Maladrid tales of domi.., p.13
Maladrid - [Tales Of Dominhydor: Book One], page 13
Maladrid plucked the last berry from the bush and tossed it into the satchel with a sigh.
“Fate?” he asked with a shrug. “Is it blind luck or a blind curse? To be honest, Nonwe, for quite a while I was confused as to why I was here as well, but now I know clearly and plainly: it is in my path to help Yven realize hers.”
“You have a sunny disposition for one whose path is inspired by a doomed fate,” Nonwe muttered.
“What do you mean?”
“You may be a commoner, Maladrid, but you can’t deny your gifts. You’ve seen things, haven’t you?”
“Or visions?” Nonwe replied. “Have you heard the voices on the wind?”
“Why are you asking me this?”
“Because, Maladrid, this isn’t your world. I’m sure you’ve seen dark times and death before, but the simple fact is that you haven’t seen anything compared to what we are about to face.”
“And here I thought the Yaerla were all about compassion and acceptance.”
“We are, and Maladrid, please don’t see this as a slight, but you aren’t exactly experienced in these matters. I, myself, am not as skilled as I could be, and I’ve actually seen battle. I was still quite young when the good warriors of Dominhydor rose up to fight the demon, Forla, who sought to cover the world in shadow, but I soldiered through and I learned a thing or two about the powers at Nave’s Bend. The Dark Lady will not spare you just because you didn’t know any better. She will not grant you any second chances. If you make one mistake, her demons will kill you without thought or regret,” he said. “When I fought in that great battle many years ago, I thought that I was ready, but the first time I drove my horn into the belly of an Achnor, I actually felt regret about it. I pitied the creature because I knew how painful it must have been. After all, it was only acting as its soul dictated; its belief in the Dark Lady was as strong as mine toward the Lady of Light. But as I watched them slaughter the innocent in the name of their Lady, I came to realize that although their belief was as strong and true as ours, they have no hearts. They exist only to serve the Dark Lady’s will, but we, the Children of Yaliwe, exist because of Her will. She loves us; we are Her Children and not Her slaves. I felt regret the first time I killed one of them, but knowing what I know now, I regret regretting.”
“You’re right, Nonwe: I’m not deft in matters of war, but I do know that those supposed ‘slaves’ of Nave’s Bend are as far from being manipulated as we are. Their minds may be clouded, but still, they are free. That is why you feel regret about regretting. They are as free as we are, but they have chosen willingly which path they would follow,” Maladrid declared. “I am young, it’s true, but don’t underestimate me. Maybe if Yven had never crossed my path, I would be useless in this war, but she did cross my path, Nonwe, and she caused my strength and conviction to soar. If you doubt my ability—”
“I don’t,” Nonwe interjected. “I just wanted to make sure that you didn’t either.”
“Then let’s get back to gathering the da-ni,” Maladrid said.
“I didn’t mean to sound unkind or judgmental,” Nonwe said. “I simply wanted to make sure that your heart was in it.”
“Would I be here if it weren’t?”
“I suppose not,” Nonwe replied warmly. “These bushes are picked clean. We should get back to the others.”
“The forest seems to get thicker a few yards in. It may prove more fruitful. What we’ve foraged so far isn’t enough to feed even half of the Bartosca.”
Nonwe nodded and Maladrid gently hung the satchel around the Yaerla’s neck. It was not long before they started to notice the many tall stalks scattered around the forest that were rich with large clustered nuggets of da-ni, and deeper into the thicket, there were several trees that hung heavy with shiny purple fruit. Nonwe reared up and was about to bite into one of the fruits when Maladrid halted him.
“Not these, my friend. I’ve encountered a crop like this before. Try to take a bite and you’ll be in for an earful.”
All of a sudden, there was a rustling in the bushes nearby and Maladrid and Nonwe froze. Maladrid slowly moved his hand to his blade, and when his fingers wrapped around the hilt, they heard the noise again.
“Yven?” Maladrid whispered.
