Idyan Chronicles - Prologue, Part I
Idyan Chronicles - Prologue, Part I
(Approximately 360 years before the founding of Iridine, 6th day of Ereal)
Legate Iris Olyda of the first Idyan Legion stared beyond the tall hills north of the city. Yet again the northern raiders were beaten back by the courageous defenders of the Republic. The sun was shining that day, a sign that Ereal was on their side. The quickly roasting corpses of the Cinari could be seen sleeping serenely at the base of the hill. Iris waved a young Idyan officer over and pointed at the charred corpses. The boy bowed and obediently dragged the corpse to a putrid mass off in the horizon.
His partner, Gilian Allende looked back to his hometown. The northern walls of Idya were destroyed and hundreds of soldiers lay dead on the cobblestone roads. The northern barbarians (or Cinari as they were known at the time) were getting stronger as each day passed. The raids were getting more frequent and the Idyan casualties were piling up to the hundreds
After another hour or so, when the dust had settled, when the stench of burning dead floated high above the clouds, and the scouts had finished their surveys, Iris turned away from the battlefield and slowly headed towards the city.
On the way to the barracks followed by the remainder of his loyal soldiers, he spotted a young brazen man approach him. He wore the pale beige toga of a servant, most probably a messenger of some sort.
When the man got near Iris, he stopped and inspected him as if determining his identity. After a thorough examination, the man spoke. His voice had the pitch of youth, and his voice did not stutter despite running so far a distance.
"Good afternoon, you are the Legate Olyda?" asked the man.
"Yes, I am the one you seek. What is your business?" Replied Iris.
"I have come to you in order to deliver a message. The Inner Council has requested an audience with you at the well of Elrundus." He proclaimed.
"And when is this audience to take place?" Iris inquired.
"We have just fought a battle at the northern hills. Perhaps it is better that I manage to clean myself up prior to the meeting."
"I'm afraid my master did not allow me the option to accept that. They are waiting for you now."
Iris nodded in defeat, knowing that he was unable to do a thing. "Then may I be allowed to dismiss my men before I head there?"
The youth pondered, as if it was his choice to make then answered, "My master would accept that. But please do be quick"
Iris nodded in agreement and addressed his men, who all the while were waiting patiently behind him. "Men, return to the barracks and clean up. Report to the inquisitor's office afterwards."
The soldiers stood straight up at the order and saluted. They waited for Iris to confirm the command.
"You may now go."
Studiously, the soldiers turned about and briskly marched back to the barracks. Only the messenger and Iris remained on this section of the wide road.
"If you will follow me, sir. I will lead you to my master." Said the servant.
"Please lead the way," responded Iris and the youth began to jog down the road, towards the great marble buildings of the forums.
After a short walk, the messenger stopped in front of a large structure. It was the southern basilica.
"I am afraid I have other pressing errands to attend to. But I assume that you know the way from here, sir?" asked the messenger.
"Yes, I am familiar. Thank you."
Iris got his bearings and retraced the directions to the well of Elrundus. As he headed down the southeastern fork of the road, the boy ran down the other day, apparently in quite a hurry to do something.
When he stopped at the flagstone forum of the well sometime after, he noticed a small group of men, wearing mysterious hooded robes of many colors waiting there. Was it they who required his attendance?
While he pondered the identity of his mysterious summoner, a short, stout man he Iris recognized by the name of Physaeus Serandin, a member of the illustrious Inner Council approached him.
"How goes the defense of Idya?" asked Physaeus.
"Well enough, but Idya cannot stand much more of this, we lost another sixty men today" replied Iris.
"That will be no problem because we asked a northern neighbour of Remath to send aid soon. Their navy is unsurpassed in strength. The council consulted King Mepias a week ago and they agreed to send three hundred strong to the eastern fortress near the fork of the Invex." Physaeus remarked.
The group of men who were perched together at the fountain, now revealed as the rest of the council nodded in unison to Physaeus. Meanwhile, another well-dressed man walked up to Iris and gave him a sword, it was approximately 32 inches long and was made out of the finest bronze. The pommel was of fine wood, wrapped in exquisite leather and studded with a large ruby in the center. Immediately, Iris knew what the sword was the moment he saw it.
"By Ereal, you give me the blade of Thyacles? I am not deserving of such a wondrous blade," exclaimed Iris in complete surprise. "The sword of legendÖ I can't believe it myself, I thought it was destroyed in the second battle of Ravan when he sliced the body of Keravin in two."
The elderly man replied to Iris, "No, it wasn't. Many of the soldiers thought so too, but Yulis found the blade imbedded in the corpse of Keravin after the battle. I kept it locked up in the vaults for over twenty years, and now I wish to give it to the next hero in ascension."
Iris accepted the blade from the man, wielding it in his strong, right hand. The blade was glowing with some force and he felt a surge of power flowing through his veins. The ruby was glittering, emitting a rainbow like color as it reflected off the sun.
The man smiled and interrupted Iris' trance, "Tis yours. You have the blessing of Ereal and the might of his priests, you will be a wonderful holder to the Thyacles' blade."
Iris smiled back. He knew in his mind that being the equal to Thyacles would be a difficult task, one that he might not be able to uptake. However, he had confidence that the old man had in him. The council waved at Iris and proceeded towards the southern district of town, leaving Iris to chew on his thoughts and wonder what his future held.
Idyan Chronicles - Prologue, Part II
(358 years before the founding of Iridine, 23rd day of Scran)
The fires of battle were blazing that day as the foul, grotesque Cinari barbarians charged from the other side of the Invex. A proud legion of Idyan troops stood on the other side of the river, wielding short swords and donning bronze plate mail with large, red shields containing the emblem of the upright lion, blazing in fire.
Legate Iris sat on his midnight black warhorse, preparing his troops into battle. The siege workers prepared their ballistae and lifted the heavy arrows up into firing position.
"Sir Iris, shall we charge yet?" asked a short, Idyan man. He was Palium Ulyssia, the trusted aide of Iris. He had flowing brown hair with deep brown eyes and was rather thin for a soldier of the legions. However, he was regarded as highly as any centurion, despite his tender age of fifteen. "The Cinari scum have almost crossed the Invex. If we wait any longer, then it may be too late.
Only five months ago, Iris' former associate Gilian Allende was killed in the battle of Aurturion. Surrounded by the barbarians on all sides, it was not long before he felt the pain of a sword puncture his heart. They never had a chance to recover the corpse, but after continued searches for possible survivors, it seemed as if he fate was sealed.
Iris shook his head softly. "Patience Palium, you are not old enough to know about the virtues. Perhaps in a few years you will learn."
Palium replied, "Very well sir, your judgement is always right, one of great wisdom I hope to achieve."
They watched as the Cinari trudged slowly across the silty banks, slowly, and patiently, Iris waited. In a split second of time, Iris pointed his finger towards the Cinari band and yelled, "Launch the ballistae!"
And in split seconds after that, the ballista workers released the lever, which then fired off the huge arrows lit with fire. The arrows landed neatly into the Cinari lines, impaling several of then in the chest, killing them instantly. They tip of the powerful arrows drove right through any flesh and bone in its way and on the other end, bloody red entrails and flesh was dangling from the tips. The lit bolts also caught the surrounding grass on fire, creating a tremendous barrier of pure flame and black smoke. The Cinari soldiers cried in pain and even the gods in the heavens could hear the tortured screams of help. The rest of the barbarians realized their fatal error and quickly rushed in panic back across the Invex and headed towards the north.
However, another surprise was waiting for them. Out of the tall grass leapt a contingent of Idyan infantry, wielding hardened bronze spears. The bewildered Cinari, seeing their second fatal mistake come into play ran like startled deer and began running in whichever direction they could go without pushing through their own people. The calm, collected soldiers covered in the hard dirt of the grasslands engaged the panicked Cinari. They held their spears out in an aggressive stance and lunged, driving their spears right through the Cinari, instantly disemboweling them. The dead barbarians looked at the spear in utter shock, the last morbid expression on their rugged, dirty faces. The other Cinari fled at the sight of their dead brothers and ran faster still, into the marsh. Only half of the barbarians survived that day and the legion standing on the hill of Victory cried the name of Iris in unison, marking his new victory.
That evening, under the clear, humid night sky, Iris sat on the steps in the tranquil garden of his villa, pondering the aftermath of today's battle. The bell shaped violet flowers swayed gently in the wallowing breeze and the silent willow was making music with the winds gushing beneath its leaves. The servants who were working outside tending the gardens and the orchards gathered at the rear exit and entered the villa having finished their daily chores.
After the great bronze doors closed with a slight creaking, a mysterious phenomenon appeared in the sky above Iris. From within the night clouds sparked flashes of crimson red lightning. It appeared as if the bolts centered on a focal point in the middle of the heavens. From that point grew a massive spark of energy, a specter of pure light and electricity. As if it had gained an active consciousness, the globe hovered eerily above the city, unseen by the naked eye. Finally, after spotting its target, the sphere quickly flew down to confront its objective.
As Iris was sitting on his elegantly crafted stone bench, he also noticed the light from above. And as if my magic, a red sphere of light appeared in front of Iris' eyes. A mysterious, deep voice resonated from the sphere and said, "Your fate shall come in due time, your destiny will be with me, your sword of ruby is the key."
"WhoÖ are you?" Iris asked the sphere, with a hint of fear in his voice.
"I am a force, a power who wishes to aid, that is all you need to know. However, I have one more message for you, my servant shall come in the future, asking for your help. Grant it to him and you will be favored by Me." replied the deep voice, which sounded like it came from the deepest well of Midlight. Its voice was frightening, yet calming in one.
Gathering what little courage and wit he had together, he tossed another question at the being.
"Why do you wish for me to help your servant?"
The voice that came from the sphere sounded much more irate then before, and the noise spooked Iris deeply.
"It is better that you ask little questions. When you decide to join me, I will reveal all of it to your blind eyes."
And so, the hovering globe of energy began to ascend towards the stars. Iris called to it, pleading for it to wait, but his calls were to no avail. However, before the strange apparition disappeared, it said one last message.
"Do not worry, for if you follow my path, you will gain power, recognition, and fame of un-foretold magnitude."
And slowly, as it spoke its last words, the red sphere dispersed into the night, the last surviving essence of the spirit dancing with the fireflies that night.
Idyan Chronicles - Prologue, Part III
(357 Years before the founding of Iridine, 12th day of Ereal)
Palium Ulyssia bit into a small strawberry biscuit and licked the sticky and sweet strawberry filling from his lips. He waved at the servant standing at the marble doorway of Iris' dining hall. The hall was exquisitely decorated, rivaling that of the homes of any member of the Inner Council. There was a long marble table in the center with lanterns hanging along the sides. Palium was seated at one end of the table on a large padded chair while Iris sat at the other. The servant quickly scurried beside Palium and lowered his head.
"What do you wish to have sir?" asked the servant.
"Please bring me some more of these exquisite biscuits and another pitcher of this wonderful sunfruit wine, good man" replied Palium.
"Very well sir," answered the servant and walked towards the northern hall, towards the kitchen.
"Palium, please tell me what you have done in the past year." Said Iris.
Palium responded, "Well, ever since your glorious victories last year, the Cinari attacks have decreased. Legate Heulia is doing a fair job training the new recruits and whatnot, but he does not match your prowess in battle. However, it seems that he does not like my company much. He dismisses all of my suggestions and avoids me at every opportunity. I made a formal complaint and since then I got command of the third company. But that's enough about me, what've you been doing recently? Is guarding the eastern frontier an exciting task?"
"On the contrary Palium, it is about as exciting as harvesting wheat. Everyday, the legion marches north to the marshlands, then south to the seashore. My armies have not yet seen another soul in the grasslands. I wish I were back patrolling the northern hills."
The servant carefully walked in from the kitchen; holding a large dish of round, white biscuits and a hefty bottle of orange wine. He stood beside Palium and set the items down beside his plate. Palium smiled at the short man and handed him one of the fruit filled biscuits, and a glass of the wine. The servant smiled back and walked back to his post, chewing softly while he walked.
Suddenly, Iris and Palium heard sounds of arguing from the main gates of his home. Iris quickly stood up and walked out the southern archway, with Palium quickly on his heels. When they reached the large, bronze wrought gate, they saw a mysterious hooded man, covered by the striking colour of a blood red cloak, with a large hood covering the thin man's face. He was arguing with a villa guard, dressed in a fine mail cuirass and wielding a large rectangular shield, bearing the symbol of a crescent moon and a sunburst, Iris' family's crest. When the hooded figure saw Iris, he shuffled slowly towards him and reached out with his gnarled, withered gray hand. The guard held up his spear, preventing the man from touching Iris. However, Iris waved the guard away with a stiff gesture and the guard obediently followed his command.
"Tavurio, you may return inside for now." Ordered Iris.
The burly guard saluted and headed down the stone path and into the large bronze doors.
"Palium my friend, please get back into the villa as well." Demanded Iris in a stern voice.
Palium bowed and followed the guard through the enormous engraved bronze doors into the villa. However, once they entered the house, Palium ducked behind a giant clay pot glazed with a beautiful cerulean blue finish and stuck his head out, carefully listening to the conversation between the mysterious man and Iris. When the figure saw that they entered the villa, he began to speak.
"You are the Iris my master talked about, are you not?" he asked.
"How did you know my name?" replied Iris.
"My master told me of you. Now the time has come and I must ask for your help." The man said in a deep withered voice. "You may already know of my name, he came to you around a year ago, and appeared in a globe of red light."
Iris took a large step back and gasped. Peering from the corner of the open doors leading to the gates, Palium froze, shocked and paralyzed at what he said. Something was happening, something very wrong. He decided to wait longer, hearing what the hooded man had to say.
"Yes, I remember about the spirit's words. You are the man I need to aid?" asked Iris.
"Correct, Legate. I am Keravin," said the man "and my demand is simple. I need only the powerful waters of healing at the shrine of Ereal and you would get the powers of a god. As you can see, my body is withered, and I am slowly dying, if I can get the water, I will be restored and my master will be very pleased."
"Why do you need me to get the water?" asked Iris.
Keravin answered, "Because of the water's great magic, only you have the authority to be allowed to get the water, short of becoming a high priest."
Iris pondered on Keravin's words for a few moments, and finally replied to the man's words, "To be blunt, I am rather tempted, but do you truly have that power?"
Keravin smiled, "I am glad you asked, for I shall show you my master's power." And he opened his hand. A small spark leapt from his hand as his hand started to glow. Soon, torrents of lightning arcs filled his hand and he aimed his thin, bony, and burnt finger at a nearby sapling. The lightning sprung from his fingertips and struck the small olive tree, standing innocently nearby. Little did that plant know its fate. As the bolt of lightning struck the tree, it burst open, spraying chunks of charred olive wood and there was a loud thunderclap as smoldering splinters landed on the ground. After the smoke dispersed, only the burning stump of the tree remained.
Iris gasped once again and opened his mouth in wide-eyed awe while Palium jumped back a foot, tripped over the flower pot and hit his head. However, he couldn't stop glaring at the remains of the tree, utterly destroyed in a blink of an eye.
Keravin shook his finger as smoke wafted from his finger and in all the while, Palium noticed that Iris smiled, his eyes lit up with the fire of ambition he had never seen before and nodded. Keravin grinned back with a dark and menacing smile.
"You will not regret it, honorable Iris, this is your lucky day."
Idyan Chronicles - Prologue, Part IV
(357 years before the founding of Iridine, 27th day of Ereal)
Dozens of Cinari grunts lay dead once again on the northern hills of Idya. As the soldiers around began to count their losses, Legate Heulia ordered his men to throw the dead corpses to the dumps to the north of town. Meanwhile, several members of the priesthood stood over the injured Idyan soldiers and placed their palms on the open, bloody gashes of the brave men. In a brilliant flash of light, Ereal's gentle touch passed through the priest's hands and flowed through the men, slowly rejuvenating them, their bloody wounds sealed up tight in a blinding flash of light. The other field medics cleansed their wounds with some antiseptic and wrapped soft cloth bandages around the sores. Palium walked towards Heulia and reported the day's battle details to him.
"We lost a dozen soldiers, sir, while the Cinari lost twice that amount, sir. Your use of the Urilyan tactic was brilliant sir," said Palium.
"Please, do not humour me, boy. Just because Legate Iris respected you and you have an unofficial rank of centurion does not mean I have to regard you in that manner. Now, report to the clerk back at the barracks on your casualty list." Snarled Heulia in disgust.
"Aye, sir" bowed Palium. As he walked back to the city barracks, he muttered under his breath. Heulia turned his head around, gave Palium an icy stare and turned his body away from Palium.
This clashing of words has been going on for over a year now. Palium, now a year older and a year more experienced had learned to resist his superior's taunting.
