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Thread: Orbs of Power (serialized story)

  1. #1
    Registered User Captain_Kuchiki's Avatar
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    Orbs of Power (serialized story)

    ORBS OF POWER

    Chapter I: The First Orb

    Dueling arena, Terli,
    Nenevah Kingdom,
    September 23, 536 A.F. (After Founding)


    Allen was acutely aware of his fatigue, how his muscles and limbs burned as he pressed his practice session into its third hour. As the prince of the traditionally war-like Nenevah Kingdom, Allen prided himself in his swordsmanship, or rather he tried to. This outdoor practice arena in the downtown district of the capital city Terli made a good place to perfect his moves, but perfection eluded him no matter how hard he tried.

    Ducking under his opponent's vicious swing at his head and swinging back with his short sword, Allen glumly reflected that no sword felt right in his hand. Not only was he a left-handed warrior, but his sense of balance, of speed, and aggression never seemed to fit what his father's trainers expected. He was just... different.

    Clang! With a sharp collision of steel blades, the opponent blocked Allen's counterattack, then forced Allen's short blade to the side to create a new opening. The short sword was almost wrenched out of Allen's grip, but he drew a sharp breath and focused on keeping the weapon in his hand. Without it, he would be dead meat in a real battle, an honorable test of skill between two warriors. Allen skittered back on the stone floor, trying to keep the sun out of his eyes in this open-air arena. However, he couldn't yet figure out a way to strike back. For now, he raised his short sword to block two quick strikes from his opponent, feeling the momentum shake his arms.

    “Come now, Prince Allen! You shame your father this way,” the trainer told him, not out of malice, but to encourage the son of King Dramli to fight harder. A Nenevah boy was nothing if he could not defend his life on the battlefield, and Allen was the Kingdom's most important boy, at age 18 and ready to take a throne. Not the throne of his father, though. A different throne.

    The trainer backed up, giving Allen time to use the back of his hand to wipe hot sweat from his forehead and from his short brown hair. His breath tasted rusty as it rasped through his throat and his heart hammered in his chest, but he felt strangely confident now. His opponent had been blindingly fast at the start of the duel, but Allen had kept himself protected from the trainer's fierce attacks to wear him down. Now, Allen's youthful toughness would turn the tables, and overcome his seeming inability to properly use any kind of sword. This short sword was the best he could manage, this weapon he had chosen from his father's armory. It was only a dull replica of the real short sword Allen owned, but here he would win or lose by this blade's dull edge.

    “Have at you!” Allen taunted his opponent, almost laughing aloud from the silly taunt that came from his mouth. He darted forward, zig-zagging to throw his opponent off, flashing his blade through the air faster than before. The trainer gave a hearty laugh of admiration.

    “Yes, Prince Allen DramliSon! That's it,” the trainer encouraged him, and his blade blocked all of Allen's attacks, but each time, Allen's short sword came a little closer to the trainer's leather-armored body. The trainer tried to counter with a thrust to the head, so Allen tumbled out of the way and swung horizontally at the trainer's legs to knock him down. It was a good move, but the trainer saw it coming: he leaped like a startled deer and got onto Allen's right flank, where the Prince was defenseless.

    Allen panicked, aware that he was completely vulnerable. He scrambled out of the way, but not before the trainer's dull training sword grazed his cheek, a warning at Allen's weakness. Allen gritted his teeth and knocked the blade away with a grunt, leaving the trainer open for another assault. Allen darted to the trainer's exposed left side and jabbed his sword forth, but he overextended himself. The trainer slipped out of the way and brought his sword back faster than Allen expected. Allen tried to block it, but his blade was facing the wrong way, useless. Allen winced as the blade thumped into his side, just above the hip. If that were a real blade, it would have cut into Allen's liver, and he would have bled to death.

    “Better this time,” the trainer said bracingly as Allen collapsed to the stone floor, gasping for breath and cursing his defeat. He dropped his sword with a clang, and the trainer walked over to him, lowering his blade with a small smile.

    “I lost. Again,” Allen shrugged, noticing that his shoulders burned. “Come on, that was sloppy of me...” He forced a grin.

    “Don't beat yourself up. That was better than last time,” the trainer reminded him, offering a hand to help his Prince up. Allen accepted it. “Really, my Prince. The only problem is that you leave yourself open too often. And that your attacks are too straightforward and predictable.”

    “That was two problems, actually,” Allen laughed, thumping the man on the back. He felt his heart slowing down a little.

    “Well, yes...” the trainer admitted.

    Allen wiped his brow again, unfastening his leather training armor. “Oh, well. Most 18-year-olds are in the Nenevah armed forces and can trust their lives to their blades, but...”

    “But you need not worry. You will never need to risk your life in such a way,” the trainer followed him as he crossed the training arena and to the sidelines to cool down.

    “What? Does that mean that I can't defend my own life as a warrior?” Allen asked, more defensively than he intended.

    The trainer winced. “Well... we all have problems to deal with, my Prince. Keep working at it. Surely, you will find a weapon and a fighting style that you can count on. Even though you are to take the Ranan throne as the King.”

    I've heard about that for the millionth time, Allen groaned to himself, but he didn't let it show on his face. Instead, he removed the last of his armor so he wore his everyday clothes: trousers, shirt, and vest. Nenevah princes were not known for their frilly or fancy clothing, but their simple, practical attire.

    “Yes. When you take Princess Bellany's hand, you will command legions greater than your father ever did,” the trainer went on somewhat bitterly, sitting down by Allen on one of the benches in the training arena. Other warriors took up the central arena's space, crossing swords with one another.

    Freakin' arranged marriage. It's going to ruin my country, Allen cursed in his head as he watched the other warriors fight. He looked down at his feet as he drank from a cup of cold water, the liquid soothing in his mouth and throat. The neighboring Ranan Kingdom is the dominant one now, ever since the third Territorial War ended two years ago. Once I marry Princess Bellany of Ranan, then my own kingdom will be absorbed into the Ranan as a territory, and my father will only be a local governor. I'll be ruling a huge kingdom I was never born in. And the future Queen Bellany will have nearly all the power.

    The trainer was watching Allen knowingly, and the boy twitched. “Was it on my face?”

    “It was, my Prince,” the trainer nodded. “I can't pretend to know what it's like for you, but your father agrees that this is for the best. After three wars to try and claim Ranan land in the name of our honor, we're spent! The Ranan Kingdom is now the dominant force around here, and will claim the Nenevah Kingdom either in peace or in war. And, Prince Allen, you are doing a selfless thing by agreeing to this arranged marriage to unite the two Kingdoms without any more bloodshed. Many hail you as a hero.”

    “And the rest call me Allen the Spineless,” Allen joked, even though it was true. The numerous warmongers of the Nenevah court bemoaned this peaceful solution to the Nenevah-Ranan feud, and would rather have a fourth Territorial War. In fact, there were rumors of rogue regiments of the king's army massing near the Nenevah-Ranan border to take the Ranan soldiers by surprise and start the war that they wanted. Well, conflict never ceases on this continent, Allen thought with a wry grin. Three kingdoms: Nenevah, Ranan, and Winter, and more than enough war. Plus, there's the Merfolk, who hate all humans, and the Centaurs, who make a profit off of everything the humans do. Jeez.

    The trainer looked up to see several people enter the arena grounds, but Allen didn't look at them. The trainer got up and greeted the people and called for Allen's name, but he didn't respond.

    “My Prince! These people are here to see you. Please look up. They are, ah... very important! Especially the main one!”

    “Who the heck is it?” Allen asked impatiently, snapping his head up. He blinked and recoiled in surprise when he saw the Princess Bellany standing there, flanked by four Ranan officials. Bellany shot Allen a reproachful glare from her honey-brown eyes.

    “It's your bride-to-be, my Prince. Aren't you happy to see her?” the trainer asked him with a weak smile, trying to ease the tension. He winced when everyone gave him a funny look.

  2. #2
    Registered User Captain_Kuchiki's Avatar
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    Chapter I, scene 2

    Great Garden district, Terli,
    Nenevah Kingdom,
    September 23, 536 A.F. (After Founding)


    "So, I take it that you're impressed with these gardens? Pretty good, aren't they?" Allen asked his royal fiancee as the both of them wandered through the outdoor garden district of Terli. Here, tan stone walkways cris-crossed various plots of countless varieties of flowers, blossom trees, and even decorative fungi. Many of them were stored in layered, huge flower boxes, while others were on open ground. There were benches and archways here for added decoration and comfort, and Allen hoped that his future bride was impressed.

    Bellany walked alongside Allen, although he was sure that she'd rather be elsewhere. She fiddled with the sleeve of her red and silver dress while she looked around at the colorful plants. "Mmmmmm... not too bad."

    "Not too bad?" Allen repeated, inhaling to smell a bush of roses nearby. He noticed that the red petals were the same color as the red on Bellany's dress.

    "Well... this garden isn't too bad for a barbarian nation," Bellany said bitingly, making Allen wince. She swept her arms to encompass the whole place. "I can't imagine how you can keep this garden in good condition when there are hordes of warriors in training looking for somewhere to bash each other senseless."

    "Hey, we have outdoor arenas in this city for training," Allen said defensively, feeling his stomach sink in his gut. "We can appreciate beauty and nature, too."

    Bellany gave Allen a mocking glance. "Is that so? Maybe your father should have thought of that before he sent his hordes against the beauty and nature of my own kingdom."

    "That's..." Allen started to defend his father's honor, but he knew there was no way around it. We've invaded her realm three times in the past 20 years. As though reading his mind, Bellany pressed him, "Listen, Prince Allen. There are sill ruins and scars in the land where your legions kept invading. Go there now and you can see the torn earth and the ruined towns. The Ranan people are still in recovery."

    "And that's why this arranged marriage is in place," Allen said, trying to put a positive spin on this before it got ugly. After all, Princess Bellany's escorts had encouraged her and Allen to "spend some time making each other's acquaintance," but Allen had seen the gleam in the men's eyes, and knew that this was really meant as a chance for Bellany to belittle Allen for his people's violent ways.

    When Bellany didn't respond, Allen went on, "Listen, Bellany, my future bride. There's a lot of bad blood between our nations --"

    "You're telling me."

    "-- and maybe we just... we should use this as a chance to foster better relations. Who better than to start with the future king and queen of the united kingdom? We don't have to be enemies. Neither you nor I commanded any troops during the Territorial Wars."

    Bellany tossed a lock of her amber-brown hair, blinking her eyes a few times. "Fine. Let's sit, then. Give the brute a chance to catch his breath."

