Prologue: A Message

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~Prologue: A Message~

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Prologue: A Message

“The swift majesty of the jardee blade reminds me of a fine tune. The crescendo is the electrifying moment as the blade meets flesh; the denouement is the spray of blood that decorates my face like war paint”

–Torien, from the Warlord’s personal journals

 

A raven with its black feathers tipped in silver soars across the peach sky.

The raven’s keen eyes survey the sprawling landscape, as if tasting the playful winds. With unfathomable speed that defies all notions of logic, the raven shoots across the horizon–its form vanishing before the slow blink of the mortal eye.

The magical splendor of the desert appears beneath the raven. The roaming stretch of grasslands, the mesmerizing view of the savanna littered with exotic animals with dangerous predatory eyes, and the daunting sweeps and slopes of mountains so tall it appears to pierce the morning sky–a mesmerizing sight that can stop even a deathless one’s breath. Dipping its feathers in the weightless clouds, an ominous caw emerges from the raven’s hooked peak as it suddenly turns and dives.

A sudden blast of gale wind threatens to disrupt the raven’s movements, yet at the last moment before contact–the raven spins, expertly avoiding the attack.

The black entity dominates the dewy dawn of the morning sky, its form an omen as it plummets from the sky. Almost at the rocky splendor of Mount Helena, the raven snaps its powerful wings before impact and landing gracefully on its talons.

Unruffled, the raven shakes its feathers before throwing its head back and cawing loudly, as if in irritation.

“Do not bark at me so, Kagura. If you did not ignore my message earlier, I would have not needed to intervene.”

The goddess Lyceria, whose domain and powers ranges from the silvery, fickle face of the moon, Life, fertility, and the tides, did not appear yet the air coiled from where her voice appeared.

A warning in the disguise of friendly banter, the goddess appears from a sudden fold of time.

It is as if the world snapped in half–a fissure fracturing the air as the scent of crushed snow and ozone fills the air. Stepping from a rip in time, the blurry, fast-paced wave of spiraling, intricate lights is no other than space and time itself. For the goddess to have such range in her powers to be able to manipulate the very essence of Time, the raven hides her pang of fear by raising her wings to shield the sheer horror in her eyes.

It seems that the goddess of the moon has adopted powers from her ancient mother, Time.

The goddess may not be the loveliest among the immortals, yet she is the most powerful. Compared to the ebony beauty of Rebekah, the goddess of Love whose skin is smoother than any silk, softer than the most luxurious of furs, she may lack in beauty but when it comes to power, the goddess of the moon has no competition. Thrumming with power, the goddess’s aura shakes the very essence of the earth, the air itself stilling with her grotesque entrance, and the ground shaking as if in trepidation. As the eldest child of the Great Ones, Abyss and Time, it was expected that Lyceria would be the one to outshine the others.

The moon wholly shines from beneath the goddess’s flesh. Pearlescent too tame a word for her, Lyceria is the moon itself, even in her present humanoid form. A voluptuous form wrapped in a gown crafted entirely from moonlight, it is impossible to look upon the goddess without the threat of blindness. Yet, there have been many a mortal and even an immortal that took the chance to brave the unspeakable brilliance of the goddess. A fine spill of silvery-white hair falls devastatingly from the regal sweep of her shoulders, analogous to eyes the exact shade of moonlight.

An imposing female who loved her creations–the mortals–as much as she tested them, the goddess looks down with a slight tremor of frustration at the younger goddess.

A noise that sounds like a sigh comes from the raven before a sudden bright light reveals a young girl in its place. Adolescent in form, the goddess Kagura has stubbornly clung to her strilla dresses despite her age. After the death of Ai-Rue, who died in childbirth, her daughters, Kagura and Akamae inherited both of her powers, the younger sister becoming the new Goddess and Mother of fauna, Kagura the Goddess and Mother of flora. Similar to her older sister Akamae, Kagura’s domain does not necessarily give her outstanding magic like Lyceria, but power and manipulation over the beings in her care. Akamae can as easily destroy fields of crops with the swipe of her hand as easily breath life into barren field. With the snap of her fingers, Kagura can wipe out an entire herd of water buffalo, call every fowl, hoofed-beast, every fin, to her command, and bless an entire farmland with fowls, chicks, and steers. Not detrimental in their range of power, the twin goddesses are important to the dynamic of the mortals, yet there are times where they must heed the stronger immortals–which Kagura has currently has failed to do so.

Kneeling before Lyceria, the goddess who chooses to remain in a younger form, Kagura bows her head in submission, “A thousand apologizes, Great Mother.”

Wishing she still had her guard wolf, Apollo, who would have growled at the pathetic show, Lyceria remains unmoved by the goddess’s apology.

Stepping away from her, Lyceria turns to look across the mountaintop, her knowing eyes lovingly scan across the city below. Catching the silvery fan of hair from her chosen, Torien, the Warlord of Rhageon, Lyceria watches as her as he peers down at his city from his window.

Wishing she could warn the Warlord of the trials ahead, Lyceria frowns.

To be the Creator of this divinely complex race, Lyceria has come to terms with the rules she must follow. There are mistakes she has made, which she acknowledges thinking of the genocide of the First Race, but in her adoration of the Second Race, the mortals, Lyceria has learned that to direct intervention could lead to more travesties than ever surmised.

