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Maladrid tales of domi.., p.17

Maladrid - [Tales Of Dominhydor: Book One], page 17


Maladrid - [Tales Of Dominhydor: Book One]

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  “I wish I knew we could have a full night’s sleep. In all the time we’ve been here, I’ve not slept well for fear of Shacore and his demons. They seem to have a habit of interrupting our rest in some form or another,” Maladrid groaned.

  Daradis called to his kin and the Rani joined hands in a circle. They whispered in unison with their heads bowed to the earth, and the rest of the fellowship gazed on in wonderment as the ground began to quake. Splinters of light shone through tiny cracks in the foundation, but then the light burst upward and bent around the warriors, the castle, and a great deal of Colytaer. The immense dome of light filled several of the soldiers with wonder and they ventured out of the palace in order to inspect its magnificence. When Maladrid pressed his hand against the dome’s shining wall, it felt like warm gel, and his arm passed through it.

  “What is this?”

  “Just a charm,” Daradis replied. “We may penetrate it, but the outside cannot. It should keep us hidden from unfriendly eyes, at least until sunrise.”

  The air was still as the ponderous night fell. The army settled into a calm doze, all save Yven, who had become accustomed to remaining awake while others slept. Dordin joined her by the fire, and together they enjoyed the warmth of the flickering flames. She rested her head against Dordin’s leg, and when his fur surrounded her face, she was granted a fluffy black mane. His deep constant purr vibrated against her cheeks and brought her to complete peace as he kneaded the ground with his great paws in utter contentment.

  “Yven, why did you want to leave me behind?” he whispered. “Why did you send me away?”

  “Dordin, you know why. I needed to make this journey alone.”

  “But you’re not alone. You could never be alone. You draw people to you because of who you are. You are a leader, a champion, and more so, the finest creature I’ve ever met,” he replied lovingly.

  “I was just trying to protect you. You are the only one who has been with me through my entire life. Yes, I sent you away, but I always knew that we’d see each other again. I have often wondered how you can be so devoted to me though. You had a life before we met, and you will have life after I am gone. How could you love me so when there will be so many more like me in your lifetime?”

  “My Queen,” Dordin whispered sorrowfully.

  “Will you forget me?” Yven asked with her voice trembling and wiped the tears from her face with her twiggy fingers.

  Dordin lifted his paw and curled it reassuringly around Yven’s body.

  “Don’t speak about that again, I beg you. I don’t ever want to imagine a time without Yven.”

  She flung herself against him and wrapped her arms around his fuzzy neck in an honest embrace. Dordin nuzzled his friend and purred loudly as she settled into his fur and they both fell into a tender sleep. But while they and others peacefully became lost in their own dreamlands, Maladrid found himself standing in an unfamiliarly misty, snow-covered region. The snow was dyed russet and piles of faceless bodies lay strewn about the rocky ground, and as he tiptoed around the corpses, a thick silence hung over him. The river was trickling through the otherwise still land as the snow eased down from Hana, but oddly, as he weaved between the bloody drifts, he felt slightly elated. The falling flakes cooled his boiling body, and steam rose from his skin as the snow kissed his hot flesh. When he neared the river, he found it plugged with an unnatural dam with water dribbling around it and sprinkling the surrounding white bank with dots of red.

  “Look to the mountains, Maladrid.”

  He spun around to face a sudden range of rock with flecks of gleaming red scattered about the face, but unexpectedly, from the solid mountain came a ghostly figure that hovered before him. He only saw brilliant swirling mist without definition, but at the peak of the vapor sat a crown of tan stars winking in glorious distinction. Maladrid humbly collapsed before the being and bowed at its hazy feet.

  “Do you know me?” its light voice chimed.

  “You are a Daian,” Maladrid whispered, and as he gazed at the figure, he could swear he saw the distinct outline of hidden eyes within the fog.

  “I am, but to be more precise, I am Cynia,” it replied. “I am the Daian of Inner Earth and I have a gift for you, Maladrid the Irlywe.”

  “A gift for me?”

