The rider in the storm

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Night. The darkest hour. When all hope disappears. Thunder is rumbling, the wind is howling madly. The grass on the hills is bending under the power of the storm. Rain is falling hard on the ground, plundering the earth. A dark shadow is moving. A horse is running, a rider on its back. Running as fast as it can, as if its life depended on it. Running as quick as the wind. He rides, never looking back, hoping they are okay. Praying to reach them in time. The world seems against him; as if the gods were mad at him. As if they had unleashed Hell on Earth. Droplets of water, as cold and hard as ice hits him in the face, rendering him unable to see more than a few meters in front of him.

Lightning strikes, once, twice, giving shape to the shadow of a ghost. A ghost from the past that is catching up on him. He knows he should run away but he can’t. He has to cope with that growing unease growing inside him. They need him! He has to get there at all cost! He has to make it, his steed knows it also. The mighty stallion gains speed, outrunning the heavy gusts of wind. Its mane buzzing frantically as it gains more speed, sparks forming around its legs. Getting bigger and more frequent with each new step. Suddenly it lights up in a thunderous boom, thousands of tiny lighting bolts coming out of its mane and its tail, covering its entire body. It gains even more speed, running so fast it outruns even the heavenly flashes. Cutting through the mad rain, leaving a burnt trail behind it. He runs an impossible race. A race for his friends. A race against time, against himself. A race against death…


Here is a text I wrote some time ago, a scene from one of my stories that I have had in mind for some time.

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The Celestial Rift

Long ago, when the skies were still young and the earth was vast and wild, they reigned over everything that was.

The Sun, bright and powerful, was the king of Day, bringing warmth and power to all.

The Moon, softly glowing and graceful, was queen of the Night and mother in the dark sky.

Each of them was the ruler of an endless kingdom; they followed each other, dancing a never-ending dance.

But the Sun, even in his infinite brilliance and power, was jealous of the Moon and her soft beauty.

He saw the charming radiance of his nocturnal counterpart as an unequalled perfection, more beautiful than his own.

He therefore devised a plan to gain supremacy over the Moon. For days and nights he tirelessly worked to breathe life to a new creation.

On the fourth day he finished and on the fifth night he finally revealed his creation to the Moon.

As soon as the last lights of day vanished he released thousands upon thousands of shining jewels into the aether.

“I have named them Stars”, he said to the Moon as she curiously watched him unveil his work. “A gift for you my Lady.”

The Lady of the Night revelled in this newfound beauty and found herself unable to look away for a long moment.

Finally she praised the Sun for his marvellous work, enthralled by its magnificence.

“How shall I ever repay you for this infinite kindness my Lord?”, she finally asked.

The Sun replied it was a gift and therefore there was no need for repayment but the Moon insisted and the Sun replied he would think about it.

By the second day after his work had been completed the Sun returned to the Moon.

“There is no need for you to repay me other than with the joy I saw in you at the sight of my creation…”, the Sun said.

“But,” he continued as the Moon was about to protest once more, “if so is your wish then here is what I offer…”.

The Sun asked the Moon with giving ‘substance’ to the aether, a task he knew impossible, even for him.

Giving ‘substance’ to a void of substance so vast and dark was something unthinkable…

But the Moon in her excitement at the idea of being able to repay her counterpart, agreed with no reserve.

For many days and nights the Moon lay pensive, under the newly created shining dome that filled the sky, trying to solve the Sun’s unsolvable puzzle.

Finally, after what seemed like and eternity to her, she realized the only way to do it would be to use all her power.

It was a dangerous task, even for her, an astral being, but she was willing to try to repay the Sun’s kindness.

The Sun watched all of this with a fierce fire burning inside of him.

The Moon, once her task was decided, set on to complete it, just as the Sun, she tirelessly worked but for many more days and nights.

Her brilliance was even more beautiful and graceful as she worked hard on her task and the Sun couldn’t help but being captivated by it.

Finally her own creation was ready and she waited the following night to unveil it to the Sun.

The Sun, of course, had watched all of it and he knew the Moon had put all her heart and her soul into her work.

Her genuine will to repay him stirred a wave of remorse inside him as she was about to unveil her creation.

But it was too late, the Moon offered him the gift and the Sun had to accept it.

He opened it, releasing the newly created ‘substance’ into the aether and for a moment he thought she had succeeded.

He stared into the endless sky, amazed by the ocean of shimmering beauty that was spreading between the stars and filling the void.

The Sun almost wished that it didn’t stop and that it completed itself.

Unfortunately the magic didn’t last, it was not powerful enough, and the spell broke.

The ocean fell apart and faded into the void, leaving only a feeling of emptiness inside the Sun’s heart.

He turned to his nightly counterpart to comfort her, unable to withstand the wave of sadness he knew would fill her whole being but it was too late.

The tears had already rolled on the Lady of the Night’s ivory skin and she was pointing an accusatory finger at him.

“You set an impossible task for me,” she said in a voice as cold as ice, “you knew it was impossible and yet you still asked this of me.”

“My heart and soul went in this gift for you and yet you cannot be contempt… Your wish cannot be fulfilled…”

“I will remember this ’til eternity, the shame, the anger and the emptiness will never leave me…”

“Living with this knowledge will now be your burden, your curse… For I curse you to know the pain I feel!”, the Moon said before vanishing.

The Sun, for the first time since he could remember, felt something far greater than physical pain and far more real than excitement: regret.

He tried to help her but it was too late, the Lady of the Night was gone, her brilliance had faded away, her power was gone and her heart was empty.

Never did he see her smile or her pale grace tenderly wrap around the world again, the nights had gone dark and cold with only his creation to light them.

He could feel the regret, the anger and the bitterness that were slowly eating at her heart and consuming her but was cursed to be unable to help.

Another eternity seemed to pass as he waited, looking at the lost Lady who was now unable to shine her peace on the world and longing for her return.

She was but a lost child, wandering the sky without a purpose or a goal… longing for her lost radiance…

But it would never returned, it could never return. He had made sure of that he had thought up the task he would give her.

Nothing would ever be the same again. But what was all this power and brilliance if he couldn’t share it with her? His heart wanted to break a million times.

The Moon was consumed but her emptiness and her regret, slowly her heart turned dark with thoughts of revenge.

Making the Sun know and regret what he had done wasn’t enough anymore, she had lost it all. He also had to feel it…

She thought of many ways to get revenge but in her immense knowledge she knew of no solution… None she could use now at least…

Her despair was growing and she thought it was all lost, however the demon race offered her a pact.

Her brilliance and power restored in exchange for her blessing.

Blinded by pain and the prospect of revenge the Moon gave way to her hatred.

The demons taught her a powerful but complicated spell and helped her use it to restore her power.

She thought of having been betrayed once more when, once the spell done, nothing had changed.

But her power was indeed restored and slowly she felt her aura become more brilliant once more.

It grew and grew, brighter and brighter, lighting the heavens and the earth in a light even more brilliant than that of the Sun.

Too late however the Moon realized her mistake, her aura had become crimson red and her once brilliant and pure blue glow had transformed into a blood-red light.

Too late she realized that the demon race was planning to use the spell to do the unthinkable.

The Sun rushed to her help, using all his power to free her from the spell but the harm had been done.

“The harm you have done me, nothing can ever repair it, nothing can ever heal the wound inside my heart…”

“But I forgive you for now I understand how foolish one can be when blinded by temptation…”

“It is too late for me my friend… No longer can I share your burden, no longer will the world know my love for it…”

“But you know. Atone for your sin by remembering my legacy…”

The spell the demons had created was too powerful to be fought and the Moon could barely resist it.

The Sun could only watch with despair as the queen of the Night let herself be consumed by it.

“It is the only way…”, he heard her whisper as she faded away into the void, leaving behind her only a large scar in the heavens.

A scar of dust glowing in a soft blue light.


Okay, this is something that I’ve been thinking about for a few days now and that I’ve spent the whole evening writing.

I’m really inspired by this story and I think that I managed to get the story-telling right and the character quite right too.

It is still far from finished/perfect, -though I’m a bit proud of myself, it’s not so bad for a first draft is it?- and will need some rework but I wanted to share it immediately with you guys.

Hope you enjoy! ;)

 

Chapter 9 – The Fiancée

3188-jonathan-livingston-seagull

 


Chapter 9

The Fiancée


The sky was still blue and the sun, warm as Thrista, Silena and the blonde bodyguard all sat around one of the carefully carved stone tables on the terrace. The soft wind brought a cool breeze and the large white stones which the terrace was made of were pleasantly warm. Hannah, the young woman with dark hair and a sturdy character, refused to join them and had remained behind to keep an eye over their surroundings even after Todd tried to convince her that they was no danger. After being shut down by his companion he decided to sit on the right side of the princess, directly across from Thrista.

“How long has it been since we’ve last seen each other?” Asked the young blonde woman.

“Too long.” Replied Thrista with a smile. “Much too long.” He added as he looked at the scenery that extended before their eyes, the palace’s terrace had been built-in an elevated part of the royal gardens.

The gardens were reflecting peace and serenity, they were filled with flowers, trees and hedges cut out with extreme precision. Everything was done so that it reflected the morals of the royal family: peace and harmony. Behind the high white walls one stood the city of Eneleïa and its harbor which no one, whether they were princes or vagabonds, could describe as anything else than magnificent. Each district was represented by a dominant color which was mixed to the white walls of the houses, creating beautiful patterns in the sunlight. The city resembled a precious stone directly taken out from the heart of the earth. Thrista had only rarely had the occasion to admire such a spectacle and most of those had been years before, during his stays at the palace. He turned towards Silena who was also admiring the view.

“It’s been a long time but things haven’t changed so much.” He commented.

“What do you mean by that?” She asked, furrowing her eyebrows.

“Well the jewel of Tebor still shines.” He said as he waved towards the city. “Your father is still as worried by your safety whereas you don’t care at all and you do as you wish even on the eve of your wedding. And I am still as impressed by your bodyguards as before… So nothing has really changed.”

“Really nothing?” Asked Silena, a playful glint in her eyes.

“No, nothing… Well, perhaps your hair, I think they’re a bit longer than before…” Added the dark-haired young man with a small mocking smile spreading across his face. If the blonde bodyguard was surprised when the princess shot her tongue at Thrista he didn’t show it but he did seem amused by the situation. The young woman then proceeded to turn away from her interlocutor in an exaggerated movement.

“As perceptive as ever I see.” The blonde woman taunted.

“And you, as impertinent as ever.” Replied Thrista in the same tone her father used to speak to her when he was angry. They both burst in laughter as they remembered the time they spent together, pulling pranks, catching the attention of the brunette woman who looked in their direction briefly before turning away again. The two friends kept laughing for a long moment and only after a few minutes did they stop, their sides hurting, and Silena spoke again.

“Tell me Thrista, why are you back in town? Is it a coincidence or are you here for my wedding? I almost didn’t believe it yesterday when I saw you at the market.” Asked the blonde woman.

Thrista smiled before replying.

“No, it’s not a coincidence, you didn’t think I’d let you get married without my benediction did you?” He winked at her. “But it is true I arrived yesterday so that I wouldn’t miss the great event that the whole kingdom has been following with such passion for the last months. I had already decided that I would come back to Ore to prepare for the tournament but I finally decided to make the trip back when I learned the date of your wedding.”

“Ah yes! It’s true that the Sages’ tournament will take place soon! I didn’t know if you planned to come back until then but I still hoped you would be here for my wedding. It’s really good to see you Thrista!” She exclaimed with a smile. “When did you plan to tell me you were back though?” She asked, her face suddenly becoming more serious.

“Actually I was planning to come by the palace today.” Replied the dark-haired young man.

“Well you should’ve been here as soon as you arrived you idiot!” Silena exclaimed, punching Thrista lightly in the shoulder.

“I know, I know.” He said with a nod.

“You’re considering participating in the next great tournament?” Asked the blonde bodyguard as he looked at Thrista with interest, a slightly impressed look on his face.

“Yes.” Nodded the dark-haired teenager. “I’ve been thinking about it for such a long time. It’s been my goal since I was a child, I’ve been preparing for it since then. I don’t know how far I’ll be able to go but I will definitely give it a try two years from now!”

“Don’t underestimate him Todd.” Said the blonde with a mischievous glint in her eye. “He is more powerful than he appears and a very good fighter.”

“Of course my lady.” Todd replied with a nod. “I was just curious, your confidence surprised me.” He added as he turned towards Thrista.

“Todd, how many times have I told you to call me Silena and not ‘my lady’…?” She said in a weary tone as she rolled her eyes. “And do so with Thrista by the way, you’re my bodyguard, not my slave!”

“Very well my lady… I mean Silena.” The blonde corrected himself to the chagrin of the princess. She sighed heavily before offering them drinks. Thrista asked for fresh water, Todd too, only Hannah refused to have anything, preferring to stay by herself. The young heir to the throne then left them to go and fetch their drinks under the vigilant eye of the dark-haired bodyguard.

Thrista noticed the slightly embarrassed look on the blonde’s face in front of him following Silena’s reaction and couldn’t help but giggle. Todd looked at him with a surprised look, not understanding what was so funny.

“Don’t worry!” The dark-haired young man said after calming down. “She’s not angry, she’s always like this. She simply views everyone one in the castle as her friend and as such none of them needs to be so formal with her. She hates formalities.”

“Yes, that’s what she told us when her father introduced us to her.” Todd said with a nod. “But as bodyguards we can’t let personal feelings cloud our judgment, at least that’s what Hannah said, so it’s a bit complicated.” He added.

“Well you’ll either have to comply or bear with her bad mood for the rest of your stay.” Replied Thrista with a smile. “I can vouch for that.”

He saw a small smile spread on Todd’s face as the blonde understood what he meant.

“Has she always been like that?” He asked.

“For as long as I’ve known her, she has.” Sighed the dark-haired teen in an exaggerated manner. “I pity you, I wouldn’t want to be in your place for anything in the world.” He added.

“You can call me Todd, since her majesty wishes it.” They both smiled at the bodyguard’s comment.

“Well you can do the same for me, it is a pleasure to meet you Todd.” Replied Thrista. “And to reply to your question earlier, yes, I am determined to participate in the tournament even if I’m not totally confident.” He added.

“Well then Thrista, as a practitioner of empirium myself I would definitely like to see you fight.” Commented Todd with a smile.

Silena came back a few moments later, in an intense discussion with one of the kitchen maids who was bringing them some refreshments, a large jug of water and four cups in case Hannah changed her mind. Thrista and Todd had found a common interest in the history of the matches during the different tournaments, the bodyguard was quite knowledgeable too, he had been an admirer of the event since his childhood, since he had been able to witness some of the fights of the last edition. Thrista had been fascinated by it since his father had told him the tales of the epic fights that had taken place in the arenas and he had dreamed of participating since his old man had told him he himself had participated in the previous one. They talked about the sadly notorious fight opposing Grennwick to Almeneister, which Thrista had learned more about the day before when he had talked with Zani, one of the elders of the temple of Sha’ana. The princess joined the conversation as she too knew a bit about that fight, having known the old priest for many years she had heard most of his stories. Thrista described his short duel with the old man, praising his still powerful mastery over the art of emporium to the surprise of the young woman who didn’t think the elder was still able to duel or that he ever had been a practitioner of empirium. The subject then came back to the event that would take placed two years from now.

“Do you have any idea how the next Sages’ Tournament be organized?” Asked the blonde to Thrista.

“No, I only know that it changes every time but I have no idea what they’re preparing for this edition.” He replied. “It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about it but if I remember correctly the last tournament was divided in two parts. They made the first one a huge brawl where a hundred participants would fight until only a few remained standing. And the second half was a random division in groups of four who were opposed to other groups, it was to reinforce cooperation I think. Then came the solo fights, but it only started during the 16th finals I think, until the finale, which took place in the grand arena and where Soran Eslowe claimed his victory. They change each decade so we can’t know exactly what awaits us but it’s something different I presume..”

“Well we’ll know that only a few weeks before if I remember correctly.” Silena commented. “I really wonder what you’ll have to face there…” She added, intrigued.

“Yeah, we won’t know until the organisers deem it’s time.” Thrista agreed. “That makes me even more impatient to know what the tournament will consist in.” The teenager added with a smile.

“Oh! I almost forgot!” He suddenly exclaimed.” I still haven’t asked you about your future husband! How is the prince-to-be? Does he suit your taste?” He asked with a playful smile.

Silena laughed lightly before replying, amused that Thrista hadn’t thought of asking that before.

“Well,” She started in her best imitation of a deeply enamoured young woman. “He is gorgeous, intelligent and so romantic!” The princess exclaimed as she sighed to add to her imitation, which caused her and Thrista to burst in laughter, soon joined by Todd.

Once they had calmed down she spoke again, with a more serious tone this time.

“Despite the fact that I have officially been a real woman for two years now I didn’t expect my father to offer to marry me so early. To speak frankly I must say I didn’t have any intention nor any desire to get married. But somehow he managed to change my mind about that, telling me that I would have to get married someday, whether I wanted it or not.”

“What made you change your mind then, my dear friend?” Asked Thrista, who seemed visibly curious about that.

Silena was known by many, especially by him, to be extremely independent and stubborn and to not let anyone get in her way. The fact that she had agreed to get married so early in her life had surprised the dark-haired young man.

“Well when father told me he was going to offer to marry me to lord Janon’s son he told me he’d let me have the final decision. I think that’s what played in his favor. I didn’t want to even think about marriage when he announced this to me at first but, as time passed, as he wasn’t pressing me to do anything I got somewhat curious. I decided to agree to meet Stanis Junon’s son and they arranged a meeting a few days later. He was quite charming, both physically and in his personality, so we talked for a while and, funny enough, we both realized we had a similar point of view on the prospect of a wedding. He told me he wasn’t enthused by that but…”

Thrista noticed that Silena’s cheeks had reddened ever so slightly as she was talking, this made a small amused smile appear on his face as she continued.

“I think he liked me and that’s mostly what made him change his mind. He was funny and smart, he quickly understood that I was not one of those dumb girls and that I knew what I wanted and how to get it. You know Thrista, I don’t think that this is such a bad idea anymore, it’s better if we get along isn’t it?” She then asked.

“Yes, I think it’s positive that it’s the case.” Approved Thrista, still smiling slightly as the princess’s cheeks remained colored with a light shade of red. “And what might this charming young man’s name be?” He then asked.

“Thedric Junon, son of Stanis Junon, lord of the valley of Korr.” Silena replied.

“Well he seems to be a worthy party. And on top of that he’s cute you say? It seems you’ve hit the jackpot my dear princess!” Exclaimed Thrist, his playful smile getting wider as he reached for his glass to take a sip of his cool drink.

“Yes, and he may be of noble descent but he doesn’t seem too proud of himself, which is a good thing.” Thrista nodded at the princess’s comment, he knew she abhorred social conventions and even more the people who loved said conventions. “Plus, look at what he gave me!”

The young woman extended her hand towards the dark-haired teen and wiggled her left ring finger. Her slender finger was decorated with a thin ring of silver and azure reflections which reminded of the color of her eyes and contrasted with the darker color of her skin.

“By the gods, he is spoiling you!” Exclaimed Thrista with an amused tone. “But I must admit this ring is gorgeous, this is Simerian jewelry isn’t it? The quality of the work is astounding.” He added, impressed by this gift of great artistic value.

More than the actual value of the metal used, or any material as a matter of fact, Simerian jewelry was renowned all over Ore for its beauty and the finesse of the designs. It seemed like the old continent’s jewelers could breathe beauty into any object simply by carving into it.

“Yes, it is.” Replied the princess as she displayed a slightly irritated expression. “It’s a unique piece. I hoped to surprise you with the materials used as Simerian silver is said to be quite rare but it seems you know about it already… How do you know about it?” She asked, intrigued by his expertise.

“A friend that I made during my travels to Simeriah. He was quite knowledgeable about these kinds of things and he explained it to me. Plus we’ve had the great honor to be able to meet one of the best jewelers of the continent once and he showed us the making of a necklace and some of the pieces he had made. It is truly quite a sight!” The young man explained with a smile.

“But I want you to know that I am truly happy to be able to attend this great event and I hope that you will both be very happy.” He added as he put his glass back down on the table.

“Thank you.” Nodded Silena with a smile. “Will you be attending the ceremony tomorrow?” She then asked, her expression becoming slightly more serious and unsure.

“Of course. I’ll come back to the palace in a more… official manner to greet you, your father and the queen.” The young man looked at the horizon and noticed the sun was already starting to disappear behind the infinitely distant line.

He realized they had been sitting and talking on the terrace for quite a while now.

“Isn’t it time for you to start getting prepared?” He asked. “Everyone must be looking for you.” He added with a smile.

“Yes.” She replied as she too look at the setting orb of light. “I have much to do to be ready tomorrow. It’s been really nice to see you again Thrista.” She said as she stood up, quickly followed by the dark-haired teen and the blonde bodyguard.

“Yes it has.” Replied Thrista with a smile.

“I’ll introduce you with my future husband tomorrow when you come by the palace again. Oh and by the way, you are officially invited for the banquet tomorrow evening.” She added.

“Of course.” He said with a smile as they started walking towards the palace.

They quickly reached the main door leading from the gardens to the palace but Thrista stopped before passing through it.

“I’d rather leave the way I came here.” He explained as Silena shot him a curious look. “It’s said to be very bad luck to enter the palace by another door than the front one.”

Silena, who had turned towards him, sighed and agreed with a knowing smile. Indeed, they had never been very lucky when trying to get in by the rear doors, Oscius had always seemed to know exactly where they were. She smiled slightly.

“Well, do as you want.” She replied before hugging him with strength and wishing him a good evening. The princess disappeared into the palace soon after telling him he had to be at the palace before maxima.

“I’ll be there, don’t worry!” He replied as he waved his arm. Then he turned towards the blond young man and saluted him as well. “I wish you luck to keep an eye on her for the next few days.” He said with a smirk.

“Yeah, thanks, you can count on me.” Replied Todd with a smile before following the princess inside the palace, he would need all his courage to keep up with the two young women.

Thrista turned around and went back towards the gardens, through the terrace. As he passed by the table he noticed the glass still full of water of the dark-haired bodyguard and decided to go apologize to her for earlier. The young woman he had learned was called Hannah was still at her post, sitting on the white steps and looking at the horizon. She seemed lost in her thoughts, her not noticing the princess’s disappearance was a sign of that. He got closer and stopped to her right, surprising her slightly as he did.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. I just came to apologize for earlier, I didn’t mean to resist that much. I was the one in the wrong after all.” She looked up at him silently for a moment before nodding and looking back at the point of the horizon she seemed to have been studying before.

The young man wondered if she ever willingly talked to anybody but preferred to leave her alone, patience was the best course of action. He spoke again after a few seconds.

“I wanted to give you this, you didn’t get it earlier.” He said.

The young woman turned towards him again and noticed the glass of clear water that was still full. She stood up after a couple of seconds and looked at him directly. Thrisa extended his arm, inviting her to take the glass.

“I also came to tell you that the princess has gone back to the palace with your colleague and to say goodbye as I am leaving too.” The dark-haired bodyguard looked around and noticed the absence of the blonde duo from earlier, neither the princess nor her comrade remained.

“I believe she went back to her room with Todd if you’re looking for her.” He added to reassure her as he knew it was extremely difficult to follow the princess once she had decided on something.

“You know, you really seem to be talented at empirium, I’d really like to have a chance to spar with you someday.” He added with a smile.

Hannah looked at him for a second before drinking the her water in a single motion and picking up her satchel that was lying on the ground and turned around before walking towards the palace without even a word. This surprised Thrista a bit but he didn’t hold her back and simply wished her a nice evening.

“Goodbye!” He exclaimed with a quick wave as he saw her quickly climb the set of stairs that lead onto the terrace.

Thrista was about to turn and leave when he saw her stop as she reached the top of the staircase, he saw her turn her head towards him and greet him with a slight nod.

