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Maladrid tales of domi.., p.4

Maladrid - [Tales Of Dominhydor: Book One], page 4


Maladrid - [Tales Of Dominhydor: Book One]

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  “What happened to her?” Maladrid asked.

  “When we reached Fircyn, there was a message waiting: Vetna had fallen ill, and Lonho and I had to return immediately. The Shadaran in Rosdin had learned of our journey to challenge them and so halted their own, but my father didn’t trust that they’d abandoned the fight completely. He decided to stay in Fircyn; after such a long journey, he wasn’t about to depart without a fight, but I was ordered to return home, and no matter how much I begged for him to let me stay, I had to obey. Over the months it took me to cross Dominhydor, I received no word from Donir or Fircyn, and I sadly expected to find my mother dead upon my homecoming, but what I found upon my return was far worse than anything I could’ve imagined. No one was standing watch at the gates of Donir, and upon entering, I beheld empty streets and dark silent houses. With my sword readied, I walked cautiously through the gray desolation that had once been the beautiful city of my birth; I called out for anyone to come forward, be them friend or foe, but no one emerged. But when I neared the tower and saw my mother standing on the balcony with her back to Donir, I sprinted through the castle, up the tower stairs, and burst into the room that housed the crystals, overjoyed that she was still alive. However, Vetna did not acknowledge my presence. She was huddled over the table with her hands wrapped around the crystal of Fircyn, and I could see the sweat pouring off of her as her body trembled violently.

  “‘What’s wrong, Mother? What do you see? Is it the king? Is he in danger?’ I asked, but she said nothing. ‘Mother, what do you see? What of Lonho?’

  “When she raised her head to me, not even the slightest shadow of Vetna remained. Her skin was hard and black as pitch and as her mouth twisted into a horrible grimace, her eyes flashed an unnatural shade of yellow.

  “‘Where is my mother? Where is Vetna?’ I shouted as I drew my blade, but she simply turned back to the crystal and closed her eyes.

  “‘Tell me now!’ I demanded, and hissed as she clenched the crystal of Fircyn even tighter.

  “‘Give me peace to feed,’ she growled.

  “‘What did you do with my mother?’

  “‘Her blood is inside me; it is bubbling with the flames of Ol and fusing with mine,’ the demon replied, with saliva running down its blackened chin.

  “I circled with my sword tracing the Shadara’s neck until it removed its hands from the crystal and faced me with its ravenous grin mocking.

  “‘Why are you looking into the crystal of Fircyn?’

  “‘I am watching my people defeat the enemy,’ it wheezed.

  “‘Your people are the enemy.’

  “‘Even you will come to the shadow in time. There are none who can stand against it; not even your king.’

  “‘What of the king? What have you done to my father?’

  “‘I have done nothing, but he will fall as you will fall. There is no hope for you, little Princess. Your people have abandoned you; they’ve left you to die, and they, too, will die in turn.’

  “‘That is your desire: for the Hohmara to die?’

  “‘Darkness is my only desire.’

  “‘Then you shall have it,’ I growled as I lunged forward and plunged my sword into its stomach.

  “When I withdrew, the mixture of Vetna and the Shadara’s blood had become a thick silver liquid that clung to the sword and furiously enveloped the steel. The distorted version of my mother laughed as the metallic fluid oozed out of its stomach, and when I dropped my sword into a puddle of blood, it covered the blade in a lustrous silver casing.

  “‘Perhaps you are not as strong as I thought,’ it hissed with its crooked teeth grinding.

  “I dove toward the beast with my hands to its throat, and when I pushed it back onto the table, its face suddenly froze in a gasp and its body fell limp. When I backed off, I saw the crystal of Fircyn distended from its chest, and as the blood gushed from the gaping wound, the Shadara’s skin lightened with each silver surge. The rictal grin and dark twisted flesh disappeared, and slowly, the rosy glow of Vetna’s skin and pale verdancy of her eyes returned. She was my mother again, but although her body and features were restored, her spirit was not, and there was nothing I could do but weep. I lifted her body from the crystal and tumbled backward with her in my arms, and when I hit the floor with a thud and her flaccid body collapsed on top of me, the table of crystals followed our fall. I pulled her away before it slammed down on top of her slack body, but the crystals were all destroyed, and the floor of the temple glittered with the shards that stuck into my flesh. I sat up and cradled her in my arms, and as I rocked her back and forth and ran my fingers through her honey hair, I sang softly between sobs.

  “‘Now is the time to sleep, my love.

  In Hana I will find you,

  The hurt is far behind you.

  Close your eyes forever.

  Wake up in Hana to your peaceful sleep.

  “‘Come be the day

  I hold you once more forever.

  Have no fear,

  In Hana you will have no fear.

  Dwell happily in Hana forever.’

  “When I finally laid my mother down and walked out onto the balcony, I saw a throng of Achnora below me roaring and waving their weapons menacingly. Their army was not massive, but against only me, they would surely be victorious. Although they couldn’t get to me by way of the castle because of the Yaermini door protecting me, they could certainly scale the side of the tower; it would take time, but eventually, they would reach me and tear me limb from limb. But then, I heard a series of yelps and screeches followed by clanging steel, and when I gazed out again upon Donir, I saw the Hohmara, my father’s loyal subjects, streaming out of hiding and attacking the Achnora. They had not abandoned the city after all, and I could tell by the numbers that the Outer Circle had come to Donir’s aid as well. They flew from their houses and hidden burrows with weaponry blazing, and though I ran down to join them as quickly as I could, by the time I reached the courtyard, the last of the Achnora were being dispatched.

  “The Hohmara rejoiced in their victory, but their true joy was overshadowed by the loss of their queen, so before we set to rebuilding the towns that had been damaged by the Shadaran’s invasion, we set our mind on laying Vetna to rest. We planned a respectable funeral for her, but unfortunately, she did not last until the interment. The beast that had overtaken her had devoured her from the inside, and because of it, she rotted to almost nothing within hours.”

  Yven halted briefly as she wrung her hands around Vetna’s hilt and her face became stiff with painful memories.

  “The sword was changed after becoming encased in the blood,” she said. “Or perhaps I just wield it differently because I know how the blood got there. I killed her.”

  “You didn’t kill her, Yven; the Shadara did.”

  “It ravaged her, yes, but I’m the one who ended her life. To tell the truth, I’m not even sure if her soul is in Hana.”

  “I’m sure it is,” Maladrid said as he touched her arm in consolation, but when she looked up at him thankfully and smiled, he withdrew humbly. “And your father?” he continued quickly. “What happened to him?”

  “A few months after what was left of my mother was in the ground, a solemn procession came into Donir. Just when we all thought the shadow had fled, the few survivors of the army that had been fighting in Fircyn laid my father before me, but his body was so mutilated that I hardly recognized him. They told me that he’d gone mad at Fircyn and that he kept vanishing from the camp for hours at a time, rambling on about Vetna and shadows. Then, one night when he disappeared from the camp, he stayed gone, and for four days, no one in Fircyn or Rosdin could find him. When he was finally discovered deep in the forest of Rosdin, he was near death with his body ripped apart and flesh barely hanging on, and he was babbling about shadows trying to jump down his throat. The army constructed a stretcher for him and tended to his wounds as best they could, but, as they supposed, the king died shortly after they starte
d back to Donir, and they carried him on the stretcher the entire way home. After Lonho was laid beside Vetna in the ground, I locked myself in the tower for many days, plagued by visions of my mangled parents, and unable to see a life for me without them.

  “But my life had to continue, and I had to embrace it. After all, I was now queen, but for me, there was no rejoicing in the ascension. The day of my crowning was bittersweet, and the dark cloudy weather mimicked my mood. The trumpets did not sound, and there were no grand feasts or celebrations. The crown of Donir was heavy on my head, and I could not bear to wear it for long, and though the kingdom was grieved by the loss of their king, they were overjoyed that I was alive to claim the throne.

