tell me about him?”

“I know nothing about the man.” Farok’s grip tightened again.

“Now, now grave keeper. Lying is not your best skill. We wouldn’t want to keep you with us longer than we have to.”

The grave keeper struggled to breathe, as Farok’s grip had practically depressed his windpipe.

“O… O..kay. I’ll tell you what I know.”

“Good. Now talk.”

“The man who killed Tanak the trader goes by the name of Kazan. There were rumors that Tanak was struck by a poisoned arrow and I know of only one man who prefers this weapon. Kazan.”

“Who is Kazan?”

“The son of Ivan the terrible.”

“The pirate king.” Farok noted. “Is he not dead?”

“He… was thought to be. Then the rumors began to spread about his return. Some say he dwells in Sangwa and in the lands not too far off from here. All I can tell you is no emissary of King Vitalis has been able to find him or kill him.”

“And I take it any who has come close, has been sent to the afterlife by Kazan?” Sidion asked.

The grave keeper nodded. “That is all I know. Please let me go. My wife and chi…”

“You don’t have to use your family to plead for your life. I have no intentions of taking it.” Sidion leaned in. “However, if I or any of my men hear mention of us in this town, I will come for you and then not even your family pleas will be able to save you… or them.”

The man nodded again. Beads of sweat formed on his face and trickled down.

“Let him go Farok.”

“Your highness.” Farok said and released the grave keeper from his grip. The man staggered and stumbled as he ran away from the two Angweletheans.

“We know not where to begin looking for Ivan.” Farok noted.

“We do not have to look for him. If what the grave keeper said is true, then he knows of the gauntlet’s location and is going to great lengths to hide it. With Davydd and his followers here, Ivan will retreat to his most comfortable element.”

“Water?”

“Indeed. We are going to do the same, and have the men silently travel the seas near and around Sangwa until we find him.”

“Your highness if King Vitalis…”

“I am well aware of the danger of discovery Farok.” Sidion said.

“Indeed your highness. Accept my humblest apologies.”

“None needed. We retreat for now. You and I will return with more men and under cover of night we shall hunt down Ivan’s men.”

“What about Davydd?”

“If I have found the gauntlet, then there is no need to concern myself with Davydd.”

Farok nodded quietly.

“We retreat then.” Sidion said once more as the men began heading back the way they came.

 

“I cannot decide who is more incompetent, yourself or that wretched Sidion.” Omni bellowed. “How could you let four commanders under your authority leave unscathed?”

“Three left unscathed. One is dead.” Trudor replied tersely.

“Do not mock me human.” Omni stood up from his seat and rose to his full imposing height. He towered above Trudor and yet Trudor was no man of average height.

“You will do as I say or else…”

“Or else what? You’ll kill me? You’ll kill my family? You’ll massacre Angweleth? I have no such fear or bonds the way Sidion does.”

The most powerful principal of the dragol rushed towards Trudor and grabbed him by the torso. Omni’s hands wrapped around Trudor’s ribs and lifted him up as though he had no weight to him, slamming him into the wall. He held the Angwelethean soldier at a daunting height above the ground. Despite what had just happened, Trudor remained calm.

“You could have killed me now Omni. Why didn’t you?”

The principal growled. “Who is to say I won’t?”

“Me. I’ll tell you why. I am well aware that you and your kind can only enter our realm for short periods of time due to a curse… A cursed placed by Rikard Miljorn.”

At the pronunciation of his name, Omni growled even more fiercely.

“A name you detest I see. No matter. If you kill me now, the soldiers are on orders to kill any dragol seen entering our realm from Angweleth and to put up the first line of resistance once… if the gauntlet of Feona were ever uncoiled.”

“How have you come about this information?”

“Through my own means. King Sidion would never entrust me with this himself. He is a careful man as he should be. After all, he knows the danger of courting a traitor in his house.”

“My army will overrun Angweleth in as much time as it takes you to breathe.”

“Not if Angweleth is already allied with the other kingdoms. You need a place to begin your quest against the humans. Where else would you rather emerge?”

Omni let go of Trudor, who promptly dropped to the ground. He got to his feet after catching his breath.

“Your usefulness will be no more once the spell is lifted. You have merely bought yourself some time. Once Davydd finds the gauntlet and uncoils it, your life is forfeit.”

Trudor laughed out loud. “You now hope for Rikard’s son to find the gauntlet? You do not trust Sidion?”

“I trust no human.”

“Then know this. As long as a human such as me has the heart of a principal, you will never truly rule Terrianus. This is a pact we have and you are neither my lord nor master. In the aftermath of your crusade, I want what Sidion wanted. To rule alongside the principals and be master of worlds… and I shall have it.”

Omni glared at Trudor in silence.

“The great Omni the manipulator is at a loss for words.”n

“No. I only look at you in amusement. Davydd Miljorn started out as a nuisance. Now five moons later, a brother of mine is dead and he has an army. He has an army taken from your brothers. Pray your plans go according to plan human. Pray you do not blink for if you do, death will be the least of your concerns.” And with that, Omni was gone from the room, leaving Trudor to contemplate his last words.

 

Davydd flipped over the blade that threatened to separate his torso from his waist. He landed on the other side and brought up Balek’s sword to block Lady Lynda’s second swing. His right hand wielded his standard blade, which he used to parry her left-handed attack. Before he could react, he felt the force of her kick to his mid-section which sent him flying through the air. Davydd arched backwards in midair and plunged his blades into the wooden floor beneath them, stopping his motion and landing on his feet once more. Lynda was already upon him, but Davydd ripped his swords out of the ground, sending splinters of wood in her direction. It was only a momentary distraction, but it was enough to allow him arch backwards low enough to avoid the crisscrossing swipe of both her swords in scissor-like fashion. Using his leg strength, he parried her swords out of the way and made to hop-skip to her side. However, Lynda was already upon him again and he had to side step a downward slash from her right blade. It shimmered in the darkened room, its bluish light pulsating as it hit the ground. Davydd swung with his right blade at Lynda’s torso but missed entirely. She was off the ground and in the air. She pivoted and spun with her blades extended and spinning with her in a windmill motion. Davydd kept his eyes focused on her motion and reacted just in time to block one of the blades as it passed through in an arch that would have split his skull vertically in half. He fell on his back as Lynda came down with both blades pointed at his chest. Davydd lashed out with his legs and caught her in the mid-section, pushing her up and over him. She fell on her back as well. Davydd sprang up to his feet at the same time as she did and they both attacked and defended equally with their dual-wielding techniques. Davydd twirled his sword in his right hand between attack and defense, with the sword making a swooshing sound as it spun menacingly in an arching motion beside him. He attacked Lynda again. Clang. She had blocked and countered. Clang. He had done the same. Whoosh! Whoosh! It was the sound of his swords twirling in between each clash. However, the twirling wasn’t just an aesthetic habit he’d developed. If Lynda came close enough, each arbitrary twirl would evolve into a lethal swing and she knew it. She had fought an all too familiar technique long before. He was getting faster, stronger each day they dueled and his technique, once rough and unpolished, was now fluid and assured. Up on the balcony, two men watched the mother and son duel.

“Nostalgic isn’t it?” Matilom asked, turning to the Baximus who was watching intently.

“What is? That he twirls his sword like his father or that he wields two swords like his mother?”

Matilom shrugged.

“Both I suppose.”

“They say one’s abilities are in the blood.”

“Indeed. Is there anyone with the ability to find a pirate?”

“You could Matilom. Or she could.” Baximus jutted his jaw out towards Lynda who was evading successive swipes from Davydd. She ducked under a sideways slash from his right sword and spun around while crouched, with her leg extended. Davydd could not react in time. Both his legs were swept off the floor. Davydd landed on his back and instinctively rolled to his left, while positioning his right sword behind his back so that Lynda could not take advantage of the opening. As he finished his roll over his belly he whipped out with his left hand. However Lynda was not there. He felt the sharp metal blade behind him and stopped rolling. Davydd looked behind him to see Lynda. There was a white shimmering tear closing behind her.

“You lose.” She said.

“You cheated mother.” Davydd said as he got up to his feet. “‘No godly powers’ was the agreement.” He was panting and sweating profusely.

“I know. It was the only way I could end this duel.”

“You mean you could not defeat me any other way.”

“I mean you have improved greatly. But you don’t know your own strength and as such, you don’t know your own limits. How long do you think we have been dueling?”

It was then Davydd realized he could not remember when they started. He was surprised at being able to fight for so long without feeling the effects of waning strength, though he was now. But that was not all. What truly amazed him was in all that time, he had not been able penetrate Lynda’s defense, not once. Yet there were a few moments he was sure she could have taken advantage. They were only a few, yet they stuck out like glaring holes to him. Was this what it felt like to fight with a god? Was this what it felt like to fight with an uninjured principal? The thought made him shudder.

“Get some rest and replenish your strength.” Lynda said as she walked out of the training room and through the hallways. “We will duel later on.”

Davydd sighed and looked around him. The training room was not really a training room as it was a prayer room for the monks of the shrine they were in. The floor was made of mahogany wood, divided in thin long planks. The balcony upper level, which spanned around the entire rectangular room, was also made of the same wood, as well as the repeating half pillar supports that held up the balcony and fastened it to the cream colored brick wall. The dome shaped ceiling was made of stained glass paintings that depicted the many feats of the goddess Lynda and her siblings. Davydd smiled at the irony. In a hundred years he wondered if they would need new stained glass paintings.

“Davydd.” Baximus called. “We have matters to discuss.”

Davydd nodded and headed towards the hallway Lynda had gone through moments earlier. He had not gone far into it, when he turned right and walked up a set of winding stairs that led to the upper balcony level. He finally got to where Baximus and Matilom stood awaiting him.

“What is it?” Davydd asked.

“As you know, we have searched for Ivan everywhere we can. Right now, Leo, Sam and Max are on their third visit to Sangwa. Luck has not been kind to them. What shall we do?”

Davydd kept quiet for a while. This was the fourth time he had been asked this question.

What shall we do?

He had always responded with the Keep looking answer. However, something told him such an answer would not suffice this time around. The truth was he still was not used to strategizing or giving out orders.

“This is frustrating… on the one hand, we can easily find him if my mother would only lend us her powers.”

“She would not interfere unless…”

“In dire circumstances.” Davydd finished Matilom’s sentence. “I am well aware. What could be direr than saving a child in trouble?” Davydd gasped as he finished his sentence.

“That’s it!” he half yelled.

“What is it?” Baximus asked.

Davydd looked at Baximus and Matilom.

“The archer… Kazan? Did he not say he was son of Ivan the terrible?”

“He did, which is why we have kept him alive to make a trade in case Ivan has the gauntlet.”

“Ivan has the gauntlet and we need to let Kazan go.”

“And why would we do that?”

“Because Ivan would never reveal himself for fear of losing the gauntlet and he would never sail into deep waters for fear of losing Kazan. However, if Kazan were to turn up in Sangwa…”

“The balance is tipped in our favor.” Matilom smiled. “Why didn’t I think of this earlier?” He asked looking at Baximus.

“You are old. Very old.” Baximus responded as they both turned around, following Davydd out of the balcony. They walked down the winding flight of stairs and back into the hallway, turning right towards an exit which led into the shrine’s rather large courtyard. At the edge of the courtyard, chained by his right foot to a heavy metal ball, sat Kazan. He slowly lifted up his head to look at Davydd, Baximus and Matilom.

“Has luck smiled on you yet?” He asked mockingly. Reading the looks on their faces, he chuckled. “It would seem the answer is ‘no’”. At this, Davydd dropped down into a crouching position and stared at Kazan.

“Luck does not smile on you either. It has been decided that you’ve outlived your usefulness. You will be executed at the first crack of dawn tomorrow.”

“Executed? You wouldn’t dare!! You need me to strike a deal with my father!”

“I do not intend to strike any deals. I merely seek to recover that which rightfully belongs to me. And I shall do so by force if need be. You serve no purpose alive, but at least the sight of your body will draw his ire. Enjoy what little time you have left.” With that, Davydd, Baximus and Matilom walked off.

“Wait! You cannot do this! Wait!! No!!!!”

Kazan struggled with his chains in futility. All this time, he had placed his hopes in the knowledge that they needed him alive to lure out his father. He never thought that Davydd could come up with such a sinister plan either. Kazan gave up on the chains and sat still, his mind racing, trying to come up with a way to buy himself more time.

Davydd had already continued on his way to the main prayer room on the other side of the courtyard. Instead of being constructed predominantly out of mahogany wood, this room was made out of concrete. It was enormous. It had three rows of four columns that reached all the way to the ceiling, which was flat instead of dome shaped. From Davydd’s perspective as he entered the room, the wall to the right was lined with oval shaped windows, spaced at consistent intervals while the wall on the left had board paintings hung on them. Each board painting seemed to tell a story. Davydd stopped at a painting depicting a man in golden armor wielding a sword of medium length, against what looked to be a dragol. The dragol had wings, just like Balek.

“That particular painting is in every king’s castle in Terrianus… except maybe in the one castle it is meant to be in. Castle Alvo.”

Davydd looked to see that it was Vera, the high priestess of the shrine’s order of monks, The Order of Beatha. Vera was a fair-skinned woman with an off white hair color. Her hair was curly and part of it was braided at the sides. The braids fell to the side of her face, just past her jaw line, while the rest of her hair curled and rolled over itself down to her neck. Her eyes were glassy in appearance and almost white all through, except for a little darkening where the pupils should have been. It had been explained that she was born blind. She wore a long flowing dark blue gown and a green scarf wrapped around her neck.

“I wonder if the artist sufficiently captured his image. How is it that you knew what painting I gazed upon?” Davydd asked.

Vera laughed.

“I am blind to but one aspect of reality Davydd. I still see you clearly. As clearly as I can tell where I stand in this shrine so that I know exactly what painting you were looking at. These paintings are more about the legacy of person than of the person. If you want to know what your father looked like, all you have to do is look at yourself and within yourself.”

Davydd looked at her in shock.

“How… how did you?”

“The air smells different.”

“The air…”

Vera shrugged. Davydd turned around and walked towards and empty board at the end of the wall. It had no painting on it.

“The story for that is yet to be written.” Vera said, almost reading his mind.

“Did all the others begin like that?”

Vera nodded.

“So you have no idea how this story will play out then.”

“That board is actually the oldest of all the ones you see. Before my mother died, she told me about a prophecy passed down for generations to all the high priestesses of the order of Beatha.”

“What prophecy?”

“That the world as we know it will come to the edge of complete chaos and damnation, and one man’s decision will decide all our fates… gods, humans and dragol.”

“One man.” Davydd laughed.

“Indeed. This man will wield in his hands the power of life, and the power of death.” Vera turned to him. If Davydd did not know better, he would have said something about her staring so intently at him. Vera smiled. “But you didn’t come here to discuss old myths and paintings with me now did you?”

“I apologize for taking up your time.” Davydd said, catching himself. “You have been more than kind to us. Sometimes I wonder why.”

“No need to. I know exactly who I am in the presence of. I would never deny aid to my goddess or her offspring. What is it you need?”

“Tonight, I would like for one of your brothers or sisters in the order, to set the prisoner free.”

“I have no right to ask, as he is not a prisoner of ours, but… why?”

“Sometimes it is wiser to let the fawn go, so as to lead you to the deer.”

Vera smiled sheepishly. “Well then. Let the hunt begin.”

 

[] CHAPTER SIXTEEN (Wraiths at Dawn)

The night was a cold one. Kazan balled himself together as much as possible to keep warm. He wished the night would stretch out for as long as possible. He even wished for dawn not to come, for the sunrise meant the sunset on his life. He’d had time to reflect on his life, though he had fought that with all his might. What good was it getting depressed before his impending death. He’d lived as good a life as he could ever hope for. He’d sailed with his father across the oceans since he could remember. They’d discovered lands as yet unknown to all the empires. Together, they had been on more adventures than others would experience in fifty life times. No, he had little to regret but one. He would never be pirate king. A sound, barely audible, shook Kazan from his thoughts. Kazan sprang forward and made an attempt to move until the tug of the chain on his right ankle, reminded him of the dead weight that kept him in place. Out of the corner of his eye, Kazan caught sight of a figure moving from pillar to pillar. The figure was cloaked in black garments.

“Who goes there?!!” Kazan yelled. “Have you come to ridicule me before sending me to the beyond?!”

The figure suddenly rushed towards Kazan and covered his mouth before he could yell some more. The hands were as slender and soft as that of a woman’s. Kazan caught sight of the cloaked figure’s face. He rested on the glassy eyes. It was the lady they called Vera.

“You…”

“Be still and silent.” Vera said brandishing a key. “If you want my setting you free to not be in vain.”

“And why would you help me? You shelter and feed my captors.”

“Despite that truth, I did not foresee you being treated so cruelly.” Vera unlocked the metal band around his ankle that was attached to the chain. Kazan looked down at his leg in disbelief. He was free? He was free.

“You don’t have much time.” Vera said. She pointed towards the huge twin doors to the right side of the courtyard and they ran towards them. Vera rotated the long wooden latch that held both doors together, upwards and pushed them open.

“Go!”

They could hear voices behind them.

What’s going on out there! Someone’s letting the prisoner escape!

“Go now before they take you again!”

“My many thanks.” Kazan said staring at Vera. Then he was off, running down the huge concrete steps leading up to the shrine. The steps were numerous and sectioned off into three groups, each separated by a concrete platform before embarking on the next flight of steps. On either side, at each platform, were two tall rectangular pillars made of concrete. They were more for aesthetic purpose than anything else. On top of one of such pillars, two figures were crouched.

“What plays on your mind Max?” Sam asked as he turned his gaze towards his fellow guardian.

“That man almost took my life. I’d rather him dead.”

Sam wore a look of surprise.

“Max, I’ve never seen you hold such anger.”

Max laughed. “It’s embarrassing that’s all. This life we were given, we always knew it would bring us a violent death at some point, but to be poisoned? Just seems a bit pathetic.”

“Ah so that’s it then. You would rather meet your end in a blaze of glory.”

“The wish of every warrior.”

“Indeed.”

They watched as Kazan stumbled and fell flat on his chest. He struggled to get up and kept running.

“Well then.” Sam said tilting his hat lower. “The hunt is on.”

At the gate’s entrance, Leo stood invisible to the naked eye. He watched as Kazan kept running. Vera walked up and stood beside him.

“Do you think this will work?”

Leo looked at her in surprise. Did she really know he was there? He looked around and saw nobody else. Maybe she was thinking out aloud. He kept quiet and turned his gaze back to Kazan.

“You choose to remain silent then?”

“You can see me?”

“Are you surprised?”

“A bit.”

“How long are you going to hide because of your pain?”

“What do you speak of?”

“That heartbeat of yours certainly tells a story. One I would like to hear someday.”

“I cannot guarantee that my lady. We may never meet again.”

Vera turned to him and placed her hand gently on his chest.

“Yes we will.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because I know you will come back. You will… and if you don’t, I will find you. For whether you remain seen or unseen, I… can always see you… Leo.”

She felt his heart thud on her palm after her words and smiled.

“Vera.” It was Davydd.

“We prepare to leave now. You have sheltered us for close to a moon. You have my many thanks.”

“None needed. This place will always be open to you and your friends when need be. You all will have my prayers and as long as I’m thinking of you, this is your home.” She turned back to where Leo was standing.

Davydd nodded and continued on as the others followed suit, each stopping by Vera and offering greetings. The last to come through the doors was Lynda. At the sight of her, Vera dropped to her knees and bowed down low.

“This has been and will be the greatest blessing of my life.”

Lynda bent down low and clasped Vera’s face in her hands gently.

“I thank you for your kind heart.” Lynda leaned forward and kissed Vera on the forehead.

Vera leaped forward and embraced Lynda in a warm and appreciating embrace.

“Mother goddess!! You honor me greatly.”

Lynda hugged her as well for a brief time.

“Come now. I must meet up with my son. I leave you two to share farewells. Don’t take too long Leo.”

