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Of Fire and Crowns

By: N.J. Gomez

By N.J. Gomez Published 8 months ago Updated 5 months ago 13 min read
3
HD Photo by Jackie Tan

There were not always Dragons in the Valley…

At least that is what the elders keep reminding them. Although she does not know how they could remember. Humans are not supposed to live so long, weak, and pathetic as they are. The priests claim they remember lush trees and gardens. “A land in abundance, always guarded and tended by the king’s court.”

This world use to sustain them. Now it just smothers them with its smoke. Skies so grey, that glimpsing the sun is a day to celebrate. The sands that once shone like gold now sweeps the ground like old dust. The palm trees, at least the ones that have not been scorched, still stand tall all through out the human realm of Sarmatia. Some would guard beautiful oasis, bubbling with life. Every year, that life diminishes slowly, but definitively. Kahya wonders when the last year will be that they get to celebrate the suns warmth. What is there to celebrate really? The valley not only smothers them but hunts them. It has been a year since the last attack, but it is only a matter of time.

She stops the hot tears from escaping. She pushes the loose pieces of ebony hair back into its braid. There will be no tears today. Kahya carefully makes her way past the ruins of the old palace. Not understanding why, she pales as she steps through crumbling doorways and fallen ancient trees, the like with which were used to decorate the halls and throne room of what once was a great fortress. It is that no longer, five hundred years of neglect will do that. After the king and his court disappeared, this palace was cursed, or it was rumoured to be. Perhaps it was haunted by the ghosts of the King’s court, for abandoning their people to such a fate as this. Kahya glares ahead at the path leading back to her village, hating herself for returning to the decay of the fortress. Since she was very young, she could recall making her way into the palace gardens. She always ended up in the same spot, rooted to the room which once held a large throne. As if she would find something, or someone. She never did.

Kahya could see the smoke from her shop bellowing into the sky. Corbett must be adding too much water to the furnace, again. That would mean more delays in setting the scimitars and more dealings with the temple’s soldiers. They liked her swords but could not stand that it came from her. Well, if they could not handle her, they could contend with her 13-year-old brother’s handy work.

She wipes the sweat from her brow, still cursing walking up those steps. Kahya neither cared, nor noticed how her steps left the path behind her scorched with the heat of her sandals. Black sand follows her down the cursed steps. The evidence soon blown away by a sweeping wind. The High Fae were wrong to choose humans as their successor. This land was never meant to last. They would fail just as the Fae had, even with the world’s magic at their disposal, they could not protect anyone. Their world would disappear. The dragons would see to it, just as they had sought to the death of her infant son.

500 years earlier…

All the brightly coloured veils made Prince Vulcan very dizzy. Vulcan rolled his shoulders back and focused. The hilt of his sword heated against the sweat of his palm. His breath matching every step Alaois made. The gardens could not contain the trails of sand winding around them as they held their stance, swords at the ready.

Vulcan could see the ladies in their veils, normally watching them train now scurrying from one end of the castle to the next. There were beds to be made, food to prepare, flowers to arrange. All for the amusement and entertainment of magical beings that would much rather enjoy the King’s head on a platter than dates.

Vulcan hissed back as the King’s guard grazed his arm with his sword. Blood was already trickling out of the wound. Alaois would never divulge how he managed to maintain it so sharp.

“Ouch,” Vulcan muttered.

“The pretty girls are too busy to pay you any mind, highness. Lucky for you, as they all would have been laughing.”

“This Ball will come to no good end, Alaois. Peace with the Elves is impossible. We will be lucky if we can keep the Dwarves from poisoning their wine.” Vulcan roughly wipes the blood from his arm, gaze falling upon the open windows of the throne room. “My father is a fool.” The Ball was to celebrate the Winter Solstice. An excuse for everyone to come together, at least that is what his father suggested.

“In the years I have served your father I have met no one wiser. The Orcs have stopped pillaging, trade with the Dwarves has made the realm rich, and the people are thriving.”

“And what of the Fae? Ever since they showed up the forest has become a death trap.”

“The Fae are few, and they have harmed no one. They look to live in peace. They have lost it all, even their magic. They may not live long enough to be a problem for his highness.” Alaois lifted his gaze towards the heat of the sun.

