Legends of Marithia: Book 3 - Talonsphere

Legends of Marithia

Book 3

Talonsphere

-by-

Peter Koevari

Copyright © 2015 Peter Koevari

www.peterkoevari.com

All rights reserved.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Special thanks to my wife for all of her support. Thanks to my many proofreaders who have helped me with their feedback.

 

Special thanks to Saffron Bryant. It was a pleasure working with you on such an exciting instalment.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Cover art by Manthos Lappas

(
http://mlappas.deviantart.com
https://www.facebook.com/mlappasart
)

Map of Marithia drawn by Nathalia De Matos

 

Map of Marithia - By Nathalia De Matos

 

Chapter 1 : Bloodlines

 

“They wage wars with innocent blood. All of this could have been prevented, and they would have saved her. No, they
should
have saved her! She wouldn’t have become child of the Blood Red Moon prophecy. With every beat of my heart, my scales are tainted by treachery’s stench.”

 

(Niesha)

 

A
nother Marithian day dawned. The rising sun hid the Blood Red Moon’s darkness. Vartan wondered how long they had left to avert the prophecy. All along, he had thought it was his to thwart. His armour was heavy on his muscular body. He rode toward Greenhaven, his long tan-coloured hair flickering over his blue eyes, its tips escaping from the confines of his helm. His heart sank as he remembered its charred gates, the once-shining beacon of hope that was now in ruins.

How long until we restore my home to its former glory? Is it even possible?
he thought.

The crumbling walls, sagging portcullis, and broken oak trees testified that nothing would ever be the same, even though the sky darkened with dragons hauling supplies.

He sensed Shanka, his phoenix, somewhere close. Every few moments, he’d catch a brilliant flash of red feathers in his peripheral. He imagined she must be holding back to stay safe.

These were dangerous times. Marithia was long war-torn and bleeding, and its wounds never seemed to heal.

Shanka had been instructed to call him her master. It was the last request she had received before her late master was killed at the hands of Kassina, the queen of the underworld. His body trembled at the memory of her. He wanted nothing more than to find Kassina and end the dark existence she called a life. The thought of running the vampire sorceress through with his sword brought a dark grin to his lips. Her acidic blood splattering on his skin would be a welcomed agony.

His grin was wiped from his face as he thought of her blood and the revelation that drove him back to Greenhaven, in search of the dragon king. Vartan couldn’t believe that they had kept this from him. That vampiric bitch had skinned his mother alive. She was responsible for the fall of Greenhaven, the destruction of the home of the elves, Veldrenn, and yet she shared a common bond with him. Both of their veins flowed with dragons’ blood.

It made his skin crawl.

She could activate our greatest weapon and we’d be doomed.

He heard Shanka’s cry before she emerged through the forest canopy and rocketed over Tr’arch River. Her feathery body caught his eye as he raced through the forest. He scanned the horizon and a flock of lemon birds launched from trees deep within the forest. Shadows rolled over Vartan and his horse as he rode with renewed purpose, turning to avoid tree trunks.

Ever since the spirit of the god Mazu had been sacrificed to live inside him, he found that his presence was noticed amongst all animals in the kingdom. The phoenix passed Vartan’s horse at blistering speed. She burst into his vision amid a haze of dust. Vartan glanced back to see her narrowly avoid another horse’s charge. Vartan cried out, “Shanka, be careful!”

He charged ahead, flicking out his right arm and clenching his fist so hard that his knuckles complained. Anakari and Yuski grunted behind him as they followed his unexpected turn through the woods. His faithful companions had done nothing to upset him, and he knew that, but he needed answers. Neither a demon hunter, nor even a woman sent by the gods could make him think of anything else. Nothing was more important to Marithia’s future.

“Vartan, please calm yourself! We can talk through this!” Yuski said. Vartan heard her demon-dispatching daggers smacking against her hips with each canter of her horse. He glanced back for a moment and saw them far behind.

The two women were stark contrasts to each other. Yuski was much older than Anakari, as tall as Vartan, and an inviting physical specimen. Her beauty was marred by small scars on her right cheek and neck. She was still formidable in her fur cloak.

Anakari was a slender girl, perhaps standing higher than both of them, and her elvish ears gave her a foxy look. Her hair was pale, almost silver, and her sapphire eyes were like brilliant jewels on her pretty face. There were two features of Anakari that begged questions. Only one had easy answers. She bore a tattoo on her forehead of a crescent moon, a symbol of her occupation and apprenticeship in magic to a master wizard. The other was usually hidden, but riding at this speed, her light clothes eased down her body. Her full breasts edged out from her top, but what still remained much of a mystery, were the partially revealed symbols on her body.

They had learned that her glyphs were the key to entering a place where their greatest weapon was hidden, but that was all they knew.

Yuski’s voice was muffled in the wind. Vartan turned back, shook his head and bore down on a fallen tree trunk at the edge of a beaten trail, kicking his heel into his horse, and lifting himself in preparation to jump. Clearing the trunk, his horse grunted as it scrambled on the soft dirt. Under a cloud of dust, he spurred his horse onward.

Greenhaven was their new stronghold, and where he was sure to find the dragon king Karven, who would remain as a show of strength. After all, the king and queen of dragons were the only remaining royal couple in all of Marithia. He wondered if there would be a human king in the future, or if Marithia had a future to ponder on at all. Doubt clouded his mind like a thunderstorm.

He wondered if the dragon king, who had trained and guided him, had been keeping secrets from him all along. The more he thought about it, the more confident he was that he was right.

Will I get answers to any of this?

Shanka rocketed past his head in a blur of burgundy, leading his way forward. He managed a brisk smile at the phoenix before the lowered drawbridge of their stronghold was in his sights. He looked up to the queen of dragons, Nymira, watching him intently from a position on the tallest parapet. She was one of the largest dragons in existence, second only to the dragon king Karven.

Dragons had evolved over their long existence, and gained the ability to morph their scales to hide themselves from the world. Their camouflage enabled them to remain hidden from Marithians until the time when they were needed. Dragon scales were coloured brown, then shifting to blue and finally red, depending on their gender and age. Nymira’s purple was almost as colourful as the dragon king’s vibrant crimson.

The sight of the gates reminded Vartan of his earliest ride here as a teenager, when he had sought out his knighthood.

So much had happened since then.
Too much
. He truly missed the times when he wasn’t carrying the responsibility of the world on his shoulders.

The stench of burnt wood invaded his nostrils. He used to love the smell, and recalled the memories from all the campfires with his father. He tried to mask it with his hand, partly obstructing his vision as his horse sped through the main gates, almost knocking aside a group of working elves.

“Hey! Watch where you’re going!” they said, before bowing at his presence. “Forgive us, Prince Vartan. We meant no harm.”

“No, it is I who should beg your forgiveness,” Vartan said, calming his horse. It slowed under his touch, spinning around to face the elves.

The city was busy with repairs. The castle, the size of a city on its own right, was a shadow of its former glory. The city’s structures were scorched and large chunks of them had been blown away by catapults in the recent battle. Dragons flew in fresh supplies of wood for the rebuilding, with elven axemen on their backs. The elves’ dirty, sweat-soaked clothes were a testament to their total commitment. Nobody would feel safe until the city was secured and restored.

A tinge of guilt ran down Vartan’s spine for having abandoned the effort for answers, but reminded himself of his purpose.

I will protect them all
. The words in his mind provided relief and comfort, but thoughts of his last encounter with the lord of darkness sent a chill up his spine.

Dismounting, he handed the reins to a stable boy and marched toward the entrance of the royal quarters. His companions, Yuski and Anakari, rushed to catch up with him. Shanka landed on his shoulder, gripping his armour with her talons. He looked to the women now standing near him. Anakari was the girl sent from the stars that he was fated to meet. He wondered how she would be the key for where they would find their greatest weapon, Talonsphere.

Did she even know?

Somewhere deep within her symbol-covered exterior, there must be hidden answers. He hoped that it would all make sense, and the sooner the better.

Anakari was clearly gifted with magic. Alongside Yuski’s demon hunting skills, they made the most remarkable pair, and as everyone could clearly see, quite the couple.

“Prince Vartan, I know what it feels like to wonder about your identity, and how frustrating it is to not know your purpose,” Anakari said.

He stopped, looked down, and said, “I know. I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s not you I need right now. I need to talk to Karven... as soon as I can find him. Where is he anyway?”

Yuski surveyed the area before approaching him. “I’m not sure. I know that what we discovered is upsetting.”

Vartan approached the girls, narrowing his eyes. “Upsetting?”

Running his hands through his hair, he wondered what in Marithia they meant. He spoke through clenched teeth. “To find out... that the queen of the underworld is the fucking granddaughter of the king of dragons; how can I digest that? Karven’s been guiding me this whole
time. I’ve been following and trusting him totally, and he kept
this
from me? And you think I’m just upset?”

The girls paled, nodded, and watched the ground as they retreated from the prince. Shame washed over him as he glanced down at his magical truth pendant, Keturah, her pale face affirming his emotions. He hardly felt the silver necklace’s weight anymore. He remembered the first time that they met, and the magic within her was activated. Since they were bonded, she had become a close friend to him, as well as a useful artefact for discerning truth from fiction.

Keturah’s saddened voice filled his mind.
These are your friends and allies, Vartan
.
You shouldn’t forget that.

He sighed, relaxing his shoulders as he approached them again, before lifting his head and looking into their eyes. “I owe you both an apology. I know you mean well, but I need to make my own sense of this,” he said, smiling and dulling the edge of his anger.

Vartan cocked his head as he felt the presence of the dragon king. As if to answer his suspicions, the rumble of Karven’s mighty form shook the ground beneath them. The dragon king was hidden from the world before he transformed his scales to reveal himself. From tip to tail, each scale shifted. Karven breathed deep as he approached the man of the Talonsphere prophecy.

The dragon king lowered his head. “I have just scoured the lowlands, young prince. Words are not needed for me to know how you feel, and there could be only one thing to warrant it. We shouldn’t discuss this here. Come with me and we’ll talk where it’s safe.”

Vartan wondered if he should allow himself to relax, or if he should keep his guard up. He grimaced and pointed around him. “I trusted you, Karven, as did we all. You better have a good reason for lying to me.”

“I never lied to you. But I did keep information from you. I am sorry for that, but I will explain everything to you.”

His words ring true, Vartan, and I can feel his remorse
, Keturah said.

Vartan raised his eyebrow. “I want honesty. No... I
deserve
honesty.”

“Young prince, calm yourself. Your anger makes you forget our mutual respect. You shall have your answers. I did this for your own protection, and you’ll see that.”

The dragon lowered his body, allowing entry to the moulded seat on his enchanted armour. Vartan climbed aboard the dragon king’s back, gripping the grooves in the seat. “Forgive me for being so abrupt. Please give me your word that this will be the only time I need such an explanation.”

Karven stood up and smiled. “I swear on my life. Now, hold on!”

Shanka flew from Vartan’s shoulder before Karven launched off the ground and left the healing city below them. They climbed toward the clouds, Shanka trailing behind them. The sensation of flight was still strange to Vartan, and even after many trips on the back of a dragon, his heart pounded through his chest as they ascended into the sky. Karven glided toward Veldrenn, the elven city.

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