by Julien Mike
The Sword of Knysos returns to its homeland.
Forged in Emulayas
Prince Rengaa was standing on his balcony, taking in the ceremonial proceedings below. The royal guard were changing shift, taking over the noble duty of protecting the Royal Palace.
Together they stood, encircling Halae - the guardian tree of the monarch. Its rooted power extends throughout the royal gardens and along the cliff edge of the castle walls. They closed their eyes and bowed slowly and awaited her response. One by one, the staff of each guard glowed into a shimmering green, signalling the start of their duties as sworn protectors of the King and his family. It was more a ceremonial position in these many years of peace throughout the world.
It was mesmerising to the prince - he has watched this ceremony take place most mornings for the past 110 years. As an elfling, he would wake up early to head to the tree to witness this event.
The epitome of elves' magic was exhibited each day. Now, as a fully grown elf, he still has the glory of watching it from his 'upgraded' room in the tree-palace - A grand, circular platform amongst the palace 'forest', sitting on the edge overlooking the city and land beyond.
The palace itself is a majestically woven fortress built at the end of a great gorge, enough to hold 300 royal elves and surrounded by extensive forests, waterfalls and cave systems. One waterfall in particular - Tiias, ran through the middle of the palace and leaped out on either side of the Royal Gates.
A tall, handsome elf with long black hair and jet blue eyes, with a sharp jaw line and a mesmerising smile had a lot on his mind on this particular morning. Though he could have any maiden of the court to wed, he was to take the hand of a princess from the West - a person he has never met.
In two weeks the marriage would be cast in stone and his life of freedom and adventure would end - in his eyes at least. The purpose of this is purely to give favour to the allies in the West - the Gruderuin kingdom. Filled in secrecy, mystery and magic, little is known about these people except in their acquainted dealings with the world.
Only those that are personally escorted into the kingdom have safe passage, and many have tried - and failed, to discover the secrets of this enigmatic kingdom. None who venture unguided ever return. Except for one, solitary elf - and he has forsaken a life with his kin to live high in the mountains of the neighbouring kingdom of Fevoros
Snapping the prince back from his wondering mind, an assuring voice spoke sincerely 'What's the matter, my son?' the queen asked her son, as she approached him on the balcony. Queen Anniheth was a tall, high elf, with silver white hair and deep green eyes - a strong and brave elf, with a kind and open heart - one that she gave to all the people - and yet also reserved for the two most important men in her life - her husband, King Lancallen, and her son.
'I'm just not sure about this wedding mother - a shadow has been growing in my mind and I feel more cautious about our new found allies. I need to go to Gruderuin, to make peace with my mind. I know father has felt it too. This cannot be ignored!' 'My dear son doubts and fears are all part of the process - you need to let it go so that you embrace this marriage - for the sake of our people and lands. The enemy draws closer than ever. We need this.' 'I was merely answering your question. That is what is bugging me since I felt it last night. This does not hold as a just feeling in my heart. My very cells tell me that the kingdom in the west should not be trusted, whether right now, or more since forever.'
Just then, a messenger from the tower post announced his presence. 'Your majesties, a note from Gruderuin has arrived. The princess Sera and her mother, Queen Helanah are due to arrive in 2 days for a royal visit...'
Rengaa's heart skipped a beat, his palms become sweaty and his head felt like it just did a handstand, turning upside down and downside up in quick succession. He needed to sit down for a second. Sera, his bride-to-be was on her way to meet him. He was overwhelmed with the conflicting thoughts in his mind's eye. There was a small part of his being asking 'What if I like her?' But, still - the strange sense he had felt of her kingdom kept him guarded with such thoughts.
'..they have requested an escort from the kingdom boundary and will require lodging for a week.' The messenger finished. Rengaa thanked the messenger, and immediately gulped down his warm lisca tea - a strong aromatic drink that is both purifying and uplifting, hoping to restore some balance in his already overwhelmed state of mind, while pondering this turn of events.
After some time, he turned to his mother 'Is it acceptable to meet my bride prior to the wedding? What if we are not suited for each other?' 'What if she doesn't like me?' He realised how weak he sounded as those words came out his mouth.
'My dear son, of all the questions to ask - you worry over such a pleasant event. They say that she is a beautiful and joyous maiden...with a tad bit on the rebellious side. We are not animals' dear, to just wed you off like wheat is sold for gold. No, we are very excited to bring her into our family. Don't fret. This is a glorious sign and we ought to make preparations for their arrival.' With that, she gave her son a wink, and left his chambers.
Prince Rengaa decided to take this time to open his sl sense (foresight) to receive some insight into this turn of events. As he entered, a vision crossed into his mind eye - a carriage - gliding over a white paved road with 4 cloaked figures moving alongside it on, what looked like hover boards. The figures wore deep maroon robes and flashes of their armour shone brightly in the full moon. Two guards on the front wore black robes and gold armour, steering the horseless carriage at speed. A spectacularly designed carriage, dark grey metal in colour with intricate white and gold lights marking the side and top - symbols he assumed. The prince had never seen something so mesmerising! . He also recognised the country they were travelling through - the woodland realm of Fevoros, to the east.
Protected and ruled by the Rakau royal family, Fevoros was a peaceful kingdom - the people were welcoming, peaceful and humble in their ways, and preferred to tend to their gardens and the nature around them than with strangers from other lands.
Back in his sl, the image now showed the inside of the carriage. A beautiful woman with bright orange hair was kissing someone he recognised from a long time ago, his face showing no aging or change. They pulled apart and the carriage abruptly came to a complete stop.
The man was pulled out the carriage and thrown onto the edge of the road, with nothing but the forest around him. This ended the sl and Rengaa opened his eyes.
Rengaa's mind was now even more meddled. The only thing that would help was to get out for a bit. He picked up his bow, finished his lisca tea, which was still warm, and headed for the stables. He had a long overdue meeting with his stallion, Fimbras. A good outride to get some 'fresh air' from the royal grounds might help him make sense of everything that has transpired this quaint morning.
A powerful, majestic grey stallion - white as the stars, dubbing a silver mane, Fimbras already sensed the prince's approach and was eager to see him after a couple of days absence - neighing and bowing to his bonded rider. The prince had known Fimbras as a foal, presented to him as a gift by his father, the king, after passing into Elf hood 10 years prior. They had ridden the entire realm together, and had a strong bond, as a unit and friendship.
Out of the blue, Lolailel appears from behind the stable door. 'Greetings, my princeling' said Loleilel, and initiated a low, slow curtsy in a jesty manner. Rengaa laughed out loud at her formality 'you're in a sincerely fabricated good mood today, my dear friend' he said with a smirk.
Loleilel looked around to see if there was anyone in earshot. She turned serious 'We must speak, but not here, I fear we have others who listen.' With that she turned to her horse, Niifna, already saddled up, and rode out the paddock with an urge of her hand to hurry him up. He frowned at this obscure act that just took place and not even giving him time to object.
He climbed onto Fimbras, and rode out, trotting easily and steadily toward a concealed 'royal' gate at the back of the castle grounds leading into the east of the forest. Only royalty have the power to open this secret blooming entrance - it consists of a living, ongoing poem that is only audible to royal ears and as they approach, they would mutter out the following verse in unison to the song.
They approached the gate and Loleilel turned to him expectedly. He listened for a few seconds and sang along with the song 'tha sinn a 'seinn ann an lleachd ar ballachan' A circular web of white flowers spun slowly apart to revel the eerie forest beyond and the two of them rode through the tree-wall.
Coming out the other side of the palace walls, Rengaa gestured toward the vast forest that lay before them. 'Shall we?!' Fimbras heeded gladly and galloped into the Kalaia, an ageless forest on the eastern bank of the castle walls, filled with creatures and beings older than the king and his father before him.
The pair rode on until reaching a secluded spot near the edge of Spreerkel Falls - a misty curtain silently dropping into the river below.
