The Sons of Mir
Book I of the Gods of Mir Series
Chapter Four: Hayloft Frolic
There was only one thing Jerome could think of to brighten his mood after his disastrous encounter with Vorin. Taking the horse he kept in Master Orson’s stables he took the northern road to the flat plains of the valley where most of the farmers and ranchers kept their homesteads.
It was a little early in the day but he did not doubt he would find what he was after, one way or another.
After riding a good 15 leagues he left the main road that divided the valley in half for a well worn dirt trail that led to the homestead of Master Nathaniel, one of the few young men in the valley who had managed to achieve his own success when most of his generation found it impossible. The manner by which he had gained his chance at success was nowhere close to being a celebrated a story. It was, much to Jerome’s personal shame, the result of a terrible tragedy that had happened fifteen years ago.
As he rode down the trail he waved at the tall farmer who was busy weeding his vegetable garden.
When Nathaniel saw who his visitor was, he tossed aside an especially large dandelion, leaped over a post fence in great need of a few coats of fresh whitewash and charged at Jerome as if he intended to tackle both horse and rider.
Poor lonely Nathaniel lost his entire family to sickness fifteen years ago and left with a mountain of debt he had no hope of repaying. If not for Master Orson’s pity he would long ago found himself at the bottom of one of the Tallyman’s slave pits.
Of course most knew that the blacksmith’s coin did not come without a price but as both men seemed content with the arrangement people pretended not to notice. After all there was no man or woman under the age of ten who did not know that Orson was Master Victor most beloved and trusted compatriot.
Coming to a sudden halt right next to Jerome stirrups, the straps overalls slipped off leaving him completely naked above his ankles.
Jerome exploded with laughter as his friend quickly tried to recover from his embarrassment. “If that’s the way you say hello I should come over more often. I take I’m not the first to pay you a visit today.”
Though his body was deeply tanned it did not hide the reddening of the farmer’s cheeks. “Well it is the twentieth Vard of summer is it not?”
“Ah, I should have remembered. Isn’t the arrangement that you get to play the happy house wife five days out of twenty.”
“The day he doesn’t show up will be the year we don’t get any snow.”
“Which pretty much means never?” Jumping off his prize stallion he handed Nathaniel the horse’s reins as they walked toward the stables together.
“So when will you finally stand in a Choosing?”
“This year maybe,” the farmer said without much conviction.
“To afraid of giving up being a stag?”
Nathaniel slowed down until he came to a complete stop. “No Jerome. The reason I never have sought a wife is because Master Orson does not want me to.”
“But… he can’t do that. Not even one of my father’s slaves can be denied the right to stand in a Choosing.”
“He… he hasn’t forbidden me from standing. He just doesn’t want me to.”
“I don’t see the difference.”
“Your pardon Jerome, you can’t see the difference because you simply don’t know him that well. I do. He’s miserable, Jerome. He has been ever since he lost all but poor Ann to the slavers twenty five years ago. He’s married to a woman colder than a Northern Jazzard winter. Every day he suffers, not sure if the townsfolk truly respect him for his skill at the forge. Or, as he greatly suspected, because they are too scared of be beloved Tallyman.”
Believe it or not Nathan but I have always been aware of that because he and I suffer the same malady. Do you think I don’t fear that I am so favored by all solely because of who my father is and what he might do if anyone opposes his plans for me? A day does not go by where I don’t feel weight of that guilt threatening to snap the thread of my soul apart.”
“Believe me Jerome; the weight he carries is many times heavier than yours. That is why I will not marry until he has no need of me. I would like to believe that for the five days he is here the burden that will kill him is lessened a bit.”
“It most likely is Nathaniel. No doubt about that. I suspect that is why he was willing to take me on as his apprentice.”
“Aye, that and he knew he was the only one your father would give the task to. He has been doing all he can to try to help you come into your own, regardless of how reckless you’ve been acting. He loves you Jerome, very much as he once loved your father.”
Jerome swallowed. Did he dare tell his friend that he had gone out of his way to seduce his father’s old lover under his very roof? Had he ever been the seducer in the first place?
Nathaniel shook his head and chuckled. “You didn’t think Orson wouldn’t tell me about your shenanigans, did you?”
“Can you really blame me for thinking that old cogger would know to keep his mouth shut. What if my father found out we’ve been snogging one another?
This time when the farmer shook his head it wasn’t out of amusement. “Think about it Jerome. Why would your father send you, a far better charmer then he ever was, if he didn’t intend for you to be a gift to thank his old friend for his loyalty. He’s been using you Jerome, using you to keep Master Orson in line and they both know it. In that sense your father is treating you the same way he does one of his favored slaves.”
“I know those who you are referring to. You’re talking about Jasper and Niles… no? You must think I'm as the same kind of monster my father to bring those two up. I have done all I can to protect them from my father. I owe them that and more.”
“Aye more, a thousand times more from what Orson has told me. I would have thought given how much you are indebted to them you would have given them their freedom long ago.”
“I want to Nathaniel. If I could I would have freed them when I was no taller than my father’s knees, but I can’t. While in every other way they are mine my father has refused to give me the markers needed to free them.”
“You could have if you gave but a drop of the effort you’ve been putting into trying to obtain that half blood’s marker.”
Without a thought Jerome hooked the farmer under the jaw, knocking his erstwhile friend out. “How dare you speak of him that way!”
At that moment the blacksmith was seething with unexplainable rage. Never in the past had he reacted this way when either he or others referred to Vorin by his most common and derogatory name. He was changing, changing in unforeseeable and unprofitable ways and he found the change both frightening and exciting.
Stumbling back up, Nathaniel wiped the blood streaming from his mouth before apologizing. “Forgive me Master Jerome. I should have known better than to say such to you.”
“Never mind Nathaniel. I should not have dared to lash out at you like I did. To be honest I don’t understand my actions myself.”
“But I do Jerome… I’ve seen this sort of madness many times before. You have never witnessed Master Orson when he goes into one of his rages. He has never laid a finger on me but he has cost me an old horse, two of my sheep, and more than a whole coop of chickens as a result of them.”
“Not because of me or my father? I don’t want to hear you claim that is the case.”
“Then I won’t but not because you are begging me not to but because what you fear is simply not true. Like you Jerome it is that half… half elf that is tormenting him.”
“You’re saying all the rumors are true? He possesses and is using the foul dark magic of Vor to tempt us into such rages.”
“No Jerome… at least that is what Orson has said. As far as he knows there is no malice within him other than that sharp tongue of his. Honesty, who can blame him for possessing one; given how we all, including me, are treating him.
“He is no Darkling whose only crime is found in the Elven blood that he carries within him. Once again I ask that you forgive me and take me back as a friend… a true friend if that is still possible. I knew the extent of Master Orson’s obsessions well before you came to Rain Shelter from Northern Reach. I should have known better to speak of him so crudely to you or anyone else for that matter. I have let my jealously of the lowest of all slaves embitter me.”
Seeing how broken he friend was, Jerome closed the small distance between them and embraced him. “So have I, my dear Nathaniel. So have I. But unlike me, yours is fed by nobler motives than mine.”
“I have no problem believing that,” Nathaniel snorted. “Oh boy…”” Since Jerome stood facing away from the main house he did not notice Master Orson when he stepped out on the porch. There was a wicked grin on his face, one that Nathaniel recognized and Jerome would as well. “It seems we’re not alone.”
On turning around and finding his master gazing at the pair of them Jerome faced Nathaniel again and gave him a wink. “Are you thinking the same thing I am?”
“If you mean you feel as sorry as I am, then yes, we are though I very much doubt that’s the case.”
“Close but not quite my dear.” With the fingers of one hand and then the other he spider crawled up the farmer’s arm until he reached the straps of his overalls which he gradually, slid off the man’s body, all the while his eyes never leaving that of the master blacksmith.
By the time Nathaniel was as naked as when he first greeted Jerome, Orson was standing right behind the pair, just as bare. “You mind sticking around for a bit, my apprentice?
“I thought you would never ask.”
Chapter Five: The Moons of Mir
As Vorin expected the old witch was not at all pleased to come home to find supper not cooked, the fire out, and Vorin returning to her without a stitch of clothing. Much to Vorin’s surprise however the only punishment he got were from the stings from her sharp venomous tongue. Eventually she tossed him a few rags to wear and set him out back to cutting wood until the sun had set
That night as they sat around the house fire eating a simple meal corn porridge seasoned with the herbs and roots Old Cess had Vorin gather throughout the spring and summers the old witch kept a close eye on her charge knowing that soon he would no longer be with her.
As a man child who arrived without any memory or comprehensible speech Vorin had been nearly impossible for Cess to manage on her own. With her vision already beginning to fail at that time she feared harming the precious child. Within the first two months the witch had had enough of raising the baby. She might serve as midwife to the rest of the town but once she handed the child to its mother’s arms her responsibility were at an end.
Having been born deformed not even her gift of the magic had been enough for all the men in Rain Shelter, no matter how poor, refused her in the choosing. Never in her wildest dreams or worst nightmares had she ever though she would one day be a mother. Even now, as she found herself in such a position she could be honest with herself to know what a poor mother she had made, using Vorin for force labor and claiming the incredible power within him as her own.
That, more than anything brought fear into the woman’s hard heart. Once the Half-Elf was gone it would not take the town long for them to notice that she no longer had the power she claimed she had. Compared to all the other hardships the people of Rain Shelter would face, the loss of her magic was but a small thing for she knew all too well that the two decades of good fortune the valley had profited from would end with Vorin’s leaving. Such was the cruelty of her great mistress that the goddess well known to abandon those who served her faithfully once she had gotten all she desired from them.
Still Cess continued to pray to Lady Mir that her goddess will not abandon her after her long years of service but finally give her the reward she rightfully deserved for raising the Half-Elf the best she could.
Looking up she could see the red moon of Terrog shining unusually bright even with her near blind eyes, a clear sign that the old gods were once again stirring, ready to challenge Mir’s unrivaled rule over the lands that bore her name. Seeing Vorin staring down into his bowl, Old Cess felt she at least needed to warn him of the great danger that was coming. She still did not know who Vorin truly was but knew her mistress and the Druids well enough to know that the young Half Elf had to be truly special to have been hidden in a place so dreadful and isolated from the rest of civilization as Rain Shelter was. “Look up boy and tell me what you see?”
Vorin made a quick glance up through the hole in the roof before quickly averting his gaze back down to his meal. “I see smoke and the red moon, Terrog’s I believe.”
“You are right but if that is all your eyes can behold than you are more blind then me boy. Look again and tell me what you really see.”
This time Vorin looked up at the night sky for a good minute before giving his reply. “It is as I said; I only see the moon of the dragon, Terrog.”
“Is its blood red glow not brighter than usual most foolish boy?”
Looking down at his empty bowl, Vorin took on a meek appearance, not that the old witch words had hurt him, but because if he did not appear properly chastised then he would most certainly be beaten and that would hurt in ways words couldn’t. “Yes mistress, you are right as always. The moon is much brighter than I’ve ever seen it.”
Knowing Vorin always kept his eyes averted whenever in her presence usually filled the witch with pride for she believed it meant the boy still feared her. Tonight, for the first time, seeing such a look on the young man only filled Old Cess with a deep bitterness towards herself. She had let herself forget that the Druids had honored her by placing Vorin in her care. Very soon that honor would be taken away from her and she would be left a much less woman than before the child had entered her life.
Not able to endure such guilt she did as she had always done and blamed it on the boy, her bitterness stoking the fires of her bitter temper. Faster than one would expect of a woman of her years, she reached over the fire and knocked the bowl out of Vorin’s hands. “Look at me boy. Am I so hideous that you cannot even look at my face, I, the one who raised you when all the other would have left a half breed such as yourself to die?”
Slowly raising his face Vorin trembled as he stared directly into the witch’s milky white eyes. “No my mistress.”
“That is better. I would be more impressed however if you can guess what the glow from Terrog’s moon means for us and all the people of Mir.”
“It can only mean that Terrog, the dragon goddess of the demon realms is or will soon return to the lands of Mir once more.”
Cess snorted, pleased by the boy’s response. Her bitterness toward Vorin did not lessen one inch though. The boy had proved a quick student, needing only to be taught a task once to master it. That had not been the case when her predecessor had taught her the ways of the simple magic. Underneath her rags and furs were the many scars her old mistress had left her with, permanent reminders of her many failures as a student.
Grabbing the ladle from the pot she pressed the hot metal against Vorin’s left cheek, knowing he would not dare flinch away. As she tortured the young Half Elf she spoke in a venomous tone. “Yes, that is exactly what that means. You probably think you’re quite the wizard for being so clever. Do you boy?
Fighting against the pain Torin shook his head, his voice quavering. No my mistress. I am nothing more than a foolish stupid Half Breed. All that I know and will ever be is due to your kindness.”
Dropping the ladle Cess cleared her throat and spat in Vorin’s face. “That’s exactly right. Remember that during the Harvest Festival for even if the Town Elders do not banish you, you will never be my equal.”
Such words were nothing more than an empty boast, if not a foolish one. Cess did not know how the boy had come to obtain knowledge and skill in the arts of magic but she knew with great jealousy that his powers were much greater than hers. The only boon to that bitter fact was that for nearly twenty years she had been able to claim the boy’s magic as her own. Where once none would have come near her hut or offer her even the smallest bit of kindness, all were awed and in fear of her claimed powers.
She was dwelling on such thoughts when the silence inside the hut was broken by the boy’s trembling voice. “Forgive me mistress. I know it is not my place to ask any questions but what of the moons of Aura and Aza. They have not risen yet but if their light has also grown did that not mean they were readying themselves for such a fight?”
Having not considered such an idea, Cess bit down hard on her lower lip least she say something she would come to greatly regret. Even when she gained a greater control over her temper, her jaw remained clenched, her words hissing from the gaps of her missing teeth. “We will have to wait and see now won’t we?”
Slowly the green moon of the goddess Aza came into view over the opening in the center of the hut. It appeared as it always had. A dim green sphere that often reminded Vorin of a pot of pea soup. The next moon, blue Aza, however seemed to be almost like a blue sun it glowed so bright, outshining the other two by several magnitudes. Last but not least was the silver moon that the people of Saint Gregory claimed as the home of their own god, it being the largest of the four.
Instead of its silver shine, the moon appeared overcast, covered in a blanket of dark gray clouds. Unlike the others, the sight of the moon sent a shudder down the old witch’s spine for she could not even guess what such a sign could signify.”
“Is the silver moon really the moon of Saint Gregory?” Vorin asked.
Shaken out of her stupor, Cess pulled her furs closer to her. “No boy. Saint Gregory is a god of man. Only the gods of the Elves have such moons. The moons that now circle the lands of Mir appeared thousands of years before man reached its shores. As to which god the silver moon belongs to I do not know. It has always been a secret kept solely by the Elves. Not even their half blood descendents know its proper name.”
Knowing all too well how much his mistress hated being asked questions she did not have an answer for; Vorin changed the subject to one the old witch was well versed in, the origins of man. “Why did man come to the lands of Mir, mistress?” Cess let out a sigh before spitting into the fire, the phlegm sizzling with a loud hiss. She looked at Vorin, her blind eyes showing the weariness of the many years she carried. “When will you learn young Vorin that I only know what the witch woman before me knew and she only knew what she was taught by a passing Druid?” It was an attempt at modesty, one that had been engrained with a whip held in the hands of her former mistress. Still she could not help but look smug in front of her student.
