Chapter 1: The 2nd Battle of Belhalla
This is it, the final battle. Everyone braces themselves for the worst. This time they won't be caught off guard like their parents. Ulster however is a bit more on edge than the others. It may be his cautious nature, or that he worries for Julia's safety...
It is early fall of 778 Grann...
Ulster was standing idly in the field, “so this was the tipping point, where everything went wrong…” All around him were craters, formed years ago by the fireballs which rained down from the heavens upon Sigurd’s unsuspecting army. In the distance Belhalla loomed, casting at sinister shadow over a huge area of land. The castle was larger than any structure on Jugral and the liberation army was about to besiege it. His train of thought was interrupted by his sister brashly getting his attention.
“Are you daydreaming again?” His sister was followed by her lover, and half-cousin, Iucharba.
“I’m just thinking about a possible plan of attack. Threats, environment, possible weakness—”
“You spend too much time thinking Ulster. Let’s just get in there and show them who's boss!”
“Larcei, this isn’t that simple! Simply getting into the castle is going to be rough. There is only one entrance so we are going to get shoved into a meat grinder. Not only that, they have artillery and those deadlords aren’t pushovers according to Leif. The last thing I need is to have my sister charge in like an idiot and get slaughtered!”
“Do you think I’m not strong enough!?”
“Stop it both of you!” Iucharba finally chimed in. “Look Larcei, I’m going to side with Ulster on this. He just concerned for ya’ and I don’t want you dyin’ either. This ‘er be a tough egg to crack, but we are going to win this. ‘Cause I got news to pass down the chain.”
“Huh, I wasn’t told yet,” responded Larcei. The twins turned to face their cousin.
“Seliph said there’s allies on the way, and he’s got someone who can deal with that little punk.”
Ulster paused for a moment to process the information. “You mean… someone who can wield the Book of Naga?”
Larcei turned to Ulster. “Alright, there’s your reason to not worry. Now shut your yap and lets all get ready to move out.” The three nodded in agreement and joined the rest of liberation army to form battle lines.
While Ulster was polishing his silver blade, he was joined by his childhood friends Diarmuid and Lester.
“You taking the front lines again Ulster?” asked Diarmuid as he dismounted his horse. Lester did the same.
“Yeah, don’t have much of an option as an infantryman,” Ulster sighed in response, “besides last time I checked I’m the best suited for a melee grind out of the three of us.”
Diarmuid shot him a response, “Oh yeah? You know it’s been a while since we actually last sparred. Whenever we’re training your instead hanging out with Julia. You better have not fallen behind me over some girl.”
“Says the guy who only spends his free time flirting.”
Lester, as usual, decided to insert himself as the voice of reason, “Well, Ulster does have an couple advantages over us. I have the archery skill of Ulir, you Diarmuid has Hezul’s raw strength, but Ulster has both the precision of Od and endurance of Neir. He also has mastered Od’s signature sword technique. Besides, we all have gotten plenty real combat experience over the last year.”
“Guy still can’t ride a horse though,” Diarmuid grumbled, always bringing up Ulster’s spectacular attempts whenever things went went south between the two. The three were interrupted by Oifey’s call to form up and move out however.
“This is it,” Lester exclaimed while mounting his horse and drawing his bow, “the battle we trained all for. Diarmuid mounted his horse and faced Ulster.
“Those strengths of yours better keep you alive.” Diarmuid gave his horse a kick and galloped off. Despite their rivalry, Ulster new the Agustrian to well. Seliph, Lester, Diarmuid and himself grew up as brothers after all. Besides, it’s not like he had an option to hang out with the young priestess anymore.
It was an odd thought, but the young noble of Dozel wished he couldn’t hang out with Julia because she didn’t want to. She always made attempts for Seliph’s attention, however the imperial prince was always busy with logistics when not at war. So when Ulster offered to accompany her she didn’t complain. He was curious about her, she had no memories and her proficiency for light magic wasn’t to be ignored. The art of magic takes years to adept in, but the sacred magic of the faith was far more advanced. Just as mysteriously she disappeared. No farewells, no sightings, no whereabouts, nothing. Ulster feared the worse for her safely, the correlation between her disappearance and the encroaching climax of the war was unsettling. He shrugged off the facts for the moment, he can’t be distracted in the fight to come.
Balls of hellfire rained from the sky. The same fate which their parents befell seemed to be their as well. Ulster sidestepped just in time to evade the vertical chop of an axe. With lightning fast speed he honed his senses and delivered the five slash barrage of Astra. But despite his small victory, he felted spooked by the how the deadlord fell then disappeared without making a sound. That’s just not—
He was blown off his feet and tumbled across the ground. The meteor which was cast barely missed a direct hit on him. His body ached, but he forced himself off the ground as he checked his body to see if everything was still attached. The healers could mend wounds or adjust parts that weren’t facing the right way, but a missing limb is gone. He didn’t notice anything wrong until he fully stood up, where his right ankle erupted in pain. “Damn.” He couldn’t dodge anything with a sprain. He looked off the ground as he heard the footsteps—the only noise they eerily made— of a deadlord rushing towards him with it’s silvery blade primed. Ulster held his own in front of him, ready to deflect the attack. Before the deadlord slashed, Larcei jumped out into Ulster’s field of view and used her Hero Sword to slide the opposing blade into the ground. Ulster forced himself through the pain and lunged. Larcei gracefully twirled around and the twins struck in unison at the deadlord’s midsection from opposing ends.
“So where the hell are the reinforcements?!” Ulster cried out.
“Shut up and fight!” Larcei barked back. She ran charge to join her allies closest to the castle entrance. Ulster’s perception was too good however, as he noticed the shrieking of a meteor bound to crash into his sister.
“LARCEI!!!” he screamed as he managed to gather the will to sprint and tackle her at the very last moment. His armor did not protect him from the magical heat burning away his under clothes and searing his back. His vision goes dim.
Ulster struggles to keep focus, his vision stagnant between reality and pitchblack as Larcei rolled him to face up on the ground and lean over into his sight. He couldn’t hear either, he could see her desperately trying to call out his name but all he heard were muffled noises. The only thing he could taste was blood. He looked for anything to distract himself from his certain death, and chose to focus on how interesting it was that this was the very first time that he ever seen his twin cry.
Despite being conscious of his current state, he didn’t feel pain. He was just happy that he could be with his sister every second from life to death. The thought was comforting enough that he began feeling his body, nervous system reaching his thoughts as the missing pain erupted… wait a minute…
His torso shot off the ground and he rolled in the dirt, instinctively to try to rub off the pain. He was stilled by the rather surprising embrace of Larcei who buried herself in his shoulder. “Your alright, I have you.” Ulster froze, because he knew that gentle voice. He saw her, his missing friend Julia. In her hand she held the Book of Naga and was as beautiful as a goddess as divine light coming from her engulfed him and erased the burns on his back. She gave him a soft smile before turning towards the entrance to Belhalla.
“I’m sorry. I’m going to confront my brother.” Ulster didn’t respond, but the word brother bounced around in his head for a solid minute. ...Brother? She couldn't possibly mean...? “Please stay safe.” Julia hurried on her way. The meteors also stopped falling from the sky and he looked overhead to see thracian dragon knights swooping around the walls and balconies of the castle, silencing the casters. Ulster didn’t question why they were on their side, just accepted the fact. All enemy resistance seems to have been neutralized and the liberation army made way for Julia as she reached the castle entrance. Ulster concluded the only thing left for him to do right now was to address his sister.
She gripped him tighter. “Scare me like that again and I’ll kill you myself.”
