X – War [Eternity: P1]


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TOC: Prologue | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11

Five years later, in a small farmhouse on the outskirts of a small town on the outskirts of a small city in Vithr, Nita sat awake, holding the little money they had left in the palm of his hand. They’d had to sell most of the land around them off, which had fetched a tidy sum, but most of that had gone now, and no one wished to hire the son of someone whom the North Wind had taken.

Nita looked over at his sister, asleep. She looked peaceful, even after all these years of hardship. She had never lost that childlike confidence, and it now manifested itself in a kind of beauty. Nita wished he could have that same kind of peace. Even now he still suffered from terrible flashbacks; his father leaving quickly, the house falling apart around them, him nearly getting beaten half to death.

He was twenty-two now and had been a true no-a for two years. Yet he felt no more powerful than he had felt all those years ago. Outside, the wind howled and screamed as it threw itself against the house. It stood firm, though. After North Winds began to blow with more frequency, everyone had started constructing out of brick and mortar instead of wood. Buying that upgrade was one of the things that had put their finances under the water.

It was funny, how the very same thing that killed his father was now considered commonplace. The thing that had driven him and his sister to abject poverty was talked about as if it was simply ordinary weather. Had everybody forgotten what these winds meant? Did no one realize that their Flamelord was leading them headfirst into calamity? He nearly slammed his fist on the table at the thought, but looking at Vir calmed him.

She stirred in her sleep, as if sensing his tumultuous emotions. He could have sworn that she had some sort of sixth sense. The times he’d gotten into trouble, trying to disguise his easily-recognized face so he could get work, when he’d been attacked by a pack of wolves while delivering a parcel in a North Wind. She even knew when his mind traveled to that bitter place where he railed against his father and cursed him for leaving them.

Yes, his sister was special, and he would do everything he could to provide for and take care of her. She kept his humanity alive. She was the only source of joy in his life. But now he had to leave. There was only one place he knew of that would accept him and pay him wages: the army.

Two years after the Firelord had supposedly been given the throne, he declared war on Asyther, building off of rumors that the assassin had come from the Asythian kingdom, and thus the Everking and his subjects were responsible. After three years, the war still raged on with no less fury than before. Nita was surprised that their Flamelord had kept up as strong a front against the Asythians as he had. Asyther was, after all, the bigger and stronger country.

The wind outside had died down to the occasional gust.

Nita shrugged his shoulders and let the coins slip out of his hand and onto the table. They barely even clinked, there were so few. With a glance over to his sister, Nita picked one up and set it spinning for good luck, then he left.

When Vir woke up the next morning with the sun shining in strongly through the window, she knew something was the matter. Nita may care for her, but he would never allow her to sleep away precious daylight, not with the way their finances were. Their finances! She caught sight of the small pile of coins on the table and instantly knew what had happened.

Recruiters had just passed through their town. While they’d been there, she’d kept a careful eye on Nita, knowing that he would try to join the military, but she’d relaxed her guard when they left. Apparently she’d relaxed too soon.

“Sha take you, you idiot,” she cursed, grabbing the money and slipping it into a pouch.

She rifled through her few remaining clothes and found the worn traveling cloak that had belonged to her father. It was too big, but it would have to do. Putting on a couple of layers of her threadbare clothes — she had no idea how long she would be out — she shrugged on the coat.

Hurriedly, she filled a small sack with their remaining food. How long had it been since Nita had left? She should have suspected something when he insisted on staying up. How could she have been so stupid? Why could she never wake up early on her own?

Having packed food, she glanced hurriedly around. A weapon, of course. She snatched their kitchen knife out of the drawer and slipped it into her coat pocket. Then, putting on a pair of boots, she ran out the door.

Where had those recruiters said they were going next? Vir wanted to ask the passersby about her brother, but she knew they would not speak to her. Why did she have to be cursed because her father had died trying to save her mother? It made no sense. She hated small town superstitions.