“Once, eons ago there was a continent on the far side of this world where man dwelled in complete ignorance of the goddess who created it. Back then they had no gods but worship the power of magic itself as their deity. Those mages, who became the greatest among Men, eventually were seen as gods and in time they foolishly began to believe in their own divinity.
“Since each of these mages wanted to become the sole god of mankind they warred among themselves destroying countless lives and ruining the land they depended on for their magic. At the final climax of the Mage Wars Mir could tolerate their arrogance no longer and sent the homeland of mankind down to the bottom of the sea. Those few who foresaw their doom fled the lands of men in great giant ships which after many months and hardships eventually reached the shores of Mir where they begged the Elves, who ruled all of Northern Mir at that time, to allow them a second chance to build a new life for themselves under the guidance of the much wiser Elves. The very first of their students founding what became the Conclave of Druids which still gathers in the sacred Stone Forest outside the gates of the once great Elven capital, the now cursed city of Soulvalla.”
“And what of the mages and the Tower?”
“The Tower of Gordium, war foolish gift given by the Elves to the surviving mages of man so that their own magical arts would not be forgotten. At its base the Elves placed the Father Stone from which the rest of the tower grew. It was in this ivory tower of learning that the Wizard of Gordium came to rule over all other magicians save but the Druids and the followers of the gods of man. In time, due to their many differences, the Seers set up their own center of power in the caves beneath the deserts of Suronia where once Terrog nested. In the Kingdom of the Sun Elves, Novalla, the first High Sorceresses, mistress of wind and water built her own school and tower though not as grand or as prestigious as Gordium and its mages.
The Father Stone was not the only gift the Elves gave mankind. Far to the east in what’s now part of the Gregorian Empire, the Elves built another center of learning, or put more correctly, a prison to contain those magicians who would dare attempt to repeat the same mistakes as their ancestors. Though they had given mankind sanctuary, Elves feared they might again use their power to make gods of themselves, and in doing so destroy Mir as their old gods had destroys their original homeland. . There the secrets of the demon summoners, necromancers, and destroyers, were secured, never to be wholly forgotten but never to be used. There they placed the Mother Stone, a perfect cube that had the power to drain the magic and life out of any who would what became known as Blackstone Keep. Placed in the guardianship of the Moon Elf Clans, the Elves believed they had done all they could to ensure eternal peace in the lands of Mir.
Last, as a final gift to man, the Elves built for them the holy city of Sacrium on the costal edge of the great Ether Desert. There, with an unlimited supply of the essence of magic the mankind began building their own empire, developing new schools of learning. One group became known as the techno-mancers; inventors and engineers who use the magic of the ether to power their mechanical machines, be they simple glow globes or the heavily armed skyships of the Imperial Navy.
“If only the Elves have foreseen how man would use their gifts they could have known that mankind was too dangerous to live in peace among them. But, as you well know, many of the Elves, those of the Moon and Sun in particular felt a near uncontrollable attraction for the younger race resulting in the creation of your own people, the Half-Elves.”
The old witch stopped at that point, adjusted her furs one last time and lay down, preparing to sleep.
Like always Vorin found was immersed in Cess’s lesson. Even though he had heard the tale many times many times before as her student, she never told it the exact same way twice and each time he found himself learning something new. . He did not want her to stop however. “But the Elves did not decide to force man back into the sea even after the Cataclysm.”
Old Cess yawned, her wide mouth showing her rotting and missing teeth. She then whispered; “No but they should have. Lady Mir had commanded they do so but they defied her. .
“During the- Exodus two children, the scions of the greatest gods of the Mage Wars that destroyed mankind’s homeland, reached the shores of Mir and eventually rose to great prominence among both the Elves and Man.”
“Saint Gregory and Vor, right?”
“Yes, those two. Found during an Elven raid against Suronian slavers the Elvish commander knew at once both boys contained a magic the lands of Mir had never known. They were therefore taken to Jazzard, realm of the Mountain Elves and presented to the Mountain King, Overlord of all Elfdom. On seeing the two remarkable boys King Joral decided to have both boys raised with his young son, the Crown Prince Cadin. That was second greatest mistake the Elves would ever make in their dealings with men. “While Gregory was a sweet, honest, and good natured child. The one who would become known as Vor, the god of desire, was known for his temper and his thirst to know the secrets of others. . His thirst for knowledge especially that of the blood and rune magic of the Elves knew no bounds.
“Though Prince Cadin loved both it was eventually decided that Vor could no longer remain within the walls of Soulvalla after he was caught reading several forbidden tombs. Sent away, Vor was given into the care of the Moon Elves who accepted him readily. From them he learned more forbidden secrets and of the goddess Mir. Eventually he learned of his terrible lineage and just like his mage father before him began to see himself more as a god than a mere son of man.
Awed by Vor’s ever growing might and his promise to fulfill their greatest desire; to learn the deepest secrets of the Mountain Elves, the Moon Elves turned their worship away from Aura, Aza, and even Lady Mir to swearing their lives if not their very souls to their new god Vor.
“They did more than just worshiped him but also handed him the keys to Blackstone Keep and all its dark magic. After years of study, he began teaching the forbidden arts of man to the Moon Elves, sending them down the path that would lead to their banishment from the rest of the Elven races.
“With the knowledge he gained, he summon an army of demons from their prison in the Inner Planes. Through the use of blood sacrifices to fuel the power of his own perverted magic he used the art of necromancy to raise an even larger army of the undead.
With their need for blood sacrifices for their magic, Moon Elves, who had once fought against the slavers in Suronia, became the kingdom’s best customers, buying slaves by the countless thousands.
“Through such murderous orgies of blood Vor managed to pervert the Mother Stone itself so that those who wear but a chip from its ebony rock not only became immune to the Stone’s life draining powers but could tap into all the magic and life energy the Mother Stone had absorbed over the centuries. .
“Even so, such terrible deeds did not without a price. Vor’s use of the dark arts had drained most of his precious life energy, his soul thread frail and brittle, ready to break. Fearing death more than anything he sacrificed what was left of both his body and soul into shaping his avatar, the Lich King who could not be destroyed being already dead.”
“But the Lich King was eventually defeated was he not?”
“Yes he was. Just as Vor had come into his full power; so had Gregory who had become Prince Cadin’s lover. Together they united man and elves into defeating Vor at the final battle at cursed city of Immortalis deep in the Southern Frontier. Against Lady Mir’s command however Cadin, not Gregory was the one who slew Vor, who had known that if one of the gods of man killed the other, both would face their ultimate death, their soul threads burned to nothingness, never to be reborn.”
This was where Vorin always got confused. “But why would Lady Mir wish for Saint Gregory’s death? Was he not a good man?”
“He was, but having seen her own lands threatened by the gods of man, Mir wished to be rid of both of them. Because Prince Cadin went against Mir’s will, he and all the Mountain Elves were punished for his disobedience, their lives stolen while their souls were left to endure never ending torment.”
“Is our mistress really that cruel to have killed so many innocent lives just to punish the actions of a single man?”
Sitting back up the old witch was shocked and enraged that her pupil had forgotten such an important lesson. “Our mistress is quite cruel and terrible. Never be foolish enough to ever forget that Vorin.” She hissed while glaring at him with her milky eyes.
For a brief moment there was silence, the only sound coming from the crackling fire and the witch’s deep breaths. Eventually she calmed herself and continued. As cruel as she may be she is also generous with her people. It was she who created Aura and Aza, creating the magic of both manna and ether at the same time. Even now the goddess Aza can be found within the shelter of the Dragons’ Maw far to the south where she mourns the loss of her husband.
This was a part of the histories Cess had never told him before. “How did Aura die?”
“That is a sad tale. With his beloved prince dead, Saint Gregory became mad with grief, even more so when the Elves and Dwarves decided they could no longer wished to take part in the affairs of men, exiling themselves down south, beyond the Gordium Mountains to the wild lands of the Frontier, there to stand in watch should the evil of Immortalis ever rise again.
