Copyright © 2015 Christopher Elmer
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All other publication under the exception of my own and or licensed, such as fan fiction and all other than my own expressed: are not considered canon under this work of fiction and its property. The author does not recognise any alternative mythology, times, and continuity unless stated and licenced by the author.
All places, events, views, characters in this publication are entirely fictional and any views expressed are not in any way or form endorsed or represented by the author or publisher. All areas of the work are made entirely in the focus of a good story, and not driving any such narrative (such as what some consider patriarchy). All ideas in this book are original, and not derived from any work that I’ve read nor seen except for the reference now provided. Much of the basis of this work are for the most part heavily inspired in the vein of old religion and ancient mythology, as for example of one such small references to biblical terminology, culture and ideas: the choice of the tree being my cradle of life, and the choice of words such as Eden (which in my own context means a beautiful paradise). Ancient Roman, Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Greek, and Norse offers all kinds of fables that offered much inspiration, even if not in the writings themselves but also within the art. I do not hold any liability to any similarity of ideas expressed within other fictional work.
Table of Contents
And so it was; void darkness – nothing. To be all and everything that once was and is began at the eve of time, polarizing cataclysmic decay to forgings akin to great pulverisation of an unfathomable paradox which broke. An entity stirred in existence at this moment and this cosmic energy exploded, and consequently flung pulses of bright light and all matter in directions of the far reaches of space. For a length of which appeared to be eternity – clouds of matter and blazing debris settled allowing these luminous gases ferment kindly for celestial bodies to impel attainment, and one such formed a dynamic narrative for all stars to envy.
A worldly body laid in vegetative state amongst the heavens; awakened, and quite benign at first in spite of great pain he heeds in contempt, for forces beyond measure and quite beyond his control burdened such shoulders like stone upon stone. Due upon the stretching of the skies, the galaxy, and the heavens – he suffered many millions of years in darkness alone, and so Kaslum the sun god by his own admission claimed him for his own son.
Tecoco he was, and his body became Earth. His moans pitched thunder; his tears filled streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans; his arms befit continents, blood angst hot – oozed from his open wounds as lava. His breath blew winds. Cracked beneath pressure and resistance, his ribs thrust upward forming many mountains, ridges and valleys. Nigh his birth he perceived his own hallowed entity, and blessedness fought the contortions he would eternally endure. Slowing dying, he laid still; for nothing even his own hand nor Kaslum’s could halt his own mortality. Of course mere earth dwellers and second hand mortals could not comprehend this very anguish, for they live unwittingly upon the fruits of his laboured existence. They could understand little real knowledge of their world nor the troubles they shackled unto its being. Isobar could see and how jealous was he alone in the corner of the vacuum, so he sent forth much turmoil and pain over the blessed child of Tecoco and his gifted lands. The world of Tecoco was living on borrowed time, and one day all once cherished was unquestionably to be extinguished. Other heavenly bodies did and still do exist of course, for they too carry heavy burdens upon themselves, and invariably so but Kaslum reined in a celestial sister for his son – Yhermun as Tecoco named her, and she loved him as he did her.
Most of them rebelled at once, Isobar chief amongst them. Upon awakening, many hurdled rocks in rage forming fiery meteorites seen from the skies watched by fearful men on Tecoco. Few of these rocks occasionally slammed into other cosmic bodies; scarring, denting, blistering other worldly skins, and causing craters seen from great many miles afar. Some entities in insurmountable rage melted upon their own fire, and still do burn bright far up in the skies above to this very day; they became the stars. Other’s unwittingly frozen themselves over, designating a tone and colour of cold, lonely bitterness. In spite of it all this one and only world (albeit dying) did relent man, beast, and plant upon his skin, and he was the child Tecoco. Small organisms accumulated, and finally Tecoco’s divine creator gifted him the manifestation of all life as life-bearers knew it. Tecoco could not foresee this in his day, but knew they were there once ensued. In time of sustained irritants, he tried to rid them in every way he could in his young years. Hurricanes blew hard upon the land yet Tecoco’s breath had not done enough to rid them completely; in frustration he tossed and turned belting seismic waves shifting under his crust. Exhausted to almost decay, yet roots of life still clung on like warts on broken skin. Tecoco attempted purging several more times, but eventually remained dormant under kinder terms, for he knew the gnawing would not end right up until his own end. He laid back taking what purpose he retained in defeat.
In solitude he had cast eyes and ears upon his domain, then once forth heard small voices of millions upon millions around him: casting their business on his realm. Bemused; in the quietest of times he could even see them too should he focus hard enough – which was rare given his endured and everlasting torment. He turned to his celestial sister in the sky and she smiled upon him so attentively; Yhermun he remembered naming her.
“O’ brother so blessed with life on your skin – why [do] you not see a gift when you have one?” She asked him. To her he replied, “Oh yes finally that I do see my own pleasing to these beings; those voices in space do torment me further more than the pains I already carry, and I overhear jealously in all corners I turn to but you.”
“They will do,” she spoke attentively and hid those scars on her back from his eyes.
To Tecoco, man was a curious creation and not one created by his own hand. It was thought by him and not admitted as such – that his own deity in the cosmos entrusted him with their care: either Kaslum or another. Destructive and yet strangely beneficial at the same time, they managed to do remarkably well in scorching roots he could not for those forest roots did dig deep within. Men would tame the wilds, burn down forests, and clear woodland; man would maim entire species and claim lives of its own kindred. It was a concoction of oddity in many respects. Tecoco admired the resilience and handiwork of this particular species, and enjoyed watching them from afar. Men could hunt far larger beasts that he could ever foresee them doing so and they would erect monstrous peaks carved with precision of the finest nature, sometimes in godly image of their own choices. Many of these established in worship of his own deity or Tecoco’s well-founded consecrate, and this pleased him.