The prince dismounted and caught his breath. Collecting some flat stones, he skimmed them on the rivers surface, waiting for Lolailel to catch up with a grin on his face. He had known her for the past 60 years. Her parents worked as advisors to the king, and they had a close brother-sister connection. She was still an elvof, and not as travelled as the prince - rather she focused on the endless books of the library, spell casting and plant medicine as her past times. Her long silver blond hair hung to the waist, her petite structure was enforced by her yellow eyes - a beautiful elf to be... Though she was younger than the prince, she regarded herself as the more mature of the two.
She arrived a moment later, in one agile jump, she landed on the tree branch overhanging the river bank. The prince stopped his rock skipping, and asked her bluntly; 'What is this news you have that's so secretive?' he said, noticing her excited reaction to the question. 'It is secretive, my lord, as it is sensitive to any ears that it falls upon, and most especially yours..'
'Have it out then, friend'
Lolailel recounted the incident that took place the previous evening. She was sought out by Threros, the Night Owl of the skies - to convey a message.
Loleilel recounted the message she was given. In short, A likus had crossed the sea from Gruderuin, and was lingering in the port city of Nynamis, the only access point into Emulayas from the West. In the shadows it was waiting. When Threros had swooped in to take a close look, his owl senses discovered the likus' prey was in fact - that of the prince. It was after him.
What its purpose is, while it is on its mission, no one ever knows - that's what makes them so magnificently cunning. They cannot harm you physically but they creep into your mind and create darkened illusions of various outcomes.
They are dark spirits who are only ever formed to control, alter, possess or even torture their victim - each request drains life energy from the spell-caster as with all things energy, it requires life to create life. This puma-like shemon is neither physical nor spirit - rather it exists as a soft flume of smoke with deep blue eyes, a striking view to behold - a trap to lure you in and open your sl to their dire motives.
Rengaa had only heard of a likus once in his elfling days, his grand-teacher, Master Grafii had mentioned it once in a reference to the ancient days spanning 5000 years prior. Grafii was very brief about the context - only that it can steal your heart and tame your mind.
'This is indeed disturbing news my dear friend. I am grateful you took the necessary precautions. I reckon a trip to Master Grafii will be in order about all this. What does this mean - what is it going to do to me? This must be the odd feeling I had this morning about Gruderuin...did Threros say anything else?'
'He also advised not to worry about this as it has a 2 day trip to the castle walls, and this likus is still on the shores of the sea. He will keep a close eye on it'
There are few elves left alive today that can identify and fend off these shadow tongues, and one such elf was standing on the other side of the river now, quietly watching the two of them from a dense tree top. Rengaa suddenly sensed that they were not as alone as hoped. He muttered a word and turned on his illukai -a rare but useful spell in this moment.
His grand-teacher had taught it to him. It shows all living energy - the veins of existence in all life. It draws light from an elf into everything else. He spotted a blue figure grouching in the tree on the opposite bank, watching them (each species shows a different light - Elves show up blue)
'Show yourself, elf friend!' Rengaa shouted across the river. Slowly, the elderly she-elf of E?sian descent appeared silently from the thicket of trees. She wore a green cape with silver lined leafs along the edge, sporting a delicately woven band on her head.
Saligu! She shouted in Miikolu, one of 4 dialects used in Nynamis. 'I come in peace, my prince - may I join you?'
'You are welcome, m' lady,' replying in Miikolu.
Muttering a few words, she started walking toward them, and as she did the river split up ahead of her. The prince and Lolailel stood in awe as this happened, until she had reached the other side. The elf walked up to them and gathered herself.
'I am Raarea. I was sent by Threros to teach you the spell to trap a likus and destroy it. It is a powerful spell that consumes much energy - so practise is key!' She preached half excitedly - not wanting to sound overly eager.
'It is essential that we keep this under wraps, my lord - no one can know about this...not even you father, the King - at least not yet - there hasn't been a likus attack in Emulaylas for many centuries. And the very thought that one exists will cause mayhem in the capital. This must remain between us and Threros!' she paused and waited for an agreement by all parties present.
Rengaa was confused that she knew so much about his conversation with Loleilel and kept his guard up until he fully understood her intentions.
She continued 'Now, as yet we don't know for sure who sent the likus, and we cannot assume it is from the royal family of Gruderuin.. and we should definitely not assume that this is altogether evil. Its intentions could be anything... a lovers pull..a father's will, or, yes - more sinister - a poisoned word from a envious lover...we will only fully know it's motives once she gets into your sl, my lord - which we must avoid at all costs.
'However, I do have some more wisdom on that vision you saw...' she looked at him to gauge his reaction at this statement. She merely smiled and continued - he opened his mouth to say something, but Raarea put up her hand- 'While we have time, let me speak. Questions can comelater.'
She spoke slowly and steadily, with conviction and certainty. 'Your bride-to-be, Princess Sera fell deeply in love with an elfling from Emulayas - he is the same age as you, and to this day, is the only Elf that has returned from Gruderuin unscathed. Some say he is has turned spy, some say he defeated them singlehandedly. The truth is the princess, Sera, made her father swear to return him home safely or she would take her own life - this is the threat a princess gave her king. What was a father to do?'
She paused for a second to let Rengaa process this.
She continued 'Grendelior, born of this city, went to Gruderuin on request of your father, on a secret mission to retrieve a map of the land. Off he went, and for years he didn't return or send word. Everyone thought he was dead until i spotted him in Fevoros, 47 years later.'
'He was making his way through the capital. I followed him and cornered him in his chambers. He was sworn into secrecy by the Gruderuinian king; to never speak of what he saw in those lands, and he has kept that promise until this day.'
'However, he could not function in society anymore. He asked for his dues from your father in private and left to live in the mountains far up in our neighbours borders.'
Raarea took a breath and changed the subject momentarily. 'Who is this gorgeous she-elf up in the tree, pleased to meet you?'
'I am Lolailel.' She lept off the tree branch, landing silently on the good earth, and gave a polite bow to the elder-elf. 'And what have you to say about all this, young friend?' she asked Lolailel. 'To be honest with you, this is all new to me - I don't even know what a likus looks like but I do like this bit of news about our Prince's new found courtship rival..' she gave a wink to the prince, who dismissed her sarcasm, and turned back to Raarea. 'Where do you suggest we begin, my lady?' He asked.
'Well, to finish off, 2 days ago, the princess of Gruderuin rode, in secret, to the Ajuru mountains, in search of her beloved. Your vision this morning has 3 outcomes, as I see it: One, she found him and they are going to stay together in secret, even during your marriage to her. Or she is planning to run away with him. Or 3, she merely came to say goodbye one last time before returning home, and to you as your wedded, faithful bride - happy ever after.' Raarea enjoyed stirring up questions in her students - even outside the classroom.
Raarea was born from Salek and M?slre and lived now in Soroa, Easia. Her dad, Salek was one of the Easfahael - a life-long dedicator to the study and protection of the sacred 'Iju' - a collection of knowledge in stems, books and leaves on Elvish existence. The Iju is a gigantic and ancient pine tree, with its roots winding like an endless library, on thousands of years of Elvish life. Iju has stood in the same place for 4304 years and will stand there for many more millennia, out in the snow peaks of the Ajuna mountains of Fevoros. Alas, this ''dedication'' was fouled when Salek took a sacred book and sold it to an unknown buyer in Gruderuin.
When the king found out, he swiftly stripped Salek of all title and honour. He and his wife, M?slre were taken to Gunderuin as punishment, to live out his betrayal, and his only daughter, Raarea was handed to a family in Nyanamis, to allow her a free and untainted life. A fair decision by king.
A-iLLukai, she became a great and powerful healer during her elfur years (adult elf of 500-1000 years of age-few of these elves are still actively involved in city existence) Raarea has had the pleasure of stopping a likus once before as an experiment with her grandmaster..never did she imagine that she would teach this spell to another, that is until Threros arrived at her balcony earlier this morning.
'Alright my prince, I will answer any questions you may have, before we move onto the next step.'