“My Lady.” Leo said.

Vera got up as Lynda left. She turned to Leo.

Leo walked up to her and knelt down. He took her hand and kissed it.

“I must go now Vera. And when I return, I will have stories to tell you.”

“I will be waiting.”

Leo nodded and tipped his hat to her before departing down the flight of steps. Vera stood atop the flight of steps watching them go before turning back inside. As Leo caught up to the rest, Sam and Max began sarcastically clearing their throats and whistling.

“What is it?” Leo asked.

“Oh nothing at all.” Sam said as Max chuckled.

“Your happiness warms my heart.” Max said.

“Shut up.” Leo said. He felt embarrassed.

“Okay… priestess lover.” Max said suppressing his laughter.

Up ahead, Davydd and Vannera walked together.

“Do you see him still?” Davydd asked.

“As clear as the sun itself.” Vannera replied. She held his hand and he squeezed hers gently and reassuringly.

“However, he does not take the path back to Sangwa.”

“Where is he headed?” Baximus asked.

“He heads west instead of south.”

“The field of brave souls lies west of here.” Matilom noted.

“All the same, we have to follow.” Davydd said.

“Is that wise?” Vannera asked.

“What would you rather do?”

Vannera turned to Matilom.

“Do you remember when Lady Feona set upon you during the Balek’s attack in Angweleth?”

“Yes of course.”

“Your aura was black.”

“That is because I was near death.”

“Well… I see a lot of black pulsating auras where he’s headed. Are there so many who are near death there?”

“Oh no…” Matilom said.

“What is it?”

“Those are not persons near death my dear. Those are lost souls.”

“Lost?”

“Yes… they walk the line between this world and the next. Wraiths they are called.”

Lynda walked ahead of the group.

“You will not be able to see him for long in such a cloud of souls Vannera.” She said.

“What are you going to do?” Davydd asked.

“I shall aid from the skies above and make you aware of happenings around you. This is your fight. Vannera seeing as you have the sight, I shall be speaking to you more so. Please be attentive.”

“Yes my lady.” Vannera said respectfully.

“Matilom please tell them all they need to know about wraiths.”

“It will be done.” Matilom said.

And with that Lynda bent down and leapt up in the air. She was off as quickly as an arrow through the air skyward, until she was gone from view.

“She seemed… upset.” Davydd said.

“Wraiths are what become of souls Feona can’t find or neglects if she has no interest be it either from her appetite being temporarily satiated or because the soul holds no worth whatsoever to her.”

“It seems lady Feona will get a scolding.” Segmiatus chuckled.

“Careful what you say.” Sam said smiling. “She can hear you even away from the shores of Angweleth you know?”

Davydd turned to Matilom. “What threat do Wraiths pose?”

“Wraiths are shadows of the souls of once mortals. They are lost auras who have been deprived of peace and happiness or pain and suffering.”

“They feel nothing at all?”

“And yet, to feel nothing, to know nothing, is to feel something. That something is what they wish to share with anyone unfortunate enough to be caught by them. Do not look into their eyes, or you will become a mindless person, without reason or logic. That is, if you are not struck down before them. You would be luckier if it were the latter.”

“They can fight?”

“They can, but only by instinct. They are another embodiment of chaos, just like the dragol.”

“How do we kill them?”

“Usually, in order to defeat a wraith, one must show it its former corpse in hopes of restoring the lost soul’s reason. However in this case we have neither any corpse nor the ability to withstand such a large number of wraiths.”

“So, what shall we do?” Davydd asked.

“We do what the pirate does. We run through and pray that no wraith takes an exceeded interest in us.”

“Alright.” Davydd said. “Max I want you to take myself and Vannera with you. We can use your portals to navigate our way through the fields more quickly.”

“Your highness.” Max said as he made his way over to Davydd and Vannera.

“Sam I leave you with Segmiatus and Matilom.”

“I doubt the old Wizard can endure such rapid movements anymore.” Sam said laughing. Davydd shook his head before turning to Leo.

“Leo, a pairing with the former wielder of the power of the unseen seems befitting.”

“As you wish your highness.”

Davydd turned to Baximus who was staring at him and smiling.

“What is it?” He asked perplexed.

“One day… you will make a great king.” Baximus said as he and Leo faded away from view.

Davydd smiled briefly.

“Let us go.”

The field of brave souls was a dark and desolate place, devoid of all life except for the grass that did nothing to provide respite in such dreariness. Despite the day being broken and the sun rays illuminating the earth below, the field seemed enshrouded by a perpetual shadow, cast by a seemingly unmoving dark cloud above the field’s expanse. As the group slowly moved into the field, they crouched low, taking cover in the tall blades of grass which had been allowed to thrive in the absence of grazing animals to feed on them. Above them, they could see the Wraiths walking around in mid- air. Some were lower set in the air than others, and some came very close to the ground, but none ever touched the ground. They moved about aimlessly, making indiscernible noises from time to time. Their eyes wore an empty look as they trudged along.

“Matilom.” Davydd whispered. “Why do their feet never meet with the earth beneath them?”

“They do not belong to this realm or to our reality. All souls face difficulty in walking with mortals without being noticed. It is hard to… adapt to the limitations that rule over us. Now then, let us be swift and be gone from this field.”

As they crept along, Segmiatus unconsciously scanned the faces of the wraiths.

“These… these are mostly wraiths of soldiers.”

“Soldiers?” Davydd asked. “Of Beathaleth?”

“No. These are wraiths of all the kingdoms. Could these be souls of those who perished during the Dragol War?”

“They are. I recognize some.” Matilom looked away before he could make eye contact with one of them. “Be careful.” He said.

“Father?” Segmiatus said looking at one wraith that had passed close to them. He began walking towards the figure. A hand shot out and grabbed him by the shoulder. It was that of Sam.

“What are you doing? You will get us killed.”

“That is my father over there.”

“Get a hold of yourself. That is no longer your father, and if you go there, you will most definitely be killed.”

“I cannot sit idly and let this happen. Feona has neglected her duties. Father!”

The wraith that was Segmiatus’s father turned towards the group. It fixed its gaze on Segmiatus, freezing him still. Segmiatus struggled to move but he had lost control of his muscles. They locked on him the harder he struggled to move them. It was as though they had a will of theirs. The wraith slowly made its way towards him. It unsheathed its sword and got into a swinging stance.

“Father…” Segmiatus barely got the word out.

The wraith swung towards Segmiatus’s waist. There was a clang of metal. The clang was followed by a blow to Segmiatus’s head. Segmiatus looked down to see Balek’s sword blocking his wraith father’s sword. His gaze shifted upwards and met Davydd’s enraged glare.

“What have you done?” Davydd asked. Segmiatus looked on in silence, realizing much to his self-disgust that his uncontrolled emotions had endangered everyone. Vannera was watching the events unfold, when she heard the voice of Lynda.

Run

“Davydd.” She called. “We can save the blames for later. We have to go now.”

Davydd looked around him. The wraiths were all closing in on their position.

“Come Segmiatus.” Davydd dragged him away from his father’s wraith. “We have to make haste.” They ran back to the group. Davydd went to Max and Vannera, while Segmiatus ran to Sam and Matilom.

“You fool!” Sam bellowed.

“Not now Sam.” Davydd said. “Go!”

Sam placed his hands on Segmiatus’s and Matilom’s backs simultaneously. “You will feel a bit of a tinge. Do not panic and trust me.” And with that, all three of them were gone like a beam of light is gone after momentarily flashing through the sky.

“Are you ready?” Max said as he clasped both Vannera’s and Davydd’s hands.

“Go.” Davydd said.

A huge portal opened up and enveloped all three of them. It opened up a few paces ahead and then enveloped them once more. All the while, the wraiths gave chase as quickly as they could, and they were quick. Up ahead, Sam came to a stop. His hands were still on Matilom’s and Segmiatus’s back, but this time he was leaning on them for support. Segmiatus looked back at Sam to see he was sweating heavily.

“Fatigue has set in.” Segmiatus said. “You must catch your breath.”

“No time.” Sam looked up to see a wraith coming down on them with a great sword. “We must move.” He pressed on their backs and they were gone just as the wraith swung through where they had been.

In the distance, portals opened up and closed up at different parts of the field. Max, Davydd and Vannera fell through another portal and before long, a swarm of wraiths descended upon them.

Max grimaced in pain and clutched his leg.

“Davydd. The wraiths.” Vannera said.

“Don’t overdo it Max.” Davydd said.

Davydd unsheathed his two swords and swung at the wraiths, blocking their attacks and cutting a few of them. They withdrew to a safe distance and waited for their wounds to close up, before swarming in again. Max grabbed Davydd and Vannera and pulled them into another portal just in time. When they emerged, Max was panting heavily. Davydd observed him for a while.

“Moving rapidly with two people through portals, takes its toll I see.”

“That… and… the distance covered. I have maybe two or three more in me.”

“And then what happens?”

“I do not know. I have never been so close to my limits before. For one thing, there will be no more portals. But it is not me I am most worried about.”

“Who then?”

“Leo. Staying unseen for long periods causes his body to burn… as well as those he extends his powers to.” Davydd sighed and closed his eyes momentarily.

Mother, I know you said you won’t interfere unless in dire circumstances. These are dire circumstances.

There was no response. Davydd bent down low and pulled Vannera down with him.

“The wraiths have not found us yet.” He whispered.

He looked up to see the figures that were now flying this way and that. They passed through each other, their shapes being momentarily distorted when they did.

“Let us stay here a while and you can regain your strength Max.” Max nodded. His panting was beginning to subside.

 

Lady Lynda stormed into lady Feona’s dark chambers.

“For one so greedy for human souls, you seem to have neglected a good number.”

Feona turned around and smiled at Lynda.

“You have never been good at greetings my dear sister. However, it is a rare and pleasurable to sight to see you so… enraged.”

“It is your duty as queen of souls to judge them, and aid them as they cross into the eternal life. Why have you deserted those who fell in battle?”

“Because they fell in battle. Those are the souls of the cowards, those who would choose to run and hide for they thought it would save them from death at the hands of the dragol. Those are even souls of those who could not stand by Rikard Miljorn. Why should I want such souls? Oblivion is what they deserve. Besides, it is not them that concerns you now is it?”

“He is my son.”

“Then save him yourself.”

“There is a war coming. Every time I come to his aid, my powers will drain. You know this. I am trying to preserve myself.”

“As am I.”

“There is no consequence for you in this. You would merely be doing your duty.

“Indeed… but I do not have the desire.”

Lynda glared at Feona.

“What is it you want? And please do not stall. I am well aware that you are twisting my arm.”

“Davydd has improved greatly.” Feona said, smiling.

“I knew it. You would not have stopped at Rikard would you?”

“Those are my terms. If he comes within mortal danger, I am free to orchestrate as I see fit.”

“And what about the rest of the mortals? What about the dragol?”

Feona shrugged. Before she could finish her action, a sword was resting on her neck. Its white blade was enshrouded by a bright light which pulsated rapidly.

“Careful sister.” Feona said. “You do not want to start another war between us.”

“A war is what you will get if you do not stop those wraiths… for I will take away the gift of life creation from all mortals.”

“No! You cannot do that! If you do…”

“All humans will die. I am well aware. It is because of me that they live. It is because of me that you have souls to collect. I shall rob you of them and even those who scream and groan in hopelessness, trapped forever in the sea of lost souls.”

“Then I will visit upon you my entire wrath.” Feona warned.

“Feona, I hope for your sake that when you do, you destroy me. For wrath is not something I will visit upon you if you do not do as I ask.”

Lynda leaned in, her gaze fierce, her face menacingly calm.

“It will be something much worse.” She said in a whisper.

Feona stared into her sister’s eyes. She knew Lynda meant every word of what she had said. “If I do this, what then will you offer me in return?”

“Mercy, and peace of mind, for all the pain you have already inflicted upon me.”

“Even if Davydd finds the gauntlet and the sword, there is still the seven year curse that follows it.”

“I do not care about your curse. He is my son, and your nephew. Do not underestimate him… or me. Now go.” Lynda glared at Feona one last time before leaving her chambers.

When she was gone, Jaynea who had been standing a fair distance away walked up to Feona.

“My lady…”

“You will not be accompanying me this time Jaynea. I cannot have Vannera losing focus.”

“My lady, pardon me but I am confused. A while ago you sought to help Davydd. Now you stay your hand while he faces even more distress. Why?”

Feona turned to Jaynea, her red eyes glimmering.

“My sister and I are always at odds.” She said as she drew down a tear in the fabric of all that is and watched it expand.

“Why?”

“It is in our nature. I thirst for the end of souls. I always will. She thirsts for the birth of souls.”

“You especially thirst it seems, for souls close to her heart. However it seems you have taken her threat seriously.”

“Life is cruel.” Feona turned to Jaynea again. “Yes I am sure you have heard that saying before. It would be unwise to treat her threats lightly.”

Feona walked through the tear.

 

Baximus and Leo were slowly fading in and out of visibility. Both their skins burned and they dropped low to the grass. Leo released the spell and they both became visible again. They were drenched in sweat.

“How far do we have to go?” Leo asked.

“Too far. I am well aware of the limits of your power. You cannot keep this up for too much longer without risking death.”

“I am fine.” Leo said forcing a smile. “Feona will not have me so easily.”

“I can have you anytime I wish it.” A voice said. Leo looked up to see that it was the goddess Feona. She held two wraiths by the neck on either hand. Leo watched as both wraiths evaporated into nothingness afterwards.

“My lady Feona. Why is it you are here?” He asked.

“ To save your pathetic lives. Seeing as you cannot do so yourselves. Now come with me.” She held both their hands and they were gone in a portal, which re- emerged near Davydd, Vannera and Max.

“You…” Davydd said.

“Yes. Me. Now be still and silent while I go fetch the other idiots and the wizard.” And with that, she was gone again. She re-emerged again, in front of Sam, Segmiatus and Matilom, though she could not see him.

“Oh my Fe…”

“Finish saying that and I will cause the life from your tongue to leave it. Your foolishness nearly visited tragedy on all.”

Segmiatus fell silent.

“Come with me.”

Sam did not move.

“I am not here for you wizard, though I’d very much like to be. Now come before I change my mind.”

Sam grabbed Matilom’s hand.

“We are ready.” He said, and a portal enveloped them as well. They re-emerged at the same place where she had left Leo and Baximus with Davydd, Max and Vannera. The group was re-united.

“What are you going to do now?”

“What you could not do. Lay on the ground, all of you. I do not wish for you to be caught in my wake.” Feona levitated off the ground and a black aura enshrouded her. Her eyes burned an even brighter red. She raised her gauntlet hand up in front of her, pulled it back as one does when trying to swing a sword horizontally, and swung from left to right. A shockwave exploded from her hand and rapidly spread out in front of her. It also wrapped around her and spread out behind her so that it covered all areas of the field, expanding from her as the epicenter. The shockwave created a strong blast of wind, which combined with the wave itself, caused most of the wraiths in the field to dissolve instantly. The force flattened the grass blades in the field and pressed down on Davydd’s group. They could feel it push them into the soil, almost as though it were huge hands that depressed them in. They all watched as Feona decimated the remaining wraiths swiftly. She seemed to be everywhere at once, laughing as she vanquished wraith after wraith. Feona slowly descended to the ground once more. Her armor melted to re-form her dress as she walked towards the group. Davydd stood up.

“Thank you.” He said.

“Must everything be handed to you?” Feona asked angrily.

“I do not… understand.” A perplexed Davydd said.

“Do you know how much aid your father received from me? A sword was all.”

“Yet it was a sword of power. One I do not have to wield against dragol and wraiths!”

“Do you forget who you are? Not too long ago you spoke proudly to your mother about finally knowing your true self. Have you so soon forgotten your own words? You are a halfing. What you just saw me do, you can also do. Mindless wraiths should not even begin to trouble you, and yet they do.”

“I… I…” Davydd trailed off.

“If you truly have mastered yourself, then it is time you stopped fighting like a mortal for your journey will not get any easier.” Her gaze shifted from Davydd to Max, Leo and Sam.

“The powers of the guardians of Angweleth all come from me. But these powers have a will of their own. I have given the essences of these powers freedom to dwell within the souls of anyone they so deem worthy. There are but two ways to lose your powers. The first way is by death, the other by being found unworthy. And if you are unworthy of such powers, you will most likely perish, as you almost did now.”

She turned back to Davydd, whose head hung low.

“I was beginning to take an interest in you.”

“Feona…”

“We will speak again, when you have shown me that you understand exactly who you are.”

Davydd pursed his lips and raised his chin-boss. He slowly turned towards Vannera.

“Do you still see Kazan?”

Vannera scanned the area and finally spoke.

“Yes I can, though he is aura is fading.”

“Then we must move before he is lost to us. Segmiatus, Baximus, aid Sam, Leo and Max. They have given all that they can.” He turned to them. “And I thank you for it.”

Davydd. I return to you now.

It was his mother’s voice. Davydd closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

No mother. I cannot ask you for any more aid. This is my fight, our fight, the fight of the humans.

There is no shame in asking for aid my son.

I am aware. And yet, there are some things I must learn by myself. I cannot be afforded exalted privileges because of who I am. Rather, I will earn and achieve them because of who I am. Besides, I would rather you face the dragol as a god than as a mortal.

I understand. Do not forget, I will always be with you and will come if so called. In the meantime, have this.

A sword fell from the sky and dropped in front of Davydd, its blade piercing into the earth.

My other sword. It holds less power than that which King Darius Vitalis wields, but it should serve you well along with Balek’s.

 

Davydd pulled out the sword. The others watched him as he inspected the hilt and blade. It was a glorious weapon. The sword suddenly dissolved into a silver arm band around his right wrist. A dim bright light pulsated from it, at intervals.

The blade will aid you in channeling your godly abilities. But you must discover them for yourself. My powers are yours. Remember that.

I will.

Davydd turned to Feona and nodded quickly without saying a word. Everyone was up and ready to go. Segmiatus stayed all the way behind the others and walked with his gaze earthwards. He looked up at Feona for a brief time before somberly turning back around and walking with the others.

Your foolishness nearly visited tragedy on all.

He would be of better use to Davydd if he was not near him. He made up his mind. He would wait until they reached Sangwa, once more. Above them, the dark cloud hanging over the field had cleared. In the distance, in the direction of Sangwa, another much darker one was forming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[] CHAPTER SEVENTEEN (The Calm before the Storm)

Leo followed Kazan at a safe distance. His blue outfit was covered by a grey cloak, though he still wore his hat. The journey back to Sangwa had taken seven days, as Kazan had taken a longer route through the field of brave souls. It had been their closest encounter with death yet. But this was their best chance of finding the gauntlet of Feona and despite their strength waning, they had remained steadfast. Feona’s speech seemed to have galvanized everyone and even Leo found himself practicing his powers again as he once did before he gained mastery of them. His sharp eyes never once left Kazan even as the pirate prince weaved his way through the multitude of pedestrians that traversed the streets of Sangwa in the day time. Kazan had only been in Sangwa a couple of hours and yet he had spoken to a few other men, whom Leo deemed to be pirates as well. He was definitely making arrangements to be picked up. Leo had on occasion gotten close enough to hear the conversations held. They were weary of him possibly being followed and for good cause. He was being followed. Kazan walked into an inn and paid for a room. Leo was about to follow, when he stopped in his tracks. There, a few paces in front of him, was the Angwelethean death class soldier who had almost caught him and Baximus as they escaped from the holding cells in the Gor security outpost. While not in Angwelethean armor, Leo still remembered his face. Leo looked away and made a mental note of the Inn’s location. He turned to go but could not avoid making eye contact with Farok. It was brief, but the moment of recognition had come upon the Angwelethean soldier as well. Farok began walking quickly through the crowd towards Leo, but a group of people walking in the opposite direction obscured his view for a moment. When he looked past them, Leo was gone. Leo quickly made his way unseen through the crowd before following the path of the street his was on until it curved towards the left and thinned in its width. The human traffic here was considerably less. Leo waited till he got to a quiet part of the street before fading back into visibility again. He was getting close to the inn the rest of the group had chosen to stay in. No sooner had he become visible than he had to dodge the downward vertical slash of a sword. He rolled to his right and sprang to his feet, unsheathing his sword from its back sheath, just in time to defend against another slash. For the first time, Leo caught sight of his attacker. He wore a crimson hat with a black band around it, a black cloak over a crimson tunic and black pants tucked into black leather boots. His sword was peculiar in shape, widening from base to slanted tip, with 5 holes situated along the center of the blade and holding some sort of energy within them. They also made a very slight humming noise that turned into a whizzing sound whenever he swung his blade. Leo also noticed that when he swung, the energy holes left behind streaks of light in the wake of the sword.

