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In Us, Hope - Part One

by Anthony Strang 11 days ago in Fantasy

A Tale of Wickedness and Righteousness

In Us, Hope - Part One
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

Thousand of foot prints marked a trail through the sandy dunes, only to disappear from the howling sand storm that threatened the lives of the last remnants of a fairly impartial country. They were hearty, or stubborn and their ancestors had devised a plan for this situation. It was, to them, a sort of pilgrimage; a journey that would get their spirits ready for the tough road ahead.

Hhur vit krachzagnu; in us, hope

It was a saying that became these once proud people's way of life. They waited, with the hope of one day visiting their cities under the sun. They struggled with their new lifestyle, but wishing to restore their nation to power they ransacked trade routes and planned assassinations. These once generous folk even began to pillage.

Their foe was ruthless, a deranged group of criminals, obsequious creeps and, let's just say corrupt people. It wasn't the kind of takeover that involved two civilized nations; it was a torturous, horrendous takeover that resulted in the near extinction of this proud people. It was orchestrated by a criminal wanted by the Kingdom of Alderbaen for insurrection, theurgy and malediction; a man who strikes fear into his enemies through illusion, Barca.

______________________________________________

Sitting atop a small ridge overlooking the river Clyden, a newly graduated soldier watched the farmers tend the fields. Mixed amongst the maze of fig and olive trees was his best friend, whom gathered pea pods into a large basket on his back. The solider placed his hands on the shade cooled granite edge, having completed his last day of training he felt a wave of accomplishment wash over him. He knew he could make a difference reclaiming his home.

A horn sounded in the distance toward a city that you would be able to see better if you knew where it was. They called it Anoli, it was carved out of the granite, it was a safe haven that offered an impenetrable, easily guarded single entrance. Out in the fields, the man carrying the sack of peas looked up toward his friend on his perch. They nodded to one another.

"Achol, " A voice, friendly and familiar, beckoned him gently, "everyone is ready."

A smile crossed the man's face, the line of his jowl puckered, "I've been waiting Moira," he exhaled, releasing all his anxious energy, "for way too long."

He got to his feet. Dust trickled off his breeches as he smacked them clean. Achol turned to his companion, his near black, brown hair waved from one shoulder to the other. Moira, was well dressed for their expedition; she wore a light studded leather chest plate atop chainmail. Her breeches, nearly identical to his. She was head to toe, ready for battle.

"You've been saving that armor?" Achol inquired, the intrigue and astonishment coming through in his question.

Moira stood there uncomfortably as Achol, grabbed and yanked on her fine armor, "Actually, my dad crafted it. He made it for himself but refitted it for me after finding out what we were planning."

"Well, good for you! That is great, it fits you nice."

"Thanks."

Achol and Moira walked along the ridge toward four horses and two people, one of which was the farmer in the field. The rest of the community went into Anoli to hear the convening of the Echelon Council. These four compatriots were ready for action and less talk.

Each one of the companions likewise engaged Moira about the quality of her leather armor, it was quite magnificent.

Mounting the horses, they've had since they were children, they waited.

Achol broke the silence, during his training he had limited engagement with his friends and knew little about the plan ahead, "Saif, you little redheaded stallion lead the way."

"Right," Saif, a very tall man, beckoned his horse forward with a couple of noises, "sorry, I was daydreaming."

They followed their friend in silence, it wasn't a proud day; they were disobeying their people to go on a suicide mission to defeat the barbarian leader Barca. To their people, what's left of their community, they called those who went against the herd, Baashir. It was a very derogatory term, and if a Baashir returned to the country of Arawak, as a known Baashir, they were branded on the face for all to know.

"Achol," the last rider called out, he was very curious about the man's graduation, he was a deserting solder himself that Achol enlisted to help in their mission, "where were you posted after graduation?"

"The eastern barbican. I think it's called Grimsivir, I worked my ass off Rory, top of my class."

"What? I've been trying for six months to get a posting at Grimsivir." Rory, hid the jealousy in his voice well, he sounded very sincere, "Too bad we will all be Baashir after this. We don't make training easy."

Moira interjected Rory's snide remark, a little bitter at his outlook, "Get it together Rory, we're gonna bring Barca's head back to the Echelon and when we do, no one will call you a Baashir."

She spate at the distasteful remark, it was truly a rude term for anyone. They rode in silence for some time, the sounds of the river rushing passed boulders echoed against the valley walls as they neared the southeastern barbican, Echomire. Perhaps the most defended point in the large valley, Echomire always had secret ways out that Saif and Achol had discovered when they were children on vacation with their parents at Anoli.