After a long moment of silence, the other goddess’s hesitantly disrupts Lyceria’s flow of thoughts. “May I inquiry what you required of me, Great Mother?”

Remembering the younger goddess’s presence, Lyceria turns back to her, the hem of her dress soundless. “Yes. I have read the faces of the moon and found troubling news ahead. Visions of war, revelations, monstrosities, and the screams of million pale faces have flooded my mind. I need you and the others to prepare for the times to come. A shift will occur, where the hunted will become the hunters.”

Nodding from her kneeled position, Kagura murmurs, “I understand. I will prepare. What shall I do about the others?”

Not needing Kagura to clarify, Lyceria does not pause before stating, “Depending on the flow of events, their intervention will be necessary. Leave them for now.”

Nodding once more, Kagura looks up at the other goddess before transforming into an eagle. From her proud height, the goddess takes off–her golden-brown form disappearing into the white heaven of clouds.

Looking back towards the yawning city, hearing the rustle and sighs as the people below awoke from their beds, an unnamed emotion spreads across Lyceria’s lovely face before she slips back in the fold of time and space.

Rough-Yellow-Moonstone

There will be many who will never be blessed enough to witness the beauty of Castle Luñana Meskka, named after the Frysessan word for “Moonstruck”.

Castle Luñana Meskka, is strategically carved into Mount Helena, the spirals reaching past the mountaintop as if appearing to almost kiss the heavens. Pensioned by the greatest master glassblowers stationed in Tailor’s Den, expansive, masterfully crafted windows are fixated into the castle– the intention for the occupants to be at constant audience to the splendor and be rejuvenated from the healing light of the moonstone.          There is never any true darkness in the city of Ghyria, a City of Eternal Light many have called it. At twilight, the sight can almost rival the stars themselves. Lit candles sit on each windowsill twinkling in the darkness like stars and the moonstone lights the castle from within, a marvelous beacon that calls the Rhageons from all over the sprawling continent home.

Thousands of years after the gods created the Second Race, a moonstone fell from the sky, striking the Earth with a massive stone that blinded the mortals who first looked upon it. Completely flawed from their counterparts, the First Race, the mortals believed the stone was a gift from their goddess and creator Lyceria. The people at first made the tactful mistake of solely preserving the moonstone, misguidedly believing that their goddess would be offended if they tampered with her gift.

The moonstone brought the people the magics of love, power, and healing. A child born blind would stare in luminesce of the stone and would wake seeing with eyes touched with shimmering silver. Lovers who quarreled went before the giant jewel and would leave with a love that rivaled the earth and heavens. Women who reveal a gift of intelligence and resilience went in the presence of the stone to be anointed as Lyceria’s priestesses; a blessing that entrusted the gift of foretelling and at the ear of her whispers. Rituals, both formal and rudimentary, were performed before the stone and Moon Festivals were beheld in its honor. In times of darkness, when the New Moon bled the sky a deep, forbidden black, the people who would soon be named Rhageons, lit candles around the perimeter of the moonstone as they danced away the fears of the bleakest of nights.

Centuries passed and the moonstone remained hidden from foreigner’s eyes and it became the greatest kept secret of the mortals. Until, a silvery-white lightening bolt struck a boy who would be king. Dazed yet unharmed, the boy had an epiphanic vision and saw a castle etched in a mountain of moonstone. The silver, enchanting, and ethereal light drew him in and the dazzling colors of winking of azure and pale grey froze him in utter awe. Incomparably magical and fairytale-like, the boy became obsessed with building the castle that his goddess sent him in his vision. Dedicating his youth and sanity, the boy did not see the beauty of his vision until he was an old man, slumped and grey eyes almost blind.

A few hundred years later, the messenger arrives and is almost brought to tears at the mesmerizing beauty of the castle as he discovers the true meaning of “luñana meskka.” It even happens to the most seasoned veteran to the milky white splendor that is the pride of Rhageon. The messenger, whose mission will be the catalyst to a story of heartbreak and a love that will resound through the ages, shakes himself from his paralysis before he stops in front of the grand doors of Castle Luñana Meskka.

“Halt. What business do you have within?” A deep, muffled voice comes from above the messengers’ head. Halting abruptly, the messenger is not even a hundred feet from the gate until he hears the guards booming voice. A quick scan of his trained eyes, the messenger spots the sentries pointing their arrows tipped in silkworm poison towards him.

Gulping and clutching the message tighter in his gloved fingers, the messenger clears his throat before answering, “I am a messenger from BigHorn. I have important news to deliver to s’Nysurria.”  The messenger curses at how unsure his words sound.

The message had come two days hence. The messenger had ridden like the Bemarisse, the Goddess of Death was ridding on his heels. His poor horse was half-dead when he finally arrived. Sand scratching his lungs and sweat blinding him, the messenger had rushed towards the gates, distantly grabbing the flask of water that had been offered to him.

A pause. The messenger strains as he hears the men and women whisper amongst themselves, their arrows still drawn and directed toward his head. The messenger curses once more when a bead of sweat trails down from his forehead to his lips. Tasting the salty tang of his nervousness, the messenger almost faints with relief as the guard calls out, “Open the doors.”

The colossal door slowly groans and the messenger struggles to remain confident as he strives through the opening.

