Torien has always been present in my dreams. The white-haired knight who took away the darkness inside of my heart, I made sure I was able to show other sides of him; to prove he was worthy enough of Ana’s love.
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Chapter 1: She Who Expels the Light~PART 1
“I wish I could capture the wild beauty of the open sky with pastels and paint. My mind a bare canvas hungry for the wispy mists of dawn, the unapologetic beaming rays of midday, the fluttering skirts of dusk: indigo, red, the traces of pink, and the still, cruelty of night. My obsession with the open sky must be foretelling; maybe I was meant to posses wings instead of leaden limbs”–Anayissa, from her personal diary
The city of Ghyria is like a painting that never truly sets. The paint still bubbles with life, the oils drip like tear drops, the canvas breathes–deeply. Alive, the city smells like life and death, like healing and snatched, hurried kisses.
It is tradition for the citizens of Ghyria to revel the nightlife. How can they not? As if penned by fate, each citizen has their own purpose, their own passion that drives them out of bed in the morning, the same drive that pushes them to sit at their favorite bar stool after work. Sloshed tin cups filled to the brim with cawfee, finely spun glasses bearing the weight of a drink made from crushed grapes, the city is bustling with the best and worst of life. The women who dedicates her life to keeping the smile on her children’s faces, the man who turns his eye to small, petty crimes, the child who stares up at the sky and envies the birds with colorful wings; all of these people fit perfectly into the painting.
And the sky, the night sky catches the eye like a predator; mesmerizing with its sheer beauty, such enthrallment taking place that one does not notice when the fangs rip into the flesh. A smudge of indigo and midnight blue are the only flaws in this remarkable bleak sky. How can a sky be so absent of color when the stars themselves burn with such intensity?
One has to admit that the city of Ghyria can only be truly appreciated in the nighttime.
A city structured to diffuse the desert heat, the unrelenting waves of heat that threatens the most hardened yet jovial roaming caravan family, many cities in Rhagaeon have followed in Ghyira’s approach to tackle the heat. Patient details to the layout of the city, spending hefty coins on architectural designs, the ancestors of Rhageon were smart when they decided to settle near the prosperous and temperate (Kyn)thia River. The gaping and yielding river, its namesake in honor of the two-spirited god of agriculture stretches miles wide and with the help of advanced technology, aqueducts and irrigation systems were set in place to aid with energy, crops, and trade.
One will not find a high and statuesque building in Ghyria, excluding the towers found in the castle. Namely due to the fact that heat rises, the buildings and homes are a sweep of tandem rows of low, tan, taupe, and russet buildings. Ranging from slanted and flat-top roofs, tiles in varying colors of deepest crimson to teak and dandelion decorate the surface of the roofs.
Music can be heard from every corner of the city. A band can be found stationed at corners, shops to lure customers in, a crooning songstress swaying to the hushed thrum of the guitar in bars and sleek lounges, or even a random outbreak of song accompanied by the chirpy song of a passing bird.
Bustling with people, the citizens of Ghyria are almost nocturnal in their movements. One would not find such lively behavior when the clock struck noon. The heat too unbearable, the citizens will ration their energy until they can release it in the save haven of the cool cloak of night.
Gyrating, sun-darkened bodies are slick with sweat as soon as the sun steps behind the mountains. The last, lingering licks of sunrays is a symbol for celebration as faces are soon splattered with silvery-white paint. Glittering Rhageons mill throughout the streets, the sheer euphoria glowing within rivals the paint decorating their faces like stars.
Effortlessly hearing the clink of quick, brown hands exchanging goods with silver coins, Torien leans closer from the edge and can make out the stamp of the goddess Lyceria’s face imprinted in the coins.
Like all nights, Torien peers down from his tower and watches in bemused amazement at the sheer liveliness of his city. Yes, Ghyria is the capitol. Yes, travelers come far and wide–even travelers whose lands do not touch Xyermeis– to witness what Rhageon has to offer. Yes, he is Lyceria’s Chosen; blessed with powers no mortal in history has ever possessed. Even despite Torien being able to acknowledge the stated facts, he cannot, for the life of him, understand the source of the energy that his people produce like crops.
Watching as a family closes their door before departing into the streets, Torien smiles without showing his teeth as he notes the lack of locks on the door. Because of Torien’s abilities, he can immediately spot a potential threat, especially from his vantage point. Not that anyone would dare to break any of the rules, not with every citizen of Rhageon aware that Torien is dual-bodied and the Chosen of Lyceria.
His eyes tracing the streets with unhurried, almost lazy glances, Torien nods his head as he finds the solution to his previous inquiry.
The Great Sleep. In honor of the Shamala, the god of Sleep, the citizens of Rhageon will depart from their place of work and go home. In those stretch of hours, the people will pause to eat, catch up with family before taking a well needed nap. While the unrelenting waves of heat sweep through the absent city, the citizens will recharge their energy before the sun settles further down form its afternoon perch.
The tradition of the Great Sleep has remained in tandem of the Second Race.
The mortals and the stories they told had fascinated the child of Rift and Amity, Shamala. Frustraed with the mortals when they fell asleep, Shamala decided to enter their dreams so he can always be at ear to their stories, thus becoming the God of Sleep.
In other cultures, the sun is seen as dominant; associated with masculine qualities but this is not done in Rhageon. In Rhageon, there is no discrimination between men and women. What is the sense in subjecting half the population?
Women have the same opportunity as men in Rhageon, almost more because Lyceria is indefinably female. And because she is loved and revered, so is the moon.
Even in the day sky, where the waves of unbridled blues dominate the sky, the people cheer at the faint sight of the moon.
So when the moon has regally reclaimed her throne in the night sky, festivities and public rituals are immediate. Priestesses and their students hurry from their studies to spread Lyceria’s words and love through prayer and song.
Night market’s flourish under the welcoming beams of moonlight. It is so sudden, how the night markets spring up like night bloomers. Carts and wagons shaking with goodies and homemade goods shutter and tinkle as they park and string up whimsical laterns and stores reopen their doors with gusto and hearty tillas.
Like releasing a well-held breathe, citizen flood the streets as they rush to browse, buy, and haggle with delight. A silk scarf freshly spun from a silkworm, a rug braided and imported from Ashanti, an embroidered vest from the coast of Nombeko, pink shell from Rufaro, and vases with dazzling decorative motifs from Alderon, one can find many of Rahgeon’s treasures in the markets.
Weaving the through the illuminated streets, Torien observes in muted joy as some pause to share him in his perusal of the night sky. Twinkling stars hang like rip apples, the moon shines like a polished jewel, the citizens of Ghyria combed through the streets in utter confidence, the lack of fear emitting from their scents is like a pat on the back for Torien. His people have utter confidence in his ability to protect them. And they should.
The Warlord of Rhageon, Torien Ethelwolf Aldrake M’atheian perches from his solitary tower, the cool wind flirting with his bone white hair as the backdrop of the night sky bathes him darkness. The only flash of color is the silver glow of his predator-like grey eyes.
With his heightened senses, Torien can hear the rhythmic slapping waves cresting to the east, the dormant grumbles from volcanoes in the west, the might force of the desert stallions racing through the fields in the south, and the loud, pounding, born from apprehension, in his heart.
Beyond his own worries, the people below chatter and laugh without quandary.
When he was younger, Torien had been at first overwhelmed with his powers. Forcing him to become accustomed to the consequences of having heightened senses and living in a thriving city, Torien would make himself stand out of his tower, like he is now, and learn how to adjust.
How to properly describe the complexity of being able to sense everything?
Imagine being able to hear every outburst of joy, sorrow, and everything in between, see in perfect accuracy, take in every detail, literally taste the meats roasting on rotating spikes, the yeast from the freshly baked flatbreads before being smothered in layers of yogurt, the clean, earthy herbs like thyme, sage, and rosemary being spritzed with water by eager-faced vendors, and taste the bitter tang of fear, the heavy, dryness of melancholy y and sadness of overwhelming the tongue, ad the pulpy citrus burst of happiness, all at once?
Taking his hand off of the railing, Torien looks down at his hands.
Soon, his hands will be slick with sticky, red blood. The red a stain that will never truly wash away. Soon, Torien will end countless lives with his hands. With his ability to shift into his other form, a massive white wolf, numbers of soldiers will fall beneath his might. Soon, Torien will close his eyes, as his victims will fall to their knees like dominos, begging for mercy with such ardor. Some will have already soiled themselves by then. Soon, he will have to halt their cries with his own hands; his ears had already gone deaf to the sickeningly familiar crack as he snaps the men’s neck, one by one.
A week ago, after receiving the news of the upcoming war with the Myceans, Torien had given into his other form–the Wolf. Fully transformed into the wolf, Torien had run east. He had run fast. Nothing more than a streak of white fear with moon-touched eyes, the fury ridding his hackles took him east, towards the coast of Massiet.
Out of breath by then, Torien had gone to the ocean and stopped when his paws touched the water. Sinking his paws into the sand, Torien had thrown his head back and howled.
His fellow wolves joined him. A harmony of haunting howls, the air had been filled with music, a promise of pain and despair to follow.
Sensing another presence behind him, Torien had quit his howling and snarled as both Hyrsis and Fatima appeared before him.
The god of warfare and bravery had been donned in his customary, gleaming armor in various, glorious shades of dawn. Less ostentatious in show, the goddess of wisdom and strategy too wore armor, though choosing practically over flamboyance. Her brown hair pulled back in small and neat locs, the goddess speared her gaze on Torien until felt compelled to look away.
Deaf to the language of the gods, Torien had continued to snarl in frustration and unleashed fury as the sibling gods. Aware that their appearance was not coincidental but a confirmation that the message was indeed true, that war was eminent with their neighboring country, Torien howled once more.
While he howled, the two gods watched in pitiless silence.
Torien knows he does not need to fear that he will not have the aid of the gods. The gods of war appeared before him; both bravery and wisdom are in tandem to him his goal. To have one without out the other bodes ill. Failure is not an option when both brother and sister can balance each other’s powers and gifts.
Bringing himself back to the present, Torien looks back to his city.
Torien feels alone, alone more than he has ever felt. Despite the Wolf, Apollo residing within his soul, in his head, his thoughts are solely his.
Having retired to his private wing in the castle, Torien would laugh at the irony of his loneliness when he is the one who pushes people away, but he cannot even crack a smile.
His terrace is sleek and speaks to his minimalist style. The previous king had loved luxuries while in contrast; Torien would be content with a pillow and a blanket. But Lyceria knows, his Housekeeper Frenklin would throw a fit that he the Warlord, dual-bodied, and Chosen would even think of sleeping on the floor. Torien is a proud man, aware of his strengths and accolades, but he is not afraid to admit that when his Housekeeper gets in a fit about Torien’s preference for simplicity, well, Torien can admit to having agreed to whatever he requests to avoid his wrath.
There is no gate on the terrace. Connected to his living quarters, the patio is shaped like a sphere. Appearing to almost be separate from the rest of the castle, Torien is conscious that there is no boundary between him and the promise of death.
Stepping closer to the edge, Torien stalls himself from wanting to reach out to stable himself as vertigo slams into him. Looking down, Torien can only see the yawning darkness below. One reckless step, one fatal misstep, and Torien will plummet to the Earth like a raindrop. The wind whistles goodbye as his body falls, the silence loud as his body splats on the ground like spit. Bones shattered and protruding from a mess of once handsome features, tissue, and fat, Torien’s blood will stain the ground, a flag of splattered crimson left as reminder of his carelessness.
Bemarisse, the goddess of Death will personally welcome him. In a crazed flurry of excitement, the goddess will drag his body in chains as she gives him a tour of the torture that is to come. Her body gyrating, become more agitated in her excitement, she will abandon the grotesquely macabre tour to begin the torture. She sings a hauntingly horrible tune as she rips into him, the sound triggering his ears to bleed. Looking up at the goddess as she revels in savaging him with zeal, Torien will then realize that the dress the goddess wears is made of freshly skinned mortals and Fey. Torien will succumb then.
Retching, Bemarisse will mock Torien’s weakness.
Taunting him, Bemarisse will wave her favorite jardee, the weapon not blessed by the gods but a mortal-made blade that has rusted to the point that one would need to hack relentless to succeed in skinning as she spats at him, “Cowards receive no sympathy.” Her mad laughter will almost drown out the rumbling laughter from the Great Ones, Abyss and Rift, who are impatiently waiting for their turn at this point. The Underworld will shutter and quake, as the ancient gods grow fevered in their eagerness to rip his body apart and feed on his screams.
After skinning him, Torien will wander the Underworld, his skinless wraith haunting the afterlife until he joins the many others in the night sky. Maybe his body will shatter into a constellation resembling a wolf–that would seem like the goddess’s humor to do so.
Even without the promise of eternal damnation, Torien steps away from the edge. The love he has for his people, friends, goddess, his Wolf, family, and even for himself, is a beating tattoo across his heart.
Looking up once more at the night sky, Torien decides to pray to his goddess before retiring.
Shutting his eyes, Torien prays, “My goddess, Great Mother, with these divine powers you have bequeathed to me, will I never know true joy? Will my night follow me through the brightest of day?”
The goddess does not answer.
Turning his back on the moon, Torien returns back to his room, unaware that a beam of moonlight brushes a shimmery look on his back. Almost, like a caress.