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Nemesis

Nemesis

By Keegan and Tristen Kozinski

Cover by Keegan Kozinski

copyright 2017

 

 

 

Even before their ascension, the Andaar Kings were dark men. Their history was one of witchcraft and necromancy, of avarice and wanton violence. The Andaar bloodline was a bastard of the old blood, carrying a diminished power but all the lusts. Always, their minds suffered within the confines of unreasoning desire merged with the desperate need to ascend, to surpass their lofty ancestors and attain true glory. Then, in the year 2560, the first Andaar king reached an unmatched pinnacle of power among the eastern families and judged the hour right for his ascension. A shadow old as the age came before him whispering of a power so vast all eastern lands would bow in terror. This evil was Taelan Muntalabac, the Hate Monger.

High upon the many stark towers of the Andaar palace, Rastuuri Andaar defied Taelan Muntalabac, declaring that he needed no aide in bringing the East to heel. Laughing, the Hate-Monger vanished into the night, leaving Rastuuri Andaar’s soul irreversibly darkened with hate. Thus, brought to insanity by the dark poison in his soul, Rastuuri Andaar promised war on the entire east and hurled forth his legions on a path of conquest.

Rastuuri Andaar had many rivals however, and all of them powerful, paranoid lords desperate to keep their affluence. So, with the Andaar king marching to war, Taelan Muntalabac gathered these rivals in darkness. He preyed upon their fears and hungers, speaking to them of Rastuuri Andaar’s voracious thirst for power. There, amidst Taelan Muntalabac’s woven shadows, the rivals fell under his sway, lost in his words. Driven by fear, they set aside their hatred to join against Rastuuri Andaar who, oblivious to his rivals’ unity, marched blindly into war and was crushed. Amidst the dying screams, of his host and the burning ruins of his palace, Rastuuri Andaar fled. He found refuge in the wild eastern mountains and it was there that Taelan Muntalabac came to him anew.

Huddled in a decrepit cave within the mountains that were his sanctuary and prison, Rastuuri Andaar spoke anew with Taelan Muntalabac. His broken means and insatiable hunger made him weak, strengthening his latent madness and sparking his desires to a fevered pitch. Taelan Muntalabac offered Rastuuri all he desired; the destruction of his foes, a host to conquer the East, unholy power and true immortality. Lost in the spell of the Dread Lord’s words, Rastuuri Andaar accepted the pact. Swelling with carnal malice, Taelan Muntalabac took four things from the Andaar king: three as a price and the fourth as services rendered. He took Rastuuri Andaar’s sanity; he took Rastuuri Andaar’s light, he took Rastuuri Andaar’s right to death, and lastly, he took any change of redemption from the Andaar bloodline, forever damning them to darkness. Thus, in the year 2568, Andaur the empire of the Andaar Kings, the Mad Kings, was born.

Rastuuri Andaar unleashed four decades of bloodshed, war, and witchcraft upon the East. His powerful rivals were slaughtered with their bones and souls taken to be used as mortar in the new Andaar stronghold. The fortress grew with every conquest, the walls deepening and growing more numerous. Then for the final touch, a tower was added for every noble house Rastuuri Andaar enslaved. When his empire stretched from the Rhawn Mountains to the southern wastes and from the ocean to the Annuir’Hyme, over a thousand towers adorned his palace. Bloated on the death of millions, Rastuuri Andaar took his throne of skulls and christened his stronghold Karos’Myyr: Well of Misery. Throughout of all this, Taelan Muntalabac lingered in the shadows, burrowing deep into the rock beneath Karos’Myyr, growing vast on the hate of Rastuuri Andaar and his sons.

The Andaar tyranny reigned uncontested for over a millennia. In that time, the rain came as blood, and a black mist rose that even the sun could not dissipate. Always, Karos’Myyr grew fatter and fatter on the misery of its subjects and always Taelan Muntalabac burrowed deeper into the earth, poisoning the East to its core. Thirteen Andaar kings, mad kings all, came to sit upon the ever-growing skull throne. Each, like Rastuuri, was undying. Their bodies did not age, or their minds wither beneath the weight of years, but any injury dealt to their flesh persisted, heedless of any contrivance or magic they worked upon it, allowing each new king to ascend the throne by destroying the bodies of his father and siblings. Their souls, however, lingered on undiminished by the destruction of their mortal vessels. And so, with each new generation, the new king would dig a cairn larger than a city and lock both his father and his rivals away with a thousand wretched slaves and ten thousand soldiers. These tombs became the Burrows of the Mad Kings. This darkness thrived for centuries until, in the spring of the year 3730, the light of a star pierced the black mist and all knew that the Andaar reign was ending. This day held the birth of Maevos Avenar.

