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Maladrid tales of domi.., p.3

Maladrid - [Tales Of Dominhydor: Book One], page 3


Maladrid - [Tales Of Dominhydor: Book One]

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  Yven eventually noticed Maladrid eyeing her and the blade in equal curiosity, and timidly trying to speak aloud the questions that had been gnawing at his mind since they’d met, but before he could ask them, she said, “In time, I will tell you all you wish to know, Maladrid: of me, of this sword, and of this mission that you’ve allied yourself with. But it is a daunting tale and one I could not even conceive of telling without a bit of relaxation first.”

  When the moon began to rise that night, they were less than half a day’s travel to the Glen, and though the gold and silver trees winked at them like a beacon beckoning them forward, Yven decided that they should rest a while. She gave him water and though he’d never had the treat called Cenna before, once he tasted it, he instantly became enamored of the powered cake and the sweet nugget of the da-ni plant in the center. As he ate, his senses were deliciously flooded by the intoxicating taste and fragrance of the da-ni, and for the first time in what seemed like years, he felt completely at ease. Aside from a fresh, piney taste, the da-ni possessed attributes of alleviation; Maladrid’s face, which had been aching from the lashes of the spiny grass, as well as his lacerated leg became gloriously numb to their previous pain, but with the relief came also a relaxation that sat heavily on his eyelids. Hopeful for Yven to unravel her story to him, Maladrid fought the urge to sleep, but his exhaustion was too powerful a force to combat, and when he nestled himself into a grassy bed, he was swept away into a colorful sleep. In his mind, the Balenta trees of the Glen stood mere feet away; their leaves twinkled in the moonlight and the soft sailing breeze granted them a lovely new life. He heard the bellflowers ringing as they danced against the leaves, and though they sounded softly at first, their song increased to a startling cacophony that was too loud and too vivid to exist in mere reverie. Maladrid forced his eyes open to a fuzzy world of odd shapes and colors, and when his vision cleared, he beheld Yven spinning back and forth with her bronze robe glittering in the moonlight. He watched bewildered as he saw her sword flash in the dark and disappear into an indistinct shadowy sheath; when it withdrew, it was covered in a dark viscous fluid that oozed down the blade. Just then, Maladrid was grabbed from behind by long sticky fingers that wrapped around his neck and pulled at his hair. He could feel the body behind him and the hot foul breath on his skin, but when he started to struggle, he felt the sharp point of a dagger against his back and froze in fear. A blaze of fire sprang to life in the darkness and ignited the fray, and Maladrid trembled as he saw the massive beast with the torch creeping hungrily toward him. The Achnor’s thick black tongue darted out of its mouth and ravenously smacked its lips as it marched rigidly forward, and its white eyes blazed with the wild reflection of the torch’s flames. Suddenly, the fingers grasping Maladrid’s neck released and when he turned, he saw Yven withdrawing her sword from the Achnor’s skull, and when it collapsed to the ground, she picked up its dagger and tossed it to Maladrid. He was hesitant to catch it because wielding a weapon welcomed all onslaughts as if he were capable of combating them. But the Achnor showed no fear of him, weapon or not, so with the dagger in hand, he stood with liquid fear pouring down his face but his jaw clenched in confident recalcitrance. Maladrid and Yven stood back to back and brandished their weapons as a circle of Achnora closed around them. Though some of the beasts were balanced on two legs with swords in hand, most of the Achnora were crouched on the ground with daggers clutched in their prehensile tails. Their long ashy faces were tense with ferocity as they hissed and gnashed their small sharp teeth, and as they crept forward, the sparse gray hair on their backs spiked and their empty eyes glowed in the fiery dark. The Achnor with the torch towered over its kin and over Maladrid as well, and as it glared at him, it growled and its lips curled over its bloodstained teeth. After an apprehensive shudder, Maladrid dove forward, and when he plunged his dagger into the Achnor’s chest, it dropped the torch and growled as it sank to the ground. The flames from the fallen torch quickly began consuming the grass, and with it, the massive Achnor’s skin; the red and orange fire became deep black as it raged over its body and started devouring the flesh. While Maladrid snatched up the torch and began thrusting it into the charging Achnora, causing them to burn alive in the black flame, Yven mercilessly plowed through the foul-smelling hordes, and as the many bodies fell to line her path, she cried out, “I am Yven, daughter of Lonho, sovereign of Dominhydor!”

