The Chronicles of Valana Volume 2: Elaria's Bane
"What do you mean he's gone? Did you check the cargo hold? A fucking drugged boy doesn't just up and leave!" Caaran Jutli hadn't had the best of days so far.
"Well don't fucking sit around looking -even more- stupid, find him!" He barked at his men. Caaran was an Oghellen merchant, a slaver like his father before him and a mercenary for the current King. He was one of the wealthiest men of Oghelle with his family linked to every court intrigue known or unknown.
His men jumped off the ship, onto the dock and started searching around.
A few dozen meters away in an alley in the shanty town of Oghelle next to the port a hooded figure was walking casually away from the seafront. With him a boy covered in a hooded cape.
"Where are we going? Who are you?" The boy asked feeling oozy. Whatever the man had given him had worked but he was still not feeling entirely well.
"I am a friend of Marco, your father's friend. We are going to my cottage in the city's outskirts away from unwanted attention."
"Marco? I haven't heard that name in quite a while…I am…" The man interrupted him.
"Guard your name with your life, the city is not safe for names or boys like you." The man whispered.
"Yes," The man changed to the tongue of Dara, "son of Dara's King. Now quiet your inquisitive mind and follow me, act natural or we may both lose our lives today."
Orphon Vad Lucas nodded and followed the tall, hooded man in silence.
Aer'andil saw the sand-glass spire in the horison glowing in the sun, curved as if someone had built it around a huge ball that had been removed afterwards.
"You seem to like that statue." Bava told him. They were standing on the bow of the Oghellen merchant ship. They were near Yaria, and in the distance were the glass structures of what used to be the ruins of Fedria castle.
"It is incredible, feeling the wind on my face and the sea beneath me." Aer'andil dodged the question.
Bava giggled and poked his ribs forgetting momentarily who he was. "Don't avoid the question."
Without looking away from the horison he let out a deep breath. "Forty years ago…more or less. No, I should start earlier than that. When I was born, the farseer of Gel'anr made a prophesy that involved me. To fulfil that prophesy my father sent me and Lucas Berandor Merol to another world. Then twelve years later and forty years ago me and my best friend Lucas touched an artifact that brought us to this world prematurely. On our way to Gel'anr I was captured by one of the Dark Generals, Gilthian and brought to the ruins of Fedria castle where he proceeded to torture me for days. I could not do magic because of a collar around my neck. In the end my spirit sacrificed itself creating a massive explosion that melted the collar before it could release toxins in my blood and incinerated the ruins and everything around it for kilometers. That spirit was my uncle. The glass structures you see is the soil and sand that got heated to such temperatures that they melted into glass." Aer'andil sighed and closed his eyes.
Bava opened and closed her mouth a few times before apologising.
"Do you know how it feels…?"
"Hm? How what feels?" Bava was unsure of what Aer'andil was asking, she didn't want to sound inconsiderate again.
"Being an elf and having your spirit willingly sacrifice itself so you can live…having the essence of a dying spirit erupt through you, it can be…" Aer'andil let go of another deep breath. "It feels as if every cell of your body, every fiber of your being is erupting with pain, excruciating pain. Every muscle, nerve ending, organ, everything is in pain while in your mind you are shown and made to feel every single one of the spirit's memories and experiences. When he was born, when he walked for the first time, when talked and laughed with his friends, when he found the love of his life, when he held his son in his arms and when his own flesh and blood killed him in the battlefield. Everything. No matter what Gilthian did to me before, that event…I'll never forget it."
Bava was rendered speechless. After a moment or two of stunned silence she managed to regain her voice.
"Why tell me all this?"
"I am not telling you all this. I have not been willing to discuss or relive this, any of this for forty years. But now seeing the glass spires of Fedria with Norion standing behind us…I had to tell him and you happened to be standing next to me. You could not have known." He looked at her for the first time and Norion standing behind them.
"In short, no I do not like those "statues", I hate and loathe all that they represent to me and one day I will melt them ten thousand years from now."