To be continued…
Chapter 2: He Hasn't Been Human Since She Left...
Lachesis supposedly disappeared in the Yied Desert. Finn goes to find the only one who may be able to make him himself again...
Finn lost track of time while wandering the wastes...
Finn is alone. Nothing in sight except endless sand. He remember how long he has been since he first stepped foot into Yied; weeks, months, maybe years? He didn’t care to count anymore because only now cares about two things: his next meal and finding Lachesis.
His last meal was 6 days ago, the only span of time he counted. With nothing to scavenge, the only food available was that he could get from other people. However no caravans marched through Yied, so the only occasional human contact was not friendly. Even without the dark magic of their now vanquished dark god, loptyrian cultists prowl the desert with physical weapons eagerly waiting to tear apart anybody suicidal enough to just walk into their territory.
At this point, Finn did not think about death too negatively. He failed to protect his lord Quan and lady Ethlyn, the sole job of a knight. While an argument could be made that he redeemed his failure by protecting Leif until he was old enough to fulfill the lifelong dream of his father, what purpose did Finn serve anymore.
But these cultists couldn’t put down Finn. They were all far too inexperienced in swordplay due to their earlier pursuit of magic. Finn was no crusader, but has fought a constant battle for his liege for over twenty years. He was also armed with his cherished Hero Lance, which held the range advantage against the enemy blades. And while the Lance of Leonster is suffering from malnutrition, he luckily (if you can call him lucky) also has experience when it comes to fighting on an empty stomach. If Finn was fortunate, he came across a cultist who has yet to eat his travel rations. He can only hope and pray to the gods that he isn’t driven to the point of cannibalism, but it seems only blessings are received when he is on the verge of death.
But he would never have been in this physical and psychological hell if it wasn’t for the only person who made him truly feel like something more than a knight. Finn will always remember the moment Lady Ethlyn requested that he watch the grieving Lachesis. The princess would not eat, sleep, or react to any of her comrades. But one day the situation became most dire, when Lachesis asked Finn to kill her. She tried using her sword on herself, but the weapon’s magical properties just absorbed her own life force and gave it back to her. She was already starving, but it seems death was not happening fast enough for her. The knight did not want to fail a task directly given by his liege, nor did he want to hurt a young girl who he pitied in her distress. He told himself in that moment, “A knight’s duty is to serve his liege until death.” Before the princess could react, Finn grabbed her arm and forced her to stab him with the Earth Sword.
Lachesis’s body was almost complete restored to full health, as Finn’s life force satisfied her hunger. She pulled out the sword when she finally got a grip of reality and Finn collapsed on the floor.
“W-why? I just wanted to die… why would you not follow my orders?!?” Her shouts echoed throughout the entire bedroom. They could be heard from the next room over, but she didn’t care. Tears began flowing out of her eyes.
“Ethlyn… wanted me to take c…. c-care of you…” He barely managed to wheeze out, gripping the hole in his stomach in an attempt to clog the bleeding. Lachesis was silent, but at least she paused crying. “It’s not just her… Lord Sigurd, M’lord Quan….they want to honor Lord Eldigan.”
Her eyes lit up, as her brother’s name sent a shockwave throughout her entire system. As she jumped off of her knees, she desperately looked around the room for her staff. It was tucked in a corner. She scrambled to it, almost tripping in her panic. She also flubbed the incantation a couple times, but was able to cast a heal on the fourth time. As the wound closed Finn tried to pick himself up, but the pain was still lingering. Lachesis helped her “savior” up and hauled him over to the bed.
“Um… I want you to rest. Don’t push yourself.” She tried to sound noble, despite the recent crisis. She then rolled onto the bed and buried herself on his side. “Thank you, for saving my life.” More tears managed to escape her eyes, but they were countered by a gentle smile.
That smile lingered in Finn’s head, because he refused to forget about it in the moment. The same smile that she had when he took her hand and lead her out of her room for the first time in days. The smile she had when she picked up one of his lances and requested to learn from him. The smile she had when they took a walk along the Silesian coast. The smile she had when she led him to her room during one late night. The smile she had during his departure to Leonster. The smile she had as they embrace after her arrival from the Battle of Belhalla. The smile she had that Nanna tried to mimic as an newborn. It was the last thing of her he saw when she departed for Isaach, never to be heard of again.
Leif was safe, and has made vows with Finn’s daughter to keep each other safe until the end. So the only thing left for Finn was to find Lachesis and see her smile again, because he couldn’t get enough of her.
To be continued…
Chapter 3: A King's Last Request
Arion is on life support after the 2nd Battle of Belhalla. With the little time he has left he plans on expressing his true feeling to Altena...
It is late fall of 778 Grann...
The pain has not stopped in the months. For many, the Second Battle of Belhalla was the turning point in history. Loptyr was finally slain and peace was finally brought to all the nations. But that day marked the end of Arion’s life.
He already suffered a grievous wound in battle with the Liberation Army in defense of his homeland. The final nail for him was at Belhalla. After he defected under plead of Altena, he assaulted the capital but was struck by a meteor. By the time his loyal knight Dean carried him back to Thracia, the damage had already been done. Clerics from all over the world flocked to his aid, but his wounds had not healed.
Nobody would admit that it was already pointless to try to save him except for the king himself. Since he had no heir and his nation was annexed fairly by the rules of war, Arion decided to abdicate his throne to Prince Leif instead of press for his lands to be returned.
“Leif, you are young, but I would not choose anyone else to rule in my absence. May your rule last long and peacefully. Please, take this as an apology for my father’s sins.”
“You needn't have Arion. You are not King Travant. I promise I will rule your people fairly and bring the unity we all have strived for. Rest easy King Arion.”
After the negotiations, Leif was official crowned King of Thracia. There was many complaint, but nobody could deny that they were looking forwards to a lasting peace. One complaint however was taken to the previous king personally.
After the feast, Arion was help back to his chambers by Dean. Shortly after he arrived Altena came storming in. “Brother!” Arion tried lift himself off the bed to formally address his guest but was stopped by his knight and the cleric attending him.
“Milord, please do not push yourself. Your wounds will not heal if—”
“Dean, my wounds will not heal no matter what.” He forced himself up so he was now sitting on the side of the bed. “Yes Princess Altena?”
“Arion, why would you just let go of your kingdom?”
“You already know the answer to that question.” Altena looked at the floor. “I know it’s hard to admit, but I’m done for. My wounds are irreversible at this point and no amount of clerics can save me.” He noticed little tear droplets beginning to form around the corners of the princess’s eyes. Arion let out a sigh, “Leave us.”
“Dean, I said leave us. That means you too.” He gestured to the cleric. She frowned but bowed farewell. The door slammed shut as the two exited. Altena then collapsed to her knees and began to sob. Arion wished he could comfort her, but the writing was on the wall and his nerves would erupt if he tried to move in to embrace her. “Stand up princess of thracia. Your kingdom is in the good hands of your brother.”
“The age-long war on this peninsula was going to end this way, with the death of one of the noble bloodlines. There is no other way to dissolve a hundred and thirty years of tension.”
“ARION PLEASE!!!” Her scream silenced his logic. She ran up and wrapped her hands around him and gripped hard. It hurt, a lot, but Arion did not make any attempt to stop her. He knew there wasn’t any way to defuse the situation. For almost all of her life, Arion was her brother and taught her everything she knew. She learned literature, tactics, warfare, etiquette, and dragon riding from him and he was always gentle and kind under his stoic demeanor. Even though the revelation of her true heritage was shocking, her opinion of him did not change if not strengthen it in a certain way. To her, he was irreplaceable. “Brother… I don’t want you to die.”
