The Chronicles of Valana Volume 3: Open Doom

by AB

Chapter 7

Love and Age-Old Hatred

Cold, frigid air perforated his senses. Every orifice, nerve ending, and pore in his skin hurt from the intense, icy Varaghian winter breeze.

"Three furs are not enough." Vicanoth whined.

Aer'andil hid a smirk getting off the ship's ramp.

"Barren ice. What could possibly survive under this much cold?"

"You'd be surprised, Vicanoth. Life can flourish anywhere given the proper conditions. Now it's winter and only perennial plants seem alive, but come spring? I bet it's beautiful around here." Aer'andil placed the wolf-fur hood over his head.

"Where are we going?" Vicanoth asked, looking around the port.

"North." Aer'andil checked his weapon, and items, placed the backpack over his shoulder and started walking.

"We must get to Tilrvi by tonight, we'll follow the river north to Svaldorn lake. The Principality of Ygramor is to the east of here. Enthronos will head there, probably."

"How do you know, my Lord?" Vicanoth was clueless how Aer'andil knew this.

"It's the only major Human settlement around for miles, even if he's avoiding humans, here, he'll want to get some supplies before continuing north."

"Why is he here to begin with? What's driving him? I mean he could have found adventure in Valana or Elaria? Why in this cold, land of ice?" Vicanoth shrugged unable to understand Enthronos' motives.

"What drives? An unquenchable, unconquerable urge too deeply seeded to ignore."

"An urge for what?" Aer'andil did not reply. He bought them three horses and some supplies for their trip north.

An hour later riding up river amidst the dense forest he stopped the horse, his hand snaking in the front of his fur overcoat.

Minaroth and Vicanoth stopped behind him. The forest was silent, eerie, covered in snow, the river flowing next to them, partly frozen, the sky covered in grey clouds.

He took a deep breath. "Are you ready?"

"Of what milord?" Vicaonth's hand, by instinct going to the sword's hilt sheathed on his left side. His hand axe on his right side, shield on his back.

Aer'andil produced a glowing white pearl the size of a man's skull from inside his coat.

"The moment I activate this, I'll be inviting all of Varaghia's combined evil on us. From now until we reach our destination…" Aer'andil looked behind his shoulder to the Vicanoth upon his horse.

Minaroth unsheathed her battleaxe, grinning.

"Vicanoth, survive this and you have my blessing." Aer'andil told him with a grim smile on his face.

"Blessing, your Highness?" He shifted, suddenly uncomfortable on his saddle.

"I was not born yesterday, Vicanoth. To marry my daughter. Is this not why you have really joined me and your mother?" Before Vicanoth could reply Aer'andil doubled over on his horse, groaning.

"I'm okay, Minaroth. Really." Aer'andil straightened on his saddle, Minaroth's hands under his elbow and shoulder, this time his smile was warm. "Gel'anr has its heir apparent."

"How do you know, sir?" Vicanoth asked, forgetting Aer'andil's blessing.

"I know, just like my father knew but "it" also knows so let's give it something else to worry about more than my heir. It will be an interesting sojourn to the North, to Hoygl fjeuhgule cave of the last seer." Aer'andil lifted the pearl in front of him and whispered something. The orb erupted in white flames, sending a shockwave of light before a pillar of white light shot to the sky, arching to a point north of them, far in the horizon.

Aer'andil chuckled. "Micraal, it would seem, succeeded in his last mission, at least this part of it." He replaced the orb back inside his coat and retrieved his bow from across his shoulders.

Enthronos awake, feeling the dragon beneath him ramble. "We have arrived, young one." Came the deep voice from the black, flying, fire-breathing dragon.

Lowering his forelegs, the dragon lowered his body to the ground, his neck touching it so that Enthronos could get off him. Enthronos jumped off walking to the front of Gor'athrolos.

Smiling he placed a hand on the black snout, feeling the strong-headed breath on his face.

"Thank you, for the trip."

"It was nice to stretch my legs and wings, some." Gor'athrolos chuckled.

"Yeah, quite the stretch, three weeks of continuous flight." Enthronos laughed.

Gor'athrolos sat on his hindlegs, the end of his tail swinging back and forth, twisted around him. Gor'athrolos brought his head close to Enthronos', their eyes inches apart. The dragon's deep red with yellow slits peering into the elf-boy's cyan blue orbs. Enthronos felt awkward under Gor'athrolos' intense gaze but he did not break eye contact.

"Fraevnaras, was right about you, Enthronos son of Aer'andil." The dragon finally broke the trance. "I have to eat and then I'll be returning to Valana. I'll see you again, Enthronos." Enthronos smiled nodding.

The dragon sat up, unfolding his veiny wings. "Where are you going to go, in this frozen land?"

"North, past Yvragal's Ridge Mountains. I'll follow the river past the large lake to a place they call Tilra and east from there."

"How do you know, young one?" Asked Gor'athrolos, flapping his wings warming them up.

"I just do, it's calling to me, the voice." Enthronos shrugged.

"Voice? Who's voice?" Gor'athrolos puffed smoke from his nostrils.

"Not who, what?" Replied Enthronos.

"What doesn't have a voice. Voice of what?"

"Everything and all, residing in nothing and everything. We must go, now." Enthronos turned and started walking as the dragon leaped off the ground.

"We have not rested in days." Astraid complained. "I know we must get to the Elven islands…for some reason, but we need to rest."