  Maladrid tore a route through the Achnora, but at the end of the line awaited the giant beast engorged in black flame; it was poised to pounce even with the sable fire eating away at its flesh, and as it rushed across him, the skin hardened into black crust that crumbled away to reveal the bone beneath. The beast howled ferociously when a long onyx flame shot out like a serpent tongue from the fiery mass; it wrapped around Maladrid’s blade, and the hilt became so hot that it scalded his palm with a disgusting sizzle. He threw the dagger to the ground and clutched his searing hand; his crimson skin bubbled and burst with sickening crackles and pops, and all the while, the blazing Achnor continued to advance. But when it finally leaped at his throat as an ebony inferno, it abruptly fell limp in midair and collapsed dead at Maladrid’s feet. The fire had been mysteriously doused and smoke rose from its sizzling body, and distended from its back was a white arrow in the midst of the steam. Maladrid looked around puzzled while Yven weaved through the fallen Achnora and insured their fatality with final slices and stabs.

  “Thank you,” Maladrid sighed.

  “For what?”

  “Shooting that beast. If you hadn’t, I would’ve been dead for sure.”

  “I didn’t shoot anything, Maladrid,” Yven said as she inspected the Achnor’s smoldering carcass and the ivory arrow protruding from it. “No, this isn’t one of my arrows. This is of Bynt make.”

  “Bynt?” Maladrid asked.

  “Bynts have been around since before the Hohmara, but they weren’t always as they are today. They were once Achnora, but in contrast to these brutes, they had pure hearts and uncorrupted souls: something they considered a curse against normalcy. Although most of their kin and allies worshipped the Dark Lady, they found no joy in doing evil, but because they were Achnora, no one on the side of good would welcome them in. And so, despite their predestined alliance with darkness, they prayed to Yaliwe for some relief from the Achnoran appearance that prohibited them a peaceful life. Yaliwe heard their pleas and bid them take refuge in the Glen, and She granted them immortality on the condition that they use it to protect the forest’s grace and grandeur. They gladly agreed, and their skin turned from gray to white; they became tall and slender, and She called them ‘Bynts.’ Their story is well known and respected, but they hardly emerge from the Glen. For our sake, I’m glad they did today though.”

  “What about your story?” he asked curiously, and a slight blush rose to Yven’s cheeks.

  “My story isn’t nearly as joyful,” she replied.

  “Most aren’t.”

  “Very well,” she said as she led him away from the battleground. “But let me see your hand first.”

  Maladrid gingerly opened his fist; his palm was covered with white blisters and split skin. Yven enclosed her hands in her sleeves as she examined his still-searing skin, and when she poured water over the wound, smoke rose from the burns.

  “I’m afraid there’s not much that I can do. Only the Pools of the Yaermaca could heal such an injury, but a pipe of da-ni could ease the pain.”

  She opened her satchel and withdrew two Cenna cakes and a small bronze pipe that was coated in a thick gloss. She broke open the cakes, pulled out the nuggets of da-ni, and packed them into the pipe. She pulled a firstic from her satchel and cracked it, and as the cylinder sizzled and sparked into flame, she held it to the da-ni and inhaled deeply. Her expelled smoke billowed around Maladrid’s face like a comforting blanket and as he breathed it in, he felt the wonderful anesthetizing begin. He mimicked her actions with the pipe, and he sighed as the smoke coursed through his body and tingled in h
is limbs. They passed it back and forth in complete silence, except for the occasional crackling sound made by the flame rolling over the da-ni; after the pipe was finished, Maladrid’s hand was gloriously numb to the pain and he and Yven shared the empty cakes.

  She smiled as she sipped from her canteen, and with her emerald eyes fixed on him with glazy intensity, she drew Vetna and held it flat in both hands. Maladrid inched forward with his eyes wide and ears perked, but she lowered her head and heaved a sorrowful sigh.

  “Please, Yven,” Maladrid whispered. “Tell me.”

  Yven gently laid Vetna down in front of her as if holding it during her tale would cause her too much pain. And though her face was somber and marked with obvious grief, she cleared her throat, focused her eyes on Maladrid, and softly began to speak.

