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Maladrid tales of domi.., p.18

Maladrid - [Tales Of Dominhydor: Book One], page 18

 

Maladrid - [Tales Of Dominhydor: Book One]
 


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  Maladrid ripped his eyes from Yven’s swordplay and directed them at the flickering flames.

  “Yes,” he replied. “The way she trains, her focus, her strength: it’s inspiring.”

  “Surely that is not the only thing about her that inspires you,” Folcir said as he nudged Maladrid’s shoulder.

  “I don’t know what you mean, my lord.”

  “Do you think I’m blind? I’ve known Yven since her birth, and she has never looked more radiant. There is a new spark within her: the same one that is within you.”

  Maladrid’s eyes drifted back to the glorious creature with the gleaming sword. The moon ignited her red hair and emerald eyes, and when she turned, she met Maladrid’s gaze and waved coyly.

  “You do know that you’ll never have her, don’t you?” Folcir whispered. “You know that you have no chance.”

  “I’m not quite sure to what you’re referring, my lord.”

  “I’m referring, Maladrid, to what you know and can’t accept. She will never choose you. The spark within her is evident, but brilliant as it is, it will die like every ember in her heart must. It is the way of the blessed warrior. As a queen, she is born with sacrifice in her blood. Her life is something you could never understand ,much less be a part of. The royal do not honor the common.”

  “Yven is different.”

  “You are right about that, and I must say that the differences between Yven and her forebears trouble me. But one thing is clear: the future depends on Yven’s marriage to one of blessed blood. And you, Maladrid, brave and true as you may be, are a commoner, a nobody, one of the expendable cavalry. She may have formed a small bond with you, but that bond will break, my friend, and she will banish you from her mind.”

  “Her mind, perhaps, but her heart will not forget.”

  “Yes, it will. She is a queen and the desires of her heart aren’t a priority to her. Her focus is always on what’s best for her people, and that will never change; not for you or anyone.”

  “Why are you telling me this?” Maladrid asked.

  “Because when she shuts you out, and she will, I don’t want you to be brokenhearted by surprise. If she is victorious in this battle, she will return to Donir and leave you behind, alone.”

  “Never,” Maladrid whispered.

  “I’m sorry, but you have no choice but to accept it. Her path leads to greatness and yours to mediocrity.”

  “The lady Yven is my friend. She has never judged me or made me feel less than a king.”

  Folcir stifled a chuckle and smacked Maladrid’s back in amusement.

  “Play the king if you want,” Folcir said, “but such having such fantasies will only hurt you more when she tosses you aside.”

  Maladrid stood and looked down at Folcir with menacing eyes as he replied, “You’re wrong, Folcir. You don’t know Yven at all, and you don’t know me. Now, if you’ll excuse me,” he said as he drew his blade, “I would like to join my friend in training.”

  As he began to walk away, Folcir called after him, “In my experience, commoners are not typically known to train with the blessed.”

  “Not typically, no,” Maladrid murmured and disappeared into the darkness.

  [Back to Table of Contents]

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  The last stretch of land before Lochydor was a very steep hill that, once surmounted, allowed the army to see the entirety of Nave’s Bend and the mountains in the distance. Dark billows of smoke rose from the Castle Lochra and though a great din emanated from the courtyard, they saw no being on the land or in flight.

  “Where are they?” Dordin asked.

  “Do you see anyone, Maladrid?” Yven asked him, but he did not hear her.

  In fact, his eyes were not even facing Lochra; he was staring with his eyes agape at the range of rock adjacent to the Bend.

  “Maladrid?”

  “I’ve seen those mountains before,” he whispered.

  “The Hara-gis-maerte? When have you ever been near the Bend before?” Dordin asked.

  “Only in a dream that struck reality,” he replied intently as he reached into his pocket and grasped the crystal that was hidden there.

  “Do you see anything?” Yven asked Folcir.

  “Nothing,” he replied.

  “Well, no time like the present,” Dordin began. “Shall we charge?”

  Yven shook her head as if suddenly confused by every thought that flooded her mind. Her eyes crossed over her friends, but she avoided contact until she finally fell on something that intrigued her.

  “Barco,” Yven started as she lay her hand on the blanket that the Bartosc had draped across his back. “May I borrow this for a moment?”

  “Of course, milady, but do be careful with it,” he replied nervously.

  She beckoned for Dordin and when she whispered into his mammoth ear, he nodded and opened his jaws. Barco winced as Yven laid the blanket across Dordin’s teeth and he closed his mouth around it. Like a rocket, the Tylira took off toward the Bend, and although there was a general outcry of shock among Yven’s army, she stood watching Dordin in unwavering confidence with her hands on her hips. He was still a fair distance from the gates, but he could feel the enemy’s eyes upon him as he neared, and with all of his strength and his teeth easing up on Barco’s blanket, he reeled back and heaved it toward the courtyard. It sailed over the curtain wall and hovered in the air for several moments before hundreds of arrows pierced it and forced it to the stony ground.

  “I’m sorry, Barco,” Yven said, hearing the sad moan from the Bartosc.

  “I suppose the sacrifice is worth it to know we would’ve been ambushed by archers,” he grumbled.

  “Now what?” Lislo asked.

  The slight whistle of the wind amplified the silence of indecision, and all eyes turned back to Yven: an occurrence she had really come to abhor as she stared, frozen, at Lochydor.

  “Yven?”

  “The Achnora sure are livid,” Dordin said as he rejoined the group.

  “Did you see Shacore?” Folcir asked.

  “I didn’t even see the Shadaran.”

  “Yven,” Maladrid whispered as he set a tender hand on her back.

  “I don’t know what to do,” Yven said in a panicked whisper. “My father would’ve known what to do, but I’m just not good enough, not strong enough.”

  “Yes, you are, Yven. You are our leader and friend and we have sworn in blood to follow you and follow you gladly. We await your command,” Maladrid said.

  “Maladrid, I don’t think I can do this.”

  “You can and you will.”

  “Milady, let me go ahead,” Daradis said as he sidled up to Yven and slung a quiver of arrows across his back. “I have an idea. Give me leave to test it.”

  “Daradis—” Yven started with a questioning tone as the Rani mounted Dordin.

  “Good enough,” he said and with a yell, he spurred the Tylira toward the Castle Lochra.

  Daradis clung to the scruff of the Tylira’s neck as Dordin’s paws pounded against the ground, but as they neared the gates, a flock of Anjila swooped down from the dark sky with their claws reaching for Dordin’s throat.

  “Force them to lower, Dordin. I need to be beside them,” Daradis whispered.

  “I hope you know what you’re doing,” Dordin replied.

  The Anjila played right into the Daradis’ hands, lowering and flying level with him. Once he’d whispered a quick prayer to Yaliwe, he flung himself at the closest Anjil. It screeched as he landed on its back, and though it initially lost some height, it quickly regained as it tried to shed the Rani. The other Anjila fell into a dive toward Daradis, but he quickly loosed one arrow followed by another, and when they landed accurately between the eyes of the two other Anjila, the beasts fell limply and crashed to the ground where their bodies broke into rubble.

  Meanwhile, Dordin returned to his companions and informed Yven that the armies of Nave’s Bend would soon be stirred. The queen ordered the arm
y into their lines and wiped the sweat from her brow. As the Anjil flew over Nave’s Bend with Daradis on its back, the Rani finally saw what could not be seen from outside the gates: Barco’s blanket was skewered on the ground by blade and arrow, and hidden behind small stone walls surrounding it, a legion of Achnora were crouched in readiness. There was also a small army of Coltina stationed between two towers neighboring the Castle Lochra, their black horns glistening with venom. The Anjil darted and swooped, attempting to shake Daradis away, but when he clamped his hand to the base of its skull, he entered its mind, forced it to surrender its will, and Daradis took up the steering. He directed the Anjil to plunge toward the Bend as he readied his bow, and at the opportune time loosed arrow upon arrow into the skulls of the Achnora. A tremulous din erupted from Nave’s Bend. The Coltina began to pour out through the gates with the Achnora on their heels as a tidal wave of gray and black that barreled toward Yven and her army.

  “Here they come,” she whispered.

  “Yven, your father would be very proud of you, and so am I,” Maladrid said tenderly.

  She grinned as she raised Vetna high in the air with faith and pride renewed and screamed with beautiful resonance, “For Yaliwe!”

  The hordes behind her charged forward, but she and Maladrid remained firm. She lowered her sword and when her head turned to him, he saw a tear spill over her eyelashes and roll down her cheek as she added, “And for you, Maladrid.”

  She spurred Raleni and broke through the enemy sea crowned with waves of threatening silver as Maladrid tried desperately to keep up. He plowed through the Achnora with his steed, and although he screamed with each slash and crash, he couldn’t hear his own voice for the cacophony of battle: a brutal harmony of cries and clashes and sudden thuds.

  Once Daradis had loosed his last arrow, he steered the Anjil toward the ground, but the surprising jolt of an enemy arrow piercing his shoulder threw him out of control and he plummeted wildly toward the earth. He crashed into a jumble of Achnora and when his head slammed against the ground, everything fell to black. When his senses were regained, he was surprised that he was still alive, though horrible pain surged throughout his body and his arm had acquired an unnatural bend. He desperately tried to reach for his sword, but his body refused to obey his mind’s commands, and as he squirmed, the Achnora descended upon him. He never gave up his struggle, even as the beasts lunged at his throat and tore at his face, but eventually, Daradis disappeared into the snarling gray cloud of Achnora.

  Yven dismounted her Wa-D’tila and pummeled her way through the Achnoran hordes. Maladrid lost sight of her as she cut a path through them and they closed in behind her. He searched for her as he struck down the raging beasts before him, and his mind raced with images of her that were beautiful at first, but when the shadows of doubt lurked into his mind, he began to imagine her bloodied and limply stationary. Reality jolted back to him when an Achnor’s blade stung him in the shoulder, and he dropped his sword with the swelling pain. He grunted as he slammed his fist into the Achnor’s face, and when the beast fell back, the blade slid out of his flesh with a jagged withdrawal. He snatched up his sword, fighting against the shooting pain caused by trying to grip the hilt, but before the Achnor could stand back up, Maladrid brought his sword down and clove its body in two. His tunic sleeve was drenched in bicolor fluid: his blood and the foul black blood of the Achnor. But as he looked down upon the demon, he realized that the sword in its hand struck him familiar. It was a Rani’s sword: Daradis’ sword. His heart sunk at the probability of his friend’s demise, but as he heard the snarl of a charging Achnor, he allowed necessity to swallow his sorrow and threw himself back into battle. Meanwhile, Yven was throwing an Achnor into a tower wall and wedging Vetna between the folds of its neck.

  “Where’s Shacore?” she hissed.

  The Achnor clamped its mouth shut and smiled, causing her to slice the demon’s throat, but when another of its ilk ran by, she caught it by the arm and slammed against the wall where its brother had been.

  “Where’s Shacore?”

  “You’re dead,” it gurgled, and she let her blade fly again and slice the Achnor’s neck.

  She turned and looked upon the land behind her, but the terrible scene left no indication of which side was prevailing. She saw no sign of Maladrid, but her faith told her that he was still alive, and when the crowds parted for a moment, she saw his sweet face spattered with black blood and twisted into a grimace as he burned through his enemies. Although he did not see her and they could not know each other’s minds, they both shared a thought: they had yet to see a single Shadara in the fray.

  A large flock of Anjila appeared in the sky and when they dove upon the crowd, they picked up the Hohmara in their talons and smashed them into the castle walls. Nonwe reared up in defense and plunged his twiggy horn into a lowering Anjil’s belly. He threw his head to the side, forcing the dead Anjil to slide off and tumble flaccidly onto the ground, and its body cracked into a pile of stone debris that Nonwe defiantly stomped through. But when he lifted his head, he found himself face to face with a large Coltina with froth spraying from its mouth as it snorted.

  “Well if it isn’t Nonwe, Lord of the blessed Yaerla,” the Coltina growled snidely. “You don’t know me, of course, lowly creature that I am. You think all creatures that come from the Farwe are lowly, don’t you?”

  “I fight beside those who come from the Star Stones, and I do not consider myself better than they. But I am better than you,” Nonwe replied proudly.

  “Blessed by Yvinhe and therefore blessed by Yaliwe. What a fool you are,” it snickered.

  “All were blessed by Yaliwe. The difference between my kin and yours is how we chose to use our blessings. We chose Yaliwe’s light and are therefore beloved, but you allowed yourselves to be swayed by the Dark Lady and therefore chose to turn your backs on Yaliwe.”

  “Really? Well, we shall see which race is the most beloved when Dominhydor falls to Shacore and then Shacore falls to the Coltina.”

  “If you believe that, then you really are hopeless.”

  “Charge then, if you are so hopeful. Charge and feel the burning plunge of death,” it said as it sneered and brandished its horn.

  Nonwe lunged forward with his head dipped and sliced the Coltina’s leg, and it roared as it whipped around and scraped Nonwe’s back with its horn. Nonwe stumbled as the tip dug into his flesh and when he collapsed to the ground, the dark Coltina stood above his sprawled body.

  “Another of the favored kind has fallen to the underestimated,” the shadowy beast announced.

  “I may have fallen to the ground, but I have not fallen to you,” Nonwe hissed and when he kicked the Coltina’s hooves from underneath it, it crashed to the ground.

  Nonwe arose slowly as the wound in his Yaermini flesh healed, and he placed his hoof upon the Coltina’s stomach and his horn to its throat.

  “My life has been lived in shelter and your master drew me out. I long for my Forest home, but even more so, I long for the defeat of your wretched kind so that the Forest may be safe for those to come,” Nonwe proclaimed, and with a mighty thrust, he drove his crooked horn into the Coltina’s neck.

  It gurgled for a few moments, but when the disgusting noise ceased, Nonwe heard the pounding footfalls of attack behind him.

  “Nonwe!” Maladrid cried upon seeing the danger that was swiftly advancing upon his friend.

  He heaved his sword at the Coltina bearing down on Nonwe, and the blade sheathed itself in the back of the beast’s skull. The charging Coltina lost its voluntary movement and skidded across the ground.

  “Nice shot, my friend,” Nonwe said with a grateful nod.

  Maladrid bowed his head humbly, and when he spotted a fallen Hohmara, he took up its sword and said, “Forgive my need, soldier, but I must borrow your blade.”

  He suddenly felt a stripe of pain across his scalp and spun around to see an Anjil screeching and flapping beside him with his blood on its ta
lon, but with one fierce stroke, he struck the monster down.

  “Dammit,” Maladrid grumbled as he touched the swollen laceration on his head and felt the warm blood rolling down his scalp, but when he felt the presence of someone behind him, he reeled around with his sword preceding, and it clanged against the sword of one who smiled at him.

  “Yven.”

  “Maladrid, have you seen any sign of Shacore?”

  “No nor anyone I’d presume him to be.”

  “You’re hurt,” Yven said as her twiggy hand moved to his shoulder.

  “It’s not too deep,” he said as he shrugged the pain away.

  All of a sudden, a creaking rumble sounded over the din of battle. The immense doors of the Castle Lochra opened slowly, and from between them, a colossal wave of Achnora flooded forward with swords shining fiercely.

  “And I was just about to say things were looking up,” Maladrid sighed.

  “You should know better than that,” Yven chuckled.

  “Shall we?” Maladrid asked with playful courtesy as he motioned to the oncoming Achnora.

  “After you, my lord,” she replied with a theatrical bow.

  Maladrid dove forward with his sword raised and itching to slice, but as he cut them down, he couldn’t help but notice his companions being cut down as well. He darted about the bodies of those who’d already fallen, in attempt to avoid trampling his friends, but he caught his foot on the curling tusk of a fallen Bartosc and stumbled. Just as he was regaining his balance, a Wa-D’tila, crazed with injury, dashed past and knocked him down. As Maladrid lay upon the ground, he could feel the incredible heat of the crystal in his pocket that made his thigh pulse madly. He reached into his pocket and when he wrapped his fingers around it, he discovered that the pulse wasn’t coming from his leg but from the shard itself. When he removed it, the red light shone so brightly that he had to shield his eyes from the overwhelming luminescence, but just as Cynia had said in his dream, Maladrid knew what he had to do. Like a catapult, he drew his arm back and hurled the crystal into the air. The sliver twinkled in flight, sailed back down, and plunged its tip into the ground. It stood straight for a moment, but then, it sunk deep into the earth and its light was extinguished. Just as Maladrid was groaning in dejection at his failure, a terrible tremor rumbled through Nave’s Bend, and jagged cracks that cut around and under the feet of the warriors surged from the shard’s point of penetration. Yven was thrown to the ground, and as she fell, an Achnor dove at her and its sword plunged into the earth, just barely missing her side. She grabbed the demon as it tried to withdraw its blade and slammed her fist against its jaw, proudly crushing the lower half of the Achnor’s skull. The rumbling continued for several minutes until it finally ceased with a high-pitched squeal that caused the armies to cower and cover their ears. From the hole where the crimson crystal had landed, a powerful geyser comprised of thousands of little red stones erupted.

 
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