Disclaimer: I don't own Lost Kingdoms 2.
Lost Kingdoms 2: Friends
"O Child of Man. You know only warfare. You trust no one... Fear not… All your Earthly burdens shall soon be lifted… I shall give you eternal peace, daughter of man... Join with your mother-creator. Come to me…"
Adriannu lay in bed on her side, awake, the words of the God of Harmony playing through her mind. She shifted underneath the silky covers and on the soft mattress. Clouds were probably harder than the bed she now found herself in. Anyone should have been able to fall asleep in this bed, but still, sleep escaped her.
Maybe I should try sleeping on the floor, it'll be more familiar, thought Adriannu, allowing herself a small, rare smile. Rashiannu or one of her servants would probably have a fit if they saw me doing so.
After all the years she'd spent travelling around the land of Argryll with only whatever dirt road she was closest to as her mattress, sleeping on a bed like this felt weird. She struggled with the private knowledge that the bed wasn't really the problem though. The bed was just a useful target to blame so that she didn't have to think about the real reason.
"Why… Why do you deny my help? Why do you not embrace eternal harmony? Know this human… When I am gone… Never will your race know peace… Constant strife… never-ending hatred… That shall be the destiny of your people…"
The last words of the God of Harmony replayed in her mind. Well, more accurately the Body of the God. Gurd had assured her that the true mind of the God had long since been sacrificed to protect the world from a feud between Gods. The body had stayed asleep in the catacombs beneath the land of Kendaria but had been awakened by Duke Leod the VIII. The Body of the God of Harmony had eventually developed a mind of its own, a twisted new mind that saw the destruction of everything as the only course of action. To achieve this the Body had attacked Alanjeh Castle, killing everyone in its way.
Adriannu held her Runestone closer to her chest, taking comfort in the warmth that came from the large, red stone. It had been her protector through most of her life, a gift from her mother. It was also the Runestone that belonged to the Queens of Argyll. The stone used by the ancient Queen Katia to defeat the God of Destruction and unite the lands of Argyll. It allowed the user to summon monsters of unbelievable power to protect and fight for them. It was the most powerful artifact in the land but to her it had always been her only friend. At least, until Sol…
Adriannu shook her head violently and threw the covers off of her. She got out of bed, the unfamiliar nightgown flapping around her. She walked to the dented metal chest that rested at the foot of the bed. Its sturdiness had made it one of the few pieces of furniture that had emerged unbroken from the God of Harmony's rampage through the castle. She unlatched the chest and opened it. Inside was a pile of clothes that had been given to her as gifts that she'd been forced to accept.
On top of the gifts were her travelling clothes, the clothes that had once marked her as a member of the Band of the Scorpion. They'd been cleaned and patched up by the Castle staff with such skill she couldn't even tell all the abuse they'd once gone through. She'd privately entertained the thought that some seamstress had created a whole new set of clothes from the template of the old, trashed outfit with how perfect the fixes had been.
Resting on top of everything else was a small light blue stone. She picked up the stone and felt warmth coming out of it. She held it up to her chest and let out a sigh. "Sol…"
The God of Harmony hadn't only been going around killing people, but stealing their souls. The trapped souls had been turned into Runestones. These new Runestones were much weaker than her own but still allowed the user to control lesser monsters. When the Body of the God had first attacked the Castle, Adriannu had been separated from her Runestone. Powerless she and her childhood friend Sol had escaped the Castle together. The Body of the God had been assisted by Kendarie troops at first before it had started to attack its former allies. Several Kendarie mecha had surrounded her and Sol as they made their way down the Castle Tower. Sol had forced her into a lift and cut the controls, sending her falling to relative safety. He'd been trapped up with the mecha.
"At least one of us should make it out of this alive."
Adriannu had managed to retrieve her Runestone and return back to where she'd left Sol only to find his lifeless body. Next to him had rested the small Runestone that she knew without a doubt housed his soul. She'd taken it with her when she'd fought the God of Harmony. She'd carried it when she'd killed the God. She'd held it tightly when Sol's body had been interred with royal honors. Now she kept it with her, along with the torture of knowing the last person she'd truly cared for was now dead.
