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Maladrid tales of domi.., p.19

Maladrid - [Tales Of Dominhydor: Book One], page 19

 

Maladrid - [Tales Of Dominhydor: Book One]
 


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  “It’s the Ione!” Maladrid cried.

  The Ione hesitated momentarily before descent and then, like brutal rain, they came crashing down upon the enemies of Yaliwe. The impact of their strike burned holes through the minions of Shacore; they pierced the flesh and drilled through the bone, but because they were able to control their force and direction, they simply bounced off of Yven’s army and burrowed back into the ground. Achnora collapsed by the dozens and several Anjila that were circling the red geyser fell out of the sky with puncture wounds searing their wings. After the last of the Ione had fallen to earth and burrowed back into the soil, the destruction that lay before the survivors was staggering. There were only a few Achnora left standing amongst the ruins of their race, and the whole of the Coltina army was annihilated, splayed upon the ground and riddled with holes. The soldiers of Yaliwe had suffered great loss as well, but there were still many who remained; injured, perhaps, but still standing strong. As Yven and Maladrid walked through the obliteration, they heard a tortured yowl from across the field, and as they peered into the distance, they saw the large, trembling body of Dordin. Yven quickly mounted a nearby Wa-D’tila and spurred it to a gallop, but even before the steed slowed, she leapt off and began running toward Dordin. His paws clutched at the calming light that he saw slowly rolling toward him and reached for the dear friend running to his side.

  “Yven…”

  “No, don’t speak,” she replied as she frantically wiped blood from the corners of his eyes. “Just be still. You’re going to be fine.”

  “No,” he whispered.

  “Yes, you are,” she said sternly.

  She examined his injury and held her hands against the gaping wound in his side, but crimson covered her wooden fingers and the blood ebbed in relentless torrents. She didn’t even realize that she was kneeling in a large red puddle as she madly tried to staunch the bleeding.

  “Yven, stop,” he begged quietly. “Please.”

  She broke down upon him and buried her face in his sopping fur, and choking on her tears, she rose from his wounded side and sat beside his tired eyes.

  “I won’t let you go, Dordin. You saved my life, and I’m going to save yours.”

  “You already have, Yven. From the instant I met you, I was saved from the possibility of ever feeling alone or unloved,” he responded and forced a weak purr as he nuzzled against her.

  When she rested her head in the cradle of his neck and smoothed his blood-speckled whiskers, she could feel his breath growing shallow and the dull purr fading away.

  “You were supposed to live long after me, Dordin. I was supposed to go first; not you.”

  “And yet, it does not pain me. I have lived well enough for any creature because I have known you. Haven’t you realized yet that for those who love you, an instant in your presence far outweighs an eternity without it?” he told her, and between devastated sobs, she kissed his cheek.

  “I have known good men and women,” she started with her voice trembling, “I have known good beasts and good creatures of air and sea, but you are the best of them, my friend. You have selflessly carried me my entire life, and when we meet again in Hana, I promise I will carry you forever.”

  She gently patted his cheek as the hot tears streamed down her face, and as Dordin drew his final breath, he sounded satisfied and at peace. She collapsed into him with her face buried in his neck, and as she choked on her sorrow, she screamed “Yaliwe” with all the rage of one who had what was most precious to her stolen out of her hands.

  Just then, Maladrid ran up, and when he saw Dordin motionless, he fell to his knees in despair and wept for the loss of his friend. Yven sat, nestled in Dordin’s bed of a body, with her jaw clenched, as furious as she was devastated, but eventually she lifted her head and defiantly wiped the tears away. She could feel a dark presence consuming her, be it her grief or Shacore, and she knew that her final battle was near. Her eyes shot to a high tower of the Castle Lochra and burned with a fire that terrified Maladrid as he watched her and began to fear something he couldn’t understand: a flash of images that came to his mind of a rolling river staining the snow with pink water.

  “Dordin,” Yven whispered through gritted teeth with her eyes still glued to the tower. “I will see you soon.”

  Before Maladrid knew what was happening, she was bolting toward the tower, but he caught up with her and tackled her to the ground.

  “Yven, don’t do this!”