Miners would hollow out his limbs, fetching ore to smelt. In turn, they forged fine garments and weapons of bronze, iron and gold; more gold indeed, and then silvers too. Tecoco was afflicted with these new creatures, though secretly still contemplated to smite them from his Earth – ere long laying eyes upon the crest of the most treasured workings in civilization. Small communities at first they soon notwithstanding constructed huts on the loftiest hills, protected by simple picket fences laced with branches; yet for all these primeval descendants and simplicities it promptly dawned on Tecoco to descry the celerity of humanity. Men dwelt in all corners of his world though Tecoco still could not fathom whence they came nor why in such manner, as they spread faster than he could notice. From forests, jungle, desert, mountain peaks, swamp, savannah, volcanic rock, barren wastelands, and more: people seemed to have arisen from nowhere, and such luminary it granted him in the darkness of the universe whilst other stars looked across. Much envied over his unprecedented alms from space. Quite almost no terrain but some were uninhabitable to people, and with great haste they sought new distant lands for they feared no body of expanse but the neighbouring awash of brethren.
It had soon transpired that the land-dwellers could not sustain their kinsman relations as wars often broke out frequently between communities; first for basic resources bind unto by no sanction, penultimate in sacrilege, in conquest for the love of treasury, and ultimately in revenge. Isobar could not stomach the flourishing the men originated from this world, and long after Tecoco matured Isobar discovered a way to channel his dark entity through the fabrics of space and time. The seeds of fear, jealously, hatred, greed: all the decaying thoughts that precede evil at its earliest were planted in the dreams of men as they slept. The suffering on the earth were not enough to quench his envy for long, and for a long time he tainted the species still more from the cover of darkness. Men were feeble minded indeed – most crucially in the art of self-constraint. Some if not all adapted to the bitter realities of life, and life for many was a hostile truth to carry on their shoulders. Hardiness was premature; medicine was not, and thus like he and his fellow neighbours did every man find it necessary to be prepared for the very worst for himself. This preparation in all likelihoods resulted in actions such as to kill another for both one’s way of life, and for one’s both honourable and dishonourable duty to everything held dear. The linage of those revered enough and decorated from battle laid way for kings, knights, as outspoken chivalry or through brutal conquests. Peace brokered treaties and some united nations anew onward for a time (thought by some were initially united in the aftermath of Tecoco’s genesis), and a new age was upon those lands. It wasn’t without peril however, and darker evils would come.
It was said in folklore, a reminiscence passed down from generations all but lost kindred – that one land befell those that gifted their souls to dark ambitions and desires. Early in the ages of civilization, there were once a brutal empire formed from the conquests of a race so cruel and so oppressive – that few would dare oppose them, and whom did in regional response were swiftly swept away to bygone existence: that was all save two.
Originating from sin bearers and twisted minds, these people were outcasts and banished from many societies of the world; the first of whom pitched a region of land far within the depths of wild jungle and tongues uttered the name of Ackcha, the earliest staple of fortified dwellings which soon forth became known as Ackcha’s capital, ‘Vhlerria-Gi’.
Vhlerria became re-enforced and fortified yet more over time, with wood, then stone, and all this circled a large area of deforested parts. The citadel of grew monstrously far as walls could over the centuries, almost over spilling them in time. Banished people of this land quarrelled amongst themselves on daily basis, and disputes were quick to erupt in particularly abhorrent bloodshed. Infighting was of course common, and as of consequence had taken almost a thousand years for unification under any such force small or large. Eventually, bands of several chief men declared themselves the rightful, and spiritual, leader of Ackcha. These ‘honours’ were born out of terrible acts of wrong-doings. An increase of tribalism lead to a great further number of civil wars, and after a period of half a millennia and many beheadings: the number of opposing sides frittered to only two binary nations. Rivers flowed red for many days and nights, staining the very river beds they gushed over. Tainted soil these dried up river beds produced ill flora dripping blood from stem, leaves, and flower – spurring even former herbivorous animals to acquire a taste for it. The stench in the air was foul.
Jiyskal was a battle-hardened general and commanded the legion of Rooskarian-Ackchaan forces, and he led an extensive army to Qnifusa’s presence. Qnifusa was not alone and no less than five hundred men had accompanied him at all times, to which no moment had ever taken him off guard. Qnifusa was himself a general of almost equal measure, and commanded his own loyal Ackchaan followers under the guise of the indomitable Vodkarun faction. Both these rulers don their own crown to display their sovereignty, but each had laid stake to the entire region of Ackcha – and so Ackcha was due for a single ruler where there could only be one: Jiyskal or Qnifusa.
The sky shown itself red in evening light, and it was a message of intent to both rulers; the time for battle was nigh and was for them to design their fate. Rooskarians clashed upon the jungles with Vodkaruns equal to hatred and loathing. Numbers favoured Rooskarian victory, and finally upon the descent of darkness, the clatter of single chain-mail ricocheted an overgrown hall of ivy where the battle had taken to the city. Jiyskal advanced and pierced the very heart of a defeated yet still defiant Qnifusa, and through his machete issued he drew the bloody liquor he foresaw.
A united Ackcha grew ever more monumental hitherto diseased at this point onward, and as such Jiyskal ordered complete obedience and order in his lands through intimidation and fear.
Those still loyal to deceased Qnifusa disbanded, withered, and most died but few whom adopted a nomadic approach to life far to the east. Vodkaruns captured and tamed bloodthirsty jungle creatures to ride on, supposedly horses – but they bothered little but the sparse pockets of settlers in the wilds ever since, and were ever more a spent force on Tecoco. Jiyskal rebuilt his shattered lands and formed an empire under Ackcha’s reunification. The factions of Rooskarians, defected Vodkaruns and other old conquest subjects evolved to become his one single Ackchaan army: the fearsome skevidors being the most hardened class of his populace.
Tecoco was fearful of the destructive nature of his people and voiced concern to his closest neighbours. Kaslum heard, and openly sent down the abstemious female to those that deserved companionship. In best intention this he thought would allay the problem. For the most corrupted of his work though: he came to devise the notion of weary mortally for their lives and this too spread to more than just the wicked ones. All men good included would suffer weariness the punishment of their ravaging actions. All new things of remain unspoilt for only a time he felt, and so under his watch Tecoco willed himself to see children grace the earth whilst their fathers falter and die. Naturally new men and women would be conceived by the grace of their tenderness, and so Tecoco thought alike as Kaslum: If they are to survive on our terms, they are to know and express love.
Tecoco reared an age of relative peace and prosperity whilst Ackcha tended to its wounds. The cushion of peace was relatively short-lived. In time eyes of Ackcha gazed to all directions in envy and spite, as much Isobar sown in their dreams. Unkind barbarians of Ackcha under Cwinder befell a neighbouring settlement of splendour and ransacked its populace – those having not withstood invaders long enough. This place the local people called it Kenyad (some regions Tenyad, Fenyad, Lenyad, Renyad under their tongue). They were a civilization that settled in vast terrain to the north of the world where Tecoco abandoned the land – many millennia ago to wilderness and a windily coldness he long had. Although trees and forests only sparingly laid out in those lands, the muddy fields yield an abundance of vegetables for a soil so fertile and rich considering – as the lack of flora would not grow unaided. It was a gift to them; they prayed to their gods for these serviceable treasures not least the last of them: the ladies. The men there too merited companions for their kindly ways and as the eyes of Kaslum returned he delivered the first female child for them, whereby she slept snugly in cradle of so long a branch on the Ashen Oaktree of Kenyad, and many more after her. This tree too Ackcha claimed for itself and the tree was foolishly uprooted for Vhlerria-Gi’s reside. The tree withered and rotted even in the lush climate of Ackcha, and the branches only spew bloodied-dead in sickly effrontery. The few women of Kenyad had been plundered become serpentine under the seductions of power and the omens of those in flight reminded them that could not of the grotesqueness that awaited them. Every secret they spilt for blood or wine, and as such soon no longer reared or carried any life within them, and sooner still forgotten how as the hands of Kaslum wiped the souls of the unprivileged. The undeserved and the evils of their company they kept, swiftly override and wiped the precious sweet memories they had left.
Alas eventually help came for the town of Kenyad but too late; it was a pitiful sight to behold. Allied cavalry great in number overlooked burning ruins, ashes, and spilt blood where a town once held firm. On vast planes of mud overlapping the carnage laid waste carcasses still fraught with terror in their eyes. Aghast with both horror and disbelief, the chief captain dismounted his horse if only to take leave for a moment.
“Relinquish my soul if not those whom slain dare else,” said the man with fingers grasping nothing but thin air for answers. No sooner did he reach an almost ideal utopia of solitude, a wave of sickness choked him and those around. He fared better still than his comrades to whom had all been thrown from their mounts by the rides. Foul stench of death in the air driven all mad in the vicinity sparing no man nor animal. Those who fell hard to the ground, henceforth losing their helmets in the process: met ends through the steel hooves of unruly horses.
The captain’s fate ergo he scuppered his presence in the area immediately, fleeing to the nearest overgrowth. In the following months ensued, this coward emerged from the shadow of woodland canopy. There discovered by some, a scarred and broken man which was the sole survivor of the aftermath, though it tarnished his reputation completely. He wanted his revenge.
Tecoco was weary often, and gazed upon his outward garment to see what had been accomplished by his little folk. Awash with sadness at these recent ill misfortunes he pried the heavens of its mere, and those tears streamed down his cheeks, to descend further down his breasts. The province of Ackcha were the perpetrators of this monstrosity in all likelihoods Tecoco knew for certain; as Kaslum left and dreams filled the halls of the king, he cast his rarely heard voice down from the heavens with such thunderous disdain that the thunder shook the palace of Vhlerria. In slumber still, a voice responded dressed to the toe in battle-clad iron saying, “How then, do you scold me fell voice? Did you not cast me the fire which I brandish? That I may not conceal that desire to which I was mould with? I think not, then? Come forth, and speak with eyes should you be so bold; that we may barter with hands. Come forth!”
The hazy dream grew terrifying, but Cwinder hid his fear. This god stirred in this way and to the king Tecoco spoke him down. “Such feeble words from a mere mortal,’ blasted the angry Earth which continued his threats. “I want nothing of your terms; your atonement will suffice.”
“Redemption for?” Laughed the evil dreamer as he begun to realise the circumstances of this meeting. It was but a dream, but if not he promised himself he would not fear it try as he could. Tecoco had no reply for such contempt as far. Cwinder the king gained confidence to speak again. “So quickly the sea speaks of the puddle? Yet water runs where water runs and if blood may trickle where a river may gush,” laughed the wicked king. “It seems you or your friends in the skies have shown me to be most impressionable. I deserve a seat in your company no?” The king wondered if he pushed the conversation too far.
“My lands and my terms are my own. You own nothing mortal,” crackled the thunder in rage.
“I refute that. One day Ackchaan rule will transcend death, and me and on my life I promise you: your life and power will be mine,” defied the king.
With that having said the presence abated. No abdication though for modern monarch having unsheathed his golden hilted blade in vindication of his stature, as he awakened but now in just dressing garments. “I do not fear death, nor conjuring,” whispered the King almost to himself. He paused for thought. Almost convinced himself he realised, and truth be told the king was likely the evillest and conspicuous of all that descendant before him. He turned and retired to one of many throne halls situated in his enclave fortress, the imposing tower of Nubesempyrean to his ears. This particular throne was in the province of that tower, his own private. The Golden King for all inside of his gowns and outer capes was dressed head to toe in heavy jewellery. Heavy chains, rings, and all were magnificent. Some closest called him the King of Black Arts but that title resides in the meaning of only one: his dark deeds, though his physical trait not – for his skin were ghostly white; only the crest of his brow was burnt right down to the skull charred inky black. Some whispers dare say he practices a black magic as it was rumoured he pledged oath to the demons of darkness which were said to look but inky clouds to the eyes of all but him. The supposed truth but knew by few but a dozen, was that he spoke for nobody but for himself. Unbeknownst to them, he had indeed tried to contact the dead many an occasion. His own people as cruel as they were, did not share the idea he sought the bottomless pits of hells aid which some outsiders had queried so (but that’s not to say they did not fear it). Some poets spread of this king had bathed in the fires of a scorching hell. But no, it was far closer to reality than that; this king actually branded himself with its fire here on Tecoco, and this had charred the scalp of his head blacker than the deepest recesses of night. On his throne he would smear the combustible and seemingly everlasting oils in a circle motion around his head, above the brow. Then he would frequently request a torch from his close aides to ignite the flames, which afterwards quiver in a motion of brilliance around his head, and an iron halo torched bright as the metal glowed. It appeared as a golden crown of magnificence for those to behold it. To that end and most likelihood, the corruption of his soul included, had his bones too eventually blackened around the body from his skull outwards, and so his organs and veins too were displayed as so transparent to the light his skin. He preferred robes of red stained regularly from the blood of whatever and whomever were available to him at the time: donkeys, horses, pigs, cattle; prisoners…
Worse still, the King along with his ring of disciples lobbied for the abolishment of all other kingdoms save none; he willed his life to both sheer destruction and complete pillaging of outside settlements. It was a sickness of desire and jealousy, passed down many a generation before his own and onward. Cwinder was proud to be long descended of Jiyskal – being no less brutal or terrifying himself, and worthy of the continued legacy of Ackcha’s rulers. As long had the Ackchaans raged at their inability to reproduce naturally (they had still reproduced from crevice blood pools, and that of the great sparse dying Ashen Trees; only few of which left in the world), they said that worthy men inside the privileged pockets of Tecoco were awarded the companion of the female – as the Ackchaan men recognised themselves were deemed to wicked to be ‘awarded’ them. They still recessed within their dark routines of chemistry and potions. It was for and many more reasons aside, that the Ackchaan society basked in considerably deep knowledge and understanding. Education was of good standard: albeit warped in philosophy. The Kufal, a book of rapture – taught abounds of such ideas and liberated men in no reality but myth or pernicious truths at best, and the knowledge was to the vulnerable mind potent alike a weapon is in hand.
A close aid whispered to crown bearer’s ear from afar, displaying the noticeable expression of reluctance in singeing his own hair in the process.
“The world will burn,” the monarch threatened in the mirror seeing nothing but fire in the reflection. “Your word is good, your royal majesty. I pray, we see it done in time,” said one of many eyes in the darkened hall, the only light at all emitted from the crown of flame now. The King was satisfied.
“Good, but there is still business to be done beforehand. Ready my steed for riding and ready yourselves for battle once again. Whispers to my ears just brought tide of arms to our gates, and all insolence shall not be tolerated under my rule. No doubt this folly is of our last consequence: the eradication of those pathetic people of Kenyad upon those damn forsaken fields. Others befriended with them beseech for my head now, and yes still they dare to try. Fools!”
Wide toothy smiles multiplied around him, each paired with eyes through the darkness: one in particular malevolent, and he was the closest of his aids – a sage, mage, priest, clergy-man all in at once, and he poisoned the Kings mind thrice its magnitude with the lies he whispered and paranoia he incited. “When they get to the gates it will be the last thing they do. Once we have killed them – we will spread their blood over our lands,” roared Cwinder Golden King of the Skevidors to eruptive and rapturous applause, but in silence one simply smiled.
There need be no repeat of words, for those few had spread like wind in the land. Ackchaan soldiers fastened themselves to terrifying devices constructed for sole purpose of mass dismemberment. In the state of Vhlerria Gi – the capital citadel of Ackcha: they trained hard for war; now it was upon them like the lashes of stormy waves. They relished war at all times, even at their own doorstep. The jungle concealed the fortress city well but allowed little protection in the form of distance, for spies could potentially hide through the tangled mess of growth, peering and escaping with relative ease should they survive the journey back. This having said, the green expanse is home to the most hostile of Tecoco’s creatures – ranging from large cats to giant man-eating lizards. Even the plants and trees themselves snare the unwary stranger with poisons, acids, and traps. The jungle nature still thirsted for human flesh, something the replanted Ashen Tree only granted mostly, and so before it decayed completely the soil absorbed the flesh of the many. As of consequence the jungle harboured apparitions of those whom died horribly within. Many tales had been spoken of them within Vhlerria and its sister settlements: the second most revered being named Lincidor which had harboured fearful populaces. If the long brainwashing and dread of reprisal was not enough to deter them, the jungle stories certainly did. Nobody but the boldest dare treads the footpaths through them alone, and unquestionably less at night. The people were highly educated; they could read and write. The issue with the blind loyalty they provided were very much due to the system in place; the clergy were profoundly excellent at conditioning them to their strict doctrine. Nigh on every mind in the realm had a dogmatic approach to the essence in life, and this was bolstered by religion. Isobar had long since the dawn of man planted the dreams of the sleeping, and whilst Kaslum blocked his emitting radiance once discovered, the earliest philosophers had shortly learnt to meditate a channel to these dark thoughts anyway – and thus so the dark arts of Kufal: which is an old kept book of ‘rapture’ – a premonition, a knowledge of sorts. This was a book written by the ‘Dreamers’ and those were some perfectly selected boys whom relayed their dreams to the scripture-sages before adolescence. Before they knew it, their breath was snuffed and were dispatched. The hierarchy was satisfied the boys had not grown too wise as to pose a threat to the kingdom. The Kufal had a chapter written less than two centuries preluding Cwinder’s reign – which was to envision the rapture of the world, and to Cwinder’s father this was a revelation dismissed as fool’s folly. Cwinder was an apt child from what studied intensely in these subjects; in secret he mastered them and he befriended a clergyman named Grazual who he trusted very much. After the passing of King Mergodas, Cwinder reformed the kingdom into a pioneering age of knowledge and arts; crucially he remodelled the feudal structure whereby the full writing languages were wholly understood by him and him only, and rest of his disciples were to write only in the language they were taught – each unique next to each other.
None were to know and piece together but me, Cwinder thought; and a simple truth had eluded him as paranoid as he were, for his most loyal ‘friend’ and mentor Grazual did indeed know more than he let on, so forth this wily clergy-man would abuse this advantage forever in his favour; pulling the strings in the shadows of his anonymity. It was a sublunary world he was most comfortable in to remain under his guise. All the highest strode to the high grounds for a view.
Meanwhile an invasive march of soldiers had marched from the enclave of their once most treasured neighbours: now merely a sacked town. Upon arrival, they immediately swashed against the gates like sea against cliff, each time being repelled back by the bounce of flexes. They were the reserves of Etasina – once proud people of the north-eastern mountain of the world, travelling further afar than Kenyad. The battering rams came next to besiege fast and furious. In retaliation black arrows rained in from above, and condensed into thick lashings of hale: the first resistance of malice.
“The skies! Shields up,” yelled Serath Straruis: the pressing and opposing commander coloured in green tint of Etasina’s forest. He remembered the harbouring fields of sorrowful bodies all too well, having felt the need to atone for their suffering and also that of his cavalry lost in madness many hundred moons ago. The falling arrows pierced shields – not skin, for the soldiers bared those to the sun instead. The commander gazed out to his rear ranks in anticipation of readiness. They fared well; the jungle soaked up most of the black hailstorm for them. Good craft they proved gods work. Progress with one of the battering rams had subsided, but another broke the once imposing gates causing the facade to splinter completely. The shattered wood bringing with them the fallen heads of gargoyle ivory carved from bone, and one lookout tower collapsed within the rubble. Commander and captain Straruis nervously thrust his long blade in the direction of the breakthrough: spurring his comrades on. “Onwards and make haste to the tower fellow brothers! Spare no mercy on these putrid people for they showed our relations none,” he shouted. The full body of the army was viable against the enemy, now visible too. The jungle emptied its charging occupants now seen at around a thousand strong. Weary but determined, bruised but not bloodied, numbers of infantry surged forward and they poured through a gaping space where a gate once stood. Such as the clamour they wrought with them was shown, as the first of very few challengers were slain right there and then. The courtyard had thereupon brimmed to the full with green coloured garments. There were many shields and helmets breaching the city where the flag of the attacking force was raised, and on the pole in that very square upshot a display of a green mountain basked within silver painted sky. The mountain emblem inscribed symbols touted by the standing bull – a bull which carried the will of Etasina with them. But they came.
Forces of greater number emerged from the sweltering mists of air ahead. The tower fortress Nubesempyrean to Vhlerria ears: Calelum-Civitatem to all else – matched obtrusive heads with a tirade of its own power and might. The skevidor armies of Vhlerria armed themselves with uncountable weapons of variety with the most being swords, axes and the like; large contraptions of death wheeled out on the stone above and the nearest billowed smoke and red hot flame: all of that and more cast upon the invaders with the brutality of the worst kind. Barbarian hordes of skevidors cast down upon their foes with such vigour and such malice, that the will of words once uttered by Serath were broken beyond retrieve.
“Hold stern comrades,” reassured Commander Straruis screaming at his line – the call of which fell upon deaf ears it had seemed. Skevidors were comprised of brutes and savagery at heart, and they would not abate. The soldiers of Etasina lost ground and were mercilessly beaten back to the walls large in number. Finally, at such time, all lost the battle of will and strength. Serath had to think fast. His eyes scanned the city for any leverage, any exploitation, any weakness; there were none. He shuddered at the realisation. Bodies of lacerated casualties were amounting thick in number and density; the smell of death in the air was rife. Those who held with courage soon found only eternal rest in futurity, and onto those that lost their nerve had departed with haste. Those few whom retreated early were spared only a fraction more of their time alive, for they rapidly found themselves trapped within the walls not destroyed initially in the siege. The opening made in the gate was clearly not wide enough for a clean retreat. As numbers drew back, it did little but squash and condense in the way of things and the skevidors simply found it easier to slay; whereby the Etasian warriors now could not find room to do much of anything lest defend. Those trapped with backs to the walls took blows to heads and torso last, first most having watched all those ahead suffer. Other unfortunate souls lost their breath through the constriction of air to their lungs, some had been crushed between the walls and crowd, and a few were executed by far more terrifying means. It was nor siege, nor battle; it was a massacre of apostolic proportions. Method of religion so ill-willed, with so much venomousness, even the coldest of hearts sunken to barbarity of their own doings – and as delirium slowed, some cruel as they were still vomited at the spillage of flesh.
A figure sat stone faced on a steed far, far ahead. A dazzling light appeared to erupt from his extended arm and head as he rode down toward the midst of chaos. He morphed to that of a figurehead in stature – a monarch wearing crown of flame, and carrying a burning sword to his right. The first blow from the guise struck a weakly injured survivor to abdomen: spilling his intestines and blood to the pavement immediately; the rest of the remains caught fire. Still more the rider and his royal stallion galloped to ruins and mass entanglement of bodies. The last of the besiegers had fled already before his presence, leaving only the wounded, dying, and dead behind. The blazing sword entered the ground, drawing hot steam from the handle.
“Send forth your paladins lieutenant Phyku and lord of Lincidor. Pick off the survivors and leave them no journeys sleep,” ordered King Cwinder towards the bowing man next to him.