With another sigh Adriannu looked down once more at her old traveling clothes. Without Sol, there was now no one who knew her by the name she'd gone by for most of her life. Tara Grimface, Runestone master of the Band of the Scorpion, was now truly alone. She'd always considered herself alone, since her mother had sent her off to live in the far off edges of Bhashea with no explanation and only her Runestone and the monsters it summoned to protect her. She'd faced prosecution and personal attacks from the people around her. A year after living on her own she'd been discovered by Victor, the leader of the Band of the Scorpion. He hadn't tried to steal her Runestone though. Instead he'd offered her a place in his group. Food, shelter, money, training to fight and steal and most importantly to her, not that she'd ever admit it, the offer of company.
Adriannu looked up at the large man before her. He had a sword belted to his side and a satisfied smile on his face. He was clearly dangerous. He'd admitted he was a thief and a murderer. But he'd also declared that she was much more dangerous than he could ever be. She knew that too. With her mother's stone and a monster card she could do anything.
She admired his honesty at telling her the situation outright. It was an obvious gesture. They were equals and there were no secrets between equals. So she'd accepted his offer, aware that she couldn't do anything but. She had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The man held out his hand to her. "I'm Victor Longfang," he introduced. He smiled and patted the sword at his side. "This is my Longfang. Nice, huh?"
Adriannu openly admired the weapon in front of her and could only absently nod her head in agreement. Luckily Victor was apparently the patient type, since she'd negotiated the deal with him by saying barely a dozen words. Victor took her nod as a sign to continue talking. "Now, what's your name?"
"My name?" asked Adriannu, repeating the question. She wasn't sure how to respond. Her name, given to her by her beloved mother, was Adriannu. But her mother had abandoned her. She was alone, without her mother, her twin sister or the baron's son, her old playmate. No one knew her as Adriannu here, except herself and she wasn't sure she wanted to be known by that name anymore. So she replied sadly, "I don't have a name anymore…"
Victor frowned at that. "You're a strange, depressing kid, you know that?" he asked. The now nameless girl didn't respond, instead looking down at her feet. After a moment, Victor spoke up again. "You've got to have a name; I can't just call you kid or girl. How about I give you a new name then? One that fits in with the Band of the Scorpion?"
The Nameless Girl didn't respond this time either, so Victor just took her silence as an affirmation. "Fine. From this day you'll be known as Tara. Tara Grimface. How's that sound to you?"
The Nameless Girl looked back up at Victor, blinking slowly. She studied him for a moment. "Tara? Grimface?"
"Because you're so depressing and constantly have a grim face," replied Victor bluntly. "If you don't like it than feel free to make your own name.
"No," replied Tara quickly. She smiled for the first time at Victor. "I like the name. It's pretty and dangerous."
Victor smiled viciously back at her. "That it is."
Tara tore her gaze away from her traveling clothes, and instead laid it to rest on her card holder laying at the edge of the trunk. She picked up the holder and flipped open the leather case and looked through the cards. Hellhound, Stone Golem, Dragon Knight, Basilisk, Red Lizard, Lich, Death and so many other cards that she'd used over the years to steal, defend herself and eventually save a kingdom and kill a God. Her hands stopped shuffling through the cards, stopping at a card that was a recent addition to her collection. On the card was featured her own features, reflected twice. Doppelganger. A powerful card that created a clone of the user that when touched by a monster killed them both outright. She'd received the card upon completing her training with the witch Gurd.
She hadn't been ready to fight the Body of the God of Harmony when it had attacked and destroyed Alanjeh Castle. She'd stood outside the castle, the God of Destruction card, long kept safe by the royal family, in her hand. Before she could use the card though Gurd had appeared and told her she wasn't strong enough yet to use the card or defeat the God's body. But Gurd knew how to make her strong enough and had whisked her off to an ancient training ground. There Tara had been pushed to her physical and mental limits, learning to utilize her Runestone to its full potential. As her final challenge she'd faced the spirit of the first queen of Alanjeh, Queen Katia. The battle had been tougher than any before. Queen Katia had defeated the God of Destruction before, saving the world, and to be able to use the card Tara needed to be able to beat the Queen.
