I love to people watch. I try to narrate their stories and from their appearance, their expressions, and how they hold themselves, I presume their history, their life, and what fears and dreams keep them up at night.
For Torien, he is greatly respected and feared but because of his powers and status, he finds himself alone.
Aren’t we all alone, in some aspect? The great, the rich, the beautiful, are we not all capable of feeling the dreaded weight of loneliness?
Chapter2: Visions From a Madman~PART 1
“Life could never hope to be so simple. Complexity is, and will always be, part of who are as a race. Life is not perfect, no it could never be but it can be made bearable”–Anayissa, from her personal diary
The War Room is set up to emulate its namesake. There are no gaudy ornaments arranged in the room. Incense does not waft through the air, despite the time of prayer had not yet been a mere hour ago. The drifting scent of burnt sage and the tender lavender is a lingering reminder that despite the knowledge of war nipping at the back of their ankles, their goddess will support them in the trails to come.
A raw, hunk of wood lies in the center of the room. More comparable to the trunk of a fallen tree, the table had been a gift from the last Fey King, Alderain Honed by a Thousand Blades, before him and his people were forced to flee. If one were to place their hands on the surface of the wood, one would feel warmth akin to human skin rather than the cold grip of death.
A large map is split on atop the desk. Figurines depicting a horse, a wolf, a house, and soldiers litter the surface. Hands snatch the figurines as swiftly as they are strategically placed.
Sthor Fonalis rips the figurine of a soldier with a shield and sword from Sthoa Gabrielle’s hands. Vehemently pointing at the sector between the mouth of the Beser Desert and Fey Valley, the general slams the piece down.
“Such foolery, Sthoa Gabrielle. We cannot simply hide; we must fight before they can first draw breath. We need troops stationed by the border. To knock down the numbers before the desert swallows them whole.”
Snatching the piece, the female general shook it in her fist, “With what strategy, Fonalis? I did not say to hand our asses to them. I say we need to think before we barge into the situation. In that case, we must as well hand them our asses. To succeed, we should lie in wait. Talk with our engineers, historians, and our scientists.”
Crossing his arms in a show of exaggeration, the Sthor shakes his head. “We have the siblings gods, Hyrsis and Fatima, on our side. We do not worry so much about sleuthing and preparing for extra steps; it will be impossible for us to fail when the gods are on our side.”
Less articulate and aggressive words are also tossed around the room like disc. Adding to a poignant cacophony of heated words, such angry words that conceal the tang of fear that he can easily detect, Torien sighs and detaches himself from the wall.
It is only natural for his generals and war chiefs to be upset after revealing the announcement of war. The resounding fact that their adversary is their long-awaited enemy, the Myceans, adds another layer to this complicated scheme.
Except for himself, every person in the room is speaking, loudly. The acoustics of their incessant, passionate words float over him in waves of emotions. Crashing into him like the licking waves of the Arlenian Sea, Torien permits the group of currently armed generals to release their fury. The quicker they release the anger, the quicker Torien can defuse the heat from their words and finally find the solution and decide on a strategy to win.
The air is heightened with anticipation. With his blessed eyes, Torien can pinpoint the auras of those around him. Bristling lightening surrounds them in a glow of yellow halos.
His Wolf, who paces inside of him with his own anticipation for war, growls with appreciation at his generals show of ruthlessness and dedication. If the Wolf could talk, he would doubtfully tell Torien, “Good job, with them.”
Torien nods his head as General Heleora, whose unbound, brassy red hair waves like a flag as she argues with the brawny and golden-skinned Lars. The latters hair is tightly drawn back in neat locs and his gem colored eyes shine threateningly as his voice rises louder in agitation and frustration.
It would be an understatement to say that his most prized and trustworthy generals and elite warriors were ready to lay their arms and hearts before their King. After hearing the insults that followed with the deceleration of war, Torien had been forced to disarm a few of the warriors as they rightfully reacted to the show of disrespect to him. Their loyalty and devotion to him is outstanding, which is why he allows the outright show of disobedience as they continue to ignore his presence.