“I know. Altena, the most painful thing about my inevitable death is not the burns or my sliced open chest.” Altena lifted her head off of his shoulder and looked at him face to face. “It’s you. Truth be told, I always knew you weren’t my real sister. I attempted to give myself that illusion, but I never truly could for I adored you in a different way.”
“Arion…” The princess blushed as her faced moved closer to his. He began stroking her hair.
“Even after I die, I’ll be watching over you… always.” Altena grabbed the back of his head and brought it to hers. They savored the tender moment before slowly moving apart. Altena stepped back away from him and undid the lacing of her dress, letting it slide off her body and onto the floor when she was done. She returned to Arion and gently helped him undress before leaning him back onto the bed. She climbed on top of him and positioned herself correctly. “I don’t want you to refer to me as ‘brother’.”
“And I will make sure your legacy does not end with you.”
Arion awoke, still alive to his disappointment. He tilted his head to find Altena nuzzled into his side with his arm wrapped around her. It seems there was a connectioned formed between the two as she lazily opened her eyes shortly after he laid eyes on her. “Altena…”
“I waited long to tell you this… I love you…” They kissed and Altena giggled before resting on his body again. It stinged, but he didn’t care. The princess he coveted for so long felt mutual for him.
Arion died a month after Leif became king. His body was displayed in the throne room of Thracia Castle and rulers from all countries came to pay their respects. Upon seeing his corpse, Altena suffered mental trauma and was escorted to her room by Dean and was comforted by her knight Eda and Queen Nanna. Leif starred upon the previous king. The last member of a bloodline he hated so bitterly laid before him. It wasn’t until the two rules put aside their differences after the Second Battle of Belhalla that he gained respect for the man, and understood why he initially had no choice but to oppose them. Regret was the only thing Leif felt upon looking at Arion. Curiously enough, the king’s face had faint smile.
Months passed, and Altena was emotionally unstable due to the pain of losing Arion. She was care for diligently by everyone in the castle, the king and queen personally reserving time for themselves to aid their sister. Her spirit was finally lifted when she gave birth. She greatly cherished her baby and would never separate herself, claiming it was her reminder of her one love. The child was a boy and Altena named him after his late father. He bore a unique birthmark never before seen, which could best be described as the combination of the mark of Njorun and mark of Dain.
Chapter 4: Look After Her For Me, Will You?
King Seliph has declare a campaign shall be held to aid the Prince Ares in reclaiming Agustria. Duke Arthur's attendance is required, but he fears he cannot take his sister Tine with him to fight in more wars. With Silesia stabilized in quick time, Arthur requests the aid of King Ced.
It is early winter of 778 Grann...
With most of his life spent looking for his father and fighting in the Holy War, Ced never really had much free time to spend. Now with those two tasks fulfilled he still is quite busy with his new duties as king. However whenever he did manage to put the time into study it did not take im long to learn, especially anything that related to the lore of wind. His latest skill has been a rather convenient one as pegasie were only really comfortable with one passenger. As he soared across the sky, his sister caught up to him. “Hey, no fair! Annand can’t keep up with you!” She had to scream at him, the highwind made it difficult to communicate normally.
“Sorry, first time flying! Got a bit carried away, but this is amazing!” Fee was a bit jealous of her brothers ability to now fly but was glad she didn’t ultimately mind, for her pegasus would always be with her. “But really, you should hurry up! We really shouldn’t be keeping Arthur waiting! You don’t want to disappoint your boyfriend!”
“Oh please! Like I’d fall for such a grumpy bookworm!” Ced only smiled before zooming on ahead. “Hey get back here! Come on Annand!”
Arthur kept tapping his pen against the table, the parchment was still blank in front of him. He knew what to say but could write down anything. They were late and he hated tardiness, whether it be his own or others. Though it always ended up being the tardiness of others it still bothered him all the same. It was unlike him, but he still stood up and walked away from his books. Maybe they would arrive in the time of his little break and he could continue his work, but break was to put it lightly as he had other things to attend to. He went to the lowest floor of the castle before turning to the thick wooden door which barred the catacombs where the descendants of Thrud lay to rest. The castle has always felt like a sanctum, but Arthur always got the chills when he approached this place. Nethertheless he pulled open the door and entered.
The tunnels were fairly well lit but he was still in the presence of the dead, and that made him queasier than he would like to admit. Knowing that dark powers could turn anyone of these into one of those Deadlords didn’t help his anxiety, no matter how safe in the castle he actually was. He made it through the entire Holy War without anything emotion breaking, but at Belhalla one of the Deadlords made him feel uneasy and question its identity. Arthur ultimately decided to force his thoughts behind him and attend to his sister, there was no way one could rise in the safety of the castle. Then he saw her, kneeling beside the sarcophagus of the catacomb’s newest member.
She had sorrowful eyes and a gentle face, although that could be attributed to her youth. She was barely fifteen years of age and has already suffered from the death of her mother, the fires of war, and the death of her cousin Ishtar laying in the tomb in front of her. Arthur is the only family she has left so it's his job to make sure she is happy, but that task has become difficult under the management of two realms. He didn’t make a sound as he knelt next to her and the silence lasted for some time before she broke it.
“Um, brother,” she was still hesitant to speak, “there was no other way was there?” Arthur hated this, although this was unlike him. On most occasions he would give a second thought about the enemy even if they were good people, they chose their path and he chose his. But to Tine Ishtar was special, and it was hard to pass off the care she gave to the tortured princess. Arthur would normally just spill the truth, but he decided to take the easier route as he held her hand.
“I think you should leave this place, you’ve spent enough time down here.” She didn’t resist as he led her out, but her journey didn’t seem willing and Arthur noticed that. “Look you should clean up, Ced’s coming by for a visit. I think he’s taken an interest in you so let’s look presentable, shall we?”
Tine opened her mother’s slightly grand closet, filled to the brim with many different dresses. She has always admired beauty but never coveted much for herself, her aunt Hilda always ensured she never saw herself as attractive. Also in war it was never acceptable to think about such things, but now that the fighting has stopped Tine attempted to adapt as a way to put the past behind her. She managed to find not too fancy, loose fit dress that was lilac of color with a silver colored swirl pattern around the sleeves, neck and skirt. While the design was not too extravagant, Tine felt that it was waste to be worn by her. Nevertheless when her brother knocked on her door demanding she come meet the guests, she was out of time and decided to go with what she had.
Arthur had already seated Ced and Fee out on the patio, it was unavoidable on such a clear day. It was also convenient for Fee who had her pegasus landed next to her as she sneaked some snacks behind her chair for her companion. It was too obvious for Ced and Arthur to not notice but were focused on their conversation. Arthur did interrupt the flow as Tine arrived, “Ah, sister. Your late.”
As she sat down Ced turned and smiled to her, “Hello Tine.” There was something about Ced which she could not describe, he was uncomfortable to be around despite his deep kindness. But her misconfort was not the same as when she was around Hilda, even though her heart still rushed out of panic. Everytime she thought of him, which was often, the word beautiful echoed in her head as she remembered him being the only one who ever called her that.
As she sat down Arthur continued the conversation, “As I was saying Ced, I would ask that you manage Freege in my absence. I’m to accompany King Ares in Agustria’s liberation. There are remnants of the Empire still active in the area and I have my orders from King Seliph. I do not have enough reserves to protect both Velthomer and Freege.” And there it goes again, her heart started to go crazy as a fuzzy feeling filled her entire body. “I know it is a lot to ask, you are king of your own realm however. Although you have done a fine job stabilizing your country and I would only need your management for no more than half a year.”
Fee decided to intervene, “Hey Ced, can I accompany Arthur on the campaign? Misha has good control of the capital and I think he could use some protection, especially with his diminished knight brigade.”
“Hey, I can take care of myself! And I don’t want you going headstrong into danger like you always do!”
Ced laughed a tiny bit, “Arthur, we both know you aren’t going to stop her. Hey Fee, keep him safe for me alright?” Arthur grumbled as Fee struck a salute. It was a bit amusing to see nobles act so casually to one another, but Tine has yet to calm down now knowing she was going to be alone in a castle with Ced.
“Alright fine, Fee’s coming with me on the campaign. Ced that leaves you with the Freege, I ordered my reserves to hold Velthomer. I’m actually not so worried about an invasion, but I need someone I can trust to look after Tine for me. So look after her for me, will you?”
“Yeah, you can count on me.”
Arthur left the next mourning with Fee and a small company of knights he could muster for Jungby where they would meet up with the rest of the invading force. And thus Tine was alone in the castle with Ced. There weren’t many servants and almost no guards, a reflection of the damaged reputation of Freege from the Holy War. Nevertheless, Tine still felt safe. Ced accompanied her everywhere, and slowly overtime her anxiety began to weaken. Her feeling of uneasy around him began to evolve into warmth. Whenever he made a compliment she no longer did her best to shrug it off, but embrace it which left her yearning for more. He would follow her as she paid her dues to her cousin in the catacombs, and her pain dissolved knowing there were others who would support her like Ishtar did. Tine began to assume Ced as her brother, but deep down she knew there was something else which she has yet to address. Despite her newfound comfort, there was something she was too nervous to still address. That feeling came out a week into Ced’s stay.
Tine stood alone in the field, the earth was scourced and the sky was the color of blood. Around her laid the broken corpse’s of her comrades, Ishtar, Ishtore, Ced, her brother, even the late Prince Julius. Her attention however was on the giant beast which blocked out the sun. It was like a dragon but with much more horns and eyes compared to Loptyr. As it roar and cackled more bodies rained from the sky and created mountains around her. The corpses all look different from one another as if they were all from different lands. “I SAID I SHALL RETURN!” Eldritch energy erupted from the earth as it roar one last time, the ground crumbled from beneath Tine’s feet as she fell into a abyss. The world was destroyed.
Tine found herself alive as she shot up from her bed. She was safe, but she did not feel it. Was that dragon Loptyr, or something far worse? The last descendant of Loptyr was dead… buried with Ishtar. She choked on those thoughts but managed to make enough resolve to not break in emotion. Unable to fall back asleep, she left her room and found herself on the patio where Arthur and Ced discussed their plans. It was the dead of night, but Tine could see clearly as the moon shined brightly illuminating the countryside. The different veil at which she gazed through offered quite the site. She flinched however as a shadow flew overhead, a bad reminder of her dream. It swooped down to meet her but was far from intimidating. “Did I startle you? You look frightened.” The friendly voice was Ced’s.
“No, it’s just… I can’t sleep.” As comfortable as the two have gotten, she was not ready to reveal herself in such ways to him yet. However there was no hiding from Ced, and he didn’t even need a truth spell to know.
“Okay then… well since your up, wanna try something I’ve been experimenting with?” She nodded as he landed close to her, very close. “Alright, take my hand.” Tine froze. She has yet to hold another boys hand save her brother, who only did so when she really needed it. As she extended out her arm she was unable to stop quivering, closing her eyes out of fear. “Ok, this may be a bit scary but don’t worry, I got you.” As Ced took Tine’s hand she felt as if she was going to melt. Her entire body then felt weightless as she had the feeling of soaring. “Great it worked… oh, you can open your eyes but try not to freak—” Tine did so only to find that she was roughly a fifty feet above the patio, and promptly began doing the latter. Ced put his other hand on her shoulder to still her. Neither said anything as she managed to calm down, and Ced slide his hand down her arm in a gentle stroke to take Tine’s other hand. They continued to rise higher and higher while doing a light spin, sort of like a dance. After reaching a certain altitude Ced let go of one of Tine’s hands to spread himself out into a gliding position, Tine followed and they gained forward momentum while gazing down at the countryside. All the structures and forests looked like toys and Tine could not help but smile, her worries were put behind her.
After a loop around the country, they made their way back to Freege Castle. Ced carried her like the princess that she was as they entered through her bedroom window. He set her down, “Better?” She nodded. “Well, my work her is done. See you in the mourning.” He made his way back towards the window, but Tine grabbed his arm.
“Ced, thank you for this magical night. I… I would like you…” She realized it, the feelings she was ignoring ever since she first met him in Thracia. “Please… stay the night with me?”
Ced’s eyes fluster open, it was still dark outside however. His awakening was not of his own volition. His magic was so attuned it act like a six sense, and they knew something was up. His nerves grew cold as he felt an odd presence, one he has not felt since the closing days of the holy war. …Dark magic is coming somewhere from within this castle, he was sure of it. He tried pulling himself out of bed but Tine’s arms were wrapped tightly around his chest, she unconsciously squirmed as he moved. She was fast asleep and nothing was going to wake her up, she was comfortable in the presence of Ced and was recovering energy from the passion they recently shared. Nevertheless, Ced took her arms off of him and climbed out of bed. He slipped the sheets back over the princess to cover her bare body while casting a wind spell to bring his trousers to him from the other side of the room. He only then put on his shirt as he slipped out the door. The only thing more chilling about the presence of dark magic was the location from where the energy was emanating from. Ced gulped as he headed to the bottom floor, to the catacombs.
The wooden door creaked open only to be followed by absolute silence. Tapping into the lore of fire he produced a ember which floated around his head, illuminating his path. This however gave the graves a more sinister feel as shadows loomed as he walked. He paused… and readied a blade created through the lore of wind… he spun around an plunged his blade into the target. The blade hissed as it struck through the cloaked figures chest, it the fell with a grunt as the blade evaporated. It was a Loptyrian, and he’s not alone. Ced turn back on coarse and ran deeper into the catacombs. He was late, the presence began to fade as he came across the source. There he found what he feared most, Ishtar’s tomb broken open with her stomach carved out. He looked around furiously, but the presence had left.
To be continued...
(Delays are not my fault, somebody put midterms in my way)
Chapter 5: The Imperial Princess of Grannvale
Ulster went to Dozel with his sister and cousin as the last descendants of Neir. With the house somewhat stable, he takes the opportunity to visit a friend who went missing...
It is spring of 779 Grann...
Despite the intense trauma his body went through during the final battle, Ulster surprisingly did not suffer any permanent damage. He didn’t even feel all that sore. While impressive, his recovery was only a meager show of the true power of Naga. But to the young duke this was just a brief thought, because someone was instead capturing his attention. He turned away from the window and summoned a servant to fetch a horse.
“Hey Ulster, where ya goin’? Shouldn’t you be resting?”
“I told you I feel completely fine. Besides, I’ve walked off worse beatings given by yourself if you remember.” Ulster walked past his sister towards the front door of the palace. “I’m going to Belhalla. You and Iucharba got the castle right?” Ulster was always more professional than his sister, acting as a counterbalance to her hotheadedness. This trait became more pronounced when the twins, along with their brash cousin, had to rebuild the Dozel legacy.
Larcei’s eyes widened for a second, but then she understood. “Oh, alright,” she winked at him, “go get her, and try not to fall off your horse.”
“What? Look, were not like that! She’s just a close friend… and I can ride a horse!”
Ulster fell off his horse about a dozen times on his journey, half of which trying to cross a small patch of forest to avoid taking the long way around through Freege. But thanks to the blood of Neir, he made it to Belhalla in one piece. His arrival was unexpected, but was instantly allowed into the imperial palace.
“Your highness.” Ulster bowed on one knee as he addressed the king on his throne.
“Look, Ulster, there’s no need for that. We grew up together, have you forgotten?”
Ulster stood up again, “No I haven’t, but I oughta act like a true lord now.”
“There’s the Ulster I know, always striving for improvement,” Seliph chuckled, “So what did you come here for? Dozel isn’t supposed to be a day away, and YOU made it that quick on horseback. How many times did ya fall?”
Ulster sighed, there was point in hiding his missteps. His outfit was covered in dirt. “At least… ten, I think…” and the king burst out laughing. The duked waited for the king to settle down. “Where’s Julia? I haven’t seen her since she disappeared in Peruluke.”
“Oh,” Seliph paused for a moment, “She’s somewhere around the castle… maybe her bedroom. Go on ahead.” Ulster bowed out and made his way towards the stairwell. “Also Ulster, thanks for looking after her when I was busy.”
He pushed opened the door to the late empress’s room. The room was indeed grand, but it did not look like that of a queen. All the walls were the same boring color, none of the lights had any special decorations, and the only thing of interest was the window which had a great view of the city. There was bed stretched along through the middle, but the sheets were simple and lacking of patterns. From what Ulster heard of Empress Deirdre it was safe to assume that she preferred it that way, and her apparent death made it unlikely that Julia would change any of it. And standing nexting to the bedside, there she was. However it seems someone else had beaten him to her. Standing next to the princess was the queen of Grannvale, holding hands to comfort one another. The queen noticed Ulster and acknowledged his presence while the princess was lost in thought.
“Oh, Ulster. Your here,” the mild surprise in her tone reflected his sudden entry, “How are you?”
She didn’t have any notion of formatility so Ulster just gave up, “Hey, I’m fine. I just wanted to thank Julia since… you know… she made me fine.” Julia finally snapped to reality and the duke caught her eye. The queen just gave Ulster a smile and turned to the princess.
“Julia, I think it would be best if you got out of this room for a bit. Ulster can you take her out around town or maybe a picnic? I’ll pack something for the both of you. She just needs to get away from this castle.”
“Sure thing Lana, I’ll take her somewhere.” The queen got up and walked towards the door, but when she arrived next to Ulster she leaned into his ear.
“This time, I think you’re her first choice,” she whispered. He could have sworn that she winked as well. First his sister and now Lana, he hated nothing more than people getting the wrong idea about things.
For once his horse cooperated with him. Julia always have had her way with animals, whether it be her singing or the divine aura which she emitted. She didn’t start to sing until they were way out of the city, but the horse instantly calmed down upon seeing her. Speaking of which, a thought struck Ulster about Julia’s singing. He began to realize that he might have been the only so far to have heard her divine voice. She never did so in public, even in front of her comrades, but he was given the privilege of audience after a couple accompanies. Her voice was nothing like anything Ulster had ever heard, and a far cry from Larcei’s meager ear bleeders. Julia claimed she just knew how to sing based on instinct and while beautiful, all the lyrics were unrecognizable. Coupled with her amnesia, it cemented Ulster’s curiosity in her. Never did it occur to him that she was actually the imperial princess carrying the blood of Naga, and she was actually singing a chant of the goddess herself.
“I think that looks like a good spot,” he gestured to a rather isolated tree. Should be shady enough for the afternoon he thought. He helped the princess off the horse and unpacked his bag, he also set his blade against the tree as he laid everything out. It got him through the entire war alive and always made sure it was in arms reach just in case. She plopped herself right down next to him but remained silent. She was lost in her thoughts again, whatever it was the thought didn’t seem to be pleasant one. “Hey, you okay?”
“Oh, sorry. I’m fine, I’m just…” she seemed to doze off again.
“Your thinking of Seliph, aren’t you?”
She quickly snapped out of it and blushed. “Oh, no. I just…” Ulster knew her too well, she wasn’t going to fool him. She sighed, “Yeah…” There was a pause. “Ulster? It's just… when I first saw him in Isaach… how do I describe it… ”
“You don’t need to. I know you have feelings for him and I won’t judge you for it.”
She interlocked her hands together and rested them on her legs. “Well… there’s more to it the fact that he’s my brother. He already is in love with Lana. Also…” She looked at the ground. Ulster didn’t like seeing his friend in such a predicament, but he was secretly a bit flattered that she was sharing such information with him. “...I can’t be allowed to love anybody...” Ulster flared up to attention, but was left speechless. He didn’t know if it was his integrity to not interrupt lady, or some other reason. “...I am a descendent of Loptyr. My parent’s love led to the rise of the Loptyrian Empire and the near doom of the world.”
He gathered the will to speak. “I thought there isn’t any trace of the Loptyr’s dark power in you?”
“Yes, there doesn’t appear to be… but I cannot take any chances. I cannot allow my personal happiness to get in the way of peace.” Lana wasn’t kidding, Julia really needed to relax. There was another pause, only the rustle in the tree from the wind made noise.
“Julia…” She finally looked off the ground to see him directly in front of her, “you are a descendent of Naga not that tyrant! You killed that damn god and he’s never going to bother the world again! He’s already made you suffer so much, he killed your entire family! Don’t let that bastard get in the way of you for now on! You deserve to be apart of a family again, more than anyone else!” The nobleman stepped back to regain his bearings, “Sorry… I just… your a good friend and nobody wants to see you sad. We’re all worried about you.” He sat down again. After about a minute, tears began to run down Julia’s eyes. “I’m sorry if I hurt your—”
“No, your right.” She looked up at Ulster. Even though she was crying, she was also giving him a sweet smile. “Ulster… thank you… I just needed someone to knock some sense into me…” She wiped her eyes. “But… my previous points still apply. Seliph is my brother and is already in love with Lana. I don’t know who else I could possible love in the same way…”
Ulster smiled at her back. “Yeah, well, I’ll help you. There are a lot of guys I know who might fit your fancy… ” She then looked him dead in the eye, but this time she was frowning, “... What?”
“Ulster, you blockhead.”
“Huh, never though I ever hear you talk’n like my—” He was interrupted by her lunge and sudden kiss.
To be continued…
Chapter 6: Never Leave My Side Again
The Manster District has been liberated from imperial rule. With logistics being prepared to invade the home country or a possible Thracian invasion, Ares gets an unwanted distraction that requires his attendance...
It is fall of 777 Grann...
Ares picked up the boy very slowly. He wasn’t very confident in his ability to handle a newborn gently. This might be because he was anything but gentle, his enemies new that during their last moments against Mystletainn. Hezul’s blood may grant him overwhelming strength, but muscle was the last thing he need right now. As careful as he tried to be it didn’t work out for him, the baby wailed as Ares made an attempt to calm it. Lana burst into the room and Ares decided to let the more kind hearted take care of the issue.
“There, there,” as she gently rocked the newborn.
“Look like the little guy fell asleep immediately, I’m surprised you didn’t have to use your sleep staff.”
Lana chuckled, “There’s more to it than just an immediate solution, my mother taught me that. You’re going to have to learn quick since your a father now.”
“Right… that…” Lana sensed his withering mood.
“You alright? Do… do you feel unprepared for this?” He remained silent. “Oh, I’m sorry… I’ll won’t ask—”
“Yes. I wasn’t expecting a child, to put it one way. Well I was, but...” Lana wished she never forced it out, but let him continue. “Look, Lene doesn’t want to talk about this but… it’s important. I’m not the father, you see…”
Lana put the baby into Ares’s arms. “Support the head, there you go. Sssssshhhhhh. Give him a quiet rock.” Ares turned to face the bedroom door. “It’ll be ok. She’ll feel safe by your side.”
