© 1999 Eric Case & Josh Smith, all rights
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There are some things in the story that may not be explained all that
well and may leave the audience with questions. If you have the patience
to wait till I release the first three episodes, I think most or all of
your questions would be answered by it then, but if it's something that
can't wait, feel free to send me an email at email@example.com and
I will respond ASAP with answers to questions, or just to explain things
that aren't too clear.
Shakai = Shah kigh - refers to an ancient prophesy that
when the darkness returns to the land in the hearts of mortals, a great
hero shall rise with two of the Kaya strong in the sheen and with their
help, the Arden (Warrior Prince of Justice) will bring peace to the land
Sraltha = Srahl Thaw - a kind of seance
Alkhor = Al core - In the ancient tongue of the Kaya, Alkhor means "True of Heart"
- Alkhor is a horse descended from the fabled steed of the Wigami. The fastest horse alive, Alkhor refuses to be riden by anyone (most of all Mordak) since it is a creature of the light.
"Hold on!" Arden said.
"I'm slipping!!" The boy said. His feet were no longer on the ground and all that was stopping him from being pulled backwards into the darkness was Arden's grip. All that was keeping the child from the darkness was his hold he had on Arden's hand and that Arden had on him! Slowly the boys hand began to slip from Arden's. They struggled to tighten their hold but it was to no avail. The boys hand slipped from Arden's grasp and with a scream he flew backwards tumbling through the air into the darkness and faded from view screaming Arden's name! Then Arden heard a dark voice laughing a laugh that filled Arden's heart with an icy cold feeling. He recognized the laugh from somewhere like he had heard it before, but it was different, and Arden couldn't place the laugh. A large black hand grasped the boy as he continued to fall and seemed to surround the boy and swallow him whole.
Arden sat straight up in his bed, a cold sweat on him. His face showed his horror and Jarin and Joshia came quickly to his side. "Arden are you alright?!" They chorused.
Arden nodded slowly.. "Have Darien and Darius arrived yet?" He asked softly.. uncharacteristically soft for Arden who was usually headstrong.
"No Arden, we've heard nothing of them yet." answered Jarin quietly.
Just then a royal messenger burst into the room. "Begging your pardon Mr. Arden sir.. and young sirs, but the King has requested your presence at court immediately. Your friends have been brought to him..."
Darien and Darius sat atop their steeds looking out over the Plains of Eingreth. They would have ridden down into the dark plain and across it to Tor Eingreth but they had seen the flash of light that they knew would be have to have been Arden. "There's trouble in the plains tonight," Darius said to no one in particular then turned to Darien. "Can you feel the evil coldness?"
"Yes I can too," replied Darien. His elvin eyes could see in the distance much better than Darius' eyes. "Do you think we should ride down to see if Arden is alright?" Darien asked.
Darius chuckled. "There's not a foe in the plains who could challenge Arden." He answered smiling. Darien knew he was right, Arden and the two boys were the Shakai, which literally meant the three. "Well we had better find a way to join our friends.."
"Are you sure they can't wait for a couple more hours?" Darien asked with a knowing smile and wink for Darius.
Darius smiled back knowing instantly what was on his friend and lover's mind but there wasn't time for that and they both knew it. The flash would have been Arden using some kind of spell on his sword to fight off some enemy, and no thieves would give him that kind of trouble. They decided to risk it and ride down into the plains of Eingreth. They descended on their horses into the growing darkness of the plains. Their horses ran swiftly through the open plains in the still growing darkness. They had not ventured far before the sun had set completely behind the forest, and this was the most dangerous of times in the open plains.
Their steeds, being bred from the line of the horses used by the Borundine Glade Riders, were quick and light on their feet. Darien's keen eyes picked out their path in the darkness with little difficulty. Both Darien and Darius knew that they had to keep a speedy pace to make it through the plains at night, and that they would have to get to Tor Eingreth's southern gate. They could feel the air was heavy and thick tonight with evil magic and the darkness that hung over the plains seemed almost tangible. Neither of them spoke as they rode silently and speedily. Nearly an hour into their ride across the plains, they came across the bodies of the five dark riders. Their horses sensed the evil of the fallen riders and reared up casting their riders from their saddles and both horses bolted off into the darkness.
"Ohhh, this is not good!" Darien said about their new situation.
"We better start running," Darius remarked dusting himself off. Their supplies were all on the horses who would undoubtedly be headed off to Tor Eingreth by themselves. Darien and Darius set off in a light jog towards Tor Eingreth. No sooner had they continued their journey on foot, that they heard the sound of hooves coming from the hills to the north. "Umm.. shit!" Darius said with a calmness that sent Darien roaring with laughter as the two picked up their pace and broke into an all-out sprint.
"Halt!" Hissed a voice from behind them. They both ignored the command as well as it's repetition that came several times before both were knocked off of their feet and were encircled by nearly 20 mounted thieves. "What have we here?" the same sinister voice asked.
"Darien and Darius of the Ardent Kingdom!" Darien answered defiantly.
The thief, who was apparently the leader, laughed full-heartedly at Darien's reply. "The Ardent Kingdom you say?" He laughed. "These grown men speak of FAIRY TALES!" All the thieves laughed at this. "Empty your pockets!" The man said coldly growing serious.
"Drop dead" Darien said in a sarcastic tone.
The head thief drew his sword and swung it high above his head preparing to deliver a death-blow to Darius when Darien spoke up. "We will be worth a lot more to you if we are alive! We are expected at the King of Tor Eingreth's court!"
The thief lowered his sword slowly at this - plans of ransom forming in his head.
"Brought to him?" Arden rose to his feet in his usual ominous way when something has upset him. "Brought by whom?"
"The thieves sir! They captured your friends and have returned them here looking for a ransom!" The messenger answered. "If you'll follow me, the king is waiting.."
"Very well.." He answered then looked to the boys "Jarin, Joshia.." he said as the boys each nodded and fell into step at either side of him. Arden followed, or rather lead the messenger back to the King's court. He strode confidently into the room unannounced and picked out the head thief immediately and marched up to him. Arden swiftly drew his hand back and slapped the thief in his face with the back of his hand hard enough to spin the thief around in a full circle.
"What the hell are you doing? I want my ransom!" The head thief bellowed in retort to the blow.
Arden was in no mood for small talk with a mere thief, least of all this one since he knew Cadhal well enough to know he was a fool and a coward. One of Cadhal's men stepped forward to assist his leader but Arden shot him a look with such force that the man just dropped to his knees and fell backward apologizing. Arden began focusing all his sheen and in the minds of everyone in the room, Arden grew larger and more frightening. Arden grabbed Cadhal by his tarnished chain-mail vest and lifted him easily off the ground. He then slammed Cadhal's back against a pillar and slapped him again with the back of his hand, more lightly this time, but hard enough to leave a red mark. Then Arden spoke, his deep voice resonating throughout the large stone room. He even cast magic into his voice which would leave his words in the minds of everyone who could hear them. "If you were one of the big-time thieves, I would kill you for what you vermin have done to this land and it's people but you're not worth the effort! Take your pathetic troop of men, and leave Eingreth permanently! If I ever catch you here again doing ANYTHING but leaving peacefully as a farmer, I'll end your life on the spot." The sheer power and forcefulness of Arden's voice sent all of the thieves to their knees since their legs began to shake uncontrollably. Some even bent forward resting their foreheads against the ground and covering the backs of their heads trembling.
Jarin and Joshia looked on in amazement as Arden set the small man down. Arden seemed to have grown in size as he spoke and the boys (who were apparently the only ones who could see it) saw Arden sparkle more as he spoke. They could tell Arden wasn't mad, or angry when he spoke; he was just being Arden. The thieves were all escorted out of the room (and then the city) and after Darien and Darius gave an account of their trip through the plains highlighting having seen Arden when he cast the spell on his sword and sent the flashes of light through the plain. They ate a meal in the great hall, but Arden seemed distant. Both Jarin and Joshia sensed Arden was deep in thought and was worried about something, but knew better than to bring it up in front of anyone outside their small group.
Eventually, the meal ended and the king and queen rose to leave the hall. Darius and Darien accompanied Arden and the two boys back to their chambers. Darien and Darius would have their own room prepared shortly but for now, they too could tell there was business pressing on Arden's mind. Once the five of them were into their room and the door was shut and locked behind them Arden began. "I've had a vision."
The four others looked at him calmly then Jarin spoke up with his usual inquisitiveness. "A vision of what Arden?"
"I do not yet understand it, but I believe we need to hold a Sraltha to contact someone." He said slowly looking from face to face down the row of people in front of him.
"What's a Sraltha?" Jarin and Joshia asked in unison getting a smile from Arden who had been solemn up to this point. Arden explained that a Sraltha was a way of talking to a Kaya who was far away using the magical energy of a small group and focusing it on the person they were trying to talk to.
The five of them sat in a kind of triangle facing inwards with Arden at the vertex and the others sitting facing one another on either side of him, with the side opposite him being open. That is where Verdan would appear to the group. Arden told them to close their eyes and focus their energy, which he had worked with the boys on doing a couple of times over the previous two days. Arden didn't need much help to form a Sraltha, but it would be much easier with the others' help. Then Arden focused his own mind on the other four, visualizing them each and the magical energy flowing through them like blue flame forming strands reaching outwards into Arden. He could feel the energy building in him and he concentrated on the boy he had seen in his mind, then much like his dream he felt weightless as his mind left his body and flew threw the air at seemingly impossible speeds to the same place he had seen in his dream. The darkened castle was just like he had pictured it.. the dark tower.. he suddenly recognized it all as his home in Ardun. The castle he had spent his boyhood days in running and playing, was now in disrepair and darkened by an evil magic. Arden faltered for a moment seeing this, but Jarin's voice steadied him saying "it's okay Arden, you can do it." Arden moved forward through the air into the corridor he had seen in his dream and floated forward down it for a few paces before he reached the same door. Arden focused hard pulling his body with him to the place his mind was occupying. Only the strongest sorcerers could do this bit of magic, actually bringing some of their physical body with them to the place they were focusing on, and most couldn't touch anything once they were there, but Arden extended his hand seeing it glowing blue and turned the knob slowly and pushed the door open. Entering into the room Arden saw it just like in his dream.
The boy he had seen was praying quietly while his mother stood over a pot by the fireplace. Both turned as Arden entered the room, and the boys mother dropped to her knees letting out a slight gasp. She then gathered herself and spoke, "Arden!" In that instant Arden recognized her as Arahnia. The woman who had tended to him as a child, much like a mother since Arden had never had one. She had never had any form of relationship with his father, but had still been like a mother to Arden. Then Arden realized that the boy must be Verdan, the boy who was named for Arden. He had never really known him since Arden had left, or been thrown out, when the boy was still a baby. Arden strode forward solemnly and raised Arahnia from her knees. "We prayed you'd come Arden! But I can see that you're not actually here. Is this a Sraltha?"
"Yes, it is.." he began slowly. "I saw Verdan in my dream this morning and knew I had to find him. What has happened to Ardun?!"
"Ill tidings indeed, but there is no time for that! Arden, you have to get Verdan out of here."
"I'm not going anywhere!" Verdan answered defiantly. "I won't leave you mom!" The boys voice wavered and cracked.
"I'm going to Cragen," Arden said trying to stay calm at seeing his home darkened so.
"You can't go to cragen without the pendant. You can touch the sword without it!" Arahnia said looking at the shimmering figure before her. She could feel Arden but it was like seeing his reflection in a flowing river. "Verdan will bring it to you.. where are you now?"
"Tor Eingreth," Arden answered unsure how Verdan would bring the pendant. He knew she meant the necklace with the medallion his father had always worn but he hadn't seen it in years, and the distance between Tor Eingreth, and the palace at Ardun City was a distance that should take weeks to travel.
Arden... a voice, like a gust of wind blew into the room. As Arden, Verdan, and Arahnia looked around to find the source of the voice. Arden.. it's me.. the voice came again, more strongly this time and Arden recognized it as the voice of Rafiar. Then before their very eyes the wizard appeared in full view. Arden opened his mouth to speak but the wizard spoke. "No time for idle talk Arden, yes I've missed you, but there is important business pressing at hand. You held a Sraltha and your energy was strong enough that I could use some of it to appear to you. You've always had the ability to contact me in times of need.. Now onto the business at hand!" Arden nodded his compliance. "Now young Verdan.." the wizard continued, looking over towards the boy. "You have an important role to play.. You have to bring the pendant of the Wigami to Arden in Tor Eingreth."
"But I don't want to leave my mother!" the boy said growing afraid. He didn't want to leave the only person he trusted and loved to run to someone he was angry at for leaving his kingdom to fall into ruin and the hands of evil.
"You HAVE to!" Rafiar said to the boy sternly causing Verdan to wince slightly. "Go to Mordak's chambers and take the pendant." He said more calmly.
"He'll kill me!" Verdan squeaked. "And even if I could get it, then how could I get away?"
"Take the pendant and take the white horse in the stables, and it will take you to Tor Eingreth," the wizard answered reassuringly.
"Alkhor doesn't let ANYONE ride him," the boy said matter-of-factly.
"He will let you ride him." The wizard said flatly. The boys mother smiled at him reassuringly. "You must get the pendant to Arden and help him on his quest.."
"We all need you to do this," Arahnia said softly putting her hands on her son's shoulders.
Verdan paused for a moment and took a deep breath. "Well.. okay.. I guess if everyone is telling me to. Can you guys leave so I can say good-bye?"
Both Arden and the wizard nodded. "Arden," Rafiar said softly. "Have your things ready to leave Tor Eingreth.. when he runs away with something that belongs to Mordak.. evil things may follow Arden. Be ready to defend yourself and the boy. You are right in continuing on to Cragen, and I can help you from time to time. Remember to keep your focus, and that I will always be with you Arden..." and with the Rafiar faded away as quickly as he had come.
"I'll see you soon okay Verdan?" Arden said raising his eyebrows slightly trying to give the boy a warm smile.
"Can you just go?" Verdan snapped back.
"Yes.." Arden said calmly. "I hope to return soon Arahnia."
"I know you will Arden.. and you will free our people and take your place on the thrown. Peace be with you."
Arden let himself slip away quietly and a moment later was back in the room with Jarin, Joshia, Darius, and Darien. "Okay.. umm.. what was that all about? What's the pendant of whatever it is? Who's the kid? Who's the lady? And who was that like weird wizard looking guy?" Jarin asked at such a fast pace it set everyone off giggling.
"Relax Jarin," Joshia giggled. "Hehe.. Arden will get too explaining that I'm sure," and he burst into another fit of laughter along with everyone else while Jarin sat impatiently waiting the answers to his questions.
"Well," Arden said gathering himself after Jarin's breaking the tension with his usual comic relief. "That was a Sraltha.. The pendant of the Wigami, is a magical medallion that gives the person wearing it the strength to wield the Ardent Sword. The boy's name is Verdan and as you know he'll be bringing the pendant to us and I would assume he will be accompanying us on our journey. The lady's name is Arahnia and she is Verdan's mother, and was my attendant when I was a child growing up in Ardun, and last but not least, the 'weird wizard looking guy' was Rafiar who I will discuss with you both later."
"So you are a prince right?" Joshia asked more matter-of-factly than Jarin had asked his slew of questions, but still with great interest.
"I was a prince.." Arden began.
"No Arden, you still are a prince.. and you'll get your kingdom back. You three are the Shakai!"
Verdan flopped on his bed and took another deep breath. He was afraid. He didn't trust Mordak.. he HATED Mordak, but Mordak had given him everything he had. He also didn't trust Arden who had seemingly given him nothing but pain and suffering. To leave everything he knew and go to someone he didn't know anything about? He decided to go through with it, but only because of his mother's words. "Mom.. I'm scared." he said almost too softly to hear himself speaking the words.
His mother came over and held him close. "Verdan, my dear Verdan. I love you, and you deserve better than this. I want you to go and join Arden. He is a good man." Verdan opened his mouth to say something but his mother pressed a gentle finger to his lip getting a little smile from her boy. "I know you've had a rough life.. I'm sorry. I've tried to shelter you as best I could, and I know you don't trust anyone anymore, but Arden will earn your trust." Arahnia said softly as a tear ran down her cheek. "Now you go play your part, and hurry up and come back to me with Arden okay?" She said trying to smile. Verdan was now crying himself and they shared a heartfelt hug.
"I love you mom," he whispered.
"I love you too Verdan.." his mother said as he pulled away and left their room walking quickly.
Verdan was set on his task now and he walked quickly down the hall past the guards who glanced casually at the scantily clad boy. He half jogged up the winding staircase that lead to the tower where Mordak's chamber was. When he reached the door, fear shot through him as he realized what he was about to do. He had heard tales about people who had betrayed Mordak, but this was something he HAD to do. He tapped lightly at the door and heard Mordak snap a "what?!" from the other side.
Verdan turned the knob slowly and entered the room. "Master sir.."
"What is it now?!" Mordak asked hoarsely, angered at being disturbed.
"I wanted to know if you needed anything sir.. I.. I'm tired and hoped to go to bed." Verdan said quietly inching his way towards the shelf the pendant sat on. Mordak hadn't turned around since he was reading one of his books of evil magic.
Suddenly Mordak turned to the boy who froze. "Come here a moment.." Mordak said. Verdan followed the instructions and slowly approached the old man who cracked a crooked smile.. something he did very rarely. He held out a crooked hand and ran it gently down the boys arm as lust for Verdan's young body crept into his mind. Then his smile faded and his lip curled up in disgust as he drew his hand back to hit the boy who pulled away. Mordak let his hand drop back to his book and turned his gaze to it. "No I don't need anything.. Go and sleep." He snapped.
"Yes sir.." Verdan answered softly as he backed away towards the shelf where the Pendant lay. He softly lifted the medallion and left the room closing the door behind him. He then ran down the stairs past the guards to his room. "I got it mom!" he whispered excitedly. She smiled at him and put her finger to her lips signaling the boy to keep quiet while she fetched his cloak and warm boots. Once he was dressed he gave his mother a hug and kiss and climbed out the window of his room. Often when he worked up the courage to leave the castle, he would climb out the window of his room and slide down the vines that clung to the wall outside. When he reached the ground, he ducked behind an empty keg of ale. There were guards everywhere and even though he was safe to walk the streets since noone knew he had the pendant, he was still nervous. He quickly made his way to the stable ducking behind carts, and wagons, and even hiding for a time in a wagon-load of hay.
Verdan reached the door at the back of the "royal stables" and walked inside. "WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?!" an angry voice bellowed, scaring Verdan out of a years growth.
"I'm Verdan sir.. Mordak's servant.. I came to see the horses.." Verdan peeped drawing back against the wall.
"Verdan you say?" The voice asked raising in pitch. Verdan's eyes hadn't adjusted to the darkness yet and he couldn't see the man he was speaking to. "You're Arahnia's boy yes? The one named after Prince Arden?"
"Yes that's right.." Verdan replied slowly.
"Then you'll be wanting Alkhor.. no time to explain how I know lad. I'm sorry for scaring you.." A hand grabbed Verdan firmly by the wrist and pulled him away from the wall. Verdan's legs gave out and the man had to half lift him and carry him over to the horse. "I'm not going to hurt you son.."
"Dad?" Verdan said eyes widening as the figure became illuminated by the small light coming through the closed doors of the stable.
"Sshhh.." the old man with the bushy eyebrows replied. "No I'm not your dad, although I knew him well before his passing.. now you have to go," he said as he lifted Verdan onto the back of the great beast known as Alkhor. Just hold on tight, and you'll be to Tor Eingreth by sundown!" Verdan still couldn't clearly see the man speaking but he reminded him slightly of the figure who had appeared in his room with Arden. "Go now Alkhor.. take the boy to Tor Eingreth and protect him like he were your own colt." The man said as he swung the stable door open letting a blast of light into the stable and silhouetting him against the light streaming into the room. He gave Alkhor a tap on his massive thigh and the horse sprang into motion racing out of the stable and threw the city streets. The cities guards gave chase when they saw someone 'stealing a royal steed' but their horses were no match for Alkhor and less than a minute later they had left threw the huge gates of the city which opened out into the Oran wastelands.
Riding Alkhor was unlike anything Verdan had ever imagined. He had seen the great knights of the city, and the dark riders of Mordak when they rode, their thundering hooves pounding the ground, jostling their riders. Alkhor hardly made a sound besides the air rushing through his mane, and his hooves landed lightly on the ground propelling him forward at a faster pace than any other horse could travel. Verdan watched the muscles of the horse's shoulders move under it's fur and skin seeing them contract and extend like the gears of a clockwork machine he had seen in one of the city's factories. He didn't know what they made in the factories since no one spoke of it. No-one else seemed to care either, but Verdan often stared at the black smoke rising out of the stacks, and saw the way cart loads of.. well of "stuff" were drawn out on a regular basis and sent off to the north-east somewhere. He was always inquisitive but often kept his questions to himself since asking questions of Mordak, or any other adult for that matter, often resulted in him being beaten. Verdan tightened his grip on the horse and leaned forward resting his face beside the horses great neck and he laughed. He was free from Mordak, and Ardun. What lay ahead he didn't know, but he was finally free...