She had, and she'd been gifted the Doppelganger card. Gurd had sent her back to Alanjeh and the rest was quickly becoming legend in the Kingdom. Tara had never used the Doppelganger card, aware that the card could harm her as well if she wasn't careful.
But as she stood alone in her room in the castle she felt something pulling her towards the card. For a moment the card in her hand didn't show an image of herself but of Sol. She blinked and the card was back to normal. It had probably just been a trick of her tired and weary mind, but that didn't stop an idea forming in her mind. Tara took the Doppelganger card from the deck, putting the rest back into the trunk and took it and Sol's Runestone over to her bed. She laid them both gently down as she picked up her Runestone and studied it.
A beautiful, red stone roughly the size of her head, although flattened a bit and inlaid in a metal slot. From opposite sides of the main body of her Runestone protruded two metal wings, each about a foot long. She hugged her Runestone to herself, feeling the warmth and comfort from it that had sustained her through the toughest parts of her life. Her Runestone gave her great power and allowed her to do anything. Except bring back the dead.
Tara's gaze fell on the Doppelganger card and Sol's Runestone. The card had given her an idea. Sol wasn't dead yet, not truly. His soul was inside the small blue Runestone, she could feel it. The Doppelganger card created a physical form without a soul. She had a spare soul. If she could use her power to infuse Sol's soul into the card, then maybe, just maybe she could bring him back to life. Bring back the one person in life who she cared about and who cared about her…
Her eyes hardening in determination, Tara slid her Runestone onto her back where magic sealed it into place on her night clothes. With her Runestone connected to her she felt its power waiting for her next command. She picked up the card and Sol's Runestone and took a few steps back from the bed. Then, she closed her eyes and summoned the magic and power to herself. Her Runestone drew power from her own natural reserves and used it to summon the monsters that were sealed inside the cards she held in her hand. She knew intuitively that the Doppelganger card took a large amount of magical energy to use, but that same sense also told her it was an amount she could handle. Her journey and her training with Gurd had made sure of that. Nothing was out of her power.
The magic started to flow from her into her Runestone, collecting there. Once enough energy was in her Runestone it would be changed from raw power to a special type that could activate the card in her hand. But she added another step this time. Instead of sending the energy into the card in her right hand, she sent it to the Runestone in her left. The energy sent a shock through her as it made its way to where she commanded. She allowed it to sit in Sol's Runestone for a moment before drawing it back out, through her and into the Doppelganger card. Opening her eyes she saw the card glow briefly before disappearing from her hand in a flash of light. When the flash of light disappeared she couldn't help but gasp at what she saw before her.
"Sol…" she whispered gently. There, standing before her was Sol, perfect as the day they'd met. Summoning him had been her intent, but deep down she'd never expected it to work. Tears came to her eyes as she looked at him. "Is that really you?"
"Ta-ra," replied Sol slowly, raising his arms up to greet her. He stepped slowly towards her and she took a step towards him. So absorbed with her success she failed to notice his eyes glowing red. Just like the Doppelganger Katia had used in their fight. The same one that had killed Tara's Undine a moment later.
She failed to notice her impending death, and failed to recognize the voice that screamed out her name. "Adriannu!" But she didn't fail to notice as a vase flew through the air, shattering itself and Sol into millions of tiny little pieces.
As she witnessed Sol being killed once more, this time in front of her very eyes, Tara couldn't help but let out an anguished scream. "No!" She turned angrily to see where the vase had come from and was surprised with the sight of her sister, and queen of Alanjeh, Rashiannu, standing before her in a nightgown, her long dirty-blonde hair hanging down her back, a surprised expression on her face.
"Adriannu, what was that thing?" asked Rashiannu, sounding slightly afraid.
"What did you do?!" yelled Tara angrily, drawing a surprised look from Rashiannu.
"I saved your life from that monster, whatever it was," replied Rashiannu stiffly, taken aback by her sister's attitude.
"That wasn't a monster! That was Sol!"
"Sol is dead!" yelled Rashiannu, tears in her eyes. "We attended his funeral. You have his Runestone in your hand!"
