The Chronicles of Valana Volume 3: Open Doom

by AB

Chapter 5

Iavaskar and Iavaskor

"Huumpphh…" Light entered the room through the open windows, a cool breeze caressed his skin and vile, loud sounds assaulted his ears. He tried to change side, pulling the covers over his head to no avail, the sounds coming from outside could not be denied.

Removing the sheets, he stretched like a cat searching for warmth before standing up from the comfortable bed. "What the f…" His sentence left hanging when he pulled the curtains aside to reveal soldiers on the streets. Lots and lots of soldiers pouring into the City from all directions.

Turning the handle on the balcony doors he stepped outside. He leaned on the balusters viewing the commotion, from his room in the Royal Palace.

"Impressive, isn't it?" Kermenos had not even heard Viskeras knocking on the door to his room.

"What is all this army gathering here for? There must be…tens of thousands…" Kermenos' eyes looking to the hills outside the Capital City, beyond the tall solid, white granite walls.

"More are arriving by the hour, my father mobilised the Orkhavoc armies." Viskeras stated.

"I thought he wouldn't call the armies in defense of Hordivar?" Asked Kermenos, stunned.

"He has not. A call to arms missive arrived from Gel'anr, from the High-King of the Elves himself." Viskeras leaned back from the banisters turning to leave. "I was sent to fetch you, put on some clothes my father has sent for us both." Kermenos nodded following Viskeras inside.

"Ice cold, the water r…" Gundrun was reading his favourite book, a collection of stories from bygone eras, of epic battles and mythical beasts now long since extinct of heroes and betrayal, of love and hate. What teenage boys read when a gust of wind interrupted his reverie. At least he thought it was a gust of wind, but the windows to the study were closed, the night still and the candle's flame as straight as the fireplace's, calm flames dancing to a tuneless song.

There it was again, not a gust of wind but a breath on the back of his neck.

A breath? On instinct, he jumped up from the armchair he tried to pivot, with dagger in hand, previously concealed inside his tunic, elbowing whoever was behind him with the other hand.

"Who are you?" He demanded as the breath's hooded owner jumped back avoiding his elbow, the dagger now in front of his face.

Receiving only silence in response he launched an attack. "Guards! Guards to me!"

The hooded figure chuckled. "A girl?" Gundrun thought.

"They are taking a nap, I'm afraid. You should be more alert to your surroundings young prince." She avoided his dagger with ease, grabbed him by the wrist twisting it to the side with one hand while she pivoted around kicking him behind his right knee.

"Oh, shit!" He barely had enough time to utter before he found himself flat on his back. The dagger he was holding now pressed up against his throat.

"I do not mean you harm, young prince. If I did you'd not have seen, heard or felt me coming and you'd be quite dead right now." A smirk under the purple hood and eyes the colour of scarlet fire.

"What do you want?" Gundrun inquired, his breath ragged.

Just then the door opened, and another hooded figure entered through the door, this was clearly a man.

Gundrun had expected two daggers impaling themselves in him, instead the girl with the fiery red and amber eyes took the knife from his throat and threw it at the incoming assassin.

The blade implanted between his eyes. Gundrun turned his attention from the man now launched off his feet falling backwards as if in slow motion to the girl kneeling above him. She winked at him, winked!

Sounds came from below as door after door thundered open. She stood up and quick stepped to the window, opening it.

Gundrun saw Fauj approach the door to the study.

"Wait!" He yelled to the hooded girl, now with one foot out the opened window, fire light illuminating her blond hair.

She paused looking at him. "Where or how can I find you?" He demanded.

"I'll find you, you are easy to find, illuminated by light. Your eyes are not used to the shadows."

"Find me then, at Harlow's market, tomorrow morning."

She smiled and left.

Fauj reached the window but she was long gone.

"Fuck! What happened in here? Why are the guards sleeping? Who is the dead man?"

"Fauj, slow down. She was not the threat, she wanted me dead…we would not be talking now. She made the guards sleep and so she saved their lives as well as mine." Gundrun was dusting his clothes.

Fauj kneeled beside the dead assassin, searching his body.

Sunlight hit his face, illuminating his eyes, waking him up.

"We are near." He thought and stepped outside. Sounds impacted his ears. Birds and animals living in the lush, fertile land near the river's mouth.

"Udelon's river port, Udelon's source of power." Minaroth stood next to him.