  “Let me go, Maladrid,” she growled as she struggled to break free.

  “Yven, no, please. This isn’t what Dordin would have wanted.”

  She freed her arm and struck him so forcefully across the face that he fell into brief unconsciousness as she scrambled to her feet and began sprinting toward the Castle Lochra again. She found the tower door unattended and darted up the spiraling staircase with Vetna preceding and prepared to kill those demons waiting in the stairwell, but they never came. She could hear Maladrid feebly shouting her name, and although each cry stabbed her heart, she ignored it and continued to dash toward uncertainty. Up and up she ran until her lungs burned with ash and her legs felt like iron, and when she finally saw the door, she reached out happily to push it open. However, before her twiggy fingers could touch the handle, a blunt object crashed down upon her skull, and darkness rolled over her.

  When Yven awoke from the blow to her head, her brain throbbed and her stomach turned with intense nausea. As her vision cleared, she saw the Shadaran standing over her with dry cackles leaping out from each dark rictus. Their churning faces were distorted as they snarled and snickered at her, and their fiery eyes burned within their shadowy flesh. She jumped to her feet and reached for Vetna but found it missing, and the Shadaran laughed in amusement and displayed their swords mockingly.

  “Cowards!” she bellowed.

  “Weapon or not, you’re still doomed,” a Shadara hissed. “There is no defeating Shacore.”

  “Bring this Shacore to me, and you will know the power of the Hohmara,” she growled through clenched teeth.

  The crowd of shadowy beasts suddenly split, and from the hidden darkness a tall figure emerged. Dressed in long black robes, he wore a high jagged crown upon his pale brow, and by his features and stature, Yven immediately knew that he was a Rani. Yven searched his face for weakness but found only the rigid structure of betrayal. But there was something else as well, something strangely familiar.

  “Shacore,” Yven hissed.

  “Yes. Of course, ‘Shacore’ is only a pet name the lower beasts gave me,” the Rani replied whimsically in a deep proud voice as he drummed his long thin fingers together. “It has a lovely ring to it, doesn’t it? ‘Shacore,’” he purred. “Besides, I do prefer ‘Lord of Darkness’ to ‘Soft Flood.’”

  Yven’s eyes grew wide, and then, as if accepting some shameful truth, she bowed her head.

  “I know the name ‘Soft Flood,’ and I know why I thought you familiar. It’s your eyes. They have the look of my father, Lonho,” she said. “So this is what became of you after my father released you, Paerca.”

  “So you do know the story,” he replied with a smirk. “I suppose I owe you condolences, Yven, for your father’s death. I was so saddened to hear that my only son had been so savagely killed. Then again, I did order it, so it didn’t really come as a surprise.”

  “Paerca, you disgrace your people and disgrace me that I bear your blood.”

  He drew a dark sword and ran toward her with the sword raised to chop her in two. She remained as stone, glaring at him as he flew, and though the blade halted only a few inches before her face, she did not flinch.

  “Know this, Granddaughter: in Lochydor, I am king and God, and soon I will be both to all of Dominhydor,” he whispered with the sword still threatening her life.

  “It’s amazing that you would put yourself on the same level as Yaliwe,” she replied in disgust.

  “Oh no, my child,” he said while he sheathed his sword and drew
his face close to hers, “I am far, far greater than Yaliwe, and you would do well to remember that.”

  “You’re a damned fool, Paerca.”

  “Shacore!” he corrected with a bellow.

  “Your name doesn’t matter. You’re going to pay for your sins, Grandfather. I may not be the one to dole out your punishment, but you will surely get one. I see it. I may not have the sycte anymore, but I can see it quite clearly.”

  She closed her eyes and smiled as she saw his end play over and over in her mind. Finally, she locked eyes with him again and declared defiantly, “You’re dead, Paerca.”

  The Rani pulled his fist back and slammed it into Yven’s face with a satisfied grunt. She stumbled backwards and crashed onto the floor, and her head wilted and bobbed under the extreme pressure of pain. Her mind was so jumbled from the blow that even as Paerca approached her and placed his shadowy sword against her neck, she couldn’t acknowledge it.

