Authors: Kelechi Agu
The lush green grass covered the field as far as the eye could see. As the grass bathed in the sunlight that washed over the field, growing taller and taller day by day, it provided sufficient food for the animals that grazed on it, and they in turn were destined to forever be the meal of the animals that preyed on them. But today there would be no hunter or hunted – at least not for the animals on the field. A force of death more deadly than the fangs, claws or poison of the most fearsome predator was approaching and fast. The animals scattered as two enormous, roaring armies collided in bloody combat. Like all battles in history, this one was a massacre with the loss of life, staggering.
At the end of the battle, the once green field was crimson red from the
spilled blood of so many warriors. It seeped into the soil, forever cursing the land where such tragedy had taken place. There was no sign of life within the vicinity; all that was left, was death. She danced around happily and unseen to mortal eyes. She let out loud bursts of laughter as she withdrew the souls of man and beast from their lifeless bodies, pronouncing final judgment on them. The sun had long retreated behind the dark storm clouds that had covered the earth beneath. It was not long before the heavens opened up. Rain poured unto the land, drenching the blades of grass and washing them free of the blood that had sullied them. It was then that the soldier’s armor glistened as he navigated his way through the sea of lifeless bodies. The soldier crawled on all fours; his breath labored as he painstakingly inched forward, leaving a trail of blood behind him. His golden armor, banged up and dented, glistened in some parts, revealing its former glory. He stopped to catch his breath. His vision was beginning to blur and he could feel the life draining from him. Still, he had to move on. He gathered his strength and crawled on, while the heavens beat on him and everything else around. Finally, he had reached it. Just in front of him lay his sword. It was his one true companion in battle and how many had they won off the edge of this sword? How many times had his life been saved because his sword had stayed true? However, it was not the same today. They had won the battle and they had almost won the war… but not quite yet. He tried to reach out for his sword but his body had gone numb. His breathing became labored as anxiety took over him.
I’ve failed you! I’m so sorry!
It was then that a figure in a brown cloak appeared in front of him. The soldier looked up at the aged arms of the figure in the white overalls and black cloak. Even though the figure stood right in front of him, he could only just make out his features. The figure stooped low and picked up the sword, handing it over to the soldier. The soldier, finding one final wind, grabbed the sword but the strain on him was visible. After going through a bout of gut wrenching coughs, he spoke.
“Matilom… you… fin
ally… made it…”
y man called Matilom grabbed the soldier’s sword hand, clasping it reassuringly. He had tears in his eyes. “I told you I should have been by your side. But you’ve always been so stubborn.”
“I… I…couldn’t risk your death…you kno
w he’ll need you.”
Matilom nodded his head in agreement. The soldier looked at Matilom, his dying eyes begging the question that weighed heavy on his heart.
“They are safe.”
“Good… My apologies… Matilom. I cannot leave… this with you.”
The soldier said looking at the sword. Matilom understood. If their enemy were to get their hands on the sword, the human race was finished. The soldier scribbled something unto the blade of the sword, with his own blood. He leaned the sword in closer, and whispered an incantation. Upon whispering, the sword’s blade seemed to absorb the scribbles in blood, into itself, and it began to glow and shake in the soldier’s hand. He looked at Matilom, who clasped the soldier’s hand tighter before letting it go. “You can let it go now… it’s okay… they are safe. I promise.”
The soldier released his grip and the sword whizzed of
f skywards, disappearing in the distance.
The soldier’s breathing got shallower as the minutes passed.
“My… time is up… Matilom.”
nodded slowly. “You can go home. You’ll find peace there.”
Finally, the soldier lay still and lifeless. His grip o
n Matilom’s hand had gone limp but his right hand remained firmly curled into a fist. Matilom reached out and closed the dead man’s eyes. He noticed the curl of the dead soldier’s right fingers and tried to pry them open, to no avail. In the distance, he could hear the support infantry approaching.
“Your majesty! Your majesty!” They cried out as they searched the dead bodies in the fie
ld. Matilom looked back at the dead soldier.
live the King.” He muttered under his breath.
23 years later…
The market square of Gor was abuzz with activity on this sunny mid week afternoon. Traders yelled, displayed, and demonstrated their wares and services, all in an effort to attract the attention of potential customers. Gor was one of the smaller towns in the kingdom of Angweleth. It was surrounded by the misty forest, which led into the next town. Despite the forest surroundings, Gor was easily accessible to foreign traders and as such, it was famous for its market days. Today was no different as buyers from all corners of Angweleth had flooded the quiet town, transforming a quiet it into a hub of activities.
“Aren’t you done yet?” Asked the impatient soldier as the blacksmith worked on his helmet. The blacksmith turned his
muscular frame around and looked at the soldier. Despite a beer gut, he was a well-built man with broad shoulders and strong arms. He looked like he could tear into the soldier and rip him to shreds if he so desired. Despite his imposing frame, he had a kind face with dark graying hair and beard. He on one hand looked intimidating and on the other wasn’t such a menacing sight at all.
“If I was done, I’d have my money by now and yo
u’d have your helmet.” The blacksmith replied. “You really banged this up in your drunken brawl last night. But give me a few more minutes and it will be ready.”
The blacksmith turned
back to the helmet and kept working at it. Soon the once banged up and dented helmet had been restored to its original shape and shimmer. The blacksmith turned to the soldier just as another man walked up to his stall.
“There. That will be 5 pieces o
The soldier shook his head, as he dug into his pouch. “You’re charging me a pound of flesh here.”
The man who had just walked up to the stall smiled. “I told you to take off the armor, Segmiatus.” He turned to the blacksmith laughing. “He thought his opponent, who was just as drunk as he was would shoot him with an arrow.”
“I was being cautious
, Davydd.” Retorted Segmiatus defensively. “Besides, even drunken fools can sometimes find their mark, as he did with my helmet. And where were you when I needed your help? Charming the lady servers?”
“I am a hunter, and
while I occasionally indulge in certain pleasures and sins, fighting isn’t one of them. I apologize.”
No worries. I just pray the gods send a fight your way one day, my friend. I’ll show you support then.” Segmiatus put a friendly arm around Davydd’s neck as they both shared pleasant laughter. “Oh! Thank you for the helmet Ovar. Hopefully I won’t be bothering you with such pettiness in the near future.”
problem, impatient young man. Stop by later on. I believe Davydd is going to be hunting for some Deer meat soon. Aren’t you, my boy?” Davydd nodded in agreement.
“Well then I’ll be sure to stop by.
See you two at meal time.”
and Ovar watched as the soldier walked off. When they had determined he was beyond hearing range, Ovar turned to Davydd.
“Alright I know why you are here. You did it again
, didn’t you, Davydd?”
and pulled out a small black bag he had kept in his hunting pouch. As he placed it on the table, it jingled. Ovar stared down at the bag and back at Davydd. “How much did you take this time?”
“There are thirty-five gold pieces in there. Not that the landowner I stole it from would miss it terribl
y. Besides, you need it father.”
“I know I do. But all the money in the world would be for nothing if I were to lose my only son. I cannot risk that.”
“I understand, father. I have been, and will continue to be careful.”
Over glared at him for a whil
e and Davydd held his breath nervously. Finally, his father spoke. “Be careful son.” Ovar picked up the black bag and hid it in his toolbox. “Now off you go, and do some real work. See if you can catch enough game to feed us and to sell as well. Earn the gold you possess.”
Davydd laughed. “Is that a challenge
Ovar shrugged. “Surprise me. Now off you go.”
“See you when I get back.” Davydd picked up his hunting bag and waved his goodbyes as he walked off. Ovar watched him for a little while and then went back to work in his stall.
The caravan made its way through the misty forest, on its way out of Gor and heading towards Windhaven, which was the next town. Windhaven was about a day’s journey from Gor, and the caravan was making good time. The caravan consisted of three horse driven carriages and fifteen horseback soldiers. The central carriage was circular in shape and adorned with beautiful golden crown patterns around its edges. Inside the carriage sat two beautiful young women dressed in green and pink-laced gowns, with golden necklaces and bangles adorning their neck and wrists.
“That was a good visit to Gor
, wasn’t it?” The lady in green said.
The lady in pink had a wry smile on her face.
“Gor has always been one of my favorite towns.” The lady in pink responded.
The lady in green pulled her dark brown hair back behind her ears.
“Your father won’t be happy with you giving the royal family’s wealth away though.”
“You mean the people’s
wealth and gold.” The lady in pink said, rather quickly. “I don’t know what’s become of him. Ever since my mother died he’s changed. He would have been a great king. At first I thought it was me being too young to understand, but as I grew older, I realized that everything I saw was the truth.”
ncess.” The lady in green said. She reached out and held the princess’s hand. “Let us not speak of such things now. Even for you, speaking out against the king is unacceptable.”
“Then let us speak in hushed tones
, Jaynea.” The princess interlocked fingers with Jaynea’s. “I have something that I must tell you. Something so serious, it scares me…” The princess’s voice had fallen to barely a whisper.
wore a worried look of expression. “You know you can tell me anything Vannera.” Princess Vannera nodded in agreement and took a deep breath.
“There is a room, in the north wing of the king’s quarters. Two huge doors mark the entrance to this room. But they ar
e designed in such that unless one was to witness them open, one would not know that they were there.”
“You’ve been spying on the king
“I have been observing my father. I see no crime in that.” There was a brief pause and then she continued. “No one goes through those doors but him. As far as I can tell, no one knows about that
room but him. When he steps into it, there are always six figures sitting around a long rectangular table, waiting for him.” She leaned back into her seat.
“At first I thought they were trusted members of the council he regularly
convened with...until a fourth moon ago that is.”