  The mountain range rang in resonance, causing the earth to tremble and Maladrid to fall backwards onto a bed of rock and slice his thigh. Favoring the leg, he scrambled to his feet and beheld, wide-eyed, a large sliver of red light floating in front of the mountain. As it drifted toward him, it shrank into a glassy crimson shard, and when it reached him, he opened his palm beneath it. The tip of the sliver tickled his hand as it lowered and finally fell into his grasp. As he held it in his fist, beads of sweat formed in his palm from the shard’s heat, and the droplets that fell from his hand onto the earth created pools of perspiration that sparkled with flecks of red.

  “The length of the future is decided in the lifetime of a moment,” Cynia whispered. “Take this, Maladrid. You will know what to do when the time comes, but for now, you should just focus upon the thunder.”

  Maladrid was puzzled by the statement, but when a thunderous rumbling overtook the land, his confusion was abated. With a shriek, he shot awake, still hearing the clap of thunder that had sounded within his dream. The others were stirring, rubbing their eyes and groaning as the new light of Dominhydor shown brilliantly through the Rani’s barrier. As Maladrid’s senses flooded back, he felt a stinging pulse in his thigh caused by the wound he’d sustained when he’d fallen on the rocks in his dream. He was rightfully taken aback, but even more shocking was a different throbbing sensation a few inches above the cut. If the wound had transcended dream to reality, he had an idea what might be causing the other sensation, but he couldn’t believe it until he reached into his pocket and wrapped his fingers around the shard.

  The Mosecora swarmed back into Colytaer only a few hours after daybreak, and though their numbers were still strong, Maladrid immediately noticed that they’d lost several soldiers; for one, Mi-gis-Mil was nowhere to be seen.

  “What happened? Where is the high captain?” Yven asked.

  “I’m the high captain now,” one of the Mosecora said as he glided down wearing the thorny crown of Colti that had so recently sat upon Mi-gis-Mil’s brow.

  “What happened?”

  “There was an ice storm in Balochena. The hail knocked us out of the sky, and we were forced to take shelter in a cave. It wasn’t long before the Achnora found us, but we fled quickly and were able to escape with most of our army intact. But because we had no choice but to travel through the storm, those with injuries worsened. By the time we were able to take rest in Bordal, it was already too late for many of them. Mi-gis-Mil was one of those who were injured in Balochena. His left wing was broken and his beak crushed, but he insisted upon continuing. Less than an hour after we touched down in Bordal, my dear father, high captain of the Mosecora, passed on to Hana. So, Queen Yven, I am Galmaca, the new high captain, and since it is clear that your numbers have grown, I suppose I don’t need to tell you that our mission was successful.”

  “I’m so sorry for your loss,” Yven said.

  “Thank you, but there is no time to dwell in sadness. There’s no doubt that the powers at the Bend are aware of your proximity to their kingdom, and because of that, I’m afraid you cannot stay here any more.”

  “I understand completely; we will depart at once,” Yven replied. “Thank you for your help, and I promise you that it will not have been in vain.”

  The Rani had made good use of their time in Colytaer by constructing thousands of arrows from the durable stone of the land. They also fashioned special headgear for the Tylira and Wa-D’tila: crowns with two distended horns that glimmered in insured fatality were fastened around their foreheads. But although they were adequately armed for battled, they had no plan of attack.

  “Milady, if we stayed in Colytaer for another month or so, we could fash
ion catapults and battering rams and perhaps take the Bend by surprise,” Lislo suggested.

  “There is no way to surprise them, and we cannot delay any more. In fact, I think simply storming the gates would be the most shocking of all. They would think us to have a brilliantly elaborate plan, and that would be nice, but we don’t. We have to leave now with what we have. If we develop a plan later, great, but for now, we’ll just have to rely on one another. Besides, armies with well-laid plans, twice as many warriors, and even great stone catapults have fallen to the Bend.”

  “Then what hope do we have?” Lislo asked.

  “My friends,” Maladrid began, “as I have progressed through this journey, my hope has been both high and low. Perhaps this battle is futile, but then, ask yourselves: why are you here? You are here because you believe in something so sincerely and passionately that even though it may cost you your life, it is worth fighting for. But we’re not fighting for freedom or good. We’re fighting for the prospect of freedom and good. Take comfort, my friends. Take comfort that you have such a leader as Yven and that you have such companions to fight beside. I am grateful. I am content. And when we storm the Bend and trample the armies of Shacore, I will be complete. So those who don’t want to step toward a tomorrow that is free and good, take a step back. I care for you all, but do not waste our time. Go back to your families and protect them, for if we do fail, they shall be next to die.”

  “Maladrid is right. If there is anyone here who do not believe in this quest, do turn and go,” Yven declared with eyes sweeping the crowd.

  “My allegiance is to Yaliwe alone,” Daradis declared, “but She bids me follow you, Queen Yven.”

  One by one, the members of the army bent to the ground with their hearts allied, but when Maladrid knelt as well and she gazed down upon him, she fell to her knees also, too consumed by her emotion to stand alone.

  “Thank you, Maladrid. My lord, my White Star.”

  For many days it was soft and sunny, and though their minds were fixed on the upcoming fray, they chatted and enjoyed each others’ company. They had passed out of Colytaer and into the southeast of the Eastern Free Lands, and as they neared the borders of Nave’s Bend, the sky filled with gray clouds. They knew they were nearing danger and thoughts of death cascaded down as fat drops upon their heads and crashed across the sky with splinters of lightning. Although the breeze grew cold, the hope of good and freedom kept them warm. The future was only a few days march away and the rush of anticipation willed Maladrid on despite him wanting to collapse from exhaustion, as it was with many of the soldiers. A couple of the Yaerla were stricken with illness from the fatigue and damp weather, but still they plodded on. When Dordin’s paw was cut by a jagged rock, the wound was too deep for him to continue at his current pace, so the fellowship was forced to stop and camp for a day. But Nonwe had a remedy that would speed the Tylira’s recovery: his Yaermini blood. Yven shallowly sliced the Yaerla’s leg and soaked up the blood with a piece of cloth, and when she applied it to the Tylira’s pad, the majority of the gash healed.

  “It’s not as effective as the Pools, but the bleeding will cease and you’ll be able to walk. You’ll still feel some pain, but it will fade as your body heals naturally. On our return journey, we shall all visit the Pools and be restored,” Nonwe explained.

  “Return journey indeed,” Dynide muttered.

  Balibasa tapped Dynide with the blunt side of his tusk and whispered, “I’ll wager there is a return journey. If I’m right, I get to drink from the Pools before you. If I’m wrong, well, then you’ll win and we’ll probably all be dead.”

  “Seems like a pointless wager to me, but you’re on,” she replied.

  “Chin up, Yaerla friend. You know I never lose a bet.”

  Raleni had been sent toward Nave’s Bend before the fellowship left Colytaer in order to scout the borders and activities of those within, and when they were but a day’s walk from the gates, he came bounding back to the company.

  “What is your report, Captain?” Yven asked.

  “There is quite a rage building within the walls but no guards outside. The gates are open. I observed for days, and still the gates remained open, but no one entered or left the Bend that I could see. I believe they are expecting our arrival, even welcoming it, and it is clear that they do not fear our coming.”

  “I see. Any sign of Shacore? Did you see anything that could help us: weaknesses, numbers, weapons?”

  “No, Queen Yven. I saw nothing as such. My view through the gates was rather obstructed for the briars that surround them. I could deduce that their numbers are many, but I couldn’t guess exactly how strong. I saw no creature I deemed to be Shacore; he must be hidden away inside. I am sorry I could not be of more help.”

  “Don’t be sorry. I thank you for your services, Raleni,” Yven replied.

  “Riders approach from the east!” Dalyde bellowed, and she and Maladrid peered toward the approaching party in the distance,

  “They are riding Wa-D’tila. Dorel Wa-D’tila from the looks of it,” Raleni said. “That’s strange. The Dorel Wa-D’tila hardly ever travel this far and they never allow themselves to be ridden.”

  “Arm yourselves, friends!” Yven shouted and mounted Raleni. “Whether they be friend or foe, we must be prepared. Get into formation now!”

