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Maladrid tales of domi.., p.5

Maladrid - [Tales Of Dominhydor: Book One], page 5


Maladrid - [Tales Of Dominhydor: Book One]

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  Only footprints forever more,

  Only footprints forever more,

  Bells! Bells!

  Hana be praised!

  Ring the bells for Yaliwe!

  Sing, ‘Yaliwe be praised!’”

  Yven closed her eyes and the pleasing breeze whipped her hair against her peaceful face, and Maladrid watched in awed silence as her red locks twirled, her robe billowed, and she fell into a contented slumber. Only when he was sure she was sleeping did he allow his eyelids to fall as well and permit sleep to take him, but a slight rustle stirred him, and it was so faint that he almost dismissed it. But when he opened his eyes, he saw thin white creatures creeping headfirst down the trees that surrounded him. The creatures were bald with large cupped ears that swiveled at the slightest noise, and their pale blue eyes glittered. Maladrid stared at the strange creatures, slack-jawed and too stunned to move or rouse Yven, and though he was frightened of the advancing creatures, they mystified him as well. Their ivory bodies were bare except for small skirts, splendidly woven with the gold leaves of the Balenta trees, and they also wore bellflower necklaces that jingled softly. Once they had descended the trunks and were upon the forest floor, the creatures stood and they cautiously but gracefully approached Maladrid and Yven, and just as Maladrid got up the courage to reach for his sword, one of the creatures set a large basket filled with several bladders of water, salted meats, and a large supply of da-ni and fruits in his lap. Others clustered around Yven and began brushing her wild locks with a branch, and when she opened her eyes, she gasped at the Glen spotted with the fabulous creatures.

  “Are you the Bynts? Those who were saved by Yaliwe?” she asked.

  They smiled in unison and put their long forefingers to their lips in a gentle request for her silence. Yven’s initial reaction was to be offended by their gesture, but their serene sincerity squelched the instinct. They offered their soft ivory hands, full of sweet berries and da-ni, to the strangers and continued to ease their senses. While some of them washed the journey away from Maladrid’s face, others covered his wounded hand with Balenta leaves and coated the dressing with thick sap that, when dried, formed a milky cast around his palm. And when Maladrid and Yven were cleansed and satiated, the dulcet music of the Glen rose again.

  “In the shadow we were

  Come Hana or Ol

  To be black and bent forever.

  Yaliwe, save your children

  From this path so crooked

  Or let us be wicked forever.

  Yaliwe rose saying,

  ‘Go to the Glen

  To the Bells! To the Bells!

  That is where the new Bynt dwells!

  For beautiful souls

  Do not endure dark deeds

  Be in Hana, never in Ol!’”

  One of the Bynts stood out from the cluster of ivory. Dressed in a silver robe and wearing a thin crown of golden wire, he spoke in a voice as harmonious as the song of his brethren.

  “They are glad for your coming, and so am I. My name is Laia, Lord of the Glen.”

  “I’m Maladrid, and this is Yven,” Maladrid said, and Yven extended her covered hand, which Laia took and held tenderly between his palms.

  “You have the sycte,” Laia said with a knowing smile, and Yven nodded. “Come. There is much to discuss.”

  As they walked slowly through the Glen, the leaves fell around them and blanketed the ground.

  “The gold is fading, I’m afraid,” said Laia. “The silver too. In my long lifetime, I’ve never seen the leaves fall so abundantly. The shadow is growing, and we can do nothing but wait.”

  “Have you heard any news from Lochydor?” Yven asked.

  “I’ve heard of the Shadaran numbers and that they are hardly seen during the light of day. In fact, our Mosecora scouts have said that the devils are hardly seen in the Bend as well. They are the most powerful asset that Shacore has, and I fear they are planning some terrible devastation. As for the Achnora, we’ve heard that while many are sent out to dispatch Yaliwe’s warriors, there are still a great deal back at the Bend fashioning weapons of shadow and flame, and the Anjila are always circling overhead, searching for the next chance to slay in the name of their Dark Lord. I pray that you aren’t headed in that direction.”

  “Not yet. Before I even think of going to Lochydor, I have to visit Fircyn to acquire the rest of the Hohmara armada,” Yven replied.