“With all those he had loved most gone the god felt abandoned and his trust violated.Feeling betrayed by his friends he went mad and began his insane campaign to bring all of Northern Mir under his rule. So began the Great Cataclysm. During the hundred years of chaos your ancestor, faced their near enslavement.”
“But Saint Gregory was eventually defeated was he not. I mean you’ve never told me he still remains alive to this day.
“Yes he died by Aura’s hand just as Vor is died by Cadin’s sword. Both however escaped the fate Mir had for them so their soul threads are still intact, waiting for the chance to be reborn.
Aura too survived though greatly weakened. In order to heal the wounds he suffered in the great battle he put himself into a deep slumber from which he has yet to awaken.
“So right now there are only two gods left in the land. Lady Mir herself and the goddess of the ether, Aza.”
“For now at least. As I said when I pointed to the night’s sky, the intense glow from Terrog’s moon can only mean the goddess of all demons will soon return to the lands of Mir.”
“Why did she ever leave…?”
Cess had enough. She was tired and her voice was now sore from speaking. “Questions, questions, you always have too many questions,” she snapped. “I am too weary to answer any more of them. The tale of Terrog is long and speaks of the time before the Elves arrived in the lands of Mir. If you are not banished after the Harvest Festival I might share such secretes with you but nothing more will I tell you this night. That is lesson for another time, if not for another teacher. Now add some more wood to the fire then go to bed. I have more important things to tend to than watching over you.
Doing as he was told, Vorin brought in enough wood to last the night. Covering himself with the few furs Cess allowed him to have he quickly drifted asleep. The last thing he remembered was the old witch looking at him with an evil toothless grin
Chapter Six: The Petulance of Youth
Sacrium, crown jewel of the Gregorian Imperium, residency of the Twelve Houses, its citizens the greatest living monolith of power in all the Land, was where all decisions, at least all secular matters, were decided.
Surrounded on three sides by the Great Emerald Desert, the city had been built within the walls of a dead volcano, fifty miles in diameter. Home to over ten million souls of pure blood, it was by far the greatest city in all the Lands of Mir.
While marked on every map in the Lands as the untied city of Sacrium it was home to two cities, not just one. The first and far larger was called Kraytor, or as those who lived on the fringes of society, The Pit of the Gods.
The twelve outer most cantons bordering along the perfectly circler crater walls of Kraytor, were made up of a series of caves carved out the dead volcanoes basalt walls. Once, long ago, its cavernous tunnels and grand vaulted chambers were the palace residences of the royal Twelve Houses, the living decedents of the sole god of the Empire which bore his name, Saint Gregory of the Faith.
As time passed and the Twelve Houses grew in size and power, they found themselves needing far larger compounds to house their extended families in a single location.
For a few centuries the old palaces were occupied with the more powerful members of the royal court. The dangerous game of court intrigue that caused the rise and fall of many of the great could not help but lessen the symbolic importance of the Burrows with each passing generation until the grand underground palaces were inherited by the homeless destitute, seediest brothels, addicts, and those who controlled empires of their own, those of the criminal world.
Closer in, built around the raised tier of the second circle of the city were the 48 cantons reserved for the common but dutifully employed citizens of Kraytor. Unlike the non-citizens who lived in the Burrows those who lived in the commons were each marked with bronze runic tattoos which indicated their profession and which of the 48 cantons they resided in. To mark them members of the common classes and so the runes could be easier noticed by patrollers, they were required, on the day of their maturity, to report themselves to a local government license alchemist. There the official would use the power of his mysterious art to remove every strand of hair above and below for whatever years remained to them.
The same was almost true for those who lived within the third circle. Made up of ten cantons it citizen, made up of artisans, low ranked military officers, and those merchants not able to afford better quarters, also bore bronze tattoos. Unlike those in the second circle however their higher station allowed them to grow a topknot, its braided length dictated by what they paid in taxes on each of the four High Holidays that mark the end and start of each season. (Every 300 days). Given the value those in the third circle placed in the length of their braid, the amount of taxes collected was always higher than that set by the official rates.
In the next circle made up of the last six cantons which severed any residential purpose, was home to lower members of the gentry, the families of the great merchant princes, and the higher ranked military officers. Until those in the third and the second circle, they were allowed a full head of hair, kept shortly cropped. Also, unlike those below them, they wore their marks on their foreheads instead of their scalps and not in bronze but silver.
Finally there was the sixth circle. Unlike the others it was without any centers of trade or quarters other those found inside a military barrack. It was a single canton which served a single purpose, the running of the bureaucratic departments of the Imperial government. It was a warren of tightly spaced of conjoined administrative building, the tax department, the Offices of Noble Heraldry and Royal Blood lines, central command of the Imperial Engineering Corps, the Central Property Registration Office that kept the detailed full accounting of the slave industry and any changes in ownership. It was not the beating heart of the Empire, but made up many of its arteries.
The true heart of the Imperium could not be within the walls of Kraytor, but high above them. Once the capital of the nearly forgotten Sky Elves, the Empire had taken possession of it near the end of the hundred years Great Cataclysm. After learning that the floating city had been abandoned, Emperor Gaius III released and edict declaring the city his personal property and tall of every recognized Emperor that followed after.
When the Sky Elf city was put in place above the center of Kraytor, the Emperor, the Twelve Houses, those among the highest ranked nobility, the elected members of the Imperial Senate, as well as the admirals and generals of Central Imperial Command, all relocated to what eventually was turned into a single palatial compound over seven cantons in size.
It was within the walls of one of the most heavily guarded sections of the palace that Prince Kurt of House Stefano, third in line to the Imperial Throne, had lived every day of his life. With the entire wealth and power of the Empire at his father’s disposal to fulfill his every whim, the one thing the prince desired most, his freedom, would never be his.
It did not matter which House ruled the Empire, anyone of the blood of Saint Gregory other than the Emperor himself were gild caged prisoners who only continued to live at the Emperor’s sufferance.
Kurt knew he shouldn’t feel bitter about his happenstance. He and the others were not kept in a cage for no reason. After the death of Saint Gregory at the peak of the destructive years of the Cataclysm, the Imperium nearly died as well from the years of successive civil wars that followed after the god’s death.
It took the join leadership and armies of the three Patriarchs of the Gregorian Church to bring an end to the wars between the Twelve Houses and put in place the laws of succession that kept the Empire from falling apart to this very day
At least that is what the prince’s tutors would constantly tell him like a bunch of obnoxious parrots. While his teacher would spend one day out of five praising the wisdom of the Church in this matter, they never failed to leave the one part that concerned Kurt the most.
After the death of an Emperor, his three eldest sons would be released from their golden cages and sent off to the furthest of provinces with whatever armies and fleets their father had willed to them. Only then would the fun part start. With what forces they had the three brothers were expected to fight against one other to see which of them would be next to sit on the Throne of Saint Gregory.
It his case, Kurt already knew how the coming War of Succession would end, at least where he was concerned. Regardless of how hard he tried to please his father, Emperor Claude Stefano IX, his father’s contempt towards his third born son grew with each passing season.
No, Kurt had no doubt that on the day of his father’s death he would be dumped in the most frozen regions in the Northern Wastes without a single sword to build an empire with, and only if he was lucky enough to live that long.
To ensure that the blood lines of the Twelve lived on; Church cannon forbad the Emperor from having his sons murdered. That did not stop any of the younger members of the family from trying their best to eliminate him. If he had been born a mere two Vards later, he would have been his father’s fourth son and would have been allowed to take up the cloth and live a safe and long life as a priest of Saint Gregory.
He wasn’t and nothing but his death would change that. It was a shame his younger brother had died over five years ago after ‘accidentally’ falling to his death down into one of the ubiquitous smokestacks that towered over the many ether-works factory that could be found in the lower city of Kraytor.
His unexpected death did trouble him sometimes but not too often. If his brother had not abused his slaves so badly then his body servant probably would not have given him the tiny nudged that sent his poor brother tumbling. Of course only Kurt and the slave knew that even after the Church’s investigation into his death. Now his brother’s slave was his slave and both were far better off with their secret arrangement.
Ah the slaves… he counted his best and only true friends among their number. Why Saint Gregory commanded his twelve heirs that their descendents all be of Elven blood, Kurt did not know. He was able to see irony in it. The might Gregorian Empire which claimed to rule all of pure Huma blood was ruled by those who weren’t. Just thinking about was all it took to cause the prince to get the giggles.
As he look at his reflection in one of the gold framed floor to ceiling mirrors that covered the walls of this part of his quarters, Kurt took special note of his long flowing yellow hair and the three tiny gold rings that pierced each of his pointed ears. He was his father’s most beautiful son and he knew it. All the best selling penny romances for the last ten years had him as their main character.
Though despised by his father and therefore the entire Imperial Court, among the common people he was the Debonair Prince, most beloved by women and men in all corners of the Empire. It would not surprise Kurt much that the source of his father’s growing sourness was not a direct related to his third born’s rising popularity.
“Is there anything I can do for you my beloved master?”
Looking down, away from his wondrous refection, Kurt gazed into the green eyes of the half elf resting in his lap. “What more do I need that has not already be given, my dear Kai.”
“More of what you already have of course, master.”
“Not from you I don’t my beloved favorite. I have already taken too much from you.”
“Nothing that compares to what you have given me and nothing that I didn’t want to give.”
Removing a ruby encrusted dagger from its sheath, the prince saw the eyes of the slave go wide with eagerness. “Is this something you wish to give me more of?”
“Have I ever made ill use of it?”
Kurt let out a sigh and sheathed the knife. “I greatly appreciate how protective you are of me but I didn’t help you kill your former master for any other reason other than to free you from his cruelty.”
“He was going to kill you, your highness.”
“He could have made a go of it but he never would have succeeded. I had managed to survive before you came into my service.”
“Surely you don’t mean that.” Rolling away, Kai curled into a tight ball and began to weep.
“Please my dear one, you’re embarrassing us both. It is true I never needed your services as an assassin but you would not have become my favorite if you were of no use to me.”
Kai slowly looked back at his master. He was not deaf though at times he could be as dumb as a stump. The prince words spoke well of his sense of humor and the true service he values most in his slave. Crawling to the prince’s welcome arms he let his kind master comfort him as only his highness could.
After tenderly soothing away his slave’s fears and doubts the prince watched while his exhausted slave slept. Kurt might be the fairest of all Half Elves in the palace but there was a time when Kai had been fairer still. While everything above his chest was as perfect as it always been, seeing Kai naked as he was now with the rest of his body covered with a bramble of scars Kurt wished he had killed his younger brother instead of letting his fragile slave do so on his own.
It might take him the rest of what was left of his life to achieve but one way or another he would lead the slaves he saw as his true people to freedom.
On hearing the jingling of bells, his highness disentangled himself from his amore and let his servants cover him with three silk robes, one white, the second gold, and an outer one fire red. He then went over to a nearby dais and sat himself on the low back gold throne there to wait for the arrival of his mother.
“Thank you my master,” a woman whispered into his ear.
Turning to face the speaker, he gave the Half Elven slave a gentle smile and whispered; “Ah, Sasha, you’re the one who needs to be thanked. My life had little meaning until you told me about your brother.”
“I and my brother never knew love or happiness until you saved us both my beloved master.”
Kurt let his long slender fingers caress Sasha, dark smooth face, his eyes full of wanting. “I… I wish one day I could free and marry you both.”
“If you are to, I ask you make Kai your Bravado. As for making me your wife, even if you could free us, I will never let such foolish sentimentality get the better of you.”
Kurt pat Kai’s sister’s left cheek with one hand. “I know my dear, I know. The only means any of you can be freed is through an imperial edict which only an Emperor can declare. We both know that I will never sit on the Gregorian Throne so such talk is no more a sharing of dreams I’m afraid.”
“You do not know that, my son.” Standing at the arched doorway that led into the prince’s harem was Nova, his father’s first wife, mother of countless daughters but only one son. Like her voice her body commanded respect, if not worship. Towering almost seven feet in height, she was by far taller than her son as well as her husband. She was in fact the tallest woman in the palace, if not all of Mir.
The Empress’s flame red hair was pulled back into a thick braid that ran down from the back of her head down to her knees, the rest of its length held by the eight blind handmaidens she was never seen without.
Though he was third in line to the throne and outranked his mother he reflexively fell down to his knees and bowed to her. “I thank you for blessing my home with your presence, Empress.”
“Oh Kurt, will you ever have the courage to call me mother? Maybe with you sit on the hard golden throne of Saint Gregory it will stiffen your back so that you will no longer humiliate yourself in front of me. Now rise and kiss my hand.”
Crawling on his knees just as Kai had done, Kurt made his way to his mother’s side and kissed the offered hand.
“How pathetic…” Grabbing her son by the throat Nova jerked him onto his feet, her golden eyes blazing like a pair of mixture sun. “When will you learn, boy. If you continue behaving like a fawning sycophant I might as well make you wear a slave and drag you around with a chain to the throne. You are my son, not that fool of an Emperor.” Letting go, the Empress pulled her right sleeve and showed Kurt the crimson glowing in her veins. “It is the fire of my blood that flows in you.”
When he was a mere child he would flee his mother’s fiery temper and hide under his bed, hoping she would not come after him. He would still be hiding if he had not grown too tall to be able to hide effectively. It was taking every ounce of will he had not to burst into tears.
“Better, but not by much. To think I have spent the last fifty years trying to get you ready for the next War of Succession. It must be my fault for having babying you when you were a child.”
“Baby me?” Kurt didn’t know when there was ever a time when his mother had babied him. She could only be talking about the short three months after he was born before she handed him over to the palace’s eunuchs. That had to be it. “What would you have me do mother, have Kai murder my brothers till only I remain?”
“He would eagerly do so if I were to ask him to. He has proven his usefulness countless times already. But no my son, you’re so soft hearted you wouldn’t let him do that if only to save your life.”
“You’re right mother, I wouldn’t, so don’t even try it.”
“What’s this I'm hearing? You dare trying to defy me… Maybe I should command him to kill all your enemies including his majesty, though there is nothing majestic about him. Kai!”
All too quickly Kurt most favored slave was at his side, all the eagerness he had shown in their lovemaking stronger than ever. “What is it you command, my mistress?”
The anger in her son’s eyes seemed to satisfy her. With a flip of her wrist she dismissed Kai and the other slave. When only they and her handmaidens remained she sat herself down on the dais while her servants formed a perfect octagon around her son. “Do you know why all my handmaidens happen to be blind?”
“Because the brilliant beauty of your wrath has stolen their sight?” Is what Kurt wanted to say bitterly but instead he gave her what he guess was the proper answer. “So they may see down the paths our future will take us.”
“Very good my son, very, very good. You are exactly right. I do keep them constantly around me so I can make use of their inner sight. They were not easy to come by my dear boy. As you well know, the Mistress of Seers does not look kindly on those who steal her servants from her and I can’t tell you how hard it was to deal with their formable protectors. Still everyone has their price including those who are believed to be incorruptible. I am glad you know who they are and the powers they possess. It is going to make things much easier for us both if I don’t have to hold your hand while they give you a foretelling.
“A foretelling, mother? If the Church was to find out…””
“They will do nothing… not one damn thing other than aid you if what I believe about you is true. With your thrice damned father now so very ill there is very little time left before civil war breaks out. The Emperor should have come to terms with his approaching death but the fool thinks he will rule forever according to what the Mistress of Seers has told him, so he claims. He is convinced that he is no other than Saint Gregory reborn.