  “You’re the one who’s dead, Granddaughter,” he remarked as he turned away from her crumpled body and faced his minions. “You three stay and deal with her,” he said as he nodded to the Shadaran. “The rest of you follow me.”

  “What about the boy?”

  “The new and improved queen will take care of him,” Paerca replied with a grimace, and with that, they fled through a hidden door.

  The three remaining Shadaran slithered toward Yven, snarling and snapping their jaws, and with ravenous howls, they dove forward and began their consumption. Pain struck Yven acutely, but her body soon became numb, and although she couldn’t focus and all sound was severely muffled, through the hazy fog of her senses, she swore she heard a white star calling her name.

  Once Maladrid had recovered from Yven’s strike, he bolted for the tower, and once he had nearly reached the end of the staircase, his eyes caught the glimmer of familiar weaponry. He was shaking uncontrollably as he picked up Yven’s discarded sword, but knowing that he had to save her, no matter what, he gripped the Olfir tightly and exhaled the rising terror.

  “Yaliwe, Yven needs you now. Please help us. She needs you, and I need her,” he whispered as he wrung his hands around the hilt. “I love her.”

  Something surged through Maladrid’s body then, and he felt no more fear. It was as if with those three words, any strength that could possibly be his, was his. He felt more powerful than ever before, yet he also felt a certain warmth melt through him, and even standing just on the other side of possible death, a sweet smile stretched across his face. He finally knew his purpose, and it was her. It was always her.

  “I can’t wait to tell her,” he whispered.

  He flew forward with an echoing war cry blasting from his heart, and the door crashed down under his force. He expected that as soon as the door smashed in, the Shadaran would shoot toward him from all directions, and he would destroy every last one and valiantly save the queen of the Hohmara and ruler of his heart. At long last, he would take Yven into his arms and hold her until the end of days. But there was no instantaneous brawl, and there was no gallant rescue. There were only Maladrid and Yven. Save for them and a few beams of light breaking through the dingy glass of the windows, the room was completely empty. Yven’s body, beaded with sweat and blood, was lying facedown on the stone floor, and her raw scalp only had a few patches of thin hair remaining. The floor beneath her was pooled with crimson, and the blood was so thick and stagnant that as he looked down upon her, he saw his reflection unwavering within it.

  He looked like a devil, he thought, but he still appeared a small child in war paint. He had no business there in battle, trying to protect the world, but when he looked back to Yven, he once again remembered his reason for it all. It wasn’t to protect the world; it was to protect her. And he had failed. He fell to her side and rested his hand on her head. The remains of her hair were spiky and poked his palm, but when his hand slid to her neck, it was still warm with recent life. Half lost in his grief, he felt something: the slight rise and fall of her neck. He collapsed on top of her and pressed his face against her back as he listened, smiling, to the shallow breaths that sounded more beautiful than music. Yven, his love, was still alive.

  “I knew you wouldn’t give up,” he whispered.

  Her muscles tensed and relaxed beneath him as her shoulder blades arched and then disappeared beneath her bruised flesh. Maladrid watched in thankful joy as her wooden hands clawed at the floor and she began to push herself up. Her back was still facing Maladrid and her body was shaking, but when she slowly turned her head to him, he shrank back to the wall in horror and crumpled to the floor.

  Her lidless eyes flashed yellow as her skin sagged and deteriorated right before his eyes. Some bits were soggy flesh that fell to the floor in sloppy chunks while other parts of her skin flaked away and flew about the room like ash. What was left of her natural skin tone darkened in patches that branched across her face until most of the lovely peach hue was gone. When her smile stretched into a gruesome grin, the corners of her mouth split and jagged lacerations ripped up the sides of her cheeks to reveal the bone beneath.

  “Yven?” Maladrid moaned.

  A low growl rumbled from her throat, and the low, juicy voice that replied turned any warmth in Maladrid’s body to aching ice.

  “There is no Yven here,” she replied.

  “Yven, I know you’re still there.”

  “Your Yven is dead.”

  Her skin had turned completely black and her face no longer possessed any of its original beauty; it was jagged, sunken, and horribly reconstructed by the Shadaran’s craftsmanship. Her body lost its structure; flesh and bone were replaced by shadow; and from her stomach, she withdrew a dark sword. Maladrid readied Vetna against its keeper, and with a deep breath and a silent prayer, he flew forward and sliced at the shadowy devil. He nicked its shoulder as he ran past, but spun quickly to drag the Olfir across its back. It howled as it slammed its sword against Maladrid’s, but even though he pinned its weapon to the floor, the beast was too strong, pulled its sword free and threw him backward. The shadow of Yven snorted and took stance with its dark churning weapon high above its head, itching to carve Maladrid in two. The sweat on his brow rolled down and burned his eyes, and as it seeped into his wounds, each droplet of perspiration felt like a thousand shards of salt. The beast hissed and shot toward him with a horrendous screech, and though Maladrid darted away, the shadowy sword caught his injured shoulder and sliced the raw flesh even deeper. He fell to the floor and wailed as he saw the gore slide down his arm, but he scrambled to his feet and forced himself back into an attack position.

  “Why are you doing this?” the demon growled. “Your girl is gone. Your hope is gone. What is there left for you but death? Wouldn’t it be a welcome gift: letting go?”

  Maladrid’s jaw trembled and he winced at the pain in his shoulder, but with strong intent, he raised Vetna and pointed it at the churning charcoal creature standing before him.

  “Why do you still bother?” it asked.

  “Because she would’ve wanted me to,” he replied, and with all of the strength that remained in him, he flung himself forward.

  As he brought the sword down upon his foe, he felt the sharp burn of the Shadara’s blade suddenly in his stomach. The heat of the poison surged through his veins, and the need to sleep hit him so abruptly that he fell to his knees. The creature bellowed with laughter as it approached the huddled soldier, and it spat a reeking wad of phlegm on his face. Maladrid was too weak to wipe the offense away and felt his body instructing him to surrender. The combined pain of his injuries was almost too much to bear and though he wanted to weep, there were no more tears to shed. He had done enough crying for those whom he’d failed to save, and he’d had enough hurt to drive him into the ground with no fear of regret. When the dark sword sailed toward him again, he felt no will to avoid the strike, but even with all of these resolutions, he still shifted to miss the blade’s stroke. He kicked his leg across the floor and knocked the Shadara
’s feet from underneath it, and when it fell, its sword tumbled out of its claw. Maladrid’s throbbing arm shot out and snatched the Shadara’s weapon, and though the poison seared through his muscles, he braced himself against the wall and pushed himself up. Before the fiend could stand, he lunged forward with a resounding scream and plunged both swords into its belly. The beast’s silver blood flowed madly as Maladrid twisted the blades, and when he leaned forward and tensed his burning muscles, he lifted the impaled Shadara into the air. It screeched and squealed with its limbs flailing and claws grabbing for Maladrid’s throat, but with one final burst of strength, he rushed toward the tower window, crashed into the frame, and shattered the glass. Maladrid’s sudden halt freed the monster from the swords, launched it into the air, and when it plummeted down to the river below, Maladrid collapsed to his knees and fell face first onto the stone floor. He flung the dark weapon away and clutched Yven’s blade close as he shook and wept for what he had done. He was so distraught, in fact ,that he didn’t even notice the jagged shard of glass skewering his hand. When he finally saw it, he was surprised that although the majority of his body ached, his wounded hand did not. Only a slight amount of blood oozed from around the injury, and he watched in awe as it healed around the glass. Suddenly, he remembered the previous injury to that hand and the remedy that came from drinking of the Pools of the Yaermaca. When he yanked out the shard, the wound closed completely. He woozily examined his healed hand and hopefully, placed his palm, still spotted with blood, to the gaping wound in his shoulder just as Nonwe had done to heal Dordin’s paw. The Yaermini in his blood fused with the torn flesh of his arm and the gash in his stomach, closing enough to dull his pain and staunch his bleeding. He stood unsteadily and when he planted his cheek against the wall, the cool stones made him sigh in relief, but he knew that he had to force himself to face the window again. When he finally peered down, he shuddered at seeing that the Shadara had fled Yven’s body and she lay unnaturally bent over the rocks in the river with the water pooling up behind her.

 
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