“That’s not Yven,” Nonwe replied quietly as his ears swiveled, and with sudden urgency, the Yaerla swiftly dashed toward Maladrid and slammed the side of his face into his leg.
Maladrid was thrown aside and Nonwe skidded out of the way just as an arrow sailed past them, but the Yaerla quickly regained his footing and shot forward into the deep woods.
“Nonwe!” Maladrid screamed.
He heard the many footfalls and loud struggle ahead, and then, after several muffled grunts, there was silence.
“Nonwe!” he cried as he rushed forward with his blade preceding.
He pushed through the forest and though he continued to shout, he heard no reply, but in the distance, aided by the blazing sun, he spied the glimmer of a discarded arrow. From there, he followed the trail of crimson and broken branches to where he found Nonwe laying motionless beneath the splayed body of a man. With all of his strength, Maladrid rolled the massive man away to see Nonwe’s body and horn splotched with blood and lightly smacked the Yaerla’s face in attempt to revive him.
“Wake up, Nonwe,” he whispered. “Come on; you have to wake up.”
His hand moved to Nonwe’s belly where there was a weeping wound, but he felt the strong rhythm of life persisting, and with a gasp, Nonwe’s eyes opened and he lifted his head.
“Careful,” he said with a wincing grin as Maladrid wrapped his arms around him and squeezed him joyfully. “I’ll be fine, but don’t squeeze me so tight.”
Maladrid released him and glared at the unconscious stranger: a young man with olive-colored skin and knotted locks of black hair tied back with a strip of canvas. He had blood spattered across his youthful face, and his left eye was swollen shut. Maladrid slid his sword beneath the stranger’s neck, knelt beside him, and whispered sweetly into his ear, “If you’re not dead, I beg you to wake in the next ten seconds or I will slice your throat to ensure your mortality.”
He cleared his throat and began.
“One, two, three, four—”
“I’m alive,” the stranger coughed.
“Good,” Maladrid said, “but you won’t remain that way for long unless you speak truthfully. Now, stand up.”
He complied slowly, groaning through the pain of the injuries Nonwe had inflicted, and held his hands up in surrender.
“Please,” he said. “I don’t wish to hurt you.”
“You fired an arrow.”
“Unless there are others of your ilk about,” Nonwe suggested.
“No. I’m the only one. I swear.”
“Who are you?”
“My name is Mar-Mini,” he replied as he wiped away the blood that had begun to dry on his face.
“You’re a Lyraer,” Nonwe stated.
“Yes. I serve Cite, the king of Rosdin, but I swear: I don’t wish you any harm.”
“The wounds you delivered my friend suggest otherwise,” Maladrid said, but when he looked to Nonwe, he saw that the Yaerla’s eyes were closed and brow furrowed in pain.
The wound in Nonwe’s stomach, the wound that had been so gaping was closing before his very eyes. Thanks to his blessed genetics, every wound was healing, and after only a few moments, it looked as though he’d never suffered a single blow.
“That’s better,” Nonwe sighed, “but your legions shall not heal so quickly, Mar-Mini.”
“Please, spare me, good Lords. I was only carrying out orders,” the Lyraer begged.
“To kill us?”
“The arrows aren’t fatal. They’re tranquilizers. I didn’t want anybody to get hurt.”
Nonwe ripped one of the arrows out of Mar-Mini’s quiver, dropped it onto the ground and sniffed at the tiny tip.
“Everything I’ve spoken has been the truth, on my honor,” Mar-Mini said. “Except—”
“What you said about there being others. I am the only one here currently, but I may not be for long. The rest of the soldiers are close.”
“How close?” Maladrid asked.
“Twenty miles at the most,” he began, “with the lady Yven.”
Maladrid lunged forward and seized the Lyraer by his throat.
“How dare you not be forthcoming with this information?” Maladrid bellowed. “Where is she?”
“I don’t know,” he squealed. “She took off from your camp toward Colytaer. But I came to this forest to find you, Maladrid.”
“You’ve been watching us?”
“And you’ve seen our camp?”