  “It was months ago that my father was slain in Rosdin, and yet, the memory and pain of it is still fresh in my heart. Lonho, king of Donir, is gone, and this princess prematurely turned queen is all that remains of him. I loved my father dearly; the gifts that he bestowed upon me as I grew were not only greatly appreciated but also revered. I was so grateful for him, but not because he found me worthy enough to be his successor; I was grateful enough just being his daughter.

  “Lonho’s father was King Holmar, wielder of the Ax of Fire: a weapon given to him by a Daian on the eve of his crowning. An austere man, Holmar expected no less than for every subject to obey his every order, and though his severe nature made him a strong leader to his people, it also made him a rather cold and distant man; too cold and distant for his wife, Cantyle. For many years there was contentment under Holmar’s regime, but treachery eventually found its way to Donir, his castle, and even his bed. One night, Queen Cantyle was discovered in secret congress with a Rani named Paerca: a sorcerer with powerful magicks of a predominantly dark variety. For years before and after my father’s birth, Cantyle and Paerca had been meeting in secret to weave spells and make love and laugh at Holmar’s foolish ignorance. When he finally found them together, he was livid and used his Axe of Fire to behead her, but Paerca vanished before the king could get his hands on him. The queen’s head was placed upon a spike outside the gates of Donir to remind the Hohmara of the penalty for betrayal, but because of Holmar’s shame, he never told his son Lonho of his mother’s infidelity. He ordered silence from those who did know, and since the young prince was forbidden to leave Donir, he never saw the bloody warning just beyond the gates.

  “Holmar tirelessly sought out the Rani who had soiled his union with the queen,” Yven continued, “but whenever his army was sure they’d tracked him down, he promptly vanished into a cloud of blue smoke. Holmar became obsessed with the finding and eventual torturing of Paerca, and over a decade later, he finally caught him by chance and imprisoned him in the dungeon of Donir. However, obsession and sorrow had severely aged and weakened Holmar, and mere hours after locking away his dead wife’s lover, he died with his true vengeance unfulfilled. Prince Lonho became king, but he was still unaware of the relationship between his mother and Paerca, and when it came time for him to do a review of the prisoners, he granted the seemingly remorseful and rehabilitated Rani a full pardon. When someone finally defied Holmar’s order of secrecy regarding the adultery and revealed to Lonho the reason for Paerca’s imprisonment, he was pained by his mother’s treachery and vowed to find and kill the Rani who had ruined his family. Unfortunately for my father, as soon as Paerca was released, he slipped into obscurity and was never seen again.

  “But young though he was, Lonho was a good king, and he led men into battle with such passion that all who would be free of the Dark Lady’s minions were inspired to follow him. For years, he kept the Shadaran at bay and slaughtered every one of their allies who traveled anywhere near Hohmara lands. By the age of seventeen, he decided that his people, kingdom, and crown were secure, and set his mind to starting a family. Vetna, the young daughter of the High Guard of Palyn, had been raised with the hope of someday being queen of Donir, and was forbidden by her father Conte to be courted by anyone but Lonho. She spent many lonely years waiting patiently for an introduction to the man she believed would be her husband, while her father continued to instruct her on how to be a king’s loyal servant as well as his loving wife; she was to be beautiful, fruitful, obedient, and that was all. When word of Lonho’s desire to wed spread through the Outer Circle, Vetna was finally brought to court. At first glance, Lonho was enraptured by Vetna’s exceptional beauty: her body was small and slender, her eyes strikingly emerald, and her hair was like honey curling beside her milky face. Only a month after they met, they were wed and Vetna, finally queen, reveled in the hope of a happy life. I was born less than a year later, and the joy of the royal family seemed to branch throughout Donir, the Outer Circle, and Beyond.

  “My father was everything to me because he was everything I would become, but my mother was the one true comfort in my life; after hours of study and training, she would cover me with the thick, downy blankets of my bed, tuck me into a cocoon of warmth, and in a voice lovelier than a nightingale, she sang to me the tales of Dominhydor and its beginnings and of all creatures wondrous and vile. Young as I was, however, I could sense my mother’s sadness; although I couldn’t discern reasons for her sorrow, I felt it. Yet she still smiled and I felt no need to dwell on what might be mere passing storms. But the beginning of the end was on the horizon, and though perhaps we all sensed it, we never truly saw it coming.