It was here that the four heroes dismounted their horses, they could bring them but it was dangerous and these horses were not war horses. Each companion had a rucksack full of dried goat meat and fruit flats. They had a journey ahead of them, not altogether long... but arduous.

As they scaled a small cliff using the strength of their abdomen, the sun peaked through the crevasse of the Corszeca Spine. Its tingling warmth hit their backs and they felt renewed by its solar energy. Each one had the same thought in their mind... death.

___________________________________________

A shrewd man with a very gaunt, serpentine facial structure paced back and forth in front of a raised stage inside of a large audience chamber. His marching feet were muffled by a luxurious rug, definitely imported from Dovuquey. Tapestries of arawak victories and history were strewn along the side of the walls from where they were torn. As he listed off the names of individuals they would approach the raised stage, all had their gaze fixed on the man in the maple burl throne.

Sitting at attention the man watched as his majordomo read from his list, they were names of men and women he wanted to help run his empire. From his roost high in one of six donjons in the Black City of Alderbaen, Barca had plotted his empire for fifteen years. If he was careful, he could possess a very worthy economic power. And, he was careful.

"... Afi, Ramzi, Oliver, Zarambo, Quispe, Amleset and Diya al-din." Finishing the list, the scrawny majordomo looked up at the twenty-one men and women. They were from all walks of life, and from every country on the large continent.

A loud, solitary clapping erupted, crashing like orchestral cymbals, "Congratulations. You all made it. Take a good look around at those of you who stand before me"

He waited a second, when they followed his command, a cunning smile crossed his mouth.

"You are leaders of a rare, free land. Kalvatoth. Merhawi, the cartographer, should be in here any moment with the regional territories of our new land." Turning his focus from the new regional leaders of Kalvatoth to his majordomo, his tone turned from a charismatic bravado to a commanding assurance, "Read the last portion Raul."

Promptly, and cleanly annunciated, his majordomo read the last portion, "Indra and Asma, Generals of the Malvecai. You will take two-fifths of the army and conquer the southern archipelago. I will send an envoy in three weeks' time to discuss the potential exportation of live specimens to Seherron, Dovuquey and Imperial Alderbaen. Make haste."

No parting words, no good bye. They knew their ruthless leader ran a thorough operation and they needed to be at their peak. As they neared the exit of the audience chamber two black clad guards opened the solid wood doors.

Continuing on after the parting of the newly appointed generals, Raul, the majordomo, cleared his throat before proceeding, "Now the suzerain, of which there will be seven. Amleset you will have dominion over the northern steppes of Tigrea; Chisis you will preside over the delta region of Eqita. Afi, you will take the vast swath of desert of Libesia, and Oliver, you will take the forested eastern border region of Ecrulace. Diya al-din and Dorji you will take the east and west bank of the southern Clyden river, Aleppo and Ghadames, and the final suzerain -

The door of the audience chamber swung open, it was the cartographer with several maps of Kalvatoth. Amongst the most important were a set of blueprints for the future and the current political boundaries that Barca had appointed to the different suzerain.

Barca lifted his right hand in the air, signaling the guardsmen at the door who apprehended the naïve artist.

"You may continue Raul." Barca made a gesture with his hands toward the guardsmen who ripped the maps from his hands and shoved him out of the audience chamber.

"And the final suzerain, Quispe, who will have authority over the western border region, the high desert region of Agadez." He licked his finger, cleared his throat and began to speak once more, "Declar -

"Wait, Raul." Barca commanded, "If you were not one of the twenty-one incumbents identified, Raul, my guard or myself you may leave now."

All the soldiers who helped Barca secure his throne stood to attention, rose their right arm to their left soldier and left his presence.

"Okay, Raul. You can continue." Barca ordered as the last soldier left the room.

"Declaration of the Governing Body of Kalvatoth, a six part authoritative structure. Barca, the High King will share power with two others who will hold the title of King or Queen, they will be King Ramzi who will preside over everything south of the river Iteru and Queen Afi who will preside over the northlands. King Ramzi your new palace will be the Alcazar in the mountain city of Aulkibbr, Queen Afi you will take governance of the Cocabrk in the city of Kharga. The high king, the king and the queen will form the Heimild, the suzerain will form the Vezhgo, there will be the Beal of which there will be seventy. Malvecai will be absolved into the military branch of Kalvatoth with Zarambo as Chief General of the Malvecai. The Vezhgo will be responsible for bringing two-hundred and ten individuals to the Heimild to form the Opus. The Inven will be the last branch of the governing body of Kalvatoth. Information on each branch will be provided in the coming hours. These will be broken into three groups, the first being the Heimild, the next two being the upper and lower Lavant"

Raul was finally finished, he had a very important, tedious job that made many scorn him. To hear him finish made the brutal governing body lightly cheer. But, before they could become too rambunctious Barca interjected swiftly, and fiercely.