“Thank you.” She added with what seemed to be a small smile, though he couldn’t be sure as it had happened to fast, before disappearing behind the walls to search for the princess.

Quite mysterious that one. The young man thought with a smile, unsure of what to make of his interaction with the young bodyguard as he walked down the flight of stairs towards the center of the gardens.

Strong characters, all of them… His smile got wider as he thought of the few women he knew.

The young man reached the furthest part of the gardens and without much difficulty crossed the high hedge and the wall again, landing in a small and deserted alley. He then started walking towards the eastern district and quickly reached Carmen’s taverns, dropping on his bed after having had a quick supper. He lied on his bed for a long time, letting his sore muscles relax as his thoughts roamed free. He had planned to stay in Eneleïa for a few days, long enough to witness the princess’s wedding and after that he would hit the road again. But where to? He still hadn’t decided on a direction to take and this question was nagging him more and more since he had finally come back to Ore. Towards the south, that was almost certain, but was it better to go inland or to remain close to the coast? He could also go back towards Asselia, his father must have been missing him considering how long he had been gone. Was it finally time to go back home? He fell asleep before finding a satisfactory answer to his questions and thus it was put back to the day after.

 


 <— Previous chapterTales of Ore — Next Chapter —>

Chapter 8 – Hannah

red-very-red-sunset


Chapter 8

Hannah


The young woman had come out from behind the bushes he had just walked by just before he passed under the arch of vegetation. He didn’t see the smile spread on her face as she pressed the dagger against his throat. He had come, just as she had thought, that meant the incident of the previous day wasn’t a simple coincidence. Was he simply a robber who had found a worthy victim in the princess? No, he couldn’t be just a simple thief, he had tried using emporium against the princess the day before, she was sure of it. Was he here to assassinate her for one of the many possible enemies of the crown? Whatever his intentions may be she would soon make them clear.

“Do not move if you want to stay alive.” She told him as he was about to react.

His reaction was that of most people in his situation: he froze. Good, she thought, at least he understood things quickly, or better he is afraid… She took a step forward, getting closer to him, and checked if he was hiding anything under his cape, he tried to stop her but she pressed the blade harder against his skin, discouraging him to pursue this option.

“I told you not to move, I won’t hesitate to use this if you don’t listen!” She explained in a calm but cold voice as she slightly moved the blade of her dagger under his neck.

She hoped not to have to resort to such methods but she had been tasked with the protection of the princess and she would fulfill her mission whatever the cost was. The young man slowly turned his head towards her, surely trying to gauge how convinced she was and seemed to give in, he slowly extended his arms in front of him to let her search him. She turned around him to come face to face, her dagger still pointed at his throat, and used her free hand to look for any concealed weapon.

“I’m not armed you know…” He said after a few seconds, a bit of mockery in his voice.

“Don’t speak.” She simply replied as she finished searching him.

She then noticed a small chain around his neck and was about to pull on it to reveal what it held, it could’ve been a small concealed weapon. But as her fingers got closer he tensed.

“Don’t touch that!” He exclaimed in a warning tone.

She looked at him, locking eyes, who was he to give her orders? She wasn’t about to let an intruder tell her what to do! Plus this thing looked more and more suspicious by the second and she still had her dagger pointed at him. She motioned towards the ornament when he suddenly pushed her arm away and was forced to jump back when he threw his right elbow at her. How had he managed to attack her without her noticing it? A soon as the question had formed in her head she was already back in her usual stance and had pulled out her second dagger. She was about to replicate but was suddenly forced to duck and step back once more as he threw a roundhouse kick directly aimed at her face before stepping back, putting enough distance between them to give himself time to react to an eventual attack. How had he managed to surprise her twice in such a short time? He was definitely not a simple thief!

She decided to also take a step back and get ready to act as soon as he showed any sign of weakness. Unfortunately for her she found herself blocked by a wall behind her. Damn it! Again?! Who was he?! She decided to end this game of cat and mouse and prepared to jump for another attack. The young woman placed her two daggers close to her ribs to conceal her next movements until the last moment. This diversion should give her enough time to throw her spell and take him down for good.

Then everything happened in an instant. She jumped high in the air, passing over her opponent, and felt a wave of air pass near the spot where her face had been a moment earlier. She landed behind him and took a step back, extending her arm before her, her right hand glowing slightly with a purple halo only visible to trained eyes. She looked up and her eyes locked with her opponent’s, the young man who gave her a tough time, his gaze was serious and focused but it lacked the anger and rage she had often seen in the eyes of fanatics like him. His eyes were locked to hers, sure and unwavering, completely lacking a murderous glint. Maybe she was mistaken, maybe he wasn’t an enemy? No! She couldn’t take that risk just based on her analysis of the gaze of a stranger! She pulled herself together at the last instant and noticed her opponent was now wide-eyed, he took a step back as a cold smile spread on her face. He would feel it, that much was sure, plus if she was lucky he probably wouldn’t die… Her eyes took on the violet glint that was until now covering only her hand and she let her mana free.

Thrista froze as he felt the cold blade slide on his skin under his chin. He tried to understand what was going on, the person behind him must have been hiding behind the wall of vegetation on his right. She ordered him not to move, order which he preferred to follow without resisting. Wait a minute… He thought as she walked around him and he recognized her familiar dark hair. It was the same girl as the day before, the one that had prevented him from stopping the blonde woman he had later recognized to be the princess. Her?! So she was indeed linked with Silena, as he had presumed, it wasn’t a coincidence that she had been running after her. But did that mean she had been waiting for him to come since their previous meeting or was she in the gardens for a completely different reason? His train of thoughts was interrupted by the one that held him prisoner, she was looking for concealed weapons. He tried to stop her and to explain why he was here but she ordered him to shut up and not to move. As she was about to take a look at his pendant he tried to stop her but she didn’t listen and reiterated her threat, warning him to stay as he was if he didn’t want to die before proceeding with her examination.

He had used that moment to surprise her with an elbow hit to her face, his cape was partially hiding his movement which gave him a certain advantage. He noticed the surprise on her face for a brief moment. Perfect. He thought before sending a high roundhouse kick to make her step back. She took out a second dagger but did not have time to use it as she was forced to back up to the wall behind her. Thrista was about to get his sword, taking advantage of the fact she was partially trapped by the wall which gave him the advantage, but as he focused his mana he saw her retracting her daggers. Then she suddenly jumped and landed behind him before he could even react, he only had time to try to push her back with a well placed punch but barely missed her head as she disappeared over his head. She then took a step back and as he spun around he saw her extending her arm directly at him.

Thrista got into a defensive position, preparing himself for the upcoming attack. As he looked at the young woman and locked eyes with her he thought he could see a slight gleam of doubt in her green eyes before her gaze emptied itself of any emotion and became as hard as stone. A pale purple aura surrounded her hand and, for a moment, the young man could’ve sworn they had turned violet. A smile spread on her face, cold and without any emotion, as she prepared to let go the energy she had been storing up.

The young man understood what was happening a moment too late and only managed to evade her attack partially and at the price of an inhuman effort. His cape was swiped up in the explosion though and he was left with a still burning half of what it had been as he rolled on the ground to regain his footing. The blast of energy flew past him and exploded in myriad of bolts of electricity behind him, it coursed throughout the hedge for a few tenths of seconds before disappearing, leaving a burnt smell in the air. He stood back up as quickly as he could and put up a defensive stance again, facing the young woman who already was in position, ready to attack. If she was surprised by his quick reaction she didn’t show any sign of it, only a calm mask of steel determination covered her face. They circled around each other, each trying to analyze the other’s weaknesses before attacking again. Thrista got closer to the fountain and as he was about to reach it and just before the young woman could launch her next assault a voice came from their right.

“Stop, both of you!” It commanded.

Thrista turned his head towards the place where he had heard the voice come from and the mana he had started to focus to launch a spell dissipated. A young woman with long blonde hair and dark skin was standing on the other side of the fountain beside a young man with short blonde hair and fair skin who was looking at them intently. He relaxed and allowed himself to smile as he recognized the princess of Tebor. She spoke before he could even open his mouth.

“Take off your cape and show her you’re not armed or she won’t stop.” Announced blonde young woman as she motioned towards the dark-haired one.

Thrista turned towards his opponent and noticed she hadn’t stood down, her daggers were still pointed at him. This made his smile fade away for a brief instant, if she had decided to attack he wouldn’t have been able to react in time. He cursed himself inwardly for letting his guard down so easily. He looked into the purple eyes before him, trying to guess what the young woman who had attacked him was thinking, but to no avail. She was unreadable. Realizing she wouldn’t stand down until he did what the princess asked him to do he decided to follow her advice.

“I’m really thrilled to see you too, Silena.” He simply replied in a mocking voice as he slowly took off his cape.

He noticed the brunette tensed ever so slightly as he did so, ready to act. Or was it because he was directly speaking to the princess? The other man didn’t seem fazed at all from what Thrista could see in the corner of his eyes. He folded his cape without even a glance towards his opponent and put it down on the border of the fountain before turning around to show the dark-haired girl he wasn’t concealing any weapons.

“I didn’t immediately recognize you yesterday, you’ve changed a lot you know! It took me a few seconds to realize it was you!” He added with a wide smile towards the princess.

“Thank you Thrista.” Replied Silena as he displayed his lack of weapons. “Are you satisfied now Hannah? He isn’t here to hurt me.” She then added before turning towards the young woman with dark hair.

So her name is Hannah, interesting… Thought Thrista whose smile had come back as he had seen the surprise on the brunette girl’s face for an instant. As she was putting away her daggers she looked at the princess and then at Thrista and frowned as she tried to understand what was going on.

“You know each other?” She simply asked in a voice she tried to keep as neutral as possible but in which Thrista detected a hint of surprise.

“Why would they talk like old friends if they didn’t?” Asked the blonde man with an amused smile on his face.

Thrista looked at him more attentively and almost immediately deduced he was close to the dark-haired woman, they were good friends at least from what he could see. No simple colleague would make fun of someone like this in front of the princess if they didn’t know each other well enough or if they were of friendly terms with her. Whoever he was he must’ve been quite skilled in social interactions to have been able to get the blonde woman to trust him, even if Silena didn’t care much about conventions and protocols. This piqued the teenager’s curiosity but he wasn’t able to pursue the matter much as the one named Hannah reacted to his remark, seemingly more annoyed than anything else.

“You knew?” She asked with daggers in her voice.

“Well yes, I was aware of his visit. The princess told me about it a bit before noon. She also instructed me not to tell you as you would’ve done as you wished anyway. Plus it was interesting to see how you would try to apprehend him. Of course we stayed close in case things got… messy.” The blonde explained with a calm and detached expression.

The brunette, looking intently at the two blondes in front of her, opened her mouth to speak before closing it, as if she hesitated. Then she angrily glared at both of them, but mostly the young man, and turned around before storming away and stopping only when she was almost out of sight. She only turned around once to shoot another threatening glare at the blonde man before looking away. He seemed to take this with great amusement and smiled even brighter when their eyes met.

“Please excuse her.” He said after a moment of silence, speaking both to the princess and Thrista. “But she can be very moody at times and she hates to be made fun of…”

“Don’t worry Todd, it’s fine. And I’m sure Thrista doesn’t mind.” Replied the princess with a small smile. “Now, allow me to introduce you both. Thrista, these are Todd and Hannah, the two bodyguards my father has hired to watch over me during my wedding. Todd, this is Thrista, a very old friend of mine.” She announced as she pointed to each of them in turn.

“I am very pleased to meet you.” Said Thrista as he bowed slightly.

“Same here.” Replied Todd as he nodded back.

“Come, we will be much more comfortable on the terrace I believe.” Then said the princess before turning around and walking towards the stairs behind her.

The blonde man followed her after having signaled the dark-haired young woman where they were going. She replied with another dark glare before turning around again and offering them a view of her back. He looked at Thrista and shrugged before starting to walk.

“Well, what’s one more glare anyway…” He stated with a small scoff as he followed Silena.

What a strange duo these two, thought Thrista, trying to fight back a smile as he followed the two blondes.