"We crossed the peaks last night, we are Rod'eran lands now, by this time next week we will be in Gel'Glidorn, land of the bear Elves." Replied Kermenos. His eyes on Astraid on a horse next to him.

She looked at him, two weeks now had passed, and smiled.

"Elves not attack, here?" She asked him, afraid.

"No, they are our friends and allies. In Valana and Elaria." Kermenos replied.

"Elves not attacked? No war with humans here?" Astraid asked, surprised.

"Right, you said Humans and Elves have been at war in Varaghia for a hundred thousand years?" Kermenos inquired, reigning his horse close to hers.

Astraid nodded, "You are not from this land?"

He shook his head, "There's a third landmass to the south of Valana, Valana's in the middle, Varaghia's in the North." Kermenos gestured shaking from the freezing mountain wind.

"It is beautiful here, and not as cold as back home." She replied looking away beyond the cliff they were standing on, at the fields below them with the middle sea beyond them, covered in mist.

"Not as cold?" Kermenos almost screamed covered in three furs.

"This is spring for us, you are not strong enough, must grow stronger, like men in north." She taunted him, with a grin.

"You come to the south, survive in the sands and the heat and tell me who's a man." He taunted back.

She shrugged as if in complete apathy, "you'll have to show me sometime." He choked.

"This is where they were ambushed, see?" Torval was scanning the field where Stenoros and his personal guard had been ambushed. Zatola stood next to him. "Enemy soldiers came from in the tall grass killing off two horses, one of Stenoros and one of his guardians'." Torval pointed at a place near them where the rotting skeletons of two horses lay, flies everywhere.

"Stenoros fell to the ground but bounced up fast, his guardian was not as lucky, got pinned down by the dead horse and was killed before he could react." Zatola saw the Elf's skeleton mingled with the horse's, a broken spear tip lying next to the ribcage.

"They fought well but must have been outnumbered greatly." Dozens of enemy soldiers lay around the ambush site. "The guardians fell one by one until Stenoros alone remained, backup up against a horse…what saved him…?"

"A dragon." Zatola commented pointing at a place near the Stenoros' fallen horse. The land was marred by large claw marks, four of them leading to an area where something large had been dragged over the soft soil.

"Not just one. One landed, seeing as there are no footprints leading away from this area and no Skeleton with Stenoros' belongings but check further away there's a lot of burned bodies. Whoever landed had help, lots of help." Zatola finished.

"What? Why are you smirking?" He chuckled.

"You're learning fast." He commented. "And I love you." She poked her tongue at him.

"There's only one place with dragon riders…but I am unsure if this was a good development…Daran Knights and an Elven child. We must hurry."

"I wonder why the Elven armies are not marching against the forces besieging Eri'Adar, Rod'eran and Feran? They are not being attacked by each other."

"I am sure Our Leader has his reasons. And something is amiss, those were not the entirety of the Rod'eran army in the parapets."

"Perhaps they are dead?"

"No, only the outer layer of the city had fallen, the citadel and inner layers are still held by the defenders." Torval mounted his horse.

Fauj walked slowly, silently in the shadows on a village a few strides from Ygramor, to the south east. His target moved from vendor to vendor picking up stuff and leaving them aside as if testing what to buy.

Then he made a sharp turn in an alley, Fauj followed him in, not wanting to lose sight of him.

"Hello, Fauj. Didn't your bitch of a mother tell you not to go following strangers in dark alleys?"

Two men stepped in behind him closing his way out. Three more stood behind his target.

"I don't really need you alive, all I need is to get you in front of a court Speaker." Fauj removed his sword from its scabbard. "But I can pay you, for your knowledge." The man laughed aloud.

"He pays me far more than you can ever afford, for my services." He made a sign with his hand and the men launched themselves at Fauj.

Fauj swung around, sword in hand. He caught one of the mercenaries on the shoulder. The other one raised a shield deflecting his shot. Spinning around he launched a smaller dagger at his target, before returning to the second man behind him, still alive.

The mercenary tried to smash him with his shield, Fauj raised his hand above the shield, locking their hands together and kneeled on the floor, causing the man to impale himself on his sword.

Fauj lost no time standing up and turning around to face the rest.

They all lay dead. Turning his head up he saw hooded figures on the roofs.

"Who do you work for?" He yelled at them.

"Phoenix of the south, arcane flame, leader of the Hunters." One of them replied, before vanishing, the rest had gone.

Fauj walked to his target. "Raggor…Willing to talk to me now?" He stood over the bleeding man.

Raggor chocked a laughter, the dagger sticking out of his neck. "Well, like I told you, I need you not alive." Fauj stepped on the dagger, impaling it deeper on Raggor's neck.

Searching his lifeless body Fauj found a letter and a well-crafted key. The letter was for his execution. "I know this handwriting, by the spirits I do." Fauj fisted his other hand in rage.

"When will you next see "her"?" He asked Gundrun, not yet having removed his coat and boots, wet from walking on the drizzling snow-rain.

"See who?" Gundrun tried to evade.

"I may let you believe I am a fool or that I have no idea what you're up to, but I am not, actually, one. When you next see her, give her this key, and tell her I want the contents of the vault box, in the bank." Fauj threw him a grim look.

"Why not get them yourself? You are the captain of the City Guard, my protector and a general of the Royal army. You can have a Royal permit within the hour." Gundrun shrugged.

"Indeed, and then everyone I don't want to know I am in possession of this key will know." Fauj left leaving him the key.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead