Categories
mythology

‘Tiriyanin’s Riddles’ – new novella cover reveal, royal titles & court etiquette in the Gragiyan Empire

I’ve recently started working on a new project, a fantasy romance novella called ‘Tiriyanin’s Riddles’, which is set in the Gragiyan Empire, the same universe as my short stories. The mythical universe is a continent resembling ancient Rome, comprising four provinces where humans live among Erai deities, four different Enai clans and water Enai (mer-folk).

‘Tiriyanin Riddles’ tells the story of Emperor Tiriyanin and his poly-amorous relationship with two mistresses Ducissa Skaraila “Darhjia” (orchid) & Lady Akrila “Lereia” (rose).

As an introduction to the world, I would like to explain some of the titles used to address the Imperial family as well as some of the rules of etiquette at the Emperor’s court.

Official Titles

The correct way to greet a member of the Imperial family is to bow in front of them and address them in the appropriate manner. “Your Highness” or “Your Majesty” are the most common.
You can also refer to them by their titles:
Ifresir (the Emperor)
Ifresija (the Emperor’s wife or mother)
Ifresija Prisis (an Empress ruling on her own)
Ifreya ( for the Princess, either the Emperor’s sister or his daughter)
Ifrey (for the Prince, the Emperor’s younger brother or younger son)
Ifrey Prisis ( for the Emperor’s oldest son and heir)
Aefling (for a royal consort, the husband of a ruling Ifresija, as he is not of royal blood he can’t be addressed as Ifresir. He is just her spouse and the father of her children).

Rules of Court Etiquette

  1. Only members of the Imperial family are permitted to call the Emperor by his first name. Everyone else must refer to him by his title. His mistresses may call him as they wish when inside his private chambers and the palace gardens. When appearing with him at any public event they must address him as Ifresir or “Your Majesty’.

2. It is considered rude and improper for an Ifresija to feed her children in public. A nanny or wet-nurse will be should be used for this purpose.

I am currently editing the story and I hope to publish it at some point in the future, possibly next year.

For now can check out the cover art by Rose Goga https://twitter.com/GogaRose_

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 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 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/

https://ko-fi.com/hoozasaurus
https://twitter.com/TheEliRiots

Categories
fantasy, short, stories mythology

The Girl In The Cave

Years after Avarrin and his son returned to the forests and left their cave, the area where it stood became a settlement known to mortals as the mountain province of Lavinium, named after the earth goddess. The hills were rich with minerals and so, soon enough the locals began to extract salt, metals and precious stones for trade with other regions. The province then flourished and cities grew.

On top of one of the hills the locals constructed a temple in honor of the goddess Lavinia. It was massive, beautiful and white, a flat-topped triangular monolith decorated with sculptures of the goddess. At night the priestesses would light a series of candles in each corner, which they each kept lit until dawn every day. Each autumn many would journey to the temple from other regions with offerings of flowers, fruit and other crops. There they prayed to Lady Lavinia, asking her to grant an abundant harvest.

A short walk from the temple lived a ten-year-old girl called Laradi with older brother Aren. They had lost their parents a few months earlier, caught in a sandstorm returning from the nearby desert province of Niralis, never to be seen again. Since their disappearance, Aren had taken up his father’s profession as a trader whilst Laradi spent much of her time in the house or up in the hills minding sheep.

One night she awoke to a curious noise – the sound of children laughing. She gazed out of her window and looked at the surrounding houses but every light was off and the streets were empty. Her eyes skirted beyond the hill where Lavinia’s temple stood. There under the mountains, she noticed sparks of bright green light flashing in the sky and the silhouettes of what appeared to be two small figures flying around in circles. This went on for a few minutes, before the noises stopped suddenly and the lights vanished.
“This is a dream…it can’t be real. Oh Vea. Lady of the stars, thank you,” she thought to herself as she drifted back to sleep.

The following morning she continued with her usual daily routine until after her brother came home. After they had finished their dinner, she left the house and headed down the hill to fetch some water from the stream. By time she had filled both buckets, the sun was setting over the hills. A she was about to turn back, she heard the same laughter again, though now from further in the distance. Intrigued, she left the pails on the ground and walked towards the noise. At the top of the hill, she came across – two identical looking girls, roughly her age, splashing around in the stream. Yet there was something very odd about them – they were no bigger than ordinary children, but their hair was silver, their eyes blue and they appeared to have tiny transparent wings stretching out from their shoulders. She remained silent, simply watching them play for a while until she realized it was time to return home.

She hurried down the hill to collect the buckets when her foot slipped and she fell down. Picking herself up she noticed a fresh cut on her knee. Then all of a sudden she saw one of the girls flying towards her. The winged girl landed by her side and then placed her hand on the wound and whispered a spell. Laradi was shocked to see the cut slowly disappear, then the other girl cried out – “Cri!!”- and the first girl joined her sister and flew away together towards one of the caves on the mountainside.

A little dazed, Laradi picked up the buckets and went home. That night she couldn’t find sleep. Hesitantly, she woke up Aren and asked him if he had ever seen any children in the mountain caves. To this he replied: -“The land beyond the temple is dangerous. Few people venture up there and I haven’t seen many come back. They say that the mountain Enai, servants of the goddess Lavinia, live in those caves. And they’re hostile to us humans.”

So Laradi tried to forget everything that had happened and what she’d seen. Then two years later, one cold winter’s night, Aren had gone out drinking with a group of friends when a snowstorm broke out. With the blizzard coming, Laradi pressed to get her sheep inside their pen and rushed home closing the doors from the chill as they arrived. There under the howling winds, she waited for her brother’s arrival. Yet even when the storm eased Aren did not return. Once morning rose, Laradi visited several nearby houses asking if anyone had come across her brother. She discovered he hadn’t been seen since leaving the tavern the night before. Together with Aren’s friends, they searched the area until they found him lying on the ground, scarcely alive, heavily wounded and bleeding. His friends helped carry him home as others went in search of a medic. Sadly, despite their best efforts, no one in the city had the skills to heal Aren’s wounds.

Laradi suddenly remembered as if from a dream, her encounter with the Enai girls. She left Aren resting by the fireplace at home and climbed her way towards the caves. Following the dancing lights flickering inside one cave, she swiftly found the same two girls dressed in long grey tunics twirling around the entrance. Though as she approached them, a fresh voice cried out from within: “Cri! Dri!” followed by a string of strange words in an unrecognizable tongue. The girls ran inside and Laradi watched as another came out of the cave. This time it was a male Enai, older than the girls with a muscular build, with shorter silver hair, and heavy blue eyes, though he had no wings. He pointed a spear at Laradi before shouting, using words that she could understand:
“Go away and leave us alone! We do not want your people here!”
Undeterred Laradi took a few steps back before replying:
“Please…I mean you no harm. I am not here to hurt your girls. They healed me once. Now my brother is wounded and I need your help.”

As she spoke, one of the girls appeared by the cave entrance and shouted – “Lietr, lietr…,” before an older Enai, doubtless the twins’ mother, dragged her back inside.
“Li-etr…” Laradi attempted to pronounce the word which she assumed to be the mountain elf’s name. The Enai the girl called “lietr” slowly held back and put his spear away.
“Hvis, you may call me Hvis. Lietr is our word for father,” he answered.
“Hvis, please can you help my brother?” asked Laradi once more.
“No,” he replied bluntly.
Laradi took off a silver necklace once given to her by her mother and she handed it to Hvis.
“Please help my brother. If you heal him, you can keep the necklace and I promise that I’ll never bother you or your family again. All you have to do is help us,” she begged.
The Enai put the necklace on before responding:
“I do not have to do anything. These are our lands. My duty is to the Lady Lavinia and to my family. I care not for you or your brother.”

Once again one of the girls appeared by the entrance and she insisted on speaking with her father. Under the pressure of his daughter, Hvis finally gave in and agreed to help on the sole condition that Laradi would forever stay away from the cave. That night he followed her home to where a semiconscious Aren still lay groaning in agony.
The Enai examined his wounds before responding:
“I can heal some of injuries but the one on his side is very deep and it looks infected. I might be able to find something to ease his pain,” he told her before heading back up the hill immediately.
Only minutes later Hvis returned with a wooden cup containing a warm sweet-smelling purple paste.
“Take this and slowly apply it over his wounds,” he said handing the salve to the girl along with a thin spoon.

Hvis uttered a spell to heal the smaller wounds while Laradi carefully applied the paste onto her brother’s stomach. Then they waited. Not long after, Aren woke briefly and coughed up some blood before again passing out.
“This is not working,” Hvis stated while examining the wounds once more. “I have done all I can. I am afraid there is now nothing left to be done, we can only make him comfortable. He doesn’t have long left,” he finally added.
Laradi tried to stop her tears before she replied:
“Is there really nothing else you can do? I’ve heard stories of Enai with the power to revive the dead.”
Hvis shook solemnly his head and replied:
“No, we cannot. Lord Makar forbids it. There would be dire punishments. For the sake of my family, I cannot risk it. I am sorry.”
Laradi burst into tears, leaving Hvis powerless. He clutched a wet cloth and proceeded to clean Aren’s face before finally speaking:
“I should go. My family needs me.”
She dropped down next to her brother, then at last she turned towards Hvis and replied:
“Thank you for your help Hvis, I will not forget it.”

Before leaving Hvis took the silver band off his neck and handed it back to Laradi.
“Place this in his grave when you bury him, as a gift for Lady Morae. Then she will listen to his plea,” he proffered his final advice before stepping out of the house and turning back towards the caves.

Alone Laradi stuck by her brother’s side through the night, sobbing as his body grew cold. When morning appeared, Aren’s friends arrived finding him dead, they helped Laradi bury her brother close to the hill where Lavinia’s temple stood. Tearfully, Laradi set the silver necklace around his neck before his body was covered by the deep earth. Under the morning light, they all said a prayer to Lord Makar and the Morkrai, asking them to grant Aren safe passage to the underworld. Though soon, with Aren laid to rest, they each headed home.

Over the next few months many friends and neighbors visited Laradi trying to offer her comfort. Some brought food and toys with them, others even offered to have her stay with them for a while but Laradi always refused.

The following autumn, as the harvest season approached, Laradi traveled to the temple along with many of other locals bringing fruit and other offerings for the earth goddess. That same night, she dreamed of the copper-haired Lady Lavinia dancing barefoot in a field, surrounded by a numerous mountain Enai, chanting and waving their hands up in the air causing sparks of multicolored lights to flash through the sky. The following day as she took the sheep outside and looked to the mountains, she thought of Hvis and his family in their cave. Though she also remembered her promise to never again disturb them, so she continued with her ordinary, solitary routine. Yet each night she would wake to the sound of chanting and she would gaze from her window to see sparks of iridescent light in night the sky. A few weeks later, one sunset, she put the sheep back in their pen before picking up some bright flowers growing outside her house. Tempted by her curiosity, she climbed up the hill, beyond the temple and towards the cave. Yet when she arrived she noticed there was no light within their home, so she decided to wait outside and lay down by the entrance.

The following morning as Laradi woke, she was surprised to find herself inside the cave. She heard what sounded like a heated discussion between Hvis and the twins’ mother. Seeing her awake the female Enai approached and handed her a bowl of warm raspberry porridge. Laradi thanked her and quickly proceeded to eat.
Once she had finished her bowl, Hvis turned to face her and said placidly:
“My wife, Nor, says that you may stay with us for a while if you wish”.
Laradi nodded and then smiled at the twins, Cri and Dri, who seemed to be pleased with this decision though Hvis remained silent . He turned away from the girls and continued to eat his food alone by the fireplace.