“I am sorry Alaois…I…I… misspoke.” Vulcan uttered softly. How could he forget that Alaois was part Fae? The only evidence was the soft glow of his deep brown skin, and his youth. At 180 years old he looked not much older than Vulcan’s father. As Vulcan was to celebrate his 26th year this day, his focus now turned to the duties he would inherit from his father.

“You are afraid of you what you do not know, young highness. My people are incredibly grateful to your father. I am grateful to your father. Believe me when I say you have nothing to fear from them.”

“Then show me, Alaois, surely you know you can trust me as much as I trust you. The Fae….”

“The Fae have long suffered, and want no part in the troubles of others.”

Vulcan stared hard at Alaois. “Then why did you choose to become a King’s Guard?”

“Your Highness!” a young servant cried. Vulcan and Alaois turned to the garden terrace. Breathless, the young servant ran towards the young prince and his guard.

Vulcan ran his hand through his auburn hair. His mother’s hair.

There was so much he hoped to know of the Fae. Perhaps because he was indeed afraid. War was always a threat. A rumour on the tongues of many. Especially with King Ailill and his brutal rule over the Elven Kingdom. The jungles still recovered from the blasts of unfiltered magic. This from the King’s hunt for greater power and resource in magic relics. For now, Alaois stared after the young servant. The conversation would wait until after the Ball. After the treaty was signed…or rejected depending on the mood.

“Your highness, your sisters… are expecting…. you at the council meeting…. High Priestess Tarsia…. has…has arrived from the…. Temple… of the Sun.” The poor lad could barely breathe.

“Come highness,” said Alaois “You do not want to keep your sisters waiting. Have a drink boy, we will need you at full strength tonight. You would not want to disappoint the young maidens who would miss your skills of dance”, Alaois slapped the boy across his shoulders sending the boy forward on his feet.

“No… sir…thank you,” He then turned to Vulcan. “Your highness,” He bowed low as Alaois laughed heartily. A wide smile spread across Vulcan’s face. He loved his people. All his people. He knew at that moment that there was nothing he would not do to protect them. He was young and his sword was heavy in his grasp, but he would do better to understand. To be as strong as Alaois. Even if it meant accepting an unknown fate.

500 years later

Blood, sand and drudgery. That is what Kahya’s life was defined by. She arrives at the entrance of her shop and is welcomed by bellowing plumes of smoke. Damn it Corbett.

“Kahya…cough…I’m sorry…cough, cough.”

“Never mind Corbett. Open the windows and doors then start preparing the iron. We have orders for tonight for the winter solstice. The Temple guards will not be happy if we do not get those done first.” Kahya loved this shop, she thought as she started fanning the smoke away, eyes beginning to water once more. It was worth the insults, the side eyes, and whispers about her throughout the village. She had inherited this shop from her husband after his passing. As cruel as he was, this shop was the one good thing he did for her. She loved the work and effort it took to fashion these blades. The best in the realm, one could find none better.

After most of the smoke had cleared and the iron was well and formed Kahya walked towards her bookshelf and felt for a small wooden box tucked away behind it. She kept it well out of site so that the elders would not try to confiscate it. The soldiers would love nothing better. She opened it and gingerly lifted the book inside. The book was so brittle she was afraid it would completely deteriorate in her hands, but like before she opened the pages to search for the instructions she needed. It was a book written by an ancient woman warrior who forged the weapons for the King’s guard. A lost art, found by Kahya years ago on a visit to the palace ruins. She treasured this book as it gave her a means of survival outside of the confines of marriage. It gave her a choice, one that was now deprived from the women of Sarmatia.

Kahya could not imagine an entire army of woman, trained, and honoured like any man in the King’s guard. So much had changed since then. This book had made her blades one of a kind and almost impossible to replicate anywhere else. Which is why not even Corbett would know of its existence, until necessary.

“Oi boy!” Kahya quickly, but carefully stashes the book, and hurries to the front of the store. “Boy I’ve been waiting on my sword for a week now, I want it now!”

“And you will wait even longer if you talk to my brother like that again Tobias,” Kahya noted the smell of alcohol on his breath. It was too early for this shit. Tobias did not even look at her but glared at Corbett like she hadn’t addressed him at all.

“Tell your sister, unless she plans to use her mouth for more…suitable purposes, she should keep it shut,” at this he looks at her, eyeing her up and down. Kahya matches his glare. “She looks better that way.”