Tara glared at Rashiannu, her voice filled with cold fury. "I brought him back to life. I used his Runestone and mine to give him life more. And. You. RUINED. IT!"
Rashiannu had tears streaming down her cheeks and fists clenched as she walked towards Tara. She showed no signs of stopping and years of defending herself kicked in and Tara lashed out with the hand holding Sol's Runestone. Her fist connected with Rashianuu's face and she was knocked to the stone floor of the room, hard. Regret at the action briefly filled Tara but she fought the emotion down. Rashiannu had killed Sol, she'd get no sympathy for intruding into her personal bubble. Blood wasn't that thick.
Rashiannu, not looking very regal on the floor with tears running down her cheeks, looked up at Tara. "Sol was my friend too," muttered Rashiannu acidly. "Sometimes he seemed like my only friend. But he could not leave soon enough to go find you and leave me alone. I knew in my heart that he was just concerned that you were alone in the wild while we were together safe in the castle, but it stung none the less. Cannot you, oh great Runestone Master feel it? Sol's soul is still in that stone!"
Tara's fist clenched around Sol's Runestone and she ignored the faint pulse in the stone as she continued to glare at Rashiannu. She wasn't wrong. Rashiannu was lying, trying to take Sol from her like she'd stolen her Runestone previously. She couldn't be wrong... "I can bring him back." She had to…
Rashiannu just shook her head sadly. "No, you cannot. No one can bring back the dead, not as they were. If you succeeded in using that Runestone to bring back Sol then he would not be human anymore, just one of your summoned monsters."
"I had him…"
"No, you did not," replied Rashiannu firmly. She stood up slowly from where she'd fallen, wincing in pain. Instead of keeping her distance though she continued to move slowly towards Tara. Tara didn't lash out this time, instead taking a step back. Rashiannu kept pushing forward and Tara took another step back. "Adriannu…"
Tara shook her head violently. "I'm Tara. Sol knows that…"
"Tara…," revised Rashiannu. "Please do not…"
"No!" yelled Tara, swinging once more with the fist holding Sol's Runestone. Her strike caught Rashiannu in the face once more. This time it was weaker and Rashiannu was ready. Instead of falling she took the punch, just continuing to stare at a shocked Tara. Rashiannu's hands reached out and gently but firmly closed over Tara's still outstretched fist. The touch paralyzed her and she made no action to back away or attack again. Instead she just stared into Rashiannu's eyes, eyes that looked eerily similar to those she'd seen in her own reflection.
"Tara…," repeated Rashiannu. "Sol was my friend too. Without him I am now truly alone in court. I do not want to be alone… You do not have to be alone. We are sisters. We were friends. We can be again. Please…"
Tara studied Rashiannu for several moments. She broke eye contact and looked down at Sol's Runestone, pulsating comfortingly underneath the sisters' hands. She knew Runestones, and more importantly, she knew Sol and knew that this is what he would have wanted. Sol had come to bring her back to the palace so that she wouldn't be alone. He wouldn't want her to be alone. Rashiannu didn't want to be alone, and Tara found herself believing her when she said she didn't want to leave her alone. Moreover, she didn't want to be alone anymore. She wanted to have friends again.
The Runestone on Tara's back glowed bright red and her grip tightened around the Doppelganger card in her hand. Rashiannu's gaze fell to the card and her hands tightened around Sol's Runestone. Sol's Runestone kept radiating comfort though, seemingly unconcerned by her actions. Rashiannu looked like she was about to say something as Tara raised the card up and threw it into the air.
Instead of summoning another Doppelganger of Sol though, the card burst into flames, falling into ash onto the stone floor. Rashiannu looked from the ash to Tara, a look of shock on her face. Tara took pleasure in surprising her sister and found herself smiling, ever so slightly. It was her turn to be shocked though as Rashiannu released Sol's Runestone and instead rushed forward, embracing her. "Oh Tara! Thank you…" Tara was unused to physical displays of affection and felt herself blushing as she tried to awkwardly place her arms around Rashiannu in what she thought might be an acceptable hug.