And so Laradi came to live in the cave with Hvis and his family. Cri and Dri would often ask if she’d play outside with them but Nor always insisted that it was safer for the girl to remain in the cave, afraid of how other Enai would react if they saw a human living among them. In time Hvis grew used to having Laradi around and he even began to teach her some of the mountain Enai ways. She struggled to learn their language and showed little interest in metal work, but she remained fascinated by their extensive knowledge of herbs and their healing techniques. Nor too helped Laradi and explained that the children of their clan have wings which later fade away as they come of age. She also described some of their traditions to Laradi like the annual Elori harvest ritual.

As if in a blur ten full years passed. Laradi was now a young woman and twins had grown and they lost their wings but gained many of the same powers as their parents. One night, as the girls slept, Hvis decided it was time to discuss Laradi with his wife.
“It’s been ten long years. We cannot keep living like this. At some point Cri and Dri will want to marry and start their own families. What will we do if a suitor appears on our doorstep one day? She is not a little girl anymore and we can’t hide her forever. We’ve taught her more than enough for her to survive on her own. It is time for Laradi to return to her own people,” – he decided.
To this Nor responded: “Nobody has come looking for her in all this time. She has no one but us”.
“She is not one of us. I know the love you feel for her though that doesn’t change the fact that she is mortal. Like all her race, she will age and eventually she will die. One day we will have to cope with her loss and a corpse to dispose of outside our home. Then they will come looking for her,” Hvis explained carefully.
“What do you suggest?” – asked his wife.

Hvis went over his plan before waking the twins. Soon Dri and Cri silently whispered “goodbye” to their friend, together with their parents, they formed a circle around Laradi, whispering a spell as she slept, and finally they gathered all their belongings and left the cave.

The following morning Laradi awoke to find herself in an empty cave with no memory of the Enai or how she ended up there. Still in a daze, she returned to her house to find that it was now occupied by another family who believed the girl who had once lived there had long perished in the mountains. Seeing her old home brought back the memories of her childhood, the brief and carefree life she and Aren had once led before her parents’ disappearance. She strolled through the streets of the city in vague hope of seeing at least one familiar face, but all the locals kept their distance from this strange young woman, who now bore little resemblance to the girl they had once known. Somberly she paid a visit to Aren’s grave by the hill and wept. She had no candles nor flowers to decorate it, instead she took out a small knife she’d found amongst her belongings in the cave and used it to carve a short message on his tombstone: ‘Beloved brother and friend. Forever in my heart, – Laradi’.

Lost to both worlds, she found a place in Lavinia’s temple where she joined the order of priestesses. There she would live out the rest of her days, gaining a reputation as a highly skilled healer, renowned throughout the continent for her a vast knowledge of herbs and elixirs.


Cri and Dri art by Megan Johnson

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fantasy, short, stories mythology

Avarrin

They say that of all the Enai, those of the woods, servants of the forest god Silyan are liveliest and friendliest to all other creatures. From within their small family groups, they join their Lord as he crosses the lands, never settling in one spot for more than a few weeks at a time. They travel ever light and take with them only enough food, tools and tame animals to last until they reach the next camp. Though their range is wide, the woods remain their favorite dwelling. There, after the sun sets each night and the moon goddess Vea awakes from her bed of clouds preparing to lift the ball of light once more, they find sleep. Some would lay on the grass, while others favored rest in treetops. In the winter they would build temporary tents out of timber and branches to shelter themselves from the cold, wind and rain.

These bold Enai spend their days hunting for wild beasts or foraging for fruit and berries, as the womenfolk collect water from streams and rivers to bring the ingredients together to cook their food. Unlike their mountainous and volcanic cousins, renowned for their skill in metal-work, the forest Enai find little use for weapons save for the small steel knives they use to cut their food as well as bows and arrows, for hunting. Alike Lord Silyan they communicate with all manner of animals and birds. Equally, they have a fondness, like their god, for music and would often sing as they go about their daily lives. Some too play their wooden flutes as they travel on to their next encampment.

Avarrin belonged among the forest Enai. Though far beyond his childhood, he was considered young by his fellows. His exact age was however impossible to define, for Enai being immortal age little even as centuries pass. Like most of his kin, he was tall and strong with greyish, green eyes and hair the color of barley. He had a fondness for climbing trees and collecting mountain herbs.

One summer Lord Silyan chose a forest near a mortal village as their new encampment. As the Enai began gathering food, Avarrin climbed one of the larger trees and gazed towards the village. From his perch, he watched as the farmers worked the fields, children played in the streets, and the crowds gathered to purchase their food and wares at the market stalls. He looked west, towards the local river bank where he spotted a young mortal woman washing her clothes under the flowing water. She was pretty with long, dark curly hair and deep eyes. He smiled at the sight. Though soon his sister Danae called, asking him to climb down and help the others prepare the meat for their meal. And so Avarrin did as requested.

Yet the following day, after his daily stroll collecting berries and herbs, he climbed the same tree again and gazed once more towards the village. This time he spotted the same woman running past the marketplace chased by an angry merchant. “What strange customs these creatures have!” he thought to himself laughing. Despite this he felt all the more intrigued to learn about the woman, and so he continued to observe her from a distance.

One night as Lord Silyan and the Enai prepared to rest, the clouds quickly changed. Those once peaceful skies turned dark. They all watched on as Lord Ifir, the sky god, stirred up a storm. Silyan and his Enai took shelter in the woods as the thunder rolled and bolts of lightning pierced the sky. From his favorite tree, Avarrin observed the mortals of the village as they rushed towards their homes, in search of refuge from the storm. From his vantage, he spotted the same dark-haired young woman as she too hid herself inside a small hut. Suddenly, much to his shock, a bolt of lightning struck her homestead and a fire broke out. Avarrin closed his eyes and prayed to the fire god Fiehri begging him to spare the young woman. He hoped blindly that she would make it out alive. Yet alas…strong winds had forced the doors and windows shut and the blaze spread, swallowing all. Avarrin watched in horror as the flames devoured the wood and then the air filled with the dreadful stench of burning flesh. From the safety of his tree, he heard her cries and he wept. Then at last a deep rain came pouring down and the villagers rushed to the site with buckets of water to end the fire. By morning the storm had passed, and the village stood mostly undamaged aside from the lone shelter which had swiftly turned to ash.

That day Lord Silyan announced that it was time to move on. Avarrin helped the others pack their things and gather the animals. Yet as the other Enai began their journey, he again thought of the woman and he turned back towards the village. Hiding by the trees until nightfall, he slowly walked towards the spot where the wooden hut had once stood. He rummaged through the ashes to see if anything remained. A few small objects were left undamaged by the fire, but he paid no heed. As there amongst the spent embers, he found her lifeless charred corpse. Under the night he carried her body with him back into the forest. He placed her carefully inside one of their wooden tents and instructed a wild dog to keep guard. Her body protected, Avarrin ventured out into the mountains in search of special herbs. He returned soon with his harvest and mixed it with water from the river, and then gently used his hands to carefully apply the salve onto the woman’s blackened corpse. He placed his right hand on her forehead and whispered a spell in the Enai tongue, one that he had once heard his elders utter to heal the wounded. As the sun rose in the sky, the woman’s burns slowly started to fade, her skin returned to its original hue. Her dark curly hair began to grow back. The muscles in her arms and legs twitched. And finally she opened her once lifeless eyes.

As she awoke, Avarrin stood back in fear of her reaction. For a while she looked around in dismay, confused by her surroundings. The guard dog barked at her and she quivered in fear, though soon he relented and dashed off through the trees. Only then did the woman break her silence.
“Where am I? Who are you?” she asked in a daze.
Avarrin approached her carefully in the hope that she would not run .
“You are in the woods near your village. I brought you here after the storm,” he said.
“The storm…I…” she stammered still shivering. “The fire…What happened to me…?” The last thing she recalled was running towards the door as the unrelenting flames began to spread.
“You died and I brought you back. You’re safe now,” said Avarrin.
“Thank you… How is it possible?” – she asked still bewildered.
“My people are skilled healers, and we have the ability to revive the dead,” Avarrin explained.
“Who are you?” the woman questioned again.
He was silent for a moment before he responded – “I am called Avarrin.”
The woman came closer to look at him. For despite having similar features to mortal men, Avarrin, like all of his kin was taller and, fairer than mortals and in the sun light his skin shone with a green hue. Awestruck by what she had seen, the woman touched his face before moving back and yelling:
“You are an Enai! An elf of the forest…”

Avarrin smiled at this and gently nodded. He took out an apple from his bag and offered it to the woman. He stood back, watching her eat. Next he gave her a wooden cup filled with cool water to quench her thirst. After she had finished, they sat together on the open grass and they spoke once more.
“I’ve heard stories of your people. They say you travel with the forest god Lord Silyan and that you tend to the animals and the trees,” she said timidly.
“Indeed, we do,”- Avarrin responded.
“I remember as a child, my grandparents would send me to collect flowers from the field and fruit from the orchards and bring them to the woods as gifts for Lord Silyan and his servants. They said that it would bring us good luck and that the Enai would protect us from the wild beasts,” – she continued.

Avarrin smiled at her words before responding: “We do our best to keep the beasts at bay and your gifts are most welcome. My sister Danae loves lilies and Lord Silyan has grown quite fond of cherries you offer. But enough about me and my kin… I have told you my name, yet I still do not know yours. What do they call you?” – he asked.
“Amara,” the woman replied. “I should go,” she quickly added.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Amara!” Avarrin proclaimed and proffering his hand and helping her to get up.
“Where will you go? Everyone believes you to be dead. Do you have any family or friends who might be looking for you?” Avarrin wondered.
“There’s no one. My grandparents passed away a long time ago. I am not well liked in my village. They recently caught me stealing again, luckily I got away in time,” she explained.
“You can stay with me if you wish,” Avarrin suggested. He paused to look at his bag again and realized that it was empty.
“Now that you have eaten all of my food, perhaps you could help me fetch some more?” he suggested.
Amara nodded and off they went through the woods. Avarrin taught her Enai ways and together they foraged for berries, fire wood and herbs. Occasionally they would go swimming in the river. And at night they slept side by side in the tall grass. As the days passed they hunted for wild beasts. Although Amara had little skill with a bow and arrow, she quickly learned to track their prey and retrieve the meat with the help of one of Avarrin’s dogs.

One day he took her to the mountains in search of wild herbs. After gathering the plants, Avarrin wished to show her the view. So together they climbed to the top of a small mountain peak and for a while they looked down over the valley below. Amara admired the wonderful sight and she swore to herself that she would never forget this day. Before they made their descent, she convinced Avarrin to stop within a natural cave cut into the mountain side. There buried within the rock walls she spotted a fist-sized, clear quartz crystal. Borrowing Avarrin’s knife, she carefully edged the gem from the wall. As they came out of the cave she gazed into the jewel, and smiled as the crystal reflected the rays of the sun.
Still smiling, she handed the crystal to Avarrin as she spoke: “This is for you. Truly, I cannot thank you enough for all that you’ve done.”
Avarrin examined the stone and with a light smile: “There is really no need. I wanted to help you and I ask for nothing in return,” he finally answered and tried to return the gift.

Amara refused to take the crystal back and insisted he keep it. And so Avarrin agreed and placed the crystal in his pocket. Amara smiled at him and under the peak of the mountain they kissed. As the day drew to a close, they descended the mountainside and made their way back to the forests. That night and for the many nights that followed they slept together under the stars.