Ares sighed. “Well, never am I going to make the same mistake twice.” He pushed his way into the room.
There she layed, still recovering from the struggle that was childbirth. Ares’s needn't have worried for Lene’s well being as Nanna was sitting on the bed helping the young girl wherever she needed it. The two had their attention directed to the newly entered prince. Nanna then turned back to Lene. “Lene, if your not comfortable, we don’t have to do this.”
“No, I can do this.” The girl was young, barely an adult, but Ares saw the courage burning in her eyes as she stared directly at him and the baby. She was doing her best to be brave, but her body was trembling. Ares gulped, he has rarely ever felt fear. His first experience with it during the death of his mother, however it was suppressed during his time as a mercenary. However that spark of emotion was reignited when he met Lene, and fear came along also when Lene was kidnapped by the vile Bramsel. He tapped into the zeal which drove him forward his entire life and stepped towards his lover.
“Lene, it’s a boy.” Even as he sat down on the bed next to her she didn’t reach out to her son. She only stared at the resting boy. Despite her unwavering state, Ares sensed her emotions bottling up. “Nanna, please leave us.” Nanna knew the implications of his request and left, saying only she would be nearby with her staff if Lene needed some healing. The second the door shut behind her, Lene burst into tears.
“Ares!” She buried herself in his arms. “I-I don’t understand… how could this happen to us… ” This wasn’t the situation Ares thrived in. He was a descendant of Hezul, the demonic god of war. His entire life up until this point was spent as it was intended, on the battlefield feeding the demon sword with blood and souls. He had never been woefully unprepared for anything but this. However, in a time a crisis he chose to act upon the first thing that came to mind. He decided any solution would be ideal as the situation could probably not get any worse. What he did is something nobody expected he, of all people, would do. He balanced the baby in his left arm, wrapped his right around Lene, and brought the three together close. The smile on his face was something she has yet seen.
“Cheer up, ok?” Lene’s sorrow was interrupted by a bit of shock. It was always her which said that to the black knight. She never thought he would ever break the seriousness and say something jolly. “It’s like you always said, a smile makes things better.” He placed the baby in her arms but kept holding its hand.
“B-but I gave birth to another man’s child. How can I be by your side anymore?”
“This doesn’t change my opinion of you. If anything, this makes me want to be with you more. I want to protect you.”
Lene looked at him bewildered, “Shouldn’t a king have higher responsibilities than a bodyguard?”
“Not for a family member.” His words caused Lene to freeze. “Well, um, I have a two requests. My first is: I wish adopt the boy as my own. My second request is, um… will you marry me? I know you told me to never leave your side after Darna and I don’t plan to. But maybe we could make an official agreement—”
“YES!!!” Lene used her available arm to squeeze the knight as hard as she possibly could. “Yes, to everything! For you, my answer will always be yes!”
“See? You were right, a smile does make things better.” He leaned his head into hers and they kissed. The baby was awoken however revealing it’s olive green eyes, just like the fuzz on its head. It didn’t cry though as it looked upon its mother for the first time. After the tender moment ceased the two looked back at the boy. The baby responded back with laughter at their smiles. “I think he looks like someone who will grow into a great hero.”
“Really, you think so? He will be a better man than his father?”
“Of coarse, one of the greatest! But… I know, he shall be named Perseus! Yeah… that sounds like heroic name.”
Lene chuckled. Using her own tactics against her was one thing, but theatrical could never be expected of the gruesome black knight. “Isn’t that wonderful Perseus?”
To be continued…
Chapter 7: A Life For a Life
Claud is on death's door. With no hope of continuing his life, he seeks to continue another.
It is Winter of 771 Grann…
No life was supposed to be up here, the mountains of Silesia were in hospitable. It was also winter and the air was freezing his skin turning it into ice. The multiple torch spells he cast were fading under extreme winds. Nevertheless, Claud pushed on closer to the peak. His destination was close to it.
He survived the Battle of Belhalla, barely. Ever since that fateful day he has been hiding in Silesia awaiting the day that Loptyr was defeated, he knew it would come. Lord Bragi has been merciful to him and assured victory over the dark dragon through visions, however his granted visions also revealed something much darker. Even though Loptyr would be defeated at another battle at Belhalla in the year 778, the dragon would rise again millenniums later. The crusader weapons would be needed once more to combat such a threat and Claud wished to have Valkyrie Staff lend to the cause, but he would never return to Grannvale. He had endured for ten years, but it seems his wounds were getting the better of him. With no other choice he decided to act upon Bragi’s final vision to him, he will use the last of his strength to climb to the peak and hand the staff to an old friend that would ensure its security. “Lord Bragi, give me strength.”
The very peak was only a couple meters above him, but he had arrived to the exact spot where he needed to be. “Lord Bragi, forgive my forgetfulness, where is she again?.... Yes, thank Lord Bragi.” He turned slightly to left upon the spot he was shown. His breath was short and felt his soul awaiting release, but he drew upon the Lore of Earth and a small crater open beneath him. It was about six feet deep and box of ice laid at the bottom, he jumped in after it. He confirmed it was indeed the person he was looking for as he rubbed the dirt off the encasement, before calling upon the Lore of Fire to sear away the ice. After the ice cover was gone he drew upon the Lore of Water to remove all the melt ice off the body, being soaked was the worst possible scenario up here. The person was freed, but did not breath. She was dead, the ice was only there to preserve her flesh. Claud wasn’t unprepare for this however, and held his staff close to him as he drew upon its power. What he was unprepared for was the fact that it didn’t work.
Her body laid lifeless, despite the staff’s power to retrieve souls from the astral realms. “Why…?” He had another vision answering his question. He was back at the Second Battle of Belhalla which would defeat Loptyr. Soldiers of the Liberation Army did battle in the fields with the twelve Deadlords, but his attention was focused one in particular. The deadlord was of feminine design with silvery hair, and smote the crusaders with spells of thunder. “I see… her soul has been harvested and corrupted, I cannot recover it for her resurrection. Lord Bragi… what can I do?... Yes, of coarse. I’m dying anyway, so might as well do that.”
The Lore of Anima was by one of the most mysterious laws of magic, it governed the rules of the soul which gives life itself. Claud said his farewells to Bragi as the lord left him with the knowledge of a spell from that lore that could resurrect life, at a cost. He tore off a piece of his robe and wrote his final will. After setting down the staff with the note, he turn to face his target. “Goodbye Lord Bragi, it has been an honor.” As he cast the spell he felt all of the energy which made up his life force drain away, everything went black.
Tailtiu’s eyes fluttered open. “What… how?” She was alive, but nothing made sense. She arose from a bed of ice and the air was thin, this was not Manster or Castle Freege. She was also in a small crater which shielder her from the winds overhead. And that is when she saw him, “Oh, Claud… Claud?” She approach the body leaned against the side of the crater. His skin was pale and he was completely still, it took a minute for Tailtiu to realize he was dead. Next to him lay the Valkyrie Staff with a small cloth with writing on it. She picked them both up and read the note left behind.
My dear friend Tailtiu,
I have used a spell that brought you back to life. I could not have resurectly you normally with the Valkyrie staff due to certain circumstances. You have been buried here in the mountains of Silesia. As of now, the Grannvale Empire now still controls most of Jugdral. That will change in 778, Lord Bragi has shown me it’s downfall. I only ask that you take my staff and remain undercover until then. I have a child, I do not know if it is a boy of girl but they should bear the mark of Bragi. After 778, please give the staff to them. Thank you, it is no small task but I have always trusted you to carry out a challenge. Also your children and husband are alive, and will you will reunited in time. Lord Bragi has said so.