“Already in motion my king,” solemnly Phyku mouthed having turned away to ride. The king then spotted a sight back behind the courtyard as he turned. Several of his followers were already in the process of lowering a flag emblazoned by Etasina’s bull of courage. “Pass that cloth unto me,” ordered Cwinder. The flag torn already by this point laid out in his outstretched arms. It was indeed so the flag of the Etasians, which to Cwinder’s knowledge had inhabited somewhere to the north-eastern hemisphere, though from Cwinder wasn’t sure however, was where these invaders originated from in detail. Something obscure kept them concealed from the subtlest of spies and eavesdroppers. A hare’s scent is apathetic to a wolf should the burrow be found, and a hare’s burrow is feast more wanting than a lone grazer. I find the realm; I win the mountain. The mountain’s conquering is my end – my own legacy come true.
Cwinder raised the flag and doused it upon his face and entire head, then pulled it back. With extinguished skin, the bull combusted in transfer to flame, ember and smoke. However, work was not completed yet even as he championed his subjects. The world will burn still more,
And Etasina is next.
The far cornerstones of the new world laid way to a once proud race of people. They called upon themselves as the Etasians, and they dwelt within the glacier-valley of spender and sanctuary. Cocooned upon these elevated planes they scalped and burrowed a network taking form of an extensive underground city. Situated within the heart of the great mountain: itself upon this hidden valley, they proclaimed this valley Etasina whole and true, which in their tongue utters the manner of “all that is enchanted with beauty within”. Retained by generations of keepers are old tales in this land. Only one is worth this story for there are indeed many. That having said this is a rather secluded and sheltered place compared to most upon Tecoco, secret to all but some.
The dreaded skevidors, evildoers of Ackcha and the like, had left little but the cornerstones of the world unscathed completely before the age of peace was reared. Etasians had little ever such worry, for they were well hidden and protected for the most part. In fact, the only guidance Cwinder had of these ‘loathsome’ nobles, were because of their appetite for justice and prevailing. Etasians disliked any form of oppression, even on other lands. They marched few but in great valour for the times, some famous skirmishes having forced the enemy into retreat; this particular battle had been a costly defeat for Etasina. They face in time the full wrath of Ackcha, and most specifically skevidor armies of Vhlerria for certain, but for the moment they live quite peacefully and content within their mountain stronghold.
This stronghold of which the great mountain and its grounds remained situated deep within a forest, enclosed further by a horseshoe of smaller mountains, and facing the sea to furthest side. Northern-east to the main continent harbours the great forest of Pinewood and for some time was the largest expanse of forestation found anywhere on earth, whilst Ackchaan city populaces felled theirs down to lesser but still impressive distances. Pinewood forest is the place of which shrouds the mountain-bound Etasians in a permanent blanket of mystery. The forest itself is almost impenetrable to all but wildlife – only Etasians were masters of travelling in these condense woodlands, but that is the only exception to all the people of the lands. The only exploitation in the foliage was the unbroken Pinewood river: sourced from a gigantic waterfall stretching many some two hundred foot skyward and thrice in breadth. Above the Great Waterfall are large flat expanses of green meadow; forks of crystal clear water stream down from the ever-melting glaciers and feed the imposing waterfalls forever enduring fury. Many shrubberies grow above the rise of which free-roam farm stock graze free from predation. There are indeed few small hardy trees but they wilt more often than not, as at this height the air is too cold for them to long endure the winters. A few simple huts have been erected over the years; none of which are built to house any resident for the harshest blizzards of a cold winter bar the foolish and the unfortunate watchers. Instead the everyday Etasian hibernates within the deep recesses of the Great Mountain for a period of around four months a time, and the arisen valley is vacant to all but the watchers who are posted on the valleys rim. This particular mountain happened to be the tallest and widest in its entire vicinity, grounded right in the middle of green terrain, and in the middle of the in-closed valley that harboured it. The air is thin and so the mountain people of Etasina had to fast adapt to the lack of oxygen in their lungs. The Great Mountain may or may not have once been active in a volcanic sense – though it hasn’t been for as long as the people remember; most certainly an eternity unless in one’s person’s lifetime like Tecoco: could recall the passage of time it takes for a tectonic shift to pass.
Carved paths led way from the foot of the mountain to the half summit, and the long journeys on foot passed as continuous spiral around the mountain side upward. Many generations of hard labouring had made it, and those and before endured so long the hazardous rock-slides and avalanches. In the intermediate steps of the passage, the inner incline laid way for the grand tunnels of the inner city of Etasina: the entrances of which can be sealed off from the extreme elements and to whatever risk of intruder there may be (none of which had been recorded at this time). Historians then spoke of labourers in the elder days which apparently hollowed the mountain deep natural chasms, and paths from caverns found by early wanderers. Outside door-frames had sometimes been illuminated by the light of lanterns (or simple torches in some regions of the mountainside). At night they emitted light which in number and from distance looked like stars against the night sky. One person on a cool night stepped inside since liaising with a local patrol guard, and he dismissed him with a bag of kinkles to wander alone. Now where is it? He thought.
Deep within the network of tunnels remained a labyrinth of interconnected rooms, dormitories, and mining stations. Every man and woman were entitled to living quarters at the expense of none, providing they burrow it themselves (and with hierarchy planning permission of course). The stranger darted to and fro – zigzagging in the tunnels of complexity. Seemingly frustrated the stranger paused for a moment to groom his beard, exerting a language of anxiety as he started to wander once more. The stranger was greeted by a man who bid him into his chamber. This man introduced himself. Burk Miffyla was an ex-councillor who left his position a long time ago. The corruption within the realm was only seen by a few, which was needed covered to keep the race ‘pure’ and just; he was discontent with the secret doings deep within the chambers but he was also afraid to spill it. The place had reeked of alcohol which was smuggled from afar, and this was a scandal no mouth could utter outside the walls. Some Etasians thought themselves proudly independent despite what was true otherwise. They did trade with the Kenyad and a few other small provinces. The world was too wild for most but the designated Etasian travellers, and although the realm had friendship for all who willed no harm, no Etasian had dared to divulge the whereabouts of their haven (even to their friendliest neighbours). It was a complete secret and so well it was so kept as it was also decreed forbidden and traitorous to give; all but some men were wiped from Tecoco or joined the ranks of Ackcha’s expanding reach. There are very few towns and villages left but Etasina because of Ackcha’s destructive crusade.