As the weeks grew on Amara began to notice a change inside her. She had less appetite and grew tired quicker than usual. Avarrin too soon found that her body was changing. It was long until she realized what had transpired. For the Enai, like mortals, can produce offspring and Amara was carrying Avarrin’s child. At first they were elated and gave thanks to the Lady Era-Gragiya for their new found joy. Yet as the months passed, Amara became sickly, and she could no longer accompany Avarrin in their search of food. As the winter came, from within their wooden tent Amara shivered from the chill. So hurriedly, Avarrin summoned a donkey from the fields and with its help he carried her to one of the nearby caves.

He stayed by her side leaving only to seek out food for their next meal. Yet still she scarcely ate and grew ever more sickly, growing weaker every passing day. Though she lay still on a bed of straw and animal furs, she found little sleep. Avarrin prayed once more to Era-Gragiya to keep Amara and their child safe. One night as her struggles grew, the time came and Avarrin urged his love to push. Feverish and drenched in sweat, Amara strained her tired body as she labored to breathe. Avarrin throughout held her hands and sought to keep her calm. Hours passed by, then Amara’s efforts were finally rewarded. With one last push Avarrin watched as their child came into the light. There lay a healthy son with his own greyish green eyes and Amara’s dark hair.

His joy was however short-lived. For as he held his son and prepared to wash him in freshly heated water, he paused to look on Amara. To his horror he watched as her body shivered, blood poured from her and her limbs started to grow cold. He touched her forehead and tried to slow her heavy breathing but to no avail. Rapidly he washed the infant and wrapped him deep within a blanket of fur. Frantically he searched for the herbs he had once used to heal Amara’s burns though this time they all failed. As the dawn rose, Amara’s eyes closed and she gasped her last breath. Nothing, not even the spells he had once used to revive her were able to bring her back.

Distraught by his sudden loss, Avarrin used a layer of cloth to strap his newborn son to his chest, and with the help of the donkey, he carried Amara’s lifeless body from the cave. Solemnly they journeyed into the woods where he buried her remains by the same tree from which he had first seen her. He hoped to find flowers to decorate the fresh grave but none grew with spring still weeks away. He stayed there for a time, weeping, until his son cried out for food. Using his powers to summon a mountain goat, he took some milk for the child. After nourishing the boy, Avarrin lay down inside his tent with his son cradled in his arms.

As they slept, a chilling night wind made its way into the forest. In the ground, by the tree, where Avarrin had buried his love, the Morkrai came for Amara. With one touch, the shadow beings released the spirit from her body and they dragged it away down towards the iron gates of Makar’s Halls. A horn played and the gates opened. Deep below, they guided Amara’s spirit into the halls to await judgment.

As the days passed, Avarrin busied himself caring for his son, the boy he had named Natris. Much to his delight, the child was healthy and ate hungrily. Avarrin soon learned to soothe the cries with his song. He would carry Natris with him, strapped to his chest as he wandered through the woods in search of food. Yet despite all his joy, he felt lonely, missing Amara, thinking of the time they had spent together.

One night he took Natris with him to visit her grave and he wept. “I wonder what will become of her in the Halls of Makar,” he thought to himself.

As he lay down inside the tent that evening, his restless lingered . Even as Natris dozed off in his arms, Avarrin could not find peace. Gently he strapped the sleeping child to his chest and crawled out of the tent. He closed his eyes and whispered a spell, making them each invisible. In this shadow guise, he drifted deep into the ground, passing through the layers of soil, sand and rock. Then at last he found himself facing the tall iron gates and the dark Halls of Makar beyond. Avoiding the Morkrai guards, carefully he slipped past the gates and stepped silently into the shadowy halls. Inside it was almost pitch black with a single faint blue flamed lamp lighting the back of the chamber. There he found himself surrounded by a sea of shadows, pale faces and the lifeless bodies of men, women and children. Among them standing still, he spotted his beloved Amara. Her hollow eyes were staring blankly at the dark stone walls yet as if she could still hear his footsteps growing nearer, her ghost turned towards him.

Suddenly his spell lifted. Unmasked, Avarrin stood in silence. A ghastly voice bellowed from the end of the hall housing the two great stone thrones:
“What brings an Enai, immortal servant of my brother Silyan into my realm? Your kind are not welcome here!!”
The voice was so loud that it echoed across the halls, brought down the Morkrai, with a small group ready to seize the intruder at their Lord’s command.
Avarrin slowly made his way towards the thrones and he knelt in front of the deathly Lord.
“My Lord Makar,”- he began. “I came here of my own volition to ask for your permission to release Amara from these halls. She is the mother of my child and I take full responsibility for her actions. ”
The Lord of the dead stared at him for a moment before speaking once more:
“I deny you permission. The life I took was not yours to give. I have claimed her soul twice. Life is not yours to toy with. My judgment is final. Amara must remain here.”
Avarrin raised himself from his knees and replied:
“I wish to speak to your queen, the Lady Morae.”
Lord Makar turned to face the raven-haired goddess on the throne next to him.
“What have you brought for me?” – Lady Morae’s raspy voice questioned as she held out her hand.
Avarrin thought for a while. Though he had his son, he had nothing else with him. Suddenly he remembered the crystal Amara had once given him. He pulled it from his pocket and handed it to the Lady of sorrows.
“Please, I beg that you release her,”- he implored the goddess, kneeling down once more.

Avarrin watched as she examined the crystal, holding it up to the blue flame. Even Lord Makar gazed at the gem for a while. Appeased, Lady Morae placed the crystal into a chest filled with rings, necklaces, gold coins and other trinkets.
The Lord approached his wife:,
“What are your thoughts, my love?” he whispered softly before kissing her hand.
For an instant, Avarrin saw what appeared to be a faint smile on the god’s disfigured face. Though the moment was fleeting and soon the grim faced Makar sat back on his throne, facing Avarrin once more.
“Amara’s fate was sealed long before you met her. You had no right to prolong her life. On this, I must agree with Makar. She shall remain in these halls,”- Morae ruled.
Avarrin was silent for a moment then he spoke again.
“And what of my son Natris? What is his fate to be?” he questioned mutely.
To this the Lady of sorrow replied:
“The child’s heart is pure. For he is an Enai, immortal like his father. It is not our role to judge your kin. You may take him back with you.”