  The Bartosca ran to the front line and bowed their heads to exhibit their glimmering horns and tusks while the Tylira stood behind them and clawed at the ground as they crouched for attack. However, a screech tore through the air and grew louder as an arrow sailed toward them. Yven shouted for them to retreat and the army fell back, but the arrow fell far too short to even be threatening and landed with a squelch in the ground.

  “Yele, Raleni,” Yven whispered and the Wa-D’tila charged forward.

  He sprinted past the arrow as Yven eased down his side, snatched it from the mud, and returned to her army. It was of Hohmara make and had a bit of cloth tied to it. As she ripped the note free, all eyes were upon her in anticipation, but the only thing scrawled upon the cloth was a name.

  “Folcir?” Maladrid asked as he read the note over her shoulder.

  “Folcir of Donir,” Yven replied. “I know him, but stay alert; it may be a trick.”

  However, when the strangers neared, Yven rejoiced silently. Their army was comprised of fifty strong Hohmara led by Folcir, her royal advisor and captain of the guard.

  “Stand down, friends. We have nothing to fear from these warriors,” Yven beamed.

  The Bartosca and Tylira stepped aside as the Hohmara army trotted to their queen. Their armor shone through their tunics, and their bronze helmets caught the brief blink of sunlight through the passing clouds. Folcir and Yven strode toward one another, and after standing in silence for a few moments, they crashed together in a joyful embrace. When they broke apart, Folcir fell to one knee.

  “My Queen, Yaliwe be praised that we found you in time,” he spoke graciously.

  “In time for what?”

  “In time to stop this madness, of course,” Folcir replied boldly.

  “Of what madness do you speak?” Yven snapped.

  He bowed his head and responded, “The madness that you would deny us the pleasure of fighting beside you, my Queen.”

  She smiled as she clamped her hand to his shoulder, and he gasped when he noticed the drastic change inflicted upon it.

  “Milady, what has happened to you?”

  “Too much, my friend.”

  “How did you find us?” Maladrid asked.

  “With no word from the queen, we began to grow worried about her condition. But one day, the skies were filled with Mosecora, and they called out our queen’s message. We were able to slow their flight enough to get an explanation and learn of your plan and route, and for several weeks we journeyed by foot until coming upon another army on its way to join your ranks: the Wa-D’tila of Dorel.”

  It was then that Folcir’s mount spoke up.

It is a pleasure to meet you at last, Queen Yven. I am Panhon, high lord of the renegade Wa-D’tila of Dorel. As you may know, we long ago separated ourselves from those who would tame and ride us, but then the Achnora came into our land and slaughtered those who would not be tamed. We decided to flee in search of you when we heard the Mosecora’s message, and when we encountered those from your kingdom, they were kind and did not try to ride us; they merely wanted to join us. That is why we abandoned our prior rule and let them sit upon our backs.”

  “The Achnora have invaded Dorel?”

  “They came from underneath the Iomaerte and ambushed those in the land. I am sorry to bring you such news, my Queen, but many cities there have already fallen to shadow,” Folcir said.

  Yven’s head wilted and swayed as she clenched her jaw in grief.

  “My people are suffering. The kin of my friends are suffering. Well, that ends now. We may not be able to ambush the Bend, but it will fall nonetheless.”

  “Milady, we have brought supplies: weapons, armor, food, and drink,” Folcir stated. “Shall we rest for the night and prepare?”

  “I’m prepared to storm Nave’s Bend as I am now, Folcir,” Yven answered fiercely. “But since you’ve traveled many a somnolent mile to bring us aid, we will indulge you. However, this shall be the last of nights, for all of us. This shall be the last night we sleep in fear, the last night we pray for victory, and the last night Shacore rules.”

  As it had been on several evenings prior, while the majority of the army slept or at least attempted to do so, Yven was awake and training. Her sword sliced the air as she spun and dashed and speared invisible foes, and, as on many evenings before, Maladrid sat by the fire and watched her every entrancing move. Her determination and fervor quickened his pulse and filled him with a wonderfully queasy feeling as he fidgeted and nervously adjusted his position on his rocky seat. Occasionally, her eyes found his and almost immediately broke contact, but she never broke her graceful, battling dance.

  “She’s mesmerizing, isn’t she?” Folcir said as he sat down next to Maladrid.

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