“I found another way in. It was a secret passageway from the palace gardens that led into the same room. It might have been the one used by his mysterious guests… I don’t know. But… what I heard… Jaynea, all of mankind is in danger.”
that moment, they began hearing noises outside. Princess Vannera peeked outside her carriage. She called out to the horse back soldier riding on the left side.
“Your highness, w
e’ve spotted incoming riders approaching us up ahead. Please stay in and remain calm. If there is a situation, your safety is our priority.” Garreth flashed a reassuring smile. Jaynea pulled the princess back inside. She had a very worried look on her face.
Vannera we’ve been friends for a very long time, but… I haven’t told you everything about me… I’m sorry…”
“What do you mean?
“No time Princess.”
Jaynea was suddenly serious. “You have a good heart and a stronger will than your Father. Unfortunately you’ve dug too far for me to protect you by myself, but maybe for now, I can do one last thing for you.” The princess looked at her clearly confused. It was at that time they begun to hear screams and swords clashing.
“It has begun…”
Jaynea said softly as she looked outside.
begun? Jaynea, tell me something!” Jaynea looked back at Vannera to see that she was clearly in distress. Their carriage rocked sideways and shook as the horses became more and more alarmed.
Vannera, look at me. Breathe… breathe… You have to live. You can’t die with what you’ve learned.”
“What I learned… you mea
n… my own father…”
“Your mother was an earlier casualty of this battle. It all makes sense now and Matilom was right.”
“You must find Matilom and you have to tell him what you found out. He’ll know what to do.”
“How do I find him?! What about you?”
“I’ll make sure he finds you… I know you have a lot of quest
ions, Vannera and by the gods I wish I could answer them. Right now, I want you to know that I love you. You know I always have.”
The battle raged on outside and after each scream, the
guttural growls they were sure was being made by the intruders, got closer and closer. Another soldier was screaming.
“Garreth! The princess’s carriage! John’s dead… take over and get a…”
He was cut off as the sound of sword cutting through bone was heard. The next sound was the last agonizing scream of a dying man. One more soldier was dead.
“I love you too.” The princess replied.
Jaynea smiled amidst tears from the both of them. She clasped Vannera’s head gently in her hands and whispered in her ear.
“Remember me from time to time. Here is your new life. Be strong.”
Vannera looked up at her and their faces inched closer as they locked lips in a passionate kiss. When they pulled back Vannera was in shock. Jaynea looked just like her. Vannera instinctively looked at the small mirror she had kept to her side on their trip. She looked just like Jaynea. At that moment it hit her all over again. “Jaynea!!! No!!!!” She turned around only to meet a dagger to her stomach. Vannera looked down at the dagger, almost in disbelief. She looked up and could barely convince herself that it was Jaynea who had stabbed her.
“Breathe…” came the words as
Vannera fell into unconsciousness. Jaynea looked at her as the carriage toppled over. The impact caused their bodies to suspend in air momentarily, before crashing back down to the ground. Jaynea looked Vannera over. She was still alive. She then ripped off a piece of Vannera’s garment and placed it under Vannera’s left palm, which she placed on the wound. Finally, she took Vannera’s crown and placed it on her head. Garreth could be heard screaming as he battled countless assailants helplessly.
“Someday I hope you for
give me.” Jaynea said as she climbed out of the carriage. She looked up and saw the huge humanoid figures of the monsters that had set upon them in the forest. They gnarled at her through lizard like faces and razor-sharp teeth. Their scaly flesh made her skin crawl. But through her fear, Jaynea smiled in defiance and pulled out her dagger.
“You came for me. Well… take me if you can.”
The monsters descended on her at once.
Davydd crept silently through the forest with cat like grace. Stealth had been a skill he had honed as a hunter, and as a thief. He weaved his way through the thick vegetation and crouched down a few paces away from his prey – a deer drinking some water that had pooled together in a clearing in the forest. Davydd pulled out an arrow from the sac strapped around his shoulder. He placed it on the string of his bow and pulled back till it was taut. He steadied his breathing, his coiled finger muscles ready to fire, and his aim true. In that moment, the deer’s ears shot up and it raised its neck looking around anxiously. Soon after, it darted away, disappearing into the bushes. Davydd, putting back the arrow in his sac, was visibly perplexed. Why did the deer run? He was certain it wasn’t him because he had been careful not to reveal his presence. Then, he heard it. The sound of crackling wood as fire consumed it. Davydd broke into a sprint. Stealth wasn’t the main skill needed now. Speed was. If his hunch was right, maybe someone’s life depended on it. As he ran through the thick vegetation, his eyes spotted a carriage lying on its side amongst two others. He could also see the dead bodies of humans and horses alike, strewn across the forest path. The fire had been started on the carriages, and had spread towards the surrounding areas. However, the vegetation was very lush and in time the fire would die out from the forest moisture. Two of the carriages were charred remains of what they used to be, while the third was only partially burned. Davydd looked around for any signs of life but the longer he searched the less hope he had of finding any. After calling out a few times to see if anyone responded, he shook his head in resignation and turned to leave.