Burk greeted the stranger with a handshake. He considered this person a colleague to work with on his grand philosophy, which was to wring and cleanse the corruption away from the council table. He befriended a settler who would not answer to a name but supposedly he was interested what Burk had envisioned for the future, and said he had come from a place that was free from it. The ex-councillor offered him for a midnight feast, and was himself greatly astounded by the barrage of questions thrown his way: some quite intricate of his old business, and he would not answer all of them. There were many secrets he did not give up. The night was a cold night, and colder it still swept through the bones of the old man; his blood chilled. Something elusive was trying to tell him something was wrong; something was not right. The air in the room had a funny smell to it, but he ignored it.
“That’s a pretty flower.” Some hands partitioned a sway of growth, having had picked tranquil petals from the source: a flowerbed on the outskirts of Pinewood Forest (the southern border of the trees to be exact). Here grew fine wild, consisting of many variations of flower and plant. The colourful terrain was a meadow of large expanse all around, with rich pickings of all things pleasant. This particular flowerbed was found hidden behind some overgrown grass ahead. Petals floated under a cushion of cool breeze, which then blew upwards and around a sky of complete blue. Hutrial Shymotto took an appreciative inhale of the fresh air around. It was not alpine air but felt close to her. Better to her were the animals that crept, galloped, and flew here: countless animals of all kinds small, but only small. Hummingbirds were a favourite of hers, yet she also loved the nature of everything there were to be seen. There was a lagoon near here also where she would like to catch fish – only to release them to the depths for she bid no harm on any. It was where she now wandered to as she spoke openly to herself. “It’s a wonderful day unfolding. I can smell it in the air. I see it in the sky. I can feel it on my skin.”
Down a winding path her mind led her, and she strived to find that calm lake she had seen so many times before. It was near now. I should stumble upon it soon, she thought; this time kept from her lips. She almost reached the shore but there was something else far more pressing ahead. She discovered something else, something possibly malevolent. In the distance she sighted a group of intruders heading her way. Hutrial quickly hid in the nearby foliage, concealing herself to the best she could manage under the current circumstances. Peering from some leaves and twigs she heard the nearing chatter of many voices. Hutrial felt her stomach tighten on instant. She froze in place, her heart thumping her chest like a beating drum. “Behold lads, this forest would be an interesting place to scout for our master,” said one.
“And something else Boyle; there’s a lake to our right. See? We could make camp right here for the night. Wood ahead for feeding our fire. Drinking water from the lake, and fish. We have supper sorted.” said one from the rear.
“True and I was about to point that out myself actually,” said Boyle with his raised brow. Several members of the group aligned themselves next to each other. After a moment of quarrelling Boyle decided on a set of instructions for the crew.
“Now then, the rest of ye. Fetch us some drinking water and food. Me and Dodge will prepare the camp for stay. Also gather some firewood from the forest for me,” instructed Boyle having been pleased with order. “Also one more thing,” he added. “Should any of you discover anything of interest to our master, please notify me immediately. People, settlements and our master’s missing few.”
With that the party split up to do their duties. It was a precarious situation now for Hutrial who still concealed herself behind leaves. She couldn’t flee the spot as it was the only exposure around; she wanted to of course. To her these strange people weren’t of a welcome demeanour, and she could sense an aura of danger at her own predicament. The two backpackers had unpacked their belongings. For what seemed like a long time they managed to erect three tents and set what looked like some kind of spit for roasting. Pots, pans and all kinds of equipment were laid out on the ground. Underneath the gowns were knives and arrows inside a bag. The weapons unnerved Hutrial even more so, creepiness tightening its hold on her. Lungs had almost shrieked on their own accord she could have sworn, yet still more Hutrial held on to that tightness. There was a problem. It had occurred to her that the swollen feeling of exertion which had risen up was nothing of which could be halted. Those flowers were problematic in the best of times for her as the scent abruptly caused her to sneeze in fits of allergy on many an occasion. Embarrassing for her in most times but this time it could mean death should she could not contain it. Here it comes, she thought. That familiar build-up of pressure deep within that nasal cavity. A burning sensation within the sinus, and a twitching sensation of internal combustion all at once. It was too much to hold down, and a sneeze suddenly freed itself.
Dodge looked around for intrusion noticeably startled. “I heard it too,” said Boyle pointing. He raced towards the direction of the sound. Finally, it was too much. Hutrial was going to be discovered any minute and with no time to spare fled immediately towards the forest. Her pace matched that of the very winds of the northern gales of the mountain realm.
“Hey! You!” Shouted one of the men for her to halt and more had spotted her. She ignored the voices, ran further still but slowing up steady hill. The thuds and splashes of mud were heard behind her; they were close. The forest was still too far to reach nearer time comfortably. She knew she could hide in the forest unseen if she could make it that far, and then outmanoeuvre any strangers behind her once within. Foremost Hutrial understood the overgrown fields could blanket her in the meanwhile. The crest of the hill was a perfect opportunity to make a hiding. Just as she remembered it, the hill made way for temporary dip in height. There in this expanse of land: the heath, an overgrown waistline-high shrubbery and tall grass where she could hastily lay at one with the colours. That was a short space of time to do it in and she had spent it wisely. In only a fraction of time it had taken to blend in the surroundings, the thuds of footsteps had come to an abrupt stop somewhere nearby. The sound had seemed to come from the hill’s rim and the pants of heavy breathing suggested the two men were very close.
“Where did she go?” Asked the voice of Dodge. A short moment of whispers and motioning led the two men astray. Hutrial could not be certain for sure. She couldn’t see and wept quietly amongst the snakes. Long endured the moment, she finally muscled the will to get out there alive. Looking down at a crawling snake, it inspired her to act and gave hope. She could crawl too like the scaly reptiles and made a starts journey to wooded shelter. The movements were slow and tedious – for the only thing more distressing than the moment at hand, were the sight of those men. She thought long and hard. Who were they? She asked herself; they looked like none she ever saw. There were few souls that had leave to travel this far: bar soldiers and tradesmen. She was a rare breed who had unquestionable rite of passage to the great Ashen Tree in Pinewood forest and beyond, and she was its protector. Once upon a time, she was born there. Finally, she had reached the stretches of brambles. From here it was a tight squeeze through the dense woodland. It would get looser still but only in part. She would have to get up, lest she get anywhere. Hutrial sat up to crouch, peering above the overgrowth for any shape or form. Nothing to be seen for her thankfully, and so she finally disappeared into the shadows of Pinewood Forest. She was followed.
It was a fine morning. The sun shone bright in the sky having shown as much a day before. In the aftermath of the defeat at Vhlerria, many survivors had long since returned from battle without being followed. For a long time, the Etasian council ordered a step up of watch on the borders, even at the expense of keeping it quiet from the public eye. The waterfall and steep cliffs are said to be enough to repel any invaders lest they discover it but skevidors are persistent foes to encounter, and evil-doers of Ackcha never forgive nor forget. Wise Etasians realise their foes will now never cease hunting the Etasian populace and their heirs until either day is done on this earth. Worst still, the foes had not only clarified the friendship Etasina laid with the Kenyad people, but with the very withered of Cwinder’s prisoners the king’s men had beat words out of them. Despite much courage of the few that had not divulge – they died sooner and most others simply had no real answers, for Etasina is kept secret to only very few travellers and traders. A system is made of which every new visitor except native raised had to meet at an extraction point. They were blindfolded but mercifully escorted to the realm so as to not know precisely where they were, and escorted back in the same way. However, Etasina was not immune to its discovering. Far from the populace believing it themselves it was always searched for by wanderers and evil men alike. Harpies could not fly so high as the mountains realm unaided, but those who could reach the forest grew bolder and confident. Watchers spotted several in the last two decades which managed to breach the highs of the cliff waterfall. As they come to drink, all were thankfully slain before they could depart and report anything of it. It was spoken in tales that they were Ackchaan made, though other whispers were traded with the understanding two displayed some resembles to their former lives; they were once people: women presumably.
Of more concern wicked wanderers as Hutrial had seen, were of some frequency of late; Cwinder had a very general idea of the world at large and he had correctly estimated the corner of Tecoco where they were. This was an extremely large expanse of land to find signs of anything of interest let alone an entire civilisation. Finding a needle in a haystack is no understatement. On the great cliff edges were many outposts, and many postings to use them. There were also some emergency barracks erected on the Great Mountain encompass which housed the armies of Etasina on standby, unused in the winter months. It was here on the very edge of the Great Waterfall, that a recent occurrence of strangeness was on hand. A large cauldron was hoisted up the cliff edge, adjacent to the great waterfall but this was not strange in itself, but rather what was in it. A system of clogs and pulleys was devised in this part long ago to export and import goods from the heights of the bowls of the realm of Etasina. On most occasions a counter weight was used, but for the past two weeks there had been none to use. Two workers were sent to retrieve by hand and cable. One border watcher was conversing with the two Pulley-men at as they worked this afternoon.
“So you heard what?”
“Yeah the other night,” said one of the Pulley-men, “That Miffyla.”
“Burk,” interrupted the other Pulley-men. “It was Burk Miffyla, the retired councillor who had decorated the tunnels in his spare time. He’s dead, at least from the state of the place. Quite obviously he was murdered, but I’m not sure where the body went. Nobody is.”
The chief watcher glanced down at the waterfall. Steam deterred any resemblance of anything that would vague spell trouble as in any day for practically ever. What was the point? He thought. If only. He knew why of course, and dread the day he was needed.
“It is indeed peculiar,” said the watcher. “But I hope you’ll both forgive me for caring less. My brother had recently…”
“Sorry chief,” said one pulley-man.
“Blimey these are heavy. Sure as heck got a lot of bramblery I would imagine,” said a Pulley-man whilst the other nodded. The watcher turned to face the two pulley-men again from a second glance at the fall.
“So why was he murdered anyway? Is it understood?” He asked them. Both shrugged, not quite sure if he granted permission to continue again. A time had passed before a reply was said. “Well, I don’t know. Not the faintest. Kept himself to himself so to speak; though I imagine a murder in that area would make more sense a few years back,” said a Pulley-man.
“Why? I’m not well versed on local politics,” the watcher affirmed.
“You don’t know where he lives?” One of them questioned.
“I never heard of him or even of this deed till now. Should I have?” Said the watcher.
“That Burk; he lived around in what used to be the chambers of the city council. They moved since and any residence were welcome to create their own resides in the old tunnels.” The chief watcher mused for a moment. “So I’m guessing they killed him thinking he was a councillor?” The watcher had some dealings with councillors though he would not admit it. He hated them personally, and the stench of drink was rife in the air of their presence.
“Which is why it would make slight sense if this were many years ago when he was usurped from the table. I reckon he had dirt on them. An inside job maybe?” A pulley-man suggested. “Could well be,” the other grimaced as he heaved the device by him. “Burk was not well liked by them. Had dirt on their dealings a few insiders told me also.”
The watcher cast his eye over the view; the steamy vapour cloaked reality into a walking dream. He began to notice the laboured breathing of the pulley-men more now. “Looks heavy,” he said offering sympathy. It was. Two of the Pulley-men made more haste in hoisting up the cauldron, and within some considerable time it finally came into view for all.
“Curse my bones! What is this?” A face had formed, eyes wide with fear. It was a woman! This particular one was that of Lady Hutrial Shymotto. The two pulley-men recognised her from her passing but she was only permitted to use the stair climb behind a hidden tunnel – not the pulley system. It was strictly only for transporting trade up the cliff from the forest.
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