  “‘Hail, Queen Yven, sovereign of the Hohmara, ruler of Donir, watcher of the Outer Circle and Beyond!’ my people cried.

  “To dampen the day further, Tornyn, the royal messenger, arrived to deliver somber news from the Eastern Freelands.

  “‘The Achnora are fashioning even more buildings in and around the mountain at Nave’s Bend, and we’ve deduced that they have tunnels as means of travel that run even deeper than Fircyn. But we’ve found no sign of an entrance.’

  “‘My mother, or the beast my mother became, mentioned the name “Shacore.” Have you heard anything about the establishment of a leader in the Bend?’

  “‘I’m afraid we’ve no clue of what is behind the new evil in Lochydor, but the Shadaran continue to grow in strength and number, milady. Whoever is controlling them will soon have an army nearly as large as your own.’

  “Folcir, who was my father’s royal advisor and captain of the guard, was now by my side as friend and counselor.

  “‘Milady, the army must be dispatched to fight this darkness. We must finish what Lonho started.’

  “‘It would be nearly impossible for our army to come out of this battle victorious, Folcir,’ I said. ‘Even with complete aid from the Outer Circle, we couldn’t win. It would take weeks to march around the Syr Sea, and we’ve no ships left mighty enough to carry an army across it.’

  “‘What of the Tylira? They could carry you and your men swiftly around the Syr,’ Folcir suggested.

  “‘All of the Tylira have fled Donir except for my friend, Dordin, and he could carry a handful of soldiers but not an entire army.’

  “‘Milady, we must do something,’ he pleaded.

  “‘No, Folcir. I must do something, and I must do it alone.’

  “‘My Queen, no. You said yourself that no army could quell this shadow. I will not have you martyred,’ he said sharply.

  “‘I am no army, Folcir. I am one woman aided only by my wit and my strength.’

  “I removed the crown of Donir from my brow and set it aside, and as my fingers lingered on the blessed bronze, I whispered gravely, ‘I have not yet earned the right to accept such a noble gift. Keep it safe for when I return.’

  “‘No, milady. I’m the captain of the guard. My place is beside you on this quest.’

  “‘As captain of the guard, I need you here to protect my people,’ I said as I drew Vetna and it shone as a spear of foreboding light. ‘You’re right, Folcir, it must be finished. And I will finish it.’

  “So it was the day after my crowning that I found my childhood friend and loyal steed, Dordin, who had safely carried me many times beyond the gates of Donir.”

  “He’s a Tylira?” Maladrid asked.

  “Yes. The Tylira are a truly majestic race, and my friend Dordin is the most regal of all; although I suppose I’m a bit biased. The largest and one of the fastest races in Dominhydor, they are identical in their coloring and markings. Their thick fur is completely black with the exception of their bellies, paws, and the bridges of their noses; those are starkly white. Ivory whiskers protrude handsomely from their proud feline faces, and ferocious fangs, larger than your head, fill their mammoth mouths. But they are gentle creatures once befriended, and Dordin is the most heroic and noble of them all.”

  “But you’re biased,” Maladrid chuckled.

  “I wish you could’ve met him, Maladrid.”

  “Where is he? Didn’t he accompany you when you left Donir?”

  “After I left Donir, the Achnora seemed to be drawn to me, and I knew that wherever I went, they would follow. I feared not for my own life but for the life of my friend, so I gave Dordin leave to go. He didn’t want to leave, but I ordered him away nevertheless, and though he followed me for many miles, I would not give in. When he finally turned and went his own way, it pained me greatly to see him go, but then I saw you, Maladrid, shining like a white star of Yaliwe in the shadowy distance, and I knew that I was destined to meet you,” she said with warm sincerity, and Maladrid blushed.

  “That’s the end, I suppose,” Yven said and sheathed Vetna forcibly.

  “No, it is only the beginning,” he replied with his hand clenched as the da-ni’s soothing spell wore away and the pain began to rise again, but still, he smiled as he looked upon her. “Yven, I admit that I am in awe of you. You are brave beyond words.”