“And how ridiculous will you look, without a proper sword at solstice and already drunk no less. You have a little dribble on your armour, just there by the way,” Kahya points with her chin and wipes her hands on her apron. “What will High Priest Ammon say?” A smirk appears on Kahya’s lips, knowing she may have pushed Tobias too far. Although the High Priest was never unkind to her, his propensity for harsh punishments were branded in memory. To Corbett’s credit he stands his ground, balling his hands into fists, giving Tobias his fiercest stare.

Tobias’s breath becomes uneven, as he steps forward now inches from Kahya’s face. Kahya does not flinch. “You will not hold his protection forever girl. The only reason we keep you in this shop is for your swords. Accidents happen all the time in a blacksmiths shop… Kahya,” He drawled. “Once those pretty hands are of no use, other body parts will be put to work. Wouldn’t want to be wasteful in these trying times”, He said as he slowly backed away, a wicked grin across his face that Kahya would have loved to wipe off with the edge of a blade.

“You…” Corbett began.

“I hear yours has already lost its usefulness; your threats are not worth much here.” Kahya cuts in as she prepares herself for his response but before Tobias can open his mouth a horn sounds through the valley. One blast, a second…and the third.

Kahya’s breath hitches as cries begin to fill the silence. The Dragons have been spotted, the air already filling with the heat of their fires.

“Corbett, grab as many scimitars as you can carry,” she tells her brother. Corbett just stares at the sky, his breathing uneven and sweat already soaking his black locks.

“Corbett!” Kahya shouts more firmly. Corbett finally looks at her, utter fear in his bright green eyes.

“Listen to me, we can only protect ourselves if we arm ourselves. We will make it, but you must move!” Corbett snaps to attention and nods furiously as he rushes to the armoury. Kahya could already here the soldiers gathering.

“Hurry woman! Our weapons!” Tobias demands. Kahya tosses the spears at his feet before she turns to grab as many swords as she has managed to complete.

“Quickly,” he says. “Get yourself and your brother to the temple.”

You get to the temple! Do your duty and I’ll do mine”. Kahya pushes past him with her cart of weapons. Corbett following silently behind her. This could not be happening again. She would not run or hide this time. She will keep Corbett safe. The shadows of wings swept across the sky above. They really were too late, and Kahya did not think they could make it to the temple. How could the guards not have seen them?

“Corbett, leave the weapons here!” she shouts above the screams. “The soldiers can grab them from here. Stay with me!” Kahya pushes her way past the crowds, her grip firmly on her brother nape. Corbett looks back at her.

“Where are we going? The temple is that way!”

The hiss of flames stretches over head, illuminating the skies and clearing a path from the smoke. A roar like none other silences the people of the valley as they behold the fires and talons above.

Moments passed. “RUN,” Kahya screams.

The earth trembles at the monstrous sounds. Kahya can hear the large temple doors pressing shut even as those who could not get there fast enough remain outside its doors, clamouring for refuge. Kahya presses Corbett against a marble pillar, the pull of the palace pushing her to follow the steps up amongst the ruins of the throne room. She wastes no time as the screams and cries echo below.

“Don’t look back,” Kahya presses forward. The once, throne room, is covered by stones and ancient trees, providing some safety. The dragons could topple this place upon them but only if they happen to see them. Something stirred in Kahya of the like she could not explain. As if under a spell she walked up the steps where the great throne once stood, and stepped into the open frame behind it, exposing herself over the valley.

“Kahya, what are you doing?” But she did not, could not answer him. She gave herself to the overwhelming calm of power inside her and stepped out into the light. The heavy beating of many wings surrounded her, pushing her hair out from her braid and down her shoulders, her veil, floating away in the wind.

“KAHYA!!” The sound of her brother’s voice seemed distant within the throne room as deep black scales and hazel eyes landed before her. No more hiding. Kahya breathed, lifting the sword hilted unto her back, the expert blade ready for whatever task. Her emerald eyes did not falter as she met the stare of the one she recognized more than the others. The one who murdered her son.

Fantasy
3

About the Creator

N.J. Gomez

I am an aspiring writer from Ontario, Canada. My field of experience and degrees are in Social Work and Political Science. I am currently working on a series of children's stories and I love to read mystery, romance, and fantasy.

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