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Maladrid tales of domi.., p.12

Maladrid - [Tales Of Dominhydor: Book One], page 12


Maladrid - [Tales Of Dominhydor: Book One]

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  “What about your family?”

  “I leave Donir occasionally to visit, but I always return to Yven. She is more family to me than many Tylira. It’s hard not to love her.”

  Maladrid glanced in her direction as she was spinning with Vetna drawn and her bronze dress flying high. Her hair smacked across her face as she suddenly switched direction and fell to one knee before plunging her sword into the earth. She flexed her wooden fingers as she stretched her arms over her head and arched her back, and while her body stood out brilliantly against the backdrop of the large white moon, her long hair blazed a vibrant red. She heaved a sigh, walked over to the fire, and slumped down next to Maladrid.

  “You should get some rest, my friend,” she said.

  “I’m fine. I’ll take watch while you sleep,” he replied.

  “No, Maladrid. Dordin is taking watch tonight. Come; we’ll sleep close to the fire just in case anyone needs to find us in a hurry,” she said and placed her hand on top of his.

  He gulped loudly as he laid back and rested his head upon the downy grass, and when she curled up next to him and rested her head upon his chest, it rose and fell with each of his nervous breaths. His eyes were upon her as her red hair blanketed his chest in locks of fire and her wooden hands dreamily clutched his shirt. His mind toyed with the idea of touching her, but he couldn’t will his hand to move. However, when her fingers reached out to him in sleep and caressed his cheek, he gently placed his hand upon her head and smoothed her scarlet curls. But upon that first contact, like a knife to his heart, foresight stabbed him with a vision of a river covered in snow. The water ran pink over the rocks while a great shadow cloaked him in fear, but it passed by him, and the stars were in the sky again, glimmering azure and ivory. He swept his eyes over the crowd of his new friends, and though many slept peacefully under the night sky, the Yaerla lay hopelessly awake, singing a dulcet song of woe of which had never been sung by their ilk.

  “Whence came you, O pale death

  That lay hands upon our brother’s head?

  He has left all behind:

  Banished from Yde by cruel mortality.

  Mockery! Devilry!

  O foul Fate that does beat down tall mountains

  Of Children that will bend to the Pools

  Nevermore henceforth.

  With a cold cruel fist didst thou smote our fair brother

  Who had to live and breathe many years more.

  Since first blood hath been spilt

  Of the Second,

  The children of shadow

  Shall suffer forever more.

  And the children’s children

  And on until the earth shall take us.

  Death! Cruel mockery of duty and valor.”

  The song was so powerful as to penetrate even the deepest sleep, and those who might have been too exhausted to dream had their minds easily turned to the Yaerla’s sorrow and then to their own; each one of them thought of someone they’d lost, and with the current state of the world, it was not hard for anyone to conjure up the face of a departed soul. Though Maladrid had his own faces to focus upon, he couldn’t help but think of Yven’s.

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  With much left behind and the new sun beating down with fiery force upon their backs, the fatigued company forced themselves to fly across the grassland. The Yaerla and Bartosca occasionally dipped their heads to grab a mouthful of the grass, snorting and chomping as they ran, but Dordin strayed for hours at a time in search of grass Morcs. When his large belly was full, he ran back to the group with a collection of Morcs for Yven and Maladrid to eat. Though the sun was suffocatingly hot, when it disappeared behind large gray clouds and the rain began to fall, they longed for the brightness of day. It fell soft at first, but it quickly began falling torrentially. The ground squelched under their feet and their pace lagged as the soaking rain weighed them down, and before they knew it, the grassland had become a marshland, sopping and thick, and as they struggled though the morass, the sky grew dark and the unyielding rain struck their skin like heavy needles.