  Laia abruptly darted his gaze away, but the sudden tension in his body was evident.

  “Laia, what is it? What do you know?”

  “Nothing for sure,” he whispered. “But I have seen Rosdin in my mind, and it seems like the Lyraera are ill-equipped. If the battle reaches Rosdin, it will surely fall.”

  “Fircyn, Laia. What about Fircyn?’

  “I regret to say that I cannot see it, nor a soul stirring within.”

  “Are you sure?”

  “Nothing is sure, Yven. The powers of evil are strong, probably even stronger than we think, and the Shadaran are the most powerful of all. They are elusive, but when they show themselves, they also show an amazing hunger for obliteration. They are capable of inhabiting bodies and setting them to rot from the inside out, and their swords are made of deadly shadow: extremely potent. My heart weeps for the future of my people and for the good Children of Dominhydor.”

  “I’m aware of the Shadaran’s powers, Laia,” Yven said sadly with her head lowered.

  “I’m sorry, I forgot. I was saddened to hear of your mother and father. I talked with Lonho on many occasions. He was very fond of passing through the Glen and listening to the bellflowers and the songs of my kin when there were more joyful things to sing about.”

  “The Shadaran are powerful, but I’ve heard of someone more so: a leader,” Yven said.

  “I do see a formidable spirit in the dark called Shacore, but I cannot see what kind of beast it may be.”

  “Join us, Laia. An army of Bynts would be fierce against the foes at the Bend,” Maladrid urged.

  “We can’t. The Glen is in jeopardy, and we are its only hope of survival. Without our protection, it will fade, and so shall we.”

  “But you are immortal!” Yven protested.

  “The borders of the Glen are the limits of our immortality. We are the first and last of our kind; if we leave, we risk extinction. Instead, I’ll alert a group of the Bartosca in the Eastern Freelands to await your arrival upon exiting the Forest of the Yaermaca,” he replied.

  “How do you expect us to get through the Forest, especially considering the maddening mist that surrounds it?” Yven asked.

  “The Yaerla know of you and your quest. They have always been Hohmara allies, and if they allowed your father entrance, why would they deny it to you? I assure you: they will cordially welcome you into the most beautiful place in Dominhydor,” Laia replied.

  “More beautiful than the Balenta Glen? I can’t imagine that,” Maladrid said.

  “Well, you may make that judgment when you see it, but the hour is late and you must rest for the journey ahead. You may not see us in the morning, but we will leave you with supplies for the trip. And as always, we will pray to Yaliwe for your safe victory against the Dark Lady’s minions. Now sleep, brave ones. The dawn brings dire thoughts of the future and relinquishes all hope of looking back.”

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  While Yven slept soundly under the Balenta tree, Maladrid’s mind remained painfully awake. Whenever he closed his eyes, he saw flashes of light that existed solely in his mind, and he could feel the wind as if it were a living being, twisting its long arms around him, pulling his hair and pinching his cheeks until he could bear it no longer. However, when he opened his eyes the wind promptly ceased, and he was encased in the balmy stillness of the forest night. He rose quietly from his leafy bed as not to wake Yven and began to walk east through the Glen, and though he had so recently been captivated by the trees, he kept his eyes fixed straight ahead, ben
t solely on discovering the source of a strange voice that had begun to echo from the dark distance. The call surged into his ears and dripped confusion into his brain as it clouded him and caused him to walk aimlessly out of the Glen. He paced across the plain with his eyes set ahead and became so lost in the strange trance that he paid no notice to the bizarre scenery surrounding him: the plants and trees grew at an enormous rate, reaching into the clouds within minutes, but seconds after, the bark started to peel and the trees started disintegrating, falling sloppily to the ground inside a minute. Even less comforting than the short-lived flora, however, were the roots that sprouted from the earth and wound around his legs. They crept up his thighs and to his waist, and when they reached his chest, he finally became frighteningly aware of their ascent and tried to tear himself free. They pulled him down to the ground and sewed his body to the earth, and though he tried to scream, the roots covered his face and muffled his cries. Suddenly, Maladrid heard a screeching sound echo across the plain, and just as he thought he was done for, the constriction released, and he felt suddenly weightless. Strong wind blasted against his face and through his hair, and when he finally forced his eyes open, he saw the world beneath him rushing by at an incredible speed. The surprising height flooded him with nausea and when he saw his feet dangling in the air, he thankfully lost his senses again and fell into unconsciousness.

