A story about a young man and his journey to an ancient city.
| The Tri-forts are three forts, Trenin, Gauze and Strong, along the southern half of Salatia, sit at the dessert line that separates the eastern kingdom of Dalmecia from the western country of Alternea. The dry winds color the stone walls with its yellowish hue with tumbleweeds pilling at the base of the two-story square fort. Stone towers sit at the corner of each wall with Dalmecian soldiers looking at the expansive sandpit.
On the tower of fort strong, two Dalmecian soldiers lean against the stone rails peering into the mirage inducing sands. With their helmets resting at their feet, they make leisure conversation.
“Ughh! How much time left until our shifts change?” One soldier asks as he turns and rests his back against the railing staring up at the blue sky, shielding his toffee face with his hand from the bright sun.
“Didn’t you forget? We’ve been placed on alert.” The other soldier says shifting forward on the stone railings staring down at the distant tumbleweed gathering at the base of the fort. His brown hair hung past his face as salty droplets fall from his creamy nose.
“We are to stay on post until told otherwise.” The fair face soldier says.
“Man, these shifts aren’t getting any easier.” The Bowman says, looking at his partner. “All this for a measly two rations a day?”
“Where else are we going to get it?” The spearman replies as he stands straight up. “The king took all of the food from practically everywhere else. Its either serve or starve.”
“Well, I don’t like it.” The Bowman says. “The King and his children get to have more food than we do, and we are stuck on guard duty with scrapes.”
“Look.” The spearman replies, turning around resting on the railing. “If you’re that displeased with your current status, then become a verse mage. They get more rations than we do.”
“No, thank you.” The other soldier answers. “They get paid more, but they only go into battle with robes and die a lot more often than we do. Did you see what happened when they were training? One accidentally set themselves on fire, and none of them couldn’t put it out because the verse was too strong.”
“Well shut up and just deal with what you have.” The spearman answers.
Then the bowman Dalmecian squints his eyes, noticing something unusual in the distant sands.
“Hey!” He says tapping the shoulder of his comrade. There’s something out there.
Then the other Dalmecian soldiers turn around reaches into his black and white breastplate, pulls out a brass monocular and holds it up to his brown eye. In the distance, he sees a lady-like figure standing with her red ponytail waving in the wind.
“It’s a woman he says.” Looking through the shaft.
“All the way out there?” The Bowman man asks.
Debra stands afar off in her blue skin suit with her black cape waving in the hot, dry winds. Further behind her, was an expansive dark brown wall of sand that stands tall enough to reach the sky. The rushing winds mix with the beating footsteps of a force of dragoons while they march inside the sandstorm. The Dalmecian guard’s eyes widen when he sees the many glowing red dragon eyes glaring through the thick dust cloud and drops his monocular in sheer fear.
“I…It…It’s the Alternean army!” He shouts.
Bells ring throughout the fort as panicking shouts are thrown from the other three towers. Soldiers scramble to the exits and pour out onto the desert sands to meet the invading army.
“Hmph!” Debra says sneering placing both of her hands on her hips. “It's too late.’
Then her eyes glow draconic yellow and, rough black wings erupt from her back. Her body morphs into a giant red dragon with two brown horns protruding from its thin head. Red scales cover its entire body with its black wings open and gives a sand shifting roar. The dark brown sandstorm envelopes the red dragon as it approaches the Dalmecian forts. The sandstorm overtakes the fortifications and the army with the dying screams of the slain echoing through the dusty fields.
Echoing knocks at the large mahogany double doors interrupts the silence inside the throne room. Two Dalmecian soldiers, one in white armor and one in black armor, turn to open the doors while carrying their long metal spears. The doors creak open, but a bareback fast runner bursts through and runs along the red carpet on the floor. He trips on the carpet near a knight armor statue and stands back up to continue his trek. Huffing and puffing, he reaches the throne and falls on his hands and knees before Ryzor.
Ryzor, gripping arms of the tall wooden throne, raises his dark-brown head and glares at the runner. A smaller throne with pink roses covering the seat rests next to the King's throne with black, and white drapes cover the walls.
My King! The man says, The Alterneans have overrun the forts, and they are marching through the valley!
Ryzor, wearing his white armor with gold linings, grips the handle of his wooden throne and stands to his feet. Afterward, a servant, holding a purple cushion with a double-edged sword, rushes beside him. He bows his head low, holds up the weapon, and the King snatches the black hilt of the blade. Examining the craftsmanship, he sheaths the cold silver edge in the holder resting at his side and walks towards the exit.
The King exits the throne room where Darkall, lowering his head in reverence, waits in silence.
“Follow me, Darkall.” Radius says.
The king’s armor clanks at the joints while walking with Darkall.
“We are going to meet the Alterneans in battle on Coarse Valley, he says as he walks past several guards, I want Dissandra and Ordenia with me for this battle.”
“Yes, sire!” Darkall replies as his black cloak moves from side to side. “What about the rest of your children?”
“Have Celta and Tyranese guard Belle City while Anguish awaits my orders at the castle. He will lead the counter-attack to retake the forts once we beat these lizards in the valley.”
“The army is ready and waiting for your orders highness. Darkall says as they approach the large iron double doors.”
There two Dalmecian guards hold black chains connecting to the large door. Both pull hard with the metal doors rumbling as they open. A bright light pierces the dark castle, and a cool breeze invades the castle as the door opens up. Ryzor walks outside and sees in front of him numerous Dalmecian soldiers all standing in line formation with the Dalmecian banner flapping in the cold winds.
A sense of pride fills Ryzor’s chest, looking at his vast army. He yanks out his sword, thrusts it in the air and shouts with cold white frost expelling from his mouth. Then all of them respond with a thunderous roar as holding their weapons in the sky and beating their iron chests with their gauntlets.
A red beam zips through a brown wooden hut and explodes into burning pieces flinging through the air and scattering across the ground. Drake, holding his hands over his face, rushes out from the dust and brushes it off his arms. The speeding beat of his heart keeps his feet moving as the giant golem cracks the ground with each step it takes.
Ok. This thing is made of stone that can shoot beams from its face. I need to find a weak spot quick or I’m as good as dead.
Drake, with his flaming crystalline sword in hand, slides to a halt and turns to face the menace. The golem approaches, and Drake clenches the hilt of his blade, tightening his limbs.
The golem throws a straight punch towards Drake. Drake shifts left dodging a wind gusting attack and drive his sword in the golems rocky arm. Drake’s feet skids in the dirt as he slides backward.
Struggling to hold on, his muscles tighten as he grips his blade for dear life.
The golem completes his punch bringing Drake to a halt. He lets out a hot, dry breath as he runs forward with white sparks flying in all directions as his sword scrapes against the stone arm.
HAAA! Drake shouts as he completes his attack and slides to a halt with sweat pouring down his face.
The golem then swings his arm back. Striking drake on his right side and sending him flying towards another hut. He crashes into the brown boarded shack destroying half of it as thick wooden boards collapse on top of him.
Ouch! How am I supposed to fight a whole golem? I hit it as hard as I could and no effect. I need to hurry and get out of this debris.
Underneath the rubble, Drake tries to push the dense wood off of himself with his sword still in his hand. His ivory teeth press tight against each other as he feels the aching pain on his right arm hip and legs. He huffs and blows trying to break out of wooden debris but feels a sudden heavy press as the golem stomps the pile of wood. Drake pushes his strength to his limits trying to keep the wood from collapsing. His arms shake as splintering wood edges start to cut into Drake’s arm. Dark red blood flows down his forearm dripping onto his cheek.
Then the wood floor beneath him groans and cracks, causing him to widen his eyes in panic.
If this floor gives. I’ll die. I don’t wanna die.
Then Fane speaks as wolfen eyes appear on the face of the red blade staring at Drake.
Drake! Use the heat swell verse.
“I can’t,” Drake says grunting, holding up the debris. “It’ll collapse if I try.”
You are stronger than you think, Drake! Write the verse!
Drake hesitates. His arms weaken. His breaths grow shorter as the golems weight presses harder on the rubble, bringing him to a near breaking point.
WRITE THE VERSE DRAKE!
Drake closes his eyes tight and with his remaining strength pushes the wooden debris up freeing one of his arms. His dry finger erupts in a small fire, and he burns HEAT SWELL onto the wooden board above him.
Drake waits a few moments looking to see what effect the verse had as he struggles to hold the wooden rubble at bay. Then he feels a small burning sensation in his chest growing. His heart pounds at very high speeds, and his blood heats to a boil. The sweat on his face evaporates as white smoke ebbs from his sizzling skin.
“What’s happening to me!?” Drake shouts as he feels a surge of strength in his arms and legs.
His eyes erupt into flames, and black smoke ejects from his nose.
The golem with its feet on the pile of broken wood raises his leg for a final pulverizing stomp to finish off his foe, but the collection of wooden debris erupts in an earth-shaking explosion with flames mixing with black smoke. The shockwave sends the golem flying away crashing onto its back, shaking the ground.
The black smoke settles on the site with the putrid smell of hot sulfur filling the air. The merchant runs up beside a nearby hut to check for survivors and see’s the black smoke covering part of the town.
He covers his nose from the stench as he squints his eyes and sees three orange glowing objects in the distance. It’s Drake with his burning eyes and sword in hand standing in front of the prone golem.
"Isn’t that?" The merchant says, looking at Drake’s sword. "It can’t be." He gasps, widening his eyes.
The golem works its way back to its feet, towering over Drake while the young man raises his head glaring at the titan with his burning eyes.The two enemies stand silent facing each other with the crackling sound of burning wood scatter across the black ground.
The golem acts first. Stepping forward, twisting its upper body for a straight punch. Drake responds in the same manner with his new-found strength throwing a punch back at the titan. Both fists collide in a massive thud sending a small shockwave through the camp knocking over wooden planks.Drake feels tremendous pressure from the titan as the ground beneath his feet cracks. Pushing the massive rocky fist aside, he dashes straight for the golem's legs clenching the hilt with both of his hands.
He performs a horizontal strike on its leg, cutting it off with one swing. He skids to a halt as he turns towards the other leg and slices it off with a leaping slash.
The golem holds out both of its rocky hands as it falls forward and smashes onto the ground with severed stone legs crumbling into pieces.
Drake runs up beside the golem with his eyes still burning and boots stomping the ground. With one swing, he severs one of its arms, causing the titan to turn and fall on its back.
“The ruby!” Fane says. “Destroy the ruby!”
Drake bends his knees and leaps high into the air. He flips and spins above the titan’s oval head and comes down with and downward sword drive aiming for its ruby.
The golem fires a beam up at Drake. But Drake drives his sword through the red beam splitting it in two as he falls straight towards its head. Drake feels the vibrations through the black hilt as is sword separates the red stream of light.
Shattering glass echoes through the field as the sharp edge of Drake’s red-hot sword smashes the large ruby embedded in the golem’s face.
The golem freezes in place as the ruby fades with pieces of red rocks falling to the ground. Then the golem bursts into dust, causing Drake to fall on his backside.
He coughs and wheezes as he waves his hand to blow away the dust. Walking out from the dust covered in sand, he falls flat on his face and passes out.
Later, the setting sun gives the sky its half orange and half velvet hue. The orchestral sound of chirping crickets and birds settle in the silence of the half-destroyed village. A few empty huts remain after the battle with the lingering smell of burning wood permeating the air.
Drake opens his eyes and sits upon a pile of white quilts in a perfect arrangement on the open dirt ground. He feels the soft cotton underneath him as he places his hand on his throbbing head wincing in pain.
“Ughh!” Drake says. “Feels like I fell off a cliff.”
He notices the tight white straps around his entire left arm covering the lacerations from earlier. The young man looks around in bewilderment before removing the quilt off his legs staggering to his feet.
You’re finally awake. Fane speaks to his mind.
“Ugh! Barely” Drake replies. “What was that verse anyway? If felt as if my insides were burning.”
“HEATSWELL is a verse that enhances your physical strength by setting your inner body on fire,” Fane says. “Though it can leave you weak after your first initial use. You’ll get used to it.”
“Hey!” A voice speaks out from behind Drake.
Drake turns around and see’s the blue-cloaked merchant walking up to him carrying a brown bag over his shoulders.
“How you’re feeling right now?” The merchant asks.
“I’ve had worse,” Drake says as he rubs the smooth bandages on his arm. “Though I’m getting tired of being thrashed around by random strangers.”
“Yeah,” the young merchant says. “I noticed you’ve had your fair share of encounters. I patched you up a little; though I had to use all of your ointment from the hive to do so.”
“It’s fine,” Drake says.
“The name’s Kevin Hale.” He says, extending his hand for a handshake.
Drake extends his hand and grips Kevin cold hands and shakes it.
“Drake Ryft.” He says.
“Sorry for what happened earlier,” Kevin says. “Everyone’s been anxious lately with the war and the famine. I wasn’t sure what would happen to me if I helped you in any way.”