*

The night was dark and one could only see the distant shining of the stars in the sky. It had fallen soon after he had left, which had pleased him as it gave him cover, making his task much easier. He had been going around the harbor for almost two months now, trying to map out every corner and every street, to remember every building’s location and shape, all this without being noticed, to be ready when the moment would come. And it had come. As soon as the three large ships of the Galaedian navy had entered Eneleïa he had been ready to act, after all his preparations had been over since a week before. He had refrained himself from giving in to his curiosity and his haste, waiting as far away from the harbor as possible until the right moment in order to not raise any suspicion until it was over. Tonight everything was ready for him to act. If he found what he had been sent for then he would finally be able to return to the general’s side, but he had to find it first and it would surely require some searching. If ever he was caught however, well, it was better not to think about it…

The man walked down the dark street and climbed from the pavement to the roof of one of the nearby house with ease, he could see the harbor not too far away from that vantage point and it would be much easier to be discreet on top of the roofs than on the street. Anyone who would have the idea to look up to the sky would only have been able to see the stars shining in so many shades and colors that it was impossible to count them all, perhaps a swift and almost unnoticeable movement if one were careful but nothing else. Only a person who knew how to dispel high level illusions could have noticed, in the middle of this shroud of darkness, a thin silhouette clad in dark blue and running at fast speeds from roof to roof.

The man who was now proceeding towards the harbor had a precise mission and if he had been chosen for it, it was only because he had the perfect set of skills needed for this kind of environment. He could not only disappear from view almost instantly but also hide himself from any of the other four senses of any living being, and this almost as easily as he breathed. He knew he couldn’t fail for it would mean that he would become a grain of sand in the perfectly oiled machine that Ascendi had carefully started to make work. Never would he forgive himself for making the prince’s plans fail. As he neared the warehouse where the Trinity’s cargo rested he stopped a moment to focus on his objective and study his environment.

He was on the border of the roof of a large hangar, at about a hundred a fifty feet of his objective. Guards were circling the buildings all around. His only way to enter was, as he had predicted, by jumping from one roof to another. But he had to make it on the first try for he wouldn’t have a second chance. He waited for the closest patrol to pass by before starting to move again. Running silently on the inclined surface of the roof he accelerated until he reached the end of the building then, without stopping, he gathered speed and jumped in the air to cross the distance that separated him from the warehouse he had to reach. If anyone had seen him they might have thought it was a large bird flying over as he remained in the air for much longer than any normal person should have. Finally he reached the other roof and with an agile roll he landed silently and immediately crouched, hiding masterfully in the dark shades of the night, waiting for an alarm to denounce his presence on forbidden grounds. The two guards posted on the watchtowers in the opposite corners did not seem to notice his presence and after they both turned around a few seconds later he took his chance and rapidly cleared the distance that separated him from the other end of the building before climbing down into a minuscule alley.

It wasn’t more than a step large, exactly what he needed. He ran along the wall, silently watching as the next patrol passed by him without noticing his presence. Not being seen, whatever the cost. That was the only order that the prince had given him : “Do as you know so well, make sure nobody notices your presence, be it while you are there or even after you are gone.” Not being seen wasn’t a problem but leaving no trace of his passage was more of a challenge, but he didn’t care, he loved challenges. And he knew he would do anything in his power to serve the prince as best as he could. If he was spotted he could always run away but then they would know somebody tried to break in and it would be over, he could not even leave a single trace of his passage, however insignificant it seemed. Because knowing that someone was spying on them would be a real problem at that point in time, a problem the prince could very well do without. It was too early for them to know, much too early. He ran across a few similar alleys, leaving a thin golden dust cloud behind him for a few seconds before it vanished completely. Finally he reached the building he was looking for.

It wasn’t his goal but it would help him getting in more easily, even if it was a bit longer that way it considerably lowered the chances of him being discovered. Plus it allowed direct access to the room he was looking for in the next building. He passed by a sleeping soldier and almost woke him up by hitting a metal cup the man had forgotten on the small table to his side. He cursed inwardly as he caught it just before it hit the ground and silently placed it back on the table where it was. He continued to follow the corridor until he reached a double door. Without making a sound he opened it and stepped in, closing the door leafs behind him, before slowly making his way to the nearest corner and observing what was around him.

There was no movement in the huge space filled with wooden crates, still the man looked around to make sure he was indeed alone. Once he was satisfied he had the room to himself he climbed on the nearest crate to get a better view and try to locate his objective. He looked at the writings on each of the large boxes he passed by to make sure it wasn’t what he was looking for. He passed more than a dozen when suddenly he heard a noise, someone was coming. He noticed almost immediately the guard on the other  side of the hangar, it was the one he had passed by a few minutes before while he was sleeping. Apparently he hadn’t noticed anything and was proceeding with a routine check, he saw the man yawn before writing down something on a piece of paper and turn around to get back to his post. The man in blue allowed himself to breathe again once the door was shut behind the guard and straightened himself back up from his crouching position before getting back to his search. Finally after a few long minutes of looking at every symbol in detail he found what he was looking for, or at least what was supposed to contain what he was looking for.

A large metal crate with a single sign drawn on its side in red paint: a semi-circle opened towards the bottom and a vertical line almost running across it. He slowly got closer, checking for traps or alarm systems and making sure no spell had been cast around it to ensure its protection. Luckily if it was protected it wasn’t designed to prevent him from doing what he had been tasked with. He took out something that resembled a sheet of paper out of his pocket and unfolded it three times, obtaining a surface three times as big, before holding it straight and getting it closer to the metal surface of the crate. Once the strange sheet touched the metal it immediately stuck to it as if attracted by it, it started to buzz lightly before emitting a faint glow for half a second. When the glow faded away so had the paper, it seemed as if it had melded with the metal. An opening in the metal was now visible where the sheet had been a few seconds before and he could see the inside of the crate.

The man passed a hand through the opening first, making sure the spell worked correctly, then he entered the crate, his whole body passing easily through the large enough hole. He moved around what seemed to be the pieces of a large mechanical puzzle, a complex machine he still couldn’t completely wrap his mind around, paying very little attention to them. Finally he found what he was looking for: a small metal box containing sheets and plans detailing the functions of the machine and explaining how it worked. He allowed himself to smile, he had found what he had been looking for, his mission was almost over. Slowly he took out a small purple gem from his pouch and carefully hovered it over each sheet, making sure to pass it over the entirety of the paper. He did not know how much time it took him to do all this but after what seemed to be an eternity he finally finished passing it over the last paper, he put back the stone in his pouch, making sure it was well secured there, and placed the papers in their original place in the metal box. He couldn’t let anyone know he had been there, it was vital.

Finally he climbed out of the crate, not paying any attention to the large metal shape hidden under the white, light blue and gold cloth and placed his hand over the newly formed opening. He muttered a word and immediately the hole reacted to it, shimmering and buzzing once more before disappearing in a subtle glow and transforming back into the white sheet it had been before crumbling into ashes and disappearing completely.  The metal wall of the crate was once more full and solid, as if the hole had never been there. The man turned around and as swiftly as he had come in he exited the building, following the same path, and after a few minutes of careful movements he found himself on the roof once more without having been noticed. He kept his focus in check though, it wasn’t the moment to be careless and to ruin everything after having succeeded in obtaining his objective, he had to be extra careful. He decided to patiently wait for the sentries on each of the tower to be exactly where he needed them to be, which was in the middle of shifting their position, before moving again. Fortunately everything went smoothly and he easily found his way back to the dark alleys of the harbor. Only when he finally walked out of the south districts did he allow himself to breathe and relax again. He had succeeded. It was a total success. The general and the prince would be greatly pleased. He had to go back as fast as he could now, the longer they waited the longer the operations were delayed. He started to run, slowly at first but picking up more speed as he went. He exited the city a few minutes later, travelling towards the west as fast as he could under the starry night sky.

 


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Death is but a transition

“Does the people wish to hear the last words of the criminal?!” Asked the head judge as he stepped on the wooden platform where the man was chained.

Many hands shot up as he asked this question, more than three-quarters of the crowd cheered to manifest their wish to hear his final pleadings to the judges and to the sky to let him live, while the other part of the crowd just wanted to see the execution and the monster, that was still breathing, die before their eyes. None of them were particularly excited by the idea of someone dying before their eyes but he was different, he had been such a pain in their life in his foolish quest to destroy everything. Now he was being punished for his countless crimes and they wanted to see him pay. The soul lance was almost ready and in a few minutes he would his existence would have vanished from this world and they would be at peace again.

“Very well, criminal, you may speak one last time…” Said the middle-aged man who had been presiding over his trial, scratching his long bear at the same time.

The executioners walked to the chained prisoner and proceeded to unbound his mouth before taking a step back to let everyone see him as he spoke. He had short brown hair and a short, well-trimmed beard. His eyes were of a surprising color, in-between pale blue and grey, as he lifted his head to look at the crowd that had gathered before him. He stared at them for a long moment during which everyone held their breath in anticipation before he spoke. His voice was deep and calm as he started to pronounce his last words.

“I am Ascendi, I am the prince and today I am being executed like a vulgar criminal, here are my words to you. Death is but a transition, life may be taken away from me, I may be reduced to ashes, my soul may leave my body, but do you think that it will stop me? I am Ascendi and I will make this continent crumble, I will make your houses and you palaces, your cities and you countries, turn to rubble under my foot. This will no stop me, nothing will stop me. Death is but a transition…” As his words echoed around the wide square no other sound could be heard, all held their breaths either in shock, fear or anticipation.

The judge gave the order and the executioners took the veil off the large spear that had been levitating over the wooden platform, it started glowing brighter as the put their palms out towards it and started chanting in the ancient language. A few seconds passed, during which they were the only ones who dared speak, then slowly the air started blurring around the length of the lance and red flames appeared, quickly growing and turning to orange, then yellow and finally pure white.

The intensity of the heat and the light that emanated from the flames could be felt all the way to the back of the crowd, people could barely keep their eyes open. The executioners’ chant started getting louder and louder to finally reach its peak as they gave the final words. They both took a step back and the soul lance slowly started getting closer to the man in chains, he stared at the sacred weapon with pride until it reached the center of its chest.

Then it stopped moving but kept getting brighter. The man closed his eyes and opened his mouth, letting out all his rage into a single but powerful cry. It lasted for a number of long seconds, only his voice could be heard now as he was completely engulfed by the light. Then, suddenly, there was an even brighter flash of light that encompassed the whole square. As quickly as it had come the light had vanished, along with the echoes of the criminal’s voice.

When the crowd opened their eyes the only thing that could be seen were the chains that bound him earlier, nothing of the man remained, he had completely vanished and the spear had found it place back in the center of the wooden platform. It was once more covered with the veil by the executioner before the judge walked to the crowd.

“The criminal has been executed!” He exclaimed before turning around and leaving the platform as cheers erupted from the crowd.

Chapter 7 – Flowers of the past

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Chapter 7

Flowers of the past


“Come on, hurry up!” Exclaimed the young girl as she got impatient and started r

unning faster before gracefully jumping over the wall. “Why are you always so impossibly slow Thrista?! You’re slower than a snail, you know that?!”

“Wait for me Silena!” Begged the young boy as he tried his best to follow the young princess, but she was much more agile than him and had got so far away that she had to regularly stop and wait for him which really exasperated her.

“Come on, faster! They’re going to catch us if you don’t move!” Simply replied the young girl.