  Bornibar, the smallest of the Bartosca, cried out as his two front paws started sinking into the mud and the earth swallowed his legs. Yven and Maladrid tried to pull him out, but he only sank deeper, and his back paws became quickly immersed in the mire. Bornibar’s brother, Branbir, stood horns to horns with him and tried to lift Bornibar’s body from the mud, but when Branbir’s paw slipped and plunged into the wet earth, he began to sink as well. Suddenly, as if a great wind had extinguished the sun, the land became terrifyingly dark. Everyone froze in the darkness and the world was silent save for heaving breaths of panic and the occasional squishing of mud. The ground began to tremble and the sudden sounds of squelchy footfalls came faster and louder and closer. The Yaerla surrounded the company’s perimeter and thrust their horns forward in defense while Dordin crouched with his ears flattened and bared his teeth ferociously. The footsteps came nearer, and when they finally stopped, a burst of flame ignited a torch and revealed the army of large Shadaran atop Grechla steeds. The yellow eyes of the Shadaran burned like yellow orbs smoldering in a dim black sea, and their shadowy bodies shifted and swirled like a churning black fog. Their shadowy swords were of the same element, and though they never seemed solid, their strike was well known to be so. The Grechla appeared gray in the dark, but the flames of the torch caused their ivory scales to sparkle red and orange and reflected terrifyingly in their massive colorless eyes.

  The rain fell heavier and everyone began to sink slowly, but when a Shadara jumped to the marshy ground and drove its dark sword into the earth, the ground started to quake and the mud began to petrify. Yven’s army struggled to pull free before the ground hardened around their submerged feet, and all managed to do so except for Bornibar who had become trapped neck-deep in hard rock. The Shadaran charged him with their blades cutting audibly through the air, and when one caught his throat, he wilted and fell still. Branbir, seeing his fallen brother, leapt at the shadowy creatures and knocked the torch to the ground. The flames were extinguished in a puddle of rain, and the darkness was upon them again, but the absence of light couldn’t stop the battle that had begun to rage with the spilling of Bornibar’s blood. Maladrid couldn’t tell what he was more frightened of: being killed or killing one of his companions by accident.

  “Light from my fingers: send them to shadowy corners!” a mysterious voice boomed, and the sky suddenly burst into illumination with a radiant white light.

  The Shadaran screeched and the Grechla’s skin began to sizzle, and Yven’s army was forced to close their eyes to the power of the light. When it dimmed, they realized that the enemy was scampering away but also that they were leaving a minuscule amount of their kin behind as casualties. The group stood heaving with their faces and bodies spattered with crimson, but there were some Bartosca and Yaerla that were left without breath and blood painting the earth.

  “May my sleep take you and my roots become your blanket,” the voice said softly, and suddenly, all knees began to weaken and all eyelids began to fall.

  Maladrid’s hand became heavy as he reached for Yven, but before he gave in to the unexpected exhaustion, her long wooden fingers intertwined with his, and the army fell into a deep sleep. When he opened his eyes again, Maladrid saw surroundings of green health, thick and lush, and flowers of nearly every imaginable color. The air smelled of honey and lilac, and as he breathed it in through every pore, his mind raced and his heart fluttered with renewed fervor. Yven, after letting out a mighty yawn, stood and gazed around her, awestruck by the unfamiliar milieu that possessed not an inch of arid land nor one withered leaf.

  “Where are we?” Dordin asked, but the only response was an uncertain one.

  “I’m going to have a look around,” she said.

  “I beg you, Queen Yven, stay awhile,” a deep but sweet voice echoed.

  Yven instinctively drew Vetna and asked fiercely, “
Who are you?”

  “Please put the Olfir away. We are on the same side,” it answered.

  “I’m not in the mood for mysterious voices on the wind. Show yourself,” she demanded.

  A loud rustling drew their eyes to a nearby pile of green leaves on the ground, and they watched in astonishment as the pile grew in height and acquired a womanly shape. Her skin was the color of new grass and the gown of leaves that covered her willowy body bloomed with delicate white flowers, as did her thick dark green hair. Around her head shone a crown of stars that sparkled every varied shade of green.

  “You fall to your knees before Garyli but threaten me, Queen Yven? Have you no respect for the Daian who nourishes the earth on which you walk, who provides you with all things that grow? Am I not Daian of the Leaf? Do I not deserve to be bowed to as well?” she asked with her face glowing.

  “I beg your forgiveness, my Lady,” Yven replied as she fell to the ground in shame. “I was wounded in the recent fray and frightened by this strange new land we woke up in.”

