The Chronicles of Valana Volume 3: Open Doom

by AB

Chapter 3

A Message Arrives, Darkness Rises

The saddle rumbled and swayed under them as Viskeras and Kermenos rode back to Nogavad. They had left the jungle behind them two days ago and since all Kermenos could see was lush cultivatable fields with forests like islands and rivers of clear blue water.

"This is Fordo River. The Jungle extends all the way to the mouth of the river where it blends with marches and swamps. We are headed to Sughav lake and then to Nogavad through the river stixu and Vath Forest." Viskeras explained pulling the reins on his boar making it change direction due south following the river's edge.

The river was thick enough for three man-of-war ships to fit with ease next to each other and it deepened at the center to the extend Kermenos could see only dark blue water and no river-bottom.

"It's a broad river." Kermenos stated.

"Not as broad as the rivers coming from the mountains of Hordivar. They and rainwater fill Lake Sughav which feeds most of the rivers of our lands."

"This land has changed so much from the descriptions I've read in history books. It was described as arid wasteland with little life other than Orkhavocs."

"There was much life even before the great floods ten thousand years ago that changed the land from an arid desert to the lush fields and forests you now see but now there is an abundance of it. The Orkhavocs will forever be indebted to the High-King of Gel'anr for this. By performing sacrilege, he saved us."

"Sacrilege?" Kermenos inquired, perplexed. He had heard of the Elves of Valana the land to the North. He had not yet seen one but the stories of their courage, beauty, and long life as well as craft, sword-making and magic-use had become a thing of Legend to the Human Kingdoms of Elaria. There wasn't a child which hadn't heard the stories. Boys wanted to become elven warriors and girls wanted to become Elven maidens, fair in beauty and fierce in battle. So to hear the High-King whose, achievements numbered many and impressive, had performed sacrilege to the Orkhavocs his most loyal allies stunned him.

"Well, ten thousand years ago he killed the farseer. She was considered holy amongst our people when in truth she was the one making our land arid. Aer'andil killed her and the floods came, the rain came and life came with them. At the time though it was sacrilege. Now it is considered the Elves' greatest gift to us and they have given us numerous." Viskeras elucidated.

"How have your people managed to keep all this a secret for all this time?" Kermenos asked ever so increasingly impressed.

"I cannot answer this. Not yet, my father would have my head." Viskeras replied smelling the air. "How did you come here? The mountains are not traversable, the cliffs are too high and the rocks too sharp and it rains and snows all year round. Not to mention predators there are far worse than shadow lions."

"I came through the northern borders. The cliffs there are easier to climb."

"And there's also sea." Viskeras stated. Kermenos said nothing.

"What have you to say to my King?" Viskeras tried to fish information,

"What I have to say is for your High-King in Nogavad and only him." Kermenos responded stubbornly. The boar ran through the fields on one side and the river's edge on the other. Kermenos noticed how these fields were full of red and yellow quad leafed flowers on long stalks. Bending over the saddle Kermenos grabbed one of the flowers allowing the boar's speed help him tear it off the ground. The flower came clean off.

Straightening up on the saddle Kermenos brought the flower closer to his face to examine it.

It reminded Kermenos of an orchid, with silk-like longer yellow and red petals and deep red pollen.

"It's called Starfire." Viskeras informed him. Kermenos brought it to his nose. The smell was quite pleasant at first then he felt his nostrils and lungs burning as if on fire. He sneezed four five times.

Viskeras chuckled. "We use it as spice in our food, Orkhavocs love spicy food that burns your throat and stomach, makes us belch strong. We also use it in battle to irritate our enemy and Darans want it, makes dragon's fire more potent."

"But Dara is not part of the Alliance." Kermenos queried.

"Right." Came Viskeras' one word cryptic reply.

Kermenos placed the flower on the space between his ear and his head.

"We'll stop to make camp for the night at Sughav's north-western shore. Tomorrow morning a ship will ferry us to the south-eastern shore so we can follow the river to Varth forest and Nogavad." They continued to talk whilst riding towards Nogavad.

"Secure the Prince, I'm going back to the ambush site." The soldiers nodded. He holds one from his leather armour's collar.

"You let no one close to the Prince. No one! I don't care if it's his father. No one else other than you and me." Fauj emphasised each word never breaking eye contact with the fur-covered Royal Guard. The soldier saluted his agreement.

Fauj Ploughed through the thigh-high snowed terrain, his clothes a mix of crimson red frost. Bastard sword in one hand, shield in the other. The sword's blade dripping with blood. Backtracking to the ambush site he looked for any clues he might have missed previously of who might be behind the assault to the Royal convoy.

The Wagons still burned despite the heavy snowfall. The blood and gore still visible in patches around the forest floor. Maimed bodies lying around. He searched around turning bodies this side or the other until he found the woman he was looking for. He turned around gently. There was a baby in her bosom and a girl beneath her.

"You tried to protect your young…you failed them and I failed all of thee…be it the last thing I do in this life I will protect Gundrun and find who is, truly, responsible, this I swear to you." His voice a whisper, pained and strained. He closed her eyes placing a gold coin in each whispering some prayers for the spirits to take her beyond the veil.

The sea reflected the blue skies and sparse clouds in the bright mid-day. Thonril was standing under one of the wooden gazebos looking out to sea lost in his thoughts when approaching steps coming up from behind him broke his trance. He knew who it was by how she walked. Calm and confident yet ever so feminine.

He turned his head to his right smiling. "Aru'vial lothia em vil Manthalo."

"It is good to be in your home, love of my heart." She reciprocated his welcoming greeting.

Their palms touching, they joined their foreheads. A gesture of love and respect.

"Es'ala my love what are you doing here?" He asked her surprised to see her.

Leaning her hands on the stone balusters she looked out at sea. "Why do you ask? Do you not want me here?" She teased him.

"I have shared a poem with thou, and I will share my life with you. It is not why I ask."

She giggled. Three thousand one hundred years old she was and her giggle still made her sound like the kid she had once been when he met her.

"I come bearing gifts, although I am afraid they are poisoned and unpleasant." She handed him a message with the seal of her father, King of Dol'Adur.

His face becoming serious he broke the seal opening the envelope. His face only got more worried as he read.

"Dol'Adur was attacked? By dark-skinned men? Is everyone okay?"

Her face darkened. "Not everyone, my father was injured during the attack, and some of the Royal Guards were slain. My father will live."

He hugged her close for a moment. "My father mobilized the army and I volunteered to bring this message to your father but it would seem he is gone?"

Thonril nodded. "You should have let a soldier do it, bring the message."

"I am not some defenseless creature, nor am I cowardly. Besides no one would think I, a frail princess, would be carrying a message of such importance, alone with so few guards in an unarmed merchant's ship." Her displeasure at his comment visible for a moment. The frail princess bit made him laugh, she was anything but frail.

"You are correct. I sometimes forget how proficient you are with the spear and Speaker runes. Forgive me?" She smiled planting a kiss on his lips.

Leaning back from her embrace he continued reading the message.

Having finished he looked around the Royal gardens searching until he found a guard.

"Ar'dul of Kashteth, correct?" He called out to the Honour guard.

"Yes, your Highness." The guard walked towards them, lance in hands.

"May you bring honour to your family and village for many more years. Summon my mother, generals and admirals to the war room." Thonril ordered the guard with a tone of authority.

"Why is that required?" She asked him.

"Will you, please, accompany me to the throne room?" He offered his hand to her.

"Are you sure?" She inquired taking his hand.

"You are going to be my Queen, one day, and I want you involved in the ruling of our people. So yes, I am quite sure." She smiled, his earlier misjudgment forgotten.

They walked, hand in hand, to the war room in the center of the Palace, with the others arriving some minutes later.

Standing around the war-table in the center of the room with a map of the world on it they waited for Thonril to speak.

"Dol'Adur has been attacked." Thonril could see their faces darken. "I want you to increase the patrols in Gel'anr and mobilize the army. You are to also send out missives to the other Elven Kingdoms to act the same." Out of instinct the generals, all of them looked at Tha'ala who simply remained emotionless directing her gaze to her son.

" General Borash of Elisko . You are to mobilise the Hunters of Darkness and activate the spy networks in the Human Kingdoms." Thonril continued. Tha'ala looked unsurprised. "I want the white blood battalions to move out to Udala and defend Elisko pass with the fourth, fifth and sixth Elisko regiments."

Borash nodded. "Are Hunters to continue their missions or suspend them and return to Valinos, Elisko and the Flat Spires?"

"Valinos…it is one of the best secrets of the lands…if my father gave an order or mission complete them. Otherwise they are to gather in Udala and Gel'anr."

"It will be done, your Highness."

"Admiral Fesdrath , you are to take the combined Elven fleets, except for Udala's, and hide it in the blood marches, through Narothol. The Dragons have agreed to giving us free passage through their waters so long as we don't get close to their nests. You are to do whatever it takes so that no one discovers you. Leave under the cover of Darkness and without torches, admiral." Admiral Fesdrath nodded.