Once Palium arrived at the Idyan barracks, which consisted of a large red brick structure with a training courtyard in the center, he proceeded to the clerk's office. As he approached the doorway, he caught a glimse of what was inside. The office was merely a small cluttered room barely larger than a small insula apartment. The clerk's office was cluttered with arcane Idyan scrolls and filled with dusty old books, which were entirely covered in an inch thick layer of light, gray dust. The clerk, a tall thin man with a rather prominent nose approached Palium.
"Good morn, sir Palium. Do you have something to report?" he asked.
"Yes, Perfecius. I have the latest casualty list on the battle with the Cinari. They did more damage this time." When he proceeded to speak again, Palium clearly lowered his voice. "I swear that Heulia is an incompetent fool. He lost a dozen men, and by Ereal, he's going to lose the northern hills in a matter of weeks at this rate." The clerk also noted a hint of disgust in Palium's voice.
"Well, that's life, kid." Chuckled Perfecius. "You can't get what you always want. Bear with him some more and you may eventually like him."
Palium smiled, left the sheet of parchment on the Perfecius' desk and walked out the tall wooden doors.
When Palium closed the doors behind him, he glanced back at the courtyard, one of the Legion's main training areas. There were a variety of fighting equipment and a small obstacle course. Currently, a small force of Idyan infantry trained there, and in the center on top of a large, makeshift podium stood Iris, barking out orders.
"Friend Iris!" shouted Palium with enthusiasm in his voice. Iris turned to face Palium, nodded and turned back to face his training troops. All of a sudden, in the blink of a second an arrow whizzed by Iris, scratching his cheek. The archer who fired the arrow soon flushed red when he realized his deadly mistake. As deep, red drops of blood trickled from his face, Palium noticed Iris' eyes glow mysteriously black, as if he had stared into a moonless night sky. Iris, clearly quite angry glared at the clumsy Idyan archer and walked towards the young boy. He took out his long Idyan leather whip, covered with short barbs at the tip and struck it across the boy's face. The boy cringed and huddled on the flagstone floor like a hurt animal, clutching his wound for dear life.
"Get up, insolent boy." Barked Iris and cracked his whip at the boy again. The boy screamed in extreme anguish and shivered in pain. The boy slowly lifted himself and managed to stand up, shaken from Iris' attack. "So, you want to hurt me, huh?" asked Iris. "Then, you shall have the opportunity. Pick up that sword," Iris pointed at a short, bronze blade "and attack me."
The boy and the rest of the company looked at Iris in complete terror. The boy reached down to pick it up, hesitated and stopped.
"You dare disobey my orders? Do it now!" screamed Iris and struck the young officer with the whip again. The boy winced at the pain and lifted the blade from the plain wooden rack. He clumsily wielded it in his right hand and locked in a defensive stance. Iris took out the Blade of Thyacles. The ruby on the handle glittered with an intense light as Iris held the wondrous bronze sword in front of him. Iris grinned cruelly, his eyes with a deep fire of hatred.
"Now, attack me, since you wanted to kill me so much, do it now!" screamed Iris at the top of his lungs. "Do it now, you foolish boy!"
The soldier hesitantly nodded and lightly tapped Iris' blade. Iris' smile soon turned into a frown as he saw what the soldier was doing.
"So, what are you doing?" snarled Iris. "You are concerned for my welfare after you tried to kill me? I would not be the one who should be worried, kid."
The boy nodded and raised his blade. He let loose a fierce battle cry and charged at Iris. The boy lunged with his blade directly at Iris' heart, but Iris made a quick sidestep and with incredible speed, knocked the boy's blade from his hand, leaving the boy to run right past him. The boy ran to the weapons rack and lifted a quarterstave from it. He twirled the stave in front of him and holding the stave like a club, he whacked at Iris. Iris swatted the stave away with his hands and brought down the blade at the boy with a powerful overhead chop. The boy, anticipating the attack from his training held the wooden stave in front of him to block the blow. However, an amazing thing happened. The sword started to glow red-hot and melted right through the stave like a hot knife through butter. The momentum of the swing continued to bring the blade downwards, which soon went right through the shocked boy. Entrails and blood poured out of the dead boy and spilled on the once clean ground into a bloody, messy heap. A small splatter of crimson liquid splashed on Iris' face. He wiped the blood off his fingers with distaste and spat on the decimated body. The other soldiers gasped at the gutted corpse and stood frozen in their place.
"What are you people looking at? Haven't you seen a bloody corpse before?" snarled Iris. "You and you," Iris pointed at two bronze clad men. "Clean up the remains please. I want to be able to see my reflection on the ground when I get back. The rest of you continue training until I get back. Centurion Echelon, you are in command." And walked away from the fields, leaving the two men with a messy task at hand. As Iris walked by Palium, he snickered at him
"Iris, how could you kill that innocent boy? He only grazed you with the arrow." Shrieked Palium. "Honestly, friend I didn't think killing was the answer."
"And what do you know of these things, boy?" replied Iris in the coldest winter voice. "That insolent boy tried to kill me. He was most likely a Cinari assassin. He deserved his death, like any other traitor to Idya. And if you know any better than he, you would be wise not to cross me as well."
Palium lowered his head in apology and waited until Iris walked far, far away, around the city block before he dared look back up.
Idyan Chronicles - Prologue, Part V
(356 years before the founding of Iridine 12th day of Thyacles) an hour after sunset
News spread like wildfire that night as rumors of the tragedy was quickly spread throughout the city. Palium was training alone in the fields that night with only the company of a flickering lantern when Iris, the acquaintance he hadn't seen in several weeks told him the news.
"Eudridis Asteren of the Inner Council was murdered earlier tonight!" exclaimed Iris. "The constables found burn marks on the patricianís chest and thatís it. The constables donít have any other idea of how he died. This is very odd, seems like magic did him in. Palium, good friend, you should be careful. There are strange forces around."
"Sure thing, Iris" responded Palium. "But I wonder, dear friend, did the constables find out how that knave escaped?"
Iris shook his head. "My apologies. No one saw the murderer. However, I do not believe that it was the doing of the gods. Perhaps it be a stray magician or a stealthy stalker, but personally, I have no sure clue."
Palium nodded. "Yes, sir. I understand. What can we do about it?"
"There is nothing we can do. We can only hope for either the constables or the priests to complete their examination. However, in fear of additional murders, each Inner Council member has been sent a company of Hoplites to guard them at all times. I hope they will perform their task properly, for I trained them myself. I pray they do not make a mockery of my name" Sighed Iris.
"I wish for the mutual safety of the Inner Council as well. Without them, Idya would be in complete chaos. Who knows who wouldíve become Emperor by now, some mad lunatic with an incredible lust for power? I would kill those selfish demons on sight." Palium snorted.
Irisí eyes grew black, he frowned and his eye slits narrowed. He raised the blade of Thyacles and lifted it high above his head, poised to slice Palium in half. At that moment, Iris knew he made a huge mistake. Palium held up his arms in fear and in surprise uttered, "Donít hurt me! Donít do to me like the way you killed that soldier!"
Iris gasped at the remark and stopped. His eyes dimmed back to the gentle brown it was before and his face softened again. He looked up at the sword in surprise and placed it back in his iron-studded sheath. "Apologies, friend Palium. I do not know what came into me. I feel that some force possessed me. Palium, please call the high priest Helion, I think I need help from a priest. Please get going now, time is of the essence."
Palium nodded and ran off towards the Temple of the Eternal Dawn. While his heavy bronze soled soldierís boots clattered on the flagstones in the dark shadows of the night, Palium stopped abruptly on the cold, hard streets and pondered his life and of Iris. Something was definitely wrong and his stomach churned at the thought. Could Iris be the force at work? Could Iris be the evil spirit within? Did that hooded figure give Iris the powers of a god in exchange for his soul? Palium shook away those thoughts and continued towards the temple, more worried than ever.
(An hour later)
Palium turned the small bronze key to the bulky padlock binding the small oak door. The lock made a distinct 'click' sound and so it released its hold. Palium opened the door, entered the small apartment and took off his drenched sagum and hung it on a cloth-padded chair. He walked into his sleeping chambers, a small division containing a mere bed and a night table and removed his Idyan soldierís uniform. He took a white cloth tunic, a thin leather belt and short, fashionable toga and quietly slipped them on. Palium walked back into the common room of his apartment and lit a small flame in the fireplace. He grabbed a chair from the table and placed it close to the flickering fire. Next, he walked towards a small cabinet and pulled out a small glass and a bottle of orange sunfruit wine. He poured himself a small dollop of it and inhaled the fragrant liquid in one gulp. He started to pour himself another glass when he thought about the incident with the withered hooded man and Iris over half a year ago.
"I am glad you asked, for I shall show you my masterís power," The hooded man said.
Slowly, Paliumís head began to fill up with thoughts of destiny. Could he use the power Iris misused? Could he turn the dark powers Iris used for evil into good? He shook away those thoughts and poured himself another glass until his head started to fill with words and sounds.
"Who is to say that you are not the rightful heir to the power?" asked the voice. "You must kill Iris, he has become evil incarnate. You must stop him." Whispered the voice.
Reacting in shock at first, he shook off what he thought was his thoughts. However, as he heard the whisper grow louder, he reacted to the voice.
"No! He is my commander and still my friend despite the past year. I cannot, I will not kill him." Shouted Palium.
"You are all too pure and all too decent. I commend you for that. However, you must see the light. Iris is evil and his darkness will only engulf Idya with him, trapping the land in a veil of darkness. Kill him; kill himÖ" and the voice trailed off.
A long dagger, approximately fourteen inches long from the handle appeared before Paliumís eyes and floated eerily in front of him. The words "kill him" still lingered in his mind. Palium tried to disperse the message from his mind, but they only drilled deeper into his head. "Kill him, kill him, and kill himÖ" Palium threw himself against the wall, but the sound pounded like hammers smashing his mind into a million fragments. After he realized that no amount of physical pain would remove the sound, he pondered a while, and decided that he had to do what had to be done. So, he took his silky black hooded cloak and draped it quickly over his body, giving him the appearance of a vengeful wraith. He grabbed the pair of black war boots, placed his feet in them and strapped them on tightly. Finally, he looked back at the floating dagger, grabbed the smooth, silk bound handle and slid the unblemished, retalq blade under the folds of his Toga. He left the fire in the hearth to burn itself out and stormed out of the large, oak door into the dark story evening.
(356 years before the republic, 12th day of Thyacles) midnight
Later that night, Iris closed the thick leather bound tome and felt his lips yearning for something to drink. He stood up and trudged towards the cabinet in the upstairs storage room and pulled out a small jar. He also grabbed a small clay cup from a nearby shelf and poured a few dried and crushed tealeaves into it. The sweet smell of the dried leaves reminded Iris of his childhood at the summer villa in Ghelis. He walked down the dark, silent hallways of his vast estate and his sandals made a 'click clack' noise as he treaded on the cold, marble ground. It was raining outside and the cool, moist air drifted into the villa. Iris shivered and closed the shutter of the nearby window. He carefully climbed down the grand spiral staircase, making sure he did not lose grip of the stone stair rail. When he took the last step, he shuffled into the kitchen where a pot of hot water was sitting quietly, with wafting puffs of steam rising from the surface. He took the pot and poured the simmering water into the cup, and instantly, as if by magic, they collided, creating the sweet smell of the comforting tea and the relaxing, hot vapor that emerged from the drink. Iris slowly breathed in the light aromas of the leaves and went to a nearby shelf where he took out another small yellow ceramic jar, which was filled with grainy, coarse cones of yellow sugar. He dug out a spoon of the crystals and stirred it into the tea, magically creating another soothing bouquet when the sweet spice hit the hot tea. Iris breathed in another deep breath of the fine fragrant steam and sighed deeply, allowing all the stress within him to radiate from his body. He caressed the smooth, warm surface of the cup and brought it to his parched lips. He sipped a few drops of the tea and sighed again. As he savored the drink, he slowly headed towards his chambers, quietly sipping his tea.
When Iris returned to his comfortable chambers, he placed the cup on his desk and took the small glowing candle from the ancient desktop. He held the small brass handle of the holder and blew softly at the lightly burning flame. The fire flickered; dancing in the wind, then went out. Iris took the cup of tea and sipped it again. At last he swished the remaining tea in his mouth and swallowed it. He gently placed the cup on the table, laid on the bed, pulled the soft cloth blanket over his body and slowly closed his eyes.
(Two hours after midnight)
The sound of a thunderstorm woke Iris up abruptly. Small beads of sweat mottled Irisís face. He looked around, took a deep breath and wiped the sweat off his face. Iris glanced outside at the evening sky and saw small droplets of rain gracefully tumbling down the rooftops. The clouds blanketed the stars that night and the sky was a dark red hue. A cold gust blew through the open window and the window boards flapped against the walls with a loud clap. He looked back at his sweat-covered palms and stood up.
He couldnít shake the nightmare out of his mind. The bloody image stay locked in his mind. In the dream, he saw a faint figure hiding in the shadows, as if stalking him like a cheetah preparing to lunge at its prey. Abruptly, the figure lunged at him, and felt the sharp pain of a sharp blade piercing his chest as he saw blood dripping from the attackerís fighting dirk. The figure released the knife and ran off, completing its heinous deed. Iris fell to his knees and glanced back at his blood-smeared shirt and the knife, which protruded awkwardly out of his chest. Before his emergence into death, into the darkness that was beyond he laughed defiantly towards the heavens.
Iris closed his eyes temporarily, trying to dispel the nightmare and walked out of his room. He grabbed the silk toga hanging from a wooden chair and wore it over his shivering body. He treaded down the stairs and walked towards the sitting room. The sandals made a hollow thumping sound as he slowly shuffled towards the dark and quiet room. However Iris, the battle hardened warrior he was, perceived something odd. His unique sixth sense told him that he was watched. He glanced back at a nearby corner and saw only the shadows emerging from the tall marble pillars. When he was satisfied that he saw nothing, he turned back towards the sitting room.
"Clack, clack, clack" the sounds of footprints grew closer. Iris jerked around again, but this time he saw a faint figure hiding in the shadows. It came closer and closer to Iris as it drew a small dagger whose blade glittered with sapphire aura. The stranger twisted the blade in an overhead stance.
"Iím sorry sir," whispered the mysterious figure. "Iím sorry for what I must do." And upon saying the words lunged at Iris with great dexterity. Iris felt a sharp blade pierce his chest as he saw blood dripping from the attackerís dirk. The figure twisted the dagger's blade, adding to Iris' anguish, roughly pulled out the implement and ran off into the shadows. Iris fell to his knees and glanced at his blood-smeared robe and the tarnished blade. He laughed out loud, which filled the villa with a frightful noise that night as he fainted on the floor, gouts of blood pouring from his heart. At last, his face hit the cold stone floor and his mind fell asleep, drifting into the dark abyss.
The shadowy figure slipped out of the villa through the kitchen windows and sighed. He removed his dark hood, revealing his solemn façade, held the palm of his bloodstained hand at his chest and whispered a prayer. He could not believe what he had just done. He committed the most atrocious crime in the heavensÖ he stabbed a friend in the back. For a moment, he held the blade above his throat, ready to plunge it downwards, but he dropped the dagger and ran. He trotted through the rain-bogged grass and threw a small grappling hook at the top of the tall granite wall surrounding the grounds. He pulled on the rope to make sure the rope was tight, jumped at the rope, climbed the wet, stone walls, and ran into the night, with the rain drenching his guilt ridden cloak.
Idyan Chronicles - Prologue, Part VI
(Approximately 356 years before the republic, 6th day of Ereal)
Legate Palium Ulyssia of the third Idyan Legion stared beyond the hills north of the city. The northern raiders were beaten back yet again by the courageous soldiers to the republic. The sun was shining that day and Ereal was on their side. The charred corpses of the Cinari were sleeping serenely at the base of the hill as the raging fires consumed their bodies. Palium gestured towards a young Idyan officer and pointed at the charred corpses. The boy bowed and dragged the corpse to another pile off in the horizon.
His aide, Centurion Casius Pyosius looked back at his hometown. The northern walls of Idya crumbled from the Cinari siege rams and hundreds of soldiers lay dead on the cobblestone roads. The Cinari were getting stronger and stronger after each passing day. There were rumors arising of a new ruler of the unified Cinari bands, however no one could confirm it yet. The raids were getting more frequent and the Idyan casualties were piling up to the thousands. Palium took another fleeting glance at the battlefield and sighed. All that destruction, all these pains for land and for a banner. He wished that Iris could see him now, a great, and possibly the youngest appointed Legate in the history of Idya.
It was at that moment that the dreadful night recollected in his mindÖ the long retalq knife, trying to creep stealthily through Iris' villa, finding his victim standing there, anticipating danger and finally striking the deathblow, seeing the blood oozing from Iris' back and finally seeing the look of disappointment on his face, a look of pure despair.