"Merchants and trade, moving the world, from Udelon, Eri'Adar and Rode'eran. Valana, Elaria and everywhere else." Aer'andil completed her thinking.

"Not our lands."

"No…not our lands, we trade what we must and we trade info, the best armament of our Hunters.

Between sea and river three islets connected by stone bridges, and large black and yellow stone walls and round towers. Archers guarding the approach from sea and river.

"Fomi. City of trade and artisans of the North…in Valana. No better fabric and pottery exists in Valana and it all originates here in Fomi." Aer'andil's face neutral. Minaroth knew better.

"And our port to Varaghia."

"Your son is in Dara, my Lord."

"For now." He paused. "We are near Fomi, until this is over I will require your faith in me, Minaroth for I cannot speak of my plans or give orders. You will have to follow my lead."

She remained silent. The towers and walls of the island city becoming larger.

It was a warm, humid day and the teen lay on his bed. Sheets discarded, hands and legs wrapped around another, younger boy.

There was a knock on the door. Semi awake the teen groaned untangling himself from the other sleeping boy.

Wearing something he opened the door with groggy eyes.

"Come, we must talk." He nodded and walked to the study, the pendant swaying on his neck, no longer crystal white reflecting the environment. Now dark red and purple. Ten thousand years of longing stored inside.

"What news, brother?" The semi-naked boy sat in one of the chairs, scratching his exposed thigh below the loose fabric covering his crotch.

"I come from the Palace. Shit's not good, brother. King Baraven is using Oghelle to weaken Rod'eran and Feran. He's negotiating with Oghelle rather than attack them. Iavaskor and Iavaskar, trading outposts turned cities turned beachheads are becoming citadels and are growing by the hour as more ships arrive from Elaria but if Hunter sources arriving from there are to be trusted it's nothing compared to the fleet that Oghelle is preparing once it's dealt with all of the Human kingdoms down there."

"What of the Orkhavocs?" Drake inquired.

"Oghelle seems to be ignoring them, for now." Beck shrugged.

"What do we know from them, silly?" Drake exasperated, rolling his eyes.

"Nothing. Their only contact with the Human Kingdoms of Valana is trade and their lips are sealed, ten thousand years now." Beck shrugged. "Human ships dock in the ports of Nadskri or Retrsolig, cargo is loaded in and humans are not allowed outside the tavern sector."

"I've never understood this." Drake waved his hands up in the air, palms open left and right of his head. "Why? Why such secrecy? Why pick those two ports? Why not share information with us?"

"Us? They share information with the leader of the Hunters, we are but information brokers and mediators, they placed the ports there not because they are the furthest from the Human kingdoms but because the Vaser sea is unnavigable by sea-fearing vessels. Much like the western and eastern coasts of Valana they are battered by weather, unrelenting sea, and gigantic waves. Unlike Valana the weather down there is much worse and the volcanic activity that displaced the Dragons from the archipelagos of Vaser creates extra hustles for sea-travel. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, toxic fumes that linger on the sea surface killing all, unbreathable ash and tidal waves that batter the coasts." Beck paused for a breath. "Those two ports are not the only Orkhavocs have, but they are the most protected ones from invasion from sea. Nogavad could serve as a port but the Orkhavocs want no one going there, except for Elves and the southern sea is even worse than the west and east as there's also frost during winter and horrid rain and thunder monsoons during summer, most of southern Elaria floods during the summer months." He finished explaining.

"I wrote to our friend in the isles a few days ago." Drake said looking at his brother. "His reply arrived this morning by a rather handsome, Elf Hunter."

Beck could not help but chuckle at his brother's never-ending libido. "What did he say?"

"We can leave for Udala whenever we are ready, Elisko will take us and the kids."

Beck's face darkened. "So soon?" Drake nodded. "Well then we better depart sooner rather than later as I do not see Eri'Adar king changing his mind on Oghelle without the city being besieged."

Drake looked away, towards the open window.

"What? You never look away from me unless there's something wrong going on."

"We must depart and soon, you are correct brother, as soon as possible." He stood up leaving the room.

Thonril sat on his father's throne uneasy. He was not the High King and he was not the Crown Prince, yet as Regent he had to. Before him the emissaries of Rod'eran and Feran were demanding he send the armies of the Elves and the Alliance to aid them.

"Regent Thonril, son of Aer'andil, I am pleading with you. Please send us aid, we are besieged by unknown forces, Feran will not last for long." Thonril tightened his grip around the throne's arms.