“Well, what changed your mind?” Drake asked as he adjusts his red tunic.
Well…, you fought and beat that golem. Kevin says.
“Hmm,” Drake says. “So, if I hadn’t fought that golem, you wouldn’t’ve helped me?
Well…I… Kevin says, stuttering over his words.
You shouldn’t wait for someone to do something life-threatening for your viewpoint about them to change. Drake says. Once a person dies, there’s no way you can treat them better.
Kevin remained silent for a few moments seething in guilt before Drake walks past him towards the road.
“Thanks for the help by the way,” Drake says, waving his brown hand without looking back. “I appreciate it.”
“Wait where are you going?” Kevin asks.
“To Belle City,” Drake says, walking towards the main road.
“Hold it right there!” An authoritative feminine voice calls out to Drake.
Drake halts, turn around, and his heart sinks when he sees who’s calling him.
Oh no! He says to himself. It’s princess Celta! I didn’t think I’d run into her again.
Tyranese walks up to Drake wearing her black armor that fits around her toned body. Her spikey black hair stood firm against the wind while folding her arms. Celta stands beside her with the look of silent shock on her face as her silky hair blows in the cool breeze.
“Who are you? And why aren’t you prostrating yourself before the princesses of Dalmecia?” Tyranese asks.
Drake winces at her words holding back a rebellious response. He just stands there silent, looking at Celta.
Tyranese the yanks her cold steel sword from her brown scabbard and points its edge at Drake’s face.
“Answer me, peasant!” Tyranese demands. “Before I gut you right where you stand.”
Drake, not willing to back down, takes his stance, preparing to fight in sheer defiance.
I’m not going to bow down to the very people who killed my grandmother.
Tyranese turns her head towards Celta, who have been silent but anxious.
“Celta was he the one who humiliated you?” She asks, turning her head back towards Drake. “Cause I have a strong feeling, he did.”
Drake glares at Celta with a judgmental look on his face inhaling the faint vanilla smell with the cool breeze.
I let you go the last time. Drake says to her with his eyes.
Celta turns her head, breaking her gaze in guilty defiance as he closes her eyes.
“CELTA!” Tyranese shouts breaking Celta’s moment.
“NO!” Celta shouts. “No.” She repeats in a sullen tone lowering her head. “He’s not the one.”
Then Kevin runs up from behind Drake and falls on his knees, lowering his head in respect.
“Your Majesties, please forgive this person,” he says. “He’s a foreigner and doesn’t know of our customs.”
Upon hearing Kevin’s pleas, Tyranese relents and sheaths her sword. Then she braces up to Drake and grabs his red tunic with her clenching gauntlet fist.
“I'm only going to say this once, peasant!” She says. “You had better learn our ways, and you had better learn fast! The next time you see royalty and don't bow, I will sever your head from your worthless shoulders!”
Then Drake feels a hard-aching punch from Tyranese to his stomach. He could feel the cold metal of the gauntlet on through his tunic as he resists the urge to groan.
“Let’s go, Celta!” Tyranese says, walking past him. Celta follows behind and eyes Drake with a serious look on her face as she passes by.
We’re even. Drake perceives from Celta’s eyes.
Drake nods his head in appreciation, and Celta walks off with Tyranese with their boots crunching the dirt on the road.
“You’re lucky,” Kevin says, standing to his feet dusting the dirt off his cloak.
“They call her the Dog Princess. If you know what I mean.”
“Yeah, I know,” Drake says, wincing in pain. He grips his stomach and falls to a knee.
Ughh! I’m starting to understand why grandma punched me all those times in the quarry. It still hurts, though.
“Aren’t princesses supposed to be sweet, charming, lovable?” Drake asks.
“No.” Kevin laughs. “Not Ryzors princesses. Ever since the queen died, Ryzor started to train all of his children in war instead of etiquette.”
“Oh yeah, that,” Drake says, rubbing his coarse head.
“Why are you going to Belle City?” Kevin asks.
Drake sighs standing to his feet and dusting the dirt off his black trousers.
“Don’t know,” Drake says. “Someone told me that I should if I want to find a way to get to Estoria.”
Kevin’s grey eyes widen when he hears Drakes words.
“Well, you won’t be able to enter all by yourself,” Kevin says. “You’re going to need a guide if you are going to get inside. I can help you with that.”
“Well,” Drake says, motioning with his hand. “Lead the way.”