That was it! The recruiters been headed to Hearthlord Rhin’s lands, Rhineground, complaining about their small farming towns. A small voice warned that she should take their hyshum, so Vir headed for the stalls, but when she heard no scraping of hoofs, she knew what she would find. The stall was empty. Nita had ridden off. How in all of Sha had she not heard him gallop off on a Sha-bound hyshum?

A look of determination settled on her face. She would walk if she had to. But he would be much faster on a hyshum, the small voice whispered. No, she decided. She would walk. Even if she didn’t catch the recruitment party in Hearthlord Rhin’s lands, there nobody would know her as cursed, and she would buy a hyshum to carry her.

With this resolution in locked firmly in her mind, Vir headed out onto the road in the direction of Rhineground.

Hours later, as the sun began to set and the moon started to rise, Vir continued to stumble forward. Her feet were sore from all the walking, and her mind had gone numb just thinking about the endless plodding. She had no idea how much further Rhineground was. Perhaps it had been rash of her to just rush out after Nita like that. But she couldn’t let him go to war. He had been through enough for her sake already.

This thought drove her further onwards, and gritting her teeth, she continued to walk. But as the sun sank below the horizon, its warmth drained away, and she could feel the chill of the night creeping in. After a North Wind, the following evening was always especially cold. People used to say it was because a darker fate approached, but now everybody just said it was bad weather.

Vir realized her mind was wandering, and caught herself as she was about to walk off the road. She had nearly fallen asleep while walking? Unbelievable. Why did she have to enjoy sleep so much?

Then her long, sensitive ears picked up on a rattling behind her that grew increasingly louder. She knew that she should get off the road, in case what approached was not friendly, but she felt so tired that she could not bring herself to care enough.

So she stood there, wrapped in an oversized cloak, hunched from exhaustion, holding a hand out in the hopes that whoever was coming would give her a ride.

By the time the merchant pulled up beside her, she could barely mutter out a sentence. When he reached down to help her onto his cart, she stared at his hand blankly for a few seconds before realizing its purpose, and the instant the wiry man cracked his whip and the cart started moving, the young girl fell fast asleep.

Tours yruly

IV – The King’s Daughter [Eternity: P1]


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TOC: Prologue | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11

“She is only a woman. You must show her that you are in control. Don’t let her get you with her schemes.”

“But I have heard that she has the will of her mother and the courage of her father.”

“Rumors! Just follow through with our plans. She will not—”

Large doors swung open at the end of the counsel room and Vin-Shylvia, new Flamelord of Vithr, entered. Everybody fell silent as the ruler seated herself at the head of the table. She adjusted her gown slightly, then looked at the Hearthlords and Flamewardens expectantly. All stood and bowed deeply in her direction, before seating themselves again.

A man, Shylvia recognized him as Flamewarden Hein-Novana, rose to his feet and spoke, “Firelord, we, the royal court—”

The queen cut in. “Unless you forget, Flamewarden Hein, my parents’ death has no left me as Flamelord, not Firelord.”

“Excuse me. A slip of the tongue, Flamelord. As I was saying, we wish to offer our condolences—”

“Condolences don’t find murderers, Flamewarden Hein,” Shylvia snapped. “How goes the investigation into my parents’ death?”

“Investigation?” Novana asked hesitantly. “They died… Well, he died of a heart… That is, the doctors said…”

“My father was a healthy man. He was murdered. There was no doubt about it. Now I ask again, how goes the investigation?”

Nobody in the room spoke.

The new queen stood, proud, straight, and tall. “If you, Flamewarden Hein, are not capable enough to perform this investigation, I will have somebody else replace you as Flamewarden of Truth.”

Novana shared a glance with his conspirator. Quickly, he stood up and bowed respectfully. “In no way, Flamelord. I apologize for this lapse. I will set our best investigators on it at once.”

“Good. I trust that your loyalty will lead you to make more preemptive decisions in the future.” Shylvia stared icily at Novana until he was forced to drop his eyes.