Born to the DawnHold with its unceasing fey twilight and high walls, Maevos Avenar never walked the outside world in the beginning years of his life. His father kept him hidden from everyone, even the nation’s officials. Only a few ever knew of his existence. Outside of the DawnHold and its scions, only Tiberius Wyite knew of Maevos Avenar, and he lingered high up in Apelium. Maevos was held closer to the heart of his family than most of his predecessors for he was born mute when every Avenar Prince before him was born perfect.

Fearing that his disability signified he was cursed, Maevos’s family waited until his fifth summer to take him beyond the DawnHold’s walls. Even then, it was more at the command of the other Avenar Princes. Maevos accompanied his father and Tiberius Wyite to the coast where a vessel waited to carry them all out to sea. They were a peacekeeping delegation, intent on unifying the various neutral island states in the western ocean. After less than an hour at sea, the once clear skies grew dark with a broiling maelstrom that crackled with black electricity.

Crying out in a voice louder than the thunder, Tiberius Wyite called for the delegations three vessels to turn back. With a cold shadow over his heart, Maevos’s father knew it was already too late. Taking his son by the hand, he pushed him below deck warning him to stay there until called for. Then he turned to confront the darkness surrounding them, his blade singing from its sheath. A dozen bestial shrieks rent the storm, and Taelan Muntalabac descended from the corrupted heavens flanked by eleven twisted beasts and their howling masters. Wreathed in black fire and storm clouds, the Dread Lord landed opposite the Avenar Prince, a crimson blade held aloft in his hand. The attending guards and sailors swarmed him and were slaughtered; their bodies shattered beneath the weight of their own fear. Swelling wrathfully, the ocean lashed against the ships and lashed the heavens. The sky cracked with thunder, and the heavens opened war on the ocean, savaging the doomed mortals caught between. Amidst the all chaos, the Dread Lord and the Avenar Prince warred as their families had warred for millennium.

Of the three ships they sailed, one succumbed to the ocean, the second held fast under the protection of Tiberius Wyite, and the third w shattered beneath the conflict of the Dread Lord and the Avenar Prince. In the end, there could be only one survivor: bleeding from a mortal injury, the Avenar Prince struck his foe, hurling Taelan Muntalabac into the water where the ocean waves destroyed him. Collapsing to his knees, the Avenar Prince wept as the ship split in twain condemning his son to the merciless water.

The ocean, however, did not kill Maevos Avenar. It carried him from the battle on northern tides, far from the West to where the storm clouds never lifted: to the Northern Ocean. It deposited him there upon the banks unharmed but without his memories. A Borluce found him there, his body warm despite the frigid water temperature, and took him deeper into The North to his people. They adopted him into the Borluce race.

The evil that was Taelan Muntalabac persisted. Even as the vengeful water rent his body, his immortality sundered by the lethal blow dealt him by the Avenar Prince, the Dread Lord’s terrible soul still endured. Shielded by ancient, dark spells, his soul discarded the useless corpse and returned east where his sons lingered. They stood as the tremors of his half death reached across the world and knew the hour of their reaping had come. He chose the eldest this time, the one with the most harvested power. Laughing with glee, Taelan Muntalabac wrenched his child’s soul from the body and devoured it, leaving the mortal vessel vacant and ready to house his own terrible essence. Now, sensing their doom, the two lesser sons attacked their father. They knew he had no more use for them, for only one child of a brood could be marked, and there could not be two broods with one father. They were but infants compared to their sire however, and he devoured both of them easily, clearing the way for a new brood even as their souls augmented his already vast power.

An uneasy peace fell over the world. Maribor Andaar sat high upon his skull throne, gnashing his teeth and raging in the collar that held him bound to the Dread Lord. He lusted after the western lands, but Taelan Muntalabac contained him in the East, waiting for his new Brood to mature. The West gathered its legions, forming alliances between lords and kings. It feared open war with Andaur, feared Maribor’s vast armies and witchcraft. The Avenar Princeslocked themselves in the DawnHold, extending their senses to scour the world for Taelan Muntalabac. They failed for twenty long years as Andaur and the Dread Lord crept ever closer to open war.

Uninterested in the fears and events of the world outside Winter’s Gates, Maevos Avenar grew up in the protective folds of the Borluce society. As the years passed, they woke slumbering pieces of his mind and taught him how to speak with only his thoughts. As he aged, he learned of the Weshac and met the Northern men. His blood could not be denied, though, a geis lay upon his family, and the call to return south grew stronger with every passing year. Thus, when he reached twenty winters of age, he left his foster family and traveled to the lands of northern men where he heard of Andaur, Maribor, and Taelan Muntalabac. So, with war brewing on every horizon, he joined the Ranger-Wardens of The North to learn the art of war.