Avarrin raised himself and waited though in response Lord Makar screamed:
“You have heard all we have to say on the matter. Leave this place!”
In fear of being dragged away by the Morkrai guards, he turned away and he hastened towards the doors. As he moved, Lord Makar unleashed a cold wind, so powerful that it blew Avarrin and Natris out from the halls and through the iron gates. It carried them upwards back towards the land of the living.

Until this point Natris seemed blissfully unaffected by the cold darkness and noises of the underworld and he had slept through the entire ordeal. The howling wind though woke the sleeping boy and he began to cry. Avarrin rocked him in his arms singing. He held him tightly as they drifted past various layers of soil, sand and rock. By the time they reached the forest it was already night. They rested for a while before searching for food. As morning broke, gathering water from the stream, Avarrin spotted a flock of jackdaws crossing the sky. He summoned one to his wrist and instructed it to find Lord Silyan and the other forest Enai. A few days passed, before the jackdaw returned and they knew their path. After feeding his son, Avarrin packed some supplies for the journey, then strapped Natris to his chest and followed the bird.

A few weeks passed and finally spring arrived, bringing life to the forests. At last the pair found their kin, camped near a vineyard in the woods. Danae and Avarrin’s parents rushed towards him with open arms. His mother and father lovingly cuddled their tiny grandson. They were welcomed by the clan and a feast was prepared. Avarrin soon ate his fill, appreciating the offerings of nuts, fresh grapes and wine left by the mortals. As the feast began to subside, the flute music faded away and Avarrin heard Lord Silyan call his name. Natris in his arms, he walked towards the forest god by a tree under in the bloom of spring.
“My Lord Silyan,” he answered, immediately kneeling down before his benefactor.
The forest god turned to face Avarrin and asked that he sit with him on the grass. Avarrin did as requested. He held up his child saying:
“This is my son Natris.”

The Lord of the forest smiled. He took a sip of wine from his wooden cup before speaking again:
“A fine young boy, much like his father. So this is the reason you headed into the mountains instead of following us?”
Avarrin kept his head down and was silent for a moment.
“Forgive me, my Lord…I…” he began.
Silyan took little notice of this, instead he took a bunch of grapes from a wooden dish and handed them to Natris. Avarrin smiled as his son grabbed the offering and attempted to chew the fruit.
Then Lord Silyan spoke once more:
“Your parents were worried about you. Danae asked for my blessing to look for you, but I could not let any more of my servants wander off on their own. Speaking of family, where is the boy’s mother?”
Avarrin remained silent for a moment pondering a suitable response. So Lord Silyan continued:
“There are no laws against your kin pairing with other Enai. Your woman is welcome here if she wishes to join us.”
“She was not of the Enai. She was mortal and I lost her in childbirth,” Avarrin admitted with tears suddenly streaming down his cheeks.
This revelation shocked Lord Silyan who swiftly demanded a full explanation. There, before his Lord, Avarrin confessed everything that he had endured including his journey to the underworld.
Silyan listened carefully while sipping his wine and once Avarrin had finished his tale, he responded:
“I should have warned you of the perils of dealing with the race of men. Your powers are a gift, one that I urge you to use with caution in the future.” He paused to take some food before continuing: – “As for my brother Makar, what he told you is true. The Enai are forbidden from entering his realm. And that is a deed which I cannot allow to go unpunished.”
These final words startled Avarrin who hung his head, and held for his Lord to speak again. Silyan finished his meal before turning his attention once more to the young Enai.
“Give me the boy,” he ordered.
In fright, Avarrin protested, clutching dearly to his son.
“Do not worry. I will not harm him,” Silyan assured him.

Avarrin reluctantly handed over the boy. Lord Silyan briefly held Natris in his arms before carefully placing him down on the soft grass. Much to his father’s relief, the boy rolled over onto his stomach and crawled towards the wooden dish of fruit.
Lord Silyan stood before Avarrin and he placed his right palm on the young Enai’s forehead, whispering a spell. Avarrin felt a high-pitched noise ringing in his ears, his head began to ache and his body trembled. Struggling to maintain his balance, he fell to his knees. Seconds later, Lord Silyan ended the spell and lifted his hand away. Avarrin sighed with relief as the ringing stopped and the pain ceased. The moment that Lord Silyan had mentioned that a punishment was due, Avarrin expected the worst. And as if something left him, he soon understood that he was unable to communicate with animals and the spells he had once known were now powerless. Left hollow, he picked up his son from the grass.

As Avarrin held the boy, Lord Silyan shouted:
“Take your son and whatever else you might need and leave! Stay away from our camps, mortals and from the other Enai!”

Avarrin bowed down low in response. Quietly he pulled himself up and walked away with Natris in his arms. He grabbed a clay bottle filled with water and he filled his bag with food. Reluctantly he said goodbye to the rest of his family and left the camp. As he departed, he could hear Lord Silyan announcing his punishment and forbidding other Enai from following.

On the way back to the mountains, Avarrin stopped by the tree where Amara’s grave stood. He decorated it with wildflowers and sang a bittersweet lament before moving on. Traveling in the daylight, they rested in the grass every night. Weeks later, finally Avarrin reached the mountains and found an empty cave which was to become their home.

He heeded Lord Silyan’s instruction and kept to himself. His days were spent gathering food and caring for Natris. The boy’s carefree nature proved to be his greatest comfort during those lonely times. Fortunately, unlike some of his siblings, Lord Silyan was kind and not unforgiving. His anger did not hold. After two winters, and just as Natris had begun to take his first steps, one day Danae arrived joyfully at Avarrin’s cave. She had been sent with a message from the forest god pardoning Avarrin, and thus he was now allowed to rejoin his kin. Avarrin and Natris left the cave and together with Danae they returned to their people. Lord Silyan welcomed them and gladly restored Avarrin’s powers. That day the young Enai swore never to again disobey his Lord. Thereafter he continued to live peacefully in the forests, traveling the lands with the forest god and his clan, always keeping to themselves going about their daily lives just as they ever had. Never again did Avarrin or any of his kin interfere with the lives of mortal men.