“There is going to be chaos,” Shylvia said, looking around the room. “Hearthlord Rhin, and Hearthlord Lorin, I understand that your armies are large and well disciplined. I ask that you loan them to my generals for the time being so that we can maintain order in the kingdom. Do you have any objection?”

The two Hearthlords in question stared at the table for a moment before responding in the negative.

“Excellent. Hearthlord Shin, Hearthlord Poin, and Hearthlord Nain, you will keep your armies on standby. I fear that there are those at our borders who will seek to attack us while they think we are weak.

“There was no enmity between my father and the Asyther Everking that I am aware of. But my scouts tell me that our peoples are uneasy, and it is exactly this kind of an event that could set us at each other’s throats. We must be prepared for the worst.”

“And what is the worst, Flamelord?” Hearthlord Shin asked tentatively.

“War.”

Shylvia looked around the table at the assortment of Hearthlords and Flamewardens. Nobody looked at her. Some shared glances with each other, while others just stared at the table.

“Counsel dismissed.”

The instant the last Flamelord and Flamewarden had left the room, Shylvia underwent a transformation. Her straight, powerful posture lost its strength, and her bright, flashing eyes, dulled. She sank in her chair, and let out an exhausted sigh. The burden of ruling a kingdom had been abruptly thrust upon her by an entirely unexpected event, and already her subjects were trying to depose her.

She had not even had the time to mourn the demise of her parents. News had only reached her a brightmoon after the incident, and it had taken her an equal amount of time to return to the kingdom. Not only that, she’d had to abandon her developmental work in the South side of Vithr, as well as the diplomatic agreements with the Borander chieftains whom she could’ve sworn were about to agree to her terms. It was all too much to bear.

Shylvia had not been very close to her parents. Some might have thought that being a Firelord — the child of a Flamelord pair — was an enviable life, but it was quite the opposite. The young no-el had been the object of four assassination attempts before her third year, and thus her parents had sent her away to Dithmoor, an Enomatic island, for twelve years.

There, she’d had to live her developing years under the harsh and unrelenting guidance of the religious Enomatics who sought to instill in her the black and white morality they followed. Despite never personally agreeing with their teachings, Shylvia had found it impossible to avoid being influenced by their commands, and to this day she still bore in her behavior and attitude the marks of having her childhood stolen from her.

“You were never there for me, mom, dad, but I really need your guidance now,” Shylvia murmured, resting her head in her hands.

The young Shylvia had never understood why her parents had chosen to abandon her, when she’d been the perfect child. Her younger brother, who she later received reports about, was quite the opposite. When she returned home, he was no longer living in the house, having been kicked out by her father. Nobody ever told Shylvia what exactly her brother had done, but it had to be very, very bad; there was a large crack down the center of the council table to remind her of that.

Her ears twitched as somebody knocked at the door, causing the newly appointed Flamelord to dart up from her improper position. Shylvia heard her guards conversing with the visitor outside, and she quickly composed herself, straightening out the elegant sleeves on her hands and ensuring that her veil covered her entire face. Not a moment too soon it turned out, as the stranger entered a second later, accompanied on either side by two of her bodyguards.

“Well hello, great and powerful Flamelord,” the man said with an elaborate bow. “I hear that you have newly been instated in your position and have come to offer my sincerest congratulations at your successful ascent to the throne. It is my deepest wish that your reign will be filled with good fortune and success in all your endeavors.”

“Who are you?” Shylvia demanded somewhat coldly. Something about the man’s inveigling disturbed her.

Staying bowed low, the man spoke. “I am not surprised you do not recognize my voice, as I am but a humble and lowly servant of you, great Flamelord, and it has been many years since our last encounter. But perhaps if you see my face, you will remember who I am.”

A vague memory stirred in the back of Shylvia’s head as her mind worked frantically to recognize the voice. “Look up then, that I may see your face.”

Slowly, the man straightened. The first thing Shylvia noticed was the large, unwavering smile plastered on his face. Then she looked into his eyes and what she saw made her gasp. His irises were an unmistakable mix of blue and gold. Only one family in the entire Vith kingdom had eyes like that: hers.

“Brother?”

“My dear Shylvi,” he said, the smile never leaving his face. “Am I glad to be back.”

Tours yruly

I – A Northwind Blows [Eternity: P1]


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TOC: Prologue | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11

“Father! Father!” A girl, blonde pigtails flying behind her, burst into a small farmhouse on the outskirts of a small town on the outskirts of a small city on the outskirts of the nation Vithr.

“What is it?” Quin-Dava looked up from his third failed attempt at cooking something edible.

“The wind! The wind!” his twelve-year-old daughter squealed, her long, Vith ears twitching in nervousness.

“What about the wind, dear?” he asked, his blue eyes showing tiredness.

“It comes from the North,” she said matter-of-factly, playing with the aa on the front of her dress.

Dava’s bronzed complexion turned pale. “Are you sure Vir? Are you sure?” he demanded.

“Of course. I licked my finger like you taught me. It got cold on the North side.”

“No….” Dava closed his eyes, and his face creased for a moment, but he quickly regained his composure. “Stay inside Vir, I’ll go get Nit to look after you.”

“What about mommy?” The little girl looked up at her father with complete confidence in his abilities.

With a strong effort, he smiled down at his daughter and ruffled her hair. “Don’t you worry. I’ll bring mommy back. You wait here and be safe.”

She nodded and stood watching after him as he rushed out. Already the wind blew stronger, and it sent a chill down his spine like nothing else could. If he had been unsure about his daughter’s words before, this confirmed it. His son, who had been working in the fields, met him just outside the door, a deeply concerned look on the no-il’s[1] young features.

“Take care of your sister, Nit. Keep the door barred, and don’t let anyone in. You know our password.”

His son nodded in mute understanding, and Dava saw his own terror reflected in the boy’s eyes.

“You are strong, Nit.” Dava squeezed his son’s shoulder. “You are now a no-a[2].”

Nit’s eyes widened. He was seventeen, and no one became a no-a until their twentieth year. But his father had just said—

“Go now, Nita. Protect your sister. I will bring your mother back. I will bring her back. I promise.”

Dava turned quickly and headed towards the barn, shielding his weathered face from the wind with his arm. Briefly, he glanced at the sky. What had previously been dawn was now black and threatening. Ominous clouds blotted out the sun and sky, and the very air felt oppressing. Turning away from the developing horror, the farmer continued walking against the wind.

Once inside the barn, he rushed to the end of the building where the two hyshum they owned snorted and reared. Their long, pointed ears were pinned tightly back in terror. Stamping and pawing the ground with their spiked hooves, they’d scored the packed earth in their fright.

Ignoring them for the moment, Dava grabbed his cythum — a scythe-like farmer’s sword — from its rack. He fumbled with the straps for a few seconds before properly securing the weapon around his waist. Then, grabbing a mount-chair, he entered the stall of Glamstra, his hyshum. A few minutes later, Dava pounded out of the stable and sped down the road his wife had so recently traveled.

He cursed himself for letting Mara go out on her own. He should have at least sent Nit along with her. That would have lent him some degree of comfort. Now his wife was probably stranded halfway between Rhyden and their house, which would place her— Dava did not even want to consider it.

The wind grew stronger as Dava rode, blowing straight into his face now. He gritted his teeth and urged Glamstra on. Snorting, the black hyshum lowered her head and galloped onward, partially due to Dava’s urging, but mostly because something in her basest of instincts was telling her to run, and to run fast.

Nobody knew exactly what the North wind brought, but as far as recorded history was concerned, it had always left death and destruction in its wake. It was said among the Enomatics that it blew only when man had changed destiny. Dava did not really understand the full purport of that, but he did know that he was doing his best to change his destiny. He simply could not lose Mara; he couldn’t.

