300 years later
The initial sun was peeking over the horizon casting the realm in a twilight glow. This first sun wasn’t as big or powerful as the second sun, Solex. No, luniti couldn’t bring the realm to full day; his dawn was called the false dawn and announced the coming of his bigger brother. The sun’s arched across the sky in a path, their Seven Sisters or the seven moons would make later in the night.
The sisters were of all different sizes. Ono the biggest of the sisters was the first to be seen against the evening sky. Debriz and Trix followed close together after, making way for the two smallest of the sisters Falo and Cana. Guarding the rear of the sextuplets was the second and third largest Sieta and Lena.
The legend of the children of the sky was a story older than KaiKaria itself. Ju’lea the goddess of life and Durasken the god of destruction had 10 children, three sons, and seven daughters. One day, the siblings were playing a game, but wouldn’t let Karf the smallest, and youngest of the children play with them, so while the nine siblings played, Karf wandered off to find his own amusement. Later when the siblings grew bored with their games, they noticed the absence of Karf, and not wanting to be punished for any harm that befell him, they set off to find him.
After many hours of searching, they eventually found Karf peering over the edge of a giant hole in the ground, because the siblings were in an ill mood after the long and tiring search, they decided to get their own back on Karf by sneaking up and scaring him. Karf didn’t know his brothers, and sisters had found him, and when they spooked him, he spun around to face them, but lost his footing, sending him plummeting to his death.
Ju’lea felt the pull of death on her child and materialized next to her weeping offsprings. She knelt and swept them into her arms in a motherly embrace. Durasken stepped out of a flash of lighting and vented his rage. To punish them, he turned them all to stone and sent their spirits into the sky to watch over the realm until the end of time. The family was rent apart by the death of Karf, Ju’lea and Durasken never spoke again, and the child forever looked down on KaiKaria in sadness.
The twilight haze stretched over the orchid woods, which sat nestled close to the village of Corbin. The orchid woods got its name because, below the giant redwoods & pines, sheltering beneath the ferns and the shrubbery, grew a multitude of orchids in every color imaginable. Yellow flowers stood next to blues, purples, reds, and whites, even the rare black with silver vein’s orchid could be found here. This orchid was believed to cure any known poison if cured in a special way.
Our story begins in a glade in this wood, where a young buck stood chomping grass. His summer coat rippled and sparkled in the sun’s light. Mighty strokes of his foreleg churned up the new moist grass, exposing the soil beneath. He continued to graze while constantly sniffing the air, always aware of the threat of a stalking predator. The buck shook off the moisture on his newly formed antlers, like of a dog shaking itself after a dip in a lake.
The young buck stood oblivious to the two figures hunkered down in the undergrowth only ten yards away. Both were dressed in a green shirt and brown pants, with short daggers strapped to their sides. Supple tan leather boots allowed them to move through the foliage making no more sound than a mouse.
Each had a longbow held out before them. Kyle sighted down the arrow shaft, the buck snorted and churned the grass. out of the corner of his eyes, he saw a wind elemental take interest in the activities and flew down to investigate. The tiny elemental danced along the wooden shaft and formed a roughly female shape on the tip of the arrow.
kyle shook the bow trying to dislodge the unwelcome guest. The wind elemental placed her hand on her hips and shook her head in disapproval.
Kyle whispered as his annoyance grew, the buck raised its head and swiveled his ears back and forth. Unable to shake the spirit Kyle let the arrow fly. it struck the buck just below the shoulder. The animal reared in pain. the second arrow pierced its breast and killed it. Larrell looked over to Kyle as the wind elemental battered at his face and hair in obvious fury. Larrell chuckled and left the bushes.
Larrell was tall by elf standards, standing just less shy of seven feet tall; he was slender in build with narrow shoulders tapering down to an even thinner waist. Long silver hair tied behind his head showed off an angular featured face, somewhat like a feline. Sharp eyebrows sat over large almond-shaped eyes; a deep shade of green like the forest he loved. His eyes showed wisdom far older than his apparent age. Ears upswept and lube less gave away his heritage as one of the long-lived races of KaiKaria. A tight-lipped frown over a smooth chin showed the sadness of the life he had just taken. He didn’t like to take life; even that of an animal but the town needed food, and they needed the trade.
He walked over to the kill, every movement adding to the fact that only the elves could carry themselves with such grace, and still not disturb anything in their path. His companion was only less graceful as the wind elemental finally stopped its assault. He was a full head and shoulders shorter, and slightly younger than his long-lived friend. Broader in the shoulders and chest, he made the elf seem as thin as the new trees growing at the side of the glade. Hair black as midnight fell lazily over the hunter’s shoulder; a faint blue haze could be detected as the rays of Sorlex glittered through the trees.
High cheekbones and a square jaw with a hint of growth were his only sign of adolescence. Strong and confident, every movement was measured and executed with the precision of an artist. His strangest feature was his eyes; one was a light green with a hazel twist; the other was a sharp crystal blue-ringed around with gray. His eye could capture the attention of young ladies and be disturbing enough to make angry men stop to think twice.
kneeling next to the buck, a merry breeze kissed the side of his enamel cheek as Kyle approached. Laurell flicked the shaft of the arrow protruding out of the shoulder.
“You need to pick your target better my young friend; this youth fellow could have made it a league or more before succumbing to blood loss.” Kyle shrugged his stiff shoulders, easing out the tension of not moving for so long.
“It’s still a good shot.” Laurell lowered his head, shaking it in disappointment at the comment.
“Good shot or not Kyle, you should know by now how to take down any opponent if all you had was but one arrow.” Kyle snorted, he hated when the elf chided him on such trivial things, sometimes Laurell’s want for perfection was taxing.
“Come on old one, ease up a bit, it’s not like it’s some demonic creature, ready to run us through and take over the whole of KaiKaria.” Laurell shook his head again.
“You still do not understand do you child, all your young life, I have been teaching you all you need to know to survive; I will not be around forever.” Kyle looked a little worried, with a nervous chuckle he said.
“What do you mean; are you going somewhere?”
“In a few years, yes maybe.”
A faraway look coated the elf’s eyes, seeing only something he could see.
“I have been away from my brethren for too long. I hope to return to my homeland, I long to be back in Ithica.”
Ithica is the home of the elves, a secret part of the great Malanda forest. The elves protect their village by powerful magic, any that stray into their domain fall into a trance that leads them away, to awake a long way from their borders. The elves are an isolated race like the dwarfs of the halls of the Fardar. They shun the outside world to concentrate on their beloved forest. Kyle knelt next to the man he had thought of as his father for all his life and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“If your wish is to go there, then I will join you. I have always dreamt of it, after all the stories you have told me.”
Laurell’s eyes refocused on the boy’s face, searching for any sign of jest, but all he saw was compassion. The elf grasped Kyle’s hand in his.
“Thank you my friend, but you have a life here, and if a certain Miller’s daughter has any say in the matter, you won’t be going anywhere.”
Kyle blushed and started to prepare the buck to take back to the village. A musical laughter filled the clearing, making the birds burst into song, and Kyle’s cheeks turn a deeper crimson from embarrassment.
The elf kept laughing as he turned to walk back into the forest. Kyle’s lip curled into a smile as he lifted the buck to his shoulder; thinking about a young lady with curly red fiery hair, and a temperament to match, sparkling hazel eyes, and the figure of a comely young lady, she had the grace and looks to make most men stop their work to watch her pass by. He had been having feelings for Kora for some time now if she felt the same, he doubted it, but maybe after midsummer’s day, she might begin to view him differently, if he could prove his worth.
The village of Corbin and the orchid woods was protected by the Eagles reaches to the west. A huge cliff face where ferocious waves crashed against jagged weathered rocks, five hundred feet of un-scalable rocks gave a natural fortification for the village, but also cut off any form of escape. The only access to the village was through the travelers pass to the north, a deep groove in the Iron mountains, or the Malanda forest to the east.
In winter, the peaks on the mountain were blanketed in snow, but by spring, the snow would begin to thaw, sending water flowing steadily down through the forest, to join the stream that passed by the village. Too high to climb and too treacherous to navigate, it proved another excellent natural defense. Big mountain cats, wild goats, and ox boars habited the craggy formation, and at night could often be heard defending their territory. The Iron mountains cupped the woods and village from the Eagles Reach in the west, to the Dreamlands in the north.
The Dreamlands despite its name was a depressing place; an endless barren land of cracked soil and dry heat, even the wind blew through with a hollow moan of sorrow.
Travelers who have made it through alive have spoken of a presence that seeps into you, a hopelessness felt in your bones, making every step feel like it has the weight of the realm on it. There is a lake at its core. Its waters are as black as midnight, and also undrinkable, many travelers have rushed to sedate their thirst, only for the waters to poison them. People refer to it as the Lake of tears, maybe for the unlucky souls that have died at its banks with streaming eyes, no man truly knows why it’s called the lake of tears, only the elves and dwarfs remember why. The village of Corbin was bustling with people making ready for midsummer’s day.
An annual tradition that saw the villages of Corbin, Lanisa and further north, Barlia come together for three days. Mostly to establish new trade, sell and buy wares, spend time with old friends and most important of all, the coming of age tourney. Boys of the sixteenth year were to prove themselves over three days, in a series of event design to test them on the different aspects of adulthood. The tests were from making fire, to fighting with wooden swords, from archery to solving puzzles.
Kyle sat at his workbench fashioning the cloth-yard arrows, and smaller swan feathered arrows, that he would sell at the fate before the coming of age tourney. Kyle was to turn 16 this midsummer’s days, as he didn’t know when he was actually born. Laurell had told him a few years back of how he had found Kyle while hunting a mountain cat that had been killing cattle on a nearby farm.
Laurell tracked the cat’s massive prints to an old tree with a small hollow in the trunk. The mountain cat was the largest female Laurell had ever seen. She would have stood taller than the elf on her hind legs, and her head was bigger than a fully grown bear. Her shaggy coat was yellow like a rape field, and her long tail was strong enough to knock a troll to the ground.
She stood next to the tree with her muzzle inches away from the hollow sniffing at something within the trunk. Her canine teeth glisten with saliva in the moon’s light cast through the trees. Thick predatory breath pumped out of her nostrils like the steam from the tanner’s chimney, slowly curling away on the wind.
As he watched, her ears swept back and forth listening to the sounds of the forest. The animal raised a paw the size of a dinner plate and used her large claws to gently strip the bark from the trunk. Laurell crouched behind the stump of an old oak tree 10 yards away, the cold night air stinging his face while he watched the cats unusual activities. The chill from the night on his skin was nothing compared to the sound that made his blood freeze.
A baby’s gurgling shocked the elf far more than anything in his already long life, the question of why a baby was abandoned in the forest never entry Laurell’s mind, as he gradually raised his form and knocked an arrow. The shifting of his weight was enough for the mountain cat’s hearing. She slowly turned her massive bulk and stood as if to guard the tree, while the baby’s laughter filled the eerie silence. The predators calculating gaze shone with interest, as Laurell draw back the bow ready for the fight he knew would happen. He also knew that this particularly huge beast would take quite a few arrows to put down, add to that, that she could outrun him and climb a tree far better than he could, would mean that he would have a hard fight on his hands.
Laurell opened his mind and searched for the consciousness of the cat, touching lightly he spoke in his native tongue.
“I mean not to harm you, but you have strayed into my domain and sedated your thirst, please leave this part of the forest now and do not return, or I will be forced to protect my dwelling.”
The feline cocked her head to one side as if amused by the elf’s words, before letting out a thunderous roar in reply. The concussion hurt Laurell’s ears, and the baby went suddenly quiet. Silence reigned once more, but he stayed his hands and never let his target out of sight. The giant cat turned once again to the tree ignoring the threat of steel and stuck her snort into the hollow. The baby’s laughter rang out again with joyous glee. Again, Laurell stood frozen to the spot. He had to get the cat away from the infant.
To his surprise, the she-cat growled low in her throat in pleasure, before turning and walking off into the deeper part of the forest. The elf lowered the bow and wiped the cold sweat from his brow. He was thankful that the situation had not turned bloody, and that the cat had obviously gotten bored with the baby. Something about this encounter was nagging at the back of his mind though. On uncertain legs, Laurell made his way to the old tree and peered inside the hollow; a bundle of clothes met his gaze. Compelled to liberate the baby boy from the tree, the rest was history. Kyle’s fingers fumbled with the thread he lashed around the arrow, causing the arrow to slip through his hands to clatter to the floor.
“Urggghh Stupid arrow.”
Laurell smiled hearing Kyle’s frustration from the next room; he knew how hard it would be for Kyle in the coming of age celebration. He had witnessed more than he cared to remember, every year he would judge the archery contest, and this year would be considered the hardest yet. Laurell walked into the crowded workroom. Every bench was full of different types of tree branches. Some had been harvested from the woods recently. Others were in the drying out stage, while still more were cured ready for styling. Kyle was sitting with head in his hands oblivious to the intrusion.
”Why don’t you go down to Eric and get the cuts of the buck he has promised? You look like the world is going to end.” Kyle slowly raised his head to look at his mentor and friend.
“It’s the contest. I don’t want to make a fool of myself in front everyone.”
“And a certain someone?” probed Laurell. Kyle’s cheeks rose in color.
“Yes Alright Damn it. I don’t want Kora to think I’m a fool.” Laurell knelt and picked up the fallen arrow, placing it back on the bench, he turned to face Kyle.
“We Eldar do not have this tradition so I cannot pretend to understand how you feel, but know this; there is not one person for 100 leagues that can run as fast as you, you are stronger than men twice your size, and you move as silent as us Elda, you possess certain attribute that I have not seen in your race, and with my years teaching you in forest lore, you should find these tasks will prove trivial.”
“I don’t know.” Kyle was silenced by Laurell raised finger.
“Enough, go now, the walk should take your mind off things for a while.”
Kyle groaned; he knew that to walk through the village this close to the festivity was like throwing a chicken to the wolves. Rising off his stool, he walked over to the wash bucket hanging at the corner and proceeded to wash his hands and face. Satisfied, he glanced at Laurell, who only confirmed his wishes with a nod of the head.
Kyle left the hut he called home, which sat near the edge of town, near to the forest. He would have to go halfway across town to get to the butcher, which was uncomfortably close to Kora’s father’s mill. He had two choices; he could chance going straight to the butchers, through town hoping not to meet too many villagers, or he could circle around the back of the town, making his way through the tanner’s fields and enter from the north. The latter would mean a possible encounter with Cilan, the tanner’s son and Kyle’s nemesis.
Ever since Kyle was a boy, Cilan and his group of followers would pick on him, they would isolate him and begin taunting with name-calling, and insults like bastard and elf lover. Kyle had a brief scrap with Cilan after one such occurrence. Kyle proved the stronger of the two boys until Cilan’s group sprang to the rescue. Kyle didn’t remember much after taking a rock to the head, but one of the boys came away with burns to his hand. After that incident, the gang added a new word to their ever-growing list of insults; ‘Freak’.
The thought of another round of verbal abuse or worse, from Cilan, made up Kyle’s mind, he would rather his chances with the villagers. Stuffing his hands deep into his pockets he started on his way, kicking up dust with the toe of his boots.
The village was in full swing with everyone busy preparing for the festivities. Mothers were sweeping out the dust in their homes while small children were set the task of helping, which only resulted with mothers screaming for them to get out their way and go play somewhere else. Men were busy erecting the stools and tents where the villagers would sell their wares. Branches and old dead trees were being chopped up ready for the common fire, as normally the merriment would last through most of the nights.
Kyle was absently thinking of what this year’s tests would be when someone shouted his name. Kyle looked around for the source of the noise and spotted a lean looking boy running in his direction down the dusty path. Roger was his only friend. The two had met after Kyle had stuck up for Roger during one of Cilan’s many attempts to find other victims.
Both boys were the same age and often would shun chores to go fishing in the stream or play soldiers in the woods. Roger only a hand’s breadth shorter than Kyle, was thin but muscular after years of farming his father’s fields. Roger’s most predominant feature was his fiery red hair, that stuck out at all angles like he had woken up.
The Miller’s was one of the wealthiest families in the village. The Miller, Roger’s father, traded with villages as far up the coast as Salesor, so Roger was often dressed in the finest clothes if he wasn’t on the farm. This was one such occasion; a white open cut shirt of silk that showed off his well-formed chest was tucked into dark gray cotton trouser over polished black boots. Roger fell into step beside Kyle.
“Do you want to go and see if we can sneak out a barrel of ale from the horse and plow? everyone’s so busy it should be easy.”
Roger grinned at Kyle brightening his mood. “I’ve got to go and see Eric first, but it sounds like fun. You got the day off then.”
“No father wants me to practice for the tourney, but I don’t care for it. I’m going to make my own way in the world, besides; I want to travel around a bit.”
“So you’re still not going to run the mill for your father then?”
Roger was the Miller’s only son, brother to young Kimi, a bossy little madam of eight years and Kora. At the mention of his inheritance, guilt washed over his face.
“I haven’t told father yet, but he expects me to make my announcement at the end of the contest. Do you know somewhere I can hide until it’s over?”
Kyle groaned. He had forgotten about the speech every boy made at the end of the coming of age, normally a declaration of the trade he would follow, or of any decision that would craft the young man’s future.
“Are you well? You’ve gone as white as a wraith.” Roger looking nervously at his friend.
“I forgot about the speech that’s all.”
The boys walked past a group of older men pulling up a pole at the centre of a small field, a multitude of coloured ribbons whipped about in the breeze, one man stood holding a bucket to his lips, water poured down his shirt adding to the sweat that moments before, had drenched it from his labour.
“So if you want to hide, why are you still going to enter into the contest, then?”
“Well, you and Cilan are the only other boys in this village that can cause me any real trouble.” Roger put his head closer to Kyle.
“Besides I get to have a shot at Cilan in the sword fighting while his gang can’t help.”
“Now that would prove interesting.”
Kyle chuckle, his black mood was completely lifted as the duo rounded a corner to come face to face with three giggling girls.
Kora looked straight at Kyle.
“Interesting, would you happen to be talking about me, Kyle?”
Kora was a year young than Kyle and Roger, but maturity had made her more a woman than the boy’s men. Deep red curly hair danced around her face as she twisted round to laugh with her friends. She wore a white summer dress with a flower pattern that was all the rage in the royal courts of Daracia the year past. The white fabric fell just above her knees, showing off smooth firm legs.
A golden chain with a locket sat between her ample breasts reflecting the sun’s light, the locket could be open to show two drawn pictures of her parents. Kyle had a similar locket around his neck the only thing that he had from his mother, but it didn’t open like Kora’s. The shock on Kyle’s face set the girls off giggling again.
“What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?” asked the skinny girl on Kora’s right. Kyle tried to hide his embarrassment, as Roger stood in front of him.
“No, just didn’t expect to bump into you girls here, that’s all.”
Kyle looked to the floor and kicked a stone from the ground while his cheeks flushed red.
Roger sneered at his sister. “Shouldn’t you be where you’re needed Kora, instead of standing on the corner gossiping like a common whore?”
“Shouldn’t you be where you’re needed Kora, instead of standing on the corner gossiping like a common whore?” Kora’s face flushed with anger.
“And shouldn’t you be practicing at the farm like daddy told you to? you big broom head.”
”I’m on a break if you must know, and anyway mother is waiting for you back home, cow legs.” Roger laughed as he ducked and pivoted under Kora’s slap. Turning to face her but still walking backward he mocked her.
“You’ll have to be faster than that to catch me, little sis.”
Roger couldn’t turn quick enough as his legs hit a water troth, his momentum caused him to stumble and land sitting in the cold liquid. The three girls were clutching at their stomach with laughter as they disappear around the corner. Kyle helped a soaking wet Roger out of the troth. Slapping his friend on the back he chuckled.