Avarrin art by Queencorite

Facebook: @Queencordite Comic: www.five-comic.co.uk
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fantasy, short, stories mythology

Prologue


In the beginning there was a great void out of which came two of the first and the greatest of the gods, Ifir and Era-Gragiya, the immortal Lord and Lady of the skies. Together they created the first race of immortals, their children, the mighty Erai. Era-Gragiya first give birth to golden haired twins, a son called Nir and his sister Vea whose names mean the sun and the moon. They were a restless duo, forever chasing each other across the dark sky. Soon Ifir grew tired of their antics and he formed small balls of light with his hands and let the twins play with them. They each started to grab handfuls of light and throw them at each other. The goddess Vea hurled them randomly into the sky and thus out of the blackness the stars were formed.

Yet still the game did not last and it was hardly long until the pair became restless again. Ifir used all his power to create a much larger ball of flame and light, so bright that it lit up the whole sky. He then told the twins to move to opposite ends of the skies. Nir grabbed it first and used his strength to throw it towards his sister. Vea saw the ball crossing the sky but it remained distant. As the light moved away from him, -Nir-, exhausted from his ordeal, lay down in a blanket of clouds to rest. Many hours would pass until the ball finally made its way to Vea. Like her brother, she used all her skill to lift the orb and throw it back. It was then her turn to rest as the light moved, growing ever brighter as it made its way back towards Nir. And so, as Nir and Vea continued day and night, the sun and moon came into being. It is said that Nir sleeps when the sun sets and the ball makes it’s way towards his sister while Vea sleeps when the sun rises.

Ifir and Era-Gragiya had other children besides: a daughter, Afa – the queen of the seas – an immortal being with wave-like blue hair and a fishtail instead of legs; a son, Atar – the god of war who rides across the skies atop a mighty horse; another son Silyan, the brown-haired, bearded nomad, – Lord of the forests, hunting, animals and beasts; the flame-haired Fiehri ,- god of fire and volcanoes, – a patron of smiths and craftsmen; and finally the youngest son Makar, – Lord of the underworld, – a grim-looking being with a disfigured face and grey eyes so sensitive that he could not bear to even look into the light of the sky, for this reason that Makar always dwells in the shadows and keeps to himself.

Ifir joined hands together with his children and their power combined to create the world. And from the earth’s very core crawled out another immortal being also counted among the Erai – a pale skinned and copper-haired, earth goddess named Lavinia. With Nir and Vea playing in the sky, Ifir allowed the rest of his children to live on the newly formed lands. Silyan planted the first seeds and trees began to grow, with him came the animals. Lavinia gazed over the vast lands and stretched out her arms to create fields, beaches, deserts and mountains. Afa filled empty craters with water and the vast space became the sea into which she leapt and there she remained. Fiehri looked to the mountains and used his power to set one alight thus creating the first volcano. There, inside the volcanic rock, among the ash and lava, he forged his home. While Atar explored the lands on his horse before vanishing again towards the sky.

Makar refused to move and hid himself under a fresh tree, standing forever in the shadows. Seeing this, Lavinia took pity on him and as she clasped her hands together, the earth trembled and cracked creating a rift in the ground. There, deep under the surface Makar crawled into a place of no light or shadow. It was in these cold halls of darkness that Makar made his home. He soon sealed the sole entrance with iron gates and the place became known as the underworld – the Halls of Makar. The Lord of the dead then created an army of shadow beings to guard his new kingdom, these became known as the Morkrai.

Up in the sky, inside her palace of wind and cloud, Era-Gragiya felt an ever-growing sadness as she thought of her son Makar sitting alone in his dark halls. There she worried of how lonely he would become. And she wept. Seeking an end to his wife’s anguish, Ifir collected one of her tears in a dish, from which he formed another immortal being, a new Erai – the slender, raven-haired Morae, the Lady of sorrow and shadow. Morae cloaked herself in shadow, flew down to the earth and dug her way into the underworld. Enchanted by her appearance Lord Makar opened the iron gates and welcomed her into his kingdom. There she remained and came to rule as his queen, the Lady of the dead, bringer of sorrow and countless tears. They say that the souls of the dead pass through the iron gates to stand in the cold halls awaiting Lord Makar and Lady Morae’s judgment. It is also said that the verdict of Makar is final and can never be reversed. Thus once the judgment has been passed, fate is sealed and souls are trapped within Makar’s lonely Halls.

After creating the mountains and the fields, Lavinia journeyed to the sea shores. There she took some of Afa’s water and mixed it with clay. From those bare ingredients she made figures, both men and women alike, beings resembling the Erai though less fair and perfect. Though pleased with how lifelike the figures appeared, Lavinia was frustrated that her attempts to bring them to life had failed. From the skies, Ifir gazed from his palace intrigued by her work. He flew down to the shore. As she pondered over how to fix this problem, Ifir knelt beside her. His hand reached out to hers and their combined powers suddenly brought the figures to life. Thus the mortal race of men was created. The newly awakened mortals gazed in awe at their creators and they went down on their knees in front of their new Lords.

Not yet satisfied with what they had achieved, the Erai decided to create new beings to help them maintain their realms. Thus, another immortal race was formed – the Enai, the lesser gods or elves as some folk call them. Thereafter the Enai were designed to be the servants of the Erai. Afa’s Enai could be found swimming with the fish and other water beings in the rivers, lakes and sea. Silyan’s Enai roam the forests, tending to the trees, collecting berries and fruit, watching over the animals. Fiehri’s fire Enai guard his volcanic palace and work with metals and precious stones. Atar’s warrior Enai ride with him across the sky and sometimes they ride down to the earth; where in Arhia province people believe that his Enai also ride past battlefields watching over soldiers. There is a tradition of burying dead soldiers with their swords in the belief that Atar will venture out into Makar’s Halls and choose some warrior souls to ride along with him and his Enai.