The castle’s magnificent interior rivals the exterior. A grand fortress that appears almost ethereal and otherworldly due to be encompassed by the moonstone, the castle is built like a metropolis–the towers growing in stature and size as it reaches the apex of edifices–where the Warlord resides. Opulent caravanserais for visiting nobility to retire, a manmade oasis that serves as aesthetics and sport, and farther east, closer to the wall,

an open, roving field for the castle’s livestock. Grand, with imposing white towers that look down at the messenger like a masterless djinn, the messenger is soon swept in the throng of castle workers, dignitaries, ambassadors, tourists, warriors, merchants, priestesses as they mill throughout. Traveling through the courtyard, the messenger bows as he passes a fountain that lies in the center as it sputters clear blue water from the statue of the patron goddess Lyceria.

Reaching the final building, the messenger repeats his inquiry within and the armed guards open the doors. Sighing with relief but because he is on a mission, the messenger knows only purpose as he strides, bringing honor and pride to his family, a beating tattoo across his heart.

The messenger does not take the time to pause and look up in admiration at the rich opulence of his country’s wealth surrounding him. Worn but clean boots thud to a trained beat–adding to the tempo of other heavy leather boots–that thump, thump on the spotless and shiny tiled floor. The messenger is entirely blind to the expanse of magnificent tiles, a hand painted mosaic–the image of the moon goddess and the silver face of the moon. Similar to the First Race, the Rhageons respect the arts, dedicating every inch of the castle walls with extravagant paintings. The ceilings reveal various expressions of the night sky–twinkling yellow stars, bold depictions of ghostly, giant planets, the audacious sun in harsh shades of yellow and orange, and the resplendent, glittery brilliance of the moon in every phase.  The messengers’ boots click on the black and silver marble tiles, the urgency and professionalism in his stride admirable in spite of the grandeur around him.

Another man would have halted his steps as the grandiose spoils room came up on his left side, the immaculate room with high ceilings and intricate light fixtures holding nine candles each, but not this messenger who grips his charge in his hands firmly.

The recently conquered Menis is now a city-state that exports priceless goods: lapis lazuli, lumber, salt, sugar cane, emeralds, gold, and saffron. The plunders join the room overflowing with precious, extraordinary pieces. The collected spoils is organized, numbered and heavily guarded try to tempt the man to stop and become enthralled under the spell of their power. An assemblage of preserved pottery embedded with rubies and emeralds wink at the messenger and the famed statues with various animal heads and human bodies from every stage of life, stare after the man, the painted black eyes rapt on his retreating form.

Walking opposite to the messenger–who strides with single-mindedness and his arms swing diligently by his sides– servants with colorful and unique head wraps and scarves, carry baskets filled to the brim with lush, ripe fruits, grains, corn stalks, raw, spun silk ready to be fashioned into garments, and chatter as they perform their tasks, pausing to bow with their fist over their hearts as they pass Lyceria’s shrine. A young girl walks with a bucket of grain, a small brown monkey coiled around her neck nibbles on a banana as it idly mutters.

Enormous, rectangular windows reveal the raw beauty of the desert winds; potted cactuses with enchanting pink flowers and wildflowers, the country’s symbol, sit atop the ledge. The windowpanes are embedded with the welcoming, healing energy of polished malachite.

Before a large cut of moonstone, the edges uneven and fissured, a small statue of the moon goddess rests beneath a raised dais, the willowy form and large almond-shaped eyes illuminated by nine lit vanilla candles and surrounded by interweaving, varicolored rugs. Outsiders who are ignorant to the stories of their devout Lyceria would have wondered why the castle choose not to have a grandiose and immaculate shrine for their patron goddess. Diplomats from the pretentious and sprawling lands of Mycea had turned their noses up at the small shrine and the stoic and the dreary Aesthan men had not outwardly revealed their displeasure and kept their icy expressions in impeccable, expert place. Unlike their gods, Lyceria prefers modesty and finds beauty and treasures within the soul more cherished over flamboyant, extravagant displays. So like their goddess, Rhageons–especially those who live in Ghyria–do not decorate their homes in gaudy colors but favor significant and contemporary art rather than ornate and flashy pieces. A goddess who has many faces–nine for the phases of the moon–Lyceria’s shrines are positioned in nine various locations where her people can pray. The main temple is farther west towards Massiet where the Warlord’s Muwwe is primarily stationed as Head Priestess unless her presence is requested, as it is today.

The High Priestess Cemara, Muwwe of the Nysurria, performs prayers for a crowd of people waiting to be blessed, taking their small offerings and soothing their bright and fevered eyes. The High Priestess’s silver bangles clink with her movements and the white paint designed across the expanse of her taut figure is stark against her healthy, ebony skin. With the New Moon approaching and the sudden drought that plagued Rhoh a fortnight ago, the masses plead for reassurance and guidance, their voices rising with despondency.

The New Moon can deliver misfortune to those who hold sins and darkness in their hearts. If one does not purge the evil within them, calamity and death will inevitably follow. Refuges from Rhoh–kohl-rimmed eyes caked with tears and tunics stained with sand and sweat–lament the sudden droughts that have afflicted them and a young man with a gold tooth and thick, black tattoos etched across his bald skull, pleads on his knees for redemption–his wailing haunting, which causes the gooseflesh on the messenger’s rigid arms to rise.

The High Priestess keeps a calm visage as she touches each person’s forehead, whispering as she presses crushed sage.  Concluding her prayers, she kisses the person’s forehead as she whispers a plea, “May Lyceria lead you to the light.”

The messenger nods in approval as he passes by, quickly bowing to the diminutive statue of his goddess in respect as he hurries on.

The young man crosses an archway leading towards the training yard, the abrupt wave of dry heat and bright afternoon sun momentarily blinding him. The desert sun is bleak notwithstanding the subtle signs of the conclusion of the harvest season. Winter will inevitably follow and farmers will have to prepare for the season with the littlest to no rain. Blinking his deep-set eyes and running his hands through his freshly trimmed hair–the sides short and the back braided into a long ponytail–the messenger refocuses and takes in the crowd of moving bodies. The training yard is a large open space surrounding the hard-willed men and women performing rigid drills are rows of bleachers where crowds would gather for the annual tourneys. Statue of the sibling gods, Hyrisis and Fatima overlook their disciples train. The former’s stance proud and indomitable in his armor that’s rumored to be the shade of dawn, the latter’s unembellished eyes, unwavering as she surveys and judges those below her.

Half-naked bodies are slick with sweat and sand as they train with a single-minded purpose: to become the greatest. The heavily tattooed tawny bodies perform their drills, dodging, lunging and jabbing with an eerie grace which baffles the messenger who tries not to look too awed by the best warriors of Rhageon practice their deadly technique. “It is like a dance”, he says to himself, a deadly dance that only the elite and dedicated could ever hope to master.

The elite warriors are easy to distinguish–nine braids with silver and red beads–carrying a deadly aura with hardness about them that only the fiercest warriors could ever hope to attain.

One of the generals–Sthora Heleroa–is currently off to the side speaking with one of her celebrated protégées Manuel the Mountain, the victor of the Danviel games two months prior. Rumors had reached the small hamlet where the messenger lives. The Mountain was rumored to be a fighter with no educated grace but with a wildness that resulted in his bloody victory. Normally, the most skilled warriors are trained in Ajax, where veteran soldiers train the aspiring soldiers. Sent at a young age, the young women and men who choose to fight for Rhageon join the school and brave the strict rules. Manuel had not been sent to the school, growing up in a modest family who had recently suffered a death. Manuel had to provide for his family after the death of his roggae and trained in secret to prepare for the games.

The generals’ brassy red hair is striking underneath the afternoon sun as she performs a series of moves with a curved sword to the fatigued young man, his body slick with sweat but his eyes rapt and lethal.

Shaking his head and ignoring the sudden strike of envy, the messenger grips the sealed letter in his hands with deliberate purpose.

Reaching the edge of the yard, the messenger halts as he brushes against a solitary young Ironwood tree, the purple flowers soft against his skin. Turning his neck back and forth, attempting to remember where his employer had told him which direction the private training yard would be, the messenger stiffens as he hears a loud grunt followed by a strike of steel.

A smile gracing his lips, the messenger heads off towards the sound by the entrance of the gardens, dodging a scattering of rocks that reach the height of his waist. A red-tailed hawk rests atop a tall grey-brown Mesquite tree, tilting its head as a gust of wind tickles the back of the messenger’s neck. Passing by the expansive grounds, the messenger wishes he could take the time to fully explore the legendary gardens where the preserved and carefully monitored meteorite is held. Ages ago–even before the Fey roamed the Four Kingdoms without fear–the Rhageon ancestors came across the large rock that plummeted from the sky. A gift from their goddess, the ancestors believed this was a sign to build the city around the relic to protect and honor their goddess’s gift.

Extending his neck to peek over the high hedges blocking his view, the messenger can almost imagine seeing a flash of glistening light.

Turning a corner and dodging the stubbornly prickly branch of an attractive Red Yucca tree, the messenger halts his steps as he comes across two men, both in their prime, currently circling each other like lions atop a limestone cliff. Too focused or too careless, the two men do not pay attention to the peril beneath their feet. A loose rock crushes underneath the taller man’s foot, tumbling down the gorge.

The dark-haired man with nine braids and the man with silvery-white hair circle each other as they wait for the other to make the first move. Their movements are effortlessly graceful–a predator’s ease. The messenger cannot help but pause. A few months ago, while on duty, the messenger had been trekking through the countryside and froze in awe as he witnessed a mountain lion stalking its prey. Almost undetectable to the eye, he dared to not breathe as the feline pounced on the idle, grazing deer. It was a savage battle, the deer’s high-pitched screams stealing the messenger’s breathe. But it was the intent look in the predator’s’ eyes that still haunts his dreams. In those depths, he knew true fear.

Tomo holds his breathe as he observers the two greatest warriors in Rhageon fight with innate grace. Genrys Nortega is the first to move; his taller and more slender frame swift as he strikes low–followed by twisting his body as he ducks underneath the answering swipe of s’Nysurria curved sword. But Nysurria is quicker. Settling on the balls of his feet, the Warlord launches himself suddenly at his opponent which inhuman speed.

Howling_White_Wolf

It is like white lightning has suddenly struck–the Warlord’s white hair only visible as he moves with unparalleled swiftness, dodging the parried attacks and suddenly going on the offensive as he lunges with assurance–then striking again with an inert strength. Though Nysurria does not have a bulky build with slabs of intimidating muscle, there is a wildness about him that makes the messenger nervous as he watches s’Nysurria eyes remain cold and calculating–a calm that can only be found by the hardiest of men or women who cannot be fazed by death and carnage.