After a few seconds, Palium remember where he was and glanced around quickly, hoping no one saw him in this state. Fortunately, the hills were all but barren; most of the soldiers were at work at the base of the hill, burning the Cinari corpses.
It took an hour or so before the dust had settled and the scouts finished their job. Seeing the battle over, Palium turned away from the corpses and slowly headed towards the city. On the way to the Legion fortress on the outskirts of the city, a thin boy ran up to Palium. By the child's thin white toga and his thin blue linen belt, Palium recognized him for a messenger of the Inner Council. The thin child was panting heavily as the sun beat down on his back, nevertheless, he managed to speak with dignity and strength.
"Legate, the Inner council has requested me to deliver this message of great importance to you. They wish to meet you in one hour inside the Hall of the Councils to discuss about a secret matter. They demand that you be diligent for the audience." Announced the boy.
"Thank you for the message, Idyan brother. Please tell them that I will be on time for the meeting and that I will be standing in the hall of councils waiting." Replied Palium.
Palium took out a Centa and handed it to the messenger. The boyís eyes lit up at the sight of the shining gold coin and ran off towards the high forums.
When the Legate arrived at the large marble Parthenon shaped building that was the Hall of Councils, he could not help but stop at the doors and gaze at the marble pillars holding up the Hall of the Councils. With only a cursory glance, he was amazed at how tall the building was. On the sides of the great rectangular building stood two magnificent statues, a marble one of Ereal, holding a golden willow branch, and an onyx one of Invex, wielding a sharpened sword. Palium shook off the first feelings of awe and proceeded to climb the flight of stairs leading up to the grandiose oak doorways and walked in. His military boots made a light tapping noise as he walked in. Within the Halls stood many elderly men in togas, sitting around the fountain spewing philosophy and science from their wide open mouths as fast as the fountain poured water from its spout. Palium waited patiently by the fountain, which really looked more like a large basin for several minutes. Soon after, the hourly chimes rung and as if on cue, the Inner Council, dressed in black, red, and white togas marched slowly down the flight of stairs, which lead to the main conversation chambers. When the council came down the stairs, an eerie silence of awe permeated the room. The noisy old men stopped chattering and the young poets stopped their reciting. The inner council was here and they would get their respect or dire consequences could have been faced. When the council completed their descent down the flight of tall marble stairs, one of the red robed council members waved his hand sternly and as if guided by an invisible hand, they crowd stood up, bowed respectfully at the council and promptly shuffled out of the hall, leaving Palium alone to face the council. A short, stout man who Palium recognized as Physaeus removed his presence from the crowd of council members and approached Palium.
"This is the first time we have laid eyes on the youngest Legate and the rumors appear to be true. You are the spitting image of that great Iris. He left into the void so much earlier than he was destined to." Physaeus cleared his throat and continued to speak. "Anyways, how goes the defense of Idya?"
"Well enough, but Idya cannot stand much more of this, we lost another hundred men today" replied Palium.
"That will be no problem because the northern neighbour of Remath sent an army of five hundred several weeks ago. That army arrived last night with their commander General Imrad. They are staying at the eastern fortress while they are in the republic. In addition, their navy is unsurpassed in strength and they sent four warships to patrol our seas. The council consulted King Mepias a week ago and they agreed to send another eight hundred strong to the northern fortress near the upper branch of the south fork of the Invex." Physaeus remarked.
The council nodded in unison to Physaeus. Meanwhile, another man dressed in a mysterious red cloak and toga walked up to Iris and gave him a sword, it was approximately 32 inches long and was made out of the finest bronze. The pommel was of fine wood, wrapped in exquisite leather and studded with a large ruby in the center. Immediately, Palium knew what the sword was the moment he saw it.
"By Ereal, you give me the blade of Thyacles? I am not deserving of such a wondrous blade!" exclaimed Palium in complete surprise. "The blade of Thyacles, I can't believe it myselfÖ I thought it was buried with the great hero Iris after his untimely murder."
The elderly man replied to Palium, "No, it wasn't. Many of the soldiers thought so too, but Argenum IíNari found the blade in the scabbard of Iris within his locked chest. Argenum asked me to store it for safe keeping until we thought the next hero of ascension was in line to receive it. I kept it locked up in the vaults for over two months, and now I wish to give it to the following hero in our Annals foretold by the high priest Helion."
Palium accepted the blade from the man, wielding it in his soft, right hand. His delicate features although stung by the bitters of war looked like one of a spoiled prince. The blade was glowing with some force and he felt a surge of power flowing through his veins. The ruby was glittering, emitting a rainbow like color as it reflected off the sun.
The man smiled and interrupted Palium's dream-like trance, "Tis yours. You have the blessing of Ereal and the might of his priests, you will be a wonderful holder to the Thyacles' blade."
Palium nodded back. He knew in his mind that being the equal to Thyacles would be a difficult task, one that he might not be able to uptake. However, he had confidence that the old man had in him. The council waved at Palium and proceeded towards the great oak doors of the Hall, leaving Palium to chew on his thoughts and wondering what might become of him in the future.
Idyan Chronicles - Prologue, Part VII
(Approximately 355 years before the founding of Iridine, 14th day of Lucifalís Fall)
Pain, anguish, the voidÖ
Pain, anguish, the voidÖ
The pain of nothingness, the fear of the great darkness, the anxiety as time drifts slowly by, inching towards the last moment of his life.
Iris rose from his shadowy throne and took the axe from the obscure figure wielding it. Palium looked up at Iris and shivered in fear, pleading helplessly. He tried to break free from his restraints, but the ash black chains held him tightly, making him feel like an panther without legs. Suddenly, metal bands seemed to tighten and Palium could feel the air leaving his lungs and he gasped vainly for breath. Iris paced slowly towards Palium, still wielding the cruel instrument. He let out a cruel snicker as he polished the axe with his hand. The blade gleamed brightly with the fury of his anger and as he got near Palium, he held it above his head, ready for the killing blow. The shadowy figure snickered in unison and raised his whispery hand. Iris glanced back at the figure. The figure laughed one last time and nodded at Iris. Iris smiled with delight before brining the axe down on Palium. Palium yelled with a fearful scream and fainted.
Palium woke up as the rooster crooned its morning song. He looked around his sleeping chambers and slapped himself on the cheek. As he felt the sharp sting of his blow, he realized that the experience was merely a dream. He glanced out the window and relished in the light of Ereal rising over the eastern fields. He grabbed his cloak and his uniform and wore it carefully. He then wore the suit of armor over his undergarments and placed the tight bronze helm over his head. Next he grabbed his heavy black boots and snapped the buckles around his ankles. They fit snuggly around his feet and went to the washing chambers. He took out a small tooth scraper and a clean dry towel from his cabinet. He drenched the cloth in clean water and wiped his face clean. Next he scraped his teeth with the tool winced as droplets of blood came from his teeth and rinsed his mouth with a small glass of water. He swooshed the relatively clear fluid in his mouth and spat it into the small bronze basin. He looked at the reflecting pool and saw a drop of red in his eyes. As he looked, more and more of the crimson fluid dripped from the slits of his eyes and in panic he screamed. He looked out the chamber windows and saw the citizens look up in surprise. After the shock had worn off, he felt his eyelids and felt no wetness. He looked back at the basin and saw only his face, wrinkled only with the recent stress and fear. He stood for a moment in complete shock and shook his thoughts away.
When his morning duties were completed, he walked out of the large bronze doors of the insula with a small fig biscuit in his mouth and a small wineskin full of sunfruit wine in his hands. He headed for the grand amphitheatre where the council would be discussing about the new Cinari warlord Talgraen. He stopped at the front gates, where several hundred men, most of which dressed in elegant togas began to stroll in. Two other men dressed in the traditional Idyan uniforms, rank centurion approached Palium.
"Good day sir" smiled one of the men.
"Arrived for the meeting?" asked the other.
"Yes," replied Palium. "I am worried. This new Cinari warlord could pose a threat if he manages to rally all of the scattered tribes. United, they could pose a dangerous threat. I wonder if we can defeat them?" Answered Palium.
"With your leadership, Idya will not fall, your greatness equals that of the Inner Council." Smiled the first man.
"Yes sir, I am glad to join your company and to bask in all of your greatness." Grinned the other.
"Thatís extremely kind, but even I doubt myself in this time of crisis," sighed Palium. "Why donít get a seat over there?" as Palium pointed at a row of empty seats in the center of the auditorium.
The two centurions nodded and walked down the great steps towards the great semi-circle stage made of marble. Palium followed behind them. The two men found their seats in an inner column and sat down. Palium followed them, and quietly shuffled a few inches away.
A short man wearing a white embroidered tunica, held by an aged leather belt walked onto the stage. He cleared his throat and sipped a small glass of water. The amphitheatre quickly silenced and as they did the man began to speak.
"Dear members of the citizenís assembly, the patricians, and the esteemed members of the military. The Inner council is here to discuss a threat to the State of Idya and all her people. Recently, Cinari warlords annexed several northern tribes and are preparing them for war. In addition, they secretly purchased massive amounts of weapons and supplies for the army from the Remathens. It seems their offer of mercy was less sincere than was expected."
The man paused for a brief moment, allowing the news to permeate the forum. With no voice to quiet them, the participants began to speak in hushed tones.
The inner council representative then continued unfazed, "Our diplomats will discuss these treacherous acts with their king and we hope this matter will be straightened out. In addition, we would like to announce the new placements of our Legions. The northern forces commanded by Legate Heulia will launch an attack on the southern Cinari lands in the villages of Ghinds, Afarea, and Blackridge. If we can capture these towns with a single, swift gesture, we should be able to call for the surrender of the warlordís troops and put an early end to the war..."
This time, the patricians did not wait for the man to stop before whispering secret words amongst each other.
"The eastern Cinari tribes have not yet submitted to the new warlord and may be able to fight on our behalf as well. The eastern Legion commanded by the honorable Legate Palium Ulyssia, the hero of Thyacles will protect Idya and if needed, will assist in the assault of the three villages. The Remathen reinforcements will be stationed in the northern hills and the eastern fortress to replace Legate Heuliaís forces." The man took a deep breath and rested for a few moments. He sipped his beverage again and continued speaking. "In light of this event, the council has decided to put out a curfew for the citizensí protection. The curfew will be in effect two hours after sunset while the Herald Guardians patrol the evening streets. Any formal complaints should be made to council member Thalis this eveningÖ"
"Palium, look at meÖ" suddenly whispered a broken voice.
Palium twitched in surprise and looked around the auditorium, but saw only that people were listening intently at the stage and listening diligently. When Palium spun his head around to the other side, he saw Iris sitting beside him, frowning; his face pale as an oysterís pearl.
Palium shrieked and the people within a small radius from him stared. Beads of sweat dripped down his face as he realized what he did. The two officers sitting beside him turned around raised their eyebrows in surprise and stared at Palium. Palium blushed and waved his hands sheepishly. The people, realizing that the show was over turned back towards the stage and continued to listen to the man at the podium.
Turning his attention back at the figure, Palium whispered to the phantom, "Why are you here? What are you doing here?" However, the ghost ignored him and only returned a blank and sorrowful stare.
"Please, tell me what I did, what did I do wrong?" but yet again, it was oblivious to his questions.
"Tell me! Please! Itís tearing me up inside! I donít know what to do!" Palium shouted at the phantom of Iris. Again the figure ignored him and again the people stared at Palium, apparently many times more entertaining than the droning speaker. Palium immediately stood up, looked around in fear and ran up the stairs to the wide cobblestone roads, away from the glaring eyes.
Palium slammed the door to his apartment and ran inside. He jumped into his bed and wept. He turned his head up so he could the sky, praying for Ereal, but instead saw the apparition of Iris, looming over him like a vile vulture ready to scavenge on a manís guilt.
Finally, the ghost spoke. "You killed me, why?" said the ghost in a mournful, innocent voice.
"I thought I had to do what was right; the powers of the dark moon and the servants of darkness possessed you. Excuse me for my prejudices. I thought I did what was right." trembled Palium.
"YouÖ You thought that?" gazed Iris in surprise. "You thought I would be persuaded by Keravinís dark powers? I thought you knew me better," the figure replied.
"I am sorry, Iris dear friend, let me repay you. What can I do to repent my wrong doings?" said Palium with sheer concern in his voice.
"There is not one deed you can do, not even the Blade of Thyacles can do. Not even it can return my life and set things right." Replied the ghost.
"I will do whatever you wish me to so you can be ripped from the void which you dwell in now." And Palium removed the glowing blade from his sheath. "Can you take my life now?"
"Stupid fool," laughed the apparition. "Do not set things rightÖ for right is only the tool of the meek, the only barrier between their life and their death. You have the power, use it as you sees fit. You cannot be challenged by any mortal with the will to fight you. You can set things as you wish them to be. Heed my words." The figure smiled and vanished into thin air without even a trace, Palium looked around the insula apartment to find where the spirit went, but all that was left was the gentle zephyr blowing through his sleeping chamber windows on that warm, sunny day. He looked at his blade, then the great structure, which held the great Inner Council. He looked back at his blade, and shifted his attentions towards a small mirror beside his bed. "How would I look wearing a crownÖ" he looked at himself and shook his head. No, he couldnít do it. That would be wrong. He looked at the sky and hoped someone or something could guide him to what is right. He thought of all the things in his life, the things he didnít do because he was too apathetic or too thoughtful. "Right is only the tool of the meek, the only barrier between their life and death. You have the power, use it as you see fit." echoed the apparition.
He looked at the mirror and he looked at the tapestry of Thyacles fighting the poison adder of Scyros. His mind lit up, as he knew what he would do. In a blaze of triumphant revelations, he cackled a frightening and bloodcurdling noise that scared even the ravens away. This time, he would follow through his ambitions and his dreams, without doubt of his actions.
(Three days later)
"My lord, what is it you wish?" asked a ragged man with a crooked nose. He smelled like a denizen of the dark alleys and even looked like it. His bloodstained tunic was littered with lice and all sorts of nasty vermin that crawled on his skin. The ragged man scratched himself.
"You are the one called Nightshade?" asked Palium.
The man suddenly stood up in surprise and smirked, "Very good legate. I guess I have been had. Will you arrest me now?" The man brushed off his disguise, and folded his arms as if proud of his title.
"Filthy assassin, on the contrary, I have a job for you. Since you are no better than any scum I have seen, your life is forfeit if you do not do as I command. At the dinner tonight with the Inner Council and the war leaders in the hall of Praeteus the Bold, you must pour this vial of poison into their food. This toxin will kill them by the time they sleep. Only pour it into the plates of those of the Inner Council. Do not pour it into the food of the Legates. If you perform your task properly, I will pay you handsomely tomorrow." Replied Palium.
"Poison? That task is to be done by me? I wish not to accept a command for the forces of the law andÖ" and immediately he felt the nudge of the edge of a small dirk under his chin. Feeling the other end of his usual weapon, he quickly changed sides. "Yes sir. I will do as such. And you will pay me, right?"
"Do you look like the person in charge? You will get what you deserve when you finish the job. If you choose to reveal this plan, you will die and no one will believe your hideous accusations. If you choose not to do it, I will hunt you down. In any case, obedience deserves reward; disobedience deserves you to look at your beheaded corpse. See me tonight at midnight and I will reward you for your services" Snarled Palium.
"ButÖ" whimpered the assassin, trying to gain an upper hand in this deal. "The hall must be securely guarded. How would I get in?"
Palium saw the validity in his query and replied, "Knock out the cook, steal a servant's garmentsÖ I do not care, as long as the job is done."
The man swallowed and nodded. He tried to quickly regain his composure, took a deep bow and headed out of the building, with the minute vial of poison palmed up his tight wristband.
A few minutes later, a second man came in, wearing an Idyan soldierís uniform.
"What do you wish of me, Legate?" asked the soldier.
"I have a favor to ask you. The Inner council has ordered me to send a message to the forces of the eastern fortress. Tell them that our forces will prepare to attack in two days. Inform Centurion Artevan to train the troops twice as hard. I need you to relay this announcement. Report back to me a few minutes after midnight to confirm your message was received. Did you get that?" said Palium.
"Aye, sir. I am under your command." saluted the soldier and walked out the doors.
Palium smiled with delight. The plan was working out as expected.
There was a loud knocking at Paliumís door that night. Palium shook himself awake and shuffled towards the front door. He stopped, looked at the nightstand and grabbed the long retalq knife on the table then continued towards the door. When he opened the door, a thin man dressed in the white uniform of a courier panted and wheezed.
"What is it, messenger?" asked Palium.
"SorryÖ" panted the boy. "I am exhausted from the journey. But I have an important message from Legate Heulia. He says that the Entire Inner Council was found dead in their respective sleeping chambers! Only the highest members of the government know. If the commons were to know, chaos would destroy the city in a blaze of fire."
"What! That is not possible! How did they die?" asked Palium.
"The constables could not find any sign of how they were killed. No wounds or burns, not even a blemish. They suspect it is poison, but that is hard to prove as well." Replied the messenger.
"How... terrible." Replied the legate, with but an undetectable hint of joy. What will happen to the Inner Council?" asked Palium.
"Iím not sure. I believe they will elect an emperor to take over the duties of the Inner Council for a while. The citizenís assembly will vote on the emperor tomorrow and after things have settled, I believe that they will select the new Inner Council from the citizenís assembly." Replied the messenger with still a hint of fatigue in his voice.
Palium nodded. The messenger left Paliumís abode and another knock rung from the door.
"Come in," cried Palium.
The ragged street man walked in, still in the servant's outfit.
"I have done, as you demanded. As you can see, by services were masterful. I humbly ask for my pay." Grinned the assassin.
"You did well," Palium said as he reached for the back of his belt. He gripped the small retalq dirk in his left hand and approached the man. The man reluctantly took a step back, tense by this common gesture by his ex-employers. Palium walked closer and closer to the man and the man swallowed the lump in his throat. Palium took a small pouch hanging from his belt and give it to the man. The man smiled and grabbed it. As the man turned back towards the door, he heard a slight scratching sound. He looked back quickly, with his refined senses and swiveled for his concealed knife, but it was too late and Palium's skill was too great as he felt the sharp sting of a sharp blade down his back and saw the hilt of the dagger stuck in his spine. The man fell down quickly and breathed his last breath.
A shadow lingered at the door and Palium heard the sound of someone pushing open the door. Palium looked up from the corpse to see the soldier he ordered earlier. He looked at Palium, looked at the bloody body on the floor, look back up at Palium and turned ghost white.
"Who, who is that?" asked the soldier.
"That is the great assassin known only as Nightshade," said Palium. "He was preparing to murder me, like he killed the Inner Council," gesturing at the knife in the assassin's palm. "However I managed to stick that dagger down his back when he tried to flee from my superior skill. I am glad you got here, even if it was a bit too late."
The officer nodded, "Aye sir. I will inform the constables of this crime. They will clean out the body in a half an hour or so." And the soldier gave Palium a proud salute and left, leaving Palium alone to dwell on his deeds.
With the death of the Inner Council concealed, and the final orders of the Inner Council an incompetent oneÖ there would be doubts amongst the military of the Inner Council's competence in leading a war.
"The case has been closedÖ and a new emperor has been found" smiled Palium, as he looked up at the night sky, towards the sullen gray moon, wafting in the evening sky.
Idyan Chronicles - Prologue, Part VIII
(Approximately 355 years before the founding of Iridine, 20th day of Lucifalís Fall)
The ceremonial area of the Hall of Councils was full of people that day; young and old, rich and poor, men and women as a battalion of Idyan infantry stood around the great violet carpet. Four horn players strided up to the decorated throne of the new Emperor and played their instruments with triumphant bursts of sound as the Citizenís Assembly made their way to the Inner Council seats and sat down. Next came three stalwart Idyan heavy infantry dressed in the finest bronze armor marching proudly down the hall and soon after, the new Imperator followed suit, young Idyan maidens showering him with handfuls of colored rice. The crowd was clapping and cheering with the expected happiness of a new leader and while Palium approached the leader of the Citizenís Assembly, he stood up and lifted a small round crown from the nearby servant, who was holding it jovially. He then paced over to the throne and waited for the Emperor to arrive at the steps. When he finally arrived in front of the decorated seat, Phelium Juric bowed to the emperor. The emperor bowed back and kneeled in front of the councilman. Phelium held the golden crown engraved with an olive branch and placed it on the new emperorís head. The anticipating crowds applauded with once more with great vigor and enthusiasm and in response, Palium placed himself on the large, ebony throne, carved by the greatest Celtere carpenters. From his vantage point, Palium could see the entire hall, his adoring subjects and the twelve members of the Citizenís Assembly seating themselves on the chairs surrounding a long marble table.
"I proudly announce the presence of our new emperor, the one who will lead Idya to the golden age. I present the great Palium Ulyssia, the new ruler of Idya!" Phelium shouted.
The crowd applauded at Palium with a loud cheer that could be heard by even the most isolated of hermits.
Palium stood up from the great chair and waved at the people. Finally, he held his other hand up, bidding for silence. The chamber immediately became quiet, with only the last echoes of their cheer resonating around them.
"Dear friends and comrades, I am not deserving of your applaud or respect. My duty as emperor will be as a legate or any soldier in the legion, to serve my homeland Idya to the best of my ability. I appreciate your confidence in voting me as the new emperor, but thanks are not needed when I am only doing something any loyal citizen would do." Palium paused for a brief moment and seizing the moment, the citizens responded with an astounding wave of applause.
Palium held his left hand high into the air again, calming down the citizens. "Thank you citizens of Idya. However, we must head to more important things; we must address several problems facing the state. First of all, the war with the Cinari warlord must be resolved. The previous plan to annex the southern Cinari villages is being changed. I am sending legate Heulia to parlay with the warlord at the Cinari fortress at Cerath. I hope that a bloodless solution can be resolved so that it benefits the Cinari and Idyans mutually. With respect to the recent and tragic death of the Inner Council, the local constabulary has found the corpse of the cruel murderer, none other than the evil malevolent assassin figure known as Nightshade, scourge of the Republic. His rein of terror has been stopped once and for all, but all the loss of many a loved one." And with his words spoken, Palium sat down. The audience applauded politely at the emperor's speech.
"Meeting is adjourned." Bellowed the man to the left of Palium and struck a small hammer against a small hollow metal sphere. The sphere made a light clanging noise and a light hum rung through the grand pillared hallways. The assembly members stood up and bowed at the emperor. The crowd stood up from their seats as well and bowed to the emperor. The assembly ceremoniously walked out of the chambers first, in a neat single line. Next departed the crowd in a more disorderly manner, leaving the emperor alone sitting in the large, empty hall.
Palium looked around and smiled. He had done it. He was the new ruler of Idya. If he can now show the citizens the light and the path to peace and right, he would have done his job in his world. Palium sat back and sighed.
"You will pay for your crimes," cried a muffled voice.
Paliumís eyes went wide open and he looked around. The chamber was empty and there was not a soul in sight.
"You will pay for your crimes," said the muffled voice again. Palium looked at the source of the sound and found that his sword was glowing lightly. Palium unsheathed the blade and held it up to this face. The blade glowed with an unearthly light.
"You are not worthy for me, Palium. Your destiny is sealed." Moaned the blade.
Palium looked with utter shock. Could the sword know that? How did it know?
The sword glowed again and the blade became a long serpent with two fearsome pointed teeth. The serpent struck at Palium and sunk its teeth into his hand. Two large holes appeared on Paliumís hand and he winced. He looked at the blade, which stopped glowing. The serpent became a blade once again and his hand was untouched. He sighed, took a small clay vial from his pocket and drank the cold, bitter fluid.
Idyan Chronicles - Prologue, Part IX
(Approximately 355 years before the founding of Iridine, 12th day of Yulid)
The soldier looked around the forest. The birds were chirping, the dense foliage of the Cinari forest rustled above his head, and the rotting leaves of the forest floor were making a soft crunching noise with each step he took. The soldier turned around once more and looked deep into the thick grove of trees. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a faint trace of gray smoke; the sign of a small village nestled nearby.
"Sir! I have a sign of the village. We are in prime condition to attack them." Cried the scout.
"Affirmative soldier. Run to First Centurion Gravenís camp. Inform him that we have spotted the village of Afarea and our one hundred men are ready to strike." Shouted the Centurion Casseopis.
"Aye sir!" saluted the scout and ran off to the south, clearing the forest as fast as a jaguar.
"Men! Prepare your weapons. We will be marching to Afarea in an hour after a quick bite and we will be upon those smoldering ruins mere minutes after that!" Smiled the centurion.
The brave Idyan soldiers stood up and raised their spears and cried out a loud hurrah. As they prepared their weapons for battle, they chewed on the dense, stale bread and salted cheese that was their meal. Afterwards, several men grabbed the buckets from the supply tent and filled then up with the crystal-clear water from the nearby stream, flowing gracefully along the river. They poured the buckets of water at the smoking ashes and a great puff of steam rose from the glowing embers. The others donned their heavy bronze armor and clasped every single intricate lock on, which took mere minutes for the trained Idyan troops. The soldiers then neatly folded their sleeping blanket and packed it into their heavy backpack, took their heavy seven-foot long spears and their polished bronze fighting Drusus from their packs and placed the short blade inside the leather scabbard. They wielded the spears in their hands and strapped the heavy rectangular shield in their left arm, covering them from head to toe. Finally, they grabbed two pila from their backpacks and kept it ready on their sides.
"Everyone, in formation! We have two miles to cover, so we have to be on our way! " Barked the centurion; and with amazing efficiency, the soldiers quickly lined up in position and wielded their weapons in the standard attack formation, a ten by ten formation with a long twelve feet long pike in front of them, creating an impenetrable wall of spikes ahead. The three-dozen skirmishers protected their flanks, wielding several throwing javelins and a nice sharp pugio dagger in their sheathes.
An hour later, the Idyan force arrived at the edge of the forest into the outskirts of the village. The Cinari guard towers, filled with vigilant archers noticed the incoming force of Idyans.
"Ajuth mentir ratath! Ur dos agur!" a defender cried.
Speeding towards the warning horn, a young Cinari rushed to the upper level of the tower and pressed his lips to the horn and blew upon it just as a trained Idyan skirmisher neatly planted a deadly javelin into the young man's back, throwing him off the tower. With the intensity of a thousand bulls, the sound soon alerted the small town. Villagers began to scream and run around like beheaded chickens while a small force of Cinari infantry rushed from the barracks, swords wielded high in the air.
"Attack!" commanded the centurion and with traditional Idyan discipline, the formation broke up and formed a wide line. Twenty soldiers formed the front row and prepared for the Cinari charge. With berserker rage, the Cinari grew closer and their battle cries grew nearer. When the Cinari tried to surround the Idyan flank, it was the time for them to strike. With lightning quick speed, the skirmishers emerged from the dense foliage and launched a volley of deadly javelins at the Cinari footmen. Being caught unaware, they fell for the simple trap and saw the shafts of the deadly weapon protruding from their chest. The rear lines dropped their spears, pulled out their swords and weaved through the front spear line, charging at the forward Cinari band. The marauding troops deftly sliced past the first Cinari lines and cut them down with ease.
However, when the first Cinari fell from the battle, the Idyans fell with them, for suddenly out of nowhere came a storm of pila, falling from the sky like a demon's rain and pierced the Idyan ranks. From the cover of the snow-covered forest charged an additional horde of hardened Cinari berserkers, holding twin battleaxes in their outstretched hands. The Idyan force, despite their better training and weapons could not hold the enraged axe men back and one by one, an Idyan life was claimed by the twirling edge of the hurled axe. All around the centurion his men were dying, and it was then that he knew his destiny: Time had come for their retreat; the Cinari were much smarter than they looked, and they were considerably tougher from of the harsh weather of the cold northern climes. He flinched and looked around again to survey the situation. When he saw an Idyan soldier fall at his feet, his eyes wide open in terror and despair did he realize that it was the only choice. The muddy ground was spilled with the blood of Idyans that day, a stain so large even Ereal could notice the warring of his children from so far away.
"Veles formation! Retreat!" yelled the centurion in apprehension. Several Idyan soldiers broke formation and engaged the bulk of the Cinari, sacrificing their own lives for the survival of the unit while the surviving infantry and skirmishers lifted their bulky shields, raised it to their bodies, and ran for the woods while hearing the shameful Cinari taunts haunting their each and every step.
(Noon, Centurion Gravenís camp)
"Please report your status of the battle Centurion." Said Graven sternly, with a distinct hint of disappointment in his voice.
"The attack failed. When my men attacked, they struck with most brutal efficiency. But when we killed the first Cinari, javelins came from nowhere, killing several men. Soon after, the bulk of the Cinari army emerged, hiding in the woods charged at our position. Our forces were outmatched five to one. We couldnít stand a chance. It seemed like the Cinari were actually there waiting for us." Whimpered Casseopis.
"Failure?" asked Graven and he raised an eyebrow. "I never expected failure from a centurion. You disappoint me deeply," Graven sighed.
"ButÖ but we were outnumbered five to one!" the centurion returned. "They had troops coming from the north and an army of nearly a thousand strong advancing on our position. Our unit was lucky and skilled to have only lost twenty-five men."
"I will tolerate no more of this! You had several chances to avoid the confrontation. First of all, your scouting wasnít thorough enough. And secondly, you should not have displayed your entire force before you had an accurate depiction of the enemy. These two simple strategies could have prevented twenty lives. Your punishment by orders of the emperor is an immediate demotion to Sub-Altern and you will be assigned to the centurion Alphaces at Salmyra. Now be off and an escort will send you to camp Indri," snorted Graven in contempt.
Casseopis muttered under his breath and walked off to a small leather pavilion to prepare for his new tour of duty.
(Eight days later, early afternoon: Idyan Hall of Consuls)
Palium glared at the battlefield reports and sighed a deep breath of depression. The Cinari launched a preemptive strike on the northern armies and defeated First Centurion Gravenís forces at Afarea, resulting in over five hundred lost lives. First Centurion Graven was promptly stripped of his rank was ordered to return to Centurion Alphaces at camp Indri until a further report could be made. The Cinari pillaged the Idyan village of Relunt and the outlying fortress, which Graven was stationed at.
"Do you have anything else to report?" asked Palium.
"No, these are all for today. The Citizenís Assembly wishes to meet with you regarding matters of the state tomorrow afternoon at the council chambers." Replied the messenger.
Palium nodded. "I understand. Please tell them I will attend no matter the consequences."
"I shall relay your message," as the man bowed and ran off out of the chamber of councils.
The situation was getting bleak and the state was still reeling in chaos from the recent deaths of the Council.
On top of that, his two proclamations had become two dismal failures. Legate Heulia tried to parlay with the Cinari Warlord to attempt to forge a treaty but instead, the devious Talgraen poisoned Heuliaís provisions with a deadly poison during the meeting and only in the morning did Heulia's escort find his corpse, sprawled on the floor. The then scattered Idyan convoy was promptly captured and killed without the leadership of a legate. At least it wasnít a complete failure as the ever-annoying legate was killed in the "unfortunate" incident.
Palium let out a small snicker then froze. He was taking joy from a manís death. He looked at his hands and screamed at the ceiling, hoping to dispel the cruelty that lingered within. He stood up and grabbed a small flower vase standing upon a short marble pillar and tossed the glass jar at the wall. It broke with a loud crash; the glass cracked and flew in every direction, some hitting Palium, scarring his youthful face. He screamed in pain and stumbled to another pillar. With a swift kick, he knocked it down. The marble column cracked in half and another fragile vase broke when it helplessly followed the pillar's lead.
When the guards heard the noise, they opened the large bronze doors and at first, they saw nothing. However, as they scanned around the room, the bewildered soldiers finally saw a figure in the corner of the chamber. In wide-eyed awe they gazed at Palium, huddled in the far corner of the hall crying and whimpering.
"Get out please!" Palium suddenly snapped at the surprised soldiers. When Palium looked up, the soldiers saw a morbid sight. His cheek was dripping with deep red blood, his eyes were bloodshot red and his veins were pulsing, as if they were about to burst. Palium clenched his teeth together and started breathing deeply.
"You heard me? Go away!" screamed Palium. And suddenly a vein burst, causing a swollen purple blemish on his cheek. Palium felt his cheek and gasped. The soldiers, still shocked and frightened at the same time marched away, which looked more like a panicked flee when they heard the distinct scraping of Idyan bronze against the cold floor of marble.
Idyan Chronicles - Chronicle I, Part I
(352 years before the founding of Iridine, 8th day of Echoes)
K'oras glanced at the tall marble pillars that formed the base of the Hall of Councils. They were most definitely more impressive than the makeshift "shanty shacks" of the Cinari halls of Warriors. A bit too elegant he thought. Who is the governing body to deserve any more than the citizens are? He glanced back at the majestic cobblestone forum surrounding the building and walked in. The purely decadent halls were showered with great tapestries and murals inside. Even a grand mosaic of the Battle of Thyacles hung above the overly polished stair rails. K'oras let out a snicker of contempt. Thyacles, the great Idyan hero was a joke. His famed blade is no match for the Cinari hammer. He grabbed onto the cold, Iron hammer with his left hand and felt its power surge through his hands.
A stout man, with an elegantly embroidered toga draped over his bulky frame and a clearly thinning hairline tapped his back.
"Hullo?" asked the balding man. "Do you require assistance or have an appointment with the most exalted Emperor Ulyssia?"