Kurt knew his father was mad and not just because he was planning to declare himself the god of all mankind. Two years ago he commissioned Central Command to draw up plans to prepare for a surprise invasion of the three remaining members of the Old Kingdoms’ Alliance. It did not matter that Saint Gregory himself had signed the treaty which was to forever divide the continent of Northern Mir between the eastern nations of the Huma and the western kingdoms of Greater Elfdom. After a thousand years the Gregorian Empire had absorbed every bit of the lands that had been reserved for their people leaving only the Half Elven Old Kingdoms not under their sway. Emperor Claude wanted to an end to their status as independent nations, as foretold in the recorded prophesies of the events that would preside the return of Saint Gregory and the cataclysmic period of wars between the gods known as the Reckoning.
It was the conflicting interpretation of those prophesies that was responsible for most of the conflicts that had occurred between the Empire and the Old Kingdom. Out of the countless ways the foretelling could be read. The two main collections of the Reckoning Prophecies were those written by the blind Seers of Suronia while the other was said to have been produced by the otherwise unknown Elven Oracles.
In the Suronian version, Saint Gregory was to return so he may lead mankind in a war of conquest that would only end when all Lands of Mir were united under his rule. It was foretold by the Elven Oracles that Saint Gregory would indeed return but so would the other lost gods who disappeared along with Saint Gregory before and during the Cataclysm. In both writings the foretold wars would cost countless lives and destroy much of the world. It was to bring about the end of the world and at its end the beginning of a new one. Whether under the rule of the dark gods or those of light, could not be foretold.
Kurt knew this and much more besides. He did not know if the prophesies were true or a bunch of bullocks While his father was preparing for the day when he would announce his godhood to the rest of the world; his mother was secretly manipulating events so her son would one day take the throne.
As the eight Suronian Seers moved from point to point in the octagon that had formed around the prince Kurt felt increasingly lightheaded. As his eyes closed, darkness consumed his mind and thoughts.
Chapter7: Visions of Speculative Desires
Kurt did not know how long he remained in the void but eventually blurred shadowy imagines came into focus.
He was, well, he had no idea where he was. All around him there was not a speck of color. The land was gray, the sky gray, and the sun was a brilliant white. He began to walk around, if that’s what he was doing. It was more like floating in the wind much like a balloon, than the independent movement of his feet. Other than what he saw with his eyes, he felt, heard, and smelled nothing.
He was standing in the middle of a field of wheat, he guessed. As it was as gray as everything else around him, he had no idea what time of the year it was. Then, by the time he was completely bored, thick glittering white smoke jetted out less than a yard from him, taking on the form a towering figure decked out in silver plate mail. While the knight, if knight he was, had hair as white as snow and gray eyes, his skin was richly tanned, the first bit of color Kurt had seen.
Kurt opened his mouth to address the warrior but the words would not come out. He tried to get the man’s attention, waving his arms about but to no effect. He was a ghost, or least he seemed to be. For while he could neither speak nor touch the man, her could hear the knight.
“You think you can beat me with such a puny sword, you rascal? You better be quick or end up impaled?”
“What rascal? Who is he attacking? Damn it. Why do I end up dealing with all the crazies?” Kurt thought boredom was the bane of his curious mind, but this was far worse. When bored it was a struggle for him to take interest in anything. In this case, however, his mind was overflowing with questions but had no means of having anyone answer them.
This was so much like his mother… constantly giving him orders without explaining the reason behind her demands. She might promise to give him the crowns of the five nations of Northern Mir but Kurt was certain that she would be the true power from behind the throne.
Looking back towards the knight, the prince saw him looking southward. “Why, mother, do you have me stuck with this madman? Before he could think of anything else, he started choking, the warriors gloved fist wrapped around his throat.
“He will never be your, you pathetic cretin. NEVER!”
“How can this be?” Kurt screamed in his mind. A moment before he thought he was nothing but an invulnerable spirit, only able to witness with his eyes and nothing more.
The knight pulled the prince down until they were even. Much like his mother’s the man’s eyes were ablaze, not golden but blinding white. “I will kill you before I let you touch him.”
As if from the blazing sun itself Empress Nova’s voice boomed down from the sky. “Never? You know better than make such an oath. Now unhand my son or mark my words, when the pair of you finally met, he will show know less pity than you can hope to get from me.””
The Knight flung the prince away from him as he shouted; “Novalla, is that you?” So you gave birth to this upstart whelp. I should thank you for telling me, but given what I will do to you both, you and your son will greatly regret interfering in my affairs.”
“Do you think your claim to such a treasure is any greater than that of my son’s? You’ve read the one and true book of the Elven Codex. Is it not written in the sacred blood of the Valla that the gods of the Cataclysm will return when the Land gives birth to its child?”
That has yet to come to be, your majesty. Until then I suggest you keep your pig nose out of it… unless you want me to cut it off for you.”
“How dare you? I should…” Nova’s voice cracked like lighting with indignation but as with thunder, her voice quickly faded away.
By the time Kurt’s ears recovered the only thing he could hear was the knight chuckling softly to himself. “Ah your majesty… you might have dared to give birth to this pathetic brat, but as you pointed out yourself, you’ve read from the true book just as I have. So go ahead Novalla, strike me down? What… has the Queen of the Sun Elves blood gone cold? You know as well as I do Nova, I and your son are named in the prophesies. I do not remember your name being mentioned, though. Do you think that the Oracles accidently forgot? Maybe you should go remind them.”
“Damn you Drago Alora. We should have exterminated your kind when they still had the chance.”
“Mayhaps Novalla, mayhap. For you, that’s probably all too true. Then again, you have known that since the beginning, not that the decision was yours to make.”
“You dare too much Drago!” The sun exploded into a ball of fire, threatening to scorch all the lands beneath it. Like a firecracker the flaring of the sun vanished, Nova’s unearthly presence gone as well.
“What did you do to her?” Flabbergasted Kurt could not close his jaw.
The knight looked at the price and snorted with a huff. “She dared too much. After so many years she should know better. Her temper is… well, as fiery as her flame red hair. For your sake and that of the Land, you better gain more control over your emotions than your mother has ever possessed.
“With her as my mother, how can I not?” Kurt knew he shouldn’t poke fun at the Empress but he wasn’t one to miss the opportunity to.
The baron huffed again, this time with a smirk, one that swiftly went sour, “Mayhaps, young tadpole, mayhaps. You better pray to your god that we never cross paths again. Now get-you-gone, back to your gilded cage.”
Kurt wanted to protest but before he could everything around him blurred.
When thing became focused again he was standing in the yard of a farmhouse.
“I am getting very tired of this mother,” he shouted but as it had been in the fields no words came out. “Damn it… as soon as I escape this nightmare someone is going to regret toying with me.
Just like before, the prince floating about, unable to control his direction. This time the unfelt wind pushed him toward a nearby barn.
It was quite a large barn, at least compared to the one he had seen in a few of the painting within the palace’s art collection. Though grand in size, the faded red and graying white paint along with the large stains of rust on the barn doors bespoke of its poverty. “How ugly. This place must have been abandoned for years,” Kurt conjectured.
The prince guessed wrong, proven when once he was past the barn doors. In one of the stalls he saw the most decrepit mare he ever laid eyes on. Compared to what was going on further within the barn, the horse did not occupy his mind for long. There, bent over a stack of baled hay was a very cute sort of man getting pounded by a quite handsome man from behind.
With his manhood stirring and his mouth dripping wet, his present insubstantial state was the worst kind of torture. “Hurry up and give me my body, your Lordship,” he prayed to Saint Gregory. It was a foolish prayer to make and when he would get a chance to think on it he will certainly berate himself for it. So long as Fr. Francis, his chaplain, did not learn of his sacrilege, he was sure the god of all mankind would one day forgive this transgress. He thought Saint Gregory would at first...
When he decided his debased prayers would not answered, his despair increased sevenfold when he discovered he could not relieve the sexual urges building within him. For, when he looked down where the rest of his body should be he saw nothing but the straw covering the floor.
So this was how he was to serve penitence. To be tormented by such a lustful pair with no means to gain any pleasure from it. “Well played your divinity. Well played.” Oh he would get back at the god eventually by circuitous means that would not implement him for the vengeful deed.
Plotting his revenge proved to be a good distraction, almost just as enjoyable as if he had join in the fray. He was busy debating whether to seduce three priests or a gaggle of nuns when again his breath was choked off.
“What is this, a snoop snooping in things that are none of his concern?” The tall dark haired man demanded, shaking the prince by the neck like a ragdoll.
“I… I… I…”
“Don’t I, I , I me fool. The mere sight of you tells me all I need to know. With your gold hair and sun bright eyes you must…” The man stopped suddenly realizing what he saw. The shock was strong enough that he let go, Kurt falling on his ass while his attacker kept gawking at him. “Your ears…” the man whispered, pointing at the prince as if he was the dark god himself.
Kurt thought to himself; “How quaint this handsome fool is. He must never laid eyes on my kind before. Well that neatly narrows down this place. It’s most certainly not within the borders of the Old Kingdoms’ Alliance. Half of those who live there are of Elven blood. That only leaves the Empire, some backwater part of it at least, so insignificant the Church never saw the need to send them a proper priest. Well I better make the most of this.
Seeing he once again had his body back, he stood up, brushing away the straw and dirt from his gold and red robes. He approached the man with smug confidence, believing his attacker would fall on his knees and worship him.
Not surprisingly it didn’t turn out that way. Before Kurt knew it, the man grabbed hold of him and flung him over a shoulder like a duffle bag. “I don’t know where you came from. I don’t care. But if you don’t want to spend the rest of your days in a crow’s nest you better keep your mouth shut.”
“But… “That was all the man let the prince say before slapping him hard on the rear.
“What did I tell you, fool? Say another word and I will turn you in myself.” The man’s voice was spilling over with anger but restrained.
Kurt might enjoy being spanked every now and then. That didn’t make him a fool. Anytime in his past when he would infuriate others they would shout a lungful at him. The man carrying him off was not shouting. Oh he was certainly seething. Kurt could feel the tension from the tightness of the shoulder he was hung over. It took quite a bit of contemplation for the prince to realize he was indeed in a lot of danger, his body becoming as stiff as a board.
Taken out from the rear side of the barn, Kurt didn’t notice the horse until the stranger laid him across its saddle.
With a grunt, the prince’s kidnapper lifted himself up on the horse. “I hope you know how to ride a horse.”
Clumsily Kurt attempted to sit properly in the saddle. Several times he almost fell and would have if not for the stranger’s quick reflexes.
“I guess not. By the look of your spangles you’re probably used to be carried around in palanquin carried by ten servants… You are one of those snooty brats from Elvendar?”
“Can, can I answer that?” Kurt asked meekly. He did not know if he should answer the stranger’s question truthfully. Among the pure born freemen of the Empire there was little love between them and the rulers of Elvendar.
The man’s shoulders slumped. Shaking his head with a pair of fingers massaging the bridge of his nose he called on the Lady that he not harm his petulant passenger. “Yes you may speak your highness.”
“Highness!” Kurt did not know how the man could have known. Maybe he didn’t. It was not if there was no sarcasm on the rider’s voice. “You’re joking right? I’m no more a prince than you are.”
“Now I’m surprised. To hear one of your blood claim to be as low born as I is quite remarkable. You don’t know who I am, do you?”
“I really don’t…”
“Then let me educate you. I am Roberto Simms, son of Angelia, son of Julio, son of slaves. And you?”
“I am Kurt. My mother is also a slave and my father our master.”
“I’m, I’m sorry. I never thought… well I did but I did not know those crooked Gregorian fiends would dress one of their slaves in such finery. I should have. Damn it, I should have. I beg for your pardon Kurt. There is someone very dear to me. He is one who is the lowliest of all slaves. I suspect you are walking a path.”
“No, probably not. If he is the lowest of the low then my life as a prized pet wouldn’t compared. Is he also of Elven blood?”
“He is and for those who dare admit it, he is our valley’s greater jewel.”
While it miffed the prince that this man, Roberto saw a mere slave outshining his princely glory. But shared sorrows often make good bedmates. “Where am I exactly?”
“Do you not know? I might want to tell you but I can’t. If you are from the Imperium, then your people or those thrice damned Suronians come here and destroy all we have built over the last twenty five years.”
Kurt couldn’t argue against Roberto’s logic. Since the Suronia did not hesitate raiding the border regions of the Half Elven nations of Arkland and Elvendar, they would find this valley an easy plum to pick, if just for the sake of getting their hands on one lone half elf. “I understand. I understand all too well.”
“I knew you would, you being what you are.” For a while they rode in silence across the valley’s fertile fields.
Whenever Roberto caught sight of anyone who would come close ahead of the rout he was taking, he spurred his horse away until they were out of sight. All the evasive galloping was making Kurt increasingly nervous and sick.
So tell me Kurt Half Elven, were you born a freeman or in slavery.”
“I have to say a slave.” It rankled the proud prince to debase himself before the commoner, but it was not a lie. He was a slave, though well pampered one.
“I’m sorry. Give how tightly you’re arms are wrapped around me I already knew that was the case but still I had to ask.”
Chastised, the prince tried to relax the arms he had wrapped around the man but each time he managed to; that damn pure blood would spur the horse into a gallop. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”
“Oh Kurt, what can I say other than I’ve read too many penny romances in my days. I must say it is good to know that not all your kind is as hardheaded and stubborn as Vorin.”
“Is that the name of your beloved?” It had to be. Who other than rider’s lover could cause the man’s body to harden?
Roberto laughed. Though he loved the half elf with all his heart, Vorin would never be his, not completely anyway. The half elf would never be fully anyone he believed. Regardless of how timid he acting among others, Vorin had a sharp tongue that he did not hesitate to use among those few he trusted. That was another reason why he had nothing but respect for Vorin.
“Do you think you can introduce me to him?”
“He is not one you seek out to introduce new people to. When he comes he comes… and when he goes he goes when he wants to. It does no good bothering Vorin by seeking him out.
“You can say he is a fickle to deal with most times. Of course if he was my slave instead of that old hag’s he would have learned proper manners by now.”
“By beating him?”
“Outer Planes, no! I would shower him with so much love and tender attention that that frozen heart of his would have to melt eventually. To be honest I guess it already has. While he those not visit often in some way I know he better than most.”
Kurt let out a snort. He noticed how smug Roberto sounded with that last sentence. He easily guessed in what ways the man knew Vorin better than most and told Roberto so. He was right.
Roberto explained, that while there were many in the valley who secretly desired the half elf for themselves he was the only one Vorin had allowed to bed him. His words made Kurt wonder how Roberto managed to seduce the stubborn half elf. As it turned out Roberto had been the one who was seduced, not Vorin. Though he had longed for the slave since the day of his surprising arrival he, like everyone else, had been too afraid what others might think if he was caught in Vorin’s company.
It was ten years, another lifetime ago, that Vorin sought him out. During the frozen dark months of that winter the half elf had appeared at his door, begrudgingly seeking shelter, food and a warm fire which Roberto had been all too eager to provide.
Roberto stopped that tale and began to speak of when he was completely on his own. It was the spring of that year, on the first day of the Thaw Festival. While most were celebrating having survived another winter and busy planting the first of next year’s crops, Roberto’s family were despairing the loss of every head of sheep, goat, cattle that had died a fortnight ago.
No one knew how the herds died, not even Old Cess. Yes, the sudden privation of the Simms family was tragic but it was not like they didn’t have it coming. How dare they stick their nose up at the other land owning freemen just because they refused to use slave labor? What the ranchers took pride in all others saw stupidity. After all, if they had employed slave labor instead of paying freemen exorbitant wages they would have had enough coin to buy their way out of trouble. Instead however the family was ruined, husband and wife now wear the iron collars worn by the Tallyman’s slaves.
Roberto was spared enslavement however. Though he had been the one Victor van Doren wanted more than his parents, his father and mother were unwilling to sacrifice their son’s future just to extend their own
“You must want revenge I gather…” Kurt whispered after a long uncomfortable silence.
“I already have taken most of my revenge. Like my father I have refused to pay the Tallyman a single coin for his slaves. I am a freeman and I will only have the same working my lands. Doing so has made me many enemies but none dare put me in chains as they didn’t the rest of my family.
“That is why Vorin came to me that winter. He and no other as ever shared my suffering with the same silence. I love him dearly and would give him everything I own if he were to ask. Regardless he will never be mine and the time has come that I must take a wife if my family name is to survive.
“If only the Elves never went into exile. I do not doubt if they still walked among us things would be much simpler than they have proven to be.
Kurt didn’t know how to respond. Could he tell Roberto the power he sensed from the rancher? Would it change anything for the better? No, if his people saw those with magic as a plague upon the land then it was best for him to keep silent. After all hadn’t this Vorin fellow decided to do the same? “You might pity me as a slave but your life makes mine feel as gentle as a sprinkle.”
“I already knew that, prince of slaves. With just the coin I could gain selling the silks and jewelry you are wearing I could double the size of my herds. If I were to sell you off…”
“You wouldn’t dare!”
“I don’t… though it would be interesting to see how Vorin would act if he were to see you.”
“Why do you think I’ll make him jealous?”
“Less than he will see me as a fool. He is not the jealous type. He knows I’m not looking forward for this year’s Choosing but keeps encouraging me nonetheless. It is another reason why he has become so dear to me. In some part he loves me, why else has he risked comforting me in his arms for so many years asking nothing more than that I shelter him each winter.
Again Kurt could feel the man’s body hardening. To think this broad shouldered rancher desired to be comforted more than offering it. The Roberto’s tender heart was not what he had imagined it to be with what he had witnessed in that decrepit barn. “Uhm, Roberto, I hope you’re not always like this.”
“You mean a sappy young fool. Most times I’m not. But when I’m with Vorin it is all I can do not to burst into tears.”
“As long as you know that I expect a good buggering from you when we reach your ranch.”
“Ah that. I take it you want it just as rough as I gave it to Nathaniel?”
Roberto let out a guffaw. “You are exactly how a proper half elf should act. A pretty lustful lad waiting for one of pure blood to claim and ravage him.”
“That’s not entirely true. Pretty...yes. Lustful, what half elf isn’t? As for being a mere lad you are completely wrong. This year’s Summer Solstice was my 127th.
“You can’t be over a hundred years older than me!”
“But I am. You can’t make me believe you didn’t know that we half elves live much longer lives than you mere pure bloods. My father will have sat... lived for 550 years come this winter, which makes him very old indeed, even by Elven standards.” Kurt had almost said throne but caught himself before his tongue hit the roof of his mouth.
“You’re kind never cease to amaze me. It gets me thinking though. If you over 127 years old then how old can Vorin be? He was not born here and has looked exactly the same from the day I first laid eyes on him.”
“I might be able to tell you if you happen to introduce me to him.”
No, no, no. I’ve already told you I won’t be doing that as well as why. Vorin does not like surprises. You suddenly showing up in Nathaniel’s barn certainly fall into the realm of the unexpected. All the more reason I must keep you hidden for now.”
“For how long may I asked.”
“No longer than First Snow. You won’t see anyone out and about after that.”
“Must get awfully cold around here each winter, doesn’t it?”
“No colder than anywhere else in Mir.”
Stupid, stupid, stupid, Kurt thought to himself. If he only he had not asked so smugly he might have learned where the hell he was. Roberto would be on his guard so he does not make another slip of the tongue.
Still the rancher’s admission did narrow the valley’s location down. He was somewhere in the northern reaches of Mir which left only two possible places, the Northern Wastes that were ruled by the last few remaining giants or, quite improbably somewhere in the northern reaches of the forbidden lands, he dare not name.
This had to be somewhere in the Northern Wastes, in the southern part given the rich soil and temperate climate for what son or daughter of man would be brave enough to live in the other possible land.
For the rest of the ride neither spoke until they reached the large wooden gate that stood guard over the entrance to Roberto’s homestead.
“Don’t worry about my people, Kurt they are more loyal to me than to their families.”
Kurt had wondered about that but as the gates opened none of the guards commented to their employer about his stranger passenger. They did however shut and bar the gates once they were within the walls of the stockade that surrounded Roberto’s expansive holdings.
“Quite a spread don’t you think?” Roberto said proudly.
Kurt said yes and nodded. He didn’t have the heart to tell his new companion that the grounds of his palatial prison were far larger.
Riding from the gate to the main house took up what few hours of sunlight were left. When they reached Roberto’s home Kurt was taken aback. When the rancher referred to is as the main house, the prince had pictured some sort of log cabin not a three story plantation mansion. That is was smaller than one of the guest houses meant for a low ranking Imperial official back in Sacrium it was impressive enough that Kurt was beginning to see Roberto in a different light, as well as his dear mysterious Vorin.
“There’s nothing like coming back to home sweet home. Don’t you think? No of course not. Your home is a prison you have just escape while I have always been able to come and go as I wish. Anyway, come on in. By now Mayes has dinner ready and knowing her she’s cooked more than enough for a small army let alone the two of us.”
Kurt did his best to unsaddle himself but just as he needed help getting on in the first place he had to endure the humiliation of having several of Roberto’s hands watch the rancher pick him up and putting him down like a child.
Roberto must have noticed the peeved look on his guest’s face for next he lifted himself on his toes and kissed the half elf gently on the chin. “There,” he whispered; “Now you won’t have any trough from my men other than their boorish attempts to seduce you.
“I don’t mind a little flirting. I’ll even offer them a few pointers. You never know when you might need a clever line to get yourself out of trouble… or into someone’s bed.
“You are a hopeless lout, aren’t you?”
“Why other use does the Empire have for my kind.”
“I can think of several but I am sure they are no different than that of your owners.”
“Anything would be better than being treated like breeding stock.”
“Doesn’t that depend on who’s breeding you?”
“Oh dear…” Much to Kurt’s embarrassment his cheeks were burning red. How can this country yokel be getting the better of me. What have I become…a sweet virginal youth meeting his first flirt. Aren’t I am the Sun Prince or not. I will just have to try that much harder when things moved to the bedroom.
This ends Part II of The Sons of Mir, the first book in a multi-part series.
The Mir series began as a self made up world first intended for an RPG campaign that never really got off the ground. From those early stages a world with its own history, mythology, and cultures was created the details of which are now being used in the writing of this series that is so far over 900 pages and 300,00 words in length.
The plan so far is this... there will be around six 'books' ion the series with 32-42 chapters each. The first three 'books' have already having been written and only need to undergo a few more rounds of revisions and editing before they can be posted in groups of four chapters on Nifty while individual chapters are to be posted on the yahoo group site where twenty chapters are now up and running.
The first three books are tentatively titled:
“Sons of Mir” (complete)
“Warriors of Mir”(in final revision)
“Princes of Mir” (in second round revision)
The next three are under the working titles of:
Generals of Mir (rough draft)
Kings of Mir (outline)
Gods of Mir (in planning stage)
As for the time-line I will be working with on Nifty I will try to post 1-2 parts a week which means that from start to finish it will take 5-10 weeks for each book to be posted or a total of 30-60 weeks for the entire series... a long time to wait for an entire series to be posted I know but I hope that in the end it will prove to be worth the effort. So enjoy and take care.
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Advanced chapters and other tales can be found on the yahoo group at: