A continuation of Part One (it was too big of a file size to fit into one for some reason)
~ ~ ~
This is why war is preferable, Heldaryn mumbles under his breath, wiping the stickiness of interrupted sleep from his face as he stretches on his stone forged throne, listening to the many complaints of a peaceful world.
“Sir the Orphans of War did not receive their supplies of food or clothing, again.” A short haired Galthan man garbed in deep red robes speaks to his king, brow furrowed, lips held tight so as to not speak his built up frustration. His collar and shoulders are armored with several thin plates of polished iron gleaming in the low light provided by glass globes of fire embedded into the two rows of eight pillars starting ten feet from the door, and ending beside the throne. Dark brown leather hidden in the fading of the light covers his chest. The long sleeves carry his oath sewn in silver, encircling his arms and carry onto his tattooed hands, ending between his knuckles. His leggings cover his leather boots concealing broad knives on either side of his shins, and on them they carry Orphans of War insignia like a flag which ripple with every step.
The man clears his throat to wake his king. “This makes it the sixth time, this month, my king.”
“Yes, and this is the sixth time, this month, you have brought to me this news without knowing who’s stealing from you. None of my Knights would dare. The broken families of their fallen brothers and sisters live under your care.”
“But Heldaryn, what about the Pirate Lords?”
“What of them? The Pirate King and Queen have long been dead, most of their lords have been hunted down with their crews and imprisoned, or followed their captains into the Afterdeath to be judged.”
“Excuse me sir, but we both know that isn’t true. Aurth and Greln still harbor the last of them in their kingdoms, perhaps one of them-.”
“I’ve warned you before about muttering their names in my hall…” Heldaryn coils his fingers into pale knuckled, trembling fists. Unwilling to lose his composure, Heldaryn takes a deep breath through his nose, and relaxing his hands with a slow exhale, before continuing. “The answer to your enigma does not lie in the fault of my Knights, nor of another, but of your own. It is often in one’s reflection where we find the answers we seek. Until then, you only waste your time here, and mine. This matter I do not take half-heartedly, know this, but this matter I leave to you Malkhan. Now, please send in the next…problem riddled man, and be on your way.”
Malkhan kicks the two iron boarded doors open, fists clenched, and lips ready to unleash his wrathful thoughts on whoever dared approach him. A bald headed and faced man takes Malkhan’s place in the throne room. His steps shaky, and eyes darting from the floor to the ceiling like a boy standing before a women most fair. He wears robes as well, but his are purple with green and gold interlaced in a dance around one another on his back. The intricate but beautiful design splits away from one another as they go over his shoulders only to unite again in the middle of his chest to create the crest of his occupation.
“Don’t mind him Halland. The truth does that to people.” Heldaryn claps his hands together, startling the frail Chief coin keeper. “What is it that brings you here?”
“Well, we at the Coin Keep have thought the underside of the kingdom’s coin should be changed.”
The smile on Heldaryn’s face straightens. “Why is that?”
“Well, they were made for a time of war, and we now live in a time of peace. We feel replacing the old words for something new will help the people forget our painful past, and move onto a hopeful future.”
Heldaryn takes out a triangle shaped, strawberry sized iron coin from his pocket, and turns it over in his hand. “Aspire to a manner of valor and honor.” Heldaryn places the coin on the armrest. “Is this the one you mean?”
“Well, one of them, but y-yes.” Halland says, his smile now straightening out.
“So you do not wish for our people to aspire to such things?”
“Carry the past to protect the future.” Heldaryn says, reading the back of another coin.
“Y-yes, but from what I understand, th-these were created to keep our people strong during times of war and-.”
“The Noble Wisdoms were made to keep us from venturing into the dark, and have brought us back every time we’ve lost our way. It is because of them Balifae still stands, and yet, you would have them forgotten.”
“Tell me,” Heldaryn sits up, elbows firmly set on the arms of the stone throne, hands squeezed together under his grizzled chin. “What would you rather have on our coins? ‘Don’t hold onto what can get you more?’ Or, or maybe ‘The future is prosperous?’ Or perhaps something even more…blunt?”
“P-perhaps.” Halland fidgets with his fingers.
“Hmph…I see.” Heldaryn scratches his left cheek softly, a thinking tic. “Would you say that you are familiar with the Wisdoms on the coins you keep?”
“Yes.” Halland straightens his body and voice.
“Then you should know only a fool-.”
“Picks at which…isn’t…necessary.” The revelation hits Halland like an arrow in the chest. “Forgive my forgetfulness my king, it wasn’t my aim to demean the first kings’ wisdom.” He tucks his hands under his armpits, and lowers his head in defeat.
