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Maladrid tales of domi.., p.6

Maladrid - [Tales Of Dominhydor: Book One], page 6

 

Maladrid - [Tales Of Dominhydor: Book One]
 


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  “I don’t know. I thought it was common knowledge.”

  “Well, have you tried flying out?”

  “Of course I’ve tried flying out,” he said as he shook away the prospect of sleep. “But I can’t get high enough. I get halfway up and then come sailing back down.”

  Maladrid promptly scooped the Dalitant up into his arms, and though Forbor cried out in shock, Maladrid said calmly, “Don’t worry. Just start flapping your wings as soon as I let go.”

  With that, Maladrid tossed the Dalitant upwards and he madly began beating his wings, and when the breeze caught him, Forbor was quickly lifted up and out of the pit. Once back upon earth, he scurried back to the hole and hung his head over the edge.

  “Maladrid! You’re a genius!”

  “Now, find me some sort of rope so I can climb out.”

  Forbor located a vine that he tied around a nearby stump, and when he lowered it down the pit wall, Maladrid was able to pull himself to freedom.

  “Maladrid,” Forbor whispered timidly, “would you mind very much if I tagged along, at least for a while? I really don’t want to be alone anymore.”

  “Of course; I could use some company myself. When we find Yven, we’ll figure out what to do and how to get you home.”

  “I doubt very much that there’s a home to return to,” Forbor replied morosely.

  As they walked through the quiet of the Northern Freelands, they found themselves silent as well. An eerie calm swept over them and turned their tongues to stone, but Forbor continued to prance in his animated way while Maladrid’s eyes constantly crossed the countryside. They walked for several hours with no sign of Yven or the Balenta Glen, and when he noticed the sun’s slow descent, they both grew very anxious. To combat his fear through the journey, Forbor began to hum; it started softly at first, but soon, his tune was filled with the words of an ancient song of Dominhydor.

  “One brings the baby to the newborn sun.

  Two come and go to the sounding drum.

  Three in the trees in a leafy thrum.

  Four more chores till the land is done.

  Five now alive in the crowning moon.

  Six brings the others that appear too soon.

  Seven hangs like darkness above the noon.

  Eight little children sing the proper tune.

  Nine on the line when the ash is drawn.

  Ten bow again to the coming dawn.

  Follow the blessing throughout the lawn

  Of Yaliwe’s earth and the numbers upon.”

  Although Forbor sang to calm his nerves, Maladrid was not put at ease by his friend’s melodious words. With the fading of day and their still unrecognizable surroundings, Maladrid began to truly fear that he would never find Yven. A sudden rumble of thunder caused him to jump, but the clear sky and lack of rain led him to believe the sound was merely in his head. A few minutes later, he heard the thunder again. In fact, he not only heard it; he felt it roll across the ground. He knelt down and laid his hands upon the earth, and though the tremors vibrated subtly at first the shuddering grew stronger and the rumbling louder.

  “Can you feel that?” Maladrid asked. “Can you hear it?”

  “I don’t need to. I can see it,” Forbor replied and huddled himself behind Maladrid’s leg.

  The land was clouded with rapid billows of dust, and within, they saw hazy shadows swiftly approaching. Maladrid grabbed Forbor and clutched him close as he bolted away, but the earth shook violently, and the thunderous roll of footfalls sounded like the land behind them was collapsing into itself. Although Maladrid ran as fast as possible, the stampede soon swept up and surrounded Maladrid and Forbor with large equine bodies of brown and silver. Their broad hoofs pounded the dirt and caused a maelstrom of pebbles to spray against Maladrid’s body as he tried to dart between the beasts.

  “It’s the Wa-D’tila!” Forbor screamed. “They’re going to kill us!”

  The Wa-D’tila snorted and whinnied as they galloped past, paying Maladrid and Forbor no notice. They seemed to be everywhere and their herd endless, but when a shifting gust of wind blew a patch of dust aside, it revealed a cluster of spiny trees. Maladrid dashed toward them, but when the beckoning branches seemed within his grasp, he was sideswiped by a Wa-D’tila and thrown to the ground; Forbor was knocked out of his arms. Maladrid looked around dazedly as the hooves fell only inches away from his face, but the Wa-D’tila seemed to race past him in slow motion, and he became entranced by the leisurely stampede his blurry eyes beheld. What he beheld next, he initially thought to be a hallucination, but the swiftly advancing figure was real and sweetly familiar as it dove and darted between the Wa-D’tila and scooped up Maladrid. The face was angelic in its ferocity, and the fiery hair that curled around it lusciously burned in Maladrid’s eyes.

  “Yven,” he murmured. “I couldn’t find you.”

  She hoisted him up into one of the trees, and as he clung to the branches, he whispered,

  “Forbor: a Dalitant. He’s out there.”

  Yven’s eyes searched the area, and then, suddenly, she launched herself from the tree and dove into the stampede. Her legs wrapped firmly around a Wa-D’tila and she laid her body down on its back with her mouth close to its twitching ear. The rushing wind beat against her face as she whispered to the steed, and when she tugged gently on its ivory mane, the Wa-D’tila turned sharply and began running against the flow of the stampede. Those of its kin split to avoid a crash, and Yven soon saw the Dalitant lying comatose in the dust. She inched down the Wa-D’tila’s side, and when they passed Forbor, she snatched him up and directed the steed toward the trees. When the branches were overhead, she leaped off of the Wa-D’tila’s back, and with Forbor tucked securely under her arm, she grabbed onto a branch and pulled herself up into the tree. Maladrid’s eyes were half open, but he was still intently focused on her. The branches shook madly as the last lines of Wa-D’tila passed the trees, and when the earth had finally settled, Yven and Maladrid found themselves caught in a shared gaze.

  “Are you alright?” Yven asked.

  “I’ll be fine. What about him?”

  “Unconscious, but he doesn’t appear to have any serious injuries.”

  As the dust cleared and the last of the Wa-D’tila disappeared into the horizon, Yven and Maladrid inched out of the trees. The queen passed the Dalitant into Maladrid’s arms, and as he ran his hand across Forbor’s wily fur, he stirred and snorted back into consciousness.

  “What happened?”

  “Yven saved our lives,” Maladrid replied and looked at Yven as if she was far beyond royalty and even mortality.

  He knelt at her feet and bowed his head to the earth. When she laid her shrouded hands upon his head and moved them down to his cheek, he lifted his chin and met her eyes.

  “Thank you, milady. If not for you—well, I don’t want to think of what would’ve happened if you hadn’t come along.”

  “You’re welcome, Maladrid. And,” she said as she bent down and patted Forbor’s head, “it is a pleasure to meet you, young Prince.”

  “Prince?” Maladrid sputtered.

  “Of course. Prince Forbor of the Mar clan, correct?” she asked.

  “Yes, milady. I am he.”

  “All of that time in the hole, and it never occurred to you to mention that you were a prince?”

  “I spent weeks in that pit, Maladrid, and I didn’t think I’d ever get out. My sovereignty didn’t seem so important anymore.”

  “Come, the sun is falling behind the hills. We must keep moving toward shelter for the night,” Yven declared.

  The inky sky was cluttered with stars, and the moon was so full and bright that it seemed like day in disguise. As they walked, Maladrid told Yven about the urging voice that had made him stray.

  “Maladrid, when you left the Balenta Glen, you entered Balochena: a very unpredictable place. Sometimes even the Northern Freelands are affected by the powers of that land. They say Balochena was created by the two Daia
n called Portitol and Forafir. They were exiled from Mancyte in the early days of Dominhydor for unforgivable transgressions. They were sentenced to live forever in Dominhydor and never return to Mancyte, and as Yaliwe’s Children began to spring forth around them, Portitol and Forafir grew angrier and more resentful. They created Balochena to ensnare travelers and throw them off their courses. Songs would lull the soldiers in and traps were set to snare them. Those who entered would be lost forever, and for many years, the land was not trafficked by anyone save the Daian.

  “But when the demon Forla came into power and Dominhydor waged its war upon him, the Hohmara set forth through the land toward Lochydor. They had heard the stories of Balochena but were not afraid. They penetrated Forafir and Portitol’s sanctuary, and despite the Daian’s magicks, the Hohmara overran them. The Daian were not killed, of course, but they did retreat to the Island of Lorynhal. That too, is a very dangerous place, Maladrid.

  “Although they have vacated Balochena, many of their magicks remain. It is not as harrowing as it used to be because the remnants of the power there have thinned and extended. That is why you were affected in the Glen as well as in the Northern Freelands. The magicks of Balochena no longer lead men to their deaths, but they can still lead them astray.”

  “Did your father tell you that story?” Maladrid asked.

  She nodded and added sadly, “And my mother in song.”

  “Perhaps we should’ve stayed by the trees,” Forbor stated. “I don’t see any shelter for miles.”

  “Ah, but there is. Just over this hill,” Yven replied.

  The ground was sloped upwards so vertically that the tired trio struggled just to get halfway up. It took close to an hour, but they finally reached the peak, and when they laid their eyes upon the land, their joy was overwhelming. An immense range of mountains stood proudly before them with the centermost rock being so tall that its crest reached well beyond the clouds. There was a gaping hole at the base of the mountain, but there were many smaller holes as well, scattered over the stony visage. Even as sore as their legs were, Maladrid, Yven, and Forbor ran down the hill with their arms open and voices loud with elation, but when he neared, Maladrid saw something strange that tore the smile from his face. It briefly appeared that each of the small holes was filled with a green eye that burned like emerald flame.

  “Did you see that?” he asked.

  “What?”

  He looked to the face of the mountain again, but the holes were empty.

  “Nothing,” he replied as he rubbed his head.

  When the trio came to the foot of the mountain, they peered into the large opening and saw a path that led deep inside. Forbor skipped into the cave first, but then, he swiftly backed out while shuddering.

  “It certainly is dark in there,” he said as he nervously wrung his paws.

  Yven removed a firstic from her satchel and cracked it, and when she entered the cavern with her gleaming sword and glowing firstic withdrawn, an orb of light illuminated the coarse walls all around her. Maladrid and Forbor reluctantly followed her but froze when they came upon three twisted tunnels that branched out before them.

  “Three tunnels and three of us,” Maladrid observed. “Shall we split up?”

  “No way!” Forbor shouted. “I’m not going into one of those deathtraps alone. I wouldn’t even be able to carry a firstic.”

  “No one is going anywhere alone, Forbor. We’ll investigate each tunnel and then choose whichever seems the least dangerous,” Yven replied.

  “That doesn’t grant us much certainty,” Maladrid said.

  “What other choice do we have? If you have another plan, Maladrid, by all means, tell us,” Yven replied, but Maladrid shrugged in defeat.

  Yven took the lead with Vetna preceding as Maladrid cracked a firstic and drew his own blade. They entered the leftmost tunnel first. Its abrupt turns disoriented them, but when the firelight exposed the brilliant hue of the tunnel, they looked upon it in mystified awe. The craggy walls were comprised of purple stone that twinkled majestically in the dancing light of the firstic. The wind rushed through and whistled past Maladrid and Yven’s ears as Forbor tried to keep up without trampling his own. They walked for several minutes around the sudden twists and bends, and just as Yven was about to suggest turning back to investigate the other tunnels, a series of squeaking noises echoed through the cave. The trio stopped in their tracks as the squeaking grew louder and was echoed by a scuttling sound.

  “We should get out of here,” Forbor said anxiously.

  “Just wait,” Yven replied calmly.

  When the noises became a near-deafening din and monstrous shadows appeared on the illuminated walls, the fellowship froze in terror.

  “Press yourselves against the wall!” Yven bellowed.

  Maladrid slammed his back against the purple stone with Forbor clutched tightly in his arms and Yven flattened herself beside him. The cacophonous squeaks and squeals echoed madly and the shadows grew larger and larger until the wall was dark with ominous shapes. Maladrid closed his eyes as the jagged rock dug into his back; his hands began to sweat as he held onto Forbor’s fur, but when he opened his eyes and the beasts streamed toward him, his body relaxed and he heaved a sigh of relief followed by a chuckle. Yven laughed and wiggled her toes as the tiny stone Morcs flooded over them and tickled her feet with their furry bellies. The small brown rodents blanketed the walls as they ran across and around Maladrid and Yven’s bodies as easily as they swarmed over the floor, but one Morc that was climbing over Yven’s head lost his footing and landed in her hair. When the last of them had passed, she removed the Morc, who had begun to fashion a nest in her curls, and set it down on the tunnel floor to scamper after its fleeing family. When its long pink tail had disappeared around the bend, Maladrid set Forbor down and rubbed his sore back.

  “Where did they come from?”

  “Perhaps we should turn back now,” Forbor suggested.

  “No, I feel a breeze. There’s something down there,” Yven said.

  “There always is,” the Dalitant murmured.

  The end of the tunnel was not yet in sight, but Maladrid was not concerned. His eyes were fixed upon the violet walls that were so glossy he could see his reflection, although altered by the protruding stones. He ran his hand across the wall, but along his fingers’ path, his hand dipped into a rather large hole. It was empty, but when he withdrew, a green light shone forth from the opening and a pupil appeared; it focused on him, dilated, and then vanished, causing Maladrid to jump back with a yelp.

  “Are you all right?” the queen asked.

  “I don’t know. Maybe my eyes are playing tricks on me.”

  “The opening is just ahead,” she said as she draped a consoling arm around his shoulders.

  The warmth of her flesh calmed his nerves and eased him into a secure place he’d never before known. As their eyes met, he felt the space between them ablaze and wondered if she felt the same.

  She hurried around the jagged wall, but a sudden emptiness halted her, and a tiny stone from the tunnel’s unexpected edge was launched into the vast abyssal darkness below. The plunge was miles long, and as Maladrid and Forbor joined her side, their eyes began to tear from the stinging wind that crawled up and over the cliff. The stone Morcs had been able to climb the nearly completely vertical face of the cliff, but for Yven and Maladrid, the task of descending was beyond possibility.

  “Let’s try the next tunnel,” Yven sighed dejectedly.

  As they trudged back, Maladrid and Yven were quiet, but Forbor was bursting with conversation. The fact that he’d truly escaped the pit had finally sunk in, and confronted with the fear of the cavernous mountain, he verbally appreciated the trivial things like the feeling of someone scratching him behind the ear or the simple act of speaking: something he’d been denied during his time alone in the pit. He spoke of his home in the Mar-Dolihol, of his clan there, and of his longing to fight as his ancestors did to defend the land that h
ad been ravaged by shadow.

  “I admit that we Dalitants are not usually known for our battle skills, but we are not weaklings. The ancients speak of the time when Dalitants fought in wars beside the other Children of Dominhydor. How proud they must be to have those memories. I have never seen true battle, nor my father before me. We do not fight any more; we run and hide. I ask you, what is the honor in that?”

  “War is not always honorable, Forbor,” Yven replied. “Neither is death. You admit that your battle skills of late are waned, and it is neither smart nor honorable to enter battle unprepared.”

  “Forgive me, milady, but you were raised to fight from infancy, as is custom for those of blessed blood. Since the Dalitants stopped participating in war, I had to learn in secret, and therefore had to teach my soldiers in secret. You could never understand how that feels.”

  “How dare you speak to me like that?”

  “The truce between our kinds is broken, Yven. I do not have to pay you homage. But,” he continued with a softer tone, “that does not mean that I don’t respect you. Most of the world treats my kind like we’re bumbling idiots, but you have treated me like a prince, and for that, I thank you. Also for that, I would grant you the aid of my army, had they not been slaughtered by the Anjila.”

  “Thank you for the thought, Forbor,” she whispered as she scratched behind his ear. “As far as I’m concerned, you are very honorable. For every one of your clan that was slain, an Anjil will die upon my sword before my time is through.”

  The center tunnel was straighter than the first, but it was far less beautiful. The walls were gray and craggy, and although Yven and Forbor seemed to take no notice, Maladrid immediately caught sight of the many holes scattered through the tunnel. They were momentarily filled with verdant light, and the pupils contracted and then enlarged as they focused intensely upon him.

  “We’re being watched,” he whispered. “Yven, let’s find a different shelter. This mountain knows our every move.”

  “There is no other shelter nearby; The Isilmaerte is our only option. Besides, it would take at least a week to travel around it, and we can’t afford to waste that much time.”

 
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