    I'm not a brute! Allen glared, but he joined Bellany on one of the stone benches, with the sun to the west. A collection of daffodils were to their left, and a huge blossom tree was to their right. Allen smiled lightly as a few of the red blossoms were worked loose from the tree in a wind and settled onto his lap.

    "Yes, red as blood. Red as all the Ranan blood your father has spilled," Bellany commented, watching. Allen slapped his thighs in irritation.

    "Will you stop talking about that!"

    "Will the Nenevah stop invading my kingdom! Only when the barbarian kingdom is absorbed."

    Allen sighed, running a hand over his face. Boy, oh boy this is awkward for us! I've got to do something. Anything to change this. I don't even want to look at Bellany, my fiancee, but I must. She will be a part of my life. Even though she ain't much to look at. Indeed, the Princess didn't fit the image of a gentle, beautiful girl to be rescued from some dragon or evil mage. Bellany was much like her mother Queen Lizeth, rather aloof and bossy, but smart and tough-minded too. She was not repulsive in person, but her features were plain, as though she were an ordinary village girl from the countryside. In fact, if not for her royal clothing and haughty air, Allen would never have known she was royalty at all. Her light brown hair fell a little past her shoulders, hiding her ears and framing her ordinary-looking face. If she had a great personality, Allen could have grown to really like her.

    "How come you won't look at me?" Bellany asked mildly, leaning over to look Allen in the face. "Am I suddenly boring? Come on."

    "No, it's nothing like that," Allen tried a friendly smile, and Bellany didn't return it, though she didn't react harshly either. She only blinked and settled back to her original position.

    "Well... I'll bite," Bellany offered as a red and green hummingbird flitted by. "You're a Prince. You get to spend all day doing what you like. Have you any, um... any hobbies, or skills? Besides hacking people apart with swords."

    "I'm still in training with swords," Allen told her. Ignoring the negative spin Bellany put on swordplay. "You saw me at the training arena. I had just finished crossing blades with my trainer, although I had lost. I almost always lose."

    Bellany looked mildly surprised. "Lose? You? How can that be?"

    "I, uh... I can't find a weapon that really suits me. They all feel wrong somehow," Allen laughed it off, scratching his head. He suddenly felt a little better. "Like I can use a weapon, but not master it. How could I defend my life like that?"

    "That's too bad, prince of the warriors," Bellany told him. He couldn't tell if it was mockery or a tease. "No wonder you looked so tired. You were trying pretty hard, right?"

    With a flick of the hand, Allen imitated swishing a sword through the air. "Well, I try. I did a little better that time than last time."

    "You must really like swords."

    "Very. There's something very refined and precise and elegant about them."

    "Well, do you find me refined or elegant?"

    Allen recoiled, not expecting this. "H-huh? I was..."

    "I couldn't resist," Bellany lightly hit his shoulder. "And I don't expect an answer. I'm fully prepared to lead a united kingdom, and I can only hope that you're ready, too. I'm not demanding that you like this situation or like me. Just fulfill the role decided for you, and there won't be trouble."

    "Yes, puppet master."

    "Hey, it wasn't my idea. Tell that to your and my parents and their advisers."

    The hummingbird came back, zooming in the opposite direction. A different kind of bird chirped from somewhere behind Allen. "Well, besides that, I also like collecting insects," he offered.

    Bellany grimaced. "Bugs? Vile little things. Why would you like them?"

    In response, Allen leaned over and brushed his hand through a daffodil on Bellany's side, and he showed her a bright gold beetle on his finger. She yelped and backed up, her eyes warily watching the insect.

    "Insects are everywhere, more numerous than the people of any kingdom. Their domains are everywhere, their borders unlimited. And they are everywhere, but never fully seen. I find that fascinating, don't you?"

    "No," Bellany said with nervous defiance, but Allen could tell that she was piqued by the idea, even if she didn't like the bug itself. She swatted at his hand. "Get it out of here."

    Allen grinned. "You got it." he tossed the gold beetle onto the ground near the blossom tree. "I have a whole collection of different insect species at home. The specimens are pinned into a flat box with a pane of glass for viewing."

    "I've heard of that," Bellany said. "People collecting dead bugs and pinning them into boxes to view."

    "For taxonomy purposes, mostly. But for me, it's simply interesting."

    "Yes..." Bellany gave him an odd look. "Do you have any habits that are a little more savory?"

    Allen was waiting for this. "Oh, yeah. I love reading, especially history books! Everything from before the Founding to recent. Don't you?"

    Bellany folded her arms and looked away. "I can't stand reading."

    "Yeah. Science and economics and astronomy and... wait. Did you say you don't like reading?" Allen asked, disappointed by her answer.

    "I... have trouble concentrating on books," Bellany admitted, uncomfortable with revealing one of her weaknesses in front of the Prince. "I learn many things by conversation, or example, or oral lessons. I am as well-educated as you. I just have different methods."

    "Like meeting with your mother's court workers during their jobs?"

    "Yes, that."

    Allen couldn't help it. He rubbed his hands together. "Well, I for one remember every history lesson I've ever read. I can even relate everything about the Sealing War, which interests me the most."

    Now Bellany looked annoyed. "The Sealing War? Please. That's old stuff. None of it is relevant to anything now."

    "Are you kidding? It has everything to do with now. It explains how humanity overcame the biggest threat to its existence on this land." The land was a huge continent at least one hundred miles long, wider at the north than at the south. The Nenevah Kingdom lay to the southwest, and the Winter Kingdom was to the northwest. The Ranan Kingdom occupied most of the rest of the land.

    Bellany sighed. "Fine. What do you remember?"

    "You're actually quite interested in this," Allen probed.

    "No, I'm not. Just give me your history lesson."

    With a knowing grin, Allen recited what he remembered. "The Founding took place 536 years ago, when a heroic warrior whose name is lost to time thrust a sword into the ground and declared 'there shall be a kingdom here!' and the Ranan Kingdom was created, with the Castle built over the sword's original spot. The Nenevah and Winter Kingdoms were created soon after. The most important event of the three kingdoms, however, didn't occur until recently: the Sealing War, when Demons invaded our continent."

    "And...?"

    Allen drew a deep breath. "There were three main Demons, each over a hundred feet tall, who led the invasion: Burlakhan FireTongue, Meshaneen BrokenHorns, and the most powerful, Shizem BlackTalon. At their command were thousands of lesser evil beings, the man-sized devils. These creatures from the underworld tried to annihilate our race and conquer the land for themselves... but were defeated by the united kingdoms' strength, and the power of the Orbs."

    "Yes, the Orbs. I know about them," Bellany said, sounding bored.

    Allen blinked. "You make it sound boring!"

    "This was before you and I were born."

    "Not long before," Allen retorted, annoyed at Bellany's attitude. She knew history, but didn't feel the magic like Allen did. "Look, in 505 A.F., the most powerful mages created 11 Orbs that housed elemental magic to drive off the Demons and their devil horde and humans and Centaurs who were worthy of wielding the Orbs' power became Synchronized Hosts, or SyncHosts. These 11 fearless men and women led the army that defied Shizem and the others, and the SyncHosts used the last of their life energy to destroy Burlakhan and Meshaneen, and seal Shizem to a mountain on an off-coast island."

    "DaggerTooth Isle. He's still there," Bellany said flatly, rolling her eyes.

    "You... you took away the most dramatic part," Allen complained.

    Bellany fiddled with a lock of amber-brown hair. "Please, do go on...?"

    "Shizem was too powerful for the SyncHosts to destroy entirely, so he was bound to the mountain on the DaggerTooth Isles with enchanted golden shackles. Without their leaders intact, the devils became disorganized and demoralized, and the Ranan and Nenevah Kingdoms were able to destroy many of them. Today, they run around in loose packs, causing mischief here and there but aren't any real threat."

    At that moment, Bellany stood up, tossing her hair. "Thank you for the history lesson. It taught me so many things I already knew."

    "Hey, you asked," Allen pointed out, standing up to join her. Inwardly, he bristled at her indifferent attitude about the recent history of their continent. What's her problem? A lot.

    "I also know that the SyncHosts were forced to scatter their Orbs all over the continent," Bellany added primly as she and Allen started walking again. "Seven of them were recovered and sealed away, their power unneeded. Two of them are at the Ranan Castle, and another in the Winter Kingdom's castle."

    "And one of them is here," Allen added excitedly.

    Bellany stopped, turning to face him. "Where? In the Nenevah Castle?"

    Allen shrugged with a grin. "Actually, no. It's here in Terli, in the vaults at the city center. It's been here for a long time."

    "I bet the devils around here really want it."

    "To destroy, yeah," Allen added. "They can't use the Orbs' power, but their crazed prophets think that someday there'll be another Demonic invasion, and destroying the Orbs will make sure that that invasion wipes us out for good. The devils also are hunting for the four Orbs that are still missing. If they collected all the Orbs, then they could unite and destroy us without any fear of the Orbs' power to resist them."

    "As long as that recovered Orb here stays safe in this city, there's nothing to even talk about," Bellany said simply, guiding Allen toward the exit. "All I need to know is that after the Sealing War, your bloody Kingdom felt that it was owed resources and power after the large role it played in the Sealing War. Being sensible, my people refused, and so the three Territorial Wars were sparked when your father tried over and over to take Ranan land. Don't worry yourself with the devils or the legends of the Orbs and Demons; that's in the past. You and I will be married, Allen, and your vicious little Kingdom will be absorbed into mine, and we will rule the combined land just like that."

    "And I'll mostly be there for show," Allen said resentfully, disliking Bellany all over again. Damn it. We were starting to get along, but she's not nice after all. She's not even good-looking! Ha. A second later, Allen inwardly chided himself for his comments.

    The sun was starting to fall toward the late afternoon vectors. "It's good that you know your place," Bellany said, clearly enjoying her position and reminding Allen of it. "Now, this evening, I am to be taken to the Nenevah Castle to see your father. There is much business to be discussed there."

    She led Allen down the street to the Ranan embassy where her officials were waiting. Allen wished he were back at the dueling arena practicing his moves. Politics were so troublesome.

  3. #3
    Registered User Captain_Kuchiki's Avatar
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    Chapter I, scene 3

    Castle Road, outside Terli,
    Nenevah Kingdom,
    September 23, 536 A.F. (After Founding)


    Allen could feel the bumpy up-down motions of the horse-drawn carriage that ferried him and Princess Bellany down the road from Terli to the Castle, and he kind of liked it. He was rather fond of horses, and the two dark brown animals pulling this cart were among the finest in the Kingdom, bred for tameness and endurance. He and Bellany were in the middle of the carriage alone, once again left together for a little "bonding time." They had said all they wanted at the Great Gardens of Terli, however, and didn't even look at each other on the ride to the castle. The driver was equally silent, but he did give the royal couple a curious glance now and then.

    It was late evening, and the first few stars were shining in the eastern sky as the red sun settled to the west. There were eight horse-riding knights escorting this carriage to ward off danger, such as bandits or roaming devils. There were more than enough devils in the Nenevah Kingdom, but they almost never attacked royalty. They knew that King Dramli would divert all of his resources to wiping out devils if they made such a move. There was an uneasy semi-peace between devils and humans throughout the continent, and so far nothing had triggered full-scale war between the two races.

    Until this evening.

    "Easy, girl. What's wrong?" one of the knights asked his mount as the horse snorted and twitched in sudden fear, its ears perked up. Allen leaned forward to talk to the knight. "Everything all right?"

    "Yeah. She's usually calmer than this," the knight commented, trying to keep his agitated horse calm. The other horses started acting up, too, nearly throwing their riders off. Bellany suddenly clutched at Allen's arm.

    "There isn't danger here, is there?" she whispered urgently.

    Allen tore out of Bellany's grip. "Don't sweat it. There's nothing that could --"

    The shrill shrieks of the horses shattered the air right as a hot white lightning bolt arced through the air and fried one of them. The stricken horse was sent flying from the force, its body bunt and smoking. The riding knight was thrown off, tumbling across the road as the other seven horses reared up in fear. The carriage's horses did the same, making the carriage slow to a halt.

    What's happening? Allen frantically wondered, yet his answer became more apparent with every second. The air shimmered as several fireballs were flung from somewhere Allen couldn't see, and the fire blasted away the knights and the horses they rode. Inhuman cackling and shrieks of bloodlust flooded Allen's ears, and he recognized the sound. Devils! They're after us! Crap... can't they tell that this is a royal carriage? They're crazy, even for Underworld beings!

    "Get down!" he shouted over the din, and threw Bellany down with him onto the floor of the carriage. He was just in time: a wall of fire and a surge of lightning blasted off the top half of the carriage and set the rest on fire. Allen staggered onto his knees and saw at least six black-skinned devils coming toward him, with fire magic still tingling at their clawed fingers. They were led by a larger, red-skinned devil, the lightning caster. Each of them was shaped like a reptile-human hybrid, with pointed heads and muscle-bound bodies.

    "Get back down, you idiot!" Bellany shouted, taking her turn to seize Allen's arm and force him back down. A fireball from one of the black-skinned devils whooshed through the air right where his head had been, and the devils weren't done yet. Several more fireballs knocked over the remains of the carriage, knocking it onto its side and dumping both Allen and Bellany out. The driver was already dead.

    "Bellany! Are you okay?" Allen coughed, bruised and burnt from the fierce attack. He crawled across the grass and clambered onto his feet, scrambling over to Bellany's limp form. She groaned and took his hand, getting back to her feet.

    "We have to run. We can't fight," Bellany wearily told him, her light-colored hair askew.

    Allen drew his short sword from its sheath. It was his real blade, not the practice sword from before. "No! I'll fend them off. I can use the carriage as cover."

    "Forget it! That's crazy," Bellany objected, but the devils were climbing over the burning carriage, intent on slaying the two remaining humans. Allen dove to avoid a new fireball, and charged at the devil that had cast it. "Have some faith in me, okay?" he shouted back at his fiancée.

    The devil hissed its delight, splaying its claws to attack Allen point-blank. He ducked its claw swipe and thrust back with his sword, cutting the creature's haunch. The devil growled and brought up its knee, hitting Allen in the chest and thrusting him up into the air. The devil swung again, and Allen blocked the blow with his sword to avoid getting sliced. The momentum of the attack still hit him, however, and he was sent sprawling across the grass, grunting with each tumble. The devil pounced, summoning fire onto its hands to finish him. With a shout, Allen swept his short sword in the pouncing devil's path, slicing off its right hand when it got close.

    Allen tried to cut off the beast's head, too, but his blade was too short and the creature escaped further harm. The devil summoned more flames to its fists and tried to crush Allen's head, until he jabbed his short sword at the beast's leg. The demon howled and collapsed, and Allen took his chance to sever its head.

    "Impressive, human!" the red-skinned devil rasped, and its lightning bolts arced through the air in revenge for its fallen comrade. Allen avoided the lightning, but he was getting tired, and there were still several other devils to deal with. He skirted around the fireballs of the other devils and tried to attack a second one, but the devil knocked aside his blade and raked his flesh. Crying out, Allen stumbled back, trying to block the creature's other attacks as he backed up. Allen's weakness with swords betrayed him: he could not attack and block fast enough with one blade, and the devil sent him sprawling with one blow.

    "Allen!" Bellany cried out from where she lay, but before she could do anything, a devil planted its foot on her to keep her down.

    "My plan worked as well as I had hoped," the red-skinned devil said in delight, approaching the bleeding and sore Allen. It curled its fingers, with electricity crackling between its fingers. "I'll be taking that Orb over there, if you do not mind!"

    "Orb?" Allen repeated, unsure what the devil meant. He turned over and saw it: a fist-sized round stone lying a few feet away from his right hand, colored light blue and purple and white. His heart sank. "That Orb was held in the Terli vaults! How did it get here?"

    "Ah-hahaha! Your confusion amuses me," the devil cackled. It spread its fingers, revealing a number of dark green worms squirming in there. "I've finally evolved a new ability to use for getting to the Orb in Terli! My mind control worms possessed one of your officials and made him create a false royal document ordering the relocation of the Orb from Terli to the castle in secret, in your carriage! This act has been long overdue, I tell you. Now I may take this Orb and slay you, Allen DramliSon, and do my part to avenge the defeat of the Demons!"

    Allen forced a laugh. "You'd just tell me all that?"

    The devil traced a clawed finger along its upper lip. "I have a very big mouth," it mocked him. "I wanted to see the despair on your face! And now I will see you die!"

    Lightning blasted out from the devil's fingers at Allen, and he knew that if it hit, he'd be finished. He scrambled over to take hold of the Orb, not even knowing what he was thinking. I've got to keep it away from the devil. Even if I die!

    "Not so fast, human boy!" the devil roared, redirecting his lightning to Allen. "I want that!" Allen squeezed shut his eyes against the incoming attack and seized the Orb.

    At once, a bitingly cold power burst from the Orb, radiating outward like an aura. The devil's lightning bolts skittered off the cold aura with a loud blast of electricity and sparks, protecting Allen from harm. What the… what in the world? Allen thought in a haze, watching the Orb glow white in his hands. He more than just saw the power, he felt it: his hands and arms felt thick and heavy as the Orb began to transfer its stored magic into his body, and he felt his bruises and cuts healed as the power coursed through him.

    "You! You can harness the power of the Orb, can you?" the devil growled. "I won't let you become a SyncHost! You'll die first!" the devil shot another wave of lightning bolts, and the others sent out their fire bolts. Allen hung on tight, using every ounce of his new power to fend off the devils' combined attack. Slowly, as the ice-cold power continued to flow into him, he staggered upright with the orb in his right hand, and his short sword in his left. The power was now coursing through every part of Allen's body in a glowing white aura, and he felt good. His breath was visible in the air and he felt his sweaty hair freeze up, and his short sword started to become augmented.

    "Whoa," was all Allen could say as he held his sword to eye level. Ice flowed from his hand onto the sword, forming over the broken handle's end. The ice crystals lengthened and melded into each other, creating a second blade made entirely of ice. Within seconds, the process was complete, and an ice copy of Allen's sword extended from the broken handle, making it a double-ended sword with one end made of the ice. He spun the dual weapon around in his hand, delighting in how it felt. Perfectly balanced! I can attack and block at the same time with this. It feels just right.

    By now, the aura died down to a faint glow around Allen's body, but the ice blade remained, and the devils stared in horror. "Destroy him! I don't care if he's a SyncHost or not!" the red-skinned devil ordered, but Allen didn't give them time to finish. He pounced on the nearest devil, his double-sword a white blur in the air as he spun it like a fan and tore the devil apart. The nearest two devils raised their clawed hands and blanketed Allen in their fire, forcing him back. Ordinarily, Allen would have been vaporized from the heat, but his newfound frost power allowed him to resist. The cold aura forced back the flames, allowing Allen to burst through them and decapitate a second devil.

    The third devil swung its claws back and forth at Allen as fast as it could, using all of its inhuman brawn against him. Allen was able to block the creature's blows with both of his blades, then force away its arm and sink his ice blade straight through the beast's heart and lungs. The devil gurgled and collapsed, dead.

    "Wretched human!" the lightning devil cursed his frustration, and his lightning bolts fried Allen's torso, dealing the first damage since his contact with the Orb. Allen braced himself against the sharp pain of the lightning, pushing forward as much as he could against the lightning assault. With a grunt of effort, Allen broke the lightning attack and slashed his sword's metal blade at the lightning devil, forcing it to block with one hand. Smiling wickedly, the devil knocked the blade aside and clawed at Allen with its other hand, but now Allen had a weapon that could defend him from such attacks. His double-ended sword's ice blade swept forth faster than the devil expected, drawing a shallow cut on its torso.

    The devil snarled its anger and swept its paws faster, determined to overcome Allen's newfound strength. Allen's double sword was able to block all the blows, although this devil was stronger than the others, and the devil's blows made Allen's arms grow tired from the effort of blocking them. Then, the devil knocked away both of Allen's blades and hit him with a quick blast of lightning, sending Allen sprawling.

    "Now it ends, human boy!" the devil snarled. "When I kill you, the frost power you bear will return to the Orb, and I will make sure that no human will ever use an Orb against a devil again! The return of the Demons is coming, and no one will stop it! Least of all you, whelp."

    Allen was exhausted from using the frost powers and fighting the devils, but he wasn't done yet. His chest heaved and his limbs ached, but he focused and welled up ice-cold power from inside him, and he felt his strength return in even greater force. The devil's dark eyes widened, and the beast growled and prepared another lighting attack. The other devils prepared their fire magic to assist their ring leader.