“You needn’t apologize to me, only to remember to carry the past to protect the future.” Heldaryn softens his face. The room fills with an eerie silence as Halland makes his way out.
“How ‘any ‘ore?” Heldaryn speaks through a yawn to Rónal, his Peacekeeper who slides past Halland as he opens the door. Despite his appearance, which is best summarized by a comparison to a broom, he carries himself with a profound confidence. Heldaryn has always chopped it up to his skill with words and sharp features, but has never truly asked him.
The doors burst inward, two Throneguard pushing on the handles as hard as they can to make way for a man half donned in Knights of Hellwright armor. A sword rests on his back, and its sheathe is decorated in over one hundred pairs of large canines, each one belonging to a Moonwalker fallen by the swing of his sword. Behind him he carries something rather large wrapped in a tarp, and placed on the bed of an unfinished carriage. He wears no helmet, but his hair hides his face in the dim light. Halland moves like a fallen leaf pushed by the wind as the half Knight makes his way to the throne. He is stopped ten feet from Heldaryn by four other concealed Throneguard, swords and arrows aimed to disarm and kill him should he pose a threat. The Knight brushes his hair out of his face with uneasy hands, revealing a light-bearded, sweaty, bruise covered face. “Forgive me Heldaryn for my intrusion, but I have travelled endlessly for three days to deliver news from the Stormfront.”
Heldaryn’s body props up to attention, his eyes immediately scan the carriage behind the Knight, fearing what could only, but should not be there.
“The Stormfront? The War Cities have been unused for over two centuries. What news is there to be told?” Rónal speaks first as he steps to place himself between the Knight and Heldaryn, the fingers to his left hand brushing the pommel of a dagger disguised as the scroll holder. Heldaryn puts an assuring grip on his Peacekeeper’s shoulder. He sends his Throneguard back into the shadows with a slight bow before stopping directly in front of the Knight.
“Your name?” Heldaryn’s voice is sharp as a harsh wind ripping past your ear, his eyes still on the carriage.
“Gordred Naldaen, son of Gildred Nardaen.”
“City Army?” Heldaryn crosses his arms to rest his chin on his knuckles.
“Lorenhall, like my father.”
Heldaryn’s eyes finally peer into Gordred’s, noting they carry shadows, the sweat covering his face, and bruises are in his missing armor pieces’ stead, but no punctures to the skin. “Tell what you’ve to tell.”
Gordred’s body relaxes in relief for a moment to take a deep breath which he had been holding in between answering his King. “Over the past several weeks several farms, including my own, have lost considerable chunks of livestock. I don’t mean discovering their bodies butchered at the hands of tigers, bears or coyotes, they were taken. Myself and a few others went looking for them, but did not find them. Three days passed before something else happened. Our livestock were all acting…panicked, throwing themselves against their enclosures to free themselves. Concerned, I donned my fath-…my armor, along with a few others to save our animals, but our animals weren’t the only ones running. Entire herds of predators were running away from the Balnheth Mountains, whimpering in fear, some even trampling one another. No care for our animals, no care for us. The answer to the riddle behind their fear struck the next day.” Gordred rips away the tarp to reveal four large carcasses stained by dried blood. Several audible gasps give the room its own breath. Hard pinches to his heart and soul send Heldaryn stumbling backwards, grasping for the armrests of his stone throne to keep himself from falling. Ronal, and the Throneguard, rush to his side.
“Halavan, fetch him a goblet of water. Threihem, help him to his seat.” Rónal orders, his voice remains calm and strong. He takes the full cup from Halavan and hands it to Heldaryn, who refuses it. “Drink it Heldaryn, let the Mountain’s water calm you.”
“I heal, he doesn’t. Give it to Gordred.”
Gordred takes the goblet gratefully, savoring the cold water as it spreads throughout his body to heal his bruised muscles and bones. “There is more Heldaryn…about them-.” Before Gordred can utter another word, a powerful tremor knocks everyone off their feet. Without speaking a word to any of them, Heldaryn rushes out of the room. It can’t be, this can’t be happening. I have to know. Rónal, Threihem, Halavan, Gordred, and the other two Throneguard follow their King outside only to see Heldaryn, along with everyone else, looking in the same direction.
The Mountain Kingdom’s eyes are drawn to the distant green and gold fields to the south where an eruption of pale blue flame spreads out, burning everything to ash. A scream sweeps over the flatlands and up the Mountain Walls, causing the snow atop them to fall from their delicate resting places. Destruction spreads for miles in all directions, at the center of it all, flames shaped into a tower of raw power pierce the violet sky. When the echo of the scream reaches the kingdom, the wind chimes lining the shops and homes sing frantically, red flags decorated with depictions of silver knights ripple violently atop the Kingdom’s gate and citadel, displayed assortments of craftsmanship ranging from pottery to armor shatter instantly. The familiarity of the voice shocks Heldaryn, Threihem, and Halavan into action as they realize where and who the explosion originated from, Windrun, Valhan’s farm.
“We will have to continue this later Gordred. You are not to tell anyone else what you brought here. Rónal, tend to his armor, and help him dispose of the corpses. Do not allow anyone past the gates.” Heldaryn doesn’t wait for a reply of obedience before grabbing Halavan and Threihem’s shoulders, and disappearing into a cloud piercing stream of golden light.
~ ~ ~
The ground is bare, unnaturally dark, and still burns in some places as Heldaryn, Threihem, and Halavan try to make their way to the epicenter of the destruction. They can feel warmth through their boots despite the fact that Míanhr Steel never gets hot or cold once crafted.
“I can’t find anything if I can’t see.” Halavan’s voice struggles to make its way through the endless dense smoke to the ears of the others.
“It is impossible to see through this.” Threihem adds, not hearing his brother after all.
“Your eyes are not the only way to see.” Heldaryn counters. “Take notice of the ground, how it continues to dip ever so slightly. Follow my voice, try to stay close. The last thing we need is the whole army out here looking for you.”
~ ~ ~Valhan opens his ears to the bickering of four voices he’s never heard before in his life. One of them is a woman’s whose voice in particular instantly calms his quickly panicking mind.
“Am I dead?” Valhan calls out to them, now daring to open his eyes, and to his surprise the world around him is a reflection of his own, save the fact that this world is one of white, and the shadows are instead varying colors like those in a rainbow. He no longer feels the scorching heat, and in fact delights in the cold air hugging his skin. Valhan turns his head to the right to the source of the chatting where four people stand in a sharp circle ten feet from him. Just like he always does when meeting new people, Valhan studies them.
Of the four, the oldest, a man of one hundred and fifty years old by Valhan’s estimate, steps forward. Silver, shoulder-length curly hair cascades over his Míanhrn armor, his short, thin beard and brows are silver haired also. The most striking detail about him were his eyes. Where one’s eyes would normally be red veined, his were a glowing gold running freely over his grey eyes.
“Temporarily.” The elder speaks finally, his words echo throughout the world as if there were a crowd of ten thousand before him speaking the same words.
“What happened to me?” Valhan recoils in pain at his own question, trying to remember brings back the flames. The elder takes hold of Valhan by the shoulders to still him before gently gripping Valhan’s face.
“Forlhn Ornú, Norvheth (from this mind, vanish).” The elder speaks in a language Valhan can somehow understand, and no sooner had the elder finished speaking did the burning flame disappear just as suddenly as it had beset him. How or what this old man just did to him was beyond Valhan’s knowing or hypothetical thought. With his mind now free again,
“What did you just do to me? Who are you? Who are they? Where am I?” The questions bring both familiar and unfamiliar pieces back together in his mind. Seeing again what had happened puts a stake of ice through his heart. “Is Aryla safe?”
The barrage of questions puts a smile on the elder’s face, even forcing him to chuckle a little. “Like father, like son, eh Thareon?” The elder’s voice is now normal, sounding gentle and kind.
Of the three still standing together, the youngest, looking to be around one hundred and twenty years old who has hair like the elder in color and curliness, but is cut shorter to not go below his ears or over his neck. He has not a beard, but has grey eyes and wears the same kind of armor as the elder. He speaks up, “Indeed so, father,” his voice has a low thunder to it like the soft but rapid beating of a mellow drum.
“She is, though alone.” The tallest of the three men answers him this time, stepping forward to meet him. He is a man of no more than ninety years old, but whose long black beard, furry eyebrows and thick mane of even curlier hair than Valhan’s, ages him to be a century older. His broad shoulders and chest, short neck, and wide body mixed with being masked in black clothing with a heavily weathered leather long coat gives him the almost perfect silhouette of a door. His skin is rough, and white underneath coats of blackening as if he spent all his time rolling around in charcoal. His voice however, is the crack in the frightening façade, for it is gentle and comforting like the caressing of soft caring fingers running through your hair.