She was particularly excited and nervous that day as her father had posted even more guards than usual around the palace to prevent her from sneaking away, they had almost gotten caught as they were jumping over the wall of the gardens. And all that because of Thrista’s inefficiency to move quickly. They were supposed to meet the others I the park of the eastern district but they would never get there in time with such a snail. Silena hated his crybaby attitude and the fear he had that she would leave without him. He already knew how to use the basics of the art of emporium but the simple act of screaming at him was enough to completely paralyze him in fear. That said he was one of the rare persons of her age, even if he was three years younger, with whom she enjoyed playing so she always wanted to make the most of their time together. Even if that meant she would be punished afterward. This was the third time they left the palace together and without any authorization whatsoever from her parents, well, officially, it was the second as the king and queen had no idea about the first time they had sneaked out. Her father was furious enough about the second one, as she put her and Thrista’s lives in danger by going out unsupervised, even more so that the king was supposed to keep an eye on the young boy while his father was away, so she wasn’t about to tell him that she had done it before…

They finally reached the familiar gate of the park which was surrounded by a metallic arch, despite being called the park gate it didn’t provide any way to prevent people from entering it as there were no doors and no walls around it to close it off. It was here as a symbol more than anything and had slowly started to be covered by vines over the years, making it difficult to read the name that was engraved on it. Despite that, rare were the people who did not walk through it to enter or leave the park as it represented and homage to the centuries of peace that the city had lived since the last great invasion. The young blonde girl ran through the gate, Thrista catching up to her a few seconds later, and as they caught their breaths they walked towards the center of the park where they were supposed to meet with their friends. Excited cries and shouts could already be heard coming from their destination as they got closer, finally they could see the children running around, yelling and laughing as they played passionately. The two of them quickly joined the others, also running around and shouting. They played like that for almost two hours, barely stopping to catch their breaths as they ran after each other, threw balls at each other and accepted acrobatic challenges each harder than the other. The sun was reaching maxima when they decided to finally part, most of the other children too scared to miss lunch and the others following the movement as they had too few comrades left to keep playing. Thrista and Silena also decided to go back to the palace. They took the long way around, by the northern road, to try to sneak in the palace without being seen by the king or his guards but without much success as they were called out by a deep voice behind them as they were entering through one of the kitchen window.

“Well well my young lads, you are right on time for lunch!” Exclaimed Oscius, one of the four captains of the royal guard, as he spotted them. The man, even though of regular height and of relatively ordinary appearance, an aura of power that intimidated many people emanated from him, even the princess herself couldn’t help but shiver when his steel grey eyes focused on her.

“Your father has been looking for you everywhere young lady.” He simply said, motioning for them to start moving towards the corridor behind him.

He was smiling slightly, amused by their determination to sneak out despite the king’s warnings, but his presence cut short any protestation that the two children could have had. They both walked beside him in silence, looking down to the floor as they felt a bit of shame, and followed his directions as he took them directly to the royal chambers. He opened the door and told them to enter the room before announcing their presence. Then he simply nodded and left after closing the door behind him, leaving them there, waiting in silence for the king to come reprimand them. However, to their surprise, it wasn’t king Marco that waited for them but a dark-haired woman dressed in a simple but elegant dress. She walked into the room and walked towards them before sitting down on the sofa in front of them. Silena’s eyes almost popped out and a large smile spread on her face as she ran towards the woman and hugged her.

“Mom!” She exclaimed happily as she did so.

“Despite having come to the castle a few times and having already spent two weeks in the castle this time, this was only the third time Thrista saw the queen of Tebor in person. While her husband took care of the international affairs of the country she was often gone on trips throughout the whole kingdom to evaluate and find solutions to the different problems that could arise. She was always trying to improve the life of the people of Tebor. She was tall and thin, her long hair fell down on her back and the deep brown color of her eyes reminded of the color of her skin. Silena had inherited her mother’s silhouette and her dark complexion but her eyes and her golden hair were her father’s. This gave her an exotic appearance that, as her father often said, would attract many young men as she would grow up. Her personality came without a doubt from her mother. Despite seeming sweet and inoffensive, the beautiful dark-haired woman hid a fierce will and determination that had bent far more than one. She knew how to act as soft as the breeze or as strong as a hurricane when it was necessary, and her daughter had inherited most of that.

The first time the young boy had met the queen he would have never thought she was Silena’s mother if one of the guards hadn’t announced her arrival in the room. It was the third day after his arrival to the palace with his father on their first visit together to Eneleïa. The king and his father were talking to the ministers around the long table in the throne room. Not far from there, on another smaller table that had been set for the occasion, Thrista and Silena had been playing a game of chess under the care of the princess’s governess. The young boy had proved to be a more worthy opponent than the young woman to the princess and was now revealing his talent as a strategist. His father had taught him how to play several years ago and they had kept their bouts as a tradition. Despite having greatly improved since the first time he had played the young boy had never been able to defeat his father more than twice.

“You should move your knight to the white square on the diagonal you know.” He had told her after having sat at the table and watched the match for a few minutes on the day he had arrived to the castle. The princess hadn’t even replied but had shot him a curious look before looking away. He had remained silent after that and watched Silena as she had played out her own strategy. However, after the fourth unsuccessful move, she attempted to follow his instruction and managed to beat the young woman in only two moves after that. She had looked at him again curiously, seemingly seeing him in a new light. Thrista had started feeling nervous as she kept looking at him after that, she had appeared to be in deep thoughts, and he was about to ask her what was wrong when she finally motioned for him to take her governess’s place. He slowly got up and switched places with the young woman on the side of the black pieces, he was hesitant at first but he was reassured by the gentle smile the young woman gave him as she sat back down.

“You seem to know chess a bit. Let’s see what you’re worth!” Had exclaimed the princess with a smile as she had moved the first pawn. To her great displeasure he would’ve won the game, fact that she would never admit after that, if her mother hadn’t arrived at that moment. The young girl had gotten up so quickly that she had toppled the whole board, making it impossible to continue the game. Thrista had always had his doubts about her actual intention to do that, he was sure she had used that opportunity to deny him a victory.

“Come on, hurry up!” Exclaimed the young girl as she got impatient and started

The tall dark-haired had woman walked in the throne room, silencing the minister who was speaking at the time and walking towards her husband who opened his arms to embrace her. Her daughter was the faster one though, she jumped in her mother’s arms and pulled her into a tight hug, nestling her head in her long black hair.

“Mom!” She had exclaimed.

“Hello darling!” The queen replied as she kissed her daughter on the forehead, a large smile spreading on her lips. “My, how tall you have gotten!”

“Mom!” Exclaimed the princess, pouting at the remark. “You tell me that each time!”

“So? Does that mean it’s not true?”

“No, but you know I’m not a little girl anymore!”

“That’s true, you are almost an adult now.” Conceded the queen with another smile. “Allow me then, young lady, to simply compliment your ever blossoming beauty in that case.”

The princess’s face reddened at that comment and her expression turned sulky once more but she still let her mother give her a kiss on the cheek. The queen then turned towards her husband. The king, who had been happily observing the scene play out in front of him, then gently took her hand and planted a short but loving kiss on it, welcoming her back home. They remained like this for a few seconds, simply staring in each other’s eyes without saying a word. The king was the first to recover and asked how her trip had been.

“Relatively calm, I must admit Marco. Everything happened without any trouble, but I will tell it to you in details later because I see we have company.” She replied as she turned towards the large table and the four men that stood up to salute her.

“Hello my dear Alix, how are things?” Said the queen as she acknowledged the presence of the man on the right.

He was of average height, thin and seemed as calm as ever. But one shouldn’t trust appearances as, under his rather puny appearance, Alix Emberblade was the minister of war and was known to be as excellent a warrior as he was a strategist. The man with short graying brown hair and pale eyes was alike Oscius in the impressive aura of power and control that emanated of him. He had managed to foil a plot to assassinate the king a dozen of years before and had done so without suffering any casualties on either side, this had made him one of the most trusted man in the kingdom in the eyes of the royal couple and the guards.

“Hello my lady. Yes, everything is in order at the moment, nothing to report.” He replied with a slight bow of the head.

“Excellent, and what about you, Lucas and Fenrir?” She asked as she turned to the two men in the middle.

Fenrir Mornac and Lucas Pandé, respectively mister of culture and minister of  external relations, saluted the queen in turn. The first, tall and with fiery red hair, possessed a short beard and always had an amused gleam in his eyes which made him easy to approach and to talk to. The other appeared more reserved, smaller than his colleague, he had slightly messy dark hair and bushy eyebrows which made him seem more sly and short-tempered than he actually was. This, however, was known only to people who knew him well as his actions tended to lead his interlocutors to think the contrary, which gave him the upper hand when treaties had to be signed with other countries.

“Everything is fine on my side my Lady, the preparations are almost over for the spring festival.” Replied the red-haired man.

“The same goes for me my Lady, I am set to leave in two days to negotiate a secondary commercial treaty with the barony of Silve in the north.” Added Lucas Pandé.

“Perfect then!” Exclaimed the queen with a smile. “But I am failing my duty as a host by not greeting you earlier my dear Ellias, I hope you won’t hold it against me.” Added the queen as she finally turned towards Thrista’s father.

“Not at all lady Lena.” Replied Ellias. “It is a great pleasure to see you again.”

“Thank you Ellias, it is a great pleasure to me too, it has been far too long since our last meeting. And now, tell me, how might be that young boy who looks so much like you?” She asked after thanking him.

“That would be my son.” Said Ellias  with a smile as he motioned to Thrista to come closer to introduce himself.

The boy was so captivated by the presence of this dark-skinned woman who radiated an aura of elegance and grace that he had not been aware of anything else since she had walked in. Only when he received a well placed kick from the blonde princess, as the queen was turning towards him, did he realize that his father and the queen were waiting for him to introduce himself.

“Greetings your majesty, I am honored to meet you today.” He started, stumbling a bit over his words at first and his cheeks taking on a pink color. “My name is Thrista Daener, I am the son of Elllias Daener and I came here with him.” Was all that he managed to say before his voice died in his throat.

“I am as honored as you are to meet you my dear Thrista, your father I as old friend of mine and it is with great pleasure that I finally meet his son.” Replied the queen with a large friendly smile.

Thrista opened and closed his mouth a few times before finally managing a small “Thank you” and hastily looking at his shoes, his face no as red as a tomato. This was due to the fact that not only had he been fascinated by this woman that he had lost all his ability to communicate but also because he had seen his father’s large smile in the corner of his eye and he knew that he was openly making fun of him for being so nervous.

“There’s no need to be so nervous Thrista, she isn’t going to eat you…” He could almost hear his father telling him telepathically.

To the princess’s greatest pleasure he lost the two games of chess they played afterward, under the attentive eye of the queen, who had insisted on watching them play after having greeted the other people who were present in the room that day, letting the governess go for the afternoon. Though the blonde girl insisted that he had just been lucky the first time and that she would definitely have won, he knew his loss had a totally different explanation…

“Come on, it’s not so dramatic! That’s life!’ Exclaimed the princess, displaying a proud wide triumphant smile. This did not seem to lift the young boy’s spirits and she took the matter in her own hands as she dragged him away by the wrist. “Come, I’ll show you a magic place!”

 


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Chapter 7 – Flowers of the past – II

 


Chapter 7

Part II

Flowers of the past


“Come on, hurry up!” Exclaimed the young girl as she got impatient and started

The tall dark-haired had woman walked in the throne room, silencing the minister who was speaking at the time and walking towards her husband who opened his arms to embrace her. Her daughter was the faster one though, she jumped in her mother’s arms and pulled her into a tight hug, nestling her head in her long black hair.

“Mom!” She had exclaimed.

“Hello darling!” The queen replied as she kissed her daughter on the forehead, a large smile spreading on her lips. “My, how tall you have gotten!”

“Mom!” Exclaimed the princess, pouting at the remark. “You tell me that each time!”

“So? Does that mean it’s not true?”

“No, but you know I’m not a little girl anymore!”

“That’s true, you are almost an adult now.” Conceded the queen with another smile. “Allow me then, young lady, to simply compliment your ever blossoming beauty in that case.”

The princess’s face reddened at that comment and her expression turned sulky once more but she still let her mother give her a kiss on the cheek. The queen then turned towards her husband. The king, who had been happily observing the scene play out in front of him, then gently took her hand and planted a short but loving kiss on it, welcoming her back home. They remained like this for a few seconds, simply staring in each other’s eyes without saying a word. The king was the first to recover and asked how her trip had been.

“Relatively calm, I must admit Marco. Everything happened without any trouble, but I will tell it to you in details later because I see we have company.” She replied as she turned towards the large table and the four men that stood up to salute her.

“Hello my dear Alix, how are things?” Said the queen as she acknowledged the presence of the man on the right.

He was of average height, thin and seemed as calm as ever. But one shouldn’t trust appearances as, under his rather puny appearance, Alix Emberblade was the minister of war and was known to be as excellent a warrior as he was a strategist. The man with short graying brown hair and pale eyes was alike Oscius in the impressive aura of power and control that emanated of him. He had managed to foil a plot to assassinate the king a dozen of years before and had done so without suffering any casualties on either side, this had made him one of the most trusted man in the kingdom in the eyes of the royal couple and the guards.

“Hello my lady. Yes, everything is in order at the moment, nothing to report.” He replied with a slight bow of the head.

“Excellent, and what about you, Lucas and Fenrir?” She asked as she turned to the two men in the middle.

Fenrir Mornac and Lucas Pandé, respectively mister of culture and minister of  external relations, saluted the queen in turn. The first, tall and with fiery red hair, possessed a short beard and always had an amused gleam in his eyes which made him easy to approach and to talk to. The other appeared more reserved, smaller than his colleague, he had slightly messy dark hair and bushy eyebrows which made him seem more sly and short-tempered than he actually was. This, however, was known only to people who knew him well as his actions tended to lead his interlocutors to think the contrary, which gave him the upper hand when treaties had to be signed with other countries.

“Everything is fine on my side my Lady, the preparations are almost over for the spring festival.” Replied the red-haired man.

“The same goes for me my Lady, I am set to leave in two days to negotiate a secondary commercial treaty with the barony of Silve in the north.” Added Lucas Pandé.

“Perfect then!” Exclaimed the queen with a smile. “But I am failing my duty as a host by not greeting you earlier my dear Ellias, I hope you won’t hold it against me.” Added the queen as she finally turned towards Thrista’s father.

“Not at all lady Lena.” Replied Ellias. “It is a great pleasure to see you again.”

“Thank you Ellias, it is a great pleasure to me too, it has been far too long since our last meeting. And now, tell me, how might be that young boy who looks so much like you?” She asked after thanking him.

“That would be my son.” Said Ellias  with a smile as he motioned to Thrista to come closer to introduce himself.

The boy was so captivated by the presence of this dark-skinned woman who radiated an aura of elegance and grace that he had not been aware of anything else since she had walked in. Only when he received a well placed kick from the blonde princess, as the queen was turning towards him, did he realize that his father and the queen were waiting for him to introduce himself.

“Greetings your majesty, I am honored to meet you today.” He started, stumbling a bit over his words at first and his cheeks taking on a pink color. “My name is Thrista Daener, I am the son of Elllias Daener and I came here with him.” Was all that he managed to say before his voice died in his throat.

“I am as honored as you are to meet you my dear Thrista, your father I as old friend of mine and it is with great pleasure that I finally meet his son.” Replied the queen with a large friendly smile.

Thrista opened and closed his mouth a few times before finally managing a small “Thank you” and hastily looking at his shoes, his face no as red as a tomato. This was due to the fact that not only had he been fascinated by this woman that he had lost all his ability to communicate but also because he had seen his father’s large smile in the corner of his eye and he knew that he was openly making fun of him for being so nervous.

“There’s no need to be so nervous Thrista, she isn’t going to eat you…” He could almost hear his father telling him telepathically.

To the princess’s greatest pleasure he lost the two games of chess they played afterward, under the attentive eye of the queen, who had insisted on watching them play after having greeted the other people who were present in the room that day, letting the governess go for the afternoon. Though the blonde girl insisted that he had just been lucky the first time and that she would definitely have won, he knew his loss had a totally different explanation…

“Come on, it’s not so dramatic! That’s life!’ Exclaimed the princess, displaying a proud wide triumphant smile. This did not seem to lift the young boy’s spirits and she took the matter in her own hands as she dragged him away by the wrist. “Come, I’ll show you a magic place!”

Chapter 7 – Flowers of the past – I

 


Chapter 7

Part I

Flowers of the past


“Come on, hurry up!” Exclaimed the young girl as she got impatient and started running faster before gracefully jumping over the wall. “Why are you always so impossibly slow Thrista?! You’re slower than a snail, you know that?!”

“Wait for me Silena!” Begged the young boy as he tried his best to follow the young princess, but she was much more agile than him and had got so far away that she had to regularly stop and wait for him which really exasperated her.

“Come on, faster! They’re going to catch us if you don’t move!” Simply replied the young girl.

She was particularly excited and nervous that day as her father had posted even more guards than usual around the palace to prevent her from sneaking away, they had almost gotten caught as they were jumping over the wall of the gardens. And all that because of Thrista’s inefficiency to move quickly. They were supposed to meet the others I the park of the eastern district but they would never get there in time with such a snail. Silena hated his crybaby attitude and the fear he had that she would leave without him. He already knew how to use the basics of the art of emporium but the simple act of screaming at him was enough to completely paralyze him in fear. That said he was one of the rare persons of her age, even if he was three years younger, with whom she enjoyed playing so she always wanted to make the most of their time together. Even if that meant she would be punished afterward. This was the third time they left the palace together and without any authorization whatsoever from her parents, well, officially, it was the second as the king and queen had no idea about the first time they had sneaked out. Her father was furious enough about the second one, as she put her and Thrista’s lives in danger by going out unsupervised, even more so that the king was supposed to keep an eye on the young boy while his father was away, so she wasn’t about to tell him that she had done it before…

They finally reached the familiar gate of the park which was surrounded by a metallic arch, despite being called the park gate it didn’t provide any way to prevent people from entering it as there were no doors and no walls around it to close it off. It was here as a symbol more than anything and had slowly started to be covered by vines over the years, making it difficult to read the name that was engraved on it. Despite that, rare were the people who did not walk through it to enter or leave the park as it represented and homage to the centuries of peace that the city had lived since the last great invasion. The young blonde girl ran through the gate, Thrista catching up to her a few seconds later, and as they caught their breaths they walked towards the center of the park where they were supposed to meet with their friends. Excited cries and shouts could already be heard coming from their destination as they got closer, finally they could see the children running around, yelling and laughing as they played passionately. The two of them quickly joined the others, also running around and shouting. They played like that for almost two hours, barely stopping to catch their breaths as they ran after each other, threw balls at each other and accepted acrobatic challenges each harder than the other. The sun was reaching maxima when they decided to finally part, most of the other children too scared to miss lunch and the others following the movement as they had too few comrades left to keep playing. Thrista and Silena also decided to go back to the palace. They took the long way around, by the northern road, to try to sneak in the palace without being seen by the king or his guards but without much success as they were called out by a deep voice behind them as they were entering through one of the kitchen window.

“Well well my young lads, you are right on time for lunch!” Exclaimed Oscius, one of the four captains of the royal guard, as he spotted them. The man, even though of regular height and of relatively ordinary appearance, an aura of power that intimidated many people emanated from him, even the princess herself couldn’t help but shiver when his steel grey eyes focused on her.

“Your father has been looking for you everywhere young lady.” He simply said, motioning for them to start moving towards the corridor behind him.

He was smiling slightly, amused by their determination to sneak out despite the king’s warnings, but his presence cut short any protestation that the two children could have had. They both walked beside him in silence, looking down to the floor as they felt a bit of shame, and followed his directions as he took them directly to the royal chambers. He opened the door and told them to enter the room before announcing their presence. Then he simply nodded and left after closing the door behind him, leaving them there, waiting in silence for the king to come reprimand them. However, to their surprise, it wasn’t king Marco that waited for them but a dark-haired woman dressed in a simple but elegant dress. She walked into the room and walked towards them before sitting down on the sofa in front of them. Silena’s eyes almost popped out and a large smile spread on her face as she ran towards the woman and hugged her.

“Mom!” She exclaimed happily as she did so.

“Despite having come to the castle a few times and having already spent two weeks in the castle this time, this was only the third time Thrista saw the queen of Tebor in person. While her husband took care of the international affairs of the country she was often gone on trips throughout the whole kingdom to evaluate and find solutions to the different problems that could arise. She was always trying to improve the life of the people of Tebor. She was tall and thin, her long hair fell down on her back and the deep brown color of her eyes reminded of the color of her skin. Silena had inherited her mother’s silhouette and her dark complexion but her eyes and her golden hair were her father’s. This gave her an exotic appearance that, as her father often said, would attract many young men as she would grow up. Her personality came without a doubt from her mother. Despite seeming sweet and inoffensive, the beautiful dark-haired woman hid a fierce will and determination that had bent far more than one. She knew how to act as soft as the breeze or as strong as a hurricane when it was necessary, and her daughter had inherited most of that.

The first time the young boy had met the queen he would have never thought she was Silena’s mother if one of the guards hadn’t announced her arrival in the room. It was the third day after his arrival to the palace with his father on their first visit together to Eneleïa. The king and his father were talking to the ministers around the long table in the throne room. Not far from there, on another smaller table that had been set for the occasion, Thrista and Silena had been playing a game of chess under the care of the princess’s governess. The young boy had proved to be a more worthy opponent than the young woman to the princess and was now revealing his talent as a strategist. His father had taught him how to play several years ago and they had kept their bouts as a tradition. Despite having greatly improved since the first time he had played the young boy had never been able to defeat his father more than twice.

“You should move your knight to the white square on the diagonal you know.” He had told her after having sat at the table and watched the match for a few minutes on the day he had arrived to the castle. The princess hadn’t even replied but had shot him a curious look before looking away. He had remained silent after that and watched Silena as she had played out her own strategy. However, after the fourth unsuccessful move, she attempted to follow his instruction and managed to beat the young woman in only two moves after that. She had looked at him again curiously, seemingly seeing him in a new light. Thrista had started feeling nervous as she kept looking at him after that, she had appeared to be in deep thoughts, and he was about to ask her what was wrong when she finally motioned for him to take her governess’s place. He slowly got up and switched places with the young woman on the side of the black pieces, he was hesitant at first but he was reassured by the gentle smile the young woman gave him as she sat back down.

“You seem to know chess a bit. Let’s see what you’re worth!” Had exclaimed the princess with a smile as she had moved the first pawn. To her great displeasure he would’ve won the game, fact that she would never admit after that, if her mother hadn’t arrived at that moment. The young girl had gotten up so quickly that she had toppled the whole board, making it impossible to continue the game. Thrista had always had his doubts about her actual intention to do that, he was sure she had used that opportunity to deny him a victory.


 

A little late but as promised it’s here! :D

*yawn* Now, off to bed, it’s too late for me…

Chapter 6 – The white palace

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Chapter 6

The white palace


“Can you see it?” Asked his father as he looked up, trying to see his son’s face as he was sitting on his shoulders. “It’s the largest building of the whole city.”

“Yeah, I see it!” Exclaimed the young Thrista with a huge smile, eyes sparkling with excitement at the sight of the huge port city that was Eneleïa.

He marveled at the scale of the city walls that guarded the entry to the harbor and at the sight of the palace, as imposing in its size as it its past history. It was the first time in his young life that the seven-year-old boy laid his eyes on such a huge city, his father had some business to attend there and when he had offered to the his son to bring him along the young boy had been extremely excited. The tall man had promised to show him how amazing Eneleïa was compared to the small village where he had grown up. What’s more the city was turmoil as it prepared to celebrate the tenth birthday of the young princess during the next few days. Even if it was not an event as major as some others that occurred and would occur there from time to time it was a time of intense activity. Thrista marveled before the bright colors and the endless swarm of people in the streets that extended before him, everything seemed minuscule from the high grounds where they were standing.

“Normally there are a lot of people in the city but not as much as today, it’s a special day, it’s the tenth birthday of princess Silena. I thought you would enjoy coming with me to see what a really city is from up close. Are you excited to be here?” Asked his father with a smile.

“It’s awesome dad!” Exclaimed the young boy with a huge grin. “Say dad, can I invite so many people for my birthday?” Asked Thrista with enthusiasm as his father was bringing him back down to the ground. The adult stopped and shot a surprised look towards him. Then he laughed as he realized his son was completely serious, despite the eccentricity of his request. This surprised the young boy who looked at him, not understanding what in his innocent question was funny enough to make his father laugh. He crossed his arms and pouted, thinking the adult was mocking him.