K'oras nodded. The man smiled and walked up the stairs to the huge gold washed doors.
"The government sure has too much money on their handsÖ" muttered K'oras.
As he pondered, he reminisced back to his fatherís war tent. His father was the great Cinari Chieftain Irios who wielded the sacred war hammer of Chyron, an ancient family relic. He looked at the solid iron hammer hanging on his thick leather belt. The hammer weighed fifteen pounds, despite its two-foot long length. Only the most powerful warriors were able to wield the weapon deftly, without either flying with the hammer's momentum or from swinging it too lightly.
He clearly remembered the night his father gave him the sacred weapon. It was a cold winterís night, a night where the bitter northern winds could scrape a man's flesh from his bone. He had just passed the challenge of the warrior not long before. His fatherís advisor, the tall Cinari seer Vishan approached the then young Khoras.
"Your father is slipping away. He wishes to see you before he dies. It is time to perform the ceremony of the last breath," whispered Vishan.
K'oras nodded. The time had come. From birth, K'oras learned to accept death as a transition. His fatherís death was also such a step in life and he knew what he had to do.
He walked into the large oiled leather pavilion of the village shrine. K'oras looked around the tent and saw a small battalion of soldiers standing around him, paying their deepest respects to their most respected leader. Vishan stood in the center of the dimly lit shelter and held a long ceremonial sword in his open hands. K'oras walked beside his fatherís deathbed and Irios offered the glowing blue hammer to his son. He accepted the hammer with a joyous pride, placed the cold iron weapon into a notch in his belt and bowed to his father. Irios nodded back and he suddenly coughed and wheezed. Small droplets of crimson dew came from his mouth and stained his great white beard and his chin. Irios raised his shaking and wrinkled hand and make a slicing gesture at his neck. K'oras nodded to Irios and grabbed the bronze blade from Vishan. As a final honor to his father, he held the blade up in an overhead stabbing stance and plunged the long blade of the sword deep into his fatherís heart. Before his father slipped into the dark abyss of death, Irios looked up at K'oras, grasped his hand and smiled.
"You are the new chieftain and hero of the village. May the honour of Jefandar guide you at all times." whispered Irios as blood poured from his mouth and then finally his eyes closed for the last time.
Despite all the conditioning K'oras went through as a child, his eyes moistened and a single tear came from his eye. He quickly wiped the tear from his eye and lifted his fatherís body with an uneasy grace. The soldiers saluted at K'oras and followed him outside to the graveyard.
For the next two days, K'oras dug his fatherís grave. First, he used his bare hands to dig a hole, a hole as deep as the bowels of hell. By the time he finished, his hands were filthy and scarred with the jagged rocks of the northern soil. His face was brown, soiled and wind burnt by the dirt he dug up and billowing draft, his feet were blistered from the endless standing and his knees scarred from all the kneeling he did. In the end, K'oras hammered a large wooden post, blessed and made by the high priest Marus into the hard earth and placed his fatherís pale, lifeless corpse into the pit. He spent another day filling in the hole with his now scarred hands and sang an ancient Cinari death chant as he worked to commemorate the honor and strength of the former leader.
"Ehten alvit, nhorus endai it vigos nahru ishit it ishit. Van galla honora jahtir it alvit. Sitos va na it, ruma va na it, lukas va na it. Photos grapa va na it dura kappun di creos va na it di freosÖ"
"Sir, are you awake?"
K'orasí eyes went wide open to see the bulbous head of the bald man, inspecting him carefully for any signs of life. "Iím ready to see the emperor," replied K'oras.
The man bowed and pointed at himself. He started to walk towards the other end of the hall. K'oras slowly followed the servant up the stairs and stopped at the great golden doors, which held the emperor's vast office. The man tapped the huge metal doors and swiftly, the overly extravagant gate opened. A man dressed in the finest bronze cuirass came out of the door and bowed at K'oras. K'oras snorted as he took a quick glance at the soldier. The guard wasnít even fully-grown yet; his hands were smooth as a patrician lady's, his face unscarred and his arms thin. He knew the boy would not be able to defeat even a Cinari recruit.
"Emperor Ulyssia is ready to receive you." Proclaimed the boy with an obvious tone of defiance.
"Thank you," grunted K'oras and entered the emperorís office.
He paced into the magnanimous office and as he entered, Palium stood up. K'oras walked towards the conference table and stood in front of the grand ebony chair. Palium nodded and sat down on his throne.
"Sit down" remarked Palium and gestured towards the chair. K'oras did so. "I've been wanting to talk to you ever since I've heard of your various conquests and now that the opportunity has arisen, I ask for your services and skills."
"Emperor Ulyssia," said K'oras. "My services as a mercenary are at your command. However, I require a small amount of currency to feed my soldiers. I propose an initial installation fee of sixteen thousand centas for my menís provisions and another twenty-four thousand centa for additional equipment."
"forty thousand centa?" frowned Palium. "Do you realize how much that is? Even a patrician would be envious of such an amount. I will only give you thirty thousand centa and not a Bynus more."
"Six thousand isÖ adequate. But donít expect me to do any more than as needed. I will launch the attack and no more. I have a thousand soldiers at your service." Replied K'oras.
"Only a single thousand? I heard you had twice as many. But I will be generous and not decrease your fees any further. I hope you can execute my plans with only one thousand soldiers." Palium said.
"My men are extremely adept, you need not worry. My army can defeat your Idyan ëlegionsí with ease," snickered K'oras. "What are one hundred thousand children compared to my forces?"
Palium stared at K'oras. He knew the mercenary was right. His forces werenít trained enough to defeat the Cinari army. He needed the mercenaryís help. What K'oras didnít know was that Idya lost over forty thousand soldiers to the Cinari in only three yearís of war. Even now, the Cinari have blockaded all the supply lines to the city of Viluntium and the Cinari troops, lead by the ever growing warlord Talgraen were poised to conquer the city ever since the loss of the villages of Thenra and Aurin. "Would you like me to repeat my orders for your troops?" asked Palium.
"Yes" K'oras replied.
"Alright. You know that the Cinari are poised to attack Viluntium any day now. Our scouts report over twenty thousand men setting up camp outside the cityís walls. With most of the legion fortified near Monlon and Idya, I want you to inform Legate Valon to deploy Legio XII and Centurion Sureshotís twelve hundred archers to attack the Cinari camp from the Viluntium valley. Once the two armies reach the heart of Viluntium plains, they will be confined and then your men will launch catapults directly into the battlefield. In addition, order your archers to set the plains on fire surrounding the fighting forces. The Idyan sacrifice will allow us to destroy the Cinari army and severely cripple the warlord. However, I fear that if I send any less than the entire force, the warlord will not dedicate his troops either, thereby making the trap useless."
Screaming from the streets outside the room abruptly disturbed the peaceful silence of the conference.
"Free the tyranny!" shouted a chorus of voices.
Palium and K'oras looked outside. An unruly mob of citizens gathered outside the curia. A few of the newly founded 'Enforcers of Idya', a new order created from the disbanding of the old republic Constables held out their staves and blocked the people from entering.
"Bring down the Despot!" screamed a middle-aged woman carrying a baby in her arms.
"Yeah, bring down the despot!" followed the crowd.
However, one of the rowdier (and drunker) protestors decided that enough was enough. He picked up an empty alcohol bottle and hurled it at an enforcer. It hit the man square in the forehead and he fell backwards. The rest of the mob, following the drunkardís example picked up stray objects from the ground and tossed them at the enforcers. The enforcers took a step back, twirled their quarterstaves and held it in an aggressive combat position. Some of the citizens drew their daggers and makeshift implements while the citizens in the rear continued to pelt the constables with stones. A particularly sharp stone suddenly struck the Captainís face and blood dripped from his face. His face became grim and he raised his quarter stave in an overhead position.
"Attack!" barked the captain. The six enforcers shifted their hands and wielded their staves menacingly. Suddenly, they snapped their hands in a quick sidestroke at the citizens. The citizens howled in pain as they felt the sharp sting of the shafts of wood. Several of the men dropped to their knees, but a few of them were still standing. Some of the more cowardly and wiser protestors decided that they had enough and ran away in terror, only to be stopped by a fresh company of enforcers coming from the main roads. The enforcers held out their hand and ordered the people to stop. The citizens halted and stood there. The enforcers smirked and took this golden opportunity to give the people a fractured hip.
"Stop! Please stop!" cried a raggedly dressed woman as she crumpled down on the dusty road. "My child! You canít hit her!" She huddled the crying child under her arms as the cruel enforcers laid blow after blow upon her fragile frame.
After the enforcers were satisfied with their handiwork, they dragged the wailing protestors into the dark, dank cells nearby. K'oras looked back up at Palium, who was grinning intently at the brutal scene. He had an expression of shock on his face then stopped as Palium looked up to face K'oras.
"My apologies for the disturbance back there," grinned Palium. "It was a minor inconvenience. An evil sect intent on destroying the social order caused the riot. They are a feared group of vigilantes, destroying what they believe is wrong.
K'oras nodded and forced a reluctant smile. Palium smiled back and patted him in the shoulder. "You will execute the plan in two weeks. Move your army to Viluntium and I will give you an official letter of orders to present to the Commander stationed there."
Palium gave K'oras a small scroll case with an exquisite lock bearing the golden emblem of Idya. K'oras carefully took it and placed it in his small belt sack. He saluted Palium, turned around and briskly walked out through the golden doors.
Palium walked over to the guard. The guard responded by giving him a quick salute.
"Guard, I want you to run over to Legate Pliny Lanum's house. Tell him that I wish to see him. I have some important business to discuss"
The guard smiled, "Thank you, emperor! I will do it as fast as possible." And he sped off down the grand staircase in an attempt to please the emperor.
A few hours passed slowly. Palium signed some official notices, read the day's battle reports, attended a dull council meeting about the harvests and crop growth; all in all, a normal day. Palium went back to the conference room, signing some more bureaucratic forms when the heavy closed doors were sounded with a loud knock.
The voice of the young guard pierced through the solid metal impediment. "Emperor, I have Legate Lanum here. Should I let him in?"
Palium replied, "Certainly, and please close the door behind the legate."
The golden doors opened to reveal a tall man. He was dressed in the lavish uniform of an Idyan Legate, including an inscribed breastplate, ceremonial greaves with other matching pieces of armor, and a long flowing orange cloak, blazing with a golden sun etched on the back.
The doors closed slowly behind the man. As the veil of silence was dropped, the man then began to speak, "Palium, sir. I am here. What do you wish of me?"
"Lanum, trusted comrade. What do you think about my hiring the Cinari mercenary K'oras to aid the Idyan reserves at Viluntium?"
"Very interesting move, sir. But I don't trust them. They are mercenaries after allÖ"
"And they can overthrow my power and authority if they choose toÖ"
"In other words, Emperor Ulyssia, yes."
Palium loosened and slouched back in his chair. "Please, call me Palium. Don't think of me just as a superior, think of me as a friend and loyal ally."
The legate wiped some beads of sweat off his glowing forehead, removed his delicately hammered bronze helm then the soft padded cap underneath and replied reluctantly. "UhhÖ yes Sir Palium."
Palium grinned, and then asked, "What do you think we should do with the mercenaries? Please, don't be relectant."
Lanum answered nervously. It wasn't everyday that the emperor of the republic would ask for a legate's advice. "Sir UlyssÖ I mean Palium, I think we do something about them. Mercenaries are not to be trusted and Cinari are to be trussed even less. I can't bring myself to believe that they would honor their word. I just wish they'd disappear."
Palium smiled, it wasn't the normal joyful smile, nor was it the smile you got when you saw an old friend or when you got a gift, it was the cold, malevolent smile of power and revenge. Even the legate, usually as solid as iron was taken aback by the expression.
"Legate, worry not. I will comply with your suggestion. Thank you for your advice. They will disappear from the republic's sight."
The legate smiled halfheartedly and slowly backed away out of the conference room, keeping the image of the emperor clear in his sights.
Idyan Chronicles - Chronicle I, Part II
(352 years before the founding of Iridine, 30th day of Echoes)
(Afternoon, Eastern walls of Viluntium)
"Any Cinari today?" asked a soldier.
"None yet, Griffius." Replied another.
"I wish they would attack. Weíve waited two months for the siege. I can't wait to see their shocked faces before they finally die at my feet and my dagger in their throat."
"I think theyíre trying to starve us and wait for our surrender. No supply convoy has arrived at Viluntium for an entire month. Theyíre waiting for us to starve to death."
"Lysaeus, Iím going to fetch the afternoon rations. Do you want some?"
"Sure, Griffius. If you donít mind, could you get some water as well?"
"Most definitely friend. Every meal could be our last. I heard that over twenty thousand Cinari are dwelling outside the city. What do you think?"
"Balderdash. I heard that the entire Cinari army came to attack the city."
"Lysaeus, youíre even more paranoid than me!"
"I guess I am. But Iím pretty sure that weíre going to die a horrible death."
"For once," subjugated Griffius, "I totally agree with you."
"Attention soldiers!" said the Sub-Altern sternly.
Immediately, the men fortifying the wall shot right up to their feet. "We canít let those petty thoughts deter our effort to defend this great city. We just received word from mercenary leader K'oras that the emperor wishes for us to launch an all out assault on the Cinari camp at the break of the next dawn. He believes that by launching a surprise attack with our superior forces, we can demoralize the Cinari and break their lines! As proof of the emperorís orders, you now see the official mark of the Imperia on the letter." The subaltern took a piece of parchment from his belt and rolled it open, showing the golden eagle symbol to the soldiers; the soldiers nodded in response. "Our forces leave the next morning and all but the city militia will stay behind. Report to subaltern Rigus at dusk to retrieve your gear for the battle." And the man walked down the flight of stone stars back down to the streets.
"Weíre attacking tomorrow morning," Lyseaus said. "It will be a good time to die. It was nice knowing you, friend Griffius."
"The feeling is mutual," sighed Griffius. And finally, they both looked at the falling sun, a magical red orb in the rosy dusk sky. It would be the very last sunset that they would see in their lives.
(31st day of Echoes, dawn)
The air was crisp and cool, a gentle mist was hovering over the serene fields north east of Viluntium. The morning dew was collecting on the sweet green grass of the lush plains. A pair of majestic spotted butterflies danced around a bright yellow flower, performing their ritual of love.
However, the calm silence was broken with the rumbling cries of the advancing Idyan army. Row after row of bronze plated men trampled across the grass, crushing their fragile lime blades. The cavalry followed behind the infantry, the horsesí hooves trampling the grass flat.
"Crunch" the pair of butterflies was crushed by the incoming storm of deadly hooves like an angry summer storm.
"Crunch" the vibrant yellow flower, struggling under the golden sun was destroyed, never again to show its beauty.
"Crunch, crunch, crunch" each step the men took, each time the horses trampled on the fragile plains their dreams for the future were slowly slipping away.
At the rear of Idyan formation, an ominous figure in a fine mail of engraved bronze looked on at his troops. His subordinate, the second in command looked at the Legate.
"Valon, our forward scouts have learned that the Cinari are preparing to meet our army near the foothills at the edge of the eastern plains. In addition, our archers are in position." Proclaimed Centurion Sureshot.
"Well done, the Cinari have finally come out of their rat hole." Said Valon. "How long until they arrive?"
"Scouts believe that they will get to our position in another ten minutes." Sureshot replied. The Centurion glanced back towards the horizon and pointed at the base of a large ridge leading to a great hill "And there they are," confirmed Sureshot.
From the base of the hill they saw a black cloud coming towards them. It was amazing, as though a swarm of locusts had arrived, ready to raze a field of crops. An immense cloud of dust followed the Cinari army and the shouts of their frenzied battle cries could be heard and felt all the way from Viluntium.
"By Ereal!" exclaimed Sureshot. "There must be over thirty thousand men attacking!"
"Stand calm, Centurion. We may win this one yet." Said Valon reassuringly. "Even Thyacles defeated Rivos at the battle of Galenís Hill. He was outnumbered one hundred to one but with his army, he managed to defeat the evil despite their overwhelming power. We must merely strive to gain the upper hand before the conflict. First Centurion, deploy your archers up on the sloping ridge in front of the rising sun and tell the fourth and seventh units to form up front. Send centurion Edeuos' men to fortify your troops."
Sureshot smiled politely. Although he agreed on the legateís words, he knew he was no Thyacles and that they would have little chance of defeating the Cinari.
(Atop the Viluntium hills, south of the Viluntium plains)
"Sir, our forces are in position. Do you wish to attack now?" asked a stout mercenary officer. "We can attack the warlordís troops now without damage to the Idyans."
"Not yet. You must realize that any attack on the Cinari now will only deter them from the fields and their casualties will be minimal. However, with the two armies fighting, the Cinari will not be able to retreat from the field and we will be able to light the plains on fire." K'oras replied.
"Aye sir. We will attack once the two armies are in direct combat."
"Good, this is a good lesson to learn."
The officer nodded and walked off to tend the catapults.
Another mercenary officer, a slender woman wearing a suit of stiffened leather cuirass protected by reinforced metal strips approached K'oras.
"Sir K'oras, the catapults are in position. Our archers are also ready to burn the fields. Our men had the liberty of spread several pockets with dry hay so that it will aid in the burning."
"Good job, Celena. Your efficiency is splendid, as usual."
Celena grinned. "Thank you sir." She peered over the hill overlooking the fields. "I see the Cinari and the Idyans. It appears they are about to engage each other."
K'oras was in deep thought. "Celena, are you sure the fields will be in flames? Grass does not burn easily."
"I have made sure of that" smiled Celena. "The conditions for the past week here has been dry, much of the grass is dead and dried out on top of the living layer. The top deposit should burn like kindling. You need not worry K'oras. We have everything under control."
Valon surveyed his army carefully. The pieces were in place. The archers would lure Cinari forces to their position, and when the glare of the sun distracted them, the Idyan soldiers protecting the Centurionís men would cut them down. His main lines were adequate, they were deep enough to allow enough fresh troops to be brought in and continue the fight while wide enough as to avoid most flanking maneuvers. Everything was perfect. The Legate peered across the empty field to the Cinerans. Dressed in a less professional display of bronze mails, the Cinari commander halted his forces just outside the range of their archers. Several columns of Cinari heavy infantry, infamous for their art in using the spear and sword moved towards their flanks, forming a distinct flanking maneuver. Upon seeing the infinitely long line of Cinari troops, he knew that his forces could not be reassigned to compensate.
(Atop a small hill on the Viluntium plains, forty minutes later)
Edeuos and the rest of his company looked up at Cinari force. The Cinari cavalry was closing quickly in on them. He looked over at his comrades and they looked back at him. They exchanged glances of worry and fear but tucked it deep inside and forced a grin of determination.
"Brothers, are we ready to die?" asked Edeuos.
"Yes we are. How many Cinari do you think there are?" asked another Legionnaire.
"I have no idea, but they are coming fast. When are we supposed to engage the enemy?"
"When the Centurion receives the command from the Primus, we will engage the enemy. That shouldnít be long now."
A stout man in heavy bronze armor approached Edeuos. Edeuos stood up and saluted the man. The man saluted back and quickly began to speak.
"The Primus Sureshot received the orders from the legate. The second to eighth cohorts are to engage the Cinari at the front. While this happens, the Primusí archers are to pelt the Cinariís northern flank with arrows. When a small contingent of Cinari attempt to take on the helpless archers, the first, third, and fourth century from the first cohort will close the trap in two directions, trapping those Cinari to their deaths. Your job is to do the same, protect the second archer contingent and trap the Cinari attackers, with the help of the second and sixth centuries." Said the Sub-Altern. "Do you understand, sir?"
"Aye sir." Edeuos replied.
"Then may Ereal bless your souls in this battle." replied the Sub-Altern. "The legate declares that the central cohorts will retaliate when the triarii raise the banners of Idya. This will require precise timing, but we are trained soldiers and we can accomplish anything!"
The soldiers yelled three hurrahs and lifted their weapons in triumph. Then they stopped. They heard the sound of the Cinari war trumpet, an indication that the Cinari were about to spill blood on the battlefield. Cinari typically used this tactic to gain a slight upper hand in the battle, and typically, it worked. Edeuos stood up and looked ahead. The Cinari cavalry were drawing close, with their great horses riding ahead. Edeuos looked back to the legateís private company, the veteran warriors of the triarii column. A tall man carrying the banner nodded. Another man in an officerís uniform took a horn from his backpack. He held it to his lips and blew a powerful war song. The Idyans raised their gleaming weapons in unison and looked at the legate. The legate took the banner from the soldier and held it up above his head. He waved the flag with a proud strength and the soldiers applauded.
"We will fight in honor and glory for our homeland! For Idya!" proclaimed the legate. "Attack!"
"The centurionís archers moved into position, to a grassy hill to the north. The twelve hundred men said a short prayer and took their bows from their quivers. They then took a gleaming polished arrow with a bronze arrowhead and placed it on the arrowís string. They nocked it, raised their bows towards the heavens and pulled back on the string with a mighty pull. They waited; One second, ten seconds, until finally the Primus gave the order to fire.
The sharp arrows flew through the air with a twang and shot at the charging Cinari like lightening bolts thrown by the gods. A torrent of a hundred screaming arrows landed deep in the Cinari lines and everyone on the battlefield could hear the shout of pain. The fight had begun.
The thin Idyan lines, in an attempt to prevent flanking were soon pierced by the onrushing charge of the Cinari cavalry. The horde of screaming Cinari footmen followed soon after. An officer blew a trumpet and the Idyan cavalry broke formation, attempting to surprise the Cinari riders. However, Cinari were rarely surprised and this was one such time. Their cavalry strafed and attempted to flank the Idyans while the Cinari infantry hurled sharp javelins at the wall of horses. The horses were pierced by the sting of the weapon and fell, taking down many of the steeds and their bewildered riders along. Behind them, the Idyan lines crumbled and tried to retreat, heading around back to back with their own men. In a few short minutes, the Cinari managed to surround the valiant Idyans from all sides. Meanwhile, the centurion's archers continued to fire blazing arrows at the marauding Cinari, but several groups of ala cavalry were closing in fast. Edeuos looked at his men one last time. The century was ready to fight and their faces were etched with a blind fury. Edeuos stared at the advancing cavalry and yelled.
"Men, get your spears out!"
The hundred men did as they were told.
"The Cinari cavalry is coming. Men at the rear, launch your spears then head into battle with your blade, men at the front, wield your spears into battle."
The men nodded. They quickly shifted positions.
"First line, charge!" screamed Edeuos.
The mailed warriors roared then leapt at the galloping horses. The rear lines hurled their spears and flew into the charging horsemen. Some of the men fell, but nonetheless, the enraged marched on. The Idyan infantry were tossed aside by the skilled riders as they merely trampled over the wall of bodies. The horsemen soon approached the second line of soldiers. Edeuos drew his blade. The archers continued to rain death upon the oncoming forces, but the Cinari horsemen shrugged them off like droplets of dewy spring rain. The screaming horsemen rushed towards the second line, spearheads gleaming with the light of the sun and soon gleaming with the blood of the fallen Idyans.
Edeuos stood his ground, only him and a handful of his remaining troops stood fast in their place, maintaining the formation. The Cinari got closer and closer, their faces beaming with victory. They wielded their long spears in one arm and a round shield in another. Edeuos stared at the attackers with his cold steel gray eyes. A Cinari tried to slash at him with the spear, but Edeuos ducked with great speed. Edeuos evened the score and lunged upwards with his sword, catching the man unawares. The blade pierced the Cinari's thin mail armor, knocked the bewildered man off his horse and crashed badly on the hard ground.
Edeuos, raged with bloodlust looked around, two more Cinari were galloping towards him. The first Cinari screamed and waved the tip of his spear at Edeuos. Edeuos held his sword up and with a heaving motion he sliced off the spear shaft. The Cinari cursed at the splintered wooden spear and drew his shining bronze spatha. Edeuos looked back, and the second horseman advanced, waving his spear. The rider leaned forward, the tip of the spear aimed dangerously at his chest. Edeuos stood fast on the spot.
The spear drew closerÖ
Edeuos stood fastÖ
Suddenly he quickly rolled off to the right. The tip of the spear struck air and then Edeuos held his sharp blade out and swung at the steed's legs. The blade hit flesh as he heard he crunch sound as bronze struck bone. The horse reared and neighed, tripping forward. The rider's momentum tossed him over the horse and he hit the ground with a crack. Edeuos rushed to the man and plunged the sword down his chest. The man bounced in shock then hit the cold ground.
Edeuos suddenly felt the cold sting of metal. He saw a Cinari soldier ride past him and then looked down at what made the sound. He saw the stained spearhead of a spear protruding from his chest. He looked up at the grim Cinari soldier, cackled insanely then tumbled on the tall grass of Viluntium, his last words muddled by the handful of dry rich topsoil in his drooling mouth, the pale face of his dead optia gazing at him with a proud awe etched upon it.
"Sir, the Idyan forces have engaged the Cinari and are in full contact. Give us the sign and we will attack."
"Very well, Celena. We will attackÖ now! Release the catapults!" screamed K'oras.
From behind their hiding places, the mercenary army sprung up from a large blanket of golden grass. They lit the missiles on fire and propelled them into the chaotic melee below. Upon contact with the hard ground, the flaming ball cracked on impact and the flaming layer of the missile came in contact with the dark sticky oil, exploding on impact! On the battlefield below, the explosions started to ignite the grass, its furious destruction surrounding the two armies.
"It was successful, K'oras. The battlefield is lit with fire and soldiers are trapped." Celena took a few seconds to ponder her words and suddenly lowered her head in remorse. "However, this is a bit disturbing, isn't it? We are letting so many people die, it's just not right." Celena sighed.
K'oras replied, with a solemn tone to his speech "I know, but I guess it's for everyone's good. Cinari, they are savage brutes. They are destructive, wild, and barbaric. You're from Blackroot, aren't you Celena?" Celena nodded. "Yes. I was born there. I was raised as a warrior, but I could never bear myself to kill someone, until my sixteenth year. I remember that night clearly in my mind. It was awful."
K'oras tried to comfort Celena, but this was his first time, He did so miserably. "Now now, Celena. Please don't. UmÖ I'm sorry, it's my first time doing this." He tried to wrap his arm around her shoulder, but found it awkward to do so and pulled his arm back.
"I understand perfectly. Thanks for trying though." Celena smiled politely.
K'oras smiled back and wiped her drying tears with his finger.
However, the moment of perfect tranquility was broken by the dreadful yells for help from below. They looked down at the carnage below. The fire, roaring like the sun surrounded the two nervous and panic-stricken armies. Some of the Cinari decided to run through the fire, but the fighting soldiers heard their painful throes as the flames were charring their flesh. None of the soldiers made it out of the blazing inferno. Soon, the burning flames surrounded the Idyans and the Cinari. They tried to smother the flames with their capes soaked by their water canteens, but the inferno was too great, even burning the damp cloaks. Before the towering wall collapsed in on the two frightened armies, K'oras saw them fighting and struggling still, despite the fire, despite the jaws of death closing in on them. As the remaining men slowly perished in the gaping maw of the blazing inferno, K'oras stood there, arms folded, trying to maintain the bastion of valor. When all that was left of the bloody field were tufts of black grass and mountains upon mountains of smoking, charred ashes, Kíoras knew his job was fulfilled and waved his soldiers back to Viluntium.
Idyan Chronicles - Chronicle I, Part III
(Evening, Viluntium Plains)
K'oras looked around the jet-black fields of Viluntium. He held up his beacon lantern high into the air and swung it around. From behind him, a young soldier behind him prodded the ground with a long staff.
"Sir, why are we out here?" asked the boy timidly.
"Survivors, of course. It's our duty to give aid."
"But, weren't we ordered to destroy the armies?"
"Look, I'm giving the orders around here. Now help me look for them." Barked K'oras.
The soldier meekly bowed and continued to periodically tap the ground again.
"Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, klunk, wham!" K'oras looked back and swung his lantern to see a trooper sprawled out on the dirt with his face in the dry mud. A long Cinari cavalry spear stuck out from his torso and he was bleeding badly. Beside the Idyan trooper was the young soldier. The boy stood up and dusted his uniform off. K'oras looked at the Idyan trooper then felt the man's neck for a pulse. He felt the weak thumping of his heart pushing the lifeblood through his veins and quickly turned him over.
"Soldier, call for the field healer wagon. We got a live one here." Said K'oras.
"Sir, yes sir!" replied the soldier. He quickly grabbed a torch from his backpack and lit it. Afterwards, he shuffled towards the direction of the city, where a wagon, hanging dancing golden globes from its side sat serenely on the field.
K'oras looked at the wounded Idyan. K'oras took some bandages and alcohol from his backpack. Then he looked at the spear. The spear went right through him, but to K'oras' amazement, it completely missed any important organs. The result of the attack was only a few broken ribs. K'oras grabbed the spear and he took out his carving knife. He started to carve away one end of the spear then applied a slick oil on it. He slowly slid out the spear and then applied the alcohol to his open puncture. Gouts of blood dripped down on K'oras' hand as he pried the spear out of the soldier. K'oras looked at his blood-soaked hands and washed them with a handful of water from his wineskin. He looked at his hands, looked satisfied and continued to heal the fallen soldier. When the wagon arrived to meet K'oras, the soldier was relatively well wrapped up. Two hearty field healers lifted the man up and set him down on the haystack in the back of the horse drawn wagon. The driver pulled on the reins and the horses trotted began to follow K'oras as he continued looking for more survivors.
The sun rose.
The rooster crooned.
K'oras yawned. After endless hours of searching, he was finally finished. He looked up at the rosy sun just peering over the distant horizon. The sky was still dark; nevertheless K'oras blew out his flickering lantern. He quietly sneaked back to the healer's wagon where he found the rider, healers, the young soldier, and even the heavy packhorses fast asleep. K'oras looked back into the rear of the wagon. He counted the survivors of the battle. There were twelve men there, badly wounded but resting. K'oras walked up to the rider and shook him awake. The rider looked around, dazed and confused. He looked around the field, the dawning sun, then at K'oras. K'oras smiled at the driver.
"UhhÖ oh. Sir? You ready to leave? What time is it?" asked the tired man.
"Yes, good driver; and good morning to you too. We can leave as soon as I hop on the back."
K'oras jogged to the back of the long wagon and whistled a tired tune. The driver nodded and shook the horses awake. The horses neighed and shook and in mere seconds headed back towards the camp.
Towards the towering walls of Viluntium lay a large tent town, somewhat west from its gates. It was the mercenary camp. As they drew closer to the camp K'oras felt happy. He was going to save the survivors. However, as the cart got closer to the brown leather structures, the camp was unexpectedly quiet. The wagon creaked past rows of soldiersí tents; and the people could sense that a cold aura of death and ruin permeated them. The driver looked around in trepidation, his forehead unleashing torrents of sweat. Even the horses grew silent and seemed uneasy to be trotting here.
K'oras glanced around. "Men?" cried K'oras.
All that responded him was the quiet; swaying breeze brushing across the tall, yellow grass.
K'oras yelled again, only louder "Hello?"
And again the wind was all he got.
K'oras leapt off the wagon. Something was terribly wrong. He ran towards the nearest text and pulled away the flap of the tent. Inside, he saw two pale bodies, slain by laceration. They bore the tattoo on their right hand, the gray lion symbolizing the clan's emblem and a large red stain on their chest, with two soaked swords on the floor. K'oras ran to one of the men and touched his wound. He looked at the dark red stain and smelled it. It was the distinct rust smell of blood. He reached over and felt his hand. The hand was as cold as a winter's day; he was definately dead. At that moment, K'oras jumped up in surprise and ran outside. He headed to the neighboring tent and looked inside. Again, he saw the same thing; two men were dead, with their red stained weapons on the ground.
Several healers inside the tent peered out carefully. K'oras beckoned for them to come and the healers carefully jumped off the rear of the cart. They jogged up to K'oras and nodded.
"Can you examine cause caused their death?" Asked K'oras.
"From what I see, it's probably death by impalement" he replied.
"My troops would never do that to each other. Please check more carefully" K'oras said. "Could it be poison? Some sort of drug?"
"I shall try my best sir"
The few healers approached to a fallen soldier and prodded him carefully. The carefully felt the veins, opened their shut, dead eyes, and examined every part of the corpses' bodies. One healer opened the mouth of a fallen soldier. Within, was a black liquid in his mouth. In shock, the healer screamed. K'oras rushed towards the ailing healer and turned his head to look at the black viscous fluid that was dripping from the soldier's mouth.
"RedlockÖ it's an ancient drug used to cause insanity." Muttered K'oras.
"ButÖ who could've done this? The Cinari?" asked the healer.
"No, the north is too cold to grow such a plant. It's only indigenous here."
"But, that would meanÖ"
"It was an Idyan's work"
"But we were allies"
"It seems that is not true anymore"
"What can we do now? The army has been destroyed!"
"There's only one person with access to such a large quantity to kill thousandsÖ"
"You don't meanÖ"
"I doÖ the one who sealed the pact with us"
"Have we made a pact with the demons?"
"It appears so," Kíoras relented. It appears so"
Suddenly, K'oras remembered something and ran off out of the soldier's tent. In a fit of rage, anguish, and despair, he hurried towards the tent of the officers. He knew running would not do any good, but now he was acting on impulse alone, blind to anything consequence of his actions.