“I have no quarrel with you.” Leo said.

“Now you have put me in an awkward situation.” Obin replied.

“And how is that?”

“I have to kill one who won’t put up a true fight.” Obin reached back and swung again from right to left. Leo blocked with his sword, using his left hand to provide extra support in absorbing the force of Obin’s powerful swing. Leo immediately pushed back on Obin’s sword, causing the powerful man to fall back and lose his stance momentarily. Leo moved in to take advantage of the opening, swinging his sword vertically from low to high, in an attempt to split Obin’s face in half. Obin kept moving backwards and finally arched his head just out of reach of Leo’s blade. The blade whizzed by in a menacing arc right in front of Obin’s nose. Leo came back down with his blade this time in a downward arc. Obin regained his stance, planting his right foot behind him for support. He blocked Leo’s downward slash with his own sword perpendicular to Leo’s. No sooner had Obin blocked the blow, than did he release the force of his resistance, thereby letting Leo’s own momentum carry him through. Leo fell forward and Obin moved behind Leo and swung at the guardian’s now open back. However, he met Leo’s sword, which he had brought behind him to block the blow. Leo kicked backwards with his right foot and slammed it into Obin’s mid-section. Obin staggered backwards as Leo pivoted around to face him. Leo moved forward, his head bent low in anticipation of Obin’s horizontal slash with his sword as he fell backwards. It did come and whizzed over Leo’s head. As such, Leo was still moving forward and Obin was now open. Leo swung with his sword at Obin’s mid-section once more. He had him. However, Obin brought his blade back quickly with the flat side of the blade was facing Leo, so that the magical holes were facing him too. The light inside them brightened and shot forward at Leo who lifted his sword to block the attack. The impact caused a bright explosion that knocked both men in opposite directions. Obin fell on his back, but went into a roll and quickly got back on his feet. Leo was nowhere to be seen. Obin stood still, his eyes scanning the street, his ears listening for any sound and his muscles recoiled like a spring, ready to uncoil again if need be. Despite his predicament, his breathing remained calm and his heart beat was steady. He had to be. Panic would not suffice at this moment. There it was: the slight whooshing sound of a sword that only a trained ear could pick up. Had he been any other person, the sword swing would have decapitated him. Instead it missed when Obin bent low and swirled around. His hat was however, gone revealing his medium length black hair. Obin still could not see Leo but he heard another attack coming and barely blocked that. He heard another one and a gash opened up in his thigh. Obin staggered back and waited until he heard the very quiet sound of a cautious footstep. He sent an energy blast from his sword to the ground. It broke part of the concrete street, and sent some dust flying up in the air. Obin observed the dust particles reveal an outline, as they swirled. He was just in time as it also revealed Leo’s blade coming at him in a forward thrust. Obin side stepped the blade and grabbed Leo’s neck, forcing them down to the ground with a thud. The blow caused Leo to cough out as the back of his head impacted the ground and Obin pressed his sword blade on Leo’s neck.

“Any last words Angwelethean spy?”

Leo coughed and wheezed. “I should… be asking… you the same.” Leo faded into visibility. It was then Obin noticed that Leo’s blade was actually in his left hand and pointed at his neck. What the dust particles had revealed was actually Leo’s sheath, which he had used as a decoy.

“And I am no spy.” Leo continued. “Again, you have me mistaken.”

“You switched blade hands. Your skill is impressive.”

“Did you not hear me?”

“I heard you well. Drop your blade.”

“And surrender my only chance at survival?”

“I will not kill you. You have my word.”

“My apologies if I take them lightly at this time.”

“We are at a standstill then.”

“Not exactly. You may want to drop your sword.” Leo warned.

“And if I don’t?” Obin asked, visibly enthused.

“I’ll slice you in half faster than Lynda herself can put you back together.” It was the voice of Max. He pressed the tip of his dagger on Obin’s back.

“Stand up and let the man go.” Max continued.

Obin slowly let go of Leo who massaged his neck as both men got up to their feet. Leo then reached out and pointed his blade at Obin’s heart.

“What happens now?” Obin asked.

“Let go of your sword slowly.” Max commanded.

Obin did so and his sword dropped to the ground with a clang. Max bent down and picked it up, his dagger still pointed at Obin’s back.

“Now we introduce you to everyone.” Max said as a portal took them away.

The portal opened up in an upper room. There, Davydd and the rest sat or stood waiting. Obin shook his head and tried to regain his orientation.

“Portal travel will do that to you if you are not accustomed to it.” Max said. “I would be still if I were you.”

“Obin?” Matilom said. Obin turned around and saw Matilom walking up to him. “Put away your weapons.” Matilom ordered. Obin slowly got up and squinted his eyes. He was still battling with orientation.

“Matilom…” He said.

“You know each other?” Davydd asked.

“Obin is the commander of the Beathalethean army and King Darius Vitalis’s right hand… man.”

“A king that is furious with you wizard. You sent us warning, moons ago. A warning we confirmed. Yet you did not say where in Beathaleth you were going to be. What’s more, it appears you have brought hostile men to our shores through Sangwa.”

“My sincerest apologies Obin. But seeing as your command had already been breached once before, I was not sure that I could trust any more word being sent without falling to the enemies eyes. Besides, the men I used last time are no longer with me.”

“I see.” Obin looked around him. “Who is the son of Rikard?”

Davydd walked forward. “I am.”

Obin surveyed him for a few moments.

“The spitting image.” He finally said.

“How is it that you were able to find Leo?” Davydd asked.

“I didn’t. Beathaleth is a very large kingdom, king of Angweleth. Sangwa is but one of many ports, but word has spread of unusual activity here. The death of a trader, the strange group of outsiders who would disturb residents with questions, rumored fighting in the white deserts and now rumors of Angwelethean soldiers who lurk in ships near the port.”

“Angwelethean ships? We only came with one and that one left almost three moons ago.”

“The ships I speak of have been talked about for a moon now. Soldiers from your kingdom are here. He knows.” Obin pointed at Leo. “It’s how I found him. I observed the exchange of stares unseen one and there is only one kingdom I know such powers of camouflage lay in.”

“He’s right.” Leo added. “Today, I saw one of the death class soldiers. It was the one who nearly prevented my escape with Baximus on the day of the rescue.”

“Farok is his name.” Baximus said.

“Was he following anyone?” Davydd asked Obin.

“Not anyone in particular. I was following him however. He stalks the port daily as if waiting for someone.”

“Most likely us.” Davydd concluded.

“I am not sure that it is you he waits for. He always sets his sights on ships and its passengers or crew and even then, his interest does not include those of the wealthy.”

“He must have gotten wind of the pirates somehow.”

“If he’s here, then it is very likely my father is as well.” Vannera said, deep in thought.

“You harbor the false King’s daughter?” Obin asked looking at Vannera with contempt.

“Watch your words.” Davydd said, stepping forward.

“This is not the time for conflict among us.” Baximus said walking forward.

“Obin. It has been a while. I have one question. Did you come here of your own free will, or at the behest of King Vitalis?” Baximus asked.

“At his majesty’s orders, I was dispatched here.”

Baximus breathed a sigh of relief. “Then you are not alone.”

“No… unfortunately.” Obin looked away.

“Some things never change.” Baximus said as he shook his head.

“Father… We need to lay out plans.” Davydd said. He glanced over and Segmiatus who was sitting away from the group and staring at nothing in particular. He had been distant ever since their encounter with the wraiths at the field of dead souls. Davydd had meant to speak to him in private, but had not found the opportunity yet.

“Very well then.” Baximus said. “Our first task is to ensure we know when Kazan attempts to meet with Ivan. For that, I believe Max should be equal to the task.” Baximus looked at Davydd, who nodded his head.

“Sam and Segmiatus will be in charge of scouting for all Angwelethean soldiers here under the guise of residents. Segmiatus, you are well versed in the tactics of Angwelethean soldiers, and as such you will take command of this.”

Segmiatus nodded.

“Vannera and Matilom, you two will seek a vantage point on a rooftop where you can see as far and wide as you can in all directions. You will be our guide and let us know where Kazan is at all times. Your sight has developed greatly and you can discern individual auras now.”

Vannera nodded as well.

“I and Leo shall take to the ports in hopes of spotting Sidion’s ships, or Ivan’s. Davydd, you and Obin shall follow Leo and me. We will take the path back to where Leo last saw Kazan. Let us hope he is still there. Once you spot him, Vannera who will at first have eyes on you, should see him as well. Obin, have your men lend support to us as best they can.”

“They already are, though they have been instructed not to combat the enemy until ordered to do so.”

The tension in the room was palpable. Everyone was lost in their own thoughts. For once, the gauntlet was within reach.

“Everyone here.” Davydd began “You have all risked your lives believing that we do what is right for Angweleth… for Terrinaus.” He looked around the room. “Some of you have known that this day would come for much longer than I have, and some of you have known about it for as long as I have. Regardless, you have stood by me even when I could not stand. You have believed in me, even when I scarcely believed in myself. You have trusted me unwaveringly. Whatever today brings, I thank you. Whatever today brings, we will not pause, we will not turn and run, we will not give up hope until we achieve that which we came for. Let us show the enemy that no amount of power or control can ever subdue the human spirit or the will to live and live well.”

The speech seemed to galvanize the others and strengthen their resolve. The glimmer of hope returned to their eyes as they nodded heads and made gestures of approval.

“An orator.” Obin said in a low voice so that only Davydd could hear. “Not a trait easily mastered. You inspire well young Miljorn. It is no wonder you have come so far even when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges.”

“I have had my moments of doubt.” Davydd said.

“Yet you overcome them. Perseverance my friend, is also a valuable trait. Remember that. In the meantime, I suggest you address whatever it is that troubles your friend over there. If he goes into battle in such spirits, I fear he will not live through it.” Davydd looked at Segmiatus again and then back at Obin.

“I pray my attempt does not dampen his mood any further.”

Davydd walked over to Segmiatus and sat by him. They sat in silence for a while, watching the others make preparations. Davydd looked at Segmiatus, noting his forlorn look.

“Did you know him?” Davydd asked.

“I was too young to remember.” Segmiatus said after another brief silence.

“Why Segmiatus? Why did you not tell me about this?”

“There was no need… There never was.”

“You told me he had gone to a faraway land.”

“Yes… he did. He came here.”

Davydd breathed in heavily.

“I understand now… why you so strongly wanted to come on this quest. You saw yourself in me. Did you not?”

“I came because I could not let my closest friend embark on a deathly journey while I stayed back in the comfort of Angweleth. I did not expect this. I almost caused everyone’s demise. I even got reprimanded by lady Feona. I don’t deserve to be part of this.”

“Are you done moping?” Davydd asked. “Such nonsense. You are a part of this Segmiatus. You have been my closest friend and confidant. I cannot blame you for longing to converse with your father once more. I know what it is like… to have someone missing in your life and wonder where they are.”

“Indeed… you found yours…”

“As did you. The choice to honor his sacrifice is yours to make, however you to choose to make it. But I need you by my side. I ask as a friend… for your support… your real support.”

Segmiatus looked up at Davydd, who was smiling at him. He gave him a friendly pat and on the shoulder and rejoined the rest, leaving Segmiatus to his thoughts.

 

Farok walked into the captain’s quarters of the ship he was on. It was not the royal ship in which the king of Angweleth usually rode in, but it was the one Sidion Vror had chosen to travel in, as it would draw less attention. In the captain’s quarters, Sidion Vror stood watching the expanse of ocean that stretched out far in front of them.

“What news do you bring, Farok?” Sidion asked, looking behind him.

“One of the men who follow Davydd Miljorn was in Sangwa today. It was the one who holds the power of the unseen. I tried to follow but he was gone from my sight before I could make a move.”

“Could you tell what he was doing?”

“He was standing in front of an inn and he did glance at it. I am not sure, but he might have been following someone.”

Sidion turned around to face Farok.

“Then we must assume they know where the pirates are. It is already getting dark, which is good. Bring the ships to shore under the cover of night. Once we get sight of Davydd, or Ivan and their followers, we strike.”

 

They were ready to move, all of them. They wore focused and intense looks on their faces as they prepared to head out of the upper room in the inn. Davydd nervously played with his sword handle, by his side. A hand wrapped around his and when he instinctively turned to look, his eyes caught Vannera’s smiling face.

“Steady my love, steady.” She said reassuringly.

“Vannera…” Davydd began but trailed off.

“What troubles you? You can tell me.” She put her right hand gently on his cheek.

“I am sorry… for what I may have to do… tonight.”

Vannera looked at him for a while realizing what he meant, and buried her head in his chest. She wrapped her arms around his neck and slowly lifted her face to his ears. Her eyes were moist.

“Do you remember what I told you back at Windhaven?” She asked.

A chilly feeling came over Davydd and he nodded.

“Do not hesitate.” He finally said.

Vannera slowly nodded her approval.

“Do not. So promise me, promise me you will not exchange your life for his. Promise me you will do this for me.”

“What if you are wrong?”

“Then whatever you do, you do not die, and you bring back the gauntlet, with you alive… Davydd Miljorn.”

Davydd nodded again. He looked down and unhooked his sheathed sword that rested on his left side. He handed it to Vannera.

“I pray you never have to draw this.”

“And what about you?”

“I have this.” Davydd slightly pulled back a rag which had been tied over his right wrist, revealing the silver band that was the form Lynda’s second sword had assumed.

“And I have Balek’s sword.” Davydd continued.

“Davydd…”

“Take the sword… please.”

Vannera nodded and did so. “You always worry.” She said smiling.

Davydd returned the smile.

“Have a little faith.” She continued. It was Davydd’s turn to nod.

“I love you Vannera.”

“And I you Davydd Miljorn. And I you.” And with that, her lips met his in a long sensuous kiss. For a brief moment in time, the world was theirs and nothing else mattered. When they finally pulled back, Matilom cleared his throat.

“Ahem. The gauntlet… shall not… be found with words of love and kisses.” They all laughed at his sarcasm.

Davydd looked at everyone for a brief moment. The time had finally come.

“Shall we begin?” He said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[] CHAPTER EIGHTEEN (I have come for what is mine)

Kazan put on his clothes while staring at the naked woman who lay in bed asleep. It felt like an eternity since he last felt the touch of a woman. The wait was worthwhile. The woman had been a lively one and his hunger had been satiated. Kazan put on his boots and glanced at her one more time before heading out of the room. He took the flight of steps down to the bottom floor of the inn, where he exchanged brief pleasantries with the inn-keeper, before heading out into the night. His eyes scanned the streets to his left and right before continuing on in the direction of the port. He was to meet with Horius at the main street before the port, at which time they would be accompanied by more of his father’s men to the boat which would ferry them to his father’s ship. As he walked on he frequently glanced behind him to make sure no one was following. He hadn’t forgotten about the unexpected fortune that had befallen him at the shrine. He had been suspicious of his aided escape, but there was no time to think. Hence his diverted path through the field of brave souls, where he knew he could slip by unnoticed. He’d watched as the wraiths went into frenzy behind him. They had tried to follow him. He was sure of it. Whatever their fate was, he had not waited to find out. What he did know was he had not seen any of them since and he could not wait to be sure while his window of opportunity was still open. Kazan arrived at the main street of Sangwa which led directly towards the ports were the ships and boats docked. He turned left and walked near a row of taverns, making sure to keep away from the lighted parts of the street. Up ahead, a man stood in the corner smoking a cigar. He sucked in three times, making the cigar’s burning edge light up three times as well. It was a signal. It was Horius. Kazan made his way towards him and stopped a few paces away but was still close enough so they could hear each other.

“It is a very chilly night.” Horius finally said.

“Indeed.” Kazan responded. “It is the kind that lures people to the warmth of a fire.”

“Or the warmth of a woman.” Horius included.

“Right you are again. But that warmth is fleeting. A fire is more lasting.” Kazan countered.

“Fires bring insects to play and they follow your scent wherever you go.”

“Sometimes. But tonight I have been fortunate to be without them.”

Horius nodded. He put the cigar down on the ground, and stepped on it.

“Kazan.” Horius said hugging the pirate prince.

“It is good to see you my friend.” Kazan said returning the gesture.

“It is a mutual feeling. Now, we must hurry. Your father awaits you.” Horius motioned with his head and three men who had blended in with the drunkards in front of a tavern, broke character and began walking towards them. Horius and Kazan began walking towards the port where a boat had docked. Once they got to the docks, Ivan and his towering frame emerged from the shadows to meet them.

“Father.” Kazan said. “I…” He was cut off by a vicious slap across the face. Kazan’s head cocked to his right, behind the force of the slap. He looked back at his father in shock and anger.

“Have I not taught you anything?!” Ivan bellowed.

“Father I merely sought to…”

“You have risked it all for us. Years and years of patience and you let your youthful exuberance get the better of you. Come. Let us go.”

“You are not going anywhere.” The voice came from behind Ivan. It was that of Max. Ivan made to move but felt Max’s dagger at the back of his neck. His eyes picked out the figures of Baximus and Leo materializing behind Horius and the other three pirates. Leo struck one down unconscious with the handle of his sword and quickly grabbed another, placing his sword in front of the pirate’s neck. Baximus had already subdued the other one. Davydd and Obin emerged from the shadows, walking directly towards Kazan and Ivan.

“You…” Kazan said when Davydd got up to him.

“You really are a fool.” Ivan said to Kazan. “I wish I had another son.”

Davydd placed his left hand on Kazan’s right shoulder, as his eyes rested on Ivan.

“Hello Ivan the terrible.” Davydd said.

“And whom do I speak to, that dares hold my son prisoner.”

“My name is Davydd Miljorn, son of King Rikard Miljorn and the goddess Lady Lynda, heir to the throne of Angweleth and rightful wielder of the gauntlet and sword of Feona. I believe you have the gauntlet, and I have come here to collect what belongs to me.”

“What belongs to you? The gauntlet is in my possession, not yours. It belongs to me and you will never have it.”

“Well then… if it does belong to you, why aren’t you wearing it?”

Ivan flashed Davydd an infuriated look. “I will eventually break the spell.”

“Is your thirst for power that blinding?! Years have passed and you have found no way to bend the gauntlet to your will. Right now, humanity is on the verge of war and I need that gauntlet to play my part.”

“Sorry young king, you will learn, much like the other kings of Terrianus that I don’t care much for the fate of humanity. Now, release my son, before I take him from you by force.”

“You will hand over the gauntlet.” A voice said. It came from the right side of Davydd. He looked to see that a second boat had silently docked and disembarking was Sidion Vror himself, along with Farok and a few other death class soldiers. Behind them, barely visible in the waters, were more small boats with other soldiers in them. The boats made their way to the shore, slowly but steadily. Their approach was as ominous as the approach of the night after the day. There was nothing anyone could do to stop it, and it would engulf all. Behind the boats still and even less visible, were the darkened large shapes of Sidion’s ships.

“You will hand over the gauntlet to me.” Sidion said. “To not do so is to invite death upon yourself and everyone else here. And this time Ivan, your death will not be a carefully plotted deceit.”

All three men stood motionless for a while. They were all there, driven by varying needs and goals, be it destiny, greed, power, a sense of duty or something even more and as yet intangible.

“Sidion…” Davydd started.

“King… Sidion.” Sidion retorted.