“We’ll see young man, we’ll see.” Replied his father with a large smile as he ruffled his son’s hair. “We’ll see…”

He remained still for a long time,  remembering this scene, the impression he had had of the City of Two Worlds when he had come the first time nine years before. He had lost track of time and realized he hadn’t moved for a long time when one of the merchants came to ask him if he was okay. He almost jumped back as the face of the old woman appeared before his eyes brought him back to reality, it was so close he could clearly see the details of the wrinkles around the eyes of the old woman. He thanked her after reassuring her that he was fine, just lost in his thoughts, that yes he ate enough and that no, he didn’t need further help. As full of goodwill as she was he was forced to convince that he didn’t need that help and, after a long moment, finally managed to convince her to go back to her stall full of fruits and vegetables. Thrista started to walk again, strolling calmly between the stalls. His mind was focused on something else entirely though : why did the heir princess of the kingdom of Tebor resort to such methods to notify him she wanted to meet? Had she known he had been back or had she just been lucky enough to cross his path that day? He was sure of it, only Silena could have left him such a message.

The fact that the princess was walking the streets of the city unattended two days before her wedding wasn’t very surprising to him, she had always found the way to get out one way or another when she had wanted to. The royal couple had never been able to prevent her from doing so. Her father had tried everything, ranging from posting guards in from of her room to making sure every exit of the palace had been closed off to her, but she had always found the way to get out. Thrista knew about that from experience. He decided to answer her demand, for it was a demand, knowing that if he didn’t go to her, she would come to him, and that would not be good. Let’s hope the gardens haven’t changed so much… The young man decided to find something to drink before going back in the direction of the tavern, he had walked quite a bit after the incident in the market district and found himself in the furthest part of the north district of the city. This walking around and the warm weather had made him thirsty. The sun was setting in the sky as he stopped by a small drink store, he bought some freshly pressed juice before getting on his way, walking back to Carmen’s fine establishment.

“Are we there yet?” Asked the young Thrista for the tenth time. His father sighed before answering him once more that it wouldn’t be long anymore, a few more minutes by foot and they would be there. The young boy became silent again, apparently satisfied by his father’s answer but still wondering how they could have walked so much and still not have arrived to their destination…

They finally reached a large building made of white stone towards which Thrista’s father walked without hesitation, the young boy following quietly in his steps, relieved as he understood that they were almost there. As they got closer to a large metallic door guarded by two guards the young boy took his time to look around. The street in which they were walking, even though it was a secondary pathway, was almost as big as the main ones. He also noticed that the white stone that composed the walls of the building were in fact very precisely cut and went from one end of the street to the other, rising up about fifteen meters from the ground. A few large windows strew the length of the wall but the only entry visible was the one towards which they were walking. They stopped before the two soldiers guarding the door. The two guards seemed to be of close age, in their early forties, they showed no emotion whatsoever as they saw the duo approaching and seemed to be surrounded by an intimidating aura of power. They were both dressed in the formal attire of the royal army, a blue and grey ensemble of light fabric, but one could easily discern the coat of mail that both of the men wore under their clothes. Each also wore a short sword on their belt and held a long lance in one hand. The man on the right looked at Thrista and his father as they stopped before them.

“What business brings you here?” He simply asked in a neutral tone.

“I have been summoned here today for an interview, my name is Ellias Daener.” Replied Thrista’s father as he gave the guard a parchment.

The young boy didn’t take much notice of the exchange between the first guard and his father, neither did he pay attention to the fact that the guard walked over to the door to notify the people inside of the arrival of a guest. Thrista was too fascinated by the second guard to notice that, he couldn’t take his eyes of the man who hadn’t moved since they had arrived, he dominated his father of at least twenty centimeters and had a much larger build. The young boy, who had never seen someone so huge before, couldn’t help but stare in amazement. He looked away only when his father touched his shoulder to tell him they could go in, but as soon as he started walking his eyes shot back to the guard. The tall man seemed to finally notice the intense stare of the young boy as he shot him a smile and a quick nod before focusing back on the street before him. Thrista finally had to tear his eyes off the soldier as they penetrated inside the large white building and the doors were closed behind them. As soon as he had closed his mouth, unable to see outside anymore, he opened it again as soon as he started looking around.

Around them were huge and endless corridors, all built in the same polished white stone, from the ground to the ceiling, almost five meters over their heads. Huge and beautifully embroidered tapestries made of rich fabrics were hung along the walls and the windows seemed even bigger than on the outside. The ground in the middle of the corridors was covered in large and dark red carpets, reminding a little bit the color of blood, with a slightly violet shade. A few busts and armors were displayed along the walls, in between the large windows.

“Each one of these leads to a room.” Ellias explained to his son as Thrista was looking intently at one of the many doors, wondering what could be behind. “It could lead to a bedroom, a bathroom or simply a closet, but it leads somewhere.”

The young boy was wondering how someone could have built such a palace without being a king and, even stranger than that, how his father knew that person. He wanted to ask that question and many others, but his father was now talking with a man who had come to take them to their destination which was… which was what by the way? Now that he thought about it he realized he had no idea where they were and where they were headed, nor who they were supposed to meet… It was only when they arrived to another large set of doors that he got part of an answer to his interrogations. The man who was guiding them stopped before the two guards who were guarding the large oak door.

“Master Daener is here for the interview with his majesty.” He announced before bowing to them and leaving.

The two guards silently turned towards the doors and knocked three times in perfect synchronicity before pushing them open. Thrista was once more amazed as the two sides of the door disappeared to reveal a gigantic room and its walls strewn of stained-glass windows, the ceiling could have easily been the one of a cathedral. A dozen of tall pillars, built in a gothic style, supported the whole structure and gave to the people in the room a feeling of smallness. In the center of the large room stood a long table made out of millennial oak wood and almost twelve meters in length. On one end of the table sat a young girl and a young woman, seemingly playing a game of chess, while on the other side two men seemed to be intensely arguing. Behind the men was a raised platform directly cut in the stone, resembling a stage, on which one could see two large thrones, one made of extremely beautifully carved floating wood, a few gems and precious stones had been set on its surface. On it sat fair-skinned man with already slightly graying blond hair, he wore a thin golden crown with a single blue diamond set in its center. On his right stood a second throne, made of the same material as the first but with less detailed carvings, it was empty at the moment.

Thrista was so amazed by everything he saw that he noticed his father was already walking towards the table as he was already a few strides away. When the blond man noticed the visitors he stood up and smiled, signaling the two men who were still discussing that they were dismissed. They both immediately went silent and left by one of the side doors after bowing. As he watched them leave the young boy noticed the guards posted all along the walls. He still wasn’t quite sure where his father had brought him but he was captivated by the architecture and the colors that the light passing through the windows spread inside the room. Only when they reached the table and his father saluted the man who had been sitting on the throne did he finally understand where they were.

“Your highness Marco, king of Tebor, it is an honor of meeting you again.” Said his father as he bowed in turn. The king looked at him for a moment before laughing loudly and talking him into an embrace.

“As rigid as ever on protocol I see my dear Ellias. Will you ever let it go as I ask you?” Asked the king as he let Thrista’s father go and took a step back.

“Never.” Replied Ellias with a small smile.

Contrary to the king, who always seemed to be smiling and always bore a welcoming and friendly attitude, Ellias Daener kept on a serious face at all time and rarely gave in to amusement when he was in public. The young man knew immediately from his father’s attitude that he had known the king for a long time and that they were on very friendly terms, otherwise Ellias would never have allowed himself to act like this. What surprised him the most was that his father was friends with the king of Tebor, he had trouble believing what he was seeing. He watched the two men talking in silence, admiring the situation he was now living : he was standing only a few feet away from the king of Tebor who was good friends with his father. That was almost unbelievable, why had his old man never told him any of it before?

“Say Ellias, I see you are not alone. This young man seems to have the same unbelieving look on his face as you do sometimes, might it be your son?” Asked king Marco after releasing his friend from his embrace.

“Yes indeed, this is my son Thrista. He’s only seven years old but everyone tells me he looks just like me when I was young, that he has the same attitude at least.” Said Ellias as he motioned to his son to come closer. “Thrista, I have the honor of introducing you to his highness Marco, king of Tebor. I know you weren’t expecting anything like this but I did promise you a surprise didn’t I?!” He added with a smile as he looked at his son. Thrista looked in turn at both of the men before replying.

“I am honored to meet you your majesty, I am Thrista Daener.” He replied with a bow as his father had taught him to do during one of his many lessons on politeness that he had received since his early days.

“I am honored too to meet you my dear Thrista Daener. I am Marco, an old friend of your father, we worked together when we were younger.” Replied the king with a smile. “Oh, and you can call me Marco, no need for formalities with us.” He added before inviting them to sit with him at the long table behind him. They walked over to the woman and the young girl that were sitting at the other end and the king introduced them to Thrista and his father.

“Ellias, you already know my daughter, even if the last time you saw her she was just a baby. Thrista, may I introduce you to Silena, my daughter.” He said as the girl with long blond hair stood up and turned towards Thrista and his father to salute them with a small bow

 She looked directly at Thrista for a moment, he just had the time to take notice of the slight boredom reflected in her blue eyes before she sat back down. The young boy was captivated by the thin and graceful figure of the young girl. Contrary to her father she had dark skin, which she had inherited from her mother, but her long blond hair and blue eyes created an exotic but harmonious combination. She was dressed in a simple light blue dress and wore a small and thin silver diadem, partly holding her hair which went down to her hips. The king then motioned towards the young woman who was sitting opposite to his daughter.

“And this is Julianne, Silena’s guardian and governess. One of the best in the country!” He exclaimed with a smile.

The young woman, who was barely in her mid twenties rose up and, blushing slightly at the comment, saluted both of them before sitting back down. Thrista didn’t take much notice of this as he was fascinated by the thin and graceful hands of the princess as she moved one of the pieces on the board. He almost didn’t hear the king offer him to stay and watch the match while his father and he would be talking. He agreed happily, pleased to be able to have an excuse to watch the young girl play, he sat on her right, shooting a quick look towards the board where the chess pieces were fighting a fierce battle.

The sun had already passed its highest point in the sky as he walked towards the gardens of the palace the next day. He had had a good night’s sleep at the tavern and had completely recovered from the exhaustion from his bout the day before. He felt ready to face anything and he knew he needed this motivation if he wanted to meet with her. He sighed as he played with the small coin he had mysteriously received the day before, he had wanted to surprise the princess with his arrival just before her wedding, but of course, he had forgotten it was Silena he was talking about. She would always sweep in and scatter his plans into the whirlwind she created everywhere she went. He smiled at the thought, indeed, a whirlwind, nice choice of words!

As he reached the outer walls of the palace, just on the other side of the gardens, he looked around, making sure no one was looking, he focused his mana on his surroundings just to be sure. Once he was positive he wouldn’t be caught, which would be extremely annoying to explain, he focused the mana in his legs and took a run-up on a few steps before jumping and easily scaling the high wall. As he landed softly on the clean-cut grass on the other side he took a look around, things didn’t seem to have changed much since the last time he had been there, which reassured him. He thanked the gods for this because he knew how easy it was to lose oneself in these tree-lined paths that many of the visitors had nicknamed the labyrinth. Fortunately he also remembered most of the way that he had taken so often when he was younger to get to the center of the gardens and the giant fountain. The teenager reached his destination without much trouble and could hear the soft lapping sound of running water. He was about to enter the clearing when he heard a sound behind him and suddenly, as he passed through the perfectly trimmed arch of foliage, he felt a cold blade press on his throat. He immediately recognized the sharpness of the knife that was pointed at him. Then he heard a feminine voice behind him ordering to stop.

“Do not move if you want to live.”

 


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Chapter 5 – Blonde Streak

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Chapter 5

Blonde Streak


The water was pleasantly warm, almost hot, when Thrista entered the large bathing pool in which Zani had already taken place, he sat on the edge in front of the temple elder. He closed his eyes and focused on the relaxing feeling that the warmth of the water procured to his sore muscles, it was almost as if his body was melting in the bath. He swore he could feel the pain lessen significantly after only a few seconds.