Five years passed with tension along the borders growing heavier as the legions of both factions coalesced on either side of the Annuir’Hyme. Then, as winter came, Taelan Muntalabac deemed his brood fully matured. He approached the Maribor Andaar, intent on igniting a war with the West that would conclude with the burning of the DawnHold. He found the latest Andaar king bloated on the blood that was his diet and frothing at the mouth in his lust for war. Furthermore, he found an unexpected messenger: a wizard sent to Antiark many decades before. The messenger bore tidings of a man among the Ranger-Wardens who appeared to be of western descent. Taelan Muntalabac doubted at first until a premonition slipped into his mind. Suddenly wary, he split the wizard’s cranium, tore out and consumed the brain matter it held. In the wizard’s memories, he found the westerner and knew him to be Maevos Avenar, the last Prince of the Avenar Bloodline destined to end him. Unleashing a cry of limitless wroth, he turned on Maribor, devouring all light for miles around with shadows darker than anything the Mad King held in his black heart. When he spoke, his words brought black ice to the walls, cracked iron and shattered glass. He called Maribor to assault The North, warning that it would join the West in the coming war for fear of being conquered in turn. Maribor resisted him, asking how they would breech Winter’s Gate. Taelan Muntalabac grinned saying that they would not need to. Reclining back into the Skull Throne, Maribor Andaar echoed his grin and acquiesced; and thus all The North, East and West were hurled into war.

Maribor Andaar gave Taelan Muntalabac a hundred thousand soldiers and fifteen hundred Iron Witches atop their bestial four winged steeds. Taking this host, the Dread Lord marched to the furthest northern reaches of Andaur until he stood at very roots of the Rhawn Mountains. There, he tore a rift in the world, opening a way into The North, and entered as the first conqueror to breech Winter’s Gate in millennium. Meanwhile, Maribor commenced his war on the West. The skies broke with his bloody rain, and the ground died beneath the black mist of Andaur as Maribor’s Iron Witches lead his legions across the Annuir’Hyme on bridges of Witchcraft. Lead by the Avenar Princes, the western legions opposed them in a blood bath that turned the Annuir’Hyme red. Wizardry, Prayercraft, and Magecraft clashed with Witchcraft across the heavens in a storm of fire and devastation that turned all of the surrounding countryside into rubble and ash.

As this war commenced, Tiberius Wyite called Elaya Avenar, Maevos’s surviving sister, to Apelium. She answered without hesitation, arriving at the ancient gates before a Turning had passed. Tiberius Wyite spoke to her swiftly, warning that The North would have need of her, and that she would find her lost brother there. She demanded why he had not told her of his existence before, and he answered that Maevos had been safer in The North than in the DawnHold. Furious at his deception, she nonetheless departed northward, desperate to save her brother.

Inside Winter’s Gate, the war fared poorly for The North. They were ill prepared for an invasion behind their defenses, an invasion that put almost every northern soldier on the wrong side of Taelan Muntalabac’s host as he marched on Dellak, third of the Northern cities. Men, however, were not The North’s greatest weapon. The cold is, and it beset Taelan Muntalabac mercilessly. Men and animals died by the thousands, food spoiled, iron rusted and leather split. The Dread Lord never ceased his march; he did not care for the lives he wasted only for the death of Maevos Avenar. Finally, he reached Dellak where Maevos Avenar awaited his arrival. Howling, Taelan Muntalabac did not hesitate in throwing his legions at Dellak’s walls the moment Maevos stepped out from concealment. Creatures other than men engaged his legions on the walls for Maevos had called Borluce and Weshac from the Deep North in this hour of desperation.

For three days, the Dread Lord besieged Dellak, battering the walls from afar with siege engines in the day and assaulting them in the night. Then, as the fourth day dawned crimson in the heavens, the walls crumbled beneath his battery of witchcraft and siege engines. The Dread lord commanded this final assault. Andaur’s legions swarmed to the breach where Maevos Avenar and the surviving defenders met them. Horns bellowed from the South nourishing hope and courage. The dawn flared brighter as Lord Adriat appeared with Elaya Avenar beside him.

The Dread Lord unleashed a bestial howl of wroth and turned on the succoring host from Adriat, hurling before him a tide of darkness to envelope and devour every mortal soul that opposed him. Elaya Avenar stepped to the forefront, a small figure before a sea of darkness. Lifting Taychran, the Dawn Blade, she parted the dark sea, barring the besieging forces to Lord Adriat and his host. The Northern army fell upon Taelan Muntalabac with vengeful cries.

His legions routing about him, the Dread Lord cut a swath of untold devastation through the Northern ranks. No one could defeat him, and any who tried joined the dead thousands in his wake. A light impeded his advance, though, as Elaya Avenar challenged Taelan Muntalabac. He rose before her, terrible to behold, a giant before a girl for all she was a woman grown. She struck without fear, piercing light into the suffocating darkness of his presence. Celestial steel clashed against divine stone as Taychran struck the shrieking crimson sword Taelan held. Looking upon them from a distance, Maevos Avenar remembered his heritage and,crying out in rage, charged forward shearing through the fell ranks with pure starlight.

Elaya Avenar strove against Taelan Muntalabac with fire and steel, but he was ancient as the Age and far greater than she. There could be only one survivor. Thus, even as Maevos reached his sister, Elaya fell to the Dread Lord, her dying body cast aside with a laugh. Weeping, Maevos knelt beside his sister and held her as the last breath of her life fled. High overhead, the heavens sundered with the Dread Storm as Taelan Muntalabac, swollen on the death of an Avenar, approached Maevos.

Looking up from the corpse of his sister, Maevos Avenar stared into the amassed evil of the Dread Lord. Taelan Muntalabac answered his stare with a grin, the skin of his body splitting from the swelling darkness he held within. He lifted his crimson blade high overhead, the dark stone flashing in the black lightning. The blade fell, hungry for another blessed life, only to meet Taychran’s golden iron. Unleashing a mental wail of abject misery, Maevos Avenar retaliated. The Dread Lord staggered back, a livid injury opening his flesh from waist to brow that bled an essence darker than any night. Gathering himself, Taelan Muntalabac struck repeatedly, seeking to crush his foe through sheer power. Maevos Avenar turned every blow aside, stealing their impetus, amassing it for a single devastating onslaught. Then, as the war ended about them, Maevos plunged Taychran into the Dread Lord’s breast. The Stone Blade fell to the earth spitting black fumes and darkening the ice as Taelan Muntalabac’s soul fled the dying body.

Maevos stood through long moments of despairing silence, staring out across the ruins of a battlefield. The dead of The North, the East, the Borluce, and the Weshac filled his vision further than any horizon. A burden weighed on his heart, the geis of his family, denying him the chance to mourn his sister. Thus taking up the cursed sword for safekeeping, he returned to Dellak and spoke with his allies. He called them to aide him, to march on the East and end the reign of the Mad Kings. Only the Weshac could aide him for the war had taken its toll on the northern soldiers, and the Borluce were forbidden by ancient words from going beyond Winter’s Gate’s. The Weshac, however, were more than enough for what he intended. For millennia, they had terrorized the eastern and western coasts, raiding the merchant vessels and coastal cities with impunity. They had no equals on the water, and of all races, they alone stood the best chance of achieving victory in Andaur’s black mists. Therefore, a Turning later Maevos departed The North sailing the inhospitable northern ocean ahead of five hundred wolf-ships, each laden with sixty of the fiercest Weshac raiders.

Along Andaur’s border, the war fared ill for both sides. The western forces were losing the conflict; Maribor Andaar’s forces too closely matched their own. After weeks of constantly assaulting Andaur from across the bellicose Annuir’Hyme, their morale and soldiers were dwindling. However, the cost of achieving victory in the war left vast swaths of Andaur unguarded, or rather, unfettered the inhabitants. Rebellion brewed in the empire’s corners and crevices, and it was spreading like a virus, giving rise to heroes and legends. It was into this miasma of violence, with both sides teetering on the edge of collapse, that Maevos Avenar arrived.

The Weshac raiders swept in from the sea overwhelming the paltry Andaur forces protecting the coast. In a matter of days, they had liberated hundreds of cities and villages, crippling the spine of Maribor Andaar’s empire. Panic stricken, Andaur’s host fled back to Karos’Myyr with the western forces in pursuit. Starvation, exhaustion and the constant harassment from the western army and rebelling citizens lead to such heavy attrition that Maribor Andaar’s army returned as a shadow of its former self. The two invading armies met outside Karos’Myyr’s terrible iron gates soon thereafter.

Presided over by Tiberius Wyite, the besieging commanders gathered to discuss their assault. There, for the first time in decades, Maevos spoke with his kin. A half-dozen Avenar Princes had accompanied the western army in this war to cleanse the East, and they now learned of Taelan Muntalabac’s involvement with the Andaar Kings. Together they mourned the loss of Elaya Avenar and Maevos’s mother who had died in the initial conflict with Andaur.

As the day broke in the heavens, the Avenar Princes dispelled the eternal, suffocating black mist from the countryside and all of Maribor Andaar’s howling could not avert this change.Deep in the bowels of Karos’Myyr, Taelan Muntalabac meditated on the corpses of his sons. Across the dark fortresses entirety there was not a spark of light to be found in any crevice, chamber or hallway. Nor did anything not of Andaur’s darkest heart live, from the vermin in the dungeons to the insects in the straw everything had been devoured to augment the Dread Lord’s power. He waited in the darkness eager to destroy the Avenar that hunted him. This was not the first time he had been cornered; he was too old, too powerful for an Avenar to challenge him. Even his initial defeat by Maevos was inconsequential, derived more from the Avenar’s mental assault than any power Maevos might possess. Feeling the dawn break early in the heavens and the black mist burn away, Taelan Muntalabac stood high on his black throne and grinned.

Karos’Myyr fell with the day, its towering sable walls cast down by a torrent of wizardry, prayer and mage-craft. The last of Maribor’s legion were slain without mercy; throughout the conflict, however, neither Maribor Andaar nor Taelan Muntalabac revealed themselves. Tremors of malice in the earth warned Maevos where the Dread Lord lingered, and, calling two of his brethren to him, he descended into Karos’Myyr. Tiberius Wyite entered in his wake, taking a different route toward Karos’Myyr’s rotting heart.

Tiberius Wyite found Maribor Andaar seated high upon the skull throne, dressed only in the blood and bone of those he had slaughter, rival and ally both. Rising up, the Mad King struck at him with witchcraft, but, when the onslaught faded, Tiberius stood uninjured. He struck the Mad King down with a word and a gesture, breaking his power and his body. He did not kill Maribor, knowing it was impossible; instead, he bound the last Andaar king in light and would later bury him in the roots of Karos’Myyr as the final Andaar Burrow.

As Tiberius Wyite battled Maribor Andaar, Maevos searched for Taelan Muntalabac. The Dread Lord stepped from the shadows of Karos’Myyr’s deepest scar, taunting his three foes with the deaths of their beloved ancestors, naming every Avenar he had slain. Furious, Maevos’s brethren charged Taelan Muntalabac without thought for his warnings. They were aged however, the natural brilliance of their spirits diminished by the sorrow and misery of their eternal conflict. The Dread Lord crushed them in his hands, devouring their blessed spirits before casting aside their tainted bodies. He advanced on Maevos Avenar, his body swollen huge on the dark energies of Karos’Myyr and those he had just slain.

Maevos did not yield to the raw malice of the Dread Lord; he was young, and his spirit remained strong, full of hope and light. Lifting a hand toward the heavens, he called a name and the Dawn Spear answered, shearing through rock, iron to drive into the earth at his feet. Taking up the Dawn Spear, weapon of the Avenar Lord, Maevos attacked Taelan Muntalabac. They warred with all the violence of gods, breaking the roots of Karos’Myyr and shattering the earth. The Dread Lord fought with no weapon, nor did he require one for such was his ancient power and will. No matter how he struggled though, Taelan Muntalabac could not crush the light from Maevos Avenar. His clawed hands rent Maevos’s face, his terrible darkness broke the Avenar’s limbs, but he could not defeat him. At the end of his strength, Maevos Avenar’s light burned away Taelan Muntalabac’s darkness. The Dawn Spear finally drank Taelan Muntalabac’s blood, killing him for the last time. His body broken, Maevos Avenar died in solitude amidst the storm brought by Taelan’s death.

Andaur fell and Karos’Myyr was destroyed, the iron of its doors and towers melted and buried in the ocean and its stones crushed to dust. The besieging army disbanded, returning west to their many holdings, except Tiberius Wyite who lingered in the East to ameliorate the fallout from Andaur’s collapse. The surviving Avenar Princes returned to the DawnHold and there mourned the dead. Maevos and Elaya, brother and sister, were buried together beside their mother. Thus ended one of the sacred Avenar Bloodlines.

 

Short stories- Death’s Backdoor, A Crime of Honor

Novels The Darkness That Slept

Coming soon – The City of Locked Doors.

Keeganandtristenkozinski.com

 


Nemesis

  • Author: Keegan & Tristen Kozinski
  • Published: 2017-06-15 23:50:09
  • Words: 4258
Nemesis Nemesis