"One final matter to discuss. To each soldier a share and a half, to each member of the Lower Lavant two shares, the Upper Lavant will receive three shares and the Heimild will receive four, all else will be dispersed to the people of Kalvatoth first, then the last of the arawak."

Barca, their fearless, cunning leader stood, he was an imposing figure, almost ten feet tall on the audience chamber stage. He look down at his newly formed officers of his country and smiled.

A wicked smile.

______________________________________________

Racing toward the top of the cliff the four friends made it in roughly the same time, Saif, was full of energy and ready to go. It wasn't long before they'd reach their old hangout, from where they were kids.

"Achol?" Saif inquired mischievously, "Moira? Race you to the old haunt spot."

"What's the haunt spot?" Rory said curiously, though hesitant as many arawak were superstitious.

Saif and Moira darted off leaving Achol and Rory behind.

Achol nudged Rory on, "Just a place we use to hangout when we were kids."

Rory saw, off in the distance, as Saif jumped from a boulder onto a rocky overhang. Achol couldn't resist any longer.

"Stay with us or go back Rory, it's your choice. I have to go save Arawak."

Moira climbed a thick vine hanging from a broken rock arch, Achol followed Saif's path.

Rory resisted his urge to leave his new friends behind, and his chance to become a long remembered hero to his people. With a deep sigh, Rory analyzed himself one last time. His boots were fairly new with only the wear from his few patrols. Checking his belt and the laces of his cuirass, he felt ready. He decided to scale the large vine like Moira.

They walked around a great sandstone monolith which guarded the skies for several millennia. Through a forest of sycamore, cottonwood and pinyon trees the companions trekked. Their destination, an old outpost created by the ancient arawak people, was preserved by the absence of visitors.

Having raced, climbed and jumped their way to an area with white granite mountains, they slowed to a walking pace.

"Wooh!" Saif shouted, droplets of sweat leaping from his lips on their decent toward the gravelly ground, "We haven't done something stupid and irresponsible like that since were kids."

Moira gave Saif a friendly shrug, her tone pleasant but challenging, "Speak for yourself. Since we've been forced to stay here, I've been more adventurous if anything."

"I have to side with Moira. You're getting use to farming Saif. Maybe you should go back and sit on your rocking chair." Achol jutted his lower jaw out, pretending to toss around a grain of wheat and made his torso rock like he was in a chair,

"Says the one who didn't make the leap over the gorge." Saif fire back with a laugh.

"Hey, that's not fair. You're huge! You are at least a foot tal -

"Guys! Guys!" Rory drew his blade, like the sound of a whetstone on steel, it echoed, "We've got company."

Rory leaped forward passed his friends, shielding them from any danger that might befell them. Above them, crouched on a dried tree trunk jammed in between two mountain edges, was a still, eerie looking hooded figure.

Achol, Saif and Moira slide their hands onto the hilts of their blades. They watched the only one of them who were really a soldier, besides Achol and his training, taunting the dark figure above them.

"Come on down and fight, or let us pass!" Rory didn't yell fiercely or angrily, it was stern and commanding,

As if in response to his voice the figure leaped from the tree trunk, its fall slowed by an unseen force. Rory was caught unprepared for the phenomena, he stepped backward obviously having never seen anything out of the ordinary. Whatever the dark figure was, it was perhaps just taller than five feet and its body completely shrouded by the bulky cloak.

Rory held his sword firm. Pondering whether or not his sword would even harm a beast who commands such powers was beyond him. He jumped forward with a mighty scream that would make a hardened opponent fumble, but his blow was stopped as his sword was about a foot from the figure.

A long tube of dirt and small rock collided with the steel sword of the soldier Rory. Opening his eyes, he saw that his blow was stopped by a stick of rocks. Baffled, he fell backward, he dropped his sword as his butt hit the floor. Expecting to be pommeled to death he held up his arms and clenched his eyes shut.

As he coward on the ground, the cloaked figure lowered the hood and unhooked the latch at the neck. It fell to the ground in a solid black mass.

Fantasy

Anthony Strang

Father of Four, Finder of a Soul Mate, Video Game Designer, World Builder, Writer, Lover of Life.

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