Tears began to form in Tailtiu’s eyes. Claud never had a wrong vision, and foresaw her family reunited. She took his lifeless hand, “I will do so, I swear it… and thank you Claud.”
To be continued...
Derplord: AoOO! What does the word counter say about my writing?
AoOO: IT'S OVER 9000!!!
Chapter 8: A Return to Life
The entirety of Sigurd's common force was wiped out while most of his commanding officers died as well, but many also remain to have an unknown fate. They have presumed to have died, but General Dalsin of Fort Kelves made a discovery in a sealed off room within the dungeon...
It is Summer of Grann 780...
It was hard for Lachesis to understand what just happen. A second ago she was fighting loptyrian cultists in the desert. She was struck with a spell which made her limbs stiff and organs burn. Everything went black after that, but now she was back to normal roughly five seconds later. The princess collapsed onto the floor however as she felt extremely lightheaded, like she held her breath for a bit too long. The ground was cold and hard, nothing like Yied. It was all disorienting.
“Whoa there, easy does it.” A knight clad in armor was leaning over her. He picked her up and stood her upright, placing a hand on her shoulder to stabilize her as she grew accustomed to gravity. His grip was surprisingly gentle despite his rough and tough appearance.
“What...where? How…?” Lachesis muttered as eyes darted around the area. It didn’t take her long to recognize that they were in a prison with dim light and lines of cells.
“Seems you were imprisoned in stone by the loptyrians and brought here. Bastards have a sick sense of humor. But your safe now, we kicked their arses back to the Yied where they’ll rot.” Lachesis was even more confused, just where was she? The knight also didn’t look agustrian or grann. He was quick to notice her befuddlement. “As for where, this is Fort Kelves or it’s prison at least. I’m the commanding officer, General Dalsin.”
The haze clotting her senses began to dissipate, she regained her bearings. “I’m Lachesis of Nordion.”
The general raised an eyebrow. “So you’re royalty? Lachesis, yes? Hmmm, I could have sworn I have heard that name somewhere,” He tried to formalize his tone a bit, “Either way, you do seem like you could use some rest. The others are already in the medical area, I’ll show you the way.”
As she approached the room she was briefed on events that happened since her disappearance. Upon entering she noticed that it was small and fairly ugly due to the rigid stone walls, but it was obvious the clerics made attempts to make the place as homely as possible. “Gods, is that you Lachesis?” A slender woman in a warrior’s robe jumped off one the beds and advanced furiously towards Lachesis.
As she did so one of the clerics tried to stop her, “Wait m’lady, you need not push yourself—”
Sitting on the same bed the woman was, a fairly robust man with slick blue hair snickered, “you aren’t going to control her, I’ve always tried and failed.”
Lachesis couldn’t believe her eyes, even though it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility given her own circumstances. “Ayra? Is that really you? I thought at Belhalla you… you… ”
“Yeah I know, it was close call actually.” She turned towards the man. “But nothing's going to take me and Lex down, as long as we're together.”
“Damn right!” Lex pulled himself off the bed and closed the distance. He slung his axe over his shoulder and it was obvious nobody was going to make him put the thing down. The couple never failed to amuse Lachesis.
“So how did you get trapped?” No matter how brash the couple was, Lachesis could always find a retort.
“Well, we were heading to Isaach.” Ayra had a look of regret as she spoke. “We almost made it too.”
“Oh, well I too was heading there. I was by myself though.” That is when she remembered Finn, he who stayed behind to take care of their daughter and prince Leif. “I met up with Finn after Belhalla, but… he chose… he couldn’t come with me.”
Ayra put her hand on Lachesis’s shoulder, “Yeah, I understand… I don’t think he’d forget about you, you two were so close.” Lachesis already knew the information but it was still comforting nonetheless. Even Lex managed to make a gentle expression for his comrade. “Speaking of which, hey Dalsin?” The general re-entered the room, “We’re in Thracia right? You ever hear about a knight named Finn?”
“You mean the Lance of Leonster, personal bodyguard of Leif? I fought alongside him, but he disappeared a little over two years ago. It's said he left for Yied to find something he lost.”
This cause all three of them to freeze. Tears began to form in Lachesis’s eyes, “He… he never did forget about me. But Yied is…”
Lex and Ayra decided it would best to leave Lachesis alone for a little bit, but they were still worried. She made her way to the top of the fort which overlooked the Thracian countryside, the savannah picturesque in the dusk. Despite having some close bonds with some old allies, Lachesis was an introvert and only opened to a handful of people. But none of them were here, so she chose to be alone. While she was, her thoughts were on Finn and him alone. She did the same for him what he did all these years.
“You got here first?” She turn around to see a rather short man, about her height. Not looking entirely young with fiery red hair glistening in the sunrays.
“Azelle?” He went over to a different part of the ledge to lean against it.
“Yeah, I’m alive.” Nothing was said in the following pause, neither knew what to say so Azelle just chose to continue with his story, “I was captured and brought to Arvis. Even though I was branded a traitor like the rest, I was still his little brother… he had me encased in stone in hidden for my own safety. But I don’t know if… Tailtiu was sent back to Freege, and I don’t know how she was received. I… I feared the worst may have happened—”
Lachesis cut him off. “You don’t have to continue if you don’t want to.” The silence was tense due to it being forced, but she was still glad she did.
He turned away. “Sorry, it's just… me and Lex are pals, but he still has Ayra and I’m happy that he does. I don’t think he would understand what it's like to be seperated.”
Lachesis turned his head to face her. “It’s ok, I understand,” she sniffed, “I was also hoping that there was someone who would.”
“My deepest apologies! I didn’t realize who you all were!” Dalsin bowed his head almost to the floor. This brought amusement to the four nobles as the general towered above most of them. Lex did manage to rival Dalsin in height, but he was not nearly as buff. “I’ll have horses prepared for you all. Please, is there anything else we can help with?”
Lex grunt, “Wait, why is the fact that we fought alongside Lord Sigurd so important?”
“You know how I mentioned that the Liberation Armies were raised by King Seliph and King Leif, sons of Lord Sigurd and Lord Quan respectively?” They nodded. “While they led, the commanding officers were also sons and daughters of those who fought by Sigurd. If you are those who fought by him, then your kids are probably alive and well. There was a surprisingly low casualty rate among the liberation army.”
The four didn’t like accepting such things for granted, but they could not bring themselves to deny. The news filled them with desperation. They only now wanted to take the horses and ride as fast as they could get those animals to go, they needed the reunity that was robbed from them. Lachesis became the first to respond, “thank you Dalsin,” she curtseyed, “but may I ask, do you know the location of Diarmuid and Nanna? They are my son and daughter.”
“I know the name Diarmuid, but I don’t know where he went after the war. My apologies. But if you mean Princess Nanna, well, she is this land’s queen.” The others asked in an almost interrogating way after Lachesis was done. The sadness of being separated from Finn was overflowed by the excitement that she would see her son and daughter. Diarmuid was at least alive, and Nanna was already married yet it seemed like she was child yesterday. She doesn't know how long it will take until she will see Finn again, if ever, but it was now certain she would see the ‘children’.
The others got their answers answers and began to talk amongst themselves but turned towards Lachesis as she came closer to them. “So Lachesis, you’re going to Thracia Castle?” Ayra manage to find a method to read her friend’s intentions.
“Yeah, but what about you? Are you going back to Isaach?”
“I’m going with Lex to Dozel, our twins went there for it's reconstruction. Azelle is also heading to Grannvale with us so it seems we’re going to part ways. You take care of yourself, will you?”
“Yeah, you too.” Lachesis moved in and hugged her friend, who did not resist her but showed obvious discomfort. Lachesis of course knew that Ayra was not a hugger, but that didn’t stop her. Azelle scratched his hair and Lex only snickered, until Ayra threatened to run him through with his own axe.
They said their goodbyes at the gate as Lachesis took the other direction when they passed by Manster. She didn’t look back and pressed onwards towards the capital.
To be continued…
Chapter 9: Safety is An Illusion Now
A meteor barrage followed by a collapse of heavy infantry on each flank left Sigurd’s army scattered and broken. A good portion of the commanders managed to escape the field however, and their plan is to make a desperate retreat back to Silesia. Under hot pursuit, they can’t hope that all will make it…
It is Spring of 761 Grann…
Chulainn managed to gather enough strength to look behind himself at the siege he was almost caught up in. His support, Brigid, noticed his intentions and turned him around so it was easier to see. Grannvalian forces have broken through the gates of Phinora and fires began popping up at several points throughout the city. The could only watch in horror while imagining the possible atrocities being committed in those walls. But the couldn’t wait, not here. After the soldiers noticed none of Sigurd’s forces were hiding there they would surely continue on their rampage, and Azelle came running up to them to remind the two of it.
“Hey, you got her out of there?” Brigid nodded. While Chulainn had his arms wrapped around her shoulders and had to lean to stand, Brigid had hers occupied. In them she cradled a cloth wrap which she open a little bit to look upon the infant inside. “We can’t stay here much longer. I got Tailtiu, we gotta get back to Silesia!”
Chulainn took his arm off of Briggid and began limping forwards to follow Azelle. Brigid shot him a look and freed one hand to try to support him. “No, I got this. I don’t die easily.” He has gotten through countless beatings over the course of his life, he opted to power through the pain like he always did. He was made for the front lines of combat and he if couldn’t run though agonizing injuries (even though these were some of the worse he ever received) it shamed him to think he could surcome to them before he could protect his family. Brigid frowned but reluctantly obeyed, but Chulainn manage to adopt a quick trot.
They managed to catch up with Erinys and Tailtiu hiding in between some dunes. Erinys wasn’t flying high on her pegasus, only riding her pegasus like a normal horse beside her comrades. She was crying as she balanced Lewyn on the mount. It took a moment for Chulainn to realize the limp body was dead. He never considered himself lucky, rather relying on his training and skill, but looking upon the dead Lewyn made him doubt that. The might of Forseti wasn’t even enough to keep the prince alive.
The party only got so far before Erinys’s pegasus began neighing and stomping wildly. “Whoa girl,” she tried soothing the beast but to no avail, and she been with the steed long enough to know what the fuss was all about. She turn around and honed her senses, something she was trained to do for communication in the skies. She sensed it, a couple hundred in quick marching directly upon their location. “We have to pick up the pace! There is a small army on to us and approaching quickly!”
“How far away?” Brigid asked.
“A little over a mile. We need to go, now!” Erinys pushed her pegasus forward while Azelle and Tailtiu did their best to follow alongside. Both Chulainn and Brigid look at each other and had a connected thought and knew that the attempt would be futile. The pegasus sustained some injuries and was forced to carry two passengers. Azelle and Tailtiu were not in any better condition themselves.
Chulainn sighed, “Well, what are you waiting for? You need to run with them.” The march was painful enough as it is and he was in no condition for a full fledged run. His blade shattered at Belhalla, so he pulled out the only thing left to use. “I’ll buy you some time. Go get patty to safety.”
She didn’t, this is where Brigid had to put her foot down. “You plan to hold off an army with serious wounds and just a dagger? That’s not happening, the woman says NO!” She snatched the dagger and shoved the baby into his arms. As soon as Chulainn gained a balance, Brigid unslung Yewfelle and shoved it into his free arm. “I want you to give this to Febail when you get back to Silesia. I’ll buy you some time, much more than you could in your current state.”
Chulainn refused to believe what he was hearing, throwing down the legendary weapon in disbelief and fiercely grabbing her arm. “Your not doing this! Please Brigid…”
She yanked her arm free. She paused for a moment before she grasped his head and pulled it in. The affectionate kiss was drawn out. As she pulled away slowly she still cupped his face with her hands, even though she was still holding the dagger. “I’ve don’t believe I ever told you, I love you Chulainn. Please, take care of Febail and Patty for me.” She turned the direction and ran off to her fate, tiny blade in hand. As she disappeared over the dune, Chulainn scooped up Yewfelle and began to run in the other direction without any care for the pain.
They managed to cross the Silesian border, they were safe. Chulainn dropped Yewfelle again and fell on his bottom in exhaustion. It took the world of him to not drop his other luggage, but he held firm. Patty awoke and began to whine, it seems there was no rest for him yet. Before he attended to his daughter, he looked across the strait towards Yied, “I will look after them Brigid, I promise.”
Fall 761 Grann…
“So much for safety,” Chulainn said to himself as he look upon his refuge burning to the ground in the distance behind him, again. It hasn’t even been half of a full year and Silesia, the one bastion of safety, has been compromised. Erinys took over as its queen and was probably going to be stripped of all her power or executed. Azelle and Tailtiu managed to escape somewhere during the chaos of the invasion, maybe they went into the mountains. As for Chulainn, he also realized he needed to get as far away from the sphere of Grannvale as possible. As of now, there was only one place which wasn’t under its control. He pressed on his way, Yewfelle concealed in a wrap and with a child in both arms. The “safe” place left for him and them was on the other side of the continent (and through Yied), Thracia.
The dunes were scorching and he had no protection from the heat. He managed to wrap the kids in cloth to keep the sun off them, saving none for himself. But probably one of the most agonizing part of the journey for him was the fact that both were whaling non-stop since entering the desert. Sure all the noise was annoying, but more importantly it made stealthy travel impossible. There are no monsters in this inhospitable place, but too often does it attract roving men who fight like monsters. Wrapped in black cloaks and casting odd spells, they eerily approach without making a sound. Chulainn has been able to cut them down but everyday he encounters more and more, as if they are drawn to his position from miles away. Every fight one gets a good hit in, and Thracia is still not in sight. Nevertheless, Chulainn must endure no matter how broken his body is.
Winter 762 Grann…
In a chapel in Alster, children gather around the pastor to offer their prayers to Saint Heim. They offer thanks for his mercy. First the annexation of the Manster District by Thracia and now war has been declared by Grannvale against them, the orphans are luckly to have gotten by mostly unscaved. As they get settled down, the pastor begins his sermon, “Saint Heim, blood of the almighty Naga, today we offer up our—”
The door is slammed open as a shadow stumbles into the chapel. He takes a few steps towards the front alter, where the pastor and orphans are, before collapse onto the floor halfway. The pastor runs to the aid of the wounded. Upon confirming that the man is still breathing the only thing that comes to his mind is, ‘how exactly is this man still alive.’ Several aged but untreated slashes were all across his body, his entire skin had minor burns, and most frightening were portions of his flesh that seemed to have rotted unnaturally. He carried a rusty blade, something larger hidden in cloth, and two infant children. Some of the older children attended to the two infants while the pastor fetched his staff to do what he could.
"Saint Heim, please offer this man deliverance." Obviously this wasn't any mere drifter, and the pastor couldn't quell the uneasiness he felt emanating from the man. Hopefully this wasn't some ill omen.
To be continued…