“Back in Windhaven, you said you do what you do for the good of Angweleth. Yet right now, your actions say you have other intentions.”

“My intentions are the same young Miljorn. And they extend towards all of Terrianus. It seems as though you have matured greatly since the last time we met. Maybe I can talk some sense into you this time. If you take that gauntlet and wear it, a spell will be broken. It is one that limits the dragol’s movements in our realm. Were it to be broken, the dragol would invade our world faster than an arrow of yours could find its mark. As we are now, we are not ready to stop such a force.”

“Then when will we be? How weak is the spell that my father cast now Sidion?”

Sidion’s eyes widened.

“Yes.” Davydd continued, reading his shock. “I am well aware of the events that transpired before his passing. Events driven by none other than you. You say wait but it is for your own merit that you do. And even if it were not, right now is our best chance to finally put an end to this. Once I wield the gauntlet then I will find the sword.”

“And what if you don’t find the sword in time?”

Davydd was silent for a moment. “I will find it. I ask you to trust me.”

Sidion glared at Davydd. Ivan took advantage of the momentary break in concentration, and reached for his axe, striking at Max as he did so. The Angwelethean guardian had already evaded the blow by traveling through a portal. Ivan swung down at the two Angwelethean kings, who reacted just in time to remove themselves from harm’s way.

“I am sorry my friends.” Ivan said in a deep voice. “But I do not have the patience to exchange reason with either of you. The gauntlet is mine. Come and make your attempt on it, at your own peril.”

A great number of pirates were now disembarking from Ivan’s ship. They fanned out in front of him, while he, Kazan and Horius retreated, making their way towards the pirate ship.

“It seems the time for words is over.” Obin said, drawing his sword. The energy holes that went along the middle of his blade pulsated even faster.

“Attack!” Sidion screamed out and his soldiers began fanning out in both directions on the dock, attacking the pirates as well as Davydd and his men. Davydd pulled out Balek’s sword and used it to wade off a few of the soldiers before he, Baximus, Leo, Obin and Max all retreated behind some incoming Beathalethean soldiers, who yelling and screaming all the way, clashed violently with the Angwelethean soldiers at the port. The invasion had begun, and all around Sangwa, the screams and clashes of other soldiers at different docks, could be heard. Davydd turned to Obin.

“I had not thought of this. The citizens of Sangwa. They will be victims in this.”

“You just thought of them?” Obin laughed. “You still have much to learn young king. When you wage war, you must protect your people. If you cannot do that, then what are you fighting the war for?” They withdrew to the main street leading up to the docks, where the fighting continued.

“Do not worry. We will protect them with our lives, you and me. You brought death to our lands and I will not have it take over.”

Davydd nodded in agreement and turned to Max.

“Make sure neither the pirates nor the Angweletheans are attacking the innocents. Do what you have to, to assist Beathaleth’s soldiers.”

“At once.” Max said and was gone.

Davydd glanced around, looking for Ivan or Sidion. He could not spot them and to add to his frustration, he could not break his focus from the battle for long, as he was being attacked intermittently. Davydd warded off another attack, and his gaze shifted to Ivan’s ship. He could make out the silhouette of the boat taking Ivan, Kazan and Horius back to the pirate king’s ship. He fought his way through some more Angwelethean soldiers and Ivan’s pirates, as he made his way back to the docks.

“Davydd!” Baximus called. “We cannot advance! If you go alone…”

“Aid me when you can.” And with that, Davydd was off towards Sidion’s boat. A pirate slashed down at him, but Davydd had moved forward just in time to avoid being cut vertically in half. He then jumped over his attacker’s low swipe meant to take off his legs from the ankle downwards. The pirate now made an attempt to cut Davydd’s mid-section, but was countered as Davydd swung Balek’s great sword to meet the pirates. Balek’s sword broke through the pirates and the swing continued through slicing the surprised pirate through the chest and exiting through his back and shoulder. Davydd flipped over another pirate who had run over to aid his falling comrade. Before the pirate could regain his sense of direction or turn around, he had been cut down as well. Davydd boarded Sidion’s boat and paddled as fast as he could towards Ivan’s ship. As he paddled, he looked back at Sangwa. It was now in flames and even though it slowly receded from him, he could still hear the screams and cries of men, women and children caught between the three warring sides. His heart ached as he thought of all the life lost. Davydd shook his head. He needed to focus. Since meeting his mother, he had realized why every death, including those of his enemies seemed to strike him like a knife. It went against his very nature. Davydd continued to paddle towards the looming specter of Ivan’s ship. The gauntlet was somewhere on that ship. He could feel it.

 

Max cut down yet another pirate. The wounded man struggled to get up but was finally put to his end by Max’s dagger. Max looked up at the little children huddled together in a corner, staring at him in wide eyed horror. He could only begin to fathom how this night would change their lives. A similar night had changed his after all. As such, he could understand their fear and he knew that right now, even he could not appear as a friend or source of comfort to them. Hence, he approached them with caution, making sure not to scare them.

“It’s okay.” He said as he approached them. The children huddled together tightly. “It’s okay.” Max repeated. “I will not harm you.”

“But you… you harmed that… man.” One of the little ones said.

Max looked back at the dead pirate.

“I didn’t want to. But I also didn’t want you to come to harm, and you will if you stay here. So… come with me. Let me lead you somewhere safe.”

Max had gotten close enough to reach out his hand to them. The oldest of the children slowly reached out and grabbed Max’s hand. Max nodded reassuringly and motioned for the other children to do the same. Once the last child had interlocked hands, a portal enveloped them and they were gone.

On a high rooftop, Matilom and Vannera stood and surveyed the streets below. The town was in chaos. Plumes of smoke arose, swelling as they got higher into the atmosphere. Vannera coughed.

“Shall we move?” Matilom said.

“No I’m fine.” Vannera responded. “This is the best area to keep watch over them. If I am to move, then it is to help them.” She looked at Matilom.

“We stay here then. I will protect you as best I can, while you maintain your prayers to Lady Lynda. Where is Davydd now?”

“On Ivan’s ship.” Vannera said. Her eyes were fixed on Davydd’s aura as he navigated his way through the ship. She could see it swirl and move whenever he was drawn into a fight. So far, she had no cause to worry.

“Vannera…” Matilom called out. She looked behind him and saw that he was struggling to prevent his neck from being slit by an Angwelethean soldier. She recognized him. He was the one who had punched Davydd in the misty forest. Matilom had his hand held out in front of Farok’s blade. It seemed as though a force was preventing Farok from moving the blade any further. However, the soldier was immensely strong, and his sheer physical strength was slowly but surely over powering Matilom’s magic.

“Soldier… what are you doing?” Vannera said calmly.

“I have orders from your father to take you with me.” Farok responded as he continued to slowly push the blade forward.

“Then you do not need to kill him. I will come with you.”

“It is a nice gesture. But he is still dangerous.”

“Why are you doing this?” Vannera looked at Matilom whose left hand was slowly beginning to glow, as it dropped low facing Farok’s left thigh.

“Has my father corrupted you so?”

“Your father is a good man, princess and he wishes to reason with you.”

“He wishes… to reason with me? Like this? By visiting death upon those I love. I would rather him kill me too.”

At that moment, Matilom placed his hand on Farok’s thigh. The searing heat caused Farok to lose his concentration and Matilom grabbed the soldier’s sword pointing it at him.

“Now then.” Said the wizard. “You heard the princess’s reply. She does not want to return.”

“Your father wishes to stop the invasion of the dragol on the human world. If Davydd Miljorn takes possession of the gauntlet, he will release the dragol from the chains that bind them now. Chains laid by his own father. You have no idea what destruction they can and will cause.”

“Oh I know all too well.” Vannera’s thoughts shifted to Jaynea. “I have witnessed firsthand, the cruelty of the dragol… in this realm. The chains were never a final answer. They were there to give us time. A time that has come now and my father, you and all misguided souls who follow in his wake will send us all to oblivion. You say my father is a good man. Is he? Are you? If you are, then do the right thing. I am on my way to help Davydd.”

Vannera began walking towards the steps that led up to the roof, but Farok caught her by her neck.

“You will come with us.”

A dagger sliced down at Farok’s hand but he let go of Vannera’s neck just in time. Farok kicked his sword out of Matilom’s hand just as Max pulled the wizard and the princess into his portal. They re-emerged on a different rooftop.

“Are you alright?” Max asked the two.

“Thanks to you.” Matilom responded. “Once again.”

Max smiled. “I am going back.”

“Make him taste concrete Max. Make him taste concrete.” Vannera said.

“As commanded.” Max was gone again.

Farok was picking up his sword when he barely dodged a dagger aimed for his neck.

“You again.” He said as Max emerged. “Three times you have attempted to take me unawares. A coward’s move would never work against me.”

“I am no coward.” Max said smiling. “I merely seek to end my disputes in time so I can return to enjoying my life. Life is short as you know.”

“Indeed. Then the time for words has passed us. Let us begin this long awaited duel.” Max smirked and broke into a dash towards Farok. Both men clashed with their weapons, dodging and countering each other without giving any ground. Farok bent low under Max’s one, two jabs and swiped at Max’s mid-section. He hit nothing but air, as Max was already behind him. Farok used his shield to block against the attempted stab in his back. He whirled around from right to left, his sword in hand swinging towards Max. Max used the dagger in his left hand to parry the blow and took advantage of the soldier’s strength by lifting himself up on his left hand. His right leg lashed out in a kick that caught Farok in the left cheek. Farok’s head cocked to the right under the force and he staggered back. Max landed on his feet and bolted forward, thrusting out his right hand. Farok caught his intended dagger blow. He then caught Max’s left hand as well, so that the Angwelethean guardian was completely open. Farok kicked him in the mid-section causing Max to buckle over. He then raised up his knee catching Max with a jaw shattering blow that sent his face shooting upwards as blood spewed from his nose. Max twisted his wrists so that he now grabbed Farok’s hands just behind the wrist as well. Using this leverage, Max lifted both his feet up and kicked Farok in the chest. The force sent Farok stumbling back and he regained his balance just in time to prevent himself from falling to his death. He bolted forward, sword and shield in hand and swung at Max who using his portals evaded each blow easily. Max reemerged behind Farok and cut him behind his right knee. Farok let out a scream of pain and swung at Max, who was already on his left side, and had already cut him down on his left knee. Max quickly cut Farok under either armpit, causing his arms to slump to his sides. Farok still held his sword. He shot Max a defiant look and willed himself to get back up to his feet. There was a pool of blood forming underneath him.

“You would really die for another man’s cause?” Max asked.

“Are you… not willing to give your life… for Davydd’s cause?”

“Ah. That I am.”

Farok laughed.

“You are near the point of death, and you still find humor?” A bewildered Max asked.

“King Sidion… commanded me to lead the Angwelethean army… should he fall. I was… to lead until Davydd was… ready.”

“He commanded that?”

Farok nodded as he fell to one knee. “Indeed. His intention… was never to bring about destruction to humanity. Has greed driven… him before? Yes. It still does…”

“Then why?”

“Because he has come… this far. He wishes to test his beliefs… against those of Davydd’s. And I was to obey the victor… the true king of Angweleth. In my armor… there is a note I have written with King Sidion’s seal… on it. No Angwelethean soldier will defy his will… should he fall… after me.”

Max observed Farok for a while.

“Hurry up and give me a proper death, guardian.”

Max rushed forward and knocked the death class soldier unconscious.

He lifted him up above his soldiers.

“Not today.” He said. “There is still use for you if what you say is true.”

He opened up a portal that led to Matilom and Vannera.

 

Back at the main street leading up to the port, Baximus, Leo and Obin were still battling the Angwelethean soldiers and pirates, alongside the Beathalethean soldiers. Baximus broke through and began making his way to one of the boats the Angwelethean soldiers had used. He faced off against two soldiers who made to block his path, and easily defeated them. Baximus untied one of the boats and boarded it. He began paddling towards Ivan’s ship. He knew it would not go very far, as Sidion’s ships had barricaded its path to the open sea.

Hold on son. I’m coming. Just you hold on.

 

 

 

[] CHAPTER NINETEEN (The gauntlet of Feona)

Davydd made his way through the living quarters of Ivan’s ship, going from one cabin to the other. There was no sign of Ivan, Kazan or Horius. However, he had run into numerous pirates seeking to end his life. Wherever those three were, they had made him a target and until he found them, this search would continue to endanger him. Davydd reached the end of a door way and went down the steps which led to the storage area where supplies for the ship’s crew were kept. The area was dark, and the only source of light came from another doorway at the other end of the large and roomy expanse. Davydd made his way through the large room slowly, cautiously, and quietly. All his senses were at alert, picking up on the slightest of movements, and the faintest of sounds. It was just as well, for Davydd heard one such sound as he moved past two large crates. The sounds he heard took him back to a life, long forgotten. One that he’d left behind on that fateful morning when he saved a princess instead of taking down a deer for dinner. It was the sound of an arrow being pulled back on a bow’s string and it was right beside Davydd. Davydd arched his head back as the arrow shot right past his face. He turned to see who the shooter was, and discovered that it was none other than Kazan himself. Davydd leapt back to put some distance between himself and Ivan’s son. Even though he knew that putting distance between himself and an archer was the worst thing he could possibly do, he also knew that Kazan preferred poisoned arrows. If Kazan stabbed him with one of those arrows or even so much as scratched him, he would be in serious trouble. Davydd had barely recovered from his leap, when he instinctively rolled forward, dodging a slash which would have decapitated him. He whirled around, unsheathing Balek’s sword from his back with his left hand simultaneously, and blocked the follow up attack from Horius. Horius moved back into the shadows and Davydd turned around to face Kazan but he was gone as well. Davydd bent low into a semi-crouch and moved along the room in the direction of the doorway leading to the next area. His eyes darted this way and that. His ears would have perked up to any sound if they could. His skin was sensitive to even the slightest movement or trickle of sweat oozing from his pores. It happened again. The sound of a string being pulled taut and the thwock sound that accompanied it. Davydd dived out of the way and saw the flash of Horius’s pirate blade coming down menacingly on him. He brought up Balek’s sword and blocked the downward slash. Davydd kicked up his right leg, catching Horius in the face. As Davydd leapt back up, he felt a warm searing pain in his abdomen. Davydd looked down and saw an arrow embedded in the right side of his lower abdomen. It didn’t take long for him to feel his strength wane a bit. But the moment had his blood pumping, which was a good thing for it kept him alert. However, he knew he needed to stay calm or the venom would spread. Horius, who had been knocked down to the ground by Davydd’s kick slashed at Davydd’s waist but Davydd reacted fast enough to block his attack and push his way past him. He needed to get to the doorway and out of the storage room fast. His enemies had the advantage here. As Davydd sprinted for the doorway, he broke of a part of the arrow’s stem jutting out from his abdomen. He staggered as he ran, and he had begun sweating more profusely. Davydd ran past the doorway and staggered down a flight of steps. He lost his footing and fell into a roll, grunting and groaning as he did. When Davydd looked up, he found himself in a lower room much like the storage room above it, but better lit. There in the center of the room was an ornamental chest that was rooted to the base of the ship by a thick metal bar. Davydd noticed that it was open. He got up and slowly made his way towards it. His eyes, which were beginning to blur, were just beginning to make out what was inside, when he heard another sound. The sound was distorted but his now well-honed warrior’s instinct recognized it. Davydd somehow managed to move out of the way of the slash. Horius’s sword slammed down on the metallic steps. Davydd stomped his foot on the blade and landed a series of punches on Horius’s face. The older man was surprisingly strong, and using his body weight, rammed his left shoulder into Davydd’s abdomen, pushing the arrow deeper inside. Davydd fell down the rest of the steps. He coughed out a few drops of blood unto the wooden floor and writhed in pain. His whole body went into a series of spasms and his muscles cramped and tightened on him. The poison was really beginning to take effect. However, Davydd struggled up to his hands and knees coughing violently as he did. Horius and Kazan had made it down from the rest of the steps as well. They encircled him like wolves stalking their wounded prey, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. Horius rushed in first of all and attempted to kick Davydd in the rib, but Davydd caught his leg and yanked at it, causing Horius to fall down. He slammed down with Balek’s sword at Horius, but the pirate was able to parry the blow with his sword just in time. However, the force of the swing knocked Horius’s sword out of his hand and Davydd still struck with a shallow blow, lacerating the right side of Horius, from shoulder down to his chest. Horius let out a cry of agony. Davydd lifted up his sword again but felt his flesh pierced in his lower right back by a sharp metallic object. He was certain it was one of Kazan’s arrows. Davydd could no longer control his body, as he slumped over beside Horius, who was still screaming. Kazan pulled the wounded pirate away from Davydd. Davydd crawled to the chest slowly and agonizingly. His vision blurred even more, and he was short of breath.

“The mighty ‘Davydd Miljorn, son of King Rikard Miljorn and the goddess Lady Lynda, heir to the throne of Angweleth and rightful wielder of the gauntlet and sword of Feona’, reduced to a crawling waste before my presence.”

Davydd glared at Ivan the terrible.

“Ah…” The pirate king observed. “It seems you still have some life in you.” Ivan stepped on Davydd’s left hand, causing him to release his grip on Balek’s sword. Davydd screamed in agony and then his head slumped down to the floor. Ivan kicked the sword away and brought out a black and brown metallic gauntlet with engraved patterns on the wrist and palm areas. The gauntlet glistened under the wash of light coming from the torches that lit the room. Ivan lowered it in front of Davydd’s face so he could see it.

“This is what you’ve been searching for this whole time. To come so close, only to have it ripped from your grasp. You have met your end young Miljorn.”

 

Vannera, Matilom, and Max who lent support to the wounded Farok, ran through the streets of Sangwa, in the direction of the ports.

“Princess, we are heading into the heat of battle. Are you sure this is a good idea?”

“Davydd is dying. This is not an idea Max. As princess of Angweleth, this is an order.”

Max looked at her for a moment. Gone were the days when she would break down sobbing in situations like this. Her distress was apparent, but so was her control over it. Like Davydd, she had come a long way. They all had. Was it far enough though?

“As you wish, princess.” Max said as they continued running. Up ahead, they ran into a group of Angwelethean soldiers who promptly turned towards them upon sighting them. Max stepped ahead of the rest and prepared to engage them, when they all began dropping to the ground. A figure, which moved so quickly so as to appear a blur, cut them down ruthlessly and the rest met their end at the edge of Segmiatus’s blade. Sam and Segmiatus stepped forward towards Max and the rest.

“It is good to meet you alive!” Max exclaimed.

“Why are you here?” Segmiatus said addressing all of them. “If we were a moment later, we may have met you all dead.”

“We are on our way to aid Davydd.” Princess Vannera said.

“Princess, you would not be aiding him by throwing yourself in dang…”

“He’s dying.” Princess Vannera said, cutting Segmiatus off. “Your closest friend is very near death. My heart is very near death. We are boarding Ivan’s ship. You can come with me or stay. Either way, I do not wish to waste any more time bantering words.” And with that she stepped through the two, who promptly joined them in their rush towards the port. At that moment, Farok stirred slowly.

“Why do you have him?” Segmiatus asked.

“He is our pathway to Davydd.” Max responded.

They ran into another group of Angwelethean soldiers.

“Halt!” One of the soldiers yelled.

“You… halt…” Farok said weakly.

“Commander!” The soldier yelled. “Release him!” He barked at Vannera and the others.

“I said halt!!” Farok yelled and then coughed and hacked. He motioned to Max, who pulled out the sealed order which King Sidion had written.

Max flashed it in front of the soldier, who cautiously came forward and read it.

“Is the king dead?” The soldier asked.

“If you do not let us pass… both of them will be… and you will answer to me. Do you understand?” Farok warned.

Fear slowly encroached on the soldier’s heart and he nodded agreeably. He turned to the other soldiers in his command.

“We will assist commander Farok and these people in getting to the port. Form a shield around them you and you and you three. The rest of you disperse and spread word of King Sidion’s wishes and of Farok’s command. Let us move.”