    "Just try me!" Allen roared, adrenaline boosting him as much as the ice power. He vaulted high into the air, clearing the combined devil attack. Up in the air, over the heads of the stunned devils, Allen spun his double-sword in his hand at blinding speed, then tossed it at the lightning devil like a deadly boomerang. The devil was too slow to avoid the attack, and it was cleaved in half, its orange blood spilling onto the grass.

    When Allen landed, the remaining four devils stared at him in horror, then turned tail and fled. Allen slew two of the four before they could escape his reach, and the last two devils scampered into the wilderness and were gone. Allen fell to his knees, releasing his double-bladed sword from his numb fingers. He looked up to the sky, hardly daring to believe what had just happened. Me, become a SyncHost? Who would have guessed? Who...

    Allen slumped to the ground, fighting to keep consciousness as the icy power receded once again, leaving him an ordinary teenager once again. The ice half of his double-sword melted away, leaving the regular half lying there. Allen saw the Orb lying on the grass, which was now dull gray after having its icy power transferred to Allen. He slipped it into his pocket.

    After some time, help had arrived in the form of four Nenevah cavaliers, and they collected the distraught prince and princess.

    "My Prince! Are you all right?" one of the cavaliers asked Allen urgently. "My word, seven devils attacked your carriage..."

    "Is Bellany okay?" Allen asked as he was helped to his feet. He got his answer when he saw Bellany being helped to her feet, shaken but unhurt. None of the devils had touched her, because Allen had been the main threat, with his frost powers and all. Speaking of that...

    "If I may ask, prince Allen..." the cavalier asked slowly as he and the others carried Bellany and Allen down the road to the castle. "How did you survive?"

    "The lead devil developed mind control worms to make several of my father's men place the Terli Orb in my carriage," Allen explained faintly, still tired. "And the devils intended to kill me and take the Orb. Their plan nearly succeeded. They simply hadn't counted on me becoming a SyncHost. Few humans have that capacity."

    The cavalier shook his head, despite the grin of relief he wore that Allen and Bellany had survived the encounter. "Why would the devils take such a risk?"

    "The lead devil said that the Demons are going to return, and he wanted to gather all the Orbs to keep the humans from fighting back," Allen related the devil's words. "I don't know how much truth there is to that, but now the devils will be making more organized efforts to reclaim the Orbs, both those stored in cities and those lost in the wilderness. Ha, imagine that. Just this morning, the biggest thing on my mind was my engagement to Princess Bellany over there, and the Ranan Kingdom absorbing the Nenevah. Now there's this to think about, too!"

    The cavalier shrugged, his armor clinking from the movement. "Beats me, sir. We'll hear what your father has to say about this. For now, you must rest and preserve your strength."

    Allen nodded. "Yup."

    -----------------------------------------

    Author's Note: That was a pretty long opening chapter, yeah, but there's a lot of stuff to set up for the story, after all! Hope you liked it. Here's a quick chronology guide to the story's events. (Recall that "A.F." is "after founding.") Whenever the chronology appears at the end of the chapter, there is new stuff in it.

    CHRONOLOGY THUS FAR:

    0 A.F: An unnamed hero stabs his blade into the ground and declares the founding of the Ranan Kingdom.

    2 A.F: The Nenevah Kingdom is founded.

    3 A.F: The Winter Kingdom is founded.

    32 A.F: The unnamed hero dies of old age.

    503 A.F: The three biggest Demons, Shizem, Burlakhan, and Meshaneen launch their invasion of the continent. The three Kingdoms fight back in what becomes the Sealing War, a conflict that is only 2 years long but claims many human lives.

    505 A.F: The Sealing War ends with the death of Burlakhan FireTongue and Meshaneen BrokenHorns and the sealing of Shizem BlackTalon on the DaggerTooth Isles. The 11 Orbs scatter across the continent, and all but four are recovered. The devils now roam free, disorganized and leaderless, presenting only a minor threat to the war-torn Kingdoms.

    508-519 A.F: The first Territorial War is waged and ends with Ranan victory.

    518 A.F: Allen and Bellany are born.

    521-527 A.F: The second Territorial War is waged and ends with Ranan victory.

    532-534 A.F: The third Territorial War is waged and ends with Ranan victory.

    536 A.F: Prince Allen of Nenevah and Princess Bellany of Ranan are engaged to marry in order to merge the Nenevah Kingdom into the Ranan Kingdom.

  4. #4
    Registered User Captain_Kuchiki's Avatar
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    I would like this story moved to the short story sharing section, please.

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    Registered User Captain_Kuchiki's Avatar
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    Feedback for any of the chapters is welcome! Chapter II will be posted in a few days.

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    Chapter II, scene 1

    ORBS OF POWER

    Chapter II: Consequences

    Staff wing, Nenevah Castle,
    Nenevah Kingdom,
    September 26, 536 A.F.


    "Jaque! I know you're in there. You were summoned to attend the emergency talks with the king. You know, your liege and my dad?" Allen said loudly and impatiently through the wooden door to his friend's room in the staff wing of the Nenevah Castle. The noonday sunlight poured through the windows behind Allen's back, warming the stone hallway. No one else was here except for Allen and his friend, the Elder Seer of the king, Jaque the Seer.

    Allen pounded a fist on the door, losing his patience. "Come on, man!"

    When there was no response, Allen gingerly leaned against the wood door, pressing his ear to the wooden surface to listen. He heard nothing, and a few possibilities came to mind. Acting on the most likely one, Allen grabbed the door's handle and swung it open, knowing that Jaque often forgot to lock the door. Allen strode into the Elder Seer's room, past the bookshelves, writing desk, and collections of random objects to the couch against the far wall where Jaque slept. Upon seeing his good friend at last, Allen made a noise of exasperation.

    Jaque was lying lazily on the couch, fast asleep with his limbs askew. A cheaply made book lay across his face, hiding his snoring face. Allen recognized that kind of book – the cheap picture-novels that children liked to read, that had colored illustrations of the characters and scenes, and flattened white circles where the dialogue was written. Allen lifted the picture-novel off of Jaque's face and rolled it into a tube, then tapped Jaque smartly several times on the forehead.

    With a grunt, Jaque bolted upright, blinking several times and running a hand through his sleep-tangled red hair. He looked up at the prince Allen, then a friendly grin spread across his face. "Allen! What brings you? It's still early, isn't it?"

    Allen shook his head, returning his friend's grin. "No, Jaque, it's midday and the King needs you. There's a meeting going on."

    "What? I slept through that?" Jaque asked tiredly, rubbing his eyes. Allen could see the faint dark circles under his eyes, proof that Jaque was often sleep-deprived because of the strenuous demands of his job as Elder Seer. Even though he was only 19 years old, he had been chosen by the previous Elder Seer to succeed him for reasons the old man had never revealed. Plus, Jaque had the necessary magical ability to be the Elder Seer, and very few people ever had the capacity for magic. Wizards were always masters of their arts and in high demand, giving rise to the common saying "A wizard never goes hungry." To unwind after his duties, Jaque liked to read these picture-novels.

    "Yes, you slept through it. Busy night?" Allen asked sympathetically as he and his friend exited the room, with Jaque making a point of closing and locking the door behind them.

    "Busy to say the least," Jaque complained, running a hand over his face as the two friends walked down the hallway. Their footsteps echoed off the stone walls. "King Dramli's agents wanted me to scour every square inch of the Nenevah Kingdom, looking for signs of organized devil movements. The King suggested that the devils are going to make some dramatic move soon, but..."

    "Was hard to see anything?"

    Jaque and Allen descended a flight of wide steps on their way to the throne room. "I hardly saw a thing," Jaque lamented. He picked at a spot on his dark red Seer robes. "Seeing is damned hard, Allen. I caught some whispers of devils moving away from the Nenevah-Ranan border toward the castle, but I wasn't sure about that. Although..."

    "Huh?" Allen asked, his stomach lurching. Did Jaque make a successful Seeing? What did he See?

    Jaque's tired face broke into a wide smile. "I saw Kerema getting thrown off his horse during a training session and hit his head on a fence! Awesome!"

    "Oh. Cool," Allen muttered, recalling Kerema the drill instructor. Ever since Jaque had joked that he Saw Kerema doing something shameful, the man resented Jaque and the two had become minor enemies.

    "But," Jaque added more seriously, "I did see Ranan reinforcements going toward the border. It seemed like they were preparing for something, but I couldn't tell what. Though it was awesome being able to See something that clearly."

    "Interesting," Allen mused as he threw open the doors to the wide throne room. He and Jaque entered the room close to the throne itself, minimizing the walk over there. What Allen didn't expect, however, was to see so many people in here. Many of Dramli's advisers, war chiefs, and wizards were crowded into the room, and many of them tracked Allen with their eyes as he walked. It made Allen very uncomfortable, since he had an aversion to crowds, especially crowds that were intently watching him. Plus, Allen was started to see a cluster of Ranan officials and guards in the room, all of whom faced the throne from a respectful distance. Allen immediately spotted the princess Bellany at the front of the group. She gave him a quick glance, but no other acknowledgment.

    "Welcome, son," Dramli said to Allen, nodding. His dark brown hair was contained under his silver crown, his short beard of the same color but with patches of gray. "It is good to have you here, along with my Elder Seer."

    "Sire," Jaque saluted.

    Dramli turned back to Allen. "I will get straight to the point: chaos is starting to claim the land, and will only get worse before it gets better."

    "Like those Ranan troops going to the border?" Jaque blurted, making everyone look at him.

    "Yes, about that," Dramli said heavily, tapping the arm of his throne. "Unless I can get immediate action from my men, we have a fourth Territorial War on our hands. Several of my legions on the border have gone rogue, under the command of a few generals who took matters into their own hands. There have already been several skirmishes."

    One of the Ranan officials, a man with bright red hair like Jaque's, pointed at Dramli's present war officers. "And these men can't stop them! You're sloppy, Dramli. Even if you press for peace, your people --"

    "Will be brought back into line sooner than later, if I get even an ounce of cooperation from those who still listen to me!" Dramli snapped back loudly.

    "We are at your service, sire," one of the Nenevah officers promised his liege.

    "Thank you," Dramli responded, then turned to the Ranan delegates. "You have my word that the rogue generals will be apprehended and the rebellious troops disarmed and brought back. I want this taken care of before it becomes actual war."

    "Yes, see to it that your crazed dogs are reigned in," the red-haired delegate smirked.

    "Well, your men are certainly well-prepared to counter this threat," Dramli said resentfully. "Am I right, Elder Seer?"

