Authors: Andrew Wood
Rise of The Darekian's
: The Chronicles of Elemental Magic
© Andrew G. Wood
All Rights R
The child ran the best she could, being no more than eight or nine years of age, her young legs could not carry her fast enough to escape. Her long blonde curly hair fell freely over her face, hiding the fear and tears displayed behind it. She could hear the pounding of hooves getting louder, as the large black warhorse edged alongside, snorting as it strode. The long curved blade of dark steel struck her across the shoulders and neck. A wide spray of blood arced upwards, as the rider continued his gallop past her already falling body.
The innocent life of the child ebbed quickly away, as it slumped atop the lush early spring grass of the pasture. The animals around edged away from the intruder, paying the incident little more than a curious glance, before returning to their grazing. Turning his horse, the rider, showing no signs of the heinous act he had just committed. Firstly glancing left, and then right, scanning the fields around him for any more targets attempting to flee.
His colleagues had already started the small farmhouse and outbuildings ablaze. Two other occupants, now just corpses on the ground lay nearby. The body of a man and woman, side by side they had stood, putting up no more than a futile fight, in an effort to give their child a chance of escape. The families barking dog yelped, and slumped to the floor, as a crossbow bolt was shot from point blank range into its neck.
The riders showed no interest in taking anything of value from the property, or riffling the bodies for any coin that may be upon their person. Once satisfied the flames were sufficient to overwhelm the buildings, they regrouped and moved off, westwards, heading towards another unsuspecting, undefended settlement.
This was northern Corlan, an idyllic, peaceful countryside, and home to small communities of farmers. All had made their homes in the shadows of the Ulga Mountain range. A large snow capped boundary, criss-crossed with passes. Defences had long been in place, to stop any intruders travelling these into their country. These raiders had travelled a different route, and more were coming.
Prince Luken arose earlier than usual, for no particular reason other than he was awake. Slipping out from underneath his covers and removing his nightgown
, he dressed himself. He pulled on his black Trousers, then a white shirt, quickly followed by his socks and black leather boots. He made his way to the door, stamping down as he went trying to get his footwear on properly.
Leaving his ornately furnished bedroom, he started down the corridor
, every step making itself audible on the white marble floor. The sound reverberating, a hollow echo each time his heel hit the ground. Along the walls hung tapestries, each adding a burst of colour to the otherwise plain whiteness, and evenly spaced along the whole length were golden sconces with candles, that for now were not lit. The corridor was lit by the morning sun's rays, shining in through the long narrow windows. Ignoring it all, he made his way to the small dining room, where it was customary for the royals to eat in less formal surroundings.
Luken, who was seventeen years of age
, was the younger of two sons, born of King Sethin and Queen Doria of Corlan. He ran his fingers through his thick fair hair, though not quite blonde in colour, in a pitiful attempt at making it presentable, having forgotten to brush it before he left his room. Slim of build, and of an average height and looking so everyone informed him, more a youth nearer fourteen than his real age. He sat himself down at the table, little surprised none of his family members had yet seen fit to get up. His elder brother, Caldar, was usually one for sleeping in, three years older and having the same hair colouring and features as Luken, he at times did not even see the morning and often arose mid afternoon.
A maid approached the table and placed a glass of freshly squeezed fruit juice in front of him, "what would his highness require for breakfast?" she asked. Taking a few sips of
the cool juice before replying, "May I please have just a couple of pieces of toasted bread, with butter and maybe a little fruit preserve to top it." The maid bowed her head slightly and left him to go fetch his request from the kitchens. Luken always tried to be polite to staff, in fact to everyone really. Not evidently having the composure and confidence of his older brother, he was however still respected by all who associated with him.
After eating and finishing off his drink
, and still the only member of his family to be up, he made his way back to his room to wash. Pouring warm water that had been left for him from a blue and white porcelain jug into a matching washbowl; he rubbed soap on his hands and face, before rinsing it off. Using a clean towel beside his washstand to dry himself, he proceeded with cleaning his teeth and finally turning to the mirror once more to brush his hair. Once satisfied he looked presentable, he gathered up his pencil box and several pieces of paper; he had decided to venture into the gardens and sketch.
Being early spring the royal garden was starting to come alive
, an oasis of natural life amongst the cold dark stone palace in which it grew. The first colourful blooms were already making their presence; the bright yellows of daffodils ran all along one edge, and in front of them, the deep purples of flowering crocus were starting to emerge, and within a few days would themselves be in full bloom. In the one corner was a pond with white budded lilies floating atop the water, and amongst them a number of small insects flitted across the film like surface, occasionally breaking as the mouth of a curious fish appeared, as if gulping for a breath before disappearing once more into the darkness of its watery home. Bees darted from bloom to bloom, oblivious to his world as much as he was to theirs. Luken always loved anything to do with nature. Much to his parents dismay he was often bringing in wild or stray animals into the palace. From injured birds, hedgehogs, cats and dogs, or anything else he considered needed his help, though eventually he had always had to get rid of them, usually after staff had complained to his parents.
It was mid morning and already Luken could feel the warmth of the sun, as he sat on the lawn watching a blackbird perched on a nearby branch. The bird's majestic pose, each of its feathers perfectly arranged, as it used its bright orange beak to preen itself. A model of the skies, standing proudly, its plain blackness in contrast, shining, displaying its natural beauty to the world. Quietly, he picked up his charcoal pencil and started drawing the outline of the bird, and hopefully as much of its detail before it decided to move on. Much to his surprise, it seemed to grasp its need to stay put for him. The subject apparently understanding its duty, and he had gotten a good amount of his sketch completed before it took flight. In fact had it not sounded so ridiculous, he could have sworn the bird was watching him, rather than the other way round. Tilting his head first one way and then the other, reasonably impressed by his own picture, he added just a few more details, a little darker patch here and there, and he was done.
"Here you are" came a
familiar voice from behind him, "I was beginning to wonder where you had disappeared to." Caldar came up and sat down beside his sibling, glancing over at his artistic efforts, "Is it a pigeon?" he asked with a big grin. Luken smiled at him, knowing to well he knew perfectly well what it was, "yes Caldar, it is a pigeon," he replied in an attempt at humouring him. Being the sons of a king and queen, growing up as a child, was not like other families. The two boys rarely got to spend time with their parents, and as a result were very close to each other. "It is very good you know, little brother," he said referring to the sketch with a nod of his head, "it is not surprising you keep getting head pains, drawing all those fine details would certainly do it for me." Luken of late, for the past several weeks or so, had started experiencing pains in his head. At times, these were bearable, but on a few occasions, he had to see the royal physician, who had given him a tonic that made him sleepy.
The tonic seemed to work
, as usually when he awoke the pain had subsided. Only sleeping in itself had become somewhat of an oddity. Luken had started having strange dreams, of course, he had not told anyone, not even Caldar. With regularity, he kept seeing the same face. It was a face of an elderly man, and it always appeared to be trying to talk to him, yet no matter how the dream went, Luken was never able to hear what was trying to be said. Each night it would be the same, and what made it creepier, was the whole thing actually seemed not dream like, almost real, and it was only waking that made him realise it was not.
Today though his head was pain free, "are you feeling unwell Caldar? It is not normal for you to be out of bed so early
." The older sibling appeared taken aback by the outrageous remark, "me? I am always up with the larks little brother," he laughed. "I came to find you really, come on I want to talk." Putting his drawing down and returning his paper and pencils indoors, the two brothers walked. Not in any particular direction or even with any purpose of reaching a particular destination, just for some reason doing so made finding the words easier. "You know Father wishes me to go to Berston tomorrow don't you?"Caldar asked, "Apparently raiders are causing a nuisance around there and I'm being sent to sort it out." Luken had heard, and besides, was not overly keen on his brother leaving, but as crown prince, he knew it was Caldars duty to sort out such matters. The presence of the king's son would show the nobility of that area, the crown was taking their concerns seriously. Luken knew if anyone could sort it out it was Caldar, strong and brave and respected, his confidence always seemed to rub off on others, and frequently his mere presence gave people the security and lift they needed.