Maladrid burned with rage as he forcefully but calmly said, “Nonwe, give me that arrow.”
“What are you going to do?” the Yaerla asked.
“Just give it to me.”
Once the arrow was in Maladrid’s hand and the tip was pressed against Mar-Mini’s leg, the eyes of the Lyraer widened and his chin began to quiver.
“What are you doing?” the soldier stammered.
“You’re coming with us,” Maladrid said.
“I’ll go quietly.”
“I know you will,” he whispered sweetly and pierced Mar-Mini’s thigh.
The Lyraer gasped as his legs bent inward, his head wilted, and he collapsed to the forest floor.
“How are we going to get him back to camp?” Nonwe asked.
“We’re not. We don’t have time. Yven’s in trouble.”
“No, Maladrid,” a powerful voice rang from the shadows. “I’m not.”
From between a cluster of dark trees, the queen emerged with one hand on Vetna’s hilt and the other clamped onto her left shoulder. The tops of the trees parted also as Dordin pushed his massive body, loaded down with large, bulging sacks, through the opening. Maladrid ran to Yven and crushed his body against hers in a thankful embrace.
“Easy,” she whispered, and when he stepped back, she removed her hand from her shoulder to show him a wound glazed with blood.
“I’m fine,” she replied to the worry in Maladrid’s eyes.
“We found them, or more accurately, they found us.”
“We were just outside of Colytaer when we first noticed the possibility of someone tailing us, but Dordin and I continued anyway. We gathered a great deal of da-ni from the Eastern Freelands, and Dordin succeeded in securing nearly a whole colony of grass Morcs, but when we turned to head back, we began to hear the noises of stalking strangers. Dordin could hear and even smell the withdrawal of bloodied weaponry, and when they finally attacked, they were confident that they’d caught us unawares, but we were prepared.”
“But the arrows weren’t deadly. They were tranquilizers,” Maladrid said.
“They had no arrows,” Dordin replied. “Only swords and axes. They came for blood.”
“And unfortunately, they got it,” Yven said sadly. “Before they found us, they found a trio of Bartosca on their way to join our company. There were only twelve Lyraera, but they brought the Bartosca down and left them in the Eastern Freelands.”
“Freelands indeed,” Dordin scoffed.
“They attacked us, declaring that we captured and killed one of their soldiers. We tried to reason with them, but they wouldn’t listen. At any rate, they’re all dead now, but we did them the courtesy that they didn’t do the Bartosca: we buried and blessed them in hopes that Yaliwe might forgive their transgressions. So, who is this one?” Yven asked as Mar-Mini moaned. “And why isn’t he dead?”
“Because he hasn’t tried to make us so,” Maladrid said.
“He has no sword or axe. All he had were these arrows, and they only bring unconsciousness.”
“Brief unconsciousness it appears,” Dordin commented as he sniffed at Mar-Mini. “He’s waking up.”
“They’re not that potent,” the Lyraer wheezed as he yawned and stretched his limbs.
“Not so fast,” Yven said as she drew her blade and laid it across Mar-Mini’s neck.
“As I told the boy and Yaerla, I mean you no harm.”
“Really?” Yven asked with a spiteful smirk. “And your friends: what were their intentions?”
“I admit that the others and I were sent to kill you, Queen Yven, but I never had any intention of following through on those orders. That’s why I left them.”
“You’re the one that we got blamed for killing?” Yven asked.
“I wanted them to think that I was captured, but I never implied who my captors were. I had to leave; I just couldn’t kill an innocent.”
“Then why did you seek to attack us? Even with tranquilizers; why?” Nonwe queried.
“Because if I didn’t, they would have come for you too. I thought maybe if I brought you back to Cite unconscious but unharmed, he might show you mercy.”
“Mercy for what?”
“History, I suppose, and for entering his lands without permission.”
“We’ve not yet crossed into Rosdin,” Dordin growled. “We’ve made no infractions against the king.”
“It doesn’t matter any more; you’ve killed twelve of Cite’s soldiers. If he desired your destruction before, he will now desire your torture as well.”
