Categories
fantasy, short, stories

A map of the Gragiyan Empire and Misoa

The fictional universe known as the Gragiyan Empire features heavily in my fantasy stories, most prominently in the final one ‘The Atarai’. It’s also the setting of my new novel ‘A War of Blood, Mountains and Sand’ which focuses on the five year conflict between the Empire and the Northern kingdom of Misoa.

The story begins in the small fishing village of Varges, in Misoa. The Gragiyan Empire is made up four provinces:
Gragiya – the heart of Empire with the nation’s capital city Ifirium.
Arhia – a Sparta style, formally independent military region with its main city Naitoria.
Lavinium – a mountain province with its main city Isfienia.
Niralis – a sparsely populated desert region with its only city Maerorium and the Orealisi Oasis.

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Categories
fantasy, short, stories mythology

Sammorien – The Moss-Man

From their vast kingdoms of clouds, oceans, mountains and volcanoes, Lady Lavinia and Lord Ifir’s children viewed themselves as higher beings and the benefactors of the world they had created. The immortal Enai clans remained loyal to their masters, grateful for the powers they received and many their many other privileges. The Erai ever regarded the Enai as their servants, created for the sole purpose of doing their bidding, the forest god Lord Silyan however, viewed the woodland Enai as his friends and companions. He knew each member of his clan and was always the first to welcome a new baby born into their community. Likewise, the forest Enai were truly devoted to their Lord, loving him for his wisdom and kindly nature. He too loved them in return. And one particular individual was his favorite, a young golden-haired female called Kora.

Although she was as good an archer as any hunter, Kora was a gentle being with little interest in tracking wild beasts. Instead she spent her days strolling through the woods in search of herbs, sweet berries and mushrooms. At sundown she would rejoin the other Enai in their camps as they prepared for an evening’s rest. There she always gladly took part in the evening music and dance. Lord Silyan would often play his flute where Kora would sing along to every tune, ever accompanied by the other Enai. As the others returned to their makeshift treetop beds, she would often stay by the god’s side throughout the night. Over time the two grew very close, spending more and more time together until the day they became lovers.

As neither had ever denied the rumors nor hid their affections towards each other, the Enai elders began to view Kora with a new found respect, addressing her with the title of ‘Nefiria Alhani’ – meaning Lady of the woods.

Yet the humble maiden was quick to dismiss the title.

“I’m no Nefiria,” she would often say, “I have no desire to become Lord Silyan’s queen. I’m simply an Enai, no different to any of you. As much love as I hold for him, I fear that neither his father, the great Lord Ifir, nor any other Erai would ever allow such a union. Our Lords see us as nothing more than mere servants.”

One sunny day, as the rest of the clan began to gather their things before moving on to their next destination, Kora asked to speak to Silyan in private.

“I have started feeling strange lately,” she whispered as they sat down under a tree. “I think that I may be with child.”

Silyan embraced her lovingly before summoning one of the clan’s medics, and ordering Kora to be examined before they embarked on their journey. The healer quickly confirmed her suspicions and advised that Kora rest as much as possible.

From that day onwards, the women of the clan took great care ensuring that Kora always remained well fed and that she didn’t exert herself overly much. They began to slow their pace, covering shorter distances and taking regular breaks. Initially unhappy with the attention, Kora eventually gave in, as she realized the importance of this child to their community. No such hybrid of the two races had ever before existed.

Lord Silyan, although delighted with the prospect of becoming a father, chose not to inform his family of Kora’s condition, still unsure of quite how they would react to such a revelation. Nevertheless nothing in this world could escape the ever-present gaze of his parents, Era-Gragiya and Ifir, from their golden palace in the clouds.

As the months went by and the time drew near, Silyan and the Enai found an old forest full of large oak trees for their new encampment. One cold winter night, as Kora lay resting in their tent, Silyan saw a sudden flash of bright light through the fabric of their tent and then heard a familiar voice calling his name. He quickly grabbed the heavy skin of a wild beast and wrapped himself up before stepping outside.

“Hello mother,” he stated hesitantly as he spotted the radiant figure of Era-Gragiya standing before him.

“Oh Silyan, my boy… Why would you hide such a secret from me?” she asked as they sat beside the tent.

“I… didn’t think you would approve,” he commented briefly as he glanced back at the sleeping Kora before turning to face his mother again. “My child will be part Enai.”

“What nonsense. How could you even think such a thing of me?” Era-Gragiya replied. “Part Enai or not, it doesn’t matter. That beautiful creature will have your blood, and will thus be as much my grandchild as Ieskr, Fiehri’s boy. I have the right to know and to see the child. Silyan, I wish to be there for the birth.”

Silyan beamed and embraced his mother before responding:

“Forgive me. I’m sorry for misjudging you, mother,” he answered with another shy smile. “You don’t know how pleased I am to hear your words. You are more than welcome to stay with us. We could certainly use your help.”

And so the sky queen stayed with her son and the clan of the forest Enai awaiting the day when she could finally welcome her grandchild into the world.

One night, the time finally came. A tense, emotional Era-Gragiya assisted with the delivery of the first ever Erai-Enai offspring. The child that Kora finally bore was unlike any creature to have existed. He had his father’s dark eyes but none of the woodland Enai features. Most remarkably he was unusually long with arms and legs resembling the thick roots of tree, while his body was made of green moss. Seeing his son’s shining eyes, Silyan decided to name him Sammorien.

“Extrodinary, I have never seen such a child as him before,” the forest god commented, still surprised by the unusual looks of the baby.

“May I hold him?” asked Kora.

“Of course you may. He’s perfect,” said the sky queen as she carefully handed the newborn to Kora.“I’m so glad that I could be here to meet him. Your father will be so proud. Now, it’s time for me to return. Farewell!” she added before vanishing in a flash of bright light.

“Goodbye mother, thank you for your help,” Silyan answered still gazing down at his son.

As Sammorien grew, instead of sucking his mother’s milk like Enai children, he would stretch out his limbs and cling to the nearest tree to absorb nutrients from the soil. It didn’t take long for Kora and the forest god to see that their son was slowly becoming more and more plant-like.

Though capable of walking and fluent in the Enai tongue, Sammorien was exceedingly slow, taking only a handful of small steps at a time, and he frequently struggled to keep pace with his father and the clan.

Her son’s slow pace made Kora begin to worry. So, one day once Sammorien had dozed off next to her, she decided it was time to discuss the situation with Silyan.

“Our precious boy is barely walking. I fear that next time we move on, Sammorien won’t ever be able to keep up with us. What shall we do?” she whispered to her lover while stroking the child’s mossy green hair.

Silyan stared at the sleeping boy before responding:

“Travel is in our blood and we’ve been in this forest far longer than any other land. Sammorien seems to love being here, he’s become very attached to these particular trees. As much as it pains me to admit, I think he would be better off staying in these woods.”

Hearing this Kora burst into tears and immediately begged Silyan to wait at least one full year before their departure. Though growing ever more restless and bored with the same surroundings, the Lord of the woods reluctantly agreed.

And so the couple and the other Enai remained in the oaken woodland until a full year had passed after Sammorien’s birth. The decision to stay proved difficult for the clan, particularly the hunters, many of whom had to trek far from the forest in search of their prey. Although worried about Silyan’s restless nature, Kora was pleased to see him bonding with their son and teaching him the ways of the forest Enai. By the time the first patch of snow had fallen, the boy had grown to the size of a fully mature large oak.

As the clan began to gather supplies for the journey ahead, Silyan and Kora bade a tearful farewell to their son, cuddling him lovingly in their arms. Then they watched as the mossy, dark green-faced Sammorien smiled back at them, before attaching himself to the trunk of a large oak tree.

“Noraiohi lietr… noraiohi ari…” he muttered to them in the Enai tongue with his unhurried, gravelly voice.

Before they set off, Lord Silyan cast a protection spell over the forest to ensure that no mortal being could ever seek its destruction. He and Kora moreover made every single member of the clan take a sacred vow, promising to return to the same spot at least once a year to visit their beloved child. Silyan thankfully knew that his parents would also be watching over Sammorien from their perch in the skies.

And so Silyan and the Enai clan left the oaken forest, leaving Sammorien on his own for the first time. The gentle child spent many of his days simply clinging on to the trunk of the same oak tree and feeding from the nutrients in the soil. Having inherited his father’s love of music, the boy remained in those lands enjoying quietly listening to the birds sing.

One cold windy night, as he was about to fall asleep still attached to his tree, Sammorien was disturbed by the sound of a galloping horse. Suddenly he heard a loud crash and a scream. The animal had tripped over a protruding root, unseating its rider, before it dashed off into the thick woodlands, leaving an injured man writhing on the ground.

Sammorien rose sluggishly and strode towards the human. There he found a young man dressed in a hunter’s garb. Seeing the fracture and listening to wounded cries, he soon realized that the mortal’s leg was broken.

Terrified of the moss creature and thinking it some evil beast, the man reached for his dagger only to find that it had been flung into the distance during the fall. He started screaming and trying to flee, but he was too badly hurt to move.

Sammorien briefly stood over him before whispering, this time in the Gragiyan mortal tongue:

“Please don’t be afraid…I mean you no harm. I am no beast of the forest,” he murmured before uttering a spell that swiftly healed the man’s leg.

Awestruck by what he had seen, the man tentatively got up before responding:

“Thank you, oh gracious creature of the woods. If you’re no wild beast, then pray tell, what are you and what is your name?”

“They call me Sammorien, I am son of the forest Erai, Lord Silyan and a woodland Enai,” replied the moss creature before stepping away from the human and preparing to return to his tree.

Recognizing that here stood a divine being, the man knelt down in front of Sammorien.

“Praised be thy name and that of your father, Lord Silyan,” said the mortal, still on his knees, “How can I ever repay such kindness?” he asked.

Tired and eager to resume his slumber, Sammorien glanced down towards the human from the comfort of his tree before offering a response:

“Dear stranger, I ask nothing in return. I leave you only with a word of advice, next time you step into a forest, be sure to leave an offering of fruit and flowers for my father and his servants so that they protect you from all manner of wild beasts,” he whispered before dozing off to sleep.

And so the man headed home and told everyone he knew of his encounter. Thus sparked the legend of Lord Silyan’s son, the Moss man, the spirit and protector of the woods, the first ever demigod. It was the legend of Sammorien.

Categories
fantasy, short, stories

A Noble Soul

One evening following a grueling day of judging the souls of the dead, Lord Makar slouched down into his dark throne and listened as his wife began to sing. Ordinarily these quiet moments were his favorite but that particular night he felt unusually tired. Mere minutes into the song, the grim judge struggled to keep his eyes open. He soon raised his right fist in front of his face before yawning.

Seeing his sign, Morae held her voice mid song. She stepped away from the throne and approached her husband.

“You must be exhausted, my love,” she whispered as she leaned over him.

“It has indeed been a long day. I should probably sleep a little,” Makar replied after yawning once more.

“How about a hot bath beforehand?” his queen suggested.

“A warming bath, yes, that seems like a fine idea,” he replied.

Thus Makar ordered the Morkrai to make the preparations. The shadow beings quickly gathered water from the well outside the halls and began to heat it under a fire. Meanwhile the couple stepped away from the chamber and made their way towards the kitchens. One Morkrai followed them and there he picked up a bowl of fruit and offered the fresh harvest to his Lord and Lady. Morae helped herself to a bunch of grapes and some cherries.

Eating with the grace of a queen, she proceeded to grab a handful of raspberries before asking:

“Aren’t you hungry?”

“Not particularly,” Makar responded simply.

Morae ate the juicy raspberries before speaking again.

“Are you sure? It’s been a while since you last ate,” she uttered softly while touching at the fruit inside the bowl. “Why not try some pomegranate seeds?” – she asked.

“Very well, I’ll have a few, just to taste,” he replied.

Morae took a pomegranate from the bowl and passed it to the Morkrai. The creature quickly sliced it in half with a thin knife before offering it back to her.

Morae removed a handful of seeds and put them into Makar’s mouth.

“Mmm… delicious,” he murmured after swallowing the bursting seeds.

Morae simply smiled in response.

“I think our bath should be ready by now,” Morae noted as she handed the bleeding pomegranate back to her servant.

They walked towards the bathroom just as the Morkrai had finished pouring the last batch of hot water into the wide tub. Before leaving, the shadow creatures rested two soft towels onto a marble table in the corner of the room.

As soon as the Morkrai left, Morae wrapped her arms around Makar.

“Alone at last!” she declared happily before they kissed.

Morae then made her way towards the cool marble table. There, next to the towels, stood a collection of numerous glass vials filled with essential oils.

“We have some lavender, jasmine, bergamot, mint….Which fragrance would you like? ” she asked.

“The mint,” Makar decided.

“Mint, good choice,” Morae smiled as she took the bottle from the table.

She poured droplets of the thick oil into the tub before putting the bottle back in place. She undressed and edged into the steaming bath. Makar disrobed and soon joined her. The pair rested in the tub for a while, enjoying the pleasant aroma and soaking until the water started to grow chill. Not long after Makar and Morae grabbed their towels and made their way towards the bedroom.

“How long have we?” the goddess wondered once inside.

“We have time enough. The dead can wait a little longer. Our Morkrai will watch over them whilst I spend some time alone with you, my dear queen,” Makar replied as they perched on the bed.

That night they made love before falling asleep in each other’s arms. Hours later they woke up to the sound of a horn. Finally rested, Makar rose quickly and dressed himself, Morae hurriedly followed. She snatched a comb lying next to their bed and moved to brush her hair. She was about to leave when Makar stopped her.

“Aren’t you forgetting something, my dear?” he asked, holding up a spiky black crown decorated with onyxes and crystallized dark roses.

Morae took the crown from him and stared at it for a few quiet seconds.

“My queen deserves her crown,” Makar whispered.

“And you, my dear king…where’s your crown?” asked Morae.

Makar grabbed his hooded cloak and robed himself.

“I would rather keep my hood up,” he replied before pulling the dark hood over his face, “as long as they can hear my voice, the souls will never need to see my ugly face. I would rather they gaze upon my beautiful queen.”

“There’s nothing wrong with your face dearest,” said Morae as she rested the shadowy crown on her head.

Makar smiled at her before they strode towards the throne room. They passed through the kitchens on their way where Makar ordered the Morkrai to bring food over to their thrones. Unquestioned, the Morkrai obeyed their master and quickly began to prepare a meal.

The couple walked silently into the towering chamber and took their seats on the dual thrones. Soon after the Morkrai laid out great platters of food. Makar and Morae were still eating their breakfast when two Morkrai entered the hall, dragging a dead soul behind them.

Still chewing his food, the Lord of the dead gazed down at the spirit stood before them. The ghostly figure was a middle-aged man with thin grey hair and a long beard. His clothes were left dripping wet from sea water.

Finishing his meal in grim silence, Makar passed the empty plate to one of his servants before speaking:

“Captain Larnin, son of Erios of Gragia, I am listening. You may begin,” the grim judge spoke in his cold and emotionless tone.

Makar and his queen listened carefully to Captain Larnin’s tale. There Morae waited until he had finished his story before speaking.

“What a fascinating tale. I have never had the pleasure of visiting Makar’s sister’s kingdom, nor have I ever seen any of Afa’s creations. What more can you tell me of these water Enai? – she asked.

Hearing her words Makar turned to face his wife.

“Morae, my dear, I fail to see how this is in any way relevant to my verdict on the Captain’s fate. Why ask?” he whispered into her ear.

“You’re right, it’s not relevant. I’m just curious,” the Lady of sorrows replied.

Makar smiled and kissed her hand before resting back in his seat.

“Very well. Captain Larnin, for the sake of my wife’s curiosity I would like you to tell us more about my sister’s servants,” uttered Makar, all the while staring down at the ghost.

Captain Larnin turned his head slightly to face the goddess before speaking:

“My Lady,” he began, “Lady Afa’s servants are vicious monsters whose love for violence is equal only to their love for their watery home and all creatures of the sea. Their women are beautiful, with long turquoise hair and blue fishtails. Yet the one that sank my ship was a young, strong male. I will never understand why he chose to attack me and my crew but, judging by the look on his face, he appeared to enjoy watching us suffer. Destroying my ship seemed to be enough to keep him amused, but then his kin joined him and pulled some my crew down into the depths. One of his women even drowned my first mate’s young boy,” he concluded his tale before wiping a tear from his face.

“Thank you Captain Larnin. Your tale proved to be very entertaining but now it has now reached the time for me to declare your fate. I see little virtue nor any noble deeds in your life. Before becoming a sailor you lived the life of a petty thief, spending most of your days robbing people in the streets, occasionally getting into drunken fights. I therefore sentence you to remain here in these halls, forever,” the grim judge declared.

The Morkrai grabbed Captain Larnin and pulled him away into one of the cold halls. Makar took a few sips of water from a cup offered by one of his servants. The horns sounded once again and the Morkrai trudged back inside, dragging more members of Captain Larnin’s crew into the hall. Makar listened to each of their stories while some promptly removed their jewelry and offered it as a gift to Lady Morae in exchange for a further audience with the goddess. Morae listened to each story before stepping away from her throne in order to deliberate with her husband.

“It seems this crew mostly consists of former criminals who, like their captain, decided to do something more useful with their lives,” Makar whispered to his wife.

Morae gazed down thoughtfully at the lost souls below before speaking:

“That is perhaps true for most, but not all of them,” she noted before pointing towards the only female crew member, a short brunette dressed in a grey cloak. “That woman there, she’s different. She is the only one here without a criminal past.”

Makar glanced down at the woman again before turning to face his wife.

“Oh her. Indeed, she spoke little of her life. She said only that before joining Captain Larnin’s crew she worked at a market stall,” Makar recalled.

“Well, that is only the barest truth. Once during her time at the market stall she spotted five street children trying to steal her goods. Instead of punishing them, she took those orphans home and raised them as her own. She was a loving mother to all of them, and she helped them to find work and to settle down,” Morae replied shrewdly.

“And you believe her?” her husband asked.

“Naturally, my powers allow me to sense lies. This woman spoke the truth,” the goddess replied.

Makar smiled at his wife before responding.

“Well done, my dear. This in fact means we have found a noble soul, one worthy of an afterlife in my father’s palace. My mother will be thrilled to learn of this,” Makar whispered before turning to face the crew once more just as Morae returned to her seat.

One by one, he announced the fate of each wretched individual and watched as the Morkrai dragged them away until only the woman remained.

“Please, my Lady stop this! These people were my friends, they did nothing wrong. It was the Enai, that caused us this misery, why are you punishing us?” the woman cried out to the queen.

The couple stood up from their thrones and glided down the steps towards the ghost. The woman shivered in fear as she watched the dark gods silently approach her. Once close enough, the pair stood facing her perfectly still, then at last Lady Morae suddenly started to sing. A few seconds later the woman lay down on the ground, her eyes closed, deep asleep. Makar ordered the Morkrai to fetch a bowl of water while his wife stared at the pale body lying on the ground.

With the items in hand, Morae helped her husband as he began to clean the woman’s face, her hands and her feet before pouring the remnant water over her body. Makar finally placed his right palm on the woman’s forehead before shouting:

“Eviria, daughter of Auria, I hereby grant you pardon and release you from my realm,” Makar proclaimed loudly. There he used his divine power to light the woman’s body up under a pale flame. There was a fleeting brightness in their dark realm before the light soon caused her to disappear.

Only moments later Eviria woke to find herself lying on a blanket of clouds. Confused by her new surroundings, she gazed upwards to see the ceiling of a vast golden palace filled with the brightest lights. Suddenly she noticed a figure walking towards her. It was a beautiful woman dressed in white with long flaxen hair adorned with a golden crown.

“Lady Era-Gragiya!” Eviria shouted and quivered once she realized quite who she was addressing.

The goddess smiled before holding out her hand and helping the woman stand.

“Eviria, daughter of Auria. My son Makar has deemed you a noble soul, and thus granted your release from his kingdom. I am delighted to welcome you into my home,” Era-Gragiya answered warmly as she led the woman into a hall where the other noble souls were each seated.

Unlike the innumerable souls in the grim Halls of Makar, these spirits appeared almost as though they were still alive. Instead of standing, locked in a state of trance-like sleep, these bright beings were happily sitting together and chatting away, as if merrymaking in a warm tavern. One friendly faced woman rose and offered the newcomer a drink of sweet nectar. Eviria immediately took the cup and sat down on a chair with a fresh smile spread over her face.

Categories
fantasy, short, stories mythology

A Brief History of the Gragiyan Empire

‘The Atarai’ – My final story in the anthology offers the reader some insight about the history of the Gragiyan Empire. After recently completing the final edit of this story, I’ve decided to share more information about the unique status of the province of Arhia and more details about the rulers of the Gragiyan Empire.

As mentioned in ‘The Atarai’, the provinces of Gragiya, Niralis, Lavinium and Arhia originally existed as independent entities. Gragiya was the largest and soon its rulers decided to create an Empire by uniting it with Lavinium and Niralis. Arhia remained separate for several centuries, co-existing and trading with the Empire but keeping its own traditions. It wasn’t until Emperor Akim of the Erocatien dynasty wanted to marry an Arhian princess called Aminn and so he decided incorporate it into the Gragiyan Empire. He achieved this by allowing Arhia to maintain its regional dialect and ancient traditions. This meant that Arhians continued to regard themselves as separate from the rest of the Empire. It was very uncommon for anyone born in another province to marry an Arhian citizen or gain the rights to live there. In all of Gragiyan history this has only occurred once, in the case of General Levorian’s son-in-law, Commander Lial who was originally a temple guard from Lavinium province.

In addition to Emperor Akim, another important member of the Erocatien dynasty was his cousin and heir Vecatian I, whose reign started with Ergon’s rebellion. After the slaughter of the rebels outside of Ifir’s temple and Ergon’s execution, Vecatian restored the peace and ruled for ten years without any problems. When he died, his son Vecatian II was just ten years old. This meant that for the first five years of his reign, Vecatian II’s mother Empress Loraila ruled as regent. Once he was old enough Vecatian II took to the throne and his mother retired to Lady Lavinia’s temple in the mountain province of Lavinium. Shortly afterwards a war between the Gragiyan Empire and the neighboring kingdom of Misoa broke out after a series of raids by the Misoans. It lasted for five years ending with the battle of Niralis desert in which Emperor Vecatian II and Arhos’s best friend, General Levorian of Arhia successfully defeated the Misoan army. Misoan King Olig and his heir Prince Hakoon were both killed. After the battle Vecatien II met with Olig’s younger son, Prince Arkon of Misoa to discuss the future of their realms. Prince Arkon agreed to establish trade between the Gragiyan Empire and Misoa. He and Vecatian II’s sister Princess Lorli became King and Queen of Misoa. I plan to cover this war in a future story.

Vecatian II married a noblewoman called Alya from the desert province of Niralis and they had a son called Tiriyanin, later known as Tiriyanin the Great. Tiriyanin’s greatest achievement was rebuilding the Gragiyan Empire after the war and making it prosperous again. Tiriyanin’s only surviving, legitimate child was a daughter named Emaeka. After Tiriyanin’s death she succeeded him becoming the first Empress of the Gragiyan Empire and the last member of the Erocatien dynasty.

Categories
mythology

Lord Makar character origins and inspirations

Lord Makar the grim and extremely light-sensitive god of death appears to be a favorite for many of my readers so I decided to share some information about my inspirations for the character. My main inspiration for Lord Makar came from the god Hades from Greek mythology and a character called Mandos (also known as Námo) the Vala from J.R.R.Tolkien’s ‘The Silmarillion’.

Like both Hades and Mandos, Lord Makar is depicted as a grim character associated with the land of the dead. Another similarity he has to Mandos is that he performs the function of the judge of the dead and the declaration of fates. Lord Makar is the king of the underworld which is known as the Halls of Makar, inspired by the Halls of Mandos. When writing the story of his origins I tried to think of a reason why he would choose that dark place as his realm. Unlike the Greek god he is inspired by, Lord Makar had the freedom to make his own choice without being coerced or tricked by others. This is how I came up with the concept of him being extremely light-sensitive and thus terrified of bright lights which is ultimately what drove him to create his kingdom underground.

I never envisioned him as an evil entity but rather as someone whose role requires a cold and emotionless demeanor when performing his duties. I decided to contrast this by giving him a softer side depicted by his loving relationship with his queen.

While both Mandos and Hades have queens, neither of them were an inspiration for the character of Lady Morae. Unlike the Greek goddess Persephone, Lord Makar’s wife is a goddess of sorrow who was always destined to become queen of the underworld. The pale enchantress Lady Morae is associated with darkness and sadness which makes her the perfect soulmate for Lord Makar. She entered the underworld willingly and remained there out of love for her husband who never did anything to force her to stay.

Categories
fantasy, short, stories

Erenkanti – Lord Silyan’s Message

The dark haired young Enai warrior Oren was the first to notice a young golden eagle tracking them in the clouds. The bird itself was not an unusual sight for Lord Atar and his Enai. They were from the area and as the Enai warriors spent most of their time galloping across the skies, such sights were to be expected. This was different though, unlike most of the birds they regularly encountered on their travels, this particular eagle had been following them for several hours and it showed no signs of giving up the chase. After studying its flight Oren finally told his Lord about the bird.
“My Lord Atar,” he called out.
“Yes, Oren. What is it?” answered the war-god.
“That eagle has been following us for many hours now. Shouldn’t we do something?” – the Enai warrior asked.
“It’s a bird, nothing more. Just leave it,” – Lord Atar responded indifferently.
“Yes, my Lord,” said Oren.

He tried vainly to forget the bird, though suddenly the eagle swooped towards Lord Atar and landed on the god’s shoulder. At first Atar tried to ignore it, but then it quickly began screeching something into his ear. Whatever message it carried, it must have been important enough for Atar to order his Enai to stop and land atop the nearest cliff face.

The war-god waited until all his warriors had landed safely and dismounted from their horses before taking his place on the rock and announcing:
“The eagle brings a message from my brother Silyan. A few years past, one of Silyan’s Enai confessed to reviving a dead mortal and entered the Halls of Makar. My brother has chosen to forgive his servant, however he seeks to ensure that such a forsaken crime will never happen again. It falls to me to remind you that, as the Erai of death, my brother Makar is solely responsible for deciding the fates of mortals. Unlike the woodland Enai, you as my servants have no power to revive the dead. Yet these very laws apply to your clan. As an Erai, it is my responsibility to enter the Halls of Makar to collect souls of brave warriors. If my brother or his queen catch any of you within their realm, the punishment will be severe. Do you each understand?”
“Yes, my Lord!” the Enai warriors shouted in unison.

Having successfully delivered the message, the young eagle flew away.

And a few days later yet another golden eagle made its way towards Lord Fiehri’s volcanic palace. A fire Enai was gathering water from a nearby mountain stream when the bird made a few passes overhead before finding a small opening in the rocky cave below. The Enai tried his best to chase the bird away as soon as possible. Yet the eagle managed to escape and carefully avoided the flames before making its way into his master’s forge.
“My Lord Fiehri!” – shouted the Enai.

The god of flames turned towards his servant before responding:
“Yes, what is it Heri?”
“An eagle has flown into your domain. It followed me as I was fetching water from the stream and it’s managed to sneak in through an opening in the hillside. I tried to be rid of it but it’s too fast and it won’t go,” he explained.
Fiehri carefully rested his newly made axe down on his throne and glared at Heri with bubbling hostility.
“Get it out of here! Right now!” he roared.
“Yes, my Lord!” Heri assented, and once again he tried to drive the bird away. The eagle continued to glide around the forge avoiding the Enai with ease. Despite his best efforts, the fire Enai was unable to force it from the room.
“Heri, I told you to get rid of that bird. Why is it still here?” Fiehri scolded.

The fire god was now furious. He ordered Heri to remove his shirt and the fire Enai did as requested. Fiehri whipped him until his back was raw and covered in lines of blood. Hearing the commotion his son Ieskr appeared and took pity on the poor Enai.
“That’s enough father! Please let Heri go. I’ll deal with the bird,” Ieskr proposed.
Still enraged, Fiehri took a deep breath while looking at his son before his attention again turned to the fire Enai.
“Very well. Heri, you may leave,” he ordered.

Much relieved, the Enai took a bow and rushed from the forge leaving Ieskr alone with his father. Fiehri decided to resume his work while the young Erai observed the bird as it encircled the scorching room.
“This is intriguing. I’ve never seen an eagle like this before. I wonder what it’s doing here…” Ieskr commented.
“I don’t know and I don’t particularly care either. I just want it to leave my palace,” Fiehri responded while continuing to craft his weapons.

Ieskr decided to try and lure the bird out. He left the forge and headed to the kitchen where he asked the cook for some raw meat. He swiftly took a full plate back to his father’s workshop. Ieskr carefully placed the dish on the ground, stood back and waited. The eagle flew in and took the bait. Having quickly devoured all the meat, the bird hopped on to Ieskr’s arm.

Instead of going outside, the young Erai decided to take the bird to his room in the tallest tower of the palace. Once inside, he left the bird with a bowl of cool water before rushing back towards the forge. There he carefully crafted a steel cage from some scrap metal lying around and hurried back to the room. He placed the water bowl inside and waited for the eagle to climb in. Ieskr quickly gathered a handful of small obsidian stones and placed them around the cage. He then put his hand onto the cage and whispered a spell causing a yellow coating to form around it.
“Sorry my little friend. I don’t mean to imprison you but this is the only way I can protect you from the heat. As long as you stay inside the cage you won’t overheat or struggle to breathe,” he told the bird before he took to bed.

The next day he opened the cage and the eagle followed him to the dining room where he and his parents had breakfast.
“It seems that our son has a new pet,” Fiehri commented to Lavinia during their meal.
“I’ve never seen an eagle behave like this before. Why is it following us?” Ieskr asked.
Lavinia took a look at the bird as it flew towards her.
“This is no ordinary eagle, Little Spark,” she said knowingly just as the bird landed on her shoulder. “It’s an erenkanti.”
“A what?” asked Fiehri.
“Erenkanti, is a term used by the forest Enai for messenger birds. I’ve seen these before during my time in the woods. Silyan has it placed under a spell that will mimic our speech, repeating whatever he or his Enai have spoken. It will not leave until it has delivered its missive. Any bird can become an erenkanti. Silyan often uses owls at night, though this is the first erenkanti eagle I’ve come across. Based on the way it’s behaving, I assume the message is intended for us,” Lavinia explained.
“So what message does it carry?” Ieskr questioned.

The eagle screeched something to Lavinia’s ear. Having finally fulfilled its mission, the spell immediately broke and the eagle flew out from the palace.
“So…what did it say? Ieskr asked.
“It’s a warning for the Enai. We need to gather the clans of the mountain and fire Enai and make an announcement.” she stated.
“Heri, come here!”Fiehri bellowed.
The fire Enai hastily entered the dining room.
“Yes, my Lord,” the servant replied.
Lavinia was about to speak when she noticed the dried blood on the fire Enai’s back.
“Fiehri, what have you done this time?” she asked her husband, her voice calm but stern.
“I may have over-reacted slightly,” the fire god admitted.
Lavinia sighed before approaching the Enai.
“My apologies Heri, my husband should never have treated you like that,” she said as she touched his back softly before uttering a spell that caused the wounds to disappear.
“Thank you, my Lady,” the fire Enai answered reverently.
“Heri, listen carefully. I need you to send message to my servants, the mountain Enai. They are all to come here to the palace in a few days,” she instructed.
“Yes, my Lady,” Heri acknowledged the request with a nod.

Heri soon hurried off to the mountains while the rest of the fire Enai began to make preparations for a feast and to arrange rooms in the nearby caves for the mountain Enai. A party of this magnitude had not been seen inside the palace since Fiehri and Lavinia’s wedding. It took several days to ready everything for the gathering. The chefs prepared dozens of dishes for the occasion and they took out several barrels of mead from the cellar. Dragging vast stone tables and chairs outside, the Enai converted the open courtyard into a large dining space to accommodate the mountain Enai who were unaccustomed to the palace’s scorching heat.

Finally the day came and the whole mountain Enai clan entered the palace courtyard. The fire Enai showed them around and escorted each family to their rooms. Once the festivities had begun and everyone sat down for their meal, the hosts decided the time had come for the announcement.

“How do you think we should proceed Fiehri? Should I speak first or do you wish to start?” Lavinia asked her husband.
“You may start and offer your greetings to everyone,” Fiehri said.
Lavinia stood to face the crowd and raised her glass before speaking:
“Thank you for coming. I would like to welcome you all to our palace. I want tonight to be a celebration of peace and friendship between the Enai clans. To the mountain Enai, I want you to know that you are always welcome here and should any of my servants ever wish to see me outside of the autumn Elori season, you will be well received in this realm.”

The crowd reacted with applause, Lavinia took a sip of her drink before sitting down. Fiehri then stood, towering over the table.
“There is another reason we have organized this event. We recently took a message from my brother Silyan. As some of you may know, not long past, one of his servants abused his healing powers to revive a dead mortal and later entered the Halls of Makar in another attempt to bring her back. In doing so he violated our very laws. My brother Makar is responsible for deciding human fate. The Enai are absolutely forbidden from interfering with his work.” The god solemnly looked over the crowd as he spoke. “That forest Enai had no right to act as he did. We must make sure that no Enai will ever commit such a crime again. To the mountain Enai, as my wife’s servants you also have healing powers and, just like the forest Enai, you too are forbidden from reincarnating the dead. To my servants, though you have no such ability the laws of each domain apply to you. If I discover that a member of either clan has entered the Halls of Makar, or broken our creed, there will be severe punishments,” Fiehri declared forcefully before sitting down.

This time there was a cold silence. Shocked by the last statement the Enai stopped eating and stared at each other. Sensing the tense atmosphere, Ieskr rose.
“Please everyone, calm yourselves. We are not trying to frighten you. This was meant as a warning, one that I hope you will all heed. If you continue to follow our laws, as you always have done you have nothing to fear. As my mother mentioned, tonight is a celebration of peace and friendship between the Enai clans. Therefore I propose a toast to friendship and to the Enai!” he announced and raised his glass. His parents immediately stood and did the same.

This time there was much clapping and cheers, with many shouts proclaiming “To friendship and the Enai!”
With the declaration over, the feast continued throughout the night. The guests slept in their rooms for most of the morning. Later, once roused they ate before making their way back to the mountains.

The event left an impression on both clans. The friendship between the mountain and the fire Enai persisted. They often mingled and traveled between the realms and there was plenty of trading. While the fire Enai taught some metalwork to the mountain Enai. There were even some inter clan marriages. Yet the point they each remembered was Fiehri’s warning.

The mountain Enai kept their distance from mortals and were at pains not to interfere with their lives. Relations between the two races even took a violent turn when humans became curious of the mountain folk. Those unlucky people who wandered into the Enai caves were only to be chased away by the elves and their freshly crafted weapons.

Categories
fantasy, short, stories

Twitter Q&A

I recently hosted a Q&A session with some of my Twitter followers. In addition to discussions about my fantasy stories we also had a chat about Tolkien’s works and my inspirations as an author. Check it out:

@danielhorcic asked: Favourite plot/subplot from your WIP(s)?

That’s a tough one. My favorite main plot from the anthology would be Avarrin’s love story. My favorite subplot is the scene in the ‘Prologue’ where Lavinia takes pity on Makar and helps him to create the underworld.

@Kiraofthewind1· asked: When did you first decide to write your stories? What inspired you to start?

I’ve been making up stories since I was a child but very few of them were written down. I decided to write my current fantasy stories anthology during the first lock-down in Finland. I was inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Silmarillion’.

@mirna0722 asked: favourite character from your anthology?

It’s a tough call between Avarrin and Lord Makar. I like the way Avarrin’s character develops during the story. He goes from living a carefree life to learning to deal with loss & new responsibilities. I love Makar’s complex nature and the way so many people misunderstand him.

@mirna0722: They are both great characters! You probably already know I have a soft spot for Lord Makar! You’ve created a beautiful character.

Thanks.

@_angry_Elf asked: I got a Tolkien one, Who is your fav of the Noldor and why?

Galadriel, she’s one of the oldest and most powerful elves in Middle Earth. I really enjoyed reading about her backstory in ‘The Silmarillion’ and the tales of the House of Finarfin – one of the few none violent Noldor houses.

@_angry_Elf: aye, House Finarfin is nice^^ I do also enjoy Galadriel she is super nice.My fav has to be Fingolfin and his house^^ tho I do like my asshole Feanor and some of his sons lol . I like the Noldor a lot, they have been a huge inspiration for me.

Fingolfin was awesome just because he fought Morgoth in single combat. I used to think that all Elves were good until I read about Feanor and his sons in ‘The Silmarillion’. The only good member of the house of Feanor was Celebrimbor.

Note: To those unfamiliar with the Noldor, they are a clan of High Elves which appear primarily in Tolkien’s ‘The Silmarillion’. By the time of ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of The Rings’ the only Noldor Elves left in Middle Earth were Lady Galadriel and Elrond Half-Elven (part Noldor ancestry).

@JessSFrankel asked: How early did you set up the conflict in your WIP? I’m a big fan of the first five or so pages, but other authors take a bit longer. I love your descriptions, by the way.

Thanks. If by conflict you mean the main themes of the story they are mentioned in the first few pages, at the end in my ‘Prologue’. Unlike most mythologies, the Erai pantheon act like the Valar of Tolkien’s Middle Earth in that, most of them have little interest in mortal lives.

Notable exceptions include the king and queen of the underworld. Instead the stories focus on the complex relations between their servants, the immortal Enai and humans.

@JessSFrankel: Interesting. I’m working on a story now about a race of people like a cross between fae and elves. They’re aware of the various myths that humans have, but they don’t consider themselves an offshoot of the human race. I haven’t figured out how the rest of the story will go…

That sounds intriguing. In my stories the Enai are mythical beings. Despite being called “elves” by mortals, they’re actually demi-gods.

@diane_asther asked: just a simple q: how long will it be?

It’s short story/ novella length. Currently just 38 pages plus some illustrations by commissioned artists.

I would like to thank everyone who participated in this Q&A. To my followers here on WordPress, do you have any questions for me?

Categories
fantasy, short, stories mythology

The Atarai

“Lord Atar is watching. Fight every day as if it were your last.”

Those two phrases every self-respecting citizen from the Arhia province knew and ever heeded. They were also the motto of the Arhian warriors, an elite group of soldiers renowned for their military prowess, those known as the Atarai. The Arhian nation had witnessed the rise of the Gragiyan Empire which united the provinces of Gragiya, Lavinium and Niralis. Arhia was an independent province for many centuries, and even when it became a part of the Gragiyan Empire it still preserved many of its ancient traditions. Its people were permitted to keep their regional dialect and many of their customs in exchange for paying their taxes. While Gragiyan law also decreed that the Atarai were required to provide military aid to the Emperor, should ever the need arise.

For centuries there had been peace within the Empire. However, that all changed after the death of Emperor Akim. The man died without an heir and so the throne passed down to his cousin Vecatian. This proved unpopular with many noble families who believed that they themselves had a better claim to power. The newly crowned Emperor ruled peacefully for his first year and tried his best not gave the citizens any reason for conflict. However, in the second year of Emperor Vecatian’s reign the problems began. A nobleman, Ergon claimed strong family ties to the deceased Emperor Akim. He soon challenged Emperor Vecatian’s authority, staged a coup and started a rebellion in the capital city of Ifirium. Thus the Emperor called on the Atarai to honor their pledge to the Empire and to come to his aid. Their task was to quash Ergon’s rebels and to reclaim the capital city.

“Get away, Arhian scum! We don’t need your help!” – Gragiyan locals yelled as they watched Atarai soldiers march through their streets.
Arhos forced himself to ignore the endless scorn. He was well aware that their armor, blue horse emblems and accents gave them away as Arhians. Arhia may well be a part of the Empire but they had always been poorly regarded by the other provinces, particularly in Gragiya, at the heart of the Empire.

Unlike the Arhians, the rebels were from the heartland and they had the advantage of understanding the lands. They knew exactly where to hide and it made them near impossible to apprehend. Like many of his fellow soldiers, Arhos had been to Ifirium a only handful of times. By the time his legion arrived, the Emperor’s palace had been reclaimed and most of the city had already been liberated. While the final rebels had since barricaded themselves inside the temple of Ifir. And that was exactly where Arhos and his men were ordered to go.

The whole situation posed a moral dilemma for Arhos. He had been ordered to kill any who would not surrender. Those who did yield were to be brought back to the Emperor’s palace to stand trial. His entire life Arhos had been trained to fight, yet this time he trully dreaded it. There was no glory, no honor in killing one’s own people. Traitors or not, the rebels were still citizens of the Empire. If they had any sense they would realize they had little chance of getting out of this alive. Nevertheless there were no guarantees, and those who surrendered could still face execution. Arhos simply hoped that he could reason with them to avoid needless slaughter. As he moved towards his duty, he longed to escort them back to the palace where they still had a chance of pleading for mercy.

Arhos and his men approached the temple from the vast front entrance only to find the doors barred predictably shut. Next he moved to check the side entrance from the gardens. A handful of his comrades joined him and together they strode into the colorful garden area. Meanwhile the others remained near the front and attempted to force the doors open with a battering ram.

As they moved forward, they watched as a gang of rebel soldiers rushed towards them. Arhos saw that they were mostly armed with axes but most of them lacked helmets. The Atarai soldiers drew their swords in unison and Arhos yelled:
“Drop your weapons! You are outnumbered. If you do not surrender, we will have no choice but to kill you all.”

One of the rebels, an older man of around forty with a bushy beard and unkempt hair, swaggered forward and spat into Arhos’ face before responding:
“I will take no orders from an Arhian! I would rather die here where I stand than surrender to a false Emperor.”
Arhos wiped his face clean. This insult enraged him to the extent that he decided there was no longer any point in trying to reason with the rebels. Aggravated he shouted in answer:
“Well enough. It is your choice and your funeral!”

He and his soldiers hoisted their glinting swords and the rebels swiftly charged towards them. Swords and axes clashed and blood splattered over the temple grounds. A few rebels managed to block the path to the garden gate leaving the Arhians trapped.

The rebels were fierce and brave but they were poorly armed and lacked the skill, training and discipline of the Arhian soldiers. There Arhos managed to quickly dispatch two of the insurgents: his sword pierced through the gut of one man, the other he decapitated with a single slash of his sword. And so the fight continued. The two groups left evenly matched for the time being.

Suddenly the back door of the temple opened and more rebels came running out, their battle cries filling the air. Within those few seconds it seemed the odds had gone against the Atarai. As the rest of his legion was still forcing the front doorway, Arhos could only hope that his men would hold until the reinforcements arrived.

And so he fought on. As more rebels kept coming, Arhos held up his shield and braced himself for impact. He continued to slash his sword in smooth, clean strokes aiming to kill as many as he could. From the corner of his eye he saw that the man who’d spat at him had already fallen, killed by one of his fellow Atarai. His concentration was soon jilted once again as he suddenly felt a sharp pain. He glanced down to see an axe lodged into his right thigh. The wave of pain was so great that he dropped helplessly to the dusty ground, though his training held and he still forced his shield upwards in a desperate attempt to protect himself from attack.

His companions worked tirelessly to distract and force the rebels away from their leader. After tense minutes defending their position, they heard a loud bang. The front door to the temple had finally been forced open and the Arhian reinforcements were rushing into the gardens to help their comrades. With the temple exposed the fight was all but over. Ergon and the rebel leaders were captured and dragged back to the Emperor’s palace for trial and execution.

Once the din had fallen, Arhos heard a familiar voice calling out his name. He tried to stand but was trapped by the excruciating pain. He pulled back, lying on the ground and struggling to breathe. Then he finally spotted his friend approach in the company of a medic.
“Levorian!” he cried out feebly.

He had known Levorian for years, they were old friends from training at the Atarai academy.
Levorian moved to his side with the medic at hand. The man examined Arhos’ wound before declaring:
“This looks incredibly deep. Heavy bleeding. I’m afraid there’s not much I can do.”
Arhos and Levorian watched as the medic moved on to treat the other wounded soldiers.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get here sooner. We needed some help to bring the doors down,” Levorian uttered mournfully.
“You did all you could…,” Arhos stammered whilst coughing. “Levorian, if the Morkrai take me away…I want you to tell Kadri that I’m sorry. I promised her….I would come back,” he finished as his pain returned.
“Arhos, you have nothing to be sorry about. You fought well and stood your ground for as long as you could. Our mission was a success. We restored the peace. Kadri will be proud,” – Levorian responded kindly.

Arhos spoke no more from the pain. Levorian retrieved the man’s sword from the ground and placed it in his grasp.
“You will need this on your final journey,” Levorian whispered whilst returning the sword to Arhos.

Levorian helped to carry his friend to a stretcher. Then his comrades carried him out of the temple grounds. The last thing Arhos saw was the stone walls of the great city. By the time the sun had set his breathing had broken, more blood poured from his wound, and soon his eyes closed for good.

Days later when they reached their homeland, Arhos was given an Atarai warrior’s burial. His sword was placed within his grave and his armor was returned to his widow, Kadri. That night the shadow beings came for him. Arhos awoke as if from some lucid dream, he felt as though his body was floating in the air. He quickly turned to grab his sword. Soon he was pulled from the living realm as the Morkrai took his hand and dragged him through a tunnel deep in the ground.

Thereafter Arhos found himself in front of the iron gates and looking to the dark halls beyond. A horn swiftly sounded and the gates opened. The Morkrai escorted him inside the halls and towards the thrones. There Arhos saw the grim-looking, dark hooded figure on the great throne.
“Lord Makar,” he called out.
The Lord of the dead responded with cold, emotionless words:
“Arhos, son of Geis of Arhia. I am listening. You may begin.”
Arhos was silent for a while before he again found his voice:
“I am an Arhian Atarai soldier. All my of life I have done nothing but train and fight and follow orders.”

He continued to recount his life story, leading up to the events of the rebellion and the fight that took his life at Ifir’s temple. He tried as best he could to describe the event and all the gruesome details. Lord Makar waited until he had finished before responding.
“Do you believe that killing the rebels was just?” – he asked.
Arhos held himself before he replied:
“I think they should have gone to trial, yet they refused. Our orders were to kill all those who refused to surrender. I had no choice but to follow orders.”
Lord Makar went silent as he looked at the shade before him and then finally offered his ruling:
“True words indeed. Such is a soldier’s duty…You lived the life of a warrior therefore your final judgment lies not with me, but with my brother Atar. If he deems you worthy of riding amongst his Enai, I will grant you permission to leave these halls. If not, you shall remain here forevermore.”

The decree proclaimed, the Morkrai soon dragged Arhos into another grim hall. Under the dim light Arhos saw a wall of pale faces, many also wearing armor and fruitlessly grasping their swords. The shadow beings departed and Arhos soon drifted into a trance-like sleep. It was as though time itself stood still. The only few interruptions came from the erratic sound of horns as yet more souls entered and the occasional melancholic dirge of Lady Morae.

In that dark emptiness, he reflected on some of his memories. He recalled his military training with Levorian at the academy. Oh how he hated those first few weeks. The long days of marching, endurance routines, drills and weapons training. Running the long obstacle course was always the worst. He remembered the taste of blood in his mouth and how his muscles ached raw those long days. Even sleep helped little since they would wake at the crack of dawn. Then he thought of Kadri. The day they had met was also the day Levorian had announced his engagement to Kadri’s older sister, Lidris. Kadri was a shy girl of sixteen, like all Arhian girls she wore plain clothes and her hair was cropped short. Yet there was something about her big dark eyes that caught his attention. So much so that as soon as his training at the Atarai academy was complete, he asked her father’s permission for her hand. Arhos was from a renowned Arhian noble family so it was no great task and he was granted consent. Then he thought of their wedding day. Kadri wore an embroidered dress and a family heirloom – a ruby necklace from her mother.

In the two years that they were married Kadri had overcome her initial shyness. She was also finally allowed to grow her hair out. Arhos recalled its light brown color and how it looked golden in the summer sun. He thought of her character too, how she was a good cook and that she loved swimming in the lake near their home. She had been a good wife. How he wished from his lifeless body to hold her one last time. His only cold regret was that they no children.

Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted by someone touching his shoulder. He began to hear a voice call out his name. From the tone he realized that this was neither Lord Makar nor his queen rather someone else entirely. He looked upwards to see a tall muscular figure draped in shining armor.
“Lord Atar,” he called out, immediately pulling himself up.
The war-god replied: “Arhos, son of Geis of Arhia. Your courageous battle with the rebels outside my father’s temple impressed me greatly. You have been chosen to ride beside me and my Enai. I am here to take you out from these halls.”

The god of war swiftly lifted Arhos from his trance-like state. Lord Atar proudly lead him out of the halls. The Morkrai opened the iron gates. On the other side, Arhos spotted two horses awaiting them. These however were unlike any horses he had ever seen before. They were blue and their hooves seem not even to touch the ground. Following the god, he mounted in an instant. Together with Lord Atar, they dashed off into the sky. As they rode upwards, he noticed a large group of Enai warriors. Each with dark, braided hair, faces covered with red war paint and armor silver in color. There he also noticed a few pale faced warrior souls among them.
“Oren!” – Lord Atar shouted.
The young Enai warrior stepped out. “Yes, my Lord,” Oren replied courteously.
“Show our latest recruit his place in the ranks,” Lord Atar uttered before returning to his duties.

Still on horseback Arhos followed the Enai warrior to the back of the group.
“You will ride at the rear. If you wish to gain a better place within our ranks you will have to fight one of us first,” – the Enai warrior explained with a smile.
Arhos simply nodded in response and took his place at the back of the line.

“Oh Kadri… if only you could see me now…,” Arhos thought to himself as he took one final look down at the world below before grabbing the reins of his horse as the warriors prepared to move out. Soon after, they rode again galloping away across the sky.

Categories
fantasy, short, stories mythology

Ieskr And The Orealisi Oasis

One late summer night, the earth goddess Lavinia woke her husband Fiehri and felt compelled to speak out:

“I can feel a change in the air. The winds are growing colder and the leaves will start to fall. I believe autumn will soon be upon us. Time has come for me to return to my fields.”

To this the fire god responded:

“It is summer still. You have been restless of late and I worry about your health. Maybe you should remain here with me this season? Surely your Enai can perform the Elori ritual alone.”

“It is true my Enai could complete the Elori ritual without me, but I would prefer to be there. I long to see my fields again,” Lavinia reassured him, “I feel fine, there is no need to worry. ”

A few days later Lavinia left the volcanic palace to dance with her Enai and to bless her fields again. And the Elori ritual went ahead as planned with the goddess leading the celebrations. While Fiehri busied himself in his forge awaiting his wife’s return. Months later, as a fresh winter arrived Lavinia came home. Yet she was exhausted and spent much of her time sleeping. This new lethargy made Fiehri worry still.

“My dear, what is the matter, are you sick?” he asked.

To this the earth goddess responded:

“It is not a sickness my love, I am with child.”

Many months later Fiehri asked his mother Era-Gragiya to assist Lavinia with the birth. The queen of the skies happily obliged, and soon after Lavinia bore a son. The boy was named Ieskr, who she nicknamed “Little Spark”. The young Erai was much like his father in appearance, with tanned skin and flaming hair. They also shared many of the same powers. Unlike the hot-tempered Fiehri however, Ieskr was much more like his mother in character. He was patient, easygoing and mild-tempered. Much to his disappointment this was all that he inherited from his mother, as it soon became clear he had none of her powers.

As the boy grew older, Fiehri began to teach him metal work and other crafts. Ieskr proved to be a quick learner and he truly enjoyed making things. But as time passed Ieskr grew bored of his life inside the volcanic palace. He had heard many stories about the different lands and he now longed for adventure. Once he turned sixteen he asked if he could accompany his mother into the fields for the autumn Elori ritual, and to his delight Fiehri agreed.

That autumn Lavinia took her son into the mountains to meet with her Enai. Ieskr immediately loved the mountains and the fields. He watched the Elori harvest ritual for a few days. His mother would dance with her Enai and they cast their spells on the fields. As the celebrations faded, Lavinia began to take him for long walks through the mountainside. During one of these walks Ieskr wanted to find out more about the other lands.

“What is the name of the land beyond the mountains?” he asked his mother.

“That land is a hot and sandy place with almost no water, a desert region. The mortals call it Niralis, after your uncle, the sun Erai Nir,” Lavinia responded.

“That sounds like somewhere I’d like to see. I wonder if anyone can live in a place without water. Those poor mortals…I wish I could help them somehow,” Ieskr thought to himself.

“I would very much like to see this desert land. Can we go there?” he finally asked his mother.

“There is little to see and nothing in that arid land. Humans cannot live there due to the absence of water. It is not a place I wish to visit. But since you have asked, I can show you,” Lavinia uttered softly.

And so together they wandered through the mountain passages into the sandy dunes of Niralis. As a god of fire, the scorching heat did not affect Ieskr however it took his eyes some time to get used to the bright light of the sun.

For a while mother and son walked with ease over dunes of sand until Ieskr spotted a rocky crater towards the middle of the valley. Moving through the windswept sands, the ground was different here, the crater itself was white and the soil soft. Lavinia touched the earth with her hands. Intrigued by this new discovery, she began to dig. Watching his mother with interest, Ieskr also quickly decided to join the digging. Soon they realized that the soil was moist and the crater itself began to fill with water.

“We did it mother! Now the mortals will have water in the desert,” Ieskr announced happily.

After the digging was complete, Lavinia and Ieskr left behind the water hole and headed back towards the mountains.

“There’s no telling how long the water will last. Nir’s light burns so strong in the desert, without a water Enai to maintain and nurture it, it will dry out again,” Lavinia explained as they traveled.

“Where might I find these water Enai?”- asked Ieskr in response.

“They are the servants of your aunt, the sea goddess Afa. It is her whom you will need to ask. You can usually find her by the shores of her great sea.” said Lavinia.

“Then that is where I shall go next. Tell father I will be back before the winter,” Ieskr replied merrily.

And so he left his mother with her Enai in the mountains and he traveled northwards towards the sea shore. A few days later he came to the beach where soon after he spotted a male water Enai swimming in the shallows.

“I wish to speak your queen, the Lady Afa,” he said on approaching the waters.

The Enai stared at him for a while before responding. “And who might you be to speak with our Lady?” he asked.

“I am an Erai and I am her nephew, son of her brother Fiehri and the earth goddess Lavinia. I am called Ieskr,” he introduced himself.

“In that case Lord Ieskr, I will inform my Lady that you are here,” – the Enai answered before disappearing into the depths.

A few moments later the wave-haired Lady Afa emerged from the depths and she gazed upon Ieskr for a while.

“One of my Enai tells me that my nephew has come to see me. How do I know you are whom you say you are? You could be any fire Enai. If you are indeed an Erai and Fiehri’s son, prove it to me,” she stated before handing him a wreath of seaweed and coral. “This is too wet and tough for a mere fire Enai to set alight. If you can set it afire then I will believe you,” – she added.

Ieskr used his power to instantly set the wreath ablaze. Suddenly Afa smiled at him before extinguishing the fire.

“You are indeed Fiehri’s son. I see it now, you look just like him too. It is nice to meet you dearest nephew. What brings you to my kingdom?”

To this Ieskr replied:

“My mother and I have created an oasis in the Niralis desert. But we fear the water will dry out without a water Enai to look after it. I would be grateful if one of your servants could move there and care for the oasis. I will gladly take them there.”

“The river Enai may be up for such a task. Give me a few days. I shall ask if any would like to volunteer. Though the journey to the oasis is the biggest concern, my servants grow sick when they are out of the water for a long time,” Afa explained.

Ieskr thanked her and he journeyed back to the mountains. Days later he returned to the beach and once again asked to speak to his aunt. The sea goddess emerged from the depths with a great wave and greeted him.

“It is good to see you again little Ieskr. I asked my river Enai and one girl has volunteered to travel with you to Niralis. Her name is Oreli, she lives in the Karelim river near the Lavinium mountains,” Lady Afa revealed.

“Thank you for your help dear aunt,” Ieskr replied happily.

“Send my regards to your father and mother. It’s been so long since I last saw Lavinia. Tell her she is welcome to visit my kingdom whenever she pleases,” Lady Afa concluded with a bright smile.

Ieskr bid her farewell before turning from the seas and headed back towards the mountains.

As he wandered, he realized that he had no idea where to find the Karelim river. And so on his way to the caves he stopped in a nearby forest. There he was greeted by the sound of barking dogs and flute music filling the air. He soon spotted a group of forest Enai hunters and the forest god, Lord Silyan.

“Uncle Silyan!” he called out.

The Lord of the forest turned to face him and smiled before responding:

“You must be little Ieskr. It is good to finally meet you. You really are the spitting image of your father. How is he doing these days?”

“He is very well, thank you. He’s told me a lot about you,” Ieskr replied.

“And how is your mother?” asked Silyan.

“She is well. She’s now in the fields with her Enai,” Ieskr answered.

“Ah yes, the Elori harvest ritual. I must see it for myself someday… So what brings you here to my woods?” Silyan questioned kindly.

“I am trying to find the Karelim river, do you have any idea where I might look?”

“Indeed, it’s not far from here. In fact we are heading that way tomorrow. I can show you how to get there,” the god replied.

Ieskr thanked him and then Silyan introduced his nephew to his servants, who soon started making preparations for their meal. Ieskr helped by creating a fire to cook the food. The woodland Enai each gazed in awe as he lit a pile of wood with just one touch from his finger. Later, after a hearty feast, one of the Enai lent Ieskr his tent for the night.

The following morning they traveled westwards. And once they made their way to the flowing rivulet, Silyan showed the young god where to find the riverbank and they parted ways.

Ieskr was soon gazing at the river where he instantly spotted two young river Enai. Both girls had turquoise hair, blue fish tails and were dressed in green clothes made solely of algae.

“Which one of you is Oreli?” he promptly asked.

“I’m Oreli,” said the older of the pair, “and who might you be?” she asked in reply.

“I am called Ieskr, I am an Erai. The son of Lord Fiehri and Lady Lavinia. Your Lady is my aunt,” Ieskr introduced himself formally.

“It is my pleasure to meet you Lord Ieskr,” said Oreli. “My Lady has warned me of your coming and of our great adventure.”

“We will need to gather some supplies from the mountains before we depart, are you ready for the journey? ” he wondered.

“As ready as I can be. I can follow the mountain streams leading up to the desert,” Oreli said carefully.

“What about when we reach the sands? There will be no water there until we reach the oasis. Can you walk?” Ieskr asked.

Oreli nodded. “I know a spell that can briefly transform my tail into legs. It only lasts a short while so hopefully we can get there in time otherwise you may have to carry me,” she explained.

“Let’s hope that I won’t need to.” Ieskr uttered sincerely. Thus they agreed to meet in Niralis.

Oreli followed the water courses while Ieskr chose to visit some of his mother’s Enai in search of supplies for the journey. He tried to gather as much bottled water as he could carry. Once he had packed everything, he began to make his through the mountain passage.

Not long after, he came to a stop before the path leading into the desert. There he noticed Oreli. Seeing her appearance, he deduced that she had successfully carried out her spell. Oreli now looked almost human apart from the turquoise hair. Her fishtail had now been transformed into a shimmering blue dress and she stood on two legs barefooted.

“Hello again,” he said warmly, “Do you know how long that spell will last?”

“Until sunset, provided that the sun heat doesn’t weaken me too much,” Oreli replied.

And so off they went into the sand dunes of Niralis. It wasn’t long until Ieskr noticed the first signs of change to Oreli’s skin and her hair. After only minutes under the scorching sun, her skin burned with marks, and her turquoise hair had become brittle.

“If only I had my mother’s healing powers…” he lamented aloud.

“Healing powers would not help. Only water can restore me,” she answered, her voice already weakening.

So Ieskr reached into his supply bag and took out of one the bottles. He offered it to her before having a drink from another. Instead of drinking, Oreli simply poured the contents over herself. The fresh water quickly healed her burns. Now sated they continued their journey towards the oasis.

They repeated same process with their water bottles at regular intervals as they moved through the sands. Ieskr could only hope that they’d have enough water for the remainder of the journey. To make matters worse, Oreli was unaccustomed to walking. She moved very slowly and often struggled to keep up with the god.

“Does the heat not bother you?” she asked at one point.

“Not at all. I’m an Erai of fire. I was born inside a volcano. Fire and flame are in my nature. As it is with my father and his servants,” Ieskr explained.

Not straining to speak further, they pressed on towards the oasis. As the day drew to a close they had almost used up their water reserve. All the while, Oreli was truly struggling to keep the pace and it was only a matter of time until her spell wore off. After another hour of slow paced walking, Ieskr, saw Oreli struggling and decided to help her by carried her the rest of the way to the oasis.

They finally reached the spot just as the sun was set ting and Oreli’s spell began to wear off. Ieskr gently helped lower her into the pool. Much relieved, Oreli dived straight in and she soon regained her healthy appearance. Though as she soaked in the waters, Ieskr realized that the water levels had dropped since he had been with his mother. This worried him a little, so he poured the rest of the bottled water into the pool but it did little to help.

Then an idea came to him. He looked towards the sky and cried out to his grandfather Lord Ifir.

The Lord of the skies gazed down from his palace in the skies and called out:

“My little Ieskr.”

Ieskr soon felt a gentle breeze lifting him up into the sky where he landed on a blanket of clouds next to Lord Ifir.

The two embraced and then Ieskr spoke out:

“Grandfather I have a small favor to ask. Could you please make some rain?”

“Rain in the desert?” asked Ifir, somewhat surprised.

“Just in one spot, on that pool over there. My Enai friend Oreli is there. She needs my help,” Ieskr explained pointing towards the oasis.

Unquestioningly Ifir granted him the request.

“I should get back to my mother,” Ieskr finally said as he watched the downpour. They bid each other farewell and then Ifir tenderly cast him back down towards the earth.

After the rain had ceased, the pool was again filled and Oreli was happily splashing around.

“It’s beautiful here. I have never seen such clear water. It tastes completely different to the rivers I grew up in,” she declared cheerfully.

“I’m glad that you like your new home. It was lovely to meet you. I should return home. My mother is still in the mountains, and we promised father that we would return before winter,” he announced.

They fondly parted ways and Ieskr made his way towards the mountains. There he was reunited with his mother and he was keen to tell her about everything that had taken place throughout his journey.

Lavinia patiently listened to his story before responding:

“Oh my Little Spark…I’m so glad I brought you with me. You finally got to meet some of your family. Now we must head back. Winter will be upon us soon.”

And so together they headed back to Fiehri’s volcanic palace.

Thereafter the desert region and the oasis at its center became a human settlement within the province of Niralis. Oreli fulfilled her duty in nurturing the waters, while hiding herself in the depths of the pool for fear that the mortals might catch sight of her. Under her care, the water became renowned for its minerals and its healing properties and people from other provinces would come to seek its restorative powers.

Occasionally the water Enai would come up to the surface at night to admire the stars. One chill night there was a full moon and Oreli heard the howling of a wolf. Intrigued by the sound she rose to the surface and swam around for a better view. Suddenly she was spotted by a trader gathering water. She dove back into the depths frightened. Much to her shock, she soon realized that man who noticed her was now trying to pursue her under water. As she dived towards the bottom of the oasis, she gazed back to see that the trader was now struggling to breathe in such deep water. The Enai spun around and hurriedly dragged him back towards the shore.

She watched as he coughed up some water before yelling:

“Fool! Do you have a death wish? Come after me again and I will let the Morkrai take you away!”

To this the stranger responded:

“Forgive me…I am sorry. I’ve never before seen a water Enai. Please at least tell me your name.”

“I’m Oreli,”- she responded before quickly diving back into the depths of the oasis.

After that encounter, she became reluctant to go to the surface any longer and remained hidden in the depths. Once the trader returned to his home province of Gragiya, he often mentioned his encounter with a water Enai at his local tavern and this sparked the start of a legend. Some claim that if you gaze at the oasis during a full moon, you might catch a glimpse of Oreli, the water Enai And thus it became known as Orealisi Oasis, named after the girl who lived within.

Categories
fantasy, short, stories mythology

Lord Makar and Lady Morae

All was quiet in the dark halls when suddenly Lord Makar heard a raspy voice calling out his name. He stepped away from his throne and glided towards the iron gates. No horn blew as the Morkrai guards stood in position leaving little cause for alarm. He gazed towards the entrance where he noticed a dark hooded figure standing by the gates. “Makar, my Lord, please let me in!” shouted the cloaked woman as she turned towards him from behind the gates. He watched as the figure removed her hood, revealing a slender face of ivory skin, pale blue eyes and raven black hair. She looked too perfect to be mortal, though from her appearance he could tell she was no Enai. Intrigued by her presence, Makar opened the gates.

“Well aren’t you a sight for my sore eyes?” he whispered softly as she approached. “I am not used to visitors here in my realm. Where have you come from?” he asked keenly.

The Lady responded: “Your father, Lord Ifir sent me. I wish to keep you company for a while if you would let me in.”

Lord Makar smiled at her before responding: “Indeed yes, welcome fair Lady to my humble home. I have little to offer except for my company, but I would be eternally grateful if you choose to stay.”

“Yes I would like that. Thank you.” she replied.

“What may I call you?” he asked.

“I am darkness, I am a shadow, I am made of a thousand tears. But you may call me Morae,” she whispered and held out her hand towards his.

“My dear Morae, so kind of you to join me. It will be my pleasure to be your host.” he whispered.

Lord Makar swiftly took her hand and escorted her towards the halls. Each one was vast and cavernous with bleak, jet black stone walls and stalagmites. The lack of light did not seem to bother her, as they silently made their way through each room, over the sea of pale faced spirits and Morkrai guards. He led her towards the throne room and ordered his Morkrai to bring her a seat.

“Would you sit with me for a while?” he asked.

Morae nodded and sat on the throne placed beside Makar’s own. And there she remained watching. Days went by as Lord Makar returned to his usual routine. The Morkrai would escort dead souls into the halls to await judgment. The Lord would listen and decide each individual’s fate in turn. Most were condemned to remain within his halls, though occasionally his brother Atar would venture out and assemble a few dead warriors to ride with his Enai.

At times, when it was quiet, Morae would sing to Makar. Her voice was low and soothing, so somber that it lulled condemned souls into a trance-like sleep. Yet to the Lord there was no sweeter music than the lure of her song.

As the two became familiar, she asked him to remove his hood so she could see his face. Makar was reluctant to do this and explained: “My face is not a pretty sight, my Lady. I do not wish to frighten you.”

“I am not afraid. There is nothing about your appearance that can scare me,” Morae replied instantly.

Thus, she ordered the Morkrai to fetch her a blazing torch. Flame in hand, Morae rested her palms inside the fire and cast a spell to extinguish it. She then spread her arms causing the smoke to disperse in a circle around them. Sparkles of pallid light swirled, illuminating the ground below.

As the light settled Makar removed his hood revealing his scarred face and damaged nose. Much to his surprise Lady Morae was neither frightened nor disgusted by his appearance. She simply smiled at him and touched his face while stroking his dark hair. “My pale enchantress…” Makar whispered and smiled at her before they shared a kiss. He wrapped his arms around her. There they stood, listening to each other breathe. Oh how he wanted that moment to last. Yet soon the horns sounded again, the smoke vanished and they returned to their seats.

A few days later, he asked her if she wished to stay.

“I want nothing more than to have you by my side. Will you marry me?” he whispered, holding his hand out towards her.

“Yes. I will,” she replied smiling. In all haste Lord Makar asked his mother, the Lady of the skies, to carry out the ceremony.

The following day, a bright glow filled the halls. In answer, Lord Makar pulled a hood over his face and held his eyes shut. The light still stung his soft face and he shrieked in pain. Yet Morae positioned herself before him to help shield from its glare.

As the golden-haired Era-Gragiya entered the hall, unaccustomed to this much light, the Morkrai crawled towards the dark corners of the room, while the souls of the dead turned to face her.

“Please stop this mother! The lights are too much, I cannot see!” Makar cried out.

“Oh my poor boy. Forgive me. It has been so long since last I saw you.” Era-Gragiya uttered gently. She whispered a spell causing the brightness to fade from the room.

“It is gone now, my love. You may open your eyes, ” Morae said softly as she touched his face.

Slowly Makar opened his eyes and took in the darkness. His mother finally approached him and they embraced.

“May I introduce my beloved Lady Morae,” he announced.

“I am pleased to meet you my dear. Any woman able to bring a smile to my son’s face is a blessing.” Era-Gragiya professed. Eagerly she held out her arms and the two goddesses embraced.

“I have brought a gift from your father,” she continued and held up a pale-flamed blue lamp. “It is the faintest light we could find anywhere in the skies. Such a small flame will never hurt your eyes”.

Makar gladly took the lamp and ordered the Morkrai to place it behind the twin thrones. Quickly doing his bidding, they moved the light into place. Then his mother held out her hand revealing two golden rings inlaid with black onyx stones.

“Here are the rings that you requested. Your brother Fiehri sends his regards and wishes you well,” she declared as she offered him the shining rings.

Makar examined them for a time before responding:

“They are perfect. Tell Fiehri of my gratitude. I am forever in his debt.”

“You should tell him yourself someday. Many times he has offered you welcome and suggested you visit him if you wish,” answered his mother.

“You know very well why I am unable to leave my realm,” Makar explained.

Era-Gragiya was left to sigh in response and when Makar offered her a seat, she refused. Instead she had a look around the bleak halls for a while.

“I will not stay long,” she stated. “I know how busy you are. I will never understand how you can live in such a wretched place. Let us proceed.”

Makar and Morae returned to their thrones and Era-Gragiya turned to face them.

“My dearly beloved. I have come here today to join these two immortal souls in holy matrimony. Will you Makar take Lady Morae to be your lawfully wedded wife?” she asked.

“I do, from this day I shall be yours for all eternity,” whispered Makar smiling at his bride.

Era-Gragiya now turned to face Morae. “And will you Lady Morae take Makar to be your lawfully wedded husband?”

“I will,” she responded and turned to face Makar. “From this day I shall be yours for all eternity.”
Instinctively, they exchanged rings.

“I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride,” the goddess declared.

Era-Gragiya smiled as her son kissed and embraced his new wife.

“Thank you mother. Is there any way that I may repay you for this kindness?” Makar questioned, a smile still etched on his face.

“It was pleasure, my dear, always,” Era-Gragiya responded. “All I ask is that you grant me one noble soul to release from your halls.”

“One soul you may take but no more,” he decreed.

So the sky queen walked through each hall appraising a sea of pale faces when finally she stopped in front of a young mother clutching wordlessly to a newborn baby. “These two here. What was their story?” she asked.

The Lady of sorrows eyed the lost souls before responding: “She was a beggar who died giving birth to a stillborn son.”

“Such suffering is too much for any woman to bear. May I have them?” Era-Gragiya asked.

Makar shook his head in answer. “I promised you one soul, not two. You may take the child or the mother but not both.”

Era-Gragiya sighed before responding: “If that is your will, I shall take the infant.”

“As you wish. First he must be cleased.” Makar snatched the infant from the mother’s arms. Then he instructed his Morkrai to fetch some water and a bowl.

“Do you wish to assist me my dear?” Makar asked his wife. Morae nodded in response. Makar handed her the infant soul and Morae proceeded to wash him in the water before entrusting him back to her husband.

Makar placed a hand on the infant’s head and shouted:

“Aesos, son of Eila, I hereby grant you pardon and I release you from my realm.”

The child’s body suddenly lit up in a pale flame. The ritual complete, Makar handed the baby to his mother. There Era-Gragiya held the child in her arms, rocking it gently. The couple watched in awe as it took a breath and began to cry.

“My sweet little one. You are safe now. Never again shall you feel hunger or cold. Sleep now,” Era-Gragiya whispered, swaying the boy in her arms.

“Goodbye my son. I came this day for a special occasion, though I cannot return to this pitiful realm. If you come across any more noble souls, please deliver them to me,” Era-Gragiya uttered her final words before vanishing in a bolt of bright light.

“Goodbye mother.” Makar replied once the light had fled from the room.

He then joined Morae and together they returned to their thrones to await the next soul to enter their kingdom.


Lord Makar art by Megan Johnson https://www.instagram.com/springenfolk/

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