    "That's right, my liege," Jaque said, then took center stage, smiling in response to all the attention. He liked it when people took notice of him. "Ranan delegates, I am Jaque the Seer, the Elder Seer of the Nenevah royal court. During my Seeing during the last three nights, I have spotted many of your troops moving to the border to counter the threat of King Dramli's renegade legions. I assure everyone here that we have spoken truthfully thus far, and that I will continue to monitor this event as it plays out."

    The Ranan delegate's contempt was clear. "Yes, good Seer, you will watch as this atrocity progresses. You will also watch as our Queen's best general is deployed against the rogue Nenevah legions. He will make sure this ends quickly if Dramli cannot."

    Jaque's smile fell as he heard the hidden strength and determination in the man's voice, and the faith he had in his Ranan Kingdom to provide a quick end to this matter. The Elder Seer slunk from the center of the meeting and to Allen's side.

    "Now, there is another matter to discuss," Dramli added with a wave of his hand. "This border conflict is complicated by the fact that the devil population has become much more agitated and driven. Already, I'm getting reports that the devils are organizing into efficient forces, and are starting to scour my countryside looking for something. Son, please tell the Ranan men why this is. They can help."

    Allen's stomach squirmed and his fingers felt cold. Tell them what happened to me, what I've become? He felt very uncomfortable sharing this information with anyone outside his family and friends, but he had no choice. Trying not to tremble from nerves, he stepped before the Ranan crowd and said as firmly as he could: "Good people of the Ranan Kingdom, I have become a SyncHost."

    At once, the Ranan delegates muttered or shouted their disbelief or protests against Allen's words. Only Bellany looked unfazed, because she fully knew about this; she had seen Allen's new powers first-hand, and had had her life saved by them.

    "Where's the proof of this, barbarian king? Where?" another Ranan delegate, a short man with bristly black hair, demanded. He stepped forth and jabbed an accusing finger at Dramli. "Well?"

    "Patience," Dramli told him sternly. "Allen..."

    "Yeah," Allen nodded, and drew his short sword from his sheath, causing the Ranan delegates to draw a collective gasp of fear.

    "What is the meaning of this, young one?" an older delegate barked.

    In response, Allen raised his short sword to a ready position, then closed his eyes and focused on the freezing cold power within him. At once, a wispy, white aura of magic power flared up around him, and the ice half of his short sword grew into existence with icy cracks and snaps. Allen twirled his double-blades sword in his hands a few times, both blades making quiet swishing sounds in the air.

    "Impossible," the short delegate said in a constricted voice, clutching his heart as he staggered back. "He's a --"

    "A SyncHost! A Synchronized Host of an Orb's power!" the red-headed delegate roared, making fists with his hands. "What is the meaning of this, King Dramli? Are you secretly creating a corps of agents to assist your border legions --"

    "Don't be a fool. You know that's nonsense," Bellany cut him off, speaking up for the first time. She was not angry or offended, but she had a firmly authoritative tone that silenced the man and impressed Allen. Her tone and expression became gentler as she placated the man. "I was present when Prince Allen acquired this power. He is the SyncHost of the Frost Orb, but only because his life, and mine, were in great peril."

    The delegate gestured wildly. "Great peril? From what?"

    "From a small gang of devils," Bellany growled back. "I know what happened on the trip to this castle from Terli. The carriage was ambushed --"

    "Okay, stop, stop," the short delegate snapped, stepping forward, giving his Princess a look of respectful disbelief. "Princess Bellany, why would the devils attack a royal carriage? We know that the devils don't want to risk open war with any kingdom! They have no leaders and are demoralized from the defeat of the Demons in the Sealing War, so they --"

    "I know my history!" Bellany bit back. "Let me relate what happened! I am in charge of our group!"

    "Then bloody tell me why the devils attacked your carriage!" the delegate roared back, his temper overriding his manners toward his Princess. "Unless this is a well-disguised assassination attempt on Dramli's part --"

    "My father would never do that!" Allen shouted back, taking a step forward and brandishing his double blade.

    "Enough, all of you!" King Dramli barked over the din, making silence fall over the throne room. He rose from his throne, gathered his King robes, and walked down the steps toward his son.

    "Allen, please put away your Frost power for now," Dramli quietly told Allen, clapping a hand to his shoulder. Allen nodded and deactivated his Frost powers, but he continued to stare daggers at the Ranan delegates. Dramli was a large man, and his towering presence, coupled by his proximity, helped keep the Ranan delegates quiet.

    Dramli bowed his head slightly in apology. "Good people of the Ranan Kingdom, you have my sincere apologies if the heir to the Ranan throne was in any danger." He gave Bellany a gentle look that she accepted, dipping her head in return. "Allen has told me the truth. One of the devils, a lightning user, developed a new power; this sort of thing has been documented as happening before. The devil used mind-control worms on my agents to have them arrange for the Frost Orb in Terli to be taken to this castle, in the same carriage that Allen and Bellany were riding in."

    "A devil could control your men so easily?" the older Ranan delegate said faintly, sounding more scared than angry about this threat to the royal heirs. "Dramli, how do you know your other men aren't being controlled by devils too?"

    "I will make sure that does not happen," Dramli told him. "After all, when devils evolve new abilities, they are often unique, although I will take precautions against any other possession attempts. In the meantime, I will do what you all presume I will – make an organized movement against the devils living in the Nenevah Kingdom. At the same time, I will strive to end the actions of my rogue legions at the Nenevah-Ranan border. Either way, however, some other, pre-existing plans must be accelerated."

    Allen's ears perked. "What do you mean by that?"

    Dramli pointed at Allen, then swept his finger to point at Bellany. "I want these two taken to the heart of the Ranan Kingdom right away."

    "Is... is that so?" the red-headed delegate demanded.

    "When Allen became a SyncHost with the Frost Orb, he radiated a magical energy signature throughout the land, according to my war wizards," Dramli elaborated. "Devils from all over the Nenevah Kingdom will be trying to find and kill him. However, if he were to be silently slipped across the border and to the heart of the Ranan Kingdom, he will be safe. He's meant for the Ranan throne, anyway. This is ideal."

    "My liege... are you sure Allen and Bellany would be safe that way?" Jaque protested, giving Allen a concerned glance. "I mean..."

    With a small smile, Dramli waved a hand. "Have no fear, Elder Seer. Allen's energy signature emanated only from where he acquired his Frost powers, and he will never again give off a signature like that for the devils to follow. The devils will be certain that I'd want to keep Allen safe in here, but he will actually covertly move to the Ranan castle or to Lilliav, the capital city of the Ranan Kingdom. The Princess Bellany should go with him."

    The red-haired delegate thought about this for some time. "Very well, King Dramli. As the Head Delegate of the Ranan Kingdom, I consent to this plan, if the Prince and Princess do."

    He looked over at Bellany, and she nodded firmly.

    "King Dramli, I accept this proposal," she told him, then gave a demanding glance at Allen. "Presuming your son does too?"

    Allen felt everyone watching him, and his scalp itched and prickled from anxiety. He gulped and said, "Y-yes, I consent to this plan as well. Will we be taken by carriage?"

    "The finer details are yet to be worked out, but that is likely," Dramli said, clearly relieved that his plan was now set into motion. "I'll have a message sent to Queen Lizeth and King Hurgom of the Ranan kingdom informing them what is happening. I expect a quick reply from Lizeth – she has the most power in that kingdom, after all, and would want to flaunt it by being punctual."

    Jaque stepped forth, scratching the back of his head. "I'd like to go, too."

    Dramli whirled around to face Jaque. "Elder Seer! Why is that, I ask?"

    Jaque took out a hand mirror from his robe's pocket and brandished it. "Relax, my liege. My predecessor gave me this scrying mirror, didn't he? Instant communication from me to you, as long as you use the partner mirror. There will be many potential perils along the way. I want the Prince and Princess to have my power at their disposal. Besides, I'd go to the Ranan castle anyway, when the two kingdoms merge. And finally... I can't let my good friend and lord Allen DramliSon go wandering off into the wilderness without me. We're a team!"

    With that last statement, Jaque gave Allen a light punch on the arm. "Right?"

    "He speaks fairly," Allen said, trying not to let his voice waver. I hate public addresses! "I formally request, father, to have Jaque the Seer join Bellany and I."

    Dramli went back to his throne and settled down on it, reclining his head and heaving a tired sigh. "Very well, Allen. My Elder Seer will go with you. With your party's anonymity, Allen's Frost Orb powers, and your Seeing ability, this is a fine arrangement."

    Not long after that, the meeting was concluded, and Allen tried to slink out of the throne room, but Bellany found him first. She gripped his arm to stop him, and he turned to face her.

    "What?" he asked her.

    "I presume... well, I hope you're ready for this, and that you know what you're doing. You agreed to this plan, and there's no going back," Bellany told Allen, looking him in the eye. Her tone was as bossy and haughty as ever, but Allen could hear gentle concern in her voice too. Allen gave her a weak smile.

    "Of course. What, did you think I was weak-willed?"

    "Well, you presented yourself as a foolish weakling who really needs his hand held in the royal meeting," Bellany stated, folding her arms. "I thought you were the oh-so-powerful Nenevah prince?"

    Allen's face burned. "What's your problem? I am ready for this, and I'm not a weakling. You know what I did with my newfound Frost powers. You're the one who needed protecting."

    "I don't mean that. You're weak politically," Bellany scoffed. "You needed everyone to explain to you the implications of what was going on. Keep up with everyone else, or you'll just be a figurehead when we marry and both assume the Ranan-Nenevah throne as King and Queen."

    "I'll be better than that. Don't insult me like that," Allen argued, turning away. "I'll be off. I need to prepare for our journey." She's concerned about me, all right – as if I were a child!

    "Then I will, too," Bellany responded. "Just do your part, Allen, and follow my lead both on our way to the Ranan castle, and when we are in power."

    "Fine. Bossy, bossy."

    "I am a strong-willed young woman. It's just who I am."

    "Tell me about it."

  7. #7
    Registered User Captain_Kuchiki's Avatar
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    Chapter II, scene 2

    Throne room, Ranan Castle,
    Ranan Kingdom,
    October 1, 536 A.F.


    Queen Lizeth and King Hurgom never grew tired of admiring the splendor of the Ranan castle's throne room. This hall was supported by towering pillars of white marble and tall, narrow windows admitted shafts of golden sunlight. Large, colorful tapestries hung on the stone walls. Most interesting of all were the many historical artifacts in this room. In the center of the hallway, there was a four-foot-wide hole in the stone floor, where the natural earth was exposed. A large broadsword was thrust halfway into the exposed ground, rusted and scuffled with age.