“Do you want the water a bit warmer?” Suddenly asked Zani as he sat up on the edge of the pool.

Thrista opened his eyes to see the elder slowly stretching his arms and massaging his sides. He thought about the last time he had been through a good exercise like that, it had been before he had left the Simeriah, and he was just realizing how much his body had been aching to fight since then.

“Yes, I’d like that.” He replied with a nod.

“Very well. I find it a bit cold too.” Said Zani with a smile.

The priest of the temple of Sha’ana closed his eyes and whispered a few words before putting his hand under the water. A wave of heat emanated from him and filled the whole room as the temperature of the water slowly rose to a comfortable heat. He opened his eyes again and looked towards Thrista. The young man nodded.

“Thank you, it is much more enjoyable like this!” The teenager exclaimed.

“You are welcome my young friend. As you can see fire magic has its advantages, this is one of them…” Replied the old man with a smile. “So you are preparing for the Tournament?” He then asked.

“Yes I am, I’ve been dreaming of participating in it since I was a small child.” Replied Thrista.

“Well you do have the potential needed, you have great power in you Thrista, I can tell you that.” Started Zani. “But are you sure you are ready? And I don’t only mean your abilities in the noble art of Empirium, many have come back changed from such a challenge, and not always for the best…” He continued, his face was still lit up by his smile but seemed strangely seemed slightly more worn out than before.

“No, to tell you the truth, I don’t feel ready yet.” Repleid Thrista after a few seconds of silence. “My motivation is a great as ever, that I cannot deny, but I feel like I still have ways to go before I can even dream of participating… That said, I plan on training as hard as I can until the time comes, I trust myself to get even better during the next months. Also it’s probably my only chance to participate so I have to be ready, I can’t back down no matter what…”

“Well you seem resolute and I don’t see any reason why I should try to change that. You seem to have what it takes Thrista, you just have to make the best of this potential. I trust you on that!” Exclaimed the elder with a wink as he leaned back and closed his eyes once more.

They kept talking as they enjoyed the warmth of the bath and used that opportunity to wash the sweat and dust off of themselves. Thrista told the old man about his journey on the other side of the central ocean on the continent of Simeriah and that he now planned to journey across Ore itself and the countries of the Alliance. He also told him that he was trying to look for companions but that he had no idea where he would go next so it was a bit complicated. Zani told the teenager his own story, how he had become a priest of Sha’ana around his twentieth birthday and how he had devoted himself to the goddess’s cult since then. During his years in the temple he had learned the way of Sha’ana’s martial arts and emporium based on the forces of nature.

After a few years he had become a master and had been assigned students to whom he had taught what he knew. In his youth he had participated himself in the Sages’ tournament and had been one of the witnesses to one of the bloodiest matches in its history, Grennwick against Almeneister, during which around a hundred of the spectators as well as Grennwick himself lost their lives. That dreadful incident had pushed the elder of the temple to renounce completely to using empirium as it had scarred him as a tool of death. It had taken him a few years to finally accept the events he had witnessed and to use it once again. Since then he had dedicated his life to training young apprentices in the art of empirium and to teach them its dangers as well as its possibilities by showing them the passive ways of the martial arts of Sha’ana. He had still kept training, unable to abandon it but only in the purpose of defending himself and never to attack.

“I am truly impressed that you still have so much energy and power despite your age, no offence.” Commented the teenager as he finally got out of the bath.

“I may be old but I am not completely rusty yet!” Exclaimed Zani with a playful smile. “And I do hope to stay that way for some time…” He added with a melancholic gleam in his eyes as he too got out of the still warm water. As the old man got out and took a towel Thrista caught a glimpse of his still muscular back and felt energy radiating from the elder.

“So, what is your plan for the rest of the day?” Asked Zani as he got dressed. “Will you go and walk around the city and do a bit of sightseeing?” Thrista put on his shirt before answering.

“Perhaps, I plan to go in the market district to buy a new bag, some equipment and some food for my journey. My old one is getting worn out.”

“And you plan to stay until the wedding is that right?” Asked Zani. Thrista nodded in approval. “Well in that case perhaps we shall see each other during the parade on the day after tomorrow. As an elder of the temple of Sha’ana I will be part of the procession.”

“That would be very enjoyable, if we don’t meet then I shall come back here before I leave!” Exclaimed Thrista with a large smile as he finished putting on his cape and his shoulder bag.

The two of them walked out of the baths and took the path towards the garden, leaving behind the rows of large wooden building. They kept talking as they approached two columns, one white and one black, that marked the entry of sacred grounds of the temple. Thrista took a moment to admire the handiwork that it had surely required to build such fine sculptures, indeed he noticed the two pillars had been sculpted from a single piece of rock each. They started walking again and soon reached the gates of the temple grounds, as they stopped to say goodbye the elder took Thrista into a strong embrace.

“I hope we will see each other again at the parade and I shall pray to Sha’ana to give you the strength to reach your goal my boy. Thank you again for this fine duel you granted me, it had been quite a long time…” Said Zani as his eyes got slightly humid. “You have revived in me a flame that had been dimed for quite some time and for this I cannot thank you enough Thrista!”

“That was my pleasure.” Replied Thrista with a smile. “And it was an honor to have been able to meet you Master Zani. I also hope we will meet again one day, when I have progressed even more.”

“I am sure we will.” Nodded the elder as he took out something from one of his pockets. “Until our next duel.” He added as he extended his arm towards Thrista and opened his hand.

“What-” Started the teenager but he was unable to finish his question as the elder raised his hand to silence him.

“This is a gift for you. You will know what it is when the moment comes, until then you will have to search for the answer by yourself. It will prove very useful to you one day, I am sure of it. Also, if you were ever in need of my assistance, I would be more than happy to give it to you.” Explained the old man with a small wink towards his ex-opponent.

“Well, thank you very much master Zani.” Replied Thrista, looking at the strange sphere before putting it away in his bag. “I wish you a good day then, may Sha’ana be with you.”

“Sha’ana o naiga.” Replied Zani in the olden language, slightly bowing to the side with his arm against his torso in a diagonal line from his hip to his shoulder, before repeating the words in their official translation. “May Sha’ana be with you.”

Thrista crossed the wooden arch surrounding the metal gates of the temple and started walking towards the northern parts of the city. The sun was already beginning its descent in the sky as he did so. He looked back and saw the elder’s diminishing silhouette walking back towards the central courtyard of the temple. The teenager then turned around and headed for the market district, crossing the path of dozens of people all around him who were preparing themselves for the celebration to come.

The teenager walked for a good half hour towards the northern district of the city before finally reaching the markets. He realized he hadn’t eaten in almost four hours as his stomach rumbled and decided to stop for some pancakes and meat balls that a couple was selling at their stall. The fight and the walk had whetted his appetite more than he had thought, he was surprised at how good he felt as he devoured the food and quickly ended up with no more than crumbs. He had kept walking as he was eating and he found himself in an adjacent street packed with people, tourists and locals blended into one dense crowd strolling along the stalls. Thrista immediately knew he was in the right place, he slowed down and started to wander among the stall full of food, clothes, animals and diverse objects, magical or not that were exposed along the streets.

People were moving all around him, some walking quickly as if they were in a hurry to tend to urgent matters, others took their time to observe the contents of each stall before sometimes buying two or three products, but all were conscious of the menace of the small hands that discreetly relieved careless wanderers of their money and goods. There were always a few aghast cries when someone discovered he had been robbed, soon followed by short chases that almost always ended abruptly as the small thieves got away swiftly. The presence of the guards patrolling the streets of the city had greatly helped in diminishing the rate of thefts but the criminals were smart and always found a way to outsmart them, jumping in at the right moment and leaving without a sound in a single instant. Thrista knew of their exploits and had therefore put up a magical protection around himself, warning him if anyone tried to relieve him of his things. As he calmly walked down the street he noticed a merchant selling clothes and especially shoulder bags that seemed to be of good quality, he decided to stop by to take a look.

“Good’day mister! What may I do for you?” Greeted the storekeeper as he saw the teenager approach. He was tall and thin, almost skinny, with short brown hair and a small goatee, he seemed to be in his mid-thirties. Thrista smiled to him and asked about the bags.

“Well my boy, you are in luck! I have just received two new bags of a similar type to yours this morning! Take a look, here they are!” He announced as he motioned towards his stock of shoulder bags lying on the counter in front of him. He pointed towards two which were very similar to the one Thrista had with him. One was made of the same leather but of a darker shade and the other was made of tightly weaved fabric and had a pouch that could be refold over the zip. The second one was the one that seemed to be the best choice to the teenager as he took a moment to compare both to his own.

“The lighter one huh? I also think it would be the best choice for you, it would both be more useful and suit you better I believe…” Commented the merchant as he saw Thrista’s gaze focus on the fabric bag. “Plus it has been woven with dexterity and experience, it is a high quality material!”

“How much would I owe you for it?” Asked the teenager as he took out his pouch containing the small amount of money he had taken before leaving the tavern.

“It would be twelve dimes my boy.” Replied the tall man with a smile.

Thrista had been expecting this, the merchant was selling his bags to a high price. He had to admit the quality seemed very good but a hundred and twenty coins for a bag was much more than he had planned to pay. He was about to try to negotiate when he was cut short.

“But, if you are ready to dispose of your old bag I will give it to you for only half the price!” Said the merchant as Thrista saw that the man had understood what he had been thinking. “You know, even if it is worn out it is still a good piece and I am sure I could make some profit out of it, it I as you wish…”

“I’ll take it then!” Replied Thrista with a nod after taking a moment to think about it.

The dark-haired teen wouldn’t tell if the merchant was swindling him or if it was an honest proposal but the bag was secondary after all and it didn’t matter if the man could make a huge profit out of his old one, he just wanted to close the deal and get on his way. He took out the six silver coins he owed the man and, after carefully transferring the content of his old bag in the new one, gave it to the owner of the stall and wished him a good day. He put the new bag around his shoulder and started walking again. That was when someone bumped into him. He fell backwards and it took him a few seconds to understand what had happened.

In front of him a young woman with long blonde hair and darker skin, dressed in a simple tunic hidden under a cape and a hood, was already getting up to run again. During the moment where his eyes locked with hers he felt as if he had already seen the azure blue orbs somewhere but he wasn’t to remember where. As she quickly left he heard shouts ordering her to stop and running coming in his direction. A young man with short blond hair rushed past him, running as fast as the wind, and disappeared in the crowd following the trail of the woman. Thrista thought about using emporium to cast a spell and stop the young woman that he could still see getting farther away, but he was stopped by a hand grabbing his arm as he was about to open his mouth. The mana he had started to focus in his hand dissipated immediately.

“Don’t even think about it!” Another young woman, this time with middle length jet black hair, exclaimed as she looked directly at him, her green eyes dark with anger. He did not have time to reply as she resumed her pursuit almost immediately.

As he watched the trio quickly get away he couldn’t help but scoff and let a small smile spread on his face, taken by surprise twice in the same day and each time by a gorgeous woman. He was slipping, he had to focus more… He started walking again, putting his hands in his pockets as he tried to get what had just happened out of his mind and ignoring the surprised looks the passersby game him. That’s when he finally noticed the small object he was holding in his right hand, something he didn’t remember having put in his right pocket. He took it out and looked at it closely, it was a round piece of bronze marked with an orca jumping out of the water and topped by a crown of leaves. He turned it around and noticed the portrait of a young woman, she looked strangely like… That’s when he understood, the young woman on the coin and the one he had bumped into were the same person. A memory resurfaced as he was thinking that, a young girl, much younger than the one he had bumped into, with long golden hair going all the way down to her hips and dark skin, wearing a light blue dress. He remembered her thin hands and the diadem decorated with diamonds resting on her head. He saw the man with the already graying bear and the thin but majestic crown… Her father was smiling, the hall was huge, the young girl looked at him. He couldn’t believe what he was about to say when the name he hadn’t heard in so many years came back to him. Silena.

 


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