“But not for long. She searches for you, as does Heldaryn, and your brothers.” The woman follows right behind him. She is the opposite of the door man in all manners except for her voice. Her frame is slim with slight widening at her shoulders and hips, she wears a dress of white with a gold tree covered in three gems varying in color under the refractions of the light embroidered in the stomach, three thick branches stretch out from the tree to border the V shaped collar and shoulders of the sleeveless dress while the roots of the coil, bend, and spiral down to create a flowing beauty to the hem of the dress that flows over her feet. Shimmering blue, and purple leaves colored like that in the fall fill and wrap around the stomach until stopping in an inversed V shape at the back of the neck where, from a single stem, three large silver leaves smoothly bend around the back of her head as if to create the illusion she is sitting upon a throne whose spine is taller than her. Her flowing hair and eyes are a beautiful shade of red, her skin is clean, smooth, and pale.
“Who are you?”
“Oh, please do forgive us, we are not accustomed to introductions. I am Ledia and he is Gothiah.” The two of them bow slightly to him.
Valhan tries his best to hide the mixture of excitement and shock boiling in his veins, though hearing the soul-warming giggle of Ledia turns his efforts futile. Looking to the man between Ledia and Gothiah, Valhan deduces he and the elderly man next to him are related by some degree. As much as he wants to ask, another question wins him over.
“Wha-what ha-happened to me?” Valhan speaks slowly in fear of suffering the burning again.
“You died to be reborn, little one.” Little one? Even though he knows she did not mean for it to, that phrase always made him feel belittled, and he always ended up feeling like a child no one would listen to. But thinking on Ledia’s voice further, it sounds just enough like Aryla’s for it to have the same soothing effect on him. I wonder if she had changed her voice to sound like Aryla’s for that very reason Valhan thinks to himself, but again, is won over by a more posing question.
“Reborn into what?” Valhan says calmly, feeling naked at the absence of all his former worrisome emotions.
~ ~ ~
Heldaryn lastly finds Valhan curled up in the fetal position at the bottom of a small crater with a depth and width no greater than five feet, Aryla is hunched over his bare body, shaking him and quietly whimpering. He is warm to the touch, his once black hair is now silver, his veins are like rivers of glimmering gold as are his now grey eyes, Heldaryn notes when he pries them open to try to wake him.
“What happened to him?” Heldaryn looks to Aryla, speaking calmly so as to not anger her, and he softens his worried look to ones of comfort.
“I-I don’t know…he was working in the fields and then he…” Aryla stifles a sob. “He was struck by a bolt of lightning…or at least I think so…I didn’t actually see it. I tried to run to him when I saw him fall and began…flipping around on the ground like a fish, and…and exploded. I’ve done everything from nudging him gently, to punching his chest…but he will not wake.” Aryla says, her voice hoarse.
“Your clothes are nearly gone Aryla.” Halavan removes his red cloak, and places it over Aryla to comfort and cover her semi bare body.
Threihem removes his cloak as well, but uses it to cover the lower half of Valhan’s nakedness. Heldaryn moves away from her to kneel at Valhan’s side. He puts his ear against Valhan’s chest, and hears a faint heartbeat. “Fret not, he is still alive.” He puts a tender hand back on Aryla’s shoulder.
With the smoke clearing, Threihem looks around in sorrow and horror. Everything had been destroyed. The house, the barns, the stables, only mounds of ash are left of their animals. The level of destruction goes on beyond what his eyes can see. “How did you survive this Aryla?” He says before handing her several vials of the Mountain’s water.
“Valhan protected her. Though he didn’t know it, those flames, the explosion…that was his power. It was only by primal extinct he was able to tell it to not harm you.” The confidence of his analysis turns him into the center of attention.
“What’s happened to him?” She says, her voice once again strong.
“The impossible.” Heldaryn says in a half amazed, half acknowledging sort of way before picking Valhan up, and throwing him over his back. “I will tell all on the walk back.”
~ ~ ~
“No, no, no I can’t do this! I-I don’t want this…this is the absolute opposite of what I want.”
“Blood isn’t something you can give back Valhan.” Thareon says.
“Blood? But you are not even my father. Heldaryn is.”
“Heldaryn is your father because I asked him to be. To give you all that you could need to enjoy a life I never had. You were given a different identity to keep you free from a set of chains to a past the world no longer needed.”
“Then…wh-why didn’t he tell me?”
“Because my dying wish was for him not to.”