A predator who can reign in his harsher qualities as he effortlessly attacks with grace and effectively tire his opponent without breaking a sweat–is a creature that the messenger would pray to Lyceria never to come across in battle.

As the dance of swords proceeds, Tomo catches himself gasping as the silvery-white form lands blow after blow on the fatigued genrys. Suddenly the air is tense as Nysurria shoulders the leaner man in the solar plexus–taking his right leg and hooking it beneath s’Genrys left. Silence pulsates as the dark-haired man lands on the grass with a thump.

Soon as the other man’s body touches the ground, Nysurria has his jardee –a curved sword–on the other man’s neck, demanding as he yells, “Carfa!” Yield!

The dark-haired man slams his head on the grass, dispassionately huffing, “Carfa! Now get your fat ass off me, Torien!”

The messenger is stunned as s’Nysurria backs off the other man’s body, setting his jardee to the side as he throws his head back in laughter.

“Nortega, you have always been a sore loser,” he finishes, abruptly lifting his head as he catches the messenger’s eyes, “Tolla, Tomo of Bighorn. Are you going to continue to stand over there and stare until the vultures pick out your eyes?” The Warlord finishes with a smile with all teeth and no humor.

Tomo tries to swallow past the sudden dryness in his throat. Silver eyes captivate and hold Tomo’s without wavering; the power discharging from the silvery depths seemed otherworldly but not wholly unkind. The messenger had grudgingly believed that he had snuck up on the men but as he looks back to s’Nysurria primal gaze and toned body ready to pounce, he now realizes it was ridiculous to believe he could sneak up on the Warlord of Rhageon.

Nortega picks himself up, resting on his elbows as he greets Tomo with a slight smile from beneath his trimmed mustache. “Thank Lyceria you watched our fight. Now you and our goddess can be witnesses to Torien’s dishonesty.”

Stupefied that anyone would ever accuse s’Nysurria of such deceit, Tomo whips his head towards his Nysurria in silence, waiting for the ready attack. But Nysurria only smirks indulgently at his closest friend’s snarky remark.

“Sore loser,” he repeats, flicking the end of his braid with indifference.

“Beast,” Nortega retaliates with a wide grin.

Shaking his head, the Warlord of Rhageon zeros in on the sealed letter in Tomo’s hand. “That is the Mycean King’s seal.”

The letter with a gold H in the center of the wax blue seal precipitously becomes heavy in the messenger’s hand. “s’Nysurria,” he murmurs, performing a slight bow and handing the white-haired man the letter with trembling fingers.

Watchful bright silver eyes fasten on the worry in the messenger’s eyes. The Warlord takes the letter and breaks the seal with ease, which almost settles the mounting anxiety rising within Tomo that had grown ever since the heavy and ornate letter came into his hands. If the Warlord seems so indifferent, there is no need for alarm, correct?

Nortega had risen as they exchanged the letter, standing behind s’Nysurria without the initial signs of his humor. Nortega is tense as the Warlord opens the letter, dark eyes sharp as a hawk as he tries to read his Warlord’s body language as reads the letter.

A few moments could have passed yet it felt like a century until Genrys Nortega breaks the silence, “What does the fat King want, s’Nysurria?”

Tomo releases his breathe silently as the question that had been budding on his tongue has finally been asked. The tension in the air has started to choke him, the uncertainty in Noretega’s eyes and the severity in s’Nysurria silver eyes, unsettling and adding to the multi-layer of uneasiness.

Rhageon has always kept a wobbly but stable relationship with the neighboring country that is only separated by the Beser Desert–neutral territory where trading mostly occurs. The country of peacocks with strange ways and only one god can never hide their disgust as they interact with Rhageons. Many times Tomo had been tempted to throttle the snooty Mycean merchants who would mutter in their fast-paced language with too many vowels as they look up and down in discontentment of his leathers and braid.

A growl vibrates from the Warlord’s throat, his sharp teeth sharp and white as he responds, “The peacocks have gone too far. They have declared war on us, thinking we are too ignorant and weak”, he spits out the last words with fury, his lips curling and revealing sharp, white teeth.

Nortega does not look surprised, nodding as his intelligent eyes look off into the distance, as if already preparing battle strategies in his head. “This war has been a long time coming. Remember the incident with the young village girls in Ramayara?”

Tomo had heard rumors of the “incident” claiming that Mycean merchants had snuck into the small but prosperous village of Ramayara with the intent of kidnapping young Rhageon girls to sell in Mycea. Slavery has been outlawed in Rhageon since the Fey fled to Death Island and Mycea a few decades later. For these men to attempt to steal these girls–the prized wildflowers of Rhageon– made Tomo advocate what type of country that could create such monsters.

Na, I remember,” he snarls, “Nortega go gather my generals; we have war to discuss.” Looking back at Tomo he nods, “Pesissido.”

The white-haired man starts to undress as Tomo turns to shield his eyes, almost blinded by a bright, silvery-white light.

 

forward-21400_960_720Outside of Anayissa’s window, trees are being meticulously stripped of their vitality as the bitter winds are a harbinger of the approaching season of antrawea transpire. Nude trunks with thin, curling branches like atrophic limbs sway underneath the whistling breeze–stray debris thumping relentlessly into the glass window. This time of year, the nights are a thick, dense gray that will cover the radiance of the moon like a cloak. Soon, the unforgiving brush of snow will spread across the country like a disease and Ana will watch from her lone spire, unruffled and unfeeling as snowflakes flutter gracefully from the opaque, formidable sky.

The Princess of Mycea, Anayissa Mirabella Francesca Rhyse de Cliousa, is a picture of loveliness as she idly sits on her divan, watching the sky that looks like ashes, with absent, faraway eyes. Fitted in a slimming dove grey gown, Ana’s hair is strategically styled and brushed back to reveal the softness of her face, the bold slash of brows that arch over her almond shaped eyes, and the youthful flush of her cheeks.

There is an energy about the princess that draws people to her like flame; even though she purposefully isolates herself from Court life to hide from the penetrating, judging stares. But who could blame them–Anayissa is arguably the most beautiful girl in the Four Kingdoms. The famous de Cliousa golden skin is faultless and shines healthy, her dark hair, with traces of red and blonde from the sun, spirals down her back with no regard, and her eyes, light brown with flecks of gold, are both compelling and beguiling–the strongest of swimmers from Jerome` could drown in their unending depths.

It is difficult to pinpoint what truly makes the princess the quintessence of loveliness; maybe it is how her eyes sparkle when she laughs, her teeth, healthy and white, sharp against her tanned skin, or the sadness that mimics a hopeless despair that floats like bloated, decaying bodies in the dead-tossed waves. But Anayissa’s beauty is more than skin deep; it is her soul that is unfathomably resilient and awe-inspiring–the multi-layered scars, grooves, marks, and every individual blemish that “ruins” her essence is unashamedly visible. Anayissa may be young but her soul is old and weary from a fight she only has just started. Each day is difficult for the princess to find the will to strive on; the demonic whispers in her head mock her progress and her amplify her shame. But Anayissa’s story has only begun to unravel; a victim of misplaced love and premature heartbreak, she can only watch as her world is suffocated by the telltale signs of the beginning of the pure wrath of winter’s icy embrace.

Absentmindedly kissing the fuzzy head of her bipolar terrier, Ana surveys the storm with a look of concentration across her pretty, expressive features. True to her breed, Ringa aggressively growls at Ana, her small body springing off of her lap as she saunters to the other side of the room. Her eyes glossing over with territorial rage as she finally settling onto her favorite chaise, Ringa glares at Ana from her perch like a lioness.

“Oh, Ringa,” Ana sighs with indignation, bemoaning her lack of affinity with animals.

Many young women her age have lapdogs that jump up to lick them, canaries that sing with them, and horses that jump at the chance to give them a ride. But for Ana, it has always been impossible for her to form a bond with any of the pets she possessed over the years. Her own horse Hanna cannot stand her, purposefully making it harder for her to get on and off the saddle and biting her whenever Ana is struck with enough courage to attempt petting her. The exotic collection of animals in the castle’s menagerie hiss any time Ana visits them, baring gifts to the beasts whose eyes are as broken and lost as hers.

Sighing once more, Ana reaches for her new diary, like a talisman, the soft cover of the journal soothes her as she runs her fingers over the fine leather. The diary lies open and blank before her, the white pages demanding ink and honesty, but Ana cannot muster the courage to transfer her pain to parchment. So many emotions knock on the door of Ana’s mind, demanding to be let out. How can she decide which to speak of first? Thinking of her family, Ana trains the point of her feathered pen as she visualizes the gray, stern parents of her grandparents.

Ana’s grandfather King Cobian died when she was a child and her grandmother Queen Gre’Andrea soon after.  They were never a constant factor in her life.

After Ana’s Papiee took the crown, her grandparents left and resided in their ancestral home Francesendale Manor. Ana and her Namieé were rarely invited, her grandparents disapproval too stifling and awkward for them to bear. When they would muffle the courage to attend a scheduled brunch or party, mother and daughter were met with scorn and contempt. Before Ana’s Papiee married her Namieé, there was a tension between Mycea and Aestha, which is ironic due to the factual reason that Mycean do share blood between their affluent neighbors. People are quick to forget when pride and money is in the mix.

Aestha raised the prices of their oil and King Cobian closed the ports, withholding any trade between the two countries. Because of this, both countries faced economic causalities and the people rebelled.  After the destruction of the famed Chrysanthemum tree that was first planted by the settlers of Mycea, the Treaty of Chrysanthemum was finally signed by King Bror and King Harold to unite the two countries. The loss of an honored landmark allowed the two warring countries to put aside their differences.  Honest trade once again occurred and neither Aestha nor Mycea would raise their prices for goods outrageously, as the treaty stated.

Though the compromise appeased the Kings, it did not soothe the ire of the populace. There was a rift between the two people, causing prejudices and hate crimes.

Stiff like an Aesthan!

            Those money-grabbing Myceans!

So like in any fantastical fairytale, the royal families of the two adversary countries decided that marriage is a renowned panacea. Queen Gre’Andrea did not favor and was very adamant about her disapproval of the Aesthan princess. The Queen would remark that Ana’s mother was too “stiff” to be a proper queen with her foreign looks. Her and the Ladies of Court mocked Ana’s Namieé’s yellow hair and “corpse pale” skin. There was no love shared between Ana and her grandparents, their constant disapproval of her driving Ana to improve her feminine talents. Practicing her ballroom dancing before Queen Gre’Andrea, Ana would finish her routine, a smile edged with anxiety as the Dowager Queen looked on with unveiled indifference.