  She pulled him close with cloaked hands, and he felt her warm breath on his face.

  “Maladrid, I am not a queen here. I wear no crown, I rule no kingdom, and I will have no sovereignty until this battle is over and I am victorious.”

  “You may say so, but you are still a queen, crown or not. It’s apparent in every move you make. You mustn’t dismiss it; I admire it so in you.”

  She grinned and nodded as she looked off into the distance with the Balenta Glen glistening in her eyes.

  “I should send you far away from me, Maladrid; such proximity to me is perilous. I should send you away, but I can’t force myself to command it. You have Yaliwe’s light within you, and I can not turn away from such brilliance.”

  “I’m not worthy of such a quest, milady. I’m not a warrior or gifted with magicks. I can not attack or protect.”

  “How do you know?”

  “Because I don’t have the experience.”

  “So, if you’ve never tried, how do you know that you’re incapable? How do you know that you don’t have a natural talent? Maladrid, I shouldn’t be telling you this, but I’m in over my head. Plus, I’m somewhat lonely. I know it sounds strange that I would ask you to accompany me, especially since you’ve not been properly trained to escort a queen, but I see something special in you, something blessed and otherworldly. So I’m asking you now: will you join me?”

  “If it would please you,” he replied with a nod. “I am your humble servant and I owe you more than my life.”

  “Come,” she said with a timid grin. “The Glen awaits. Take one of the Achnora’s swords; we are off to dangerous places.”

  “Is the Glen so perilous?”

  “Not especially, and neither is our next destination, but there are sure to be dangers along the way.”

  “I will follow you into the shadow of Nave’s Bend, Yven, and anywhere else you allow me to follow. I will fight by your side, be it a battle to victory or death.”

  “And for that, Maladrid, I owe you more than my life.”

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  Maladrid took a sword from one of the fallen Achnora, but the blade he chose was different from the rest scattered about. The sword was in fact two blades, one silver and one black, twisted together, but as impressive as it was, it was still nothing compared to Vetna. As they traveled toward the sparkling Glen ahead, Yven took advantage of the company and bubbled with her ideas and intentions as to their route.

  “The Dolihol is a safe place to rest and gather troops. I admit that I’m eager to drive toward Nave’s Bend as quickly as possible, but we might benefit from a slight delay to regroup. Once we’ve passed through the Glen, we will head north toward the land of the Dalitants.”

  They reached the Balenta Glen when the moon was still high, but they stopped outside its borders as if paralyzed by its beauty. The pale brown Balenta trees were covered with a shimmering
dust that also coated the Glen floor, and each treetop was filled with small fat leaves that radiated with a healthy golden glow. Exquisite bellflowers sparkling in silver and hanging upside down with their stamens dangling below the petals like pendulums were clustered on each Balenta. The trees twinkled like stars of Hana, and even though it was nighttime when Maladrid and Yven penetrated the Glen, the world was illuminated by the brilliance of the foliage, and when the gold and silver mingled with the bronze of Yven’s robe, she glowed likewise. Even Maladrid in his drab clothing appeared to glisten. When their legs could carry them no further, they collapsed in exhaustion into a nest of fallen bellflowers and soft golden leaves. Maladrid guzzled down his share of the water and exhaled loudly as the cool liquid ran down his throat and into his stomach; the Cenna was extremely fragrant with da-ni, and the sweet sticky taste filled him with comfort as he savored each bite. As they finished eating and drinking, a leisurely breeze swept over them and incited dancing amidst the foliage. It whizzed around the glittering trunks and rustled through the leaves and lingered only in the bellflowers, causing them to ring in soft harmony. The petals tinkled together like a crystal orchestra, and the pendulous stamens resounded deep in the hollow bells. Then, from above them, there came soft voices that accompanied the music like a Hanalian choir.

  “Bells! Bells!

  Ring loud and ring true!

  Come in peace, for we are peaceful

  And all that peace can be.

  Leave no mark upon the floor,

  Leave no stain upon the door,

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