Valandra the dragon blad.., p.1
Valandra: The Dragon Blade Cycle (Book 2), page 1
THE DRAGON BLADE CYCLE
A REGOLITH PUBLICATIONS BOOK
Valandra: The Dragon Blade Cycle (Book 2)
By Tristan Vick ©2017. All Rights Reserved
Published by Regolith Publications
First Edition, copyright © 2017.
Edited by Elizabeth Rubio
Cover design by: Christian Bentulan
Map insert by: Stefanie Verish
All rights reserved. This eBook is licensed for the personal enjoyment of the original purchaser only. This eBook may not be resold or given away to other people without the permission of the publisher or author. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This book is a work of fiction. All of the characters and events portrayed in the novel are products of the author’s imagination and are fictitious. Any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
For Tomoko, Aya, Takumi, Hina, and Yuina. All of whom taught me how to live in a foreign land and who I’m proud to call my closest of friends.
And for Sayaka, Kai, and Solara.
I love you all dearly.
Map of Valandra
The Story Thus Far
The Twelve Kingdoms are under threat. Ashram’s army of the dead marches on the holy city of Sabolin and Queen Sabine leads a massive army to engage them. Joining the Valandrian and Belleran forces, Arianna gets caught up in the fray. Nonetheless, she has pieced together a series of clues that suggest something more is going on than meets the eye and she suspects there is a much greater evil at work behind these dark times. Meanwhile, to the south, in Bulgoroth, the sorceress supreme, Daeris Darkthorne, has uncovered the Dragon Blade, a mysterious and mystical sword with the power to bring death and destruction to the world.
THE DRAGON BLADE CYCLE
Evanescent waves of purple and green energy pass over the ramparts of the noble city of Sabolin and flood into the grassy fields below. At the same time, the priests sit in a circle facing one another inside the white domed temple at the heart of the hallowed city, chanting their holy prayers and invoking the protection of El Lunaria, the great moon goddess.
Ancient runes embedded within a series of golden shields of light hang like giant medallions over the heads of the meditating priests. In the center of the circle, floating higher than all the rest, a medallion of light bears the sacred seal of Sabolin. An ancient tree with a thick trunk and a healthy canopy known as “the tree of life.” Upon the floor veins of golden light run from where the priests are sitting, crossed-legged, to the center, where each vein flows into a pool of shimmering golden pool. This, in turn, funnels into a hole at the center. This causes the mystic light to form a swirling vortex as the magical ether drains away. Where it disappears to is anyone’s guess, but Galen informs me it is creating an energy barrier which will enshrine the entire city and protect everyone within its walls from the undead.
The priests, in their white robes with Sabolin’s sacred tree embossed upon their chests in gold, have been praying non-stop for two days now, to keep the barrier up. Luckily for them, Queen Sabine has arrived with two legions of her own Belleran forces, plus three legions of Valandrian forces.
The Belleran forces are all women. Fierce and strong. As legend tells it, the first Belleran heroine was found washed up on the shores of the north. She had blonde hair and blue eyes, uncommon to the region, and was adopted by the northern tribes and treated as a princess. Her name was Lunaria, for she had white-golden hair which shone like the moonlight.
When she grew up, a terrible evil descended upon the lands and she gathered together the northern tribes and fended off this evil. Many lost their lives, including Lunaria. But, as the story goes, on the thirteenth day after the battle, Lunaria returned to her people. She was whole again, not a scratch on her. That is when she was christened El Lunaria, Goddess of the North.
I nod politely, sending Galen my thanks for showing me the inner sanctum, then I turn and pass through the narthex and head into the atrium. I scan the area and search for my friends. The cloister is bustling with both legions, Belleran and Valandrian, who are busy preparing for the pending battle.
When a troop of soldiers comes marching past to help fortify the outer walls, I look across the way to find Alegra, Leif, and Lisette huddled between two pillars as they prepare themselves for battle. Sitting on a pile of crates off to the side, in the open atrium, is Guerriero, who watches the curious commotion with a child-like fascination.
Alegra is wearing a full suit of armor, different from the light armor and tunic she usually wears. Leif has put on a breastplate and shoulder and arm guards. Lissette is wearing specially tailored armor which her father, no doubt, had custom made for her. It fits her like a glove.
Galen, although the High Priest, wears unassuming gray robes more suited for a cloistered monk than a leader of a religious order. Nonetheless, he turns and smiles at me, then strokes his long white beard, pulling it down to a fine point. Walking over to me, with his arms tucked behind his back, he asks, “Where is your Queen, young Arianna De Amato?”
“Queen Sabine already holds the perimeter on the battlefield. At the sound of her trumpeters, all forces will convene and engage the enemy.”
Sad eyes set beneath bushy white eyebrows gaze back at me. “I’m sorry,” Galen says, “for dragging you all into this.”
“It’s not your fault,” I tell him. And it’s not. “But whoever is behind this is still shrouded in mystery.”
“I wish I could be of more help in revealing this darkness you speak about, but as it is, all our energies are currently dedicated to safeguarding Sabolin.”
“Some other time, perhaps.”
“Arianna?” a voice calls out. I turn to see Lisette looking at me with a worried face.
“What is it I ask?”
“It’s Guerriero,” she says, finishing with a sigh. “He says he doesn’t want to fight.”
“Funny time for that walking pile of pots and pans to take up being a pacifist,” Leif says just over Lisette’s shoulder.
Lisette frowns, her feelings hurt by Leif’s insensitive comments, but she ignores them.
“He's agreed to fight if I ask him to,” Lisette informs me. “But…”
“But you don’t want to force him to have to kill on your behalf.”
“Right.” Lisette looks up at me with her dark brown eyes. “What should I do?”
“Let him be,” I say. “I doubt we will need him. But if we do, you can call upon him then.”
Lisette looks back at Guerriero, who is reaching out with his giant metal hand and extending his finger, hoping to entice a fluttering butterfly to come perch on his fingertip.
“He’s so innocent,” Lisette says. “Like a big child.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know much about Juggernaut automatons of living armor,” I say. I place my hand on Lisette’s shoulders and look into her eyes. “But I know he’s in good hands.”
She smiles and then goes back to fetch her sword. Leif watches her pass by, staring at her backside, then glances up at me, smiles dumbly, and wriggles his eyebrows at me as if to say, “Did you catch a glimpse of that glorious behind?”
I don’t think I’ll ever understand exactly how his mind works, but he makes a colorful addition to our all-woman team. Giant butterfly-whispering Juggernauts a
“Mistress Arianna,” a voice calls me from behind.
I turn to see Alegra standing before me. She is fully geared up and ready to march into battle. “The elves pledge their support. The Dark Elves have provided thirty of their finest mages to help on the front lines. They are currently casting the spell of hellion exstirpare on all the weapons since only light can penetrate the darkness. It should help our soldiers fight the dead ones.”
“Good,” I say. A moment passes, but I sense by her staring at me she has something more she wants to say. “Was there anything else?”
“I was wondering,” she asks, “If you want me to fight by your side or if I should continue to help coordinate the first and third elf battalions.”
“It’s up to you,” I say.
“The queen has assigned me to lead the elves into battle. Archers and legionnaires, I believe.”
“Then you should stick to your assignments.”
She looks at me with a longing I haven’t seen since our first kiss in the dark forest nearly three weeks ago. I can’t help but feel myself wanting to take her in my arms. But I know that it would only serve to be a distraction on the battlefield.
“You stay safe,” Alegra says.
“You too,” I reply.
With that, she turns and heads toward a group of elves who are ready to march into battle.
When I look back toward the priests, Galen steps up next to me and, in a low voice, announces, “It’s time.” The trumpets blast and the valley echoes with the shouts of soldiers psyching themselves up for the fight.
I follow Galen across the atrium, past several pillars, to the other side of the cloister. Practically every space within the cloistered walkways is brimming with soldiers on either side busy with preparations. I see Gromelin handing out spellbound shields and swords to soldiers standing in line to take up arms. He wishes them all, “The strength of a dwarf, the agility of an elf, and the cunning of a man!”
Soon enough we’ll open the front gates and charge into battle, meeting Ashram’s forces head on.
Pausing briefly, I glance back over my shoulder one more time to look upon Alegra’s slender face. She doesn’t notice me watching her, but as soon as this battle is over I want nothing more than to run my fingers through her platinum hair, rub her pointy-tipped ears with my fingers, and taste the sweetness of her lips once more.
Then something catches my eye. A dark figure standing between a couple of pillars just in the distance seems to be staring at me. I squint to see who it is. It’s a woman with dark painted eyes. She looks exactly like Zarine. Can this be? Suddenly two guards march past, cutting off my line of sight, and when they have passed she is gone. Was it just my imagination?
Noisily, the temple doors creek open and draw me back to the task at hand. If it really was Zarine, she’d better keep her distance, because I’d like nothing better than to teach her a lesson in respect. Spinning around, I rejoin Galen and head out into the basilica. The two centurions standing guard pivot on their heels and, at the same time, step aside and tap their spears on the stones in front of them, giving us room to pass.
Galen and I step out into the main basilica. There I see Queen Sabine, with her golden hair and crystal clear blue eyes, on her snow-white steed. She sees me and nods, then motions me to come over to her.
On her own steed beside the queen sits Bethriel De Atano, daughter of Sabine De Atano and Princess of Bellera. I have to kick myself for not seeing the similarities when we first met. After all, Bethriel has the same flowing blonde hair with a slight wave, in addition to the same striking blue eyes. It wasn’t until I saw them standing side-by-side that I was able to piece it together.
The main reason for my confusion may be related to the fact that for the past five years, the princess has been missing. She was said to have gone away on a retreat at sixteen. As it turns out, that was only partly true. In fact, nobody knew what the real fate of Elizabeth De Atano had been, that is until I discovered her in a dungeon undercover as a courtesan named Bethriel.
It was her idea to go undercover as a courtesan in the first place, or so she informed me on the ride to Sabolin from Valandra. According to Bethriel, she enjoyed the lifestyle so much, the way the women all looked out for one another, how they took their destinies into their own hands, that she decided to stay at El Unarith. Not only that, she reminded me that it suits her more, let’s say promiscuous, proclivities, and so she requested that her mother let her be made the official ambassador of Bellera, which will allow her to continue to reside in El Unarith and carry out her duties as a professional courtesan.
The way Bethriel tells it, her mother was adamantly against it, until she realized that she could use Bethriel as a spy and have her infiltrate the royal council by becoming friendly with certain key members of the council, such as Dragoron and even Dathrium himself if necessary. But she was thrown for a loop when it turned out that Lord Dathrium wasn’t into women as such.
Luckily for her, Dragoron lusted for both men and women, and she could keep her head down and her ears open, thus relaying vital information back to Queen Sabine. However, as it turns out, Dragoron was aware of this the entire time and had been feeding her strategic lies to turn public opinion against Dathrium—thus setting him up for an assassination attempt—which, in turn, involved me blindly following the orders of my Queen, who had also been misled. Everything came to a head yesterday, when all was revealed. Dathrium slayed his lover, Dragoron, in a passionate fit of rage and—as if on cue—the army of the dead rose from the underworld and marched on Sabolin.
“It’s nice to see you again, Arianna,” Bethriel says to me. She shoots me a subtle smile which there is no misreading. She’s still into me, but with my girlfriend no more than twenty feet away she is behaving herself…for once.
“My princess,” I say bowing my head.
“No need for such formalities on the eve of battle.” She laughs.
“Arianna,” the Queen interrupts. “I need you on the front line. If you can cut through to Ashram in the first surge you’ll give us the upper hand. If we can force him onto the defensive, then we’ll be able to take back this battlefield.”
“And if I can’t?” It’s not that I doubt my abilities, but as master Kel always told me, it’s better to have a backup plan than to be caught with your pants down around your ankles looking like a fool.
“Don’t worry, we’ll have your back,” the Queen insists. “If worse comes to worse, we’ll fall back behind the temple walls and use the mages to reinforce the mystic barrier until we can regroup.”
“Also,” Bethriel says, “I’ll be right there beside you the whole way. After all, someone has to look out for that fine ass of yours.”
Queen Sabine shoots her daughter a sharp look that speaks volumes. With just a single look she reprimands Bethriel, letting her know she was out of line. All I can do is blush and look away.
Bethriel returns her mom’s hard glare, then rolls her eyes and turns to me. “My apologies, Mistress Arianna. I was out of line.”
“No apologies necessary,” I say, taking a reverent bow.
Queen Sabine tugs on the reins of her white Belleran horse and gives her stirrups a firm kick. Then, her blue cape flowing in the breeze, she trots into the center of the basilica and draws out her sword.
All the nearby commotion simmers down as eyes train themselves on her, each warrior, monk, and priest waiting for what she’ll do next. Raising her blade high, Queen Sabine yells out, “To arms!”
Many more white shimmering blades rise into the air to join hers, and with them there is an uproarious din as all the soldiers let loose their battle cry.
From across the battlefield, Ashram stares at me from upon his demon steed with a hint of recognition from behind the narrow slits in his black, plated, angular armor. Saddling up next to Queen Sabine and Bethriel, I urge Merrium to fall in line with the stirrups, guiding her with the reins. I look to t
Ashram’s gaze stays locked on me, as I am the greatest threat to him. After all, I was able to vanquish his entire army with one blow. It is not likely that he intends to give me a second opportunity to repeat such a devastating blow to his forces. Which is why the Queen has ordered two entire battalions to do one and only one thing—watch my back.
To either side of us stand the Queen’s Knights, also called The Sisterhood of Bellera, dressed in elegant armor. Metal breastplates replete with fine Repoussé-style etching depict Belleran steeds on them. Each breastplate is fitted to each woman’s individual figure and is made of the finest steel, polished until they are as reflective as mirrors.
The curling black fog of the army of the dead from the other side, ethereal and fluctuating between the world of the dead and the world of the living, swirl about in reflective patterns upon the armor giving it the appearance of mosaic marble. If it weren’t for the terribleness of the things being reflected upon the soldier’s breastplates, it would almost be beautiful.
The marble patterns change and swirl about upon the reflective armor ominously, like eddies of a gray smoke. The dark shifting mosaic upon white acts as a forewarning all to at the dreadful wraithlike souls that twist and writhe in agony, torn from eternal slumber only to fight for Ashram and his dark master’s cause before they can return, once again, to the peaceful sleep of eternity’s bosom.
In addition to their radiant armor, The Sisterhood of Bellera wear helmets adorned with black plumes of horse hair which extend high above their heads. Their armor is accented by the royal blue cloaks draped across their shoulders and backs which flow elegantly in the breeze as they stand in line upon the battlefield, shields and spears in hand, waiting for the herald which will sound the call to battle and signal the charge.
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