  “You are forgiven, of course,” she said, and bade Yven stand. “It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Queen Yven, and it is very good to see you again, Maladrid. I knew the Golasle would give you no difficulty.”

  “I wouldn’t go that far,” Maladrid chuckled, “but thank you for your kindness.”

  “You know each other?” Yven asked in surprise. “But she’s—”

  “You are Yvinhe,” Nonwe said, mystified. “’Fair Beloved’, ‘The Green Goddess.’”

  “So Baliwa’s ramblings weren’t complete nonsense,” the Monha whispered.

  “Why have you brought us here?” Yven asked.

  “Because you were in danger. Do you wish I hadn’t?”

  “We do appreciate your help, but I think we’re all just a bit disoriented because we’re not sure of where we are,” Maladrid explained.

  “I see; well, you currently stand in a secret land hidden from the eyes of Dominhydor’s Children. It was a gift from Yaliwe that I protect and keep sacred just as I do with the Yaerla, and as I would like it to remain so, that is all I care to disclose,” Yvinhe replied with a sweet smile. “I am sorry I could not come to your aid sooner, but you are safe now; the only one who knows the location of this island is Yaliwe.”

  “Why have you granted us access to such a blessed land?”

  “I brought your army here so that it would not be annihilated. Typically, I’m not supposed to interfere in Dominhydor’s affairs, but in this instance, I felt it necessary.”

  “Where are those who died during the battle?” Firmadryn the Bartosc asked. “Where are our brothers and sisters?”

  “They remain on that land hardened by shadow, and there they will remain for eternity. I tried to move them, but the power that poisoned the soil would not release its grip on their bodies. I covered them with roots and seeds and ensured that life shall henceforth flourish there. No one affiliated with the Dark Lady may tread on them without feeling pain.”

  “I don’t care whether you saved us or not,” Baer exclaimed. “I don’t care that you hallowed those who fell. I don’t care that you are Yvinhe who gave life to my kin long centuries ago, and that you are the creator of blessed Yde. You are a Daian; you are the same ilk as the Lonhe who savagely killed my brother, Bon, and stained the Isle of Lorynhal with blood of the Yaerla.”

  “Yes, Forafir and Portitol are my kin, but I do not condone their actions. They are no longer Daian as I am, and they haven’t been for quite some time. They were banished from Mancyte centuries ago for choosing the path of darkness,” Yvinhe replied and sighed sadly. “I regret that this battle shall prevent some of your kin from ever seeing the glory of Yde, but all are reunited in Hana in the end. Dear Baer, you have nothing to fear from me; it pains me that you would think me capable of bearing the Yaerla or any good Child of Dominhydor any ill will.”

  All faces turned to Baer whose eyes were misty with sorrow, and in trembling shame, he bowed his head to Yvinhe in apology. She lifted his chin and wiped the falling tears from his wooden face.

  “There is much to grieve for, and there will only be more to grieve for in the future. That future, I fear, is closer than we all think,” Yvinhe said as she swept her forest eyes across the army. “Death, life, joy, sorrow: you will feel them all; they are inescapable. Even though Yaliwe’s intentions are unknowable, I know She would not have you suffer and She would not have you give up hope. For good to triumph, we must believe that it is possible, and that although every light may be hidden, it is still there, waiting for us to seek it out.”

  “As long as I am living, I will never stop seeking the light, Yvinhe,” Yven declared.

  “And that is why you were chosen, young Queen, to not only make this journey but to lead it,” she replied and bowed to the Hohmara sovereign. “The Dark Lady’s minions are gone. It’s safe for you to return to Dominhydor now.”

  “Gone for how long?” Balibasa murmured.

  “Safe for how long?” Dynide asked in unison with the Bartosc.

  “Shall we meet again, Fair Beloved?” Maladrid asked.

  Yvinhe smiled warmly and laid a tender kiss upon his cheek. She extended her arms and began to lift them slowly, and when she suddenly dropped her hands, the soldiers dropped as well; their heads wilted and knees buckled and they collapsed to the ground like ragdolls. When Maladrid’s face hit the grass, the earth was vibrating beneath him and his body buzzing to the point of pain, but when Yvinhe’s drowsing magicks took hold, the verdant world faded away, and although he heard Yvinhe speak again, he was too focused on Yven’s peaceful face to listen.