  “When I was still young, my father embarked upon a special mission that sent him to each and every land in his keeping; he even traveled to Fircyn, the cavalry city under the foundation of the Lyraeran city of Rosdin. For nearly half a year, he was gone from Donir, but not one day passed that my mother and I didn’t gaze out from the castle in the hope that we’d see him riding valiantly back into the kingdom. When he finally returned, he commanded the construction of a tall ivory tower adjoining the castle. During his visits to the Hohmara cities, Lonho discovered several crystals buried beneath the earth, but they were far more extraordinary than they appeared; when he laid his hands upon them, he could see the cities they were harvested from and watch over his people from afar, and in turn, his family could watch over him when he was away from home. As the tower was joined to the royal treasury, only my parents and I had access to it, and since the door was built out of Yaermini, the most resilient element in Dominhydor, there was no worry of anyone breaking in. The tower consisted of only a long winding staircase and one room at the apex that contained a table upon which the crystals representing the eight Hohmara cities stood.

  “After the tower was erected, my mother’s sorrow started being more apparent. Usually, she covered it fairly well, but when she laughed I could feel the pain behind it and the desperate longing for an unattainable life. Her childhood was spent under heavy restriction, and once married, she thought she’d at last be free, but in time, she found that her husband was just as restraining as her father had been. Lonho forbade her from leaving the city for fear she’d be taken by enemies of Donir. It broke his heart to see her suffer, but his desire to keep her safe surpassed any pain her sadness caused him. Vetna began taking refuge in the tower, and eventually, she secluded herself there completely; she spent no more nights with Lonho, and she sang no more songs to me. She became like a specter of the tower, pale and slight, and for hours, she would stand frozen on the balcony with her hungry eyes gazing out on the Beyond. My father was troubled by her isolation, but he let her alone as he believed was her unspoken wish, and, seeing as she intended on bearing him no more children, Lonho began preparing me even more fervently for battle and to wear the crown of Donir. Day after day I practiced swordplay in the courtyard and though I became extremely deft with a blade, I was taught as well that all weapons were to be used as if they were deadly limbs of my own body. As I trained, Vetna would look down on me in contempt from the tower with her body rigid and her eyes burning. Perhaps she was resentful and jealous that I, her young daug
hter, should be praised for bravery and journey to strange new lands when she was forbidden to even pass through the gates. She no longer looked like the beautiful woman who had nurtured me so and sung me into dreaming with dulcet lullabies; instead, she appeared a frail bird imprisoned by those who forbade her flight. I yearned to embrace her, to hold her and comfort her as she had done for me when I was just a child. I wanted to comfort her as she had comforted me with sweet songs that will flow through me eternally like blood. But despite all of my training, I had not learned to muster the courage required to face her; I was too afraid that her despair couldn’t be quelled, especially by her daughter who had surpassed her in the king’s heart.

  “Eventually, I was skilled enough to join my father in battle and prove myself as a soldier of Donir. We fought an army of Achnora that had flooded into Tirdyn like a gray river, and with my father at my side, I drove through them with honor to Yaliwe in every ferocious stroke of my sword. We were victorious, and I was hailed among my people as a worthy heir to my father’s crown, but it was a battle just a few months ago that truly sealed my fate as the future queen. Lonho received word of a Shadaran army heading for Rosdin, and despite it being a Lyraeran city, he could not risk the enemy finding the Hohmara city beneath it, so he gathered the best warriors and set out toward the east to wage war on the invaders. I, now a true soldier of Donir, proudly joined him on the journey, but as we rode out of the kingdom, I turned back to see Vetna standing on the balcony of the tower with her head bowed, and I could tell she was weeping. As we passed through the gates, I beheld a great shadow creep overhead, surge through the city, and swallow both the tower and the queen of Donir whole. I told myself that it was only my mind playing tricks on me. I was too stubborn to admit what was happening to her, and I was too proud of my station to turn away from such an important quest. Now, I know that if I had turned back, she might have been saved; at least for a while.”

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