She was everything to him. They had lived on neighboring farms when both were only children. Naturally they had spent countless hours together, exploring nature. He could still remember the first and last time he took her to the bogwood, where he’d meant to show her a daggerfrog. Instead a crocodid had bitten him in the arm and nearly killed her.

Without his bidding, Dava’s mind started recalling their happiest moments together. He remembered her joy when they’d finally had a second child, and how elated she’d been that it was a no-el[3] after they’d had a no-il, Nit. Tradition among the Vith dictated that having both a no-il and a no-el was the best of fortune. He recalled his pride at their firstborn, who crawled earlier than any child he’d heard of. His mind traveled back further to their wedding, and he recalled how beautiful she had looked, smiling at him, waiting for him to tie the knot that symbolized their union.

“Cast it all to Sha,” he swore, watering at the corners of his eyes. “If I don’t get you back, Mara—”

He never had a chance to finish his sentence. Shadows moved on either side of him, and Glamstra, spooked, put on a sudden burst of speed. Dava ducked quickly against the hyshum’s neck, doing his best to avoid sweeping branches which reached out to cast him from his mount.

For a brief second, he looked over the head of his hyshum, seeking to see what was ahead. That was his undoing, as a stout branch of a Vethilwood tree struck him on the forehead and sent him flying back off Glamstra. She continued galloping off into the night without him.

Still seeing stars from the impact, Dava heard the hoof beats abruptly cease, and then he heard the hyshum screaming. It was a sound that chilled the deepest part of his soul, and he felt his inner fire flickering. Turning back, he stumbled, trying to flee whatever fate his mount had met.

The wind picked up, throwing Dava off balance as a flurry of leaves and other debris rushed pass him. He fell to the ground, the shock adding to his hazy vision. Instead of getting back on his feet, Dava crawled desperately, knowing that something in the blackness followed.

When eventually he could crawl no more, Dava reached for his cythum and drew it awkwardly. The darkness around him morphed and shaped itself into shifting shadows, which he swung his blade at wildly. They did not seem the least disturbed by his desperate antics.

Dava wanted to scream, but could not. The shadows tightened their circle, and his cythum turned to dust, carried away by the wind. In abject horror, he stared as the shadows morphed and shifted, never one shape, but instead all geometries simultaneously. They neither flew, nor walked, but moved, and as they closed in, Dava felt his fire being smothered, as if a great pressure was being applied on his soul. The next instant, he was dead.

Back in the house, Nita held his sister close while she trembled. He’d done his best to board up the windows after barricading the door, but the sheer fury of the wind forced its way through the smallest chinks and cracks, causing the light from the flameglobe to swirl threateningly.

Nita could see the wind draining the illumination from the flameglobe, and instinct told him he could not let the light out; or maybe it was just because he feared the dark. Regardless, the boy repositioned himself with his back towards the wind, trying to shield their light as best as he could.

A sudden gust of wind sent him flying, and the siblings landed in an awkward heap on the floor. Vir started bawling. Nita knew he had to help his sister, but the breath had been knocked out of him, and he did not have the strength to move.

Another gust of wind buffeted the house, and in an adjoining room, dishes crashed to the floor while cupboards toppled. Hanging ornaments went flying and smashed into the wall like so many arrow.

In the wake of that second blast, Nita knew he had to do something to protect his sister. Gathering his wits and strength, he rolled over her sobbing form, using his body as a shield. When the next blast hit, he closed his mind from the sensations of pain as wooden shutters splintered and broke, their pieces striking his exposed back.

Each buffet grew worse as more of the house fell to pieces. Despite his best efforts, the constant blows to his body and his inability to draw a full breath in the fast-moving air left Nita feeling drained, weak, and barely awake.

For half an hour he managed to battle the imposing darkness which wished to cloud his mind. But, as the wind continued to blow, and the buffets to his small frame refused to desist, Nita slowly began to drift. When the large piece of hardwood hit him on the head, he had already lost consciousness.

[1] An immature boy in Vith culture

[2] An adult in Vith culture

[3] A young girl in Vith culture

Tours Yruly