They stand above, all bar the servants of Makar. For these were not light beings, not Enai but Morkrai, ghastly creatures of shadow and darkness some folk refer to as dark elves. They say the Morkrai come to collect the buried dead to guide them into the Halls of Makar. As the souls enter, they open the iron gates to escort them towards their awaiting judgment. Only those deemed truly noble and pure of heart may be permitted to leave Makar’s Halls and pass beyond, through a pale flame connecting the earth to the skies. Those fortunate souls are thereafter allowed to dwell in Ifir’s palace in the skies, a beautiful place of light and color where they may find rest. Whereas dead criminals are stripped of their possessions and buried with nothing but a stone slab to mark their graves with engraved with the words “Morkrai, morkrai errari en kar, envenri fe ahre noer Erai Makar” (“May the Morkrai guard them for all of time, imprisoned in the cold halls of the Erai Makar”). The Morkrai guard the others within the Halls until the time Lord Makar passes his judgment. Many believe that by burying the dead with something of value they will be granted an audience with Lady Morae. They say that if a soul brings her a gift she will hear their plea. The Lady of sorrow will listen and pass her own judgment, proffering a chance to: prove one’s worth and find a peaceful afterlife in Ifir’s palace. Many imagine that only she possesses the power to convince her husband into granting a pardon to the righteous of souls. For Lord Makar and Lady Morae are usually of a similar mind – an agreement between them is always reached and their judgment is final.

After the Enai had settled the world, Ifir asked Lavinia whether she would like to join one of his children on their newly formed lands. She agreed yet struggled to decide in which of the realms she hoped to remain. Ifir suggested that she visit his sons in their respective domains before making her choice. First Lavinia visited the sun god Nir. The bright light stung her eyes and she quickly grew restless. Once Nir threw the large ball across the sky he grew tired once more and fell asleep. Lavinia thus soon bade him quiet farewell and left. She returned to the earth. There in the forest she met with Lord Silyan, her friend and kindred spirit. Her presence in the woods was welcomed by all, as the birds sang and flowers started to blossom. His Enai prepared a feast for her and they danced and played pleasant music with their wooden flutes. But as time passed Silyan grew bored of his surroundings and he wished to move on to other lands. And so, he simply wondered off with his Enai and Lavinia found herself alone once again. Soon enough the war-god, Lord Atar, arrived on his galloping horse and carried her with him. Yet quickly Lavinia grew tired of the journey and after a just while she jumped off the horse, leaving Atar to look back and simply wave at her before riding away.

Having seen her trails, Ifir suggested that Lavinia should visit his son Fiehri within his volcanic palace . Fiehri’s Enai welcomed her and they opened the stone gates. The flame-haired god of fire made his greeting and he let her sit by his side on a throne of hematite. Fiehri offered her a gift, a necklace with precious stones, which he had crafted with the help of his Enai. Lavinia quickly grew to love the rocky caves which reminded her of her old home within the earth’s core. She also became fascinated with Fiehri’s extensive knowledge of metal, stones and minerals. Many days did they spend together sitting by the fire, watching the embers flickering and the ever-flowing lava inside the volcano.

Ifir decided to pay a visit to Fiehri and asked whether Lavinia had reached a decision. She smiled at him and reached out her hand towards Fiehri. – “I wish to stay here”- she declared. And so it was that Lavinia, the earth goddess came to marry Fiehri, the god of fire. Every autumn, as the harvest season drew near she left Fiehri’s realm to walk through her fields and meadows assisted by her Enai. Once the season changed she returned to her husband in his palace of rock and lava.

The race of men began to worship the Erai and they continue to beseech them in times of need. They pray to Ifir in the sky so that he brings good weather. Each day they gaze in awe at the sun and leave a small offering of flowers to the god Nir thanking him for his light. As night comes, they pray to his twin sister, the moon goddess Vea so that her light will grant them rest and bring good dreams. While fishermen and sailors prayed to the sea goddess, Afa, asking her to be gentle and to steady her waves as they drag their boats to water and set ships to sea. They fear her anger might cause a storm to sink their ships and lose their catch. Worse still, they worry that at her behest her Enai may pull them into the depths. Farmers implored to the earth goddess Lavinia to grant them a good season, during the harvest many venture out into her temple in the mountains with a small offering of the finest crops in the belief that it will bring them good fortunes in the following year. Young girls and future mothers also pray to the fair Era-Gragiya, Ifir’s queen and mother of all the Erai, in the hope that she will grant them a safe and healthy birth and offer future health and well-being to their children. Those who live near the woods pray to the forest god Silyan that he and his Enai may protect them from the wild beasts during hunts and allow them to gather food, herbs and firewood. Some would leave offerings of flowers or berries for his Enai to collect during their travels. Warriors entreat the war god Atar that he may grant them courage and strength for battles to come. Leaving smiths and craftsmen to look towards the volcano and prayed to Fiehri wishing for guidance with their work. They too feared his wrath, for the god of flames was quick to anger and his fury was great, if pushed he could force the lava to flow out from his palace bringing death and destruction to all.

Most of the mighty Erai, remained in their realms with little concern for the lives of mortals, leaving some of their servants, the Enai, to occupy the same lands as the humans and occasionally watch from a distance. The mortals also grew curious having heard many stories of these lesser gods. It was said that they had the power to heal wounds, possibly even to revive the dead and to make themselves invisible. Some mortals would enter the forests in attempt to seek out Lord Silyan’s Enai with offerings of fruit, berries and flowers. Others ventured deep into the caves with gifts of precious stones for Lavinia and Fiehri’s mountain Enai. Yet these fair, immortal beings were rarely seen for they were wary of mortals and preferred to stay with their own kin serving their Erai Lords.