After what felt like an eternity Rashiannu released her, taking a step back. She smiled at Tara, but she was distracted by Rashiannu's puffy red eyes and the start of swelling on her cheeks where she'd hit her. Panic filled her at the sight and she turned around quickly to reopen the trunk with her belongings. "Tara?" asked a worried Rashiannu, but Tara ignored her as she placed Sol's Runestone gently on top of her clothes and picked up her deck of cards. She searched through the cards until she found one in particular, taking it and turning to once again face Rashiannu.
Tara quickly summoned some power, routing it through her Runestone and threw the card to the right of Rashiannu. Her sister jumped slightly in surprise as a Rheebus suddenly appeared next to her. The Rheebus was a giant horned dog covered in soft plant life and attached to a tree. Soft grass sprung up underneath them, blanketing the hard stone floor. The Rheebus gave a soft cry and the tree started to glow with green energy. The energy surrounded the two sisters, calming the worried Rashiannu. Tara reached out and gently touched Rashiannu's cheek where the Rheebus's magic was making the swelling go down.
"I'm sorry," muttered Tara softly. "I hope this can make things better…"
Rashiannu smiled gently at her. "Thank you…"
When the morning came, the maid assigned to the Lady Adriannu walked calmly through the panicked halls of Alanjeh Castle. It wasn't her place to join in the panic at the apparent disappearance of Queen Rashiannu on what was supposed to be her first public appearance to the people since the destruction of the Castle and surrounding area by the Kendarie army and their monstrous beast. No, her job was simple; make sure that Lady Adriannu was dressed and ready for the ceremony that was to be held on her behalf for defeating the monster. Other people could worry about the royal presence.
So it was that she knocked on the Lady Adriannu's door three times and waited a few seconds, as was polite warning, and went in anyways. The introduction she was about to give the expected Lady Adriannu was stifled as she caught sight of the twin sisters lying next to each other on a carpet of ivy, their heads nestled in the soft down of a large, green dog. The maid had served the previous Queen since she'd birthed the twins and she'd watched them play as kids. Before Lady Adriannu had been sent away. She'd kept her silence on her real opinion of such an act and her silence on revealing the existence of Lady Adriannu in general. But as she saw the sight she couldn't help but smile and remember the sight of two smiling little girls playing princess and knight in the castle garden, many, many years prior.
The maid backed up slowly, closing the door quietly behind her. It wasn't her place to bother Queen Rashiannu. Other, more uppity servants had that honor. No, she'd allow the pair their much needed rest and go find someone else to risk disturbing them. She decided she'd go down to the kitchen and grab a nice hot cup of tea and a breakfast pastry before doing so. A little panic would do the castle staff some good.
Tara leaned against the cool stone wall of the balcony entrance, dressed in her repaired and cleaned adventuring clothes. She was looking outside, the sunset illuminating the grounds of the castle. Rubble was still visible and left where it had fallen, but the castle staff and laborers had done an amazing job of cleaning up from the Kendarie invasion. As she was about to get lost in the shifting colors, a voice drew her attention.
"Hi!" Tara looked back inside the room and saw a young girl with long, dirty-blonde hair and wearing a red dress. "It's me again." The girl smiled at her and started to walk closer, hands clasped together behind her back. "Oh, I really hope we can be friends with Rashiannu forever, don't you?"
The girl walked past Tara so that she was partially on the balcony and stared outside for a moment. Then she spun and around and looked up at Tara again. "Well…isn't it nice to have friends again?"
Tara looked down at the girl and smiled at her. "Yes, it is nice to have friends again…"
Just then she heard the sounds of shoes on the stone as someone entered the room. "Oh. So that's where you've been hiding?" Tara turned to look to see Rashiannu dressed in Queen attire, crown resting on her head. Rashiannua smiled at her and gestured back to where she'd come from. "Come along. The whole Kingdom is waiting for a glimpse of their savior."
Tara just nodded at her sister and started to walk towards her. She turned to look back out the balcony and saw the little girl smiling and waving farewell to her. "Tara!" Tara looked back to Rashiannu who was walking towards her. Rashiannu held out her hand to her. "We really must be going." Walking forward she took Rashiannu's hand in her own and together they walked out of their mother's old room. Tara looked back once more and waved goodbye to her old, lonely self. It was good to have friends again.