Thraykar approaches Valhan now, giving his grandson a comforting smile, and relieves Thareon with a light squeeze to the shoulder. “I understand your apprehension Valhan, you know I do. I faced the same storm you now do when I was chosen to fight for our family. Trust in me Valhan when I say this wasn’t supposed to happen, but it has. One of the first lessons I learned is that things that aren’t supposed to happen often do, and there is nothing you can do to change them. But I, nor you, are entirely powerless in the hands of fate. You have two choices; fight, or flee. If you refuse, Krahsen will win, and Barath-Kír will destroy all of Milnhr. If you choose to fight, you will not be alone. Your father and I will be with you every step of the way, guiding you with our wisdom, teaching you with our knowledge, and training you with our skill.” Thraykar says.
“But I am a teacher…and a farmer, and not even a good one! I am no fighter, or leader.”
“There are two sides to every man Valhan. A fighter and a lover. Where he differs is which he is ruled by. You are a lover Valhan, but lovers don’t win battles, let alone wars.”
“But…but you are a lover, one of the greatest.”
“Yes, but even a god must fight for what he loves.”
~ ~ ~
Aryla rolls over in her bed expecting to fall against Valhan, hoping for him to finally be awake like she had been doing for two weeks now, but she doesn’t feel him. Despite her drowsiness, she twists around like a startled cat to see that Valhan is gone.
“He awoke early this morning. We tried to stop him, but he wouldn’t heed our pleadings.” Halavan stops her with his voice right outside Valhan’s old room.
“Where did he go?”
“He wouldn’t say.” Halavan says.
“Did you see where he went?”
“He disappeared into a beam of blue light.”
“And he didn’t say anything to Heldaryn?”
“No. He left this letter for you, and forbade any of us from opening it, and aren’t allowed to read it without your permission.” Threihem replies. His quivering voice stops Aryla from looking down the hall, and through the small diamond shaped hollow windows on the outer wall, to look at him. His eyes are red and puffy, but Halavan’s are not.
“What’s wrong?” Aryla says.
Halavan pulls her back into the room, knowing Threihem wants to be alone. “He awoke before me, caught Valhan just before he was about to leave. Their argument woke me up. By the time I got to them, Heldaryn was pulling them apart. Valhan didn’t answer any of his questions, said he didn’t have the time to, and all the answers were in this letter. Heldaryn told Threihem what he knows to calm him down, and whatever he said has silenced him.”
“Bring him in here, we shall read it together. You two have more of a right to know everything than I do.”
“To you my brothers, and my heart,
I meant for this initially to be only for Aryla, but halfway through my fourth attempt to write this, I realized it was selfish of me to keep you from this knowledge. You’ve fought for me my entire life, even when I didn’t want you to, even when I didn’t think I was worth helping. If you don’t know by now, the Moonwalkers have returned by means unknown to us, but we can’t afford the time to solve that riddle. In response to this, I have been awoken. I am Thareon’s son, and I am the new Godborn. Heldaryn raised me as his own to fulfill a promise to Thareon. This wasn’t supposed to happen, but it did, and I’m done running.
Waking up after being reborn and having power promised by that fact is an indescribable thing. It’s…world changing, ah yes, that’s it. That’s the best way to describe awakening as a father of more lives and names than I could, as a mortal, remember. But being what I am now, has its advantages, or abilities you might say. Ones we have imagined our whole lives. I can hear those who do not speak, see the bottom of the deepest ocean, and see the raging surface of the farthest star. I can look into the minds of my people, hear their thoughts, and even find them using a method Thareon calls Mind Chaining. I’ve yet to learn it, as well as many other things. I am limited in my power as I am more human than god unlike my fathers. I have yet to discover my limitations, and that is why I must leave. Believe me, I wanted to take you with me, but I’ve gone where you cannot, to the stars, to master myself. With the help of my fathers, and Ledia and Gothiah, I will return in three months’ time.
The Knights of Hellwright will be started again, and its ranks need Knights like you Halavan and Threihem. I know we have lost our home Aryla, but not everything. There is a trunk underneath my bed, inside you will find copies of all our works. Of course I did so in case of a fire, knowing how you cook, instead of it being obliterated by me, but in a way it still was burned down. I’ve arranged payments for our house to be rebuilt, but it will take time. I figured you could use that time to finally prove to Halavan and Threihem you could beat them in a swordfight. I wish I could say more, but I must be off. I love you all, more than anything in Milnhr. I will carry you in my heart, and never let you leave my mind. I can’t wait to get back and show you what I’ll have learned.
To the end, until the day,
Valhan Analeth Hellwright
A pack of assorted weapons made of Míanhrn Steel lands on the bed behind them.
“So,” Heldaryn says, standing in the doorway wearing a suit of Míanhrn armor and carrying weapons of his own. Behind him, several servants hold three more suits of armor. “When do you want to start?”