He didn't hesitate and said: 'how do you know about my visions?' She smiled at this as she knew this would be the first. 'I am a Shaa, and with that comes the ability to experience another's mind..only temporary of course. As a Shaa, I am an expert in the field of medicine, and can be useful in certain circumstances. And in so doing, can see what you see.' Loleilel nodded at this in appreciation and made a mental note to look it up later.
'How do we find a likus and stop it?' 'That's the exciting thing about a likus, my lord. You don't hunt them..you'll have to wait for it to get to you. And that's when you need to be prepared. I will teach you the spell for this, but it will have to be out here, in the woods. If you're lucky, it could be here by tomorrow evening. We have to start now to get your ready. The sun was still sitting low in the morning sky, so the prince gladly obliged to start his training. 'Lolailel, I must ask that you return to the castle and inform the keep that I won't be returning til the evening.' 'Yes, my lord. She nodded and got on her horse, shouting 'Bengaai!' to both of them (translation: farewell)
'Now that we have some privacy, there is something else I wish to speak of...' continued Raarea. 'It might be in your best interest to visit this Grendalior and get his side of the story, and maybe some indication on the likus.' Prince Rengaa pondered on this for a moment. 'That is a grand plan, my lady. Let us do some spell work now, and we can take a trip later - post noon, if you would be so kind as to act as a guide?'
'When this wedding is over, we will have everything we ever wanted!' cried Quarak. 'All these endless years of waiting - to finally bring union between east and west - as foretold in the scripts of YJak. No more shall our kind have to hide but we can cast ourselves free into all corners of the world!' Quarak was most vocal and forthcoming, even as the Queen's Left hand advisor. She was talking to her queen mother, who was most excited about this marriage, as were many others in the capital city of Dwulof, Gruderuin. The entire Queens' horde was busy with preparations, all silently ecstatic about this momentous occasion. A royal wedding with an outsider.. not since the days of Grudberagh and his elvish wife, Hersamela - and none are alive today to recount such days.
The princess, now returned from her travels, was sitting quietly in the window sill of the Queenery - the royal chambers. Her mom and 5 sisters were all sitting chatting over tea. She had other things on her mind. 'Sera, come over here and eat something, my dear.' Queen insisted 'I'm not hungry. Though I think I will retire to my room for a while.' And with that she excused herself from the Queenery.
The palace keep was a peculiar, triangular shaped building with spectacular dark, gun metal outer shell that rose high into the luminous sky, with a copper sheathed cloud that encircled the tip. Nesting on the cloud, the greatest of the 'Ku-ji' -cloud-riders - protected the palace from above. Becoming an Ku-ji Rider was a lifelong commitment to the protection of the realm, in addition the magical works of fire-art they exhibited during each day at 12 noon and festive occasions, each one as unique as the previous, magical giants of fire and light dancing in the night sky.
Her walk back to her room was filled with racing thoughts on whether or not it was successful, and if it will be. What if they discover the true meaning of this act?' She had staked a lot on this being a success, and all she could do now was wait for the outcome.
The people of Gruderuin were all dark in complexion with a range of hair colour and all green eyed. They are born with no magic powers until they reached the age of 92, whence they are initiated into the horde by smoking from the Falls of Qelas, the source of all magic in the land. The elf, Grendelior had inhaled a taste of this misty magic - a vial given to him by Sera, as a parting gift. It had a drastic effect on the young elf, opening doors that few could manage - and he was growing into a powerfully being, even without his awareness. The magic of this land is frightfully beautiful in its mystery and power.
Meanwhile, in Nynamis, the likus, hindered by the daylight and access beyond the port guards - had now reached the edg of the Elven land of Emulaylas, and was able to move swiftly through the forests of Neika - its crossing the sea was assisted by Grendelior, after being visited by his one true love to fulfil this request, and with the overwhelming giddiness of having her back in his life, at least in a few weeks- he was more than willing to help her. He was able to persuade the border patrol easy passage, and concealing the likus in a coffin-like box, explaining it was a load of sand for his home in the mountain. The price was death if he was caught, and yet it was more a stroll in the park for the first generation 'Grudelf' -with more power than anyone in the land could muster - more so, control.