Ana continues to ponder, her straight, white teeth absently biting into her rosy pink lips. As a princess, Ana has been meticulously groomed for a purpose Ana’s skin moisturized with expensive lotions and creams every day and night, her hair brushed and styled by the expert fingers of her handmaidens even for the most inconsequential jaunts, and her dresses, fitting smart on her petite figure, elegant folds of cloth designed and imported from elite shops on Francesco Avenue in Terrace.

To be a princess, is to be a tool, sharpened until she shone like a stiletto. Ana must admit that the pampering is tiresome–each waking moment dedicated to making her look presentable for her Papiee, her potential suitors, the Ladies of the Court of their failures, and the commoners–to remind them of their inferiority and undeserving to have the health and length of her wealth of hair. But no one ever asks Ana what she wants to wear her hair or what kind of dress would suit her. Rather, each and every detail that goes into her image is already premeditated by a group of aging men who could care less of the opinion of a wilting flower of a princess.

Beauty is currency in not only Castle Bastille but throughout the glossy Kingdom of Mycea.

As she hears the clink of fine china in the connecting room, Ana is almost relieved for the distraction, as if separating herself from the unanimated object and her wandering thoughts would bring her relief. A sweet smell wafts through the air, tugging at Ana’s weakness, her sweet tooth and settling her wavering resolve.

Launching from the cushioned settee, Ana exits her cavernous bedchambers with a bounce in her step, her slippers soft against the fine carpet–almost tripping in her haste to escape the dense cloud of negativity that had been catching up to her as of recently.

The adjacent room has bold dashes of emerald green and cream-colored walls, fashioned with dark, wooden furniture, imposing candelabras etched with a whimsical design of birds and woodland creatures, and a handcrafted dining table bearing an arrangement of chrysanthemums flowers in a glass, transparent vase. Though the thick green drapes are tightly shut, Ana can still hear the howling of the wind from the outside. If the weather were not so treacherous, the windows would have revealed a picturesque view– the dazzling view of the rippling blue waves of the Passeria Ocean captivating her insatiable mind.

Entering her drawing room, Ana smiles as she beholds the delectable treats being set up for her late afternoon tea.

Her ladies-in-waiting Laura and Julia lay out a woven basket of blueberry scones, thin pastries with cranberries and almonds, and a full kettle of bergamot tea with honey, sugar cubes, and sliced lemons placed meticulously on the side.

Mouth beginning to water in anticipation for the ample spread before her, Ana greets her girls, “Good afternoon, Laura, Julia. Thank you, this all looks amazing.”           Walking over to the steaming teakettle, Ana carefully lifts the lid and sniffs the contents inside before smiling. “Ah, yes bergamot tea. With antrawea so near, this will indefinitely fight off the chill.”

Though Ana proudly acknowledges her Aesthan blood and revers her Naimee’s people, she is reluctant to admit that she cannot not bare the incessant cold. Preffering the warmer seasons, Ana is guilty to admit her aversion to the cold is one of the reasons why she has not visited her dear cousin in Eastican in ages.

The blonde beauty and the dark-haired girl with stunning blue eyes pause before bowing to her, “Princess,” they stiffly reply in unison.

Everything about Laura and Julia is immovable–their starched uniforms, blank features, and lips thinned with strain. There is no telltale sign of the entertaining day they shared before the storm brewed and the sky bled from a tranquil blue to a dark, angry grey. The three girls had been chatting in Ana’s boudoirs while excitedly nibbling on imported Frysessa chocolates. The company had been habitually pleasant; the servants supplied the juiciest of castle gossip and Princess Ana laughed heartily, tears springing from her eyes in exuberance as she handed out the sweet, dark candies that melted in their mouths.

Though it is not law, it is still seen as unseemly for a young woman of such high status in society to associate so informally with her servants but given the limited and despairing options, Ana will always disregard the conventional outlook.

Itching at their formality, Ana is tempted to announce her disapproval until she remembers witnessing her Ana’s papiee taking them aside and speaking with them privately earlier today. The King never approved of the malapropos friend’s Ana kept over the years, especially looking down her friendly and familiar camaraderie with her handmaidens–whom he deems, unsuitable friends from a princess.

The crushing tides of loneness returns once more, her heart heavy and the pain throbbing throughout her entire body. Ana pushes down the pain that has accompanied the thought of her high-handed Papiee whose sole mission is to crush her emotionally and physically and force a pleasant smile to form across her lips. Ana sits gracefully down–indecently grabbing for the scone that would have caused her unscrupulous, bothersome Manners tutor to suffer from a massive and much deserved stroke. The fat man with a finely trimmed mustached, thoroughly enjoyed berating Ana’s etiquette and her posture, claiming that if it were not for her beauty, no man would ever desire to marry her.

“Indeed, a very charming man”, Ana says to herself. Ana takes another healthy and unladylike bite.

Ana catches a slight smile on Julia’s lips, which would have propelled Ana into a conversation with her personal and favorite servants but Laura’s ready gaze interferes.

Attempting once more the rise a reaction from them, Ana pauses from munching to mutter casually, “Will the Queen be joining me? Would it be prudent for me to wait?”

Laura answers quickly, as if itching to answer her question so she can leave, “No, Your Highness. The Queen retired early. Her personal maid claims that she has a headache.”

Worry erasing all her earlier doubts; Ana pushes her plate to the side. “Did it seem serious? Do we need to send for the physician?”

Ana’s Namieé had quietly announced her pregnancy two months prior and Ana is determined to wipe away the darkness that blackened her Naimee’s eyes at the physician’s declaration. No woman should be distressed at the prospect of bearing a child but for woman like Ana’s Namieé, they should also never have to fear that their husband’s would beat them until they can no longer hold the pregnancy.

Fear for her unborn baby sister or brother, Ana voice is shaky when they do not elaborate, “Will the baby be okay?”

“Oh, no Princess!” Julia shakes herself from her stoic state, stepping closer to Ana as if she were to comfort her. Her blue eyes warm and compassionate, Julia says reassuringly, “Your mother–Queen Suzette is fine. It was just the morning sickness that troubled her. The apothecary gave her a tonic to settle her stomach,” she finishes with a tentative smile.

Relief making her giddy, Ana laughs, the happiness crashing through her like waves leaves her breathless. “Oh, thank Olliah. That is good news; I will visit her later then. Maybe I will bring her a plate of cookies–cranberry and almonds are one of her favorites; it will cheer her up.”

Julia opens her mouth as if to respond, but Laura’s next words are like a hammer.

“Will there be anything else you desire, Princess?” If it is possibly, her voice is even stiffer than before, emotions scrupulously stripped from her speech.

Swallowing down the bite of sweet tang of the berry and the slight hurt, Ana replies weakly, “No. Thank you, girls.”

Laura and Julia bow once again, movements stiff as they exit her bedchambers. The sudden silence is stifling and Ana pushes down the urge to call back for them. The ominous wind continues to shriek, beating at the castle walls with the tenacity of a vindictive lover.

Because Ana refuses to be apart of society and decisively exiling herself mostly in her rooms, she spends most of her time alone–save her friendship with her servants and sometimes with her Namieé, whenever she is not sequestered in her own rooms.

            Namieé choice of drug is nostalgia–a thrilling escape with limited benefits and wounding consequences. When women like Ana’s Namieé experience such harsh realities daily, declawed and emotionally maimed, and thousand of miles away from her home–her home where her childhood was ideal and grand– memories of their past are their benediction, the panacea that leaves Queen Suzette immobile and unfeeling as she stares of into the window–snowflakes and ice in her distant, crystalline eyes.

Her mouth dry, Ana takes a sip of tea, the scent of lemon and the warmth, momentarily chasing away the chill and her harrowing thoughts from the rooms. The fireplace is crackling at the other side of the room, the yellow-orange flames, a low-burning blaze, the licks, like grasping hands, returning empty-handed each time.

Taking another sip, followed by a testing bite of the unfamiliar pastry, Ana is struck with a yearning for companionship. It is natural for any being under the sun to crave friendship. Loneliness is a heavy cloak around Ana’s stiffened shoulders that she fears can never she shed.

Sneaking a careful glance towards her dog, Ana could almost believe she was not destined to have anyone to truly understand her, bereft of a constant companion, it will leave her alone in this godforsaken world.

Though Ana loves her Namieé unconditionally–the love for her almost desperate and reckless in some ways– she is aware that Suzette can sometimes be swept up in her own pain and grief to comfort her daughter who also suffers. If Ana does bring up her worries, the misery heavy in her Namieé eyes is staggering. For Suzette to know that her snow cub is unhappy, is to acknowledge that she has failed to protect her.

So Ana’s silence results in her once again, sitting alone–listening to the servants talk and laugh quietly as they walk by, as she drowns in waves of sinking depression. The dark emotions are heavy–dragging her down as a small part of her struggles to reach towards the light. Each day has become a challenge for Ana to even leave her bed–Laura and Julia have resulted to begging her to arise to dress and eat and to perform the simplest of tasks. But they cannot see the terror in Ana’s eyes each time she wakes, nightmares and fear dark and deep in her eyes as she wakes. If her heart did not already beat, her lungs expand and release cool breathes, Ana fears that she would have already perished long ago.

            If I scream, will my cries be heard? She would wonder as she watched shadows swell and expand on the ceiling of her bedroom.

Tears trail from her eyes as she envisions her bleak and dreadful future. A tear falls from her cheeks, a splash indicating they have fallen in her tea. Knowing her stoic Papiee and his harrowing expectations for her to marry, Ana can expect many years tied to man that she will learn to loathe and fear. A cycle of wretchedness and abuse will follow her for the rest of her life–hopefully ending with her and not staining and ruining the lives of her future children.

Looking back towards her drawing room where her untouched diary lies, Ana sets down her dainty tea cup–part of a set that was a gift from her Nivo Bror in Aestha– and strides to her desk with resigned purpose.

Her mind miles away–a private beach where footsteps fade beneath the warm, turquoise waves and the full moon rests on her throne in the sky made of shades of purple and indigo–Ana smiles dreamily as she writes feverishly as she imagines white sand crunching underneath her toes.

When Ana writes, her mind becomes focused–the cacophonous noises from the outside world, the desperate crackling of the flames, and the loud sounds of sobbing that she can never truly escape, becomes dimmer.

Head cool and fingers poised, ink and parchment ready under her resolve, the act of writing is no longer seen a duty but therapeutic–the gnawing darkness momentarily held at bay as she gradually writes a story of a forlorn girl with hope and determination vibrant and unwavering in her golden eyes.

Chapter 1: She Who Expels the Light

 

 

 

 

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