    This was the sword of the unnamed hero who had thrust his sword into this ground 536 years ago and declared the formation of the Ranan Kingdom. The Ranan castle had been built over that ground, but with the sword exposed for all to see. Protective enchantments surrounded it, making sure that nothing, whether in the room or in the ground, would ever disturb that sword.

    The other object of great interest was a round, humanoid skull placed on a shelf on the eastern wall. This skull was thrice the size of a human's, and its teeth were dulled fangs. A single round eye socket was in the middle of the skull, right between the heavy brow and small nose holes. This skull had belonged to Gugu-Majeh the Wanderer, the land's last Cyclops. Queen Lizeth made a small smile to herself as she reflected on the success of the genocide that had wiped out that ugly and counter-productive race. The Cyclopes had never done anything helpful to the other races of the land, and delighted in wandering around, causing trouble. When Gugu-Majeh had fallen, humans rejoiced at the successful cleansing. Like the sword of the hero, it was a testament to human power and authority on this continent.

    Queen Lizeth had long, wavy black hair and piercing eyes that always seemed to accuse whoever they looked upon. Her face was similarly pointed and sharp, similar to her curious and control-happy mind. The King Hurgom's hair was graying early for his age, his curly brown locks dusted with gray. His mustache was much the same, but his eyes were as bright and sharp as his wife's.

    Queen Lizeth's musings were interrupted when the wooden front doors to the throne room banged open and a huge man in silver armor quickly strode inside. Lizeth and Hurgom stiffened, knowing that the arrival of this man always meant that something important was happening.

    "My Queen," the huge man said respectfully, once he drew close to the thrones and knelt on one knee. He referred to the Queen first, honoring the Ranan tradition of putting most of the royal power on the Queen, even though it was a Kingdom. "I bring much news."

    "That I figured, Hirbolt of the Sun," Lizeth said loftily, motioning with her hand as she addressed Hirbolt by his full title. "Rise."

    Hirbolt stood to his full height, over 6'4. He had a hard but linear face, and his dark eyebrows contrasted with his long blond hair that fell to his shoulders. "My first order of news is that King Dramli's front-like troops have begun to cause trouble. Several Nenevah legions have launched surprise attacks against our border garrisons."

    Lizeth blinked. "Is that so? What have they accomplished?"

    "One of our garrisons was overrun," Hirbolt responded firmly. "But the others have held their ground. This was only the first wave. There may be more."

    "And why, my supreme general, has King Dramli chosen to violate the peace he and I mediated? Why?"

    Hirbolt could hear the rising rage in his Queen's voice, and quickly sought to douse it. He saluted. "My Queen, Dramli has sent a scry-message to your intelligence bureau and to me directly. He has assured us that these legions, and the generals that lead them, have gone rogue. Dramli seeks cooperation with us, but his countrymen object to that and want another Territorial War. Dramli regrets the actions of his legions and has promised to make every effort to stop this madness."

    "I see, I see," Lizeth pondered, running her fingers along the smooth, cool surface of her throne's arms. She glanced over at the King, and he nodded. She turned back to Hirbolt. "Supreme general, I want you on the front lines right away to counter the Nenevah menace until Dramli reins in his men, presuming that he even can."

    Hirbolt hadn't been to the Ranan-Nenevah border since the Third Territorial War, but he was prepared to go again. He bowed. "My sword is yours, my Queen and King."

    "Good," Lizeth crowed.

    "And what of the increased devil activity?" Hirbolt asked. "They have started to become much more aggressive and organized than before, according to my scout forces. They're harassing both our troops and Nenevah legions, and are making moves against major cities and towns of both our Kingdom and the Nenevah."

    "King Dramli has a SyncHost under his command now, doesn't he? Prince Allen?" Lizeth told Hirbolt. It wasn't a question.

    Hirbolt hesitated. "Y... yes, he does. By what I hear, the boy only recently acquired this power, the power of the Frost Orb."

    Lizeth stood to her full height, irate. "I want to know why Dramli violated the pact all three kingdoms had to never use the power of the Orbs again! Of the seven Orbs that were recovered after the Sealing War, the three kingdoms agreed to not use any of them, and only put them in storage!" Lizeth's breaths were heavy and fast in her anger. Dramli will face the consequences for all this. I swear it!

    "I-I am aware of Dramli's repeated violations, my Queen," he tried to placate her. "First, the border attacks, and now this. It is not all misfortune, however. Dramli has seen Prince Allen and our Princess Bellany to our castle, and they should arrive within a few weeks at the most. They're traveling in anonymity to avoid trouble."

    "Very well, then," Lizeth nodded, settling back down on her throne. "I am prepared at any time to pass my title to my daughter – she is ready. There is a lot happening, I see. The possible beginnings of a fourth Territorial War, increased devil activity that must be dealt with, a new SyncHost... my, how the events unfold!"

    "If this is relevant, my Queen..." Hirbolt started, then took a deep breath and added, "Prince Allen reported that a devil used its evolved abilities to steal the Frost Orb from Terli and try to kill Prince Allen at the same time. It failed, but did offer a warning to Allen."

    "What sort of warning?"

    "The warning was that the Demons are going to return soon, and the devils are preparing to go to war against humankind once again," Hirbolt recited, feeling himself sweat. "I doubt this is true, however."

    Lizeth couldn't help a small laugh. "And neither can I! Ignore such nonsense, Hirbolt. Focus on the rogue Nenevah troops and on the increased devil activity. All the same, I want the missing Orb of this Kingdom found. Set up a force of your men to hunt for it and bring it to this castle. There's one missing Orb in each the Ranan, Nenevah, and Winter Kingdoms. Without a doubt, Dramli will search for his own kingdom's missing Orb, and I hope that king Shagg VII of the Winter Kingdom will find his Kingdom's missing Orb. Now, you are dismissed."

    "My lieges," Hirbolt saluted once again, then turned and left the throne room, his armor clanking as he moved. Once he departed the room, Lizeth turned to Hurgom, her expression gentler.

    Hurgom understood what Lizeth was concerned about. "Bellany..."

    "She will be just fine," Lizeth told the King, but her voice betrayed her anxiety and worry about their daughter. Her insides squirmed with the fear. She is my only child, my dear Bellany. She's fine young woman who can take care of herself, but I still dread the prospect of any misfortune falling upon her. Please, Bellany, get here safe. She wanted to be furious at King Dramli for letting all this danger come into being, but what was done was done.

    "Bellany is safe in the hands of a SyncHost," Hurgom offered bracingly. "After all, they are the most powerful warriors to ever exist. The Prince won't allow his bride to come to harm. After all, the SyncHosts are excellent against devils. None of the devils running around should be of any real threat."

    "I hope you are right, husband dear," Lizeth choked, turning to look down the huge throne room. She stared at the sword of the hero, wondering what that man would have done in a situation like this.


    ---------------------------------

    CHRONOLOGY THUS FAR:

    0 A.F: An unnamed hero stabs his blade into the ground and declares the founding of the Ranan Kingdom.

    2 A.F: The Nenevah Kingdom is founded.

    3 A.F: The Winter Kingdom is founded.

    32 A.F: The unnamed hero dies of old age.

    483 A.F: The Ranan and Nenevah Kingdoms begin a joint genocide of the troublesome Cyclops race.

    485 A.F: Gugu-Majeh the Wanderer, the last Cyclops, is killed, ending the genocide. His skull is preserved in Castle Ranan as a testament to the extinction of his race. According to legend, every tree and mountain on the continent silently wept at the cruel demise of an innocent race.

    503 A.F: The three biggest Demons, Shizem, Burlakhan, and Meshaneen launch their invasion of the continent. The three Kingdoms fight back in what becomes the Sealing War, a conflict that is only 2 years long but claims many human lives.

    505 A.F: The Sealing War ends with the death of Burlakhan FireTongue and Meshaneen BrokenHorns and the sealing of Shizem BlackTalon on the DaggerTooth Isles. The 11 Orbs scatter across the continent, and all but four are recovered. The devils now roam free, disorganized and leaderless, presenting only a minor threat to the war-torn Kingdoms.

    508-519 A.F: The first Territorial War is waged and ends with Ranan victory.

    518 A.F: Allen and Bellany are born.

    521-527 A.F: The second Territorial War is waged and ends with Ranan victory.

    532-534 A.F: The third Territorial War is waged and ends with Ranan victory.

    536 A.F: Prince Allen of Nenevah and Princess Bellany of Ranan are engaged to marry in order to merge the Nenevah Kingdom into the Ranan Kingdom. Prince Allen becomes a SyncHost, utilizing the power of Frost.

  8. #8
    Registered User Jacobi's Avatar
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    I just read Chapter One for now, I will sit down and read the rest when I have some more time.

    My initial thoughts are this, I feel like Allen and Bellany...hit it off a bit too fast. Her complete disdain and focus on the heinous crimes of his realms seem to be her focus for quite a while, and she seems turned to idle talk a little too easily.

    Also, I'm not sure how long you want this to be. And if you're aiming for a real short story, this probably won't be a problem, but I felt like the stealing of the orb happened a little too fast from it's initial introduction.

    Other than that, I really did like it!

  9. #9
    Registered User Captain_Kuchiki's Avatar
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    Hi Jacobi,

    thanks for responding and for liking what I've got so far! Yes, a few issues in chapter 1 were kind of rushed, but there was a lot to put in there and I don't like really long chapters. You've got my promise that nothing else in here will be rushed. First chapters are the hardest!

    This story will be quite long, in fact. Maybe at least 15 chapters at this length, maybe more. It'll be kind of like a TV show in text. Chapter 3 will be up by the weekend.

  10. #10
    Registered User Captain_Kuchiki's Avatar
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    Chapter III, scene 1

    Chapter III: Alliance

    Volcano shores, Ranan coastline,
    Ranan Kingdom,
    October 6, 536 A.F.

    Fierce, inhuman orange eyes glared wetly at the hundreds of merfolk assembled here tonight off the coast of the Ranan Kingdom. Those eyes belonged to Rachiru the Flash, an impulsive but clever merfolk who was the leader of the Sharpfin school of merfolk. It was nighttime out here on the human-free coastline, and the only notable thing on the land were the smoking volcanoes a few miles inland. Much more interesting was the fact that Rachiru had successfully assembled many of his faithful merfolk, both from his own school and several others. They all shared his vision of how to deal with the landwalkers, the despicable human beings.

    "We have assembled tonight, good merfolk, to make history for our race, and indeed for the whole land! Pop," Rachiru proclaimed from his perch, a large rock poking out of they water. At his words, hundreds of merfolk drifting on the water's surface cheered loudly at his words, pumping their scaly fists in agreement. Because of the physique of merfolk mouths, they produced a popping sound at the end of each of their sentences, a quirk many other races found funny.

    When the furor died down, Rachiru went on, "For that reason, I will deliver us into a new age of freedom and prosperity, so long as you are faithful to me, and to our newfound allies. Pop. My leadership plays a vital role, but only because I have successfully brokered an agreement with our new allies. Pop. They understand our plight and share our hate for the landwalkers! Pop."

    Once again, the merfolk shouted their reverence for their daring new leader, and several cried out to see these new allies of which Rachiru spoke.

    "Of course. Pop," Rachiru promised them, gesturing with an arm toward the shore. "Here they come now! Pop."

    At Rachiru's words, a small crowd of bipeds arrived on the shore line, hidden by the nighttime darkness – not even the starlight could reveal their identities at this range. The merfolk swam right up to the sandy shore to meet their allies, and were amazed to see that they were a bunch of devils, mostly black and red-skinned type devils. The devils watched the merfolk warily with their wicked eyes, gave no hint of aggression.

    "Rachiru! Pop. We find common ground with devils? Pop," someone exclaimed. The devils watched the merfolk intently, but their mannerisms suggested uncharacteristic trust and cooperation in the merfolk.

    "Indeed we do. Pop," Rachiru told him, and the merfolk at large. "I shall speak to their leader to prove it, and make everything clear. Pop."

    Rachiru scrambled onto the shore, dripping water and slime from his deep blue scales. Like most merfolk, he had no legs, but instead his scaly, humanoid body ended at the hips and flowed seamlessly into a fish's rear half. Rachiru approached the gang of devils, and one of the devils in particular broke from the crowd and met Rachiru face to face. This devil was one of the strongest types, with white skin and a chilling calm about it.

    "Peoples of the sea, we devils approach you in common interest and intent to cooperate," the devil growled, making the other devils mutter and shift restlessly. "We and our Demon masters were fallen by the human beings in the Sealing War, and now is the time to allow our masters to return! This devil-merfolk alliance is crucial for that end."

    "The reasons for our cooperation are threefold. Pop," Rachiru told the merfolk as the devil nodded. "First! Pop. The devils have nothing to lose by letting us helping them out, because without our help they have no way to effectively stage their assault on the humans! Pop. Second, the merfolk have suffered much at the hands of the landwalkers. Pop. For centuries, they have polluted and over-fished our waters, they treated us like animals, and still don't recognize our laws or territorial rights of the coastline! Pop. And third, merfolk and devils have no bad blood – no merfolk or devil ever harmed one another during the Sealing War, because the devils cannot stand water and the merfolk had no interest in helping the humans. Pop."

    Rachiru paused to let this all sink in. "So, for that reason, tonight the merfolk will ferry the devils across the waters to reach the DaggerTooth Isles, where the devils may break the chains sealing Shizem BlackTalon and allow a new Demonic invasion to begin! Pop."

    The other merfolk cheered crazily once again, ecstatic about this plan. How better to get revenge on the humans than forge a merfolk-Demon alliance? The Demons would have the gratitude of the merfolk, and the merfolk would be able to flourish once the humans were extinct. It was perfect, and every merfolk and devil here thought that Rachiru the Flash was a savior and a genius for hatching this plan.

    There was no more time to waste. The merfolk allowed the devils to ride upon their backs, with one devil assigned to ride on the backs of two adjacent merfolk to ease the strain. When the arrangements were complete, over a hundred devils were being ferried to the nearby DaggerTooth Isles on the backs of the merfolk, and on the shore of the rocky island, the devils disembarked.

    "This is where we free our liege, Shizem BlackTalon himself!" the white-skinned devil shouted in triumph, and Rachiru couldn't help a toothy smile. The devil pointed toward the highest mountain on the island. "There he awaits, shackled to the rock by golden chains forged by the human SyncHosts of old. Onwards, brothers!"

    The merfolk watched as the devils swarmed up the island's lifeless rocky surface, scampering up the slope of the mountain. Up there, they finally found the last living Demon on this earth.

    Shizem himself tugged at the chains binding his wrists to the mountain, making loud clanking sounds. Everything about his appearance suggested his origins from the underworld. His body was like an upright dragon with wings, but with a lizard-like head and curving black horns. His pointed tail swished through the air, and his fingers ended in long, curving black talons, giving rise to his name as Shizem BlackTalon. He looked down at his devil minions coming to help.

    "Good children! By what means did you arrive?" Shizem asked eagerly, a wide smile crossing his face.

    "The merfolk have declared an alliance with us, Shizem!" the white-skinned devil cried up at his hundred-foot-tall Demon lord.

    "Oh? Do tell! Why do the little fishies join forces with us?" Shizem asked, relishing the chance to talk to someone in over 31 years.

    "They carried us on their backs to reach you, my liege! They wish for the destruction of humanity to give them the chance to live in freedom and prosperity!" the devil called up. "Both races have much to gain from each other. The merfolk mean nothing to us, at least not for now."

    "Correct," Shizem chuckled. "We'll play the merfolks' game for a while. Free me, little devils, my minions! I know your talons can break my shackles eventually."

    The devils needed to hear no more. With shouts and cries of fanaticism, they swarmed over Shizem's shackles and started clawing and biting at them, chipping away at the magically enhanced metal. Little visible progress was made, but after several minutes a few chunks of the metal from the chains fell out.

    "That is it! Work harder, minions, and I shall be free!" Shizem encouraged the minions, redoubling their effort. As they worked, Shizem looked over at the mountainside around him. There, the remains of Meshaneen and Burlakhan had been deposited by the humans. Burlakhan FireTongue, in life, had been as tall as Shizem, but shaped more like a man, except for his elongated head and narrow jaw. His most interesting feature had been his forked arms, how his arms split into two at the elbow.

    Then there was the carapace of Meshaneen BrokenHorns. That Demon had been like a giant centipede, with many cruel spines running along his back. The two main horns on his head both had their tips broken off, giving rise to his last name.

    Shizem remembered the powers that he and his brothers had utilized in the Sealing War. Shizem was a master of earth and rock, Burlakhan was the lord of fire, heat, and lava, and Meshaneen had dominated wind and storms. It would not be long before the humans would feel the wrath of those elements once again.

  11. #11
    Registered User Captain_Kuchiki's Avatar
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    Chapter III, scene 2

    Nenevah countryside,
    Nenevah Kingdom,
    October 8, 536 A.F.


    "Oh, for goodness sake, Allen. It's getting late," Bellany argued. She, Allen, and Jaque were out in the wilderness of the Nenevah Kingdom, trundling up and down the country road looking for lodgings. They were driving a horseless carriage that the Ranan delegates had provided, and it was getting quite late.

    "Come on. There's going to be a small town up ahead. Be quiet already," Allen bit back, his patience worn thin. He focused on the road ahead, his hands gripping the wheel that controlled what direction the carriage was facing. The carriage could move faster than any pulled by a horse, because of the enchanted engine used to drive the wheels.

    Bellany made a sound of exasperation and slapped her thighs. "There was a town back where we came from! Why didn't we stop there? It looked well-defended."

    "We're still far from the front lines. There is no danger here," Allen growled back. "Stop complaining. We'll get to another town and call it a day. Even though I can barely see where I'm going." The countryside betrayed little detail of where the carriage was, except that it ran alongside a forested series of hills. It was open grassland otherwise.

    "Why are we still out here?" Bellany asked, trying to be patient.

    "We have to cover as much ground as possible each day. You know as well as I do the importance of reaching Castle Ranan sooner than later," Allen told her, attempting a smile to comfort Bellany. She didn't buy it.

    "It's dangerous to be out here in the twilight hours. Devils..." she started.

    Allen patted the sheath of his short sword that was attached to his belt. "...Won't be an issue. They don't attack random carriages. They go after villages, mostly. Not a town, like what we're headed to."

    "You had better be right," Bellany told him with resentment, folding her arms. "This is ridiculous."

    Allen was more irritated than ever. "Knock of off, princess."

    Jaque spoke up at last, from the back seat. "Hey. You kids ought to act your age," he chided them, before he resumed reading his childish picture-novel.

    "Look who's talking," Bellany smirked at him, making Jaque grimace and hide his face behind the paperback book. Allen couldn't help a grin.

    "I feel kind of... guilty driving this thing," Allen admitted after a few more silent minutes of driving the horseless carriage. The carriage's pistons and gears whirred and clanked quietly as the engine ran, powering the wheels.

    "Guilty? What about?" Bellany asked, slightly impatiently. "You make less sense every day, Allen."

    "That had to burn a little," Jaque joked from the back. He was ignored.

    Allen altered his course slightly, hoping that the town would come soon. "Think about it. This horseless carriage's engine is powered by Blackness, the thick liquid we harvest out of the ground. But to keep ourselves safe from the toxic byproducts of refining it into a useful product, we dump the toxins into the waters. That's where all the merfolk live."

    "It's them or us, Allen," Bellany told him as though he were a confused child. He bristled at her tone.

    "Yeah, but --"

    "But think of how much damage would happen to the countryside and all the people, plants and animals there if we dumped the toxins in the countryside," Bellany pressed Allen. She brushed a golden lock of hair out of her face, giving her royal fiancee a sideways glance. "Plus, it would be very expensive and labor-intensive to find a place in the wilderness where the toxins wouldn't hurt anything."

    "I'm not alone when I wonder if this is even worth it," Allen argued, tapping the wooden side of the carriage. "There are protest groups in the Nenevah cities that make this same argument. We build these engines onto our fancier carriages and use Blackness to power them. Is that necessary?"

    "Well, it helped transport troops across the vast Ranan Kingdom to the front lines during the Territorial Wars," Bellany offered. "And all medical carriages are powered by Blackness, to get patients to hospitals in time."

    She has a point, Allen conceded. He was brought up to take all things into account when making decisions, and the long-standing plight of the merfolks at the hands of human beings bore down on his mind. First, the genocide of the Cyclopes, and then the constant abuse and exploitation of the merfolk and their waters... we've had some nasty kings and queens who allowed those kinds of things to happen. When I take the throne, that'll all change.
    "All right, all right. I won't break into tears whenever I drive this carriage," Allen joked, referring to his care for the merfolk. "Sorry if I brought that up. It was just on my mind, and the Ranan Kingdom has a lot more Blackness refineries and horseless carriages than the Nenevah Kingdom. I'll have to get used to that when you and I rule the united kingdom."

    "Among other things, yes," Bellany agreed. "Thank you for understanding. Oh, you've got to be kidding me..."

    It was clear what Bellany was complaining about: Allen pulled up his carriage to the front gates of the town, and it was a mess. The buildings were shoddy and dirty, the roads were muddy, and farm animals roamed the streets. A few less-than-flattering villagers approached the carriage.

    "Yer all visit'rs, eh heheh?" one of them, a middle-aged farmer, smiled with a stupid laugh. One of his eyes was squinted, his face was lined and dirty like his clothing, and his teeth were either chipped or missing. He held a pitchfork over his shoulder.

    "I... am sorry. This isn't the town I meant to go to. I got lost on the road," Allen quickly told the villager politely, while Jaque joked that eating one ear of corn would break out the last of this man's teeth.

    "Yah got lost? I don't blame yeh. I gets a-lost around this village! Hard to keep track-a stuff, heheh!" the villager laughed, encouraging Allen to get out of here as soon as possible.

    "Farewell," Allen bid the man, then drove his horseless carriage around and drove away at top speed.

    "Now where will we rest? It's getting very late," Bellany warned Allen, her eyes on the reddish sun on the horizon.

    "We'll stop at that town you liked, the well-defended one," Allen answered, feeling very foolish. What a crappy day. "Even though I'm wary of it. What do they need so many guards to defend against?"

    Bellany considered this. "Reason enough to be suspect, yes. But we'll be there only one day. Come on, Allen. We're not helpless. Let's just not make any more mistakes."

    Allen nodded, and he was quite relieved when he slowly drove his horseless carriage through the front gates of the fortified town half an hour later. Twilight had settled into the eastern sky, making it hard to see. Only the lights from within the town's stone and wood buildings provided light, other than the torch lamps set alongside the brick roads. Allen parked his carriage in a designated zone, then was greeted by the a representative of the mayor.

    "Welcome, good sirs and lady," the man said pompously, his tone matching his formal clothing. "This is the town of Nevahall. Are you passing through, or staying for longer than that?"

    "We'll only be spending the night," Allen told him. "We'd like to be guided to a tavern with food and bedding."

    "Of course, of course," the guide nodded primly, leading them though the crowded streets. "This way." He had no idea that he was escorting royalty, and Allen wanted to keep it that way.

    Allen had rarely seen ordinary towns like this; he was much more used to Castle Nenevah and the huge royal city of Terli. Here, most of the buildings were at most two or three stories high and built from stone and wood, and only some of them had glass in the windows. This place wasn't luxury, but neither was it shoddy. The people in the streets were merchants and artisans in their work wear, offering their goods and services with loud voices. Women in simple dresses traveled in small groups or with their children and husbands, and everyone had to watch out for piles of horse manure in the street. Horses and oxen pulled wagons of goods ranging from food animals to pottery to crates of vegetables and fruits. Roosters and chickens wandered among the houses, clucking and flapping their wings. Stray bits of hay were everywhere.

    Taking a deep breath, Allen experienced the scents of town life: freshly cut wood, the sweat and cloth of hundreds of people, animal fur, flint from torches, and the iron smells coming from a smithy down the street. Allen found it all oddly rejuvenating, even though some parts of this town were repulsive, such as the blood coming from under the front door of a butcher shop. So this is ordinary town life! This is the true face of my Kingdom, the way most people live. I'll be ruling the lives of hard-working people like this. I'll do my best.

    "There she passes! Move, move!" a voice called out, and the murmuring crowd parted around something that Allen couldn't see.

    "What's that all about?" Jaque asked the guide. He stood out in the crowd with his dark red Elder Seer robes.

    The guide's face darkened. "The haunt of this town: the White Widow."

    "Who?" Bellany asked, but she got her answer soon enough. She, Allen, and Jaque saw that the crowd had parted to allow the passage of a single woman, a stooped lady in her thirties. She was clad in a long white dress, which was stained and tattered from what seemed to be constant wandering. As she drew closer, Allen saw that her hair was long and curly, and black as pitch. Her face looked mournful and her eyes faced downward, but Allen could tell that her thoughts were somewhere else. She shuffled along, paying no attention to anyone. Allen shivered as she passed close by him and Bellany, and Bellany gripped Allen's arm in fear as she went by.

    "What's wrong with her?" she asked Allen fearfully.

    "What she said," Allen prompted the guide. The crowds merged once again, but Bellany still clung to Allen's arm. He found that oddly charming.

    "She is Annabel Thurma, a candle maker who was widowed during the Third Territorial War," the guide told his guests. "When her husband was killed by Ranan soldiers, she went mad with grief. Her family's business was already struggling, and her husband was all she had left. When he was gone, well... she snapped. She lives on welfare and never talks to anyone, and a few people think that she had in fact died of grief but her body's being possessed by her vengeful spirit or some other nonsense. Either way, sirs and lady, you need to pay no mind to her. She is a tragic figure, but we'd do best to leave her alone, and we all may get on with our lives. She is harmless."

    "The poor lady," Bellany whimpered, even though she had been on the opposite side of the wars as this Widow had been. "Why does she dress in white?"

    The guide shrugged. "Either she wears it as a symbol of marriage to spite her husband's demise, or she can no longer afford new clothing. Probably both. Please, let us not discuss such a heavy topic, sirs and lady. The White Widow is not your concern, nor are you hers."

    "Sorry," Allen offered.

    "Creepy, man," Jaque said in a goofy, spooky voice in Allen's ear. "The boogeywoman's gonna get you!"

    "Are you a professional Seer or not?" Allen shot back, but both he and Jaque meant well. Bellany pursed her lips, annoyed at the behavior of her companions.

    "If you're a Seer, then act like it," Bellany scolded Jaque as the party was led closer to a tavern. A mischievous grin spread across Jaque's face.

    "I've got a vision now," he said, tapping his fingers to his temples and pretending to See. "It's... it's about you, Princess!"

    "Oh? Do tell."

    "It's kind of hazy, but... I think you're about to bathe because you're taking all your clothes off and --"

    This earned him a swat on the head from the flustered Princess.

    "That isn't funny, Elder Seer," Bellany growled.

    "Come on, it's just a joke! It's funny, Bellany," Allen tried to placate her with a smile, but it didn't work. Bellany humphed and looked the other way.

    Dinner was spent in the tavern's lower level, and Bellany didn't say a word until dinner was over. She wanted a different room than Allen and Jaque.

    "Are you sure about that?" Allen cautioned her as the party of three headed up to the second level of the tavern, toward the rooms.

    "There's no danger here," Bellany told him shortly, stopping Allen and looking him in the eye. "I'd like to spend the night not being ogled at or being made fun of by a pair of idiots, a lecher and a violent buffoon who doesn't know the way around his own countryside. I'll be driving tomorrow."

    Maybe it was because his fatigue, but Allen felt very prickled. "Fine. Be in your own room. Not like I'd 'ogle' at you anyway. Don't flatter yourself."

    "We meet in the morning," Bellany told him shortly, then whirled around and went into her room, slamming the wooden door closed rather hard. The iron knocker on the door clanged a few times. Jaque winced.

    "Nice going, man."

    "Hey..."

    "No, no. It's my fault, I was only screwing around today," Jaque said somberly, patting Allen's back as he led his Prince into their own room further down the hallway. "This whole ordeal is stressful. We're going on a weeks-long trek across two kingdoms that might be starting a new war, plus all the devils..."

    "Yup. At least I've got this," Allen said confidently, drawing his short sword as he and Jaque went into their room and closed the door. Allen admired the blade, aware of the Frost powers he could now imbue into it.

    "Yeah. Being the SyncHost for the Frost Orb... pretty cool," Jaque grinned as he removed his robe and flopped onto his bed in his everyday wear.

    Allen grinned at the pun as he blew out the lanterns in the room and settled into his bed. "But you know..."

    "Everything?"

    "No. I think, honestly, that we treated Bellany badly today. She was only trying to make things work out. Let's be nicer to her tomorrow, all right?"

    "Gotcha."

    Allen turned over in his bed. "See you in the morning."

    "Same, princeling."

    "Hey!"

    "Joking, joking..."

    "Sheesh."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    CHRONOLOGY THUS FAR:
    0 A.F: An unnamed hero stabs his blade into the ground and declares the founding of the Ranan Kingdom.

    2 A.F: The Nenevah Kingdom is founded.

    3 A.F: The Winter Kingdom is founded.

    32 A.F: The unnamed hero dies of old age.

    485 A.F: Gugu-Majeh the Wanderer, the last Cyclops, is killed, ending the genocide. His skull is preserved in Castle Ranan as a testament to the extinction of his race. According to legend, every tree and mountain on the continent silently wept at the cruel demise of an innocent race.

    503 A.F: The three biggest Demons, Shizem, Burlakhan, and Meshaneen launch their invasion of the continent. The three Kingdoms fight back in what becomes the Sealing War, a conflict that is only 2 years long but claims many human lives.

    505 A.F: The Sealing War ends with the death of Burlakhan FireTongue and Meshaneen BrokenHorns and the sealing of Shizem BlackTalon on the DaggerTooth Isles. The 11 Orbs scatter across the continent, and all but four are recovered. The devils now roam free, disorganized and leaderless, presenting only a minor threat to the war-torn Kingdoms.

    508-519 A.F: The first Territorial War is waged and ends with Ranan victory.

    509 A.F: The first Blackness refineries are built. The Ranan army uses Blackness-fueled carriages to ferry troops across the vast Ranan Kingdom to the front lines of the First Territorial War. This practice is repeated in the Second and Third Territorial Wars.

    518 A.F: Allen and Bellany are born.

    521-527 A.F: The second Territorial War is waged and ends with Ranan victory.

    532-534 A.F: The third Territorial War is waged and ends with Ranan victory.

    536 A.F: Prince Allen of Nenevah and Princess Bellany of Ranan are engaged to marry in order to merge the Nenevah Kingdom into the Ranan Kingdom.

  12. #12
    Registered User Captain_Kuchiki's Avatar
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    I would like to have this thread deleted.

  13. #13
    Registered User Captain_Kuchiki's Avatar
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    I have sold the copyrights to this story and it needs to be taken down by a moderator as soon as possible. Thanks!

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