“Sir!” The soldiers responded in unison and immediately formed around Vannera and the rest.

“Ready! Move!” And with that they charged through the chaotic streets towards the port.

Vannera looked at Farok.

“You were not lying about his orders.” She said in surprise.

“It is… as I said. Your father’s… a good man, even if… he’s not the best of Kings.”

 

Davydd lay on the floor unconscious. His breathing was very shallow and his body twitched every now and then. Ivan studied him for a while and raised his hammer. It was such a shame. Here was another other young life gone to waste, chasing unrealistic ideals. Ivan made to swing down with his hammer when he heard a roar behind Kazan. He looked up to see Baximus swinging at Kazan’s neck. Ivan instinctively ran forward to protect his son and Baximus used the opportunity to attack the pirate king. Sword and hammer clashed ferociously and the two older men glared at each other.

“You dare make an attempt on my son’s life?!” Ivan bellowed.

“As you have made an attempt on mine’s.” Responded Baximus calmly.

“I suppose we are both guilty of the same crime then. Only, yours is retaliation.”

“Retaliation?” Baximus said as he evaded another one of Ivan’s monstrous swings and easily side stepped an arrow shot at him by Kazan from behind.

“If this were about retaliation, your son would be dead by now. I have merely come for your life and the gauntlet.” Baximus evaded another one of Kazan’s arrows. “If your son dies tonight, it is because he has picked a battle he cannot win.” Baximus clashed weapons with Ivan once more. He evaded another downward swipe. The pirate king was predictable. Too predictable even. Baximus tested his theory by moving in for the opening presented by Ivan’s careless slash. He was right. Ivan effortlessly shifted trajectories and slashed sideways at Baximus’s neck. However Baximus had bent low to avoid the anticipated move. His slashed his sword at Ivan’s abdomen, but the pirate was able to break Baximus’s attack by slamming his elbow down on Baximus’s swinging arms. Baximus turned the blade of his sword downwards, so that the handle was pointing upwards towards Ivan’s jaw. He slammed the handle into its target, forcing Ivan’s head to snap backwards and the huge man to fall back first on the ground. He evaded yet another arrow, before rushing towards Kazan and slicing his bow in half. Kazan scrambled for his bag of arrows but was struck by a brutal kick to the ribs. He fell coughing and trying to regain the breath that had been forced out of his lungs.

“You are a troublesome little runt. You stay still.” Baximus turned around only to meet with Ivan’s hammer slamming down on his right shoulder. Baximus wore an empty shocked look as the blade of the hammer ripped through his skin and bone before stopping short of completely dismembering his right arm. Ivan pulled back his hammer and Baximus slumped to the floor.

“You should have killed Kazan when you had the chance. Your honor has not served you well today. That is what honor brings; death. Come Kazan. You may as yet be a useful son of mine.” Ivan grabbed the gauntlet, and Kazan helped Horius up. All three made their way towards the steps Davydd had fallen down from, leaving him and Baximus laying there, seemingly lifeless.

Davydd could barely see anything. All around him was darkness. He thought he’d heard his father’s voice. He thought he’d heard the clash of weapons. Suddenly, it had all gone quiet once again and he’d heard the voice of Ivan soon after. The pirate king loved to boast. His mind was willing his body to move, but he couldn’t. He could not even tell if he was breathing or not.

“Here lies Davydd Miljorn, a king who cannot win his battles.” The voice stirred Davydd even though he did not recognize it.

“I am not yet king…” Davydd responded.

“Is that your excuse for failure?” The voice asked.

“Who are you?” Davydd asked.

“Me? I am simply a monument of the past.” The voice responded.

“That doesn’t tell me anything.”

“I know. Who I am is irrelevant. Do you know why a king should not lose his battles Davydd?”

“Why?”

“Because when he does, he is not the only one who loses and is lost. His ideas, ideals, dreams, hopes, goals and the people who he holds dear to his heart lose and are lost as well.”

A searing pain enveloped Davydd’s stomach and he went into a spasm before his eyes shot open. He coughed and coughed until he coughed out some blood from his mouth and started breathing heavily. When his blurred vision came to, he was sitting down by the side of the room and leaning on the walls. He looked up to see in front of him, a hooded man dressed in ragged clothes. Davydd could barely make out his face, but he noticed his distinct deep-sea blue eyes.

“Who… are you?” Davydd asked.

“Davydd. You have to wake up.” The man said.

“I am awake.”

“Davydd. You have to wake up.” The man said again and placed his finger on Davydd’s heart. “Right… there.”

Right there.

Someone else had said that. Feona!

“Feona?” Davydd asked perplexed.

“Win your battles Davydd. And if you happen to be close to death trying to do so, win it enough for those coming after you to complete the task.”

The man began to withdraw from Davydd and seemed to be dispersing into thin air.

“No… wait Father. Wait…”

“Wake up Davydd!” The voice said.

“I am awake!”

“Davydd, wake up please!”

Davydd lurched forward and in front of him was a badly wounded Baximus.

“Father!!!” Davydd screamed. “What happened?” He carefully grabbed Baximus by the sides and placed him on the wall. Davydd tore of a piece of his own top and used it to fasten Baximus’s right arm to his shoulder. He could see the bone and inner tissue. Baximus had lost a lot of blood. It was really bad.

“It… doesn’t matter what happened. I don’t know who you were talking to either… what matters, is you are still alive.”

“That was not you?”

“No… I had just gotten to you when you said ‘father’. Who… did you… see?”

“I… I don’t know…”

Baximus nodded.

So you were here your majesty.

“Hurry Davydd. Ivan is getting away. I will… be fine. Go. Go now.”

Davydd was nodding and immediately sprinted up the stairs in the direction Ivan, Kazan and Horius went. Baximus sat back and panted rapidly. He observed his injury and noted how much blood he’d lost. He didn’t have much time to get help. All he could do now was sit still and hope Davydd came back in time. Baximus lay his head back against the wall of the room and tilted his neck to his left. His eyes came upon Feona who was sitting next to him in silence. She was not looking at him, but into the emptiness of the room. Her red eyes glimmered.

“So you have come for me haven’t you?”

“I merely wait to observe what fate has dealt you.”

“I see. Was it you then? Was it you who brought Davydd back from the brink of death… of you?”

“You know it was not. I was waiting for him as well. It seems fate had other plans.”

“Ah… she always does it seems.”

Feona chuckled. “Mortals like you will never grasp her reasoning.”

Baximus nodded. “How much time do I have?”

“As we are, this is the closest I can come to you right now.” Baximus observed the distance between where they sat. It was still far enough that if she reached over to him with her hand fully extended, she could come almost close enough to touching him.

“When I can come close enough so as to embrace you fully, your time is up.”

“And we wait…” Baximus said. The two sat in silence.

Vannera sat at the front of the boat, while Max and Sam paddled furiously towards Ivan’s ship. They were getting close enough to board. Vannera used her sight to survey the ship and what she saw made her heart thump in joy and sink in sadness at the same time. She let out a soft expulsion of air.

“What is it?” Segmiatus asked.

“Davydd seems to be…alright but… Baximus… he is in trouble.” Max and Sam paddled faster upon hearing her words. Vannera looked up at the ship. She could see the side of the deck and at that moment her eyes caught a very familiar figure moving swiftly by.

“Be careful. He’s here.”

“Who is?”

“My father.”

Sidion Vror jumped in front of Ivan, Kazan and Horius. They had been making their way to a boat tied to the side of the ship. It was at least twice the size of the others used by the pirate crew.

“You must be in a hurry.” Sidion said sarcastically. “I’ll let you go as soon as you hand over the gauntlet of Feona.”

“The traitor of Angweleth shows himself. If you want the gauntlet of Feona, you will have to take it from my corpse.” Ivan bellowed.

“That is all? Well then, let us begin the process of making you a corpse.”

Ivan, Kazan and Horius whirled around to see Davydd standing behind them. His eyes glared at them with a burning rage unseen before.

“You… you should be dead.” Kazan said as beads of sweat formed on his forehead.

“To be killed by your cowardly tactics?” Davydd asked as he began walking forward. “You severely underestimated me.” Davydd unsheathed Balek’s sword with his left hand and as he walked, the silver band on his right wrist slowly reformed into a gauntlet and shimmering silver sword in his right hand. The energy from it pulsated periodically and menacingly.

“Come prince and king of pirates. Come and answer for your choice and actions.”

The look on Ivan’s face was that of contempt.

“Kill him.” Ivan said calmly.

Kazan and Horius ran towards Davydd. Kazan had picked up a replacement bow and he crouched behind Horius and took aim. Davydd reached back with Balek’s sword and the blade began to glow a burning red. When he swung, a line of fire shot forward from it. Horius, Ivan and Sidion were able to crouch in time to evade being caught by the searing flames, but Kazan was not so lucky. He screamed as the flames began to eat away at his flesh, peeling them away from his bones.

“Kazan!!!” Ivan screamed. “You imbecile!!!!” He yelled at Davydd as he rushed forward in anger, along with Horius. Davydd took stance with Balek’s sword pointed towards Horius and Ivan, and his silver sword, pointed backwards. Ivan got to Davydd first and swung down with his mighty hammer. Davydd blocked with Balek’s sword. The swing stopped dead in its arch as though Ivan had struck a rock made of diamond. Horius moved to Davydd’s side and attacked but Davydd blocked his slashes with just his right sword, while still clashed with Kazan’s hammer. Horius moved to Davydd’s back, but was caught with a blow from Balek’s sword, straight to his chest. Davydd had pivoted and slashed Ivan from the belly upwards and thus placed Balek’s sword in the perfect place to catch Horius off guard. The two pirates fell back and clutched their injuries. Horius glared at Davydd in anger and attacked first, screaming. Ivan joined in and again, Davydd easily countered their attacks, pivoting, twisting and moving swiftly in and out of slashes while maintaining a seemingly unbreakable stance and balance. He blocked a sideways swing by Ivan with his right blade, so that his right hand was across his body when he did so. Davydd then pivoted around so that his back was facing Ivan, and he reached back with his elbow, slamming it into Ivan’s nose. Horius moved to attack but was countered yet again. Both men fell back and tried to regain their stance. When they looked at Davydd, he was twirling both swords in opposite directions while waiting for them.

Behind them, Sidion stood and observed the fight. Those two were as good as dead. Davydd was combating them in a style only the gods were known to use. To be able to wield a sword with such proficiency was a rare thing. To be able to wield two swords that well was something he never thought possible. Sidion fixated on the two swords Davydd wielded. The one on the left was definitely a principal’s weapon. It contained great power, but it was not what bothered him. It was the sword on the right that gave him the greatest concern, for that was one of Lady Lynda’s swords. For him to wield the sword of the patron goddess of Beathaleth, without being king of Beathaleth, he would have to be of the same lineage as she was. It was then that it dawned on him exactly what Davydd was. He was a halfing. Finally there was the twirling of each sword between moves and attacks. Sidion had not seen the sight in years.

You are definitely your father’s son.

Sidion thought as he remembered his dream back in Castle Alvo.

Someone greater than I ever was…

“I see what you meant Rikard.” Sidion said as he picked up the gauntlet of Feona.

“Drop it.”

Sidion froze.

“I said drop it.”

Sidion slowly bent down and placed the gauntlet back on the floor of the ship deck. “It has been a long time… daughter.”

“Go find Baximus.” Vannera said to Matilom, Max and Sam. “I will handle things here.”

They nodded and went off, heading below deck. Segmiatus headed in the direction of Davydd, who was still dueling Ivan and Horius.

Ivan tried to lift his hammer above his head for an attack on Davydd, but buckled under its weight. He fell to his knee and Horius staggered in front of him. Davydd slowly began walking towards them. His blades dripped with their blood, which had been spilled from their wounds. The pirates’ resilience was remarkable. But they were at their end. Horius began to tremble as Davydd walked up to them. He let out a primal cry and bolted towards Davydd, but was caught with a blow to the neck, from Segmiatus’s sword. Horius fell to the deck, dead. His eyes were open and facing the grey night sky, but seeing nothing at all. Davydd walked up to Ivan who made to attack him but was swiftly cut down by Davydd’s silver sword. Ivan fell to the ground and let go of his hammer. He lay there looking at Davydd who stepped on his open wound. Ivan let out a yell of anguish.

“This is what standing by your ideals of greed and a lust for power, brings. It brings death with it.” Davydd said mockingly.

“Well then… Do it… Finish me off… like you killed my son.”

“You both had your chances.” Davydd responded and delivered the final blow.

Davydd looked up at Vannera who still had Sidion kneeling and at the edge of her sword. He began walking towards them. The heavens had opened up on them and the torrents drenched and bathed all at shore and at sea with rain and salty sea water. Davydd walked up to them and looked at Sidion. The gauntlet of Feona lay in front of him. Davydd slowly crouched down and looked at the gauntlet. This was what they had been fighting for all this time. It was so simple and small and yet, its value could not be understated. Davydd reached out to pick up the gauntlet, but Sidion caught his hand.

“If you do this… There is no telling what the future holds…”

“There already is no telling what the future holds. But I can’t sit by and let the fear of the unknown stop me from doing the right thing. You know it is the right thing. It was the right thing two decades and three years ago. It is the right thing now.”

Sidion bowed his head for a moment. After a brief silence, he finally spoke.

“This… will be my last duty as king of Angweleth. Davydd Miljorn, I appoint you… to be king and ruler, overseer and protector of all of Angweleth… in my stead and in your father’s stead before me. You will assume your title as soon as I vacate the throne… and I vacate the throne… now.” He looked up at Davydd.

“I have made a lot of… mistakes young Miljorn. Do not let this be one of them.”

“It will not be.”

At that moment, Max, Sam and Matilom brought Baximus up to the deck.

“Tie him up.” Davydd said to Segmiatus as he pointed towards Sidion Vror. Davydd ran over to where they had laid down Baximus.

“How is he?” Davydd asked.

“We… have stopped the bleeding, but he is barely clinging to this world… and he…” Max stopped. “He’s leaving… Davydd.”

Davydd looked up and saw that in their midst was Feona. She had both her hands on either side of Baximus’s cheek. She looked at Davydd and nodded.

“It is time.” She said.

Davydd looked around. No one else saw her or heard her. She had made it so.

“No…” Davydd said. “No… no… you let him go.” Davydd held on to Baximus’s shirt and gripped it as if preventing Feona from pulling his body away. “Please… let him go. I can save him.” Davydd’s hands began to glow a blue white aura and it enveloped Baximus. However, nothing happened.

“Son…”

“I’m not losing you.” Davydd’s voice cracked. “Not you…”

“Son… Do you… have it?”

Davydd nodded and showed Baximus the gauntlet.

“Then… my work here… is done. It is… a trade it is…”

“No!” Davydd glared at Feona. “You let him go!”

“Davydd.” Baximus called. “Don’t you worry… about me… We will be re-united soon… all of us… I have people waiting for me… Now you know… what it means to be… king.”

“Father…” Davydd held on to his hand and both gripped each other as hard as they could. “I will make you proud… I… ” Davydd could barely talk.

Baximus managed a smile.

“You already have… son.” His eyes turned towards Vannera who was also kneeling by him, her mouth covered.

“Take… care of… Take care of him will you?”

Vannera nodded as tears streamed down her cheeks.

“Leo?” Baximus asked.

“In Sangwa.” Sam responded.

“Always the unseen… then it is a fitting… farewell.”

Baximus expelled his last breath and Davydd watched as Feona pulled his soul from his body, head first. His eyes were still shut as she pulled it from his lifeless body and opened up a shimmering tear. The wash of light fell on Davydd and the others, even though Davydd and Vannera were the only ones who could see what was going on. Baximus got up and slowly opened his eyes. He looked at Davydd, smiled and nodded. Davydd nodded as well and forced a wry smile. Baximus flashed Vannera a kind look, before turning around and walking through the doorway with Feona. It closed behind them and the light was gone.

Davydd knelt down and kept still for a long time. The rain beat down on him and the others, but he did not care. His eyes were fixed on Baximus’s lifeless body. He was dead? Yes, he was dead. He just saw Feona take his soul. Davydd’s tears mixed in with the rain so that they were one and the same.

“Davydd…” Sidion called. “Davydd…”

Davydd slowly lifted up his head and looked at Sidion.

“Put on the gauntlet… and end the fighting in Sangwa. You’ve won this battle…”

Davydd slowly looked down at the gauntlet of Feona. How he despised it. How he despised her.

“At what price… did this victory come?” He asked.

“When you strive for a goal, people will desert you and sometimes you will lose loved ones along the way. It is in those times one questions the worth of what they are trying to accomplish. But the great Baximus Bastien was willing to lay down his life for you, for he believed in what you are capable of doing. You use that, and never stop believing. Never forget what he meant to you. Never let his sacrifice, be in vain.”

Davydd grunted.

“You speak as though you have known such a loss.”

“I speak because I have known such a loss.” Sidion Vror said while looking at Vannera.

Davydd nodded and slowly reached his hand in the gauntlet. Flashes of lightning shot through the sky and the thunder that followed them, crackled as he did. As Davydd’s left hand went into the gauntlet, the finger pieces began to uncoil and release the dried out heart they grasped. One by one, each finger piece shot open and conformed to Davydd’s fingers until he was completely wearing the gauntlet. Davydd picked up the heart, observed it and threw it into the open waters.

Above them, a huge flash of lighting shot across the sky and it seemingly tore open an invisible veil which revealed the sky behind the sky. It was exactly the same but they could still see what seemed like a cloth like fabric fall away into the horizon.

“Rikard’s spell is finally broken.” Sidion observed.

“We need to get back to shore.” Davydd said.

“I can steer the ship.” Segmiatus said.

“Max restrict Sidion and make sure to never let him out of your sight. Sam, Matilom we need to move my father away from here.”

They all nodded and began performing their assigned duties. Finally Davydd turned to Vannera. “I will leave you two be. I am sure you have questions that deserve answers.” And with that, Davydd walked off.

“Davydd…” Vannera called but he did not respond.

“Leave him be.” Sidion said. “He is grieving. Now is the time for him to gather his thoughts.”

Vannera laughed. “Suddenly you are human aren’t you?”

“Was I something else?”

“Yes. A monster.”

“Vane…”

“Davydd talked about questions. I have one for you.” Vannera leaned in. “Why isn’t it you who is dead instead?” She whispered in his ear. And with that, she walked off, leaving Sidion alone on the deck. In the distance she saw Davydd lying still on the deck as the torrents mercilessly beat down on him.

“Davydd!!!!!”

Omni stood on one of the rectangular surfaces that jutted out beneath the window like openings of the spire where he and all the other members of the higher echelon of the dragol lived in. He observed the army and all its members. They were tense and ready to go. As Omni stood and watched, he felt a sensation in his heart. It felt as though a tight grip had been loosened and then further loosened until it was not there anymore. For the first time in what felt like an eternity, Omni felt the full force of his inner power flow through him and it was invigorating. He stretched out his hands as far as he could, spread his wings as wide as they could get and let out a large roar. The army beneath him responded in one voice with their roar, and the earth beneath them shook and trembled. Viritania came up to him.

“It is time.” Omni said.

“Our siblings are ready as well.”

“Then let us remind the humans who have forgotten us that the dragol yet live. Is it not appropriate that we start with the land of death?”

Omni let out a menacing smile.

“Rikard Miljorn’s seed has accomplished far more than we expected though.” Viritania noted.

“It will be as far as he goes. He still has to find Feona’s sword, and he knows not where it is.”

“We do not know where it is either.”

“We do not need to. Let us go.”

 

[] CHAPTER TWENTY (I Will Return)

Davydd opened his eyes and slowly the blurred images he saw came into focus. A pair of the most beautiful green eyes he had ever seen stared lovingly at him and her red lips curled upwards into a warm smile.

“You are back.” Vannera said with a controlled excitement, though from her face, he could tell she was ready to burst into a yelp.

“I’m back?” Davydd asked. “Where did I go?”

“You fell unconscious on Ivan’s ship, as we headed back to the port. You have been asleep for two days now.”

Davydd slowly got up and stretched.

“Two days?” He looked at Vannera who nodded and smiled.

“And she has been with you the whole time.” Davydd followed the voice and his eyes met his mother’s. She smiled at him but he did not return the smile.

“You could have saved him, if you so wished it.”

“No I could not have.”

“Let me see… because you can’t interfere.”

“Have you ever stopped to think of what it would be like, if we gods meddled in every human action, fate and choice? If we steered your every direction, would your life really be your own?”

Davydd looked at her.

“I needed him. I need him now. He was everything to me. He was my family.”

“He will continue to be. All the love, hopes and dreams of Baximus Bastien are preserved in your heart. You carry a lot in there my son. As I’m sure you have discovered. You have all you need inside you.”

Davydd slowly nodded and looked at his left hand. The gauntlet of Feona was still there. He flexed his left hand, coiling his fingers inwards and outwards. It felt natural and unforced. Davydd got up and looked down at his abdomen. His arrow wounds had been seared shut and there seemed to be an ointment rubbed on the bruises he had received. He looked around him.

“We are in a tent?”

“Ah yes. King Darius Vitalis is waiting for you outside.”

Davydd put on his top and stepped outside of the tent. What greeted him seemed like the sight of the morning after chaos. Smoke emanated from buildings still slowly eaten away by dying fires and there was debris everywhere. Soldiers hurried along in different directions, treating the wounded and carrying the dead along to different areas. Davydd looked around him to see that there were tents erected in different areas of the town, to provide aid to those who could not be housed in what structures and inns remained intact. In front of him, stood an aged man with graying black hair and what looked to be the sides of a thick beard. He turned around as Davydd walked up to him. The aged man wore a silver armor with a blue and white cape. On his side was a sheathed sword much similar to the one given to Davydd by his mother.

“My goodness.” The aged man said. “I gaze upon the spitting image of Rikard Miljorn himself.”

“Your majesty.” Davydd said as he genuflected on one knee and bowed his head low. “It is my deepest regret to have brought my battles to your kingdom and to your people. I can never repay the damage I have caused.”

“Oh you can, and you will.” King Darius Vitalis responded. “But, first of all, rise and stand. You are naïve. One king does not bow down to another, no matter how wrong you are. Your humility may be mistaken as a sign of weakness to those within and outside your rule. Remember that.”

Davydd got up, suddenly embarrassed. King Darius observed him for a moment and noted the gauntlet of Feona which he wore.

“I see you have found it.”

“Yes I have.” Davydd said. At that moment, Segmiatus was walking by and when he saw Davydd, he ran towards him and embraced him.

“My friend.” Davydd said. “It is good to see you well.”

“And it is good to see you awake.” Segmiatus said laughing. His countenance suddenly turned somber. “I am sorry… Davydd. We all mourn Baximus.”

“It is well.” Davydd responded. “I will see to it that his passing is honored thoroughly. How did we make it safely back though?”

“Your prisoner aided you in that.” King Vitalis said. “What did you do to steer Sidion Vror’s heart so?”

“I did nothing more than make him a promise.”

“What was that promise?”

“That I would not fail.”

“Ah. That will be a difficult promise to keep.” King Vitalis observed. “What would you have with him?”

“I would like to have him as an adviser to me, strictly on matters concerning combating the dragol.”

“And what makes you believe myself and the other kings cannot do the same?”

“Because it is as you said. A king does not bow down to another king. You have your advisers and I will have mine. Besides, Sidion has had more close dealings with the dragol than any other human in Terrianus. His knowledge and insight would be invaluable to our cause.”

“You would have him live?” Vannera asked as she walked up to Davydd, alongside Lynda.

At the sight of Lynda, every soldier, Beathalethean or Angwelethean, and other men, women and children around the area dropped to their knees and bowed down. It was then Davydd noticed that she was in her radiant godly form. He had become so accustomed to it, that he had paid it no attention.

“I see you are doing nothing to hide who you are.”

Lynda leaned in and whispered. “Haven’t you noticed? The secret is out.”

Lynda motioned for everyone to rise and they did so, going about their activities once more.

King Vitalis rose to his feet as well.

“Why do you let him live?” Vannera continued.

“I have no reason to take his life Vannera.”

“He would not have hesitated to take yours.”

“And that is where he and I are different. There is always good in someone, if you can find it. You just have to give it the chance to bloom.”

“You think there is good in that man? He did what he did to save his own skin.”

“You yourself once said that your father fears nothing. And if there was no good in him, you would be dead.”

“He did send the dragol to kill me.”

“That is your anger speaking for you. Do you really believe he sent them even now? You are skilled with the sword Vannera, but we both know a reaper class soldier had more than one option while you held a sword behind him on Ivan’s ship.”

Vannera motioned to speak but fell silent.

“There are wounds I cannot heal Vannera. Just… hear him out, while you still have him in this world. Take it from me. It’s worth it.”

Vannera bent her head low, and slowly nodded.

Davydd turned to Lady Lynda.

“I have the gauntlet. How do I find the sword?”

Lady Lynda smiled. “Here is the interesting part. You ask it. It will only respond to you.”

“I ask it. Really?”

“The weapons forged by the gods have personalities unto themselves.” King Vitalis said. “They are an extension or a facet of the gods personalities more times than not. And sometimes, they can even take on human form.”

Davydd looked at King Vitalis in surprise.

“So… my gauntlet can take on a human form?”

“There is only one way to find out. Tell it. Like so.” King Vitalis pulled out the sword of Lynda which he possessed and brought it to his lips.

“Obin, assume your human form.”

The sword flew out of King Vitalis’s hand and landed on the ground. It began to shake and tremble, as its blade melted. However, instead of melting downwards, it melted upwards towards the handle. The liquid metal moved past the handle and began to expand, contort and reform, until Obin’s figure was formed in metal. In place of the original sword, the metallic hand of Obin held his usual blade. When Obin was completely formed, the metallic nature receded and his human like form was completely unveiled along with his regular crimson attire. He slowly got up and cracked his neck this way and that before turning to king Vitalis.

“Your majesty, if I may request that you don’t bring me so close to your lips to speak to me. I can hear you from my sheath.”

King Vitalis burst out into a loud laughter and was soon joined by his men.

“Of course Obin. I will keep that in mind.”

Davydd stood mouth agape in utter amazement at what he had just seen. Obin looked at him and laughed.

“We meet again young king. What is the matter? You look like you’ve just seen a blade turn into a man.”

“Well… I…”

The men burst out into laughter once more.

“Go on then.”

Davydd brought the gauntlet to his lips. He thought better of it, and pulled his left hand away from his face before speaking.

“Gauntlet of Feona, assume your human form.”

A wind blew in front of him sweeping off the dust and chaff that had caked on the road and drawing an inscription on it. Davydd looked down to see what it said.

“This is in the language of the gods.” King Vitalis said. “I cannot read it.” He looked at Lady Lynda, who looked at Davydd.

“What?”

“Son?”

“Yes?”

“I know, that you can read it as well. So… what does it say?”

Davydd sighed.

“It says… ‘I have a name’.”

The men burst out into laughter once more.

Gauntlet of Feona he says!

Davydd shook his head but couldn’t help laughing as well. He felt embarrassed. He brought the gauntlet to his lips this time.

“What is your name?”

Again, a wind blew by and re-arranged the inscriptions on the ground. Davydd looked at the inscription and nodded. He again spoke to the gauntlet.

“Ang, assume your human form.”

Another breeze swept past and left new inscriptions on the ground. Lynda could not help but laugh out loud.

“What did it say?” Vannera asked.

“I am… a gauntlet. I have no human form.” Davydd looked at the gauntlet as everyone burst into laughter once more.

“You have an extremely displeasing personality.” He said. “Well then, let me ask you a relevant question. Where is the sword of Feona?”

At this question, Davydd’s left hand shot forward and his fingers curled into a claw like form. Davydd struggled to stop it, but the gauntlet was bending his fingers against his will. Davydd’s left hand proceeded to draw a circle in midair. The lines drawn became visible in a reddish color that seemed to emanate a mist from them. Inside the circle, Davydd’s gauntlet wearing left hand drew in a thin oval shape, with its angular apex and bottom, making contact with the circle’s circumference at the top and bottom as well. The entire drawing looked like an eye. After that, the gauntlet seemed to release control of Davydd’s hand once more.

“What… is that?” Segmiatus asked.

“That is the eye of the dragol.” Matilom said joining them.

The oval shape inside the circle began spinning around slowly and then faster and faster until it was a blur. Suddenly it began to recede as if heading towards king Vitalis but in reality it seemed to be burrowing a hole in midair. The circle began expanding and soon the burrowing stopped and Davydd could see a barren and fiery land on the other side. The land was parched and carved up in various lines. Flames shot to the surface, licking it as they did, before falling back down into whatever abyss they shot out from. The whole land seemed to be alive.

“I see…” A shimmering light appeared behind them, and everyone bowed down once more. “So that is where your Rikard hid my sword. He hid it in Teinerus, the land of the dragol.” Feona said, walking up to them.

“Feona.” Lynda said. “I did not expect to you to come.”

“Why wouldn’t I dearest sister? It is my sword and my gauntlet we are speaking of is it not?” She looked at Davydd and smiled. “Well done nephew.” Another gust of wind swept by them and this time a final inscription was written in the sand. Davydd read it and his heart sank as he said it.

“You may choose… four more.” He said.

“So there it is.” Matilom said. “What will you do? King Davydd Miljorn.”

Davydd looked at Vannera as reality began to settle in.

“Have I ever told you… how much I love you?”

Vannera breathed in deeply as she stared directly into his eyes, never breaking her gaze.

“No… no you have shown me how much you love me.”

Davydd smiled and nodded as she did the same.

“I am not coming with you… am I?” She said.

“No… not this time. Angweleth needs a leader here until I return… and I can think of no one better.”

“Davydd… Davydd…” Vannera wrapped her arms around him in an embrace that spoke a thousand upon a thousand words.

“You must hurry Davydd.” Matilom said. “The portal will not be open for long.”

Davydd breathed in. “Where is Leo?”

“He stays by Baximus’s side. He has refused to have any company at this time.” Max said.

“I am here.” Leo said as he faded into visibility. “And I will go with you, your majesty. My master would have wished it so.”

“I wish it so as well.” Davydd responded.

Leo nodded and turned to Max, handing him a piece of paper. “Make sure you have this delivered to Vera. Tell her that I have not forgotten the promise of satiating her ears with stories yet untold.” Max nodded as he took the paper.

“Segmiatus, I would have you come with me as well.” Segmiatus nodded and stepped forward. Davydd looked at the gauntlet. “It is a shame you do not have a human form.” Then it hit him. He had the second of his mother’s swords. Davydd lifted his right hand to his lips.

“What is your name?” He asked.

An inscription formed on the silver band he wore on his right wrist.

Beatha.

“Beatha, assume your human form.” The band immediately expanded and slipped off his wrist, falling to the ground. It dissolved into a metallic liquid pool and slowly coalesced together, forming a feminine figure. When she solidified, her form was revealed. She had long black and straight hair, a fair reddish skin and brown eyes. Her lips were a reddish brown hue and her form was perfect in every sense of the word. She wore a white top with straps on her shoulder, which stopped after her cleavage hence revealing a bare belly and bottom white pants that seemed a bit too big for her. They were secured at the bottom by sandals that had straps reaching a bit above her ankles. Obin looked at her. She held in her hand, a sword similar in shape and form to that which Obin wielded, but only smaller.

“It has been a while since I last beheld you, sister.” Obin said.

-“And this re-union will be brief.” Beatha had a soft, gentle and soothing voice. She looked at Davydd and smiled.

“It is rather nice to have a new wielder. Your grip is strong, firm and assured.”

“Is it?” Vannera asked glaring at her and Davydd. Beatha turned around and smiled at Vannera.

“Don’t be so envious princess. I am merely a weapon. You don’t have to let a mere sword trouble you.”

“Beatha, re-assume your form on my wrist.”

“Can I stretch and smell the air a bit.”

“Now Beatha.”

Beatha sighed. “I told you it would be brief brother.” She said to Obin smiling. She then re-assumed her form as an arm band reforming around Davydd’s wrist.

“I do not like her.” Vannera said.

“You have no cause to worry.” Davydd said reassuringly.

“Beatha has always been of a mischievous nature.” Obin added. “But she means no harm.”

“You need one more person Davydd.” Matilom said.

“I’ll go.”

There was a hush and murmur, through the group of soldiers, for the person who had volunteered to go, was none other than Lady Feona herself.

“What is the meaning of this Feona?” Lady Lynda asked.

“Be calm dearest sister. We both know if I did not volunteer, you would have. However you are the goddess of life and you know what it would mean should you be sent into oblivion.”

“Your role is no less important.” Lynda retorted.

“I am well aware. However I am sure Jaynea will be up to the task. If I recall, you have no emissary of yours now do you? Besides, someone in the family needs to watch over Davydd in Teinerus.” Feona turned to look around.

“I know you are here wizard. You know what this means. While I am gone, you are free to use your powers as you please. It would of much benefit in this war.”

“Well then… I suppose we are ready.” Lynda said.

King Vitalis walked over to Lady Lynda.

“Five? Only five of them we are to send?”

“Ang has spoken Darius. Besides, a large army would draw too much unwanted attention. In that group is my son, my sister, one of my swords, and two capable Angwelethean warriors who will follow Davydd to the ends of all that is. We must place our trust in them.”

“And if they do not return?”

“Do not… speak of such.” Vannera said as she walked up to Davydd. She embraced him again and kissed him for what was an eternity and yet felt like only a fleeting moment.

“Do not meet your end in that world or I shall beat you senseless when we meet in Hovan… please. You come back to me, alive.”

“Vannera… I pro…” Vannera put a finger on his lips.

“No promises… just do it.”

Davydd nodded and their lips met one more time, before she pulled away from him. Matilom and Lady Lynda stepped forward.

“You all will be going into a land known to but a few.” Lynda began. “You will be going to a place with only strange faces and stranger yet mannerisms. And… death will be lurking at every corner. But you will have each other to trust and to support, to pull forward even if the fires burn you, even if your bones are broken and your very flesh is stripped from you, do not let your spirit be broken. Do not ever despair and do not ever lose yourselves.”

The circular portal began to shudder and shake as it began sucking in the chosen travelers. Leo was pulled in first, then Segmiatus, and then Feona who smiled at Lynda before getting drawn in. Davydd began to feel the force on him. His eyes fell on Matilom, Max, Sam, his mother and finally on Vannera. A deep sadness overwhelmed him as he began to get tugged in. His hand reached out to Vannera as he yelled.

“I will return! If it is the last thing I do… I will return! Just you wait and see. I will… return!” Davydd was pulled in and the portal closed behind him until there was nothing there but empty space and air. An eerie silence fell upon everyone as they contemplated what had happened. King Vitalis bowed his head for a second before beginning to rouse everyone from their thoughts and bark orders. Suddenly, the buzz of activity had returned and everyone seemed to go about their business like nothing had happened. King Vitalis walked over to Vannera and placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Believe in him.” He said and continued walking.

Vannera nodded to no one in particular. Her eyes reddened and her body shuddered as she stood looking at the spot where Davydd had been.

“Matilom.” She called.

“Yes my dear.”

“Where is my father being held? I need to speak to him.”

“I will take you to him then.”

“Many thanks. Sam, Max. I need you two to work with Farok and ascertain how many men we still have that are able and can fight. It is safe to assume Angweleth has already been taken by the dragol. We will make here our stronghold and await the arrival of Ergol and the army he promised.” Both Sam and Max nodded as they went on to perform their tasks.

“It is good to see you so strong.” Lady Lynda said as she drew open a doorway.

“You depart?” Vannera asked.

“The other gods are assembling to discuss recent events. I must be present.”

Vannera nodded.

“Call upon me and I will be by your side as swiftly as light let through window curtains.” She smiled, kissed Vannera on the forehead and was gone.

Vannera stood a while longer, before following Matilom to see Sidion Vror, who was tied up in his tent.

“I hear from the chatter that Davydd Miljorn is on his way to Teinerus.” Sidion Vror said as they entered his tent.

“Leave us.” Vannera said to Matilom.

“You did not follow him?” Sidion said as Vannera slowly paced back and forth in front of him, her eyes fierce and never straying from him.

“Why did you order me killed?” She finally asked.

“I did not order you killed?”

“Why did you have my mother killed?”

“I did not have her killed either. I never wanted harm to befall either of you. Though it did on account of my actions… my intentions were good. I swear.”

Vannera sat down in front of him.

“We suddenly have the luxury of time father. But we are at war so please, do not hesitate.” She let out a flat smile. “Tell me everything.”

 

They were all assembled in Lynda’s chambers and watched as the bolts of light shot from Terrianus across the vast expanse of all that is, in the direction of Teinerus.

“You hid Feona’s sword in Teinerus?” Barthros asked angrily.

“Yes. I did.” Rikard Miljorn responded.

“Why would you do such a thing? You have sent your son to meet his end.” Arthros observed.

“I have merely sent him on a quest to understand the enemy he is fighting.”

“A noble cause that could have been accomplished a much safer way.” Arthros said.

Rikard Miljorn bowed his head. “Yet I believe that this was the only way… to reveal the truth.”

“What do you speak of?” Barthros bellowed.

“You know what I speak of.” Rikard said defiantly. “The dragol were also born from chaos as you gods of reality were. That makes you cousins. Yet the dragol were cast out into the darkest recesses of all that is for fear that one day, they might grow powerful enough to take revenge on you all for neglecting them so.”

“You insolent…”

“Calm yourself Barthros.” Lynda said. “What is the meaning of this Rikard?”

“When you created life, when you created us human mortals and all other life in existence, you created us to be naturally inferior to yourselves. You created us so that there was no way any could pose a threat to unseat you all, the way the dragol do. Yet your siblings underestimated humans Lynda. We grew, we discovered and we learned. And with each passing century, our understanding of all that is has made us… powerful in your eyes. You underestimated the power of our spirit. One you created. But your love for all humans withheld you from taking the actions your siblings clamored for… and yet it did not stop them from sending the dragol our way.”

“And why would we do that?” Barthros asked.

“Control. Is that not what it is Barthros? You knew that humans, favored by the great goddess Lynda, and indeed favored by you all would be hated by the dragol, at least most of them. So you threw us in a never – ending war to be repeated and restaged for all of eternity. No side ever gaining true victory… just a semblance of victory. Enough to allow the other respite until it broke out again. That way, you would ensure that neither human nor dragol could ever directly turn against you whilst pre-occupied with one another.”

“Even if what you say is true Rikard Miljorn,” A huge lady stepped in from the background. She was composed of numerous strings each one winding around and contorted to create her figure. The strings channeled streaks of light that shot through their entire length. Her eyes were two bright lights that were blinding to look at directly and her voice rumbled as though it were thunder.

“How is sending your only son to Teinerus going to help you and the cause of you humans?” The lady asked.

Rikard Miljorn managed a wry smile.

“Mother fate, so what I say is indeed true.”

There was a hush amongst the gods and Rikard smiled again. “Enemies understand each other in battle. They may yet resent one another, but they gain true understanding of each other when they fight with their lives on the line. Yet, not all dragol resent humans now do they? No it is a veil you have pulled over us and over them. It is as I said. I merely send my son to understand the enemy, and to hopefully end this senseless war, once and for all.”

“And if he fails?” Mother fate asked.

“Well then… that would be his fate would it not be? But… it is one he holds in his hands. Yet another veil you have long pulled over our eyes.”

“That’s it.” Barthros said. “I should have never brought your line of reality back into existence. I will take it away now and then I will send you to oblivion.”

“You will do no such thing for we have a pact. As long as Davydd Miljorn lives to complete his quest, you cannot send me back to Hovan or keep me there. You know the consequences if you do.”

“Then you will be destroyed, here and now.” Mother Fate said. “Barthros.”