"They have used the trading outposts given to them all those years ago to transport their armies there. Through Iavaskor and Iavaskar they now control the southern waterway to the inner sea and most of the southern sea trade." Feran's emissary concluded.

"Feran, my Lord, are not the only ones being besieged, our lands are under threat and very soon enough so will Rod'eran be. We need alliance help, Elven help."

"Gel'anr has received no such information, or that this is not only a human invasion. You know very well emissaries that Elves do not interfere with the affairs of men." Thonril asserted, irritated.

"Then, the eyes of Gel'anr are blind and the ears deaf, your Highness." Replied Feran's emissary.

Thonril's face hardened but gave no immediate reply as he flicked his wrist, at the guards' direction. They stayed motionless, hands on the hilts of their spears.

"We will send out scouts to investigate this and when they return we as Elves and as Alliance will decide what to do." Replied Thonril. "But mark my words, should the scouts find no signs of the Darkness, no evil other than Human greed, should they find this to be a human invasion with trade motives our reply will be most…unpleasant to your Kingdoms. You may leave now."

The two emissaries turned to leave. Half way to the throne room's gates Feran's emissary paused, turning his head to look at the Elven Prince.

"Where is your father, Prince of Gel'anr? If we may know." Sarcasm visible in his voice.

"He had to run an errand away from Gel'anr." Thonril chose his words with care.

"The High-King of the Elves had to run an errand? Away from Gel'anr? Without the entire Elven army with him? And he left the Elven Kingdoms and the war at the hands to someone other than the Crown Prince? Does he even have a Crown Prince yet?" The guards were trying their best to remain emotionless as well as motionless but their faces betrayed increasing anger.

Thonril stood from the throne. "I am his eldest son. He has left me to manage things with the High-Queen, my mother and as far as we're concerned…war? What war?" Contempt audible in his reply.

"The Hunters, my Lord? Where have they disappeared to?" Feran's emissary pressed his luck.

"The Hunters go where they are needed or ordered to. You are neither the High-King of the Elves or in command of them so you need not know anything about their movements or missions.

"My Emperor would like to know that, your Highness." The Rod'eran envoy replied.

"Your Liege will be briefed on what he needs to know, when he needs to know. This audience is over, when the Elven scouts return with news we shall send envoys with our decision." Thonril left the throne room.

It was later in the day when Ythela entered the Royal Gardens.

"You do love this spot, brother." She smiled at him. He was sitting under a wooden pavilion shaded by large leafed vine plants and surrounded by trees and the sound of wind and the sea in the distance.

He looked up from his book smiling back at her blond hair and amber eyes. She had taken their father's hair.

"I have a question or two, if you have a moment to spare." She sat next to him.

"For you sister, always." He replied, closing the book, setting it aside.

"Why did you lie to the Human emissaries?"

He did not look away. "I had to, father's orders. Time is needed and acknowledging the existence of the two citadels will get the Elven Kingdoms directly involved in this war before we are fully prepared."

"Have we not had ten thousand years of time?" She insisted.

"Why be this worried, sister? We are Elves, we will not lose to this Darkness." His reply an effort to sound steadfast and sure of the outcome. He was not.

"I am worried about this war, and of losing the ones I love and care about." Her face sad.

He gave her a hug, brotherly love and affection before pulling back. "We have words to learn, time is needed for this if nothing else."

"How can father know this? Understand this to transfer it to us?" Her eyes frowned perplexed.

"I know not, sister yet he does, it is perhaps another reason of his desire to wait, to need time. He needs one of his children to demonstrate what is required to be the Crown Prince…or Princess." She nodded.

"It has been three days since we departed from Elisko, love. What is our mission?"

"I cannot tell you yet, but I can tell you this. I understand why High King Aer'andil and King Norion insisted I read the brief after leaving Elisko. We must go through the blood marshes to the black river and to Bevanesh from there." Responded Torval. "I cannot tell you more than we need to find Stenoros, son of Norion. That is the mission for now and I have been placed squad leader for a squad of two."

She did not persist in her questioning, she knew he would not relent, not when it concerned something as important as their first official mission for the Hunters of Darkness. Not after ten years of training.

"Lead the way, then."

The day after they left the narrow corridor of black stone uniting the Kingdom of Udala from mainland Valana behind them. This was the first time either of them had left Elisko. The pass behind them an umbilical cord they both had now severed. They were leaving teenagers, they would not return the same.

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