  “Maca nira e mos baent. Alamintyl, Li.”

  A sweet dream swept them up, and although he felt weightlessly numb, Maladrid still felt Yven’s hand tangled with his once again. The sleep didn’t last long, and after they awoke to their recent battleground, they realized that Yvinhe had spoken true. The bodies of those who had fallen were gone and what remained were mounds covered with fresh grass and flowers. Maladrid was pained by watching the brothers and sisters of the departed mourn in tearful silence. Although she felt their grief, Yven’s determination was renewed by the words of the Daian, and while others mourned, she gathered her gear and began loading it onto Dordin.

  “Speak your sad words to the dead if you must, but do it quickly. There will be far more to perish if we continue to dawdle,” she announced.

  As Maladrid watched Yven prepare for departure, he noticed a slight hardening in her manner; it was as if with each drop of innocent blood spilt on her watch, a drop of her own had iced over. He only hoped his observation wasn’t correct, and even if it was, he hoped that victory might melt the coldness that had accumulated within her.

  The sun was beating down on them as they took to travel again, and although the day was bright, each member of the company seemed influenced by the impending darkness. The sun tortured them not only with its heat but also with mocking rays that continuously reminded them that if they failed in their quest, all light would be extinguished forever. Everyone was thinking it, but it was Maladrid who finally spoke his thoughts aloud.

  “How can a world so bright be on the verge of such darkness?”

  Yven looked down upon Maladrid from Dordin’s back and though he smiled at her, her face was harshly cold.

  “It grows darker with each passing hour,” she said. “And we can’t afford to lose any time. It’s at least another week until we reach Fircyn and four days before we have a chance to replenish our water supply in the Coelis.”

  “It’ll be all right, Yven,” he said.

  “Check our food and water supply and then tell me it’ll be all right, Maladrid,” she replied, and sped ahead of him.

  Yven was right to be worried; the water was dwindling, and what was left of the Morc meat Dordin had gathered was turning quickly. Luckily, the Tylira knew of a place near Rosdin inhabited by several colonies of grass Morcs. Until then, the carnivores would have to subsist o
n vegetation. They continued northeast toward the underground city of Fircyn, parched and hungry, but when they finally reached the river Coelis, they were overjoyed by the glorious sight, fresh smell, and urging sound of water. The sunburned soldiers dunked their faces into the river and sighed as the cool clean refreshment soaked into their skin.

  “Dordin and I are off to collect Morcs, and although we shouldn’t be gone too long, I’d suggest staying near the river,” Yven said. “Maladrid, Nonwe, there is a bordering pasture and forest; why don’t you two investigate them and gather as much food as you can?”

  “As you wish,” Nonwe replied, and although Maladrid nodded in agreement, he had trouble hiding the fact that he would’ve rather accompanied Yven on her mission.

  She noticed his disappointment in her leaving him behind, and though she felt his sadness like a shard in her chest, she plucked it out with a forced smile and a gentle hand upon his cheek. As soon as his sadness seemed even slightly alleviated, she turned away, mounted Dordin, and spurred him into the distance. Maladrid stared after her for some time before Nonwe nudged his arm, and with a dejected sigh, he followed the Yaerla toward the bordering regions.

  “There are some berries over here,” Maladrid said to Nonwe as they scoured the pasture.

  “Good eyes,” the Yaerla said with the satchel strap clenched in his teeth.

  He dropped the sack to the ground and Maladrid began plucking the fat purple berries from the thorny bushes and dropping them on top of the large clusters of da-ni they’d already collected.

  “We’ve enough da-ni to last us till we reach Fircyn. That’s all well for us and the Bartosca, but the rest of you won’t get far without meat. I hope Yven and Dordin have some luck.”

  “They will,” Maladrid replied.

  “What makes you so confident?”

  “Because she hasn’t failed us yet. She’ll come through; she always does.”

  “Then we know why Yven is here. So the question is, young warrior and friend: what brings you into this fight?”

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