“Indeed.” Barthros said and moved swiftly towards Rikard. However, Rikard was moved out of Barthros’s grasp before he could get there. Barthros turned and glared at Lady Lynda.

“What are you doing sister?”

“I cannot. I cannot let any of you lay a hand on him.”

“Lynda. He is a mortal human. You can create another of him if you so please, but this mortal poses a danger to us.”

“As we once posed to chaos. I will not let you harm him.”

“Then what will you do?” Mother fate asked.

“Are you sure about this?” Rikard asked Lynda.

“Shut up my love. We are in trouble.” Lynda said as she drew open a tear.

Rikard smiled and nodded in agreement. “Indeed we are.”

“Come, we must leave.” She pulled him in before Barthros could descend on them.

“We must find her!” Barthros said.

“We can’t brother.” Arthros observed. “Lynda knows every crevice of all that is and you are wrong. Rikard is no longer mortal even if he is still less powerful. They will most likely hide out in some world or some place as yet undetermined.”

“When I find them, I will strike them out of existence!”

“Your temper is talking brother. That man figured out in his short life, the history of the humans and the dragol. Not only that, he discovered a way to buy the humans and more importantly, his son time to grow and take on the incomplete task he left behind. He rightly predicted that the dragol would recommence their invasion once the spell he created was lifted and it would be the perfect time for a human with superior gifts, a halfing, to enter Teinerus unnoticed with the greatest chance of success. Finally with an understanding that his son would inherit Lynda’s compassion for all life, he knew Davydd would be the perfect human to send because his nature would not allow him mindlessly slay innocent dragol without reason, thus giving him a chance to know them and possibly, accept them. Rikard Miljorn, even in death he is a terrifying man. We are all so lucky that he is not a god himself.”

Four streaks of light fell on the barren and desolate planes of Teinerus. In the distance, barely visible so as to be a speck was the principals’ spire and the army that invaded the human realm. In that army, not one dragol saw the streaks of light. Not one, even among the principals, knew that as they invaded Terrianus, their very world had been invaded as well. And it was just as well, for as powerful as Lady Feona was, she could not take on a whole world of dragol by herself and she knew it. One by one, she quickly moved the unconscious men to a safe location and awaited their awakening. She stared at Davydd who was breathing softly, his eyes closed. Yes. She would let them all sleep. They had been through unimaginable challenges and yet, she knew all too well as she surveyed the vast expanse of land, its fiery anger, and its thick smoke, that this was only the beginning.

 

THE ENDNEXT PAGE!!

 

[] THANKS AND SECOND BOOK PREVIEW

Hurray!!!! I would like to use this opportunity to congratulate and thank you for completing The Gauntlet of Feona, which is the first book in the ‘Curse of the Seventh Sword’ series. I hope you enjoyed the read. If you did, then I am absolutely glad and would appreciate it if you let me know what you thought, by leaving a review on Amazon. If you didn’t, let me know what you think by leaving a review all the same. I am all for constructive feedback.

 

Secondly, I have included the first two chapters of the next book in the series. It is titled ‘The War of two Realms’. For those of you who loved ‘The Gauntlet of Feona’, I can’t wait to know and read what you think about ‘The War of two Realms’. You can start by reading a two chapter teaser below. The book is published on Amazon. Get it by clicking the link below!

 

Finally, you can subscribe to my mailing list here! First 150 subscribers will get a free copy of The War of two Realms.

 

[] CHAPTER ONEWAR

The fireball was launched into the air and wailed angrily as it travelled towards its doomed destination.  A trail of fiery light fell away behind it and the light from the ball and its trail illuminated the land beneath them.  The yellow light caught faces looking up at the ball in morbid fear.  There was a gasp that travelled through the land and crossed the hardly distinct divide between ally and foe.  The Fireball was a sight to behold, but its lifespan was agonizingly short.  It wailed even louder as the force that binds took hold of it and began reeling it faster and faster back down to earth.  There were screams of terror among the ranks. 

“That will take about a thousand souls with it to Hovan.”  One soldier exclaimed. 

“Or to the sea of lost souls.”  Another soldier contributed. 

“Load up the Onager.”  The first soldier said. “Let us give them our response.”

“Pray for the souls of those poor men.”  The second soldier said as they both watched the fireball slam into the sea of soldiers, dispersing in a flat and expanding circular form. 

Even though they were far behind the frontlines and away from the deadly clashes, they could still feel the air around them warm up a bit from the dissipated heat. They could see that a second fireball had been launched, threatening just as much damage as the one before it.  

“Load me up and aim for the fireball.”

The voice came from behind the soldiers and startled them. 

“When did he…”

“He does that.”  The first soldier interrupted his colleague, mid-sentence.  “What do you want here?”

The dark-skinned man stepped forward.  His hair twisted into numerous long locks that fell in front of his face, to the sides and to the back where they were tied together.  A green hat was worn low and cast a shadow over his forehead and eyes.  His green tunic, black pants, green boots and gloves, completed his attire.  There were two daggers tucked into sheaths on either side of his waistline where a belt held them in place.  The man stepped forward, and into the slingshot of the Onager. 

“We do not have much time.  Aim for the fireball.”

“You are insane!” The second soldier bellowed at him. 

The dark-skinned man simply looked back at him and smiled. 

“No… not insane.  Just being a soldier.” He replied.

He turned back around wordlessly, and waited. 

“Fire away!”  The first soldier ordered. 

“Firing!”  The second soldier confirmed.

The slingshot was released and the man was sent hurtling through the air.  The wind whistled in his ears and stung his eyes, making it an arduous task to keep them open.  However, his eyes had to be open and he knew it.  

The fireball loomed like a vessel of destruction, high up in the air.  Its surface burned and flickered with the fiery rage of a bursting star.  He pulled out one of his daggers and pointed it towards the fireball.  His eyebrows were creased in concentration.  There was a distortion in the space around the fireball.  It was subtle at first, but became increasingly prominent.   The fireball deformed slightly and then more visibly, as it was pulled inside the center of the distortion.  The man gritted his teeth as he willed his magical power on.  Soon, the fireball was completely gone and the man was hurtling through the air towards the Onagar of the enemy. 

“The fireball vanished.”  A man with long blonde hair, and a wispy beard said, as he ducked low under yet another sword swipe, aimed at decapitating him. 

“I noticed.”  The old man in hooded clothes replied.  He had seemingly released a small ball of flame from his hand.  It had travelled rapidly through the air and engulfed the former man’s assailant. 

“I must go now, master.”  The blonde haired man said as he sliced down a second and third assailant in quick succession.  He adjusted his red hat and panted wearily. 

“Will you be fine without me?”  He asked. 

“Go, you proud idiot!”  The old man smiled.  “Max does not have much time.”

The blonde haired man managed a wry smile and was off.  There was a trail of dust rising along the path he had taken.  He weaved and ducked under attacks, at lightning speed, cutting and impaling enemies that could barely discern his presence.  The enemy’s motions seemed slow to him, almost unmoving which made it a lot easier for him to keep up his wind of destruction.  Up ahead, Max was still hurtling at high speed towards the enemy Onager.  He pointed his dagger ahead of him once more.  In an instant, there was a flash of light and an earth shattering explosion.  Max was hurtling towards the mushroom cloud.  He looked at the thick forest behind the clearing, where the battle was taking place. 

“Sam, I sure hope you guess right.” 

A portal opened up and enveloped him before the thick smoke and flames could. 

The blonde haired man rushed past what was left of the enemy Onager.  It had been rendered useless and was up in flames.  Most of the enemy soldiers ran around screaming in anguish as the fires ate through their armor and devoured their flesh.  Others lay on the floor, motionless.  He raced into the forest line and caught a glimpse of a body hurtling through the air to his left.  He veered in the direction until he was side by side with the hurtling body of Max.  Max’s hands were tucked to his side and his eyes squeezed shut.  The blonde haired man grabbed him and spun him out of a tree’s path.  They both crashed into the ground, rolling and tumbling before finally coming to a rest in a heap. 

“You crazy fool!”  The blonde haired man snapped through a painful grimace. 

“Hey, Sam.”  Max managed as he cracked his neck.

They both slowly and painfully got to their feet. 

“Feona will come for us early if you keep this up, my friend.”  Sam said as he stretched his back.  There was a low cracking sound and Sam gave a sigh of relief. 

“Feona can’t come for us now, can she?”

“Right you are…”  Sam responded. 

There was silence for a while. 

“It’s been two years.”  Max said, breaking the silence.  “Our lines are being pushed back, all across Terrianus.  We have barely managed to keep the other six kings alive.  We are running out of time.”

“Then we will make more time, my friend.  Do not waver.”

“You still believe in him… don’t you?”

“You do too.  It’s why you are here.  It’s why you’d be as foolhardy as you were just now.”

Max grinned and looked around him He knew Sam was right. 

“We are behind enemy lines you know?”

“That we are.”

“Leo’s presence is not more missed than it is right now.”

“Then let us create some tales of wily creativity in his absence.”  Sam said as he unsheathed his sword. 

“Ready?”  He asked. 

“Ready.”  Max responded smiling. 

The tall lady walked through the field were numerous tents had been set up by the soldiers.  They would rest here for a while and tend to their wounds, pray for restocks on arms, medical and food supplies to arrive in time, and send scouts ahead of them to gain useful knowledge as they made their advance.  A gentle gust of wind blew her long red hair, tied together in a ponytail.  Her armor clinked and clanked as she walked.  A great sword was slung around her waist on the left side and she cradled her helmet with her right arm.  Her green eyes scanned the field and her heart sank at the sights and sounds.  She could see shadows splayed out on the fabric of the tent cloths.  Most of them were of numerous people holding down a writhing injured soldier.  She could tell they were injured.  The screams of pain as wounds were seared shut, arrows pulled out, and gashes sewn close were almost too much to bear.  Vannera hunched over and fell on her knees.  Large sweat drops fell to the ground and dampened the soil around her. 

“Well if it isn’t the warrior princess.”  A voice behind her said. 

Vannera whirled around, getting to her feet and pulling her sword in one swift motion.  A shield was brought up to block the blow. 

“Easy there.  See Tanh?  The battlefield is no place for women.”

The soldier named Tanh, laughed condescendingly at her. 

“Do you have business with me, Kirdanh?”  Vannera asked.  Her voice carried the sharpness of a whiplash.  She glared at them with pent up anger. 

“Oh no your highness.  We were on the way to see our wounded.  That’s what is expected of the leader of a battalion.  Not collapsing to the earth and praying or was it crying to gods that will never answer you.”

“Shut up and do not speak of the gods that way.”  Vannera spat.  “You do not understand them.”

Kirdanh had walked up to her.  His black eyes gleaming with contempt.  He stopped just a few inches away from her, so that his breath fell upon her every time he exhaled. 

“And you do?”  He asked mockingly. 

“She would claim to.” Tanh contributed.  “After all the rumors abound that Davydd Miljorn was a halfing.”

“You speak of him as though he were dead.” 

“It’s been two years, false princess.” Kirdanh scoffed.  “He was a misguided young brat with pride.  I can call on a thousand Tongwelethean soldiers who would be more qualified to go on such a mission.”

He had barely finished the sentence when he felt the hilt of her sword slam into his cheek with such ferocious force it knocked out a tooth.  Kirdanh fell to the ground and roared in pain.  He spat out some blood and got to his feet. 

“You filthy false princess! I will slay you by my sword right here and now!!”  He charged at her and stopped as a wall of fire rose up between him and Princess Vannera. 

“Do not interfere, old man.”  Kirdanh said as he glared at the old hooded man who stood a few feet away. 

“You don’t get to be my age without a little bit of wisdom and a little bit of luck.  You see that fire?  It feeds on a substance, much like any other fire.  Only in this case, it is your life energy.  You should really control your rage, before it consumes you.” 

Kirdanh could feel his strength wane a bit.  He turned and glared at Princess Vannera. 

“Consider yourself lucky this time, false princess.  Next time you won’t be able to land a surprise punch.”

He turned to leave.

“I never could land a surprise punch on Davydd Miljorn, Kirdanh.” Vannera said, causing Kirdanh to stop in his tracks. 

“When my king returns, I will let you be the first to take your grievances to him.”  Vannera continued. 

Kirdanh glared at her in controlled rage.  He opened his mouth but no words came out.  His eyes turned to look at the hooded man who gently nodded at the still raging fire.  He felt weaker still.  He slowly nodded back his understanding and walked off.  The fire dissipated. 

“Are you okay, Princess?”  The old man said as he walked towards her. 

“As well as can be.  Thank you… Matilom.”  She offered him a smile. 

He studied her briefly.  The smile was weak and he could see that she was weighed down, no… crushed in fact by the weight of the responsibilities her slender shoulders had to carry.  Resentment had grown towards Davydd since he departed for Teinerus, and soldiers from the other kingdoms, who had not been there to witness firsthand the challenges they all had to deal with on the quest to find the gauntlet, could not understand why they placed so much faith in him.   They had made Vannera the target of their frustrations, doubt, and lust.  She had taken all on herself, but the lust and it made them despise her even more.  Her hair, neck and armor were matted with dried blood.  It was both hers and that of her enemies. 

“Many people died today.”  Vannera continued.  “Too many.”

“Many Dragol were also killed today.  The soldiers pile their bodies in a heap as we speak.”

“But… we still had to kill our own.  When did we become so… misguided?”

Matilom bowed his head briefly.

“Humanity has always been a discordant race, your highness.  But even in the discord, there is hope.  We were united as one front against the enemy before.  We will be again.  You must believe that.”

“You make it sound so easy.”

“No.  I only remind you that victory is attainable.”

She turned to look at him and there was sadness in her eyes. 

“At what cost, Matilom?”

The old wizard walked up to her and placed a friendly arm on her shoulder. 

“Whatever the cost, would it be greater than the consequences of defeat?”

Her eyes widened a bit with realization at his words. 

“Get some rest princess.  Get your wounds treated.  Eat some food to replenish your body and find your happiest thoughts to replenish your soul.” 

And with those words, Matilom left her, walking back towards the tents.  Another gentle gust of wind blew at her and she closed her eyes, inhaling as it blew all around her.  It smelled of war, of death.  She pushed past these and soon could smell the coming rain in the wind. 

find your happiest thoughts, to replenish your soul.

Oh Davydd, when will you return?

The gust of wind blew past his face and whipped his brown hair backwards.  He struggled to contain it against the wind.  It smelled like rain.  The breeze was somehow visible like cloth or silver that was cloth.  He couldn’t quite describe it but he could see it flow and crash.  He could see every band of its essence.  The wind molded into her form and her green eyes shone like emerald lights.  Her hair seemed to be a flaming red.  He walked towards her, shaking in anticipation.  She walked towards him, a picture of calm and beauty, just the way he remembered her.  That glow of her skin.  When they had closed the distance, they locked their bodies in a passionate embrace.  He rocked her slowly from side to side. 

“You are here!  Vannera, you are really here!”  He exclaimed.

“Yes!  Yes I am, Davydd.  I’m right here.  I’ve always been right here.”

Davydd looked around him. 

“How did you get here?  This does not look like Teinerus.”

“It isn’t my love.  And it is you who got here.  Now you need to wake up.  You have something to find.”

“No.”  Davydd shook his head.  “I want to stay here… with you.”

“And I with you but you must wake up, Davydd.”

Davydd kept shaking his head.  He thought he caught the whiff of an acrid burning smell. 

“Wake up, Davydd.” 

[_Why had it gotten so warm? _]

“Wake up, Davydd.”  The voice seemed to thunder all around his world and then it collapsed into nothingness just as he shot his eyes open.  He closed them again as the light from the flames stung his eyes.  Davydd rubbed them furiously before opening them again.  When he opened them, he could see a small Dragol perched in a corner, looking at him.  At first, panic seized him and he almost made for his swords, but then he remembered quickly.  These were his… their hosts.  The small Dragol was one of the children.  A [_girl. _] The thought of it still made him feel strange.  He sat up and stretched his muscles. 

“Do all humans talk in their sleep?”  She asked him. 

Her voice was a bit high pitched, much like a human child but that was where the similarities ended.  Hers was like the sound of a metal blade being run across a rough concrete ground creating a jangling of ringing noises running together at once.  The sound had bothered him at first, but he was used to it now. 

“No.  Not all.  How did you get in here?” He asked in reply.

“Is that what happens when you dream?”  She asked, ignoring his question. 

“Sometimes…”  David put on his shirt and rose to his full length, still stretching. 

“Is Vannera your mate?”

Davydd looked at her for a few moments. 

“How did you say you got in here?” He asked again.

The Dragol pointed to a small hole that had been made in the wall leading up to his room.  Davydd quickly noticed that it was just wide enough for her to squeeze through, and that it had not been there before. 

“I see.”  He said looking back at her. 

She looked down on the floor and had an expression of guilt on her face.  Her membranous eyelids slid shut and her slit pupils peered back at him. 

“I know you are still looking.”

“Okay… apologies.”  The membranous eyelids slid open.

Davydd studied her for a while.  She had a human like face, albeit very scaly, along with a slightly long tail that would become her weapon in a few years.  Part of the skin on her scalp, fell loosely around her head like a form of hair.  Davydd finished putting on his boots and then walked towards the door.  It was less a door than a stone slab which required a generous amount of effort to slide back and forth each time.  Davydd pushed it open and walked out unto a hallway. 

“If she is your mate, you should hurry back to your realm and find her.”

“Why the worry?”

“My father says mates separated for a long time will eventually find other mates.”

“I see.  Have you ever heard of love?”

“Yes.  Father says it is a delusion lesser beings create in order to protect themselves.”

“Oh.  We have a lot to talk about then.”

“Oh do we?  I’d love to listen.”

“Not now.  I need to find my friends.  Thank you, Lylac.” 

“Human Davydd.”  Lylac called. 

“Hmmm?”

“Be careful not to be seen by the inhabitants of the other lairs.”

“Of course.” 

Davydd walked down the hallway.  The walls were covered in black soot and glowed a dull orange through the numerous cracks on them.  The same was true for the ground he walked on.  He got to an opening in the left wall of the hallway and stopped there, huddling close to the wall.  He peered around the corner to gaze at the enormous underground structure filled with numerous lairs just like this one.  They had been snuck in here by Lylac’s parents, six moons ago.  At least it appeared to be so.  Time took on a different meaning in Teinerus.  Davydd did not quite understand it.  Only Feona did and her explanations were still above him.  He could hear the sharp guttural noises of the Dragol as they spoke to each other in a tongue he had only begun to decipher.  He bent down low and crouched-walked across to the other side of the opening before straightening out along the wall.  Satisfied that he hadn’t been seen, Davydd walked on into another room where Segmiatus and Leo sat. 

“Where is Feona?”  He asked.

“She scans the land above.”  Segmiatus responded. 

“As she always does.” Davydd added. 

“Your majesty.  Xentania requested our presence, once you had awoken.”  Leo said. 

“He must have come back from scouting.  Let us go then.”

“I’ll call Feona.”  Segmiatus said. 

“No need.”  It was the voice of Feona as she walked up to the men. 

“Of course… you can hear us…”  Davydd said. 

“That I can.  The little one talks a lot, doesn’t she?”  Feona smiled. 

“She is like a child… Any other child I’ve met.  Let’s go.”  Davydd said.  “He might have something useful to tell us.”

“I sure hope he does.”  Feona said as they walked towards Xentania’s chambers.

Xentania was seated on a slab made out of molten stone and larva.  His room was much hotter than that of Davydd’s.  The Dragol were creatures of fire and chaos.  Their body, unable to produce enough internal heat, fed off of that which they could absorb from their environments.  Without it, they would die.  Xentania was a large and muscular Dragol.  From what Davydd had gathered, he was a hunter class Dragol and commanded a lot of respect among the others living in this valley of lairs.  Xentania, despite his obvious abilities, had never joined the Dragolian forces.  He was part of a few Dragol that Davydd had found to his surprise, opposed the war and the persecution of humanity. 