He arrived at the tent, tore open the flap with all his strength and saw Celena bleeding and lying on the cold, hard ground. A Cinari dagger protruded from her bleeding chest.
Tears began to stream from the corners of his eye and he felt that he could not control this surge of emotion. Not even the death of his father affected him like this. He frantically checked for a pulse, but even by touching her cold clammy skin he knew her life had been extinguished. Lifting the scarred corpse outside, he set her down on the grass and looked up at the sky. He uttered a silent prayer and with each movement his mouth made, the tears continued to fall from his eyes. But tears were not enough to hold his rage and sadness. The tears began to turn pink, and then scarlet as Celena's body was covered in K'oras' tempest of emotion.
From afar, the healer looking for him saw K'oras kneeling on the ground over the corpse of Celena. He shed a single tear, looked back at the barracks and headed back to the rest of the group.
Idyan Chronicles - Chronicle I, Part IV
There was a quiet rustling around the now desolate mercenary camp as down trodden footsteps flooded the field where once stood a vast site. A company of large Idyan soldiers gathered around the barren tents of the decimated mercenary army. Three uniformed men marched by the group of soldiers each carrying a bloodied mercenary corpse. Each one of the young Idyans bore not the face of joy, pride, or even the cold indifferent stares that they were trained to wear in front of the public, but instead their face contained the solemn expression of sorrow; sorrow for their fallen comrades from the previous battle and sorrow for these men, who died so mysteriously and so cold bloodedly assassinated.
The three mourning soldiers suddenly stopped facing a vast pit of dead corpses, literally creating an immense sea of the deceased. An instigator, noticing the new corpses headed towards the fresh load of dead bodies and stopped beside their bearers. The three grunts greeted the watcher with a slight nod and in return, he nodded back.
The instigator approached the loads in each soldier's arms, prodding the corpses' various body parts, now stiff, cold, and blanched with death with a blunt wooden rod. After confirming that they were truly dead, the instigator gestured towards the deep dark hole. Without an added word from the soldiers, they lowered their heads in a sign of respect and tossed the rotting vessels into the bottomless grave.
Meanwhile, far in the distance a second group of soldiers stood silently, protecting the contents of tent behind. Three husky men stood guard in front of what was once K'oras' tent. Within the brightly garnished pavilion was a carpet of drying red blood, a large desk and a small band of Idyan officers seated around it buried deep in conversation. All appeared fine at first, but a short, lithe Idyan, abruptly tearing through the billowing olive green tent flap as if bearing important news, briefly interrupted their conversation.
"What is the purpose of your interruption, soldier?" shouted an ornately dressed officer. With a swift gesture of his sinewy left arm, he attempted to wave away the offending intruder.
Despite the centurion's fearsome warnings, it was apparent that the oaf would not intimidate the soldier. Instead of responding to the insult, he marched over to the officer in charge, a tall, young man wearing the ceremonial silver plated cuirass and the gray embroidered cape of a legate. He was seated on the large comfortably padded chair that once used to belong to the mercenary leader.
In the apparent act of defiance, the centurion flushed a rosy red and snarled in rage. "You dare defy your superior, soldier? You had better straighten up your act or you shall soon regret your decision." The broad man took in a deep breath and continued, "I see the crest you wear on your shoulder, and just because you have the symbol of the moons does not mean you can ignore me!"
Most of the other officers just stared in shock at the insolence of the soldier, but the leader just smirked at the entertaining scene.
Finally, as if waiting for a perfect moment to strike, the soldier began with a hint of sarcasm in his voice, "SirÖ if you wish to challenge my actions, please do so. I haven't had chance to exercise my abilities lately."
The centurion snickered at the soldier's spiteful words and responded, "Soldier, I wish you had asked me that earlierÖ I am afraid it is too late in the day to slaughter pitiful little children."
The soldier took a few steps backwards and reached for the hilt of his blade protruding from the gleaming leather scabbard lined with supportive bronze strips. The centurion, having seen his share of battles reacted quickly to the soldier's move and drew his spatha in a sudden blur. Even the brash soldier flinched at the sight of such intricate skill shown by his superior. However, determined not to let his fears envelop him, he drew his blade and readied it into a fighting stance.
The centurion noticed his opponent's hesitation and grinned, "Dear boyÖ it is time to learn your lesson, and your insolence will be repaid with a hard smack through your thick skull."
Some of the commanders, disturbed by this fighting prepared to raise their voices. However, the leader, still maintaining his façade of calmness stopped them with a glance.
The veteran made the first move, lunging confidently with the long blade at the soldier's chest. Nearly overwhelmed by the suddenness of the centurion's attack, he stepped aside just before being fully impaled. However, the soldier did not anticipate the centurion's next attack. In a quick precise movement, the skilled warrior drew the blade near him with both hands and swung it towards the boy's ribs. As expected, the blade hit home, but to his and most of the other spectators' surprise, the sharp blade only scraped along the soldier's bronze cuirass, nearly cutting through the soft arming jerkin beneath. The soldier gasped in surprise at his damaged armor. Clearly, the aging centurion proved to be a more formidable warrior than expected.
Wasting no time for the soldier to regain his composure, the centurion launched a quick assault with his long sword, slashing twice at his adversary's waist with quick, precise strokes. Fortunately, this time the soldier was ready. With a quick rotation of his wrist, he deflected the onslaught and while the sword defended his left side, he quickly drew his second blade from his silver sheath. It was a sinister looking silver dagger. The sharp 20 inch long blade was serrated on one side while the other has a honed edge. The flat of the elegant blade was etched with Idyan script and the pommel was lined with dazzling violet amethyst. With the silver sword wielded in his left hand, the soldier gained an advantage. He parried the second strike with the weapon while he proceeded to stab the centurion with his other sword.
The centurion noticed the second blade coming into play and anticipated the strike. Quickly recovering from his attack, he deftly swung his sword down, catching both blades on the edge of the large sword. Quickly seizing the moment, he continued to spin the blade around in an attempt to disarm his attacker. The soldier held on fast to the long dagger, but his grip on the sword failed as he watched it sprawling across the tent. Realizing his now apparent weakness, the soldier rolled past the centurion right before he made a vicious slash that would have disabled him and made a lunge for the fallen blade.
Hastily realizing what the soldier had in mind, he spun around at the man with his sword aimed for the spine of the soldier.
Suddenly, a spark of instinct struck the soldier's mind. In a split second, he felt the centurion's presence behind him, ready for the kill. He turned around to see the centurion, his long sword poised above his head, ready for the blow. However, he did not try to retaliate. Instead, the sword was plunged into the head of the unfortunate victim with a gruesome crack. In a final gesture, the man looked up at the centurion, frowned and collapsed to the floor. There was no doubt that the man was dead.
The centurion smiled evilly and dislodged the blade from the man's head. As the elegant bronze blade slipped out from the man's skull, the sound of cracking bone and slimy entrails filled the silent room. He looked at the bloodied blade and was satisfied with his handiwork.
However, his celebration was halted by sudden shooting sting of pain in his back. As he fell to the cold, hard ground, he could no longer feel his lower body. The blow from the mysterious weapon had completely shattered his upper vertebrae and snapped open his spinal cord. As he twisted his head around to look at his aggressor, his face fell to the grass and at that moment, his body quit and he joined his ancestors and comrades in the arms of Ravan.
The officers, now looking at the dead centurion blinked in astonishment and then turned their attention towards the victorious soldier, standing one foot on top of the deceased officer, who was cleaning the blood off his silver dagger. In curiosity, a nervous sub-altern watching the spectacle asked out loud, "What on Midlight happened? Centurion Arvin had the advantage when his opponent exposed himself as he went for the sword, but it appeared that the centurion continued the attack and even believed he had even defeated him despite the fact that his adversary had maneuvered around him and was poised to strike."
The legate, still looking at the corpse in interest heard the remark and quickly responded, "I have heard that a rare few men who are consumed by the bloodlust become delusional. Apparently, this was one of those incidents."
The woman, a tall, strong lady with dark olive skin glanced at the Legate skeptically and prepared to open her mouth to comment. However, common sense took over her and before she could utter out something she would regret in the future, she sealed her lips shut.
In an attempt to cut through the spooky silence, the sub-altern continued to speak, "What will be done of this soldier?" as he gestured to the panting soldier. "He has performed an act of treason."
The legate, considering long and hard about this turn of events replied, "It was Arvin who drew first bladeÖ therefore it will be him who will face his consequences. His fate is well deserved and this soldier will walk away an Idyan citizen and soldier of the moons."
"ButÖ" began the sub-altern.
"ÖThe soldier will be dealt with for his act of insubordination. Do not worry; I will tend to this case personally." Finished the legate.
The sub-altern nodded obediently.
"And what shall be done about our meeting? Shall we convene again later on?" asked the woman.
"It appears that we must do soÖ" the legate answered. "At first dawn, convene at the Viluntium council hall so that we can conclude this conversation."
The five surviving Idyan officers stood up swiftly and faced the legate. They gave him a respectable bow and marched out of the tent in a tight formation, one after another.
As the last of the officers exited the pavilion, the legate looked up at the soldier and beckoned towards a chair. "Please have a seat, soldier." The legate asked.
The soldier, without a word seated down on one of the vacant chairs and looked at his superior from across the desk.
The legate looked at the soldier with narrow eye slits and frowned. While the soldier waited for his fate, he began to perspire nervously. He may have stood up to a centurion, but this legate was leader of the soldier of the moonsÖ and he did not have the power to oppose him.
The soldier could wait no more, "My actionsÖ"
"ÖYour actions," angrily interrupted the legate "were inappropriate. I assumed you used the powers of deception to lure the centurion into a false sense of safety?"
The soldier nodded shamefully. He could no longer bear to look at the legate for fear of what he would do to him.
"Fortunately," continued the legate "my actions prevented them of knowing the real truth. Though some may suspect, they will soon forget about it. What do you say is your punishment?"
The soldier looked up in surprise. Had the legate just given him a free opportunity?
"UhhÖ legate Paxios, sir. Is it not your choice?" questioned the soldier. Within his mind, he scolded himself for uttering the most foolish thing he could have said.
However, to his fortunate surprise, Paxios answered differently. "Your punishment will not be severe this time, soldier. However, if I hear another incident reported by anyone about you, you will regret doing whatever you had done."
The soldier gulped tensely. Next time he would be careful not to overstep his boundaries.
"Now, soldier. What was your purpose for interrupting the meeting?" asked the legate. It appeared that his mood changed dramatically and seemed much more relaxed than before, his once wintry expression now melted into spring.
"I had a casualty report from the instigator. We have a total mercenary corpse count of nine hundred seventy two. It appears that twenty-eight mercenaries escaped the wrath."
Paxios frowned deeply at the news. Twenty-eight mercenaries hungry for revenge was a dire thing indeed. If they banded together against a common enemy, they could do serious harm, to the republic and even to himself. On top of that, Imperator Ulyssia would be very displeased at the turn of events.
"Is that all?" said Paxios.
"No, sir. It appears that the leader of the mercenaries, K'oras was one of the twenty-eight. It seems that he was not at camp while the madness ensued."
And with this new piece of bad news, Paxios grabbed a bottle sitting on top of a nearby wooden table and clenched it in his fist. As blood vessels dilated and his rippling hand muscles pulsated from his strength, the glass shattered, sending flying pieces of glass all over the place. Paxios looked at his now bleeding hand and smeared the dripping blood on the battlefield map laid out on top of the large desk. The soldier looked at the wound with no expression and sat waiting for his next reply.
"You may leave now, soldier. I have all I needed to know." Answered the legate. The soldier slowly rose up to his feet and proceeded to leave the tent. For minutes after the soldier's departure, Paxios continued to look at his bleeding hand and felt the cold winter wind blow by his chiseled face and grim expression.
What has the world come to these days, thought Paxios.
Idyan Chronicles - Chronicle I, Part V
K'oras sat around the comforting campfire, looking at the glittering night stars. The shadowy canopy of the bare forest covered his sight, but he could still see the great shapes littered throughout that sky that formed the constellations. In the center of the heavens was Angentium, the mythical flying steed. As a child, he learned from his father that the beautiful white stallion's graceful cherubic wings pointed the way north. If one walked along the path of the two stars, then they would find their way out of any trouble. The blaze continued to burn throughout the night and he shifted his sight towards the other creatures of the heavens. The next constellation he aimed his sights on was Datunus, the Cinari spirit of battle. The eight stars gave the distinct appearance of a valiant warrior bearing his sword in victory. Prophets from his old tribe would have interpreted this sighting as a good omen for future confrontations. Finally, towards the western horizon, there was Pithys, the terrible black serpent. He remembered the tale to this creature's life wellÖ
In the dawning years of Midlight, man slowly rose to be one of the greatest sons of Ereal, and although he conquered the many other creatures of mother Midlight, there was one opponent that had yet to be defeated. This was the tale of the serpent and his downfall:
As man defeated all the greatest champions of the kingdom of the beasts, he found no more challenges to defeat, no new enemies to fight. Man, in all his indomitable spirit of challenge and discovery had run out of new things to see. In the following ages, he built shelter for himself, conquering the angry storms of mother world. He learned to farm, to tame the great leviathan that was famine and finally he learned to create new life, defeating the age-old enemy of death. For many years, man had conquered all and dominated all. However, he was not satisfied, for what purpose was there to live a stagnated existence where everyday was the same day and change came only from the shift of the seasons?
At the same time, in a far away land lived another son of Ereal. Like man, they had conquered all or driven them away from Ereal's light. They were the serpentsÖ
Only then did K'oras realize how vulnerable he was to be out here, away from the safety of the healerís caravan.
The voice behind him continued to speak, and as he listened, he felt the sharp prick of a wicked knife, ready to pierce his back.
"Get up, mercenary and raise your arms in the air," barked his captor.
K'oras stood up slowly and began to stretch his arms into the air. However, he would not go without a fight. His wrist sheath still contained a small thin razor. Despite its size, it would cut through the neck of an unwary opponent.
"Distracted by the stars, were you?" continued the mysterious stranger. "Irios taught you better than thisÖ"
When he heard his father's name spoken, he perked up. No one should have known his lineageÖ no one exceptÖ
"Alexas, that is you hiding behind me, isn't it?"
The next thing he heard from behind him was the sound of a mischievous chuckle. He spun around, confirming the stranger's identity, and indeed his suspicions were correct. Standing right behind him, with a slim dagger to his side and a foolish smirk on his face was his long time friend Alexas. Ever since his childhood, he had followed him in every journey. Although at times he said and did the most inappropriate things, he was still his friend and was even enjoyable to be with.
"Good ear, m'friend." Replied Alexas. "I'm really pleased to find ya. You know how hellish it's been these past two days? Running away from my crazed comrades, fleeing from Idyan patrols, no doubt responsible fer this travesty and then just a while ago, a rather voracious bear, covered head to toe in fearsome brown fur took me as a tasty little afternoon morsel!" In all the while, Alexas was flailing his long graceful arms in complete panic as if reliving the tale.
In the fury of fists and action, K'oras could not help but chuckle at the scene.
"I can see that I'm not stirring your sympathy, pal. Perhaps I shall take rest with you tonight for the forest yields so little and the shadows give me such fright without one of you bold warriors around." Alexas finished off by giving K'oras a curious wink.
"OhÖ poor Alexas, I can't help but sympathize fer a fellow warrior whose merits surpass even mine own. You may sleep here for the night, poor wandering man" mockingly replied K'oras.
Alexas smirked, "Why thank you, noble warrior. I feel safer with you already."
"The Idyan healers are tending to the wounded in an auxiliary campÖ if you wish to be tended, you should head there." Said K'oras.
Alexas nodded, "That would sound great, then perhaps I will see you later?"
K'oras confirmed, "Of course, Alexas. I'll return soon"
And so, K'oras looked back at the stars, pondering this turn of events. His home was gone, his courageous band of friends and comrades were gone, and perhaps most importantly, Celena was gone. However, despite all this, he still had his talkative, annoying, and lifelong friend. Things couldn't have been worse.
Suddenly, a spark of insight materialized in his head. It was an event he lived through long agoÖ before the merciless Idyan legions 'liberated' them from the clutches of Cinari. He was only twelve years of age at most while Alexas was fifteenÖ
"Wait up!" cried a short little boy with brilliant golden hair. His face was bright red as he struggled to catch up with his friend, who was now far ahead of him.
"Come on, K'oras. If you want to be a warrior, ye'll hafta learn how to run with a man's weight in gear while slicin' your enemies into bits!" responded the boy ahead. Unlike K'oras, he ran with relative ease as his long legs moved with large, graceful strides.
"AlexasÖ where are we goin' again?"
"It's a surprise. Just get to the stables as fast as ya can." And with those words spoken, Alexas picked up the pace and ran with blazing speed towards a large thatched building, soon disappearing from K'oras' watchful eyes.
It took a good five minutes for K'oras to get to the stables, a large, ancient, and most of all, a smelly structure. As K'oras peered though a side window, looking for his friend Alexas within, he heard a faint rustle coming from the shrubbery behind. He quickly twisted his head back towards the swaying foliage, only to see a chirping swallow stretch her wings in the morning sunlight. He raised an eyebrow and continued to look through the small opening.
"Halt!" Shouted a deep authoritative voice. "Stealing horses is a vile offense, boy."
K'oras, paralyzed in fear did not move an inch. Quietly, he pleaded, "But I wasn't planning ta steal the horses. My friend Alexas told me to meet 'im here."
K'oras hear the person grunt behind him, "Alexas, eh? Don't ya mean King Alexas?" The last few words took K'oras by surprise.
However, before he could react, he heard the terrifying sound of a bellowing laugh coming from the stranger. The next sound that came from his mouth sounded distinctly higher pitched and indeed belonged to his mischievous friend Alexas.
"Come on, K'oras. Ya've fallen for the same trick every week. I'm gonna lose my touch because of ya." Scolded his friend sarcastically.
K'oras stifled a small chuckle. Although Alexas was quite trying on the nerves at times, he had considered him good company the rest of the timeÖ mostly.
"So, what did ya 'ave in mind, Alexas?" asked the young warrior. Despite his friend's shortcomings, he never ceased to amaze K'oras.
"Well, we ain't gonna be venturin' far from the town today." Replied Alexas. "In fact, were just going to head to the temple today."
K'oras raised an eyebrow of suspicion. What would compel Alexas to make his next grand adventure a visit to a simple temple? A few curious baubles to covet, K'oras thought? Surely not, for not only was there little of value in the temple but for a religious man to value, any theft would most likely get to Irios and afterwards to them.
Soon after, much to the relief of K'oras, his question was answered. "Ya must be wonderin', why would Alexas bring me to such a boring little hub like the temple of Jefandar, right? Well, last night, when I was returnin' home from training with ole Frownface, who, strangely enough let us go early. After trainin', I headed towards the temple because I had to get a tonic for my sister who was sufferin' from a fever. So, as I got near, I saw that the flap into the tent was closed, but I didn't think that anythin' was wrong. Howe'er, when I went in, I saw the most amazin' sight. There was Marus, dancing like a maniac, callin' upon some wailin' spirits. I didn't know what he was doin', but it was sure frightenin'!"
K'oras eyed his friend with skepticism, but shrugged in defeat. There was no persuading Alexas from a task once he set his mind to it. In some ways, he admired his friend's determination.
Reluctantly, K'oras asked, "Are we goin' there right now?"
Alexas shook his head. "I don't think we'll find 'im doin' that right now. Wait 'till nightfall and only then I think we can see the sorcerer's magic." He replied. "Meet me behind the garden when the first night patrols take guard."
The rest of the day seemed to pass by quickly as K'oras wondered what would be in store for them in the evening. Did priest Marus summon the power of the sorcerer? Or was Alexas playing another trick on him?
That evening, under the watchful glare of the crimson moon Aera, K'oras headed for the temple of Jefandar as soon as he saw the group of lit torches held by the night patrol. Telling his father, Irios that he was visiting Alexas, K'oras had free reign in the village that evening.
Under the cover of night, K'oras tiptoed past a group of patrolling soldiers en route to the small, lightly decorated tent that formed the shrine dedicated to their god. K'oras glanced around for the garden and found it to his left. Again continuing towards his target, he took a break ever few seconds to see if anyone was near. Detecting no one, he continued on his task towards the temple garden.
The garden was an amazing sight to behold in the evening, with fireflies playing amidst the blooming marigolds. Even K'oras, rushing to meet with Alexas was entranced by the magical beauty stopped and looked around the garden in awe. He never ventured to the temple at nights and was delighted by the sights it offered.
Once the novelty wore off, K'oras started for his task at hand. Looking around the garden with his cautious blue eyes, he inspected the area carefully, wary of Alexas' tricks. However, instead of finding Alexas hiding behind a tree ready to ambush him, he appeared a few yards away, tapping his foot in anticipation.
K'oras, upon finding Alexas standing there approached him. Alexas greeted his friend with the usual grin and gestured to the shrine.
"Glad ya could make it, friend. I was afraid that ya wouldn't have the nerve ta see this. But I'm glad ta see I was wrong." Smiled Alexas.
K'oras chuckled at the compliment and replied, "Alexas, I ain't the son of Irios fer nothing."
Alexas smiled, "Well, let's get going. We don't have all night." Alexas beckoned for K'oras to follow him.
The two adventurous children crept quietly along the gravel path towards the tent. As Alexas got near the side, he took out a long tin dirk from his sheath. With a quick flick of his wrist, two small slits appeared in the thick fabric. K'oras blinked at his friend's remarkable skills. It looked like oleí Frownface was a good teacher afterall, despite his usually drunken disposition.
Alexas motioned for K'oras to get near and opened the slit carefully with his fingers. K'oras did the same and peered inside.
The shrine was a small room lighted by only the dim flickers of a few alabaster white candles. The place was filled with billowing jade smoke, whose herby smell permeated the room. Tendrils of the mist wafted into Alexas' nose and his lungs filled with the choking scent. Resisting the urge to cough, Alexas peered on.
From amidst the shadows, a figure emerged. Dressed in a leather cloak of blood red, stained with the fluids of a sacrificed beast and a terrifying ensemble of black, priest Marus was a fearsome sight indeed. As he turned his head towards K'oras' direction, he noticed how youthful he looked, with his calming auburn orbs and his short, curly ebony hair. His chiseled face stood on top of a lean, muscular frame that was neither bulky, nor lanky. Never before had his tribe's elder priest been of such a tender age, someone who so quickly master the forces granted by their god. As the two mystified friends continued to peek with curiosity, Marus took a small leather pouch from his belt. He carefully loosed the cords that held the small sack together and reached into it with a hand. As he pulled his hand out, the two noticed a viscous liquid dripping from his strong hand and they quickly realized that it was the blood of a slain beast.
Cautiously, Marus smeared a streak of blood across his temples and walked over to the stone altar. Without hesitation, he reached out towards a burning candle and grabbed it with his bare hands. The hot, running wax trickled steadily through his fist and made a small white puddle on the table. As his skin sizzled from the scalding candle, he opened up his bloodied hand and allowed the last drops of blood from the sacrifice to drop into the solidifying pool.
The blood and wax seemed to dance together, mixing in harmony and with a nod of satisfaction from Marus, he placed the candle back into the stand it originally occupied.
Meanwhile, from outside the tent, K'oras watched with doubt, not having yet seen the sorcerous magic come into play yet. He took his eyes away from the slit and eyed Alexas. Alexas, who seemed to empathize with his friend looked back and shrugged a disappointed shrug. However, their disillusionment would soon be dashed.
Within the shrine, Marus returned to the altar, his arms outstretched towards the ceiling. As he closed his eyes, beginning in a prayer, he uttered the phrase, "Jefandar, nhorus pavait it morose. Ma ta honora it bravada. Praista dura va talthes di it. Mero korap nir na it. Ma ta sumadra ciea va na kovetu va ta itdrena pava dura it!"
Some of the words Marus used were most definitely Cinari in origin. However, several words did not make any sense at all. At that very moment, Alexas and K'oras both knew that something was about to happen.
Suddenly, a flicker of flame leapt from the overturned palms of Marus. There was fire, but there was no candle. K'oras, unable to keep his eyes from the conjured blaze stood hypnotized at the incredible scene. At that moment, all doubt had been erased from his mind. As K'oras continued to watch in envy, he decided to be more cautious. If Marus was indeed a sorcerer, what terrible punishment could he deliver to them?
As if a curse had been laid upon him, a whiff of the trailing emerald smoke entered his nose. Also at that time, K'oras breathed in deeply, not daring to breath too often for fear of making too much noise. Unfortunately, this tactic backfired. The pungent smell entered deep into his lungs and tickled his throat. In a spontaneous action triggered only by reflex he coughed, trying to expel the suffocating gas. Alexas, hearing the noise glared at his friend in surprise. From within the tent, it appeared that the priest also heard the noise for as he spun towards the source, he hurled the ball of flame towards it from his conjured inferno. The biting blaze tore through the canvas, igniting the thick fabric and in only a short time; a small hole appeared on the wall of the tent, exposing the two voyeurs.
Marus, furious by the incident stared at the two boys with narrow eyes, ablaze with the fury of Jefandar. K'oras and Alexas, nearly frightened to death looked at each other nervously then turned to face the priest. Having nothing to say in their defense, they smiled reluctantly.
After a long period of silence, Marus began to speak. His voice pierced their souls and would erode even the tallest mountains.
"What brings you to the temple, son of Irios and son of Ethicaea?" was all he said.
Again, the two boys glanced at each other, attempting to find the words within each other. Alas, there were no words to be said from either one of them.
The priest, eternally patient from the teachings of his religion did not release them from the grip of his glare. Still in a level, yet cold voice he repeated, " What brings you to the temple, son of Irios and son of Ethicaea?"
The two friends looked at each other in despair. Should they tell the truth? Or should they fabricate a lie?
Marus, sensing their discomfort did not wait for an answer. "If you have no business here in the temple, then I recommend that you leaveÖ"
Just as K'oras and Alexas turned around, they heard Marus say, "Öhowever, this is as good a time as any for me to honour the favour your father asked for. Return."
The two stopped dead in their tracks and turned back around. Marus was already inside the temple, getting some items from the altar. With great curiosity, they stepped through the smoldering wall of the shrine and stood beside the priest.
"Please have a seat on the mats," said Marus, gesturing towards the ring of straw sheets spread out in a ring around a pit of warm black ash. Puffs of light green smoke still rose from the remains, bathing the room in an unusual scent.
Alexas and K'oras did as they were told, and sat down on the mat, though it provided little comfort from sitting on the cold, hard ground.
Soon after, Marus joined them on the floor carrying a small censer of dark blue powder. Marus sat down and threw the contents of the censer into a fire pit. He placed the bowl on the ground beside him and began to chant an ancient song. As he sang, the sapphire blue powder began to burn and the ashes underneath ignited with the fire of the sun. Alexas shielded the light with his hands, but K'oras watched on, fascinated by the magic that nearly burned him to a crisp just a few minutes earlier.
While the fire began to flicker in a rhythmic beat, so did Marus. "So," he began "this is the beginning of the journey along the path of Jefandar. However, before we venture on this path of enlightenment, what questions might you two have about our great watcher?"
Alexas and K'oras considered Marus' comments, trying to think of something to ask before the other. However, Alexas thought of one first.
"Priest Marus," Alexas replied. "Is it common fer the priests ta be learnin' the magic of the sorcerers?"
It seemed like an eternity of silence followed until Marus, looking quite worried replied, "Good question, son of Irios. Before I answer, I ask you this. What does Jefandar, our holy protector do?"
Kíoras answered boldly, his father having taught him this for many years.
"Jefandarís the great creator. Creator of the Cinari spirit, creator of mountains and fire, and father to our other holy protectors." Kíoras replied.
"Good. And as the sons of the Jefandar, would it be plausible that we all have a bit of these elements of Jefandar in our blood, some fire, some rock?"
Kíoras answered thoughtfully, "I guess so"
Marus nodded and continued. "Then it would be plausible to assume that by learning from Jefandar, we can control this and embrace this spirit, the fire and rock of Cinari?"
"And from that you have answered your own question; I am not just a priest of our great protector and creator, I am also a learner of his lessons. I merely learn to control the fire and rock from within usÖ creating what you and the son of Ethicaea saw." Marus replied.
Kíoras and Alexas immediately understood Marusí premises. As their eyes glinted at the revelation, Marus gave a slight smile, but quickly wiped it from his face and continued.
"Are there anymore questions? Or should I proceed with the lesson?" Marus inquired.
Alexas and Kíoras looked at each other with blank stares. Noting their slience, Marus continued to speak.
"Irios and his aide Ethicaea both saw it necessary that you two were taught the subtleties of Jefandar to you, and they hoped that you two would learn something from it. Because today is the first day of your enlightenment, I will show you something instead of lecturing to you."
Marus grabbed a handful of hot ashes from the glowing fire and tossed it high into the air. Kíoras and Alexas covered their eyes, the hot dust stinging their eyes and faces. However, Marus sat there unfazed by the blinding particles and the searing heat.
"I will be calling the spirits from beyond Jefandarís cradle. From this incantation, I can summon our ancestors from death and talk to them. Perhaps you will receive a piece of useful advice."
Marus resumed his prayer and uttered the sacred words of Jefandar, none of which the two young men knew. Watching in curiosity, they realized that the flame from the pit grew and soon enough, they could see wisps coming from the flame. As Kíoras neared the fire to take a better look, he realized that it wasnít smoke, but they were apparitions, spirits that he had only heard of before in fables.
Alexas noticed this too and asked, "Priest Marus, are thoseÖ ghosts?"
Marus addressed Alexasí question and said, "In fact they, are. Meet the past generations of people of this tribe."
A single apparition rose from the flames and floated in front of the observersí faces. The ghost seemed to study them for a short amount of time and then halted.
"AhhÖ. Priest Marus. Who do we have here?" whistled a voice, apparently coming from the spirit itself.
"Mentor Percipis, meet Kíoras, son of Irios and Alexas, son of Ethicaea. I trust you remember when they were born?" asked Marus.
The spirit whistled, "Indeed I do. They have grown much from when I departed from the world. How do you do, young learners?"
Kíoras was reeling from actually hearing a spirit speak, but Alexas, with greater conviction asked the mentor, "Well, Percipis. I have a question to ask: Teacher Marus just called you mentor. Mentor Percipis, were you the high priest before Marus?"
The stream of spiritual energy danced around momentarily, and finally it replied, "Yes I am, Alexas. I tried to teach Marus the ways of Jefandar and prepare him for priesthood. Might I say he has done me and our holy protector well."
The apparition floated and danced around the room again. When it stopped, it said, "NowÖ young students, I would think that the reason Marus called us back to this world was to perhaps ask if we had any words of advice or prophecies of life we could tell you. And when I considered this idea, I realized that I indeed did have something to say. Since our time is short and we are being sent back to the arms of Jefandar soon, might I say this: Friendship and camaraderie must not be taken for granted and is a virtue of our great protector. With each action we take and each word we say, we learn more about each other and come to a greater understanding. Learn from your friend, help them when theyíre in need, and never take your allies for granted."
As the two boys considered his words, the fire sputtered and the magic faded. The spirits of the ancient Cinari rose into the air and soared into the air, passing through the thick leather roof of the shrine.
"íey, Kíoras. Snap outta yer dream" came a distant voice.
Kíoras turned his head towards Alexas and opened his eyes. Quickly shaking off his dream, he asked Alexas, "Is something wrong?"
Alexas replied, "No, nothingís wrongÖ but I just wanted to tell you that the fireís sputtering out and I was wondering if you wanted to throw some wood into it."
Footfalls coming from their backs interrupted Kíoras train of thought. He looked back to see a violet robed youth, dressed in the garb of the healers. As he stopped in front of the two men, he paused to catch his breath.
Kíoras made the first move and asked the man, "Whatís the matter, healer?"
"I just came to inform you that one of the men has arisen from his injuries," said the young healer. "A man by the name of Centurion Edeuos wants to see you."
Idyan Chronicles - Chronicle I, Part VI
As Edeuos opened his eyes, he found himself staring into the leafy jade canopy of a dark, twilight forest. He felt the soft golden hay underneath him, and he did not feel the weight of his battle armor on his body. Could he truly be in the arms of Ravan? Slain after the battle on Viluntium plains? However, his theory was disproved as he felt an ungodly sting shooting at his waist. He moved his hand down to the source of the pain and felt it. Another feeling of extreme pain shot through his body again, but this time he couldnít hold it back. He let out a muffled scream and he knew his made a vital mistake. No sooner had he done that, he heard the shuffling of footsteps plodding towards him. Instinctively, he reached for his gladius, but found none by his side. He was unarmed and terribly injured. For once in his life, he felt utterly defenseless.
The footsteps drew closer, but each time he struggled to sit up, the ache in his waist would return, forcing him back down.
Finally, the mysterious figure hovered over him, ready for the kill. However, when Edeuos locked gazes with the gentle calm eyes of the figure, wrapped in a tunic of violet, Edeuos released his anger and instead, wore a face of shocked relief.
"Oh, youíve awakened. How do you feel?" asked the healer.
How do you feel? One of the great ironies of the universe: you ask that question when someoneís blatantly well, yet ask the same thing when theyíre blatantly injured. Edeuos resisted the urge to laugh and replied, "Other than the gaping wound in my waist, I must say that Iím feeling fantastic."
The healer sensed the uneasy humor in that comment and nodded respectfully.