  The next thing he felt was his feet upon earth as he was lowered onto the ground, and when he dazedly looked up to the sky, he saw amorphous ivory creatures with enormous wings soaring away from him. He still heard the calling voice on the wind as he stood shakily and surveyed the strange surroundings, and though the unfamiliarity of his environment didn’t disturb him, he knew that he was not where he was supposed to be. Yven was nowhere to be seen, and that thought made his heart tremble with fear. But the beckoning voice continued, and Maladrid’s mind quickly turned back to the call of the wind and its long breezy arms that were extended as if poised for embrace. He spread his own arms and began to run full-speed toward the great misty hug, and as he ran, the wind’s voice urged him seductively.

  ”Closer now, Maladrid. You’re almost here. Come closer, Maladrid.”

  Finally, Maladrid leaped forward, but no embrace by comforting arms caught him. Instead, he felt himself tumbling down farther and farther until he felt the terrible slam of his body against a cold rock bottom.

  The pit was dark and austere, and from the bottom, he heard the wind laughing at his gullibility. Being tricked was bad enough, but to have strayed so far that Yven wouldn’t be able to hear his cries was the most foolish thing Maladrid had ever done. He looked around the pit for some sort of natural ladder, but the walls were smoothly polished and impossible to climb, and though the floor was littered with berries, he could not force himself to be thankful for the sustenance; he was far too distraught about his imprudence. He tucked his knees into his chest and held his body tight as he rocked back and forth in the cold dark, moaning for his fate. When he heard a scuffling sound from the shadows of the pit, he jumped to his feet and nervously drew his blade.

  “Please put that away, good sir. I have no wish to harm you,” whimpered a tiny voice.

  From the darkness waddled a male Dalitant. His body was no bigger than a watermelon, but it appeared slightly larger because of his thick brown fur and the two hairy lumps on each side of his back that ran from his shoulders to his rump. His eyes were tiny black dots, half hidden by the shaggy fluff of his face, and because his furry ears hung almost to the floor, he occasionally tripped on them with his small black paws. His belly fur swept across the ground as he walked, causing tiny clods of dirt to cling to the hair, and the tip of his long black snout was dusty from sniffing at the pit’s floor. Maladrid crouched down, scooped up several berries, and cautiously offered a handful to the Dalitant as a sign of peace.

  “Come out,” Maladrid said softly as he returned his blade to the sheath. “Don’t be frightened.”

  The Dalitant took a few steps toward Maladrid and sniffed at his hand. He sat upon his hairy haunches, grabbed the berries, and swiftly stuffed them into his mouth. He chewed very quickly and after swallowing, he sighed and wiped the juice from his chin.

  “Just the thing,” the Dalitant said as he set himself down upon all fours and shook the dirt from his fur; when the cloud of dust cleared, he waddled to Maladrid and offered him his paw.

  “My name is Forbor, good sir, and I’m extremely happy to see you. I’m happy to see anyone; it’s been so long.”

  “I’m Maladrid, and it’s a pleasure to meet you, Forbor. My friend and I were headed in the direction of your homeland,” Maladrid replied as he lightly shook Forbor’s paw.

  “Really? Who is your friend?”

  “The queen of the Hohmara.”

  “You’re traveling with Yven of Donir? And you’re saying that she is on her way to the Dolihol? That cannot be. The truce has been broken.”

  “I don’t know anything about that, but I suppose it doesn’t matter now that I’m stuck down here. I’ll probably never even see her again. It’s all over.”

  “Don’t say that.”

  “But it’s true. I don’t even know where I am or how I got here. I just remember being called forward out of the Balenta Glen and then flying, somehow, through the sky.”

  “Then this is only just beginning,” Forbor replied. “You are in the Northern Freelands, and if you traveled here from the Balenta Glen with no memory but a bit of flying, you must have had divine intervention. Have you the power of transference?”

  “What? No.”

  “Then a Colc must have aided you; or a Daian. Either way, it’s a blessing.”

  “Being stuck in a pit is a blessing? Well, at least I’m not alone. Although I wish we could’ve met in a less inconvenient environment, Forbor.”

  “Oh it’s not so bad. Just try to stay positive.”

  He did a little dance and hopped from paw to paw with his ears flapping. They quickly got twisted around his legs, however, and caused him to stumble and fall face down onto the ground. Maladrid giggled as Forbor got his bearings and shook the dirt from his fur.

  “Actually, I’m miserable,” he sighed dejectedly. “I’ve been stuck down here for so long.”

  “How did you get stuck down here? Did you hear the same voice I did?”

  “I doubt it. What beckoned me and my clan forward was a message from the Daian Yvinhe: the Goddess of the Green. The Mosecora delivered a message to the Dolihol and bid us vacate the land.

  “‘There is danger coming,’ the message warned. ‘Flee your lowlands and highlands. Travel by day and hide yourselves at night, for the shadow seeks to devour your souls. They know the Dolihol has no defenses and no warrior allies nearby. They will come for you.’

  “Naturally, the message concerned us, and though many immediately began making preparations to leave, there were those who refused to abandon the Dolihol. They were right to doubt, of course, for where could we go? So some stayed behind while the rest of us divided into clans and started the journey toward Balochena.”

  “Why Balochena?” Maladrid queried.

  “It’s neutral and nestled between the Balenta Glen and the Forest of the Yaermaca. The Bynts and Yaerla are our allies and we thought that having them on either side would be helpful if we got pulled into a scrap with the Achnora,” Forbor replied and turned his eyes to the ground. “But we did not make it to Balochena; at least, the party I traveled with didn’t make it there.”

  “What happened?”

  “The Anjila ambushed us. The sky was filled with the white stone beasts, and their giant wings blocked out the sun. They screeched as they darted and dove with their black hair whipping in the wind, and one by one, they swooped down and plucked my brothers and sisters from the earth. We outnumbered them, but it only took a few minutes for the Anjila to devastate our numbers. Perhaps Dalitants simply weren’t built for battle,” Forbor said sadly.

  Maladrid patted th
e Dalitant’s head and said, “But you’re all right, Forbor. You survived.”

  “Yes, I survived. I watched the Anjila tear out the throats and scratch out the eyes of my kin. I saw them fall from the Anjila’s talons and slam into the ground beside me with such force that they were nothing but pulpy bone in the dirt. So I fled. Like a coward, I fled and I survived. I ran for so long that eventually, weariness and hunger overtook me, and I blacked out. When I awoke, I was down here. But,” he continued after a pause, “that’s not the worst of it. When the Anjila attacked, they had already had blood on their teeth and tufts of fur stuck to their talons. They’d already fed; that’s why the murder of my clan was for sport rather than sustenance. They’d already gorged themselves on those that chose to stay behind in the Dolihol.”

  “How awful.”

  Forbor buried his face in his paws as he wept, “I’ve thought about it all the time I’ve been trapped here. I’ve played it over and over in my mind, but I’ve never spoken it aloud. The pain of the words resounds. But peace is won with sacrifice, I suppose. I know I should believe it, but it’s so hard when I think of all of the kin I’ve lost. Come to think of it, there’s probably more that have been killed since I’ve been trapped. Maybe I should just resign myself to stay down here. Maybe it’s better.”

  “I can’t stay down here though. I have to get out,” Maladrid said.

  “There is no way out. I have tried absolutely everything,” Forbor heaved sadly.

  Maladrid pawed at the walls, but there was nothing to grab onto. He shouted for help to no avail and Forbor shook his head sadly.

  “I think I’ll take a nap,” he yawned. “These sad memories have exhausted me.”

  He stretched his legs and back and Maladrid’s eyes suddenly widened in awe as the lumps on the Dalitant’s back unfolded into large fuzzy wings.

  “Forbor!” Maladrid exclaimed.

  The Dalitant had nestled down and started drifting into sleep, but he shot awake with a snort.

  “What-who-what?” he stuttered sleepily.

  “Why didn’t you tell me you had wings?”

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