"Generals of Gel'anr," Tha'ala spoke for the first time. "You are to consider these orders as if they are from Aer'andil, Thonril has been left regent in his stead." The Generals nodded and left after saluting them.

"I hope father knows what he's doing. It is not the orders I would have given them." Thonril told his mother after the generals left.

"What would you have done, instead?" She asked him.

"Gather the combined Elven and Human armies and attack the enemy at his two camps in Valana, then sail south and destroy Oghelle."

"Do you think you have all of the information?"

"Would I not have it if I was High-King?"

"Ten thousand years…why do you think your father has waited so much?"

"I do not know. He killed Oran."

"And he's killed other Dark Generals, and yet the Darkness persists."

"Darkness hides in all Human hearts. It will never end, why wait, and let it gather more strength? Attack now and end it before this war even starts."

"You have grown and learned much, Thonril son of Aer'andil but you have much more to learn and you have not all of the information your father has. Attack now, you can, you are Regent." Tha'ala asserted.

There was no reply as Thonril gazed at his mother, her gaze of steel, the fierceness in her eyes. For the first time, he saw her not as his mother, the woman who had bourn him in this world, cared for him, raised him, and nurtured him but as the High-Queen, relentless and fearless.

"Father has not attacked and I do not possess all the information."

She smiled, even if faint. "You know you do not know. It is a start." She made a small bow of her head and left.

"Father…Either you are a military genius and I have much to learn indeed or we are all dead." He thought to himself and left with Es'ala.

Udala's gates of a thousand years opened before him. The gates adorned with an Elven male face looking down with a sad expression on his face. Out of its eyes, streaming down were carved tears. Near the ground spears and swords clashed, on one side Elves on the other Dark Creatures of nightmares.

"The fall of Udala, thirteen or more thousand years ago. A black day for Valana." Torval thought to himself. "Norion's father lost the city to the Dark General Olan betrayed by his own wife." The face cut in half as the gates creaked and opened, rows of guards welcoming him in the City of twenty walls and a thousand towers. This was but the outermost set of gates near the northern mountains. Torval, clad in his Hunter's field attire passed through.

"It doesn't matter how many times I go through these gates, I always feel a shiver through my spine."

"My Liege, Torval of Elisko is here." A guard announced him into the throne room. An hour later.

"Nay, Torval he is but Elisko…" Norion stood from his throne of oak and Elk bones, carved with the retaking, and cleansing of Udala from the Darkness and miasma. Feldon redeemed and crowned King again. "Torval of Sagalth latest member of an honourable and valiant bloodline. Are you ready to create your own name?"

Torval got down on his knees, bowing before the Udalan King. Norion lifted him handing him a sealed envelope. Torval looked at the secured envelope a wax pressed with the Seal of the Hungers of Darkness and the Royal Command of Gel'anr. A hand holding fire crossed with an arrow and the eagle holding a letter G in Elvish.

Next Norion picked up two items wrapped in fine grey linen. Unwrapping the linen, the items appeared to be a crown of wolfs bane and leopard's bane flowers and a sword curved like a river with two lion heads in the silver hilt. Norion rewrapped them in the linen giving them to Torval.

"You are not to open or read the letter until you've left Elisko. You are to take one other. Your mission is this, find my son alive or retrieve what's left of his body. If my son is dead find whoever is responsible for this so that I can bring forth Udala's full wrath upon them until there's naught left and Aer'andil's words of caution be damned." Torval swallowed, hard. For the look on Norion's face could have leveled mountains and slain entire armies. His fists clenched.

"You are to depart for Elisko immediately and from Elisko within a day's time. This letter will ensure the quartermaster of Elisko gives you whatever you think you will require to complete your mission." Norion handed Torval a second envelope with the Royal seal of Udala.

Torval saluted and with a bow he left for Elisko.

Norion waited for the doors to close behind the departing youth and sat on his sunlit throne. "My son better be alive, Aer'andil love or I will never forgive thee. And I have missed you and Tha'ala so much." He mumbled.

Sometime later a Royal Guard clad in his armour of blond fur and full armour plate entered the room bowing before him.

"My Lord, Queen Orwoth has requested your presence in the archery range." Standing on his feet the guard left.

"I'd soon rather face all the legions of Darkness rather than my Queen if her lonesome is harmed or dead." He muttered under his breath leaving the throne room.

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