“Human Davydd.”  Xentania said as they entered.  He rose to his feet, towering above each of them by at least a foot. 

“Xentania.  It is good to see you back and well.”  Davydd said as they clasped hands. 

“Did you sleep well?”  The dragol asked.

“Indeed.  Do you bring back news for me?’

Xentania sighed and sat back down on the slab. 

“I have looked everywhere I possibly can.  I do not hear a single breath mention the weapon you look for, not even amongst protected whispers.”

Davydd wore a dejected look. 

“Then what do you hear?”  He continued. 

“There has been talk of the key to defeating the Dragol being hidden in the deepest parts of the Principal’s Spire.  But that could mean anything.” 

Though all the Principals were on Terrianus and fully engaged, they had left the Spire in capable hands, and could return if the need ever arose.  Xentania explained how daunting the task of breaking into the Spire was and held little hope of their coming back out of it, alive. 

“Well we won’t know until we try.  Will we?”  Davydd said. 

“You want to infiltrate the Spire?  It is a sure death.”

“Many things I have ventured to do the past two years should have been a sure death, Xentania.”  Davydd replied.

Xentania looked downwards and sighed. 

“There is something else, isn’t there?”  Feona asked.  “What have you not told us?”

“A few others in the valley have gotten apprehensive.  They notice we do not come out with them as often as we used to and some have accused us, especially my offspring, Lylac of carrying the human scent and that of a god.  We will need to move you tonight.  They will soon send watchers to keep eyes on my lair.”  

“They cannot watch what they can’t see.”  Leo said. 

“It is settled then.”  Davydd added.  “We move tonight.”

 

[] CHAPTER TWOHOPE

The barren land was blackened by a thick ever present layer of soot, formed from eons of being painfully licked and scorched by terrifyingly large tongues of fire.  The flames had burned since the beginning of her birth, they had formed and shaped the flesh covering of her earth and one day they would bring her to a glorious end that was ever befitting for the great world known as Teinerus. 

The world looked dead.  The perpetual night sky looked like a translucent purple veil draped over the vast expanse of land.  There was no moon or sun to illuminate the vast expanse which spanned beyond what the eyes could see.  However, the purple hue seemed to cast a form of luminescence across the land, which was accentuated by the faint light of numerous distant suns, burning brightly in other parts of the vast expanse of all that is.  The land was adorned with deep ridges that ran like rivulets across its face.  Some of these rivulets opened up into great gaping holes.  The Dragol called these holes valleys.  They were naturally cooler but still warm enough to form natural homes for the lizard like beings. 

The land also twisted and rolled on itself into multiple spires that cast long shadows across the terrain.  The largest of these spires loomed in the distance, its size immeasurable.  One of such spires cast an oily black shadow, over the mouth of a fiery valley.  The shadow, like liquid, appeared to seep into the valley, without ever depleting.  Suddenly, the great shadow sprouted an arm.  The long arm slowly extended westwards from the shadow’s immense body.  It swarmed away from the shadow at a dizzying pace.  One who dared to observe more closely would eventually see that this was no real shadow, but a sea of Dragol.  In the distance, loud shrieking sounds could be heard but they were undecipherable to beings other than those of the Dragolian race. While other beings inhabited this world, their sole purpose was to provide the sustenance required by the ever increasing number of Dragol. 

“A hunt will soon commence.  Eventually, prey will be slain and brought back to our valley.”  Xentania said. 

They observed the Dragol’s movements, from a safe distance behind the spire that cast a shadow over the valley’s mouth.  Davydd turned to Xentania.

“You have been a most immense help to us.  I do not know what I can ever do to repay you.”

“Oh yes you do, human Davydd Miljorn.”  Xentania responded, his eyes gleaming in the darkness.  “Find your weapon and end this senseless war before it destroys both worlds.”

“I will, Xentania.”

“Owutera dragaota bira xum.”  Xentania said. 

“What?”

“It is a Dragolian saying.  In your tongue, it would represent finding truth among chaos.  Xum.  Truth.” 

  “Why are you telling me this?” Davydd asked.

“Coming here has not been easy on you, human Davydd Miljorn and yet among the chaos you see as your life now, you must find truth.  The truth of why.  Why all this? Lylac tells me of your nightmares.”

“Dreams.”  Davydd corrected.  “Dreams.” He said again, as if trying to convince himself.

“Do they bring you hope?”

“Yes.”

“Do they bring you pain?”

“…Yes.” 

Xentania’s face creased into a smile. 

“You will find it, human Davydd.”  He said reassuringly.  He lifted up his hand and his scaly fingers pointed in the direction of the immeasurably massive Spire. 

“That is home to the Principals, all of whom are in your world at the moment.  It is also where I believe you will find what you seek.”

“How do you know this for sure?”

“I do not.  But the rumors I hear tell me it is a chance.  The goddess with you tells me the same.”

“Feona?”  Davydd turned to look at her. 

“Her eyes have looked towards that place alone, since we sheltered you.  You should pay more attention to what she tells you, not by her mouth.”

Feona smiled at Davydd. 

“You couldn’t just say it.”  Davydd stated harshly. 

“I cannot interfere.”  Feona responded calmly.

“I asked you on more than one occasion.  You would rather lie?”

“I never lied.  I simply said you will eventually see the answer.  You have only seen a part of it.  One day you will look up and a light will illuminate the truth for you.”

“I think I’m done with parables.”  Davydd responded.  He turned back to Xentania. 

“How do we get there?”

“Traveling on the top is too dangerous.  Powerful as you all may be, but my kind has numbers here and we have wits too.  It would be better to face far fewer dangers in the underground passes.”

Fewer.”  Segmiatus echoed. 

“Yes.  Fewer.  They are not lesser dangers, but they are fewer.”

“Are there any greater?”  Leo asked. 

“It is possible.  But they mostly sleep, the worms.”

“Worms.”  Davydd interjected. 

“Do not bother with them.  Just make sure not to cause too much noise while you travel.  Go in the direction I pointed towards and by the half day’s mark, you will see a dark gaping hole that opens up like a mouth.  Follow it.  It will keep you out of sight.  And remember, if you see any of my kind walking the undergrounds, do not let them send word to the spire.”

“I will be seeing you again soon, my friend.”  Davydd said, managing a wry smile. 

“Of that, I am very sure, human Davydd.” 

With that, Davydd, Segmiatus, Leo, Feona and Beatha, still in her bracelet form, embarked on their journey.  Xentania stood silently and watched them go.  When they had walked a fair distance away, a smaller figure emerged behind Xentania.  It was Lylac. 

“You let him go, Father.  I thought you were not to let him go.” 

“I am not.”  Xentania responded.

“Then what do we do?” 

“I have his scent.  We will follow and take care not to be noticed until the appropriate time.  Where is Senna?”

“She waits for us with the rest of the pack.”

“Let us go then.”

The man hummed a foreign tune in a somber tone.  He swayed his head in unison to the pitch and valleys of his tunes, while crossing his legs this way and that.  His jet black hair fell across his face, which was hanging low.  His hands were stretched taut behind his back and his wrists were encased in a dungeon lock made of iron with a bar running from one wrist lock to the other.  His legs were also bound by ankle locks.  Both had chains running from them to a fairly large steel ball across the room.  The man was dressed in burgundy colored robes which were draped over a steel silver armor, stained and dented in most places.  He stopped humming once a figure stepped into his tent. 

“I can no longer tell when you approach by your perfume.”  The man said, as the figure came to a stop in front of him.

“We are at war.  Nothing pleasant lingers in the air.”  Came the cold response. 

“Ah, that is true.  It is an all too familiar smell for me, I tell you.  It is also one I sought to protect you from.”  The man lifted up his eyes for the first time and met the fierce gaze set upon him. 

“It has been a while since you visited me, Vannera.  I have missed your company.”

“Try as I might, father, I cannot say the same.”  Vannera responded. 

Sidion Vror leaned back in his seat and studied her for a while. 

“To what do I owe the honor of this visit?”

“We have taken back Valdamar as you most likely know.”

“I know you have cornered the Dragol and Valdamarian forces.  I know they hide behind their fortress.  I know your worry remains the Dragol.”

“Good.  Then this conversation can be pleasantly shorter.  How would you engage them?  What strategies would you employ?”

“Who says anything about this visit being shorter?  I’d like to go for a walk.  It has been a while since I breathed the fresh air.”

“That will not happen.”  Vannera snapped. 

“Then neither will the conversation you seek.”  Sidion Vror smiled and leaned back in his chair. 

“Torture should loosen your tongue.” 

Sidion vror arched an eyebrow up. 

“You have become quite the ruthless soldier now, haven’t you?  If only you were like this while I was still king.” 

“Do not compare me to you.  I still have a heart.”

“Daughter, if I didn’t have a heart, I would have killed you two years ago on that ship.”

“Then why won’t you help me now?”

“I never said I wouldn’t.  I said I’d like to go for a walk.  Is that too much for an old man to ask? And free of these shackles for a time.  The skin underneath should be rotting by now.”

Vannera sighed. 

“Fine.  We will walk and you will tell me what I need to know.”

“Agreed.”  Sidion nodded. 

“We will be accompanied by six soldiers.  They will have instructions to kill you, should you try anything.”

“Agreed.” 

“Very well then.  I will be waiting outside.”  And with that, Vannera turned around and left the tent. 

A few moments later, six soldiers came inside and yanked Sidion to his feet.  They unfastened the locks on his wrists first.  Sidion stretched out his hands in front of him and let out a satisfied sigh.  Next, came the locks around his ankles.  Two soldiers pointed their swords at his chest and neck.  Their hands trembled slightly.  Their eyes were wide with fear. 

“Steady.”  Called one of the soldiers behind him, sensing the fear of the two in front. 

Sidion walked slowly to one of the soldiers and brought out his right index finger.  He ran it along the cutting edge of the sword, eliciting a small slice.  A few drops of blood spilled from his finger.  He looked at the young trembling soldier and smiled. 

“See?  I bleed.”  Sidion said. 

“Move!”  Called out another soldier behind him and with that, they shoved him out of the tent. 

Vannera was standing outside the tent, when Sidion Vror walked up to her. 

“Shall we?”  He asked. 

They began walking across the encampment, past numerous tents that were the temporary homes of soldiers from all of Terrianus.  Soon, they were a bit of a distance from the encampment.  The six soldiers formed a perimeter around them, keeping their distance but still close enough to strike if anything went awry. 

“The longer we stay here, the more vulnerable we will be to an attack from an enemy that must be fast regrouping.  Won battles are getting few and far in between.  We need to make each one count, especially now that the men are high in morale.”

Sidion laughed at his daughter’s brief speech. 

“Do you really believe they are high in morale?  If you wanted to conquer Fort Valdamar, you should have planted seeds within the retreating enemy.  A fort is designed to be impregnable.  It would be a waste of man power, time and resources trying to weaken it from the outside.  A more effective strategy, would have been to make it crumble from within.”

“It is obviously too late for that, isn’t it?  I need to know how to engage the Dragol.  They will always be our biggest challenge.  They can lay waste to many of our men even cornered in a fort.  Besides that…”

Vannera trailed off. 

Sidion looked at her and smiled, shaking his head. 

“Maybe you are not as ruthless as I thought you have become.”

“Like I said, I have a heart.” She stated firmly.

“You are worried they will turn on their human counterparts in there and slay them, much like they have done in past battles, are you not?”

“Why would anyone follow them?”

“The promise of power.  Then, the realization that power is but an empty promise of death and destruction.  The fear of that destruction caressing the skins of loved ones, and finally, hopelessness and despair.”

Sidion turned to look at Vannera, his eyes honest, before continuing. 

“The Dragol are very manipulative, my daughter.  Even a sliver of kindness can be taken advantage of.  Like your kindness in sparing the lives of the opposing human forces and turning them into our soldiers.  You did not ensure their humanity was properly restored, did you?”

“What are you talking about?”

The soldiers slowly started moving in. 

“I am telling you the very strategy we discuss has been used against you!”

Sidion Vror charged at Vannera. 

“Guards!”  Vannera yelled and turned around. 

Her eyes widened in shock to see a soldier driving his sword down towards her heart.  The sword tip was shifted off course by a violent blow to the soldier’s midsection.  Before he could react, Sidion Vror had stepped behind him, snapping his neck violently to the right and then the left.  The motion was swift, and the execution, brutal.  The soldier gasped once and then his body went limp.  Sidion smoothly pried his sword free, as the soldier fell lifelessly to the ground. 

He threw the sword at Vannera, as he turned to evade a stab aimed directly for his abdomen.  There was a screeching noise as the blade grazed past Sidion’s armor, slicing his burgundy robe in the process.  Sidion caught the second soldier’s arm and twisted his body so he was facing the same side as the soldier.  He slammed his right foot into the soldier’s left knee.  There was a cracking sound and the man fell to his knee, screaming in agony.  The sword had already been pried free.  Sidion spun around, sword swinging with deadly intent.  The sword glided smoothly across the soldier’s neck.  There was a snapping sound as metal severed skin and then cartilage and bone and finally skin again, from one side to the next.  The head fell first.  The body followed soon after.  Sidion turned to Vannera.  She had defeated the three soldiers she had to face.  She really had grown.  Sidion turned back to the last soldier.  He was young, almost boyish in appearance.  He trembled violently in fear as Sidion took slow deliberate steps towards him.   The boyish man wiped tears as they streamed down his face. 

“See?  We all bleed.”  Sidion said smiling. 

The soldier looked at the thumb that had been pricked, using his own sword.  He opened his mouth to speak but no words came out.  As Sidion closed the distance, the soldier dropped his sword and fell to his knees. 

“You are not a soldier, are you?”  Sidion Vror asked. 

“N….n…n…no sir.  I was forced.  I had no choice.  My family!  Please I beg you, forgive me.”  He sobbed. 

Sidion bent low and placed a hand on the young man’s head. 

“That forgiveness, you will have to earn, young one.”

“What’s going on?”  Vannera asked, confounded.

“I’ll explain on the way back to the encampment.  In the meantime, young man, grab that one’s clothes.”  Sidion pointed to a dead body.  “Your road to forgiveness has begun.”

The gaping hole angled into the ground like a cave leading to some underground passage.  Even standing close to the entrance, one could see nothing but blackness that beckoned like an abyss. 

“Is travelling along the surface that dangerous?”  Segmiatus asked as he observed the gaping hole, along with the others. 

“You can, if you are too scared.”  Feona said mockingly.  Her red eyes gleamed with excitement. 

Davydd looked on in silence.  They had been traveling across Teinerus for two years.  The spire had always loomed in the distance.  It was the first natural structure they had noticed, upon waking up.  The size had been misleading.  They thought they could cover the distance in a few moons at most.  However, as time had passed, it became painfully apparent that it was not the distance which was easily traversable, but the spire which was easily visible.  Xentania had made the journey through this cave appear fleeting.  Would they be trapped in there for another two years?  And what if the sword was not there?  Davydd raised up his left hand, which wore Feona’s gauntlet.  He waited for an inscription on the metallic surface of the gauntlet or on the earth beneath.  Nothing happened. 

“Why do you still stay silent, Ang?”  Davydd said, almost in a whisper. 

“Davydd!” 

Davydd was snapped back to reality.  He turned to see Segmiatus standing by his side. 

“Where are the others?”  Davydd asked, noticing no one else was standing at the entrance anymore. 

“They’ve gone ahead.  Your mind wavers more frequently these days.”

“I did not know it was wavering at all.”  Davydd replied curtly and began walking forward. 

Segmiatus placed a hand on Davydd’s chest, stopping him. 

“Do we have any unsettled business, Segmiatus?”

The blow surprised Davydd.  He instinctively arched his head out of the way and Segmiatus’s fist just grazed by. 

“Have you gone mad?!”  Davydd bellowed. 

“No.  But I’m trying to knock some reason back into your failing mind!”

“My mind is not failing!”

“Yes it is!  What happened to my friend?  What happened to my king?  What happened to the man who used to tell us we could do it?  That we would survive.  The man who sat by me after I almost got us killed chasing after my father’s wraith!  What happened?!”

“Nothing!!  That’s what happened!  Nothing!  Take a look around you, Segmiatus.  Ang does not guide me anymore.  He remains as silent as death herself.  We have not found the sword and have no clue how to get back home.  We don’t even know if the others are alive or dead!  We know nothing!!!”

Davydd was still yelling when Segmiatus put his arms around him and embraced him.  Davydd broke. 

“I’ve failed her, Seg.  I failed everyone.  We are going to die here and there is nothing I can do about it.”

“No, we are not.  We are here because we believed and still do believe we can accomplish this task.  Do you remember when we left Gor that night?” 

Davydd nodded. 

“Nothing could have prepared us for this.”  He added, knowing his nod was not much of a response. 

“And yet here we are.  We are still alive.  I cannot let you step into that darkness without the light of hope.  Wherever it is, inside you, and I know it is, you have to find it, Davydd.  We need to get that sword and we need to get back home and save our world.  You remember, do you not?”

Davydd nodded a bit more energetically now.  He placed a hand on Segmiatus’s shoulder. 

“You are a friend like no other, Segmiatus.” 

Segmiatus smiled as he responded. 

“Two years on, and I am still showing you what real support is.”

It was Davydd’s turn to smile.  He turned to look at the gaping entrance beckoning on them to walk in and be swallowed whole. 

“We should catch up with the others before they go too far.”

“I agree.”  Segmiatus said. 

They both gave each other another reassuring look before stepping inside the cave. 

“Beatha, illuminate.”  Davydd commanded. 

The bracelet around his wrist, shun a bright white-blue as they navigated their way further in.  Neither of them noticed the other less intense light that had begun to illuminate as well.  On the other side of Davydd, on his left hand and wrist, engravings were beginning to appear on the gauntlet.  They shun a deep, throbbing red.

 

[] AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Kelechi Agu was born in the small eastern Nigerian town of Owerri, in 1987. When he was a year old, his family relocated to the commercial city of Lagos, where his father worked as a journalist for Champion Newspapers.

 

Growing up in a country where power outages were a constant staple of life, and in a family that was both protective and cagey, a young Kelechi sought his escape in the stories he read. Eventually, reading was not enough and he discovered writing and drawing as the perfect outlet for his overactive imagination. With his grandmother fighting breast cancer, Kelechi sought to uplift her spirits by writing ‘feel good’ stories for her to read.

 

When she passed in 1998, Kelechi – overcome with grief – stopped writing for a few years. He eventually rediscovered his passion, on a trip to England in 2002. There, he would birth the idea of The Curse of the Seventh Sword, and nurse that idea through college in the United States, and right up until Graduate school. However, studies and work always took precedence to writing, and he never got around to completing the book.

 

All this would change in 2012, after a near death experience challenged him to evaluate his life and how he wanted to live. Kelechi began writing “The Gauntlet of Feona”, the first book in the Curse of the Seventh sword series, completing it in 2013. Following an unsuccessful first publication after his return to Nigeria, Kelechi attempted to publish again in 2014. The success of the first book, the natural love for writing and the support of loved ones and well-wishers, have inspired him to continue on.

 

 

Kelechi currently works as an Information Security consultant by day and creative writer by night! Till date, he has published three works, listed below. Click on each link to find out more.

 

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p<>{color:#00F;}. [+ Curse of the Seventh Sword: The Gauntlet of Feona+]

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p<>{color:#00F;}. [+ Curse of the Seventh Sword: The War of Two Realms+]

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p<>{color:#00F;}. [+ The First Decenary+]

 


The Gauntlet of Feona

Davydd Miljorn is a hunter living in Gor, a small town in the kingdom of Angweleth. One day, while hunting for game, he unbeknownst to him, saves the princess of Angweleth when her carriage is attacked by mysterious assailants. This singular act, spawns a series of events which take both of them and the friends they meet, on a quest to retrieve an artifact that may just be the difference between humanity's destruction or it's salvation.

  • Author: Kel Writer
  • Published: 2017-01-06 17:35:29
  • Words: 103535
The Gauntlet of Feona The Gauntlet of Feona