The disturbing news
; was the raiders in question had come from Besemia, a neighbouring kingdom that had always been friendly with their own. For many years, there had been peace between them, so much so, that many of the border posts from one to the other were more often than not, left unmanned. Of late though, it was rumoured, that the king of this land, had taken to being in the company of a Darekian Priest of some sort, and this priest was appearing to have more and more sway and control in decisions the king was making. Darekia was a nation to the north, a barbaric people and not friendly with Corlan or usually Besemia. Fortunately, for both, the Ulga mountain range provided a good boundary to keep them away, though there were a few passes, more leading into Besemia than Corlan, but these were always easy enough to manage. To stop any unwanted incursions, walls and gates had been built at the base of the passes, each was continually guarded, and as a result, there had been little in the way of any trouble for quite some years.
was a nation, whose religion was said to consist of human sacrifices and bizarre rituals. Ruled mercilessly by a Supreme Overlord, who was thought spawned from the depths of hell itself, its people lived a grim, pitiful existence. How much was actually true, and how much rumour, was hard to decide. It was also believed that the dark practices carried out by this tyrant, bought about the mythical creature, the Orlac. A demonic beast that some men claim they have seen, others think it pure myth. It is said; the Orlac stands tall like a man, but has a body covered in thick dark fur, and has the jaws and claws of a bear that are capable of ripping a man's beating heart from his chest.
It was to be the duty of Caldar to ride
southeast with a cohort of men, and if need be, rally the local militia from Berston and nearby Casham to deal with these disturbances. Once any trouble makers had been dealt with, he was to make sure border guards were returned to crossing points, and to try to put an end, to what was becoming a particular problem for the king. The very thought of his older brother being put in potential danger worried Luken, "You will take care wont you Caldar?" he asked with a certain pain to his voice. Placing a reassuring arm around his shoulder, "I'll be fine little brother; while I'm away though, it doesn’t mean you can start chasing all the ladies of court around." Luken smiled, his brother always made light of a situation, "you know I won't" he replied. Shaking his head "If it was not for the fact you resemble my incredible good looks, I would surely think mother must have switched you for another at birth" Calder joked, "but it appears my little brother prefers drawing birds, to causing a stir with the ladies."
It was quite incredible
, that although the two looked much alike facially, and in hair colour, in most other things they were completely different. Caldar was confident, and always had women chasing after him. He was strong, fearless and quite the expert swordsman and archer. Luken however, always appeared to scare away any female interest, and as far as any physical combat was concerned, he was all but useless. "Talking of the ladies, I heard that the young, but very pretty, Lady Sarena has her eye on you little brother" Caldar chuckled as he spoke, Luken however blushed a little, which caused his brother to laugh some more.
The conversation returned once more to his departure
, and noticing Lukens concerns, he tried to reassure his younger brother. "I should be back in a few weeks, a month or so at most; you just try and stay out of trouble whilst I am gone. Oh, and also I have a little gift for you, come on." The two gave purpose to their walk and made their way to Caldars room, "here," he said as he handed over an ornately sheathed short sword. "I thought it was time you owned one of these, I had it made especially for you." Luken looked at his brother, "thank you Caldar, it is most beautiful," he said sliding the blade out and noticing his name had been inscribed across the hilt. The highly polished weapon reflected the light as he turned it slowly in his hand, "just try and remember which end you stab with, and which you hold" Caldar added, making light of his younger brothers total lack of skill with a blade.
were known, Luken was not overly keen on wearing a weapon, but, being a prince of the realm, it was apparently in the job description to be properly attired, and equipped, when seen about in public. Despite their similarities in looks, he doubted many in the city even knew who he was, and was quite certain he could walk around all day without a single person noticing; it was something he had pondered about trying one day. Caldar on the other hand, appeared to be known by everyone, at least that was the impression Luken got wherever they went together, always people bowed and curtsied as he passed, he was lucky if he got an acknowledging nod of the head. Why a prince had to be seen carrying a weapon of any description, he was not quite sure, but to save any arguments, he had always worn a short sword when out riding in the city. Not for one moment did he ever intend using it, he knew he would no doubt risk more injury to himself, than any foe he may need to fight. Swordplay, he had decided long ago was best left to those that knew what it was about; he usually had guards with him when riding, so as far as he was concerned, he would have no need to ever use a blade.
Strapping the sword belt around his waist,
he looked at his reflection in the tall mirror on one of the walls in Caldars room. Turning one way then the other, even he had to admit it did look good on him, "see little brother, I'll have you looking like a soldier yet" Caldar said admiringly. "Thank you Caldar, it is quite beautiful, I will treasure it," his brother smiled. "I was wondering maybe you would like to ride out with me tomorrow? Only maybe half a mile or so out of the city...if you would like to that is." Luken smiled back, "of course, I would love to, anyway I know you would probably get lost if I left you to find your own way to the city gates" he tried joking, in an effort to hide his feelings before giving his brother a big hug, "take care Caldar." "I'll be fine, you take care too," Caldar added as he returned the hugging with interest.