But Torien does not need to say anything or do anything to command attention. He merely lies in wait until it is the best time to strike.
Looking over the War Room once more, Torien acknowledges that the rumors of Rhageons lack of need for gaudy displays could be justified only for this room. Stripped of anything form of comfort and luxury, one would only need to travel a few miles east to experience the true culture of Rhageon. The Tailor’s Den is a secluded pocket in Ghyria, streaming with trains of silk and bursting with such fineries, it could make even the most stalwart Aesthan noble weep. Which has actually happened.
Indulgence dripping from every street vendor and store, one cannot help but reach out and touch the spider web soft beauty of the silk made from desert silkworms. Unlike other silkworms, the desert silkworms are poisonous. If not handled correctly, you could find themselves fashioned in a dress seeping with poison. Legend claims that a Rhageon woman challenged the desert silkworms and in exchange of her bravery, they taught her how to correctly weave the silk. Victorious, the Rhageon woman came home a hero and began a tradition that has saved Rhageon finically and made silk the highly coveted number one exported goods.
But not here, Torien thinks to himself, not here where we discuss how we will either end up saving or ending lives.
Determined to overwhelm one another, the crescendo of voices begins to rise higher. Voices booming. Tempers rising. Each person is vying for Torien’s attention at this point. Fighting to get their strategies head, each fighter in the room is resolute in earning Torien’s respect by riding on his left side into battle. The genrys and best friend of the Warlord, Nortega, of course, already occupies the right side. The possibility of such honoer to ride by his side, especially into battle, is one of the main reasons the collective of men and women are in turn, Torien ruefully admits, acting quite brashly.
With slight amusement, Torien observes as Sthor Alemedeo and Sthoa Cresleya stand off. Glaring at one another and hands positioned over their hips, where the hilt of their ready jardee blades, Torien exhales as he realizes that he needs to intervene in the threat if violence.
The aforementioned genrys Nortega is currently absent from the conversational melee. Torien had sent the hawk-eyed warrior to neighboring cities and villages to spread word of war and round up ready-and-willing fighters. Any man or woman could become a solider in Rhageon. Though there have been times when drafts were necessary, one can become a solider as a full-time position. To serve the country, whether through the military or navy, is not limited to class. A third son or daughter, too far from inheritance or gaining land, can enlist in the army to earn prestige and a name for themselves. Factually, it does serve a person or persons from a well established House or means to enlist; to bring honoer to their family and because they have the wealth, they have the ability to seek training or attend training schools.
Though possessing or striving to attain honoer is at the apex of most minds of Rhageons, whether it is physical or domestic, to serve ones country and fight for their gods and their beliefs, is why the Rhageons fight with such heart and perseverance. A people mocked for their “backward” ways and their refusal to change their religious beliefs, the Rhageon people have had to always fight harder to retain their pride in the face of such ignorance and bigotry.
Because of this belief, that has remained unshaken despite his accession to Warlord, Torien does not doubt that the genrys will not find willing participants.
Currently commanding the stage, Sthoa Creslyea, a Sarran native whose body spoke of boundless flatlands, starless skies, and red deserts, knocks away a figurine as she adamantly points at the map. Flexing her strong and agile muscles, similar to the desert horses her people breed and train; it is natural for ones eyes to follow her movements.
Creslyea barks out, “We cut them off at Fey-Touched Passage.” Slashing her finger in the mark of an “X”, she continues, “Then we make camp behind the cliffs. If the twin gods are on our side, we will succeed if we attack swiftly at night. Like a jaguar on the prowl. They will never know we hit them.”
A round of cheers and applause wraps up the rest of her speech. Crossing her muscular arms over her chest, the general sends a smug smirk to her opponent, Alemedeo.
Sthor Alemedeo, infamous for his temper as much as his thick, black eyebrows, which the female general one commented that they were similar to “two caterpillars humping”, glares balefully at Creslyea. Ever since the jab directed at him, there has been a constant tension between the two generals, as the female fighter became the notable target to his anger. As the daughter of the Sthoa Aella, the Head of House Desert Stallion, Torien knew with confidence that she could handle her own against the hothead.
Some have already placed bets that there was more going on between the two generals. Smirking as he watches Alemedeo eyes up Creslyea down, Torien silently adds to the bet that that during the war, the two generals will be spending plenty of time hoping from each other’s tents.
Allowing the roars of approval of Creslyea passionate words to settle, Alemedeo puffs out his impressive chest as she sends a leer at Creslyea before declaring, “That plan is sound, general, but if only if you are attempting to send our asses up on a dinner plate to the Myceans,” Alemedeo looks around with a smile as the crowd behind him joins him in laughter, “We have to strike now,” he continues, “no hiding, no secrecy. We have the numbers, the most fierce warriors in the Four Kingdoms, and we have s’Nysurria.” Waving his hand at the silent Torien, who watches without any indicator of which tactic he approves of, Alemedeo continues after the slight pause, “So let the peacocks come. We will use their feathers for our daughters’ martial headdresses.”
Hotheaded and impetuous in his actions he may be, but Alemedeo’s fearless yet less tactful speech rouses the warriors in the room into a frenzy of pride and enthusiasm. Stomping and clapping escalate in response to the general’s words.
Thinking over each parties arguments and weighing their strategies and inputs, Torien finally makes a decision.
Creslyea glares at Alemedeo now. Her cheeks are a slash of red against the smooth, cinnamon of her skin. Unwavering from her approach, Torien notes that though the female generals ideas are more sound, it was Alemedeo’s adept skill of charisma that has swayed the crowd. Proven to be both skilled with a sword and his silver tongue, it would be foolish for Torien to not use the younger man’s ability in times where physical strength is both unnecessary and impractical.
Lacking the desire to hold a thriving and superficial Court, like the more fluffier kingdoms like Mycea and Aestha, Torien has had needed the generals talent with wordplay and charm to smooth problems both domestic and foreign.
When squabbles between houses grow too perilous, Torien sends Alemedeo to gentle the tension in times where his might and presence could sour the situation. Torien may be dual-bodied and goddess-blessed but he must admit, that he lacks the magnetic pull the other warrior emulates. Accompanied with his encouraging, pleasant tone and honest rhetoric, Torien has found the other fighter also successful in swaying nosey foreign diplomats from there probing questions. The blunt end of Torien’s power cannot amend ever problem, though he wishes it were so.
Sifting through the complex and intricate webs of politics and conflict, Torien does need an unruffled, soothing presence to placate as Torien constantly finds himself alone in the perilous apex of it all.
Sending a quick prayer to his goddess, Torien admires the bold face of the moon beaming through the windowpanes. Almost complete. Almost a full circle. The heat of the moonlight caresses him in response.
Nodding as if given permission to proceed, Torien finally detaches himself fully from the wall. His soldiers, unseeing his progression to the table as they continue to argue, Torien slowly looks down at the table and releases his claws. The knife-sharp and deadly claws, make a satisfyingly horrible screech as he runs them up and down on the surface. Because the wood is fey-blessed, his claws do not leave a mark.
The loud, disquieting sound of his claws gouging into the wood, snatches the voices from the room. A prey standing before a patient predator, the only sounds emitting from the room are the breathes of the warriors before him. It as if there is no one but him in the room.
His hackles beginning to rise, Torien’s Wolf growls in silent approval as the resounding silence chokes the air.
Tapping his extended claws once more, Torien steps back and surveys his soldiers, who have all fallen to their knees. Their heads are bowed. The soft, soft skin on the back of their necks is exposed. Like prey before a predator.
Sheer power rumbles through Torien’s body like war drums. The absolute display of subservience from his people makes Torien want to throw his head back and howl.
Circling around the kneeling soldiers, the Warlord pushes down the urge to run one of his claws across a soldier’s neck.
Shaking his head, lest the power get to his head and heart, Torien strides back towards the map. His movements undulating with magic and strength honed by countless hours of grueling practice and battle, it is amazing how one man could command the crowded room bursting with battle-hardened warriors without uttering a single word.
A new tang stains the air. Heavily. Each time he swallows, Torien can taste the feelings of respect, admiration, and a quiver of fear on the back of his tongue. Almost drunk the scent, Torien must remind himself to separate himself from his animalistic urge.
Torien is Alpha and it is safe to say, that Nortega is his Beta. Without his Beta present to share the power, Torien must admit he is an intimating force.
Torien command is rule but thus is not solely due because of his title of Warlord. Over two decades ago, when his own muwwae delivered him during the full moon, it was undoubtedly known that Torien had been born for greatness with his hair the exact, shimmering shade of the moon and eyes glittering like crushed moonstones. Yes, he was meant for greatness but Torien could have wasted his gifts or utilized them as an excuse not to train as hard. But he did not.
One can tell the perseverance by staring into his eyes. When he was born, they did indeed to be the exact color of crushed moonstones but as times welded him into an unstoppable force and later, as he sharpened his skill for battle and mind for diplomacy, they darkened, became more opaque until they resembled the silver, hardened trim of the moon.
Tracing his pointed claw over the map now, Torien can feel the eyes of his soldiers behind his back. Silently motioning for them to stand, the quiet hush of their movements settle as he rubs his thumb over the words printed on the aged parchment. As he traces his fingers over the surface, images of sand drenched in blood and the soulless, limpid eyes of the fallen accompany his perusal. Thinking of Bemarisse, the goddess of Death, Torien can only imagine the goddess’s glee as she squeals in excitement at the opportunity to skin more human flesh for her cloak made from the skins of cowards.
Many claim that Torien’s ability to see the deathless ones as a blessing but little do they know the weight of knowledge he bears alone as he witness beings so ravishingly beautiful preform such horrific crimes with such absolute lack of sympathy.
Historians have claimed that the fall of the Fey began with the jealousy of a goddess whose lover had been seduced by a Fey woman.
But as it is well known, history is written by the victorious.
Though Torien does indeed see the gods, he cannot directly speak with them. Despite receiving the gifts and blessing of his goddess, he has been not righteous enough to lean the language of the gods.
If Torien could have the option to turn a blind eye towards the events he has seen by the gods, he would do so in a heart beat. The goddess of Death will always haunt the Warlord’s dreams.
Having witnessed the goddess roll around in the blood soaked killing fields, her laugh a haunting howl as hundreds of men and women lie dying or dead, Torien cannot help the shutter that overwhelms him.
Though he does not desire to speak to the gods, Torien does admit he wishes he could commune with his patron goddess, Lyceria.
Yes, Lyceria is known for her mercilessness towards her enemies as much as her compassion for her devotees, but Torien cannot give enough thanks for his gifts of vitality, his Wolf, and the demigod strength and powers that continue to astound him. Why him, he wishes he could ask her.
Though Torien cannot directly speak with the goddess, he has noted there have been times in his life with inexplicable awareness when his goddess is watching over him. Whispering in his ear. Directing his hand. Breathing courage and confidence into his lungs.
As if reading his stream of thoughts, Torien can now feel a tug on his hands. Allowing the goddess to guide him, his fingers guide him down the map as he speaks in tandem, “Creslyea is correct. We do need to be tactful and swift when we attack. War without finesse will leave the battlefields drowning in Rhageon blood. But Alemedeo is also correct. We must strike immediately. Though we have the more expereicned fighters, the Myceans have allies in the North. If we strike sooner than later, we can prevent them from gathering more forces. That is why we will use the desert to our advantage. Lure them into the heart of the Beser Desert. The Myceans have become lazy and arrogant due to their proximity. But it is us, the Rhageons who are born with blood and sand in our veins.”
A hum of approval vibrates throughout the air. Torien’s last words ring true as he takes a page from the Rhageon Creation story.
Before the humans and the Fey, the gods ruled the earth, the sky, and the sea. Specific gods were casted to govern various sectors of the earth but inevitably; the gods grew bored with perfection. The world was too beautiful, too peaceful. To prevent internal strife between the gods, Lyceria borrowed the magics of the gods to create the First Race, the Feyeria. Made with the gods’ powers, kissed by sunlight, and dusted with stardust, the Fey were almost as beautiful as the gods. Retaining the powers that were similar to the gods, they lived in harmony with their creators. But like before, the gods grew bored once more with perfection. The Fey did not quarrel with one another. Living in harmony with one another, they built beautiful architectures and bridges that still stand today and art so poignant that it pierces the soul.
A crafty goddess, Lyceria had another idea to appease her fellow gods. Another race but instead of perfection, they would be imperfect. Quarrelsome. Reckless. Whimsical.
The other gods labeled her man when she introduced the idea of a Second Race of mortals full of faults and physical flaws.
But knowing the pride of the gods, she claimed that the mortals who lacked power, would in turn, pray to the gods for various things like strength and wisdom. They would erect temples for them to honor and worship them, she told them with glee.
Still, the gods remained unsure of the goddess’s solution to their boredom.
Desperate now, the goddess turned to the Collic, the trickster god and the son of Bemarisse, her sister.
The god was encouraged to steal a large supply of magic from the gods in exchange of reign over the large and powerful domains of the deserts.
Having been snuffed of powerful magic, Collic had eagerly agreed. Sending his sacred animal, the raven, to send a message to all of the gods of an upcoming contest.
Curious but cautious of the gods announcement, the gods came wearily together before the trickster god. Collic simply declared that there would be a contest that would prove whose magic was the strongest. The rules were simple, the god or goddess must send their magic into a magic-holding-orb an whomever won, would be named the most powerful.
All of the gods falling for his plan, the gods did use large volumes of power and soon, Collic had enough of the borrowed magic to give back to Lyceria. And in exchange of the orb, Collic that day became the god of Deceit and the Desert.
Next, Lyceria had gone to her sister, Bemarisse, the goddess of the Constellations then to finish the rest of the plans. Explaining her plan, Lyceria, in exchange of the goddess’s compliance had promised to share some of the magic stored inside of the orb to allow her sister to become the goddess of Death. Her new role would to take the lives of the mortals. Gifting her younger sister with a jardee, a curved sword, Lyceria then used the blade to slice through both her sisters and her own skin. And from Life and Death, the Second Race sprang from the sands sprinkled in blood.
A lifeless husk, Lyceria had leaned down and blew air into the mortals’ lungs. Watching as the mortal’s chest began to rise up and down, the goddess took her time as she fashioned the mortal in a distorted and imperfect image of herself.
Unlike the Fey, who were considered both ethereal and unflawed, the Second Race, the mortals, were clumsy and naïve.
The mortals had been in awe of their gods and the First Race. Praying to the gods each night an day, the gods in turn, grew stronger, which did soothe the ire of the gods who were not pleased by the deceit. And because Lyceria created the mortals, she retained the most power from their prayers and her second form, the moon, grew in size from the volume of her praise.
Trusting his goddess now as she guides his hand, Torien continues his speech, stopping at the mouth of the Beser Desert. The desert was a natural defense in times of war. “They will split into troops of a hundred men to guard the borders and send squadrons of twenty-four to perimeter the border and to skillfully and efficiently tack down our numbers so they have more time to collect allied soldiers from Aestha. There are indeed an illogical people but they are dangerous in their stupidity. As you all well know, there is disparity in Mycea between men and women. They refuse to see their women as equal and do not allow they to draw a sword. They lack the levelheaded passion of females; we will also use this to our advantage.
We know the terrain, thus, we have the advantage.
We know where the closet water sources are, thus, we have the advantage.
We know where the natural pitfalls, quick sand, and snake dens are, thus, we have the advantage.
“Though we did not start this war, we will end it. This was will be fought to pay respects to our brothers and sisters we have lost in search for peace, the wildflowers of Rhageon plucked and taken from us to be sold into slavery, and to our future sons and daughters who will know a world where they not need to duck their heads in shame in the face of prejudice.
“We will win this. It has been foretold. We have the gods standing mighty and forthright behind us. They abandoned the gods in their ignorance. We will remind them whom they should pray to for mercy.
“Unlike our neighbors, who take, steal, pillage, and rape, we will be better. We must. How can we excel if we imitate those who lack unity and foresight. When we conquer their cities, we will not pillage, loot, or needlessly kill any citizens. We will set an example. Any man, who takes a sword to us, will face our blades. Any man or woman who takes a sword to defend their homes will be exempted. There is honor in defending ones family.
“We will be virtuous with our mercy…except for the military leaders who knowingly turned their backs on us when we suffered as of recent. We will make examples out of them; those who did nothing when the droughts struck Rhoh and those who did nothing when our girls were taken from us in the darkest of nights.
The skies will be congested with the stars of the dead. May their headless, skinless wraiths never find peace in the Underworld?
We will take their crown jewel; the capital of Mycea, Tareriae.
Their fat “King” will submit to your might, our faith, and our reign.
Their history books will be rewritten; they will be stained by sand and blood.
“I will spare his life. His wife, Aesthan born, is pregnant. The child will learn to hate their father and king without our aid.
“In honor of the wildflowers taken from us, I will take the princess as my bride. I will revel as grief stains his eyes a permanent shade of misery. He will plead, like the parents of the girls who were stolen from us did.
“The country itself will become ours: ours to make profit and ours to rule.
You, amongst us, who prove themselves worthy, will do this country and me the greatest honoer of taking a semi-permanent station in Mycea. You will be tasked with governing the people, the cities, the lands and will then report back to me.
“Each aristocrat family will be required to send either one son or daughter to Ajax, to be trained for our militia. Families from lower classes will not be forced to send their children but can sign up for the opportunity to send money back to their families.
“We will take a percentage of their revenue. They will be taxed annually. Beset Desert will no longer be neutral land; it will solely be retained by Rhageon, along with surrounding, drifter towns along with it.
Representatives and leader from Rhageon will take residence in Tareriae and other cities. But is they are arrogant enough to rebel; they will face a vengeance that their great-grandchildren will remember.”
Torien’s last words ring. Vibrate. Shake the very foundation of the room.
Looking around the room, gathered around a group of men and women he trusts implacably to stand behind him, Torien smiles savagely, allowing the Wolf to flash from behind his eyes.
Throwing his head back, a silent howl, Torien shouts, “We are Rhageons! We are made of blood and sand! We are the sons and daughters of the great Mareo’n! Let us show the peacocks that strut their pretty feathers, not to tug at the tail of a dragon!”
Applause that rivals the clap of thunder follows immediately after Torien’s passionate speech.
Before him, his warriors hug and cheer, scream and clap one another on the back as they look to him, with not only confidence in his abilities to lead, but a trace of worship that does not settle right him.
Victory on his tongue, vengeance, a thrumming song in his ears, Torien has never felt less human and more alone in this moment.
In a crowded room bursting with his allies and friends, Torien stands alone. Always.
He will always be god-touched, dual-bodied, and different from anyone he has ever met. Others would revel at these powers that allows him to stand apart from humanity, is some ways, above humanity, but not him, never Torien.
Walking to the open window before him, Torien blocks out the cheer as the unrelenting waves of loneliness drown him. His head is fully submerged in the emotion as the ache in his heart overwhelms him.
Apollo, not ignorant to Torien’s suffering, howls, a haunting, searching melody that is lost in the cacophonic sounds of revelry.
NEXT: CHAPTER 2~PART 2