"Why ten thousand years?" Norion asked in a sad tone.
"I wager it'll take me that long to find and kill Gilthian as well as mend enough from what happened there. I can't melt them, can't let anything happen to them until Gilthian is dead. They motivate me to find him and all things Darkness and vanquish them. After that is done I will turn into my animal and cast true fire's name upon them."
"Ten thousand years is a long time, what if natural erosion or humans destroy them?" Bava inquired.
"They are not natural structures. They are made of magic unlike anything else in the world. A spirit's essence erupted causing the sand and soil to become glass. Spirits are condensed yesterday's magic, -there was an almost inaudible pause- the only thing that can destroy those glass structures is yesterday's magic."
Norion noticed it. "What did you just realise?"
"Hm? Oh it looks like we'll be spending the night on the ship. Bava do you have any Oghellen delicacies on board for us to try for dinner?" Aer'andil asked the blue-eyed teen smiling.
Norion rolled his eyes at Aer'andil's change of subject but decided not to push further.
Night set in as the sun disappeared behind the Land of Lavonia and found Aer'andil and Norion trying Oghelle's food. It consisted of dried or salted fish mixed in with herbs unknown to the two elves and a peculiar white vegetable that tasted to Aer'andil like a mixture of rice and lettuce.
"This is very good stuff!" Aer'andil commented swallowing another bite of the seasoned dried fish. As per Oghellen custom they were sitting on the floor in the captain's cabin.
"What fish is this?" Norion asked.
Uer almost jumped at the opportunity to answer him.
"It's called Vaaralid, it is native to the eastern parts of Elaria. My father brings it with his ships from Riadbar, from the fishermen there and sells it to the merchants in the port. Naturally he keeps the best for us." Uer grinned widely at his father's mercantile success.
Imer chuckled, ruffling his son's hair affectionately. "It is an open ocean fish of North East. It can grow quite large, up to two meters in length and it is best eaten dried or seasoned, brings more of the flavour out. It is a pity you are all children. It goes superbly well with some red wine from the vineyards of Jakashal in the Kingdom of Nikorn."
Aer'andil looked mischievously at Norion who winked at him. They knew they were in years older than Imer even if by Elven standards they would be children for a few hundred years more. They would be hitting puberty near five hundred years old and adulthood near one thousand to one thousand and one hundred years old. Their bodies would grow respectively, for example and until they hit puberty they knew not to expect pubes or fertilised sperm or as much muscle growth. Until they would reach well over one thousand years old their bodies, facial hair, body hair, muscles and so on, would not resemble those of a grown "middle-aged" man, but would remain resembling the body of a younger adult or late teen.
"Uncle, is it true that the best variety of Vaaralid comes not from the open ocean but from near the eastern shores?" Lovikor asked in his usual tone. It was obvious to everyone with half a brain that he already knew the answer.
"Yes, but we no longer can fish near there." Imer smiled politely in his reply. Norion had lived in Gel'anr's royal court for nearly double the time Aer'andil had and so he had become quite learned in picking up what lay beneath the surface of such conversations. He picked up his glass of fruit juice seemingly just looking around while he took a sip of the viscous orange and red liquid. In truth he took the opportunity to look around everyone's faces. Uer being the youngest seemed to be oblivious, Bava was trying to appear completely uninterested, Imer was trying his best not to strangle his nephew. Aer'andil had this face of complete ignorance but Norion had lived with him for forty years and knew his love. Aer'andil was the personification of a "court face". He could appear one thing and behind the façade there lay a completely different reaction. There was an intelligence that scanned and read not only others but situations and how to appear as to not appear. If Lovikor looked at Aer'andil he would see the look of a person who has no idea what is going on or why Lovikor's question was not an innocent one, yet Norion knew that inside that cute, blond head of his, Aer'andil's mind was racing making scenarios, canceling and progressing them. He knew that Aer'andil was now thinking along these lines.
Lovikor wondered, if he has "this" intent, is he expecting an answer from me? From his uncle? From both? Maybe not answers, maybe facial expressions? If I say "this" then he may reply in "this" or "that" way and then his uncle may reflect anger. No, that is not desirable, better reply in "this" fashion? What if not replying at all is better? If his uncle replies first?" So by the time it would be required from Aer'andil to react in any way his mind will have played out as many "moves" possible in order to react in the most preferable way that maintains him as many open "doors" as possible. The more Aer'andil grew the better he got at this. He was not yet as proficient as Norion in picking up the real meaning of conversations such as this but his methodology in reacting or not reacting had improved immensely since the end of the war of Zah Dah.
"Says who? It is our right to fish anywhere in Elaria we so please. We are humans," Lovikor replied with overt arrogance. Norion now was sure he was trying to bait his uncle and Aer'andil.
Aer'andil was smiling passively but Norion knew him, underneath the smile and the façade rage was burning bright.
"I have a question and I must admit ignorance on this particular subject." Aer'andil said swallowing another byte.
"Only reasonable, you are not from the birthplace of humanity." Lovikor replied with a snobbish sneer.
"Okay, two questions. First what are the food sources of the Orkhavocs?"
"Oh, why would we know or care? They are savage beasts. I do not know why we have not slaughtered them all so far. Perhaps because they reproduce like rabbits, unclean beasts that they are, but this time I think we will be finally rid of them." Lovikor continued in his usual demeanor.
"If you eat all their food and they have none to raise their young…is it not normal that they attack and commit to war instead of peace?" Aer'andil continued in his calm tone of voice. Norion did not know if Imer and his children were magic users or even Lovikor, but he could feel the hair on the back of his head stand up in tension. Aer'andil was committing a great deal of effort, self-discipline and restraint into not unleashing the anger Lovikor's atrocious replies were causing him and when Aer'andil was angry the release of excess magical energy was a usual side effect.
"If they did not exist we would not be having this problem now would we? Why should we care if the filth of Elaria can feed their young? We can, it is our right, the end."
"What proof do you have of this claim of yours? That Elaria is the birthplace of Humanity in this world?" Aer'andil changed the subject to his second question.
"Proof? We need no proof, Oghelle is the strongest, wealthiest Kingdom in Elaria, soon we will be an empire. We need no proof, what we say is the truth and those who do not like it…well…sooner or later they accept it, for the weak suffer what they must and we the strong, conquer and rule as we must."
"Indeed, but you have done nothing. Your father I believe is a King by regicide and the current state of Oghelle is his doing not yours. Do you now claim all these deeds by proxy?" Aer'andil's words stung the older teen like snake venom who winced and launched himself on his feet pulling his sword half way out of its scabbard.
"SIT YOUR ARSE DOWN BOY! YOU WILL NOT INSULT MY GUESTS IN MY FUCKING SHIP LIKE THIS YOU ARROGANT LITTLE FUCK!" Imer quick as a viper and agile like a cat jumped to his feet placing a hand on Lovikor's sword hand pushing the sword back inside its' scabbard and Lovikor back down to the wooden floor. Lovikor stumbled and nearly fell but he did not sit down, defiantly so.
"How dare you talk to me like this? I am the crown prince of Oghelle! My father will have your disloyal head." Lovikor tried to fight back but his uncle did not budge.
"Yes, and I can have you thrown overboard mid-ocean while you sleep. I am sure your new step-mother would be ever so pleased to be rid of you and have one of her future children as Oghelle's heir. Your father I fear would not cry much, his heart was lost with your mother and his sanity with the Crown, now sit the fuck down, boy before you make me lose my temper." Imer 's voice said it all, he was not bluffing or kidding around.
Lovikor sat down, his eyes throwing daggers and promises of reciprocation for this insult in front of others.
Imer sat down crossing his legs beneath him. He turned to Norion and Aer'andil with a most solemn look on his face.
"I am most sorry for this grave insult my Lords, my nephew is young, arrogant and an idiot at times, I hope you can forgive him and me for his behaviour. If you must call for Shaghk-ka, I beg that you call it on me as host rather than him."
"No insult received, Lovikor is indeed quite lucky my tutors and guardians are in one of the escort ships and not here with us, they would have not been as…understanding as I. They are, you see quite protective of their charge and duty. You are a most gracious and hospitable host and your children are I am sure as bright and intelligent as you, may they have as a prosperous trading career as you." Aer'andil crossed his hands in front of his chest replicating Oghelle's gesture of respect. Norion felt proud for him, he knew how to move about not only in the Elven court but apparently in that of Oghelle's. Complementing the host's offspring or family was considered a high honour in Oghelle.
Imer made a small bow with his head giving Aer'andil a small smile while Uer grinned broadly and Bava looked at Norion and smiled.
"Do you see nephew? This is how proper, civilized individuals behave." Imer spoke loud without even looking at his nephew, his voice overflowed with contempt. "I am most honoured, your Highness by your gracious compliment, please help yourself into anything you require." It was considered a high insult in Oghelle to serve someone food, to make them eat or drink more or less than what they want to.
Aer'andil smiled and helped himself on some more fish and Igmagor, the rice and lettuce like vegetable.
Lovikor didn't speak again restricting himself to throwing glares to everyone present.
"Oh god I feel full…" Aer'andil burped leaning back on his hands.
"Aahh a good meal begets a good sound." Imer chuckled and poured himself some more wine. "Uer, Bava, Lovikor, time for bed." He told his children and nephew. Uer and Bava said their goodnight to Imer and the two elves and left. Lovikor just stood up and left with a scoff.
"I do not want to be rude but I would like to talk to the High-King…alone if I may." Imer asked Norion who nodded and left.
After a few moments of silence and Imer drinking his wine the man slapped his hands together and the candles and torches providing light to the room went dim.
"A little precaution so that we're not overheard by unruly ears and unwanted individuals." Imer told him.
"Are we going to talk or are you are going to attack me?" Aer'andil did not sound afraid, he was calm, his hands supporting his weight as he leaned back.
"High-King of all Elves, you are not the only one who is well informed. I am not going to attack you. Why would you think this?" Imer did not sound insulted or angry.
"I am an obstacle in your brother's plans, am I not?" Aer'andil statedI.It was not a question.
"Yes, but it does not mean they are my plans as well." Imer replied setting his wine glass on the floor.
"Ah…so what is it then that you wanted to talk to me about?" Aer'andil asked as if asking about the weather.
"My brother has many plans, none of which are…peaceful. Will you help me remove the monster from the throne?" It did not go unnoticed to Aer'andil that Imer had just talked about High treason and his face had not so much as broken a single wrinkle.
"No, the Elves do not meddle in the affairs of men, you are not the only Kingdom of men or the only dynasty of men to have back stabbings and intrigue in the court." Aer'andil's reply was firm.
"Indeed, but we are perhaps the only Kingdom to have the Darkness sitting in the throne. Is it the affairs of men or is it something that can end up involving the whole of your alliance and the Elves?" Imer's lips formed an ever so faint smile for a second before returning to their usual neutral position.
"The Elves and the alliance are going to act as they must to whatever comes our way." Aer'andil responded never breaking eye contact with Imer. "But be assured that if Darkness is involved…you do not want to stand in our way."
"Stand in your way? You misunderstand me, I am offering my help and resources."
"You are really capable of killing your own brother?"
"I am no angel and I will do whatever I must for Oghelle."
"Then let us hope that you don't have to. I think I'll take my leave now, I feel tired and tomorrow I think we should arrive at Udala if the wind favours us." Imer made a courtesy bow with his head.
He closed the cabin's door behind him, Norion was already lying on the bunk bed naked, his eyes closed, his chest rising and lowering gently. His penis was laying flaccid on Norion's bare pubic mount.
Aer'andil grinned and walked silently to the bunk bed, got himself above Norion's crotch and gave the tasty morsel a quick but thorough lick. Norion jumped with surprise making Aer'andil giggle.
"Why you…" Norion wrestled him for a bit.
"You know until this night I was underestimating your ability in keeping your cool and manipulating a conversation." Norion told him, caressing his torso.
"Hm? I have no idea what you're talking about." Aer'andil shrugged, feigning ignorance.
"Yeah right. You wanted to know if Imer and his kids could be potential allies in Oghelle and you did not allow Lovikor's replies to make you lose your temper, instead your replies made him behave as he did which in turn made Imer behave as he did." Aer'andil shrugged and positioned himself between Norion's legs. "My turn." He whispered in Norion 's ear.
The man closed the door behind him. "Where is that boy wondering off to again? Vashka?"
Orphon sat down in one of the chairs. "Okay, I'm sure you have lots of questions but I need you to sit here for a few minutes, I have a report to send to my…Master, after I will tell you all I know." Orphon nodded. The man served him some water from a clay jar and walked to another room.
Orphon sat there drinking his water from the clay vessel when the front door opened and closed. A boy entered the house. Orphon checked the kid out. He himself was fourteen years old, this boy looked to be slightly younger. His dark hair was almost completely shaven leaving short spikes on his round head. He had full red-purple lips, a slightly up-curved nose and shallow cheeks with green eyes. His chest was bare and had a pair of leather shorts on with no shoes. He had the look of a boy that was used to being outside exercising, his muscles sleek with traces of toning development under way. His eyes betrayed wit and intelligence behind them. Orphon could not help himself from checking out the boy's bulge which looked to be quite healthy for a boy his age. His legs and torso were smooth but his armpits had traces of a darkening fuzz.
"You must be Vashka. Your father, whatever his name, is writing a message to someone in the other room." The other boy eyed him closely then broke a grin.
"You must be the prince of Dara. Orphon is it? Those shitty mercenaries are lucky my dad had to get you out or he'd kill them all. He doesn't like people who hurt kids." Vashka poured himself some water and checked over Orphon in turn.
Orphon had crimson wavy hair, a short straight nose with puffy cheeks, dimples and dark blue eyes. His body was covered by rags, the mercenaries having changed his clothes from his princely attire so that he wouldn't draw attention. Vashka couldn't see much but he could sort of understand that Orphon exercised as part of perhaps sword fighting lessons. but not as much as someone who had to work manual labour for a living every day. Vashka was in that age where everything turned him on and Orphon's supple, smooth features made him horny.
"So you're what? Thirteen? Fourteen?" Vashka asked Orphon sitting down on one of the chairs.
"Yeah, fourteen, you?"
"Thirteen aye. So you are the kid of a wanker who couldn't protect his own son?" Vashka caught Orphon completely off guard with his sudden rudeness making the older boy choke on his own saliva.
"HOW DARE YOU TALK ABOUT MY FATHER LIKE THAT YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT! He is one of the bravest men anywhere! Take that back or I'll fucking punch you!" For the second time in less than one minute Vashka surprised him, his face breaking in a huge grin.
"Good, you can behave like a brute, you just need some training."
"Eh?" Orphon was left completely speechless.
"Oghelle is like two countries in one. The poor and the merchants. The kings and the court are all merchants and all filthy rich. The poor cuss and swear all the time while the rich are head-deep in ceremony, celebrations, traditions and niceties…in the foreground. In the background they are back stabbing, greedy traitors that will sell their own mothers for coin or privilege. If you want to survive here until we can get you back to Valana and your father, you must learn to behave like one of us. Don't worry, my father Micrall and I will train you well." Vashka leaned back on his chair placing his hands behind his head grinning.
"What did you say?" Orphon almost jumped out of his skin and up from his chair.
"Hm? What did I say?" Vashka raised an eyebrow unsure of what had made Orphon jump up like this.
"Yes, I am Micraal the one who betrayed your father all those years ago. Now if you will hear me I have much to tell you of my story and of what is to happen with you, son of Lucas King of the speakers of Dara." Micraal's voice sounded behind Orphon.
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