Yven sneered and declared fiercely, “Let him try. We can all see how well his first attempt fared. What I don’t understand is why you, as a Lyraer, care whether anyone in our army lives or dies.”
“Not all of us are bent upon repeating the past, milady,” Mar-Mini replied. “But I must respect my king; if not for him, I’d have no purpose at all.”
“Or so he leads you to believe. Come,” she said as she lowered her sword and lifted him to his feet. “You will accompany us back to our camp.”
“Because I’m not through asking questions yet.”
The remainder of the army, still stationed along the Coelis, was overjoyed when they saw Yven leading the party back to camp, but their expressions quickly changed upon seeing the Lyraeran stranger following Maladrid to the river.
“Clean yourself up,” he said and the Lyraer dropped to his knees wearily.
While he splashed the cool water of the Coelis on his face and washed the caked blood away, Yven tended to her own wounds. When her shoulder was cleaned and dressed, she strode proudly to Mar-Mini’s side and glowered at him.
“I trust you’re feeling quite refreshed?” she asked.
“Yes, milady, thank you.”
“Good. Then it’s time to talk.”
She started to lead Mar-Mini away, but she stopped, turned and locked eyes with Maladrid as she asked, as if exasperated that she had to, “Aren’t you coming?”
He snapped into action with a tremendous feeling of elation bubbling inside and quickly joined Yven. They hiked across the plain in the direction of Rosdin, and Maladrid noticed Mar-Mini’s eyes nervously darting back and forth across the land.
“Here is fine,” Yven finally said, bringing the trio to a halt.
“No, its not,” Mar-Mini said with his eyes still searching the trees and brush.
“So you left your party because you didn’t want anyone to be killed,” Yven said, “and yet you allowed the rest of those soldiers to come after me. Why?”
“Cite requested the destruction of four soldiers in your army: you, Dordin, Nonwe, and Maladrid. We were sent to take out the most powerful first and then go after the rest. I could not have stopped the other Lyraera from pursuing the queen, but I could at least try to warn the rest of her army.”
“You said that you were going to take Nonwe and me back to your king,” Maladrid rebutted. “How is that a warning?”
“What kind of life are you living in Rosdin?” Maladrid blurted. “What kind of leader is this king of yours?”
“Cite is strict, yes, but he is a fine man. He has helped lift the Lyraera out of the dark mire of our past.”
“He has only lowered you deeper into it, Mar-Mini, and you are just too blinded by the crown to see it. Cite has done nothing to further your people; if anything, he’s made you even more cut off from the rest of the world,” Yven said.
“He has kept us safe.”
“He has kept you too terrified to think for yourselves.”
“That may be, but he is still the king, and I am still his loyal subject,” he replied. After a pensive bit of silence, Mar-Mini continued, “But there are things happening in Rosdin that shouldn’t be.”
“What sort of things?” Maladrid implored.
“We shouldn’t be here,” Mar-Mini said nervously. “We’re too close to Rosdin.”
“Tell us, Mar-Mini: what is happening in Rosdin?”
“You’re in danger here. We have to move,” he said hurriedly.
“Not until you answer the queen’s question,” Maladrid insisted.
“He’s only doing what he thinks is right,” Mar-Mini began with his eyes to the ground. “But sometimes it seems like his intentions are ill. He swears that he wants nothing more than peace between all races and clans, but he never seems to follow through on those desires.”
Mar-Mini eyes suddenly shot wide open and fixed upon a patch of bushes straight ahead, and with his voice shaking, he whispered, “We should have moved.”
The sound of an arrow slicing through the air provided a brief warning, but it didn’t give enough time for Mar-Mini to duck. It struck him accurately between the eyes, and though the force of the blow was astounding, Mar-Mini didn’t fall immediately. His lifeless body wavered for a few seconds until his heels slipped forward and his body tipped backwards down onto the ground. A barrage of arrows was loosed upon them, but before they could fall on flesh, Yven grabbed Maladrid and pulled him behind a nearby cluster of shrubs.
by Jessica McHugh have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes