“I now pronounce you the king of Aelbourne.” my face couldn’t have been more tugged even if I tried, as Ivor placed the crown on my head. And then I looked down to see my two sets of parents. Melina Yale, Herof Yale, Jude Fougeres, and James Fougeres. And along them stood proud Zeq with his battle scars and Nibbles his shoulder his tail ablaze. and I know it might sound weird but suddenly I was loved not only by my two sets of parents but even by the whole of Voulderan and the very new and unfamiliar place of Aelbourne.
But the happiness did not end there and Ivor now spoke again, hushing the blowing trumpets and loud chattering of the citizens of both Aelbourne and Voulderon. “And now I pronounce to you the Queen of Voulderon, Xaya Yale” and then I turned to see my sister sitting right next to me on a throne just like mine and Ivor now placed the crown on her thus prompting the trumpets and cheers to resume.
How this may have happened you may ask, and here is what happened right after I won the battle.
Lying there in Aelbourne I thought sooner or later I was going to be either sent back to Voulderan or punished, even though I had the protection of my biological parents.
And so as soon as I had finished my embrace with my parents I was taken away by the guards to the viewing deck where Eferen Zucini, the leader of Aelbourne sat in disbelief.
It was only here that the scroll saved my life. Not the presentation of the scroll as proof that I had beaten the game, but the contents within it.
The leader was amazed by the details the Scroll held and he knew he had to believe it for it was his father who had written it. King Nefatrus’s wife had died at a very young age after having a child, that was Eferen, and Nefatrus spent the rest of his days trying to pursue some other lady to be his wife, but was not drawn to any other woman, other than the Queen, Niyabra.
So anyway, after reading this message, his attention was drawn towards me, and I had a lot of explaining to do. But since I did not know how I ended up with my parents who had raised me, Jude, James along with little Ava were brought in for questioning.
They appeared but agreed to speak in detail only if Herof and Melina were allowed to be with them, help them with the narration of my story, something Melina had under wraps all these years.
So an immediate escort was sent to get my parents and this was this first since the Schism that anyone had ever tried to cross the river Imbical for the purpose of peace or so I thought.
Since the river was so dangerous, the escorts had to go through the battlefield of the arena, to the other side where, as mentioned before my parents waited, looking into the burning mess, searching for me.
During that time, I had to wait for my parents to arrive, Eferen gave me a new pair of clothes, that I presumed his guards had got from the local store, because of its distinctive smell, and he also allowed me to clean up at a nearby sink and one of his doctors cleaned my wound and sucked the poison in my blood using some weird-looking device, which after it was done, I felt relaxed but also tired.
Around half an hour later, after the fire had been doused and the remains of my brother, Rolland removed, my parents arrived with two of the ‘special army’ guards from Voulderan as protection if at all anything went south.
And as soon as Melina Yale saw me she rushed and hugged me, not even bothering that the leader and his guards were just a few feet from him.
It was so much like Jude’s hug earlier but Melina really did not seem to let go.
“Aiden…” she said still embracing me and then realizing the citizens of Aelbourne wouldn’t understand Gorse she spoke in Antrera. “Aiden..I cannot…forgive myself..” and then she in an instant started to cry, letting go of me to put her hands into her arms, so as to cover herself in front of me. My heart instantly broke and Jude and Herof instantly rushed to her side to confront her.
“Mom….I understand” I was sad but honestly I did not know what she regretted. Melina seemed to think my thoughts. “No, you do not….you do not…putting that sleeping pill into that cup of Eyeden juice…I could not bear upon that thought, but…but it had to be done….that had to be the most, horrible thing a mother has done to her child.” and with that, the tears only became worse.
I was in for a shock. At first I thought why she had jumped to such a specific episode right after meeting from the Zelia, but as she went on confusion set in.
“Was that why I passed out in Muite’s fight?” I asked and there was no anger in my voice, as I knew I couldn’t be in front of my wailing mother, with both of my fathers and Jude around her trying to subdue her.
She nodded as she wept and suddenly I felt bad for her, thinking about what she had just been through.
Seeing no end to my mother’s tears Eferen spoke and only after he finished did I notice I had completely lost track of time and that my eyes became droopy.
“Okay, it’s the middle of the night, nothing good ever happens, this late at night…so we must resume this tomorrow. Herof and Melina can stay here for the night along with the guard, the other I shall send with a personal note to the leader of Voulderan stating that his citizens are safe and will not be harmed.”
So the arranged was executed and that night I stayed and slept in one of Eferen’s rooms in his modest palace, with my parents still not comfortable of what was happening right now. But the tiredness overcame me and just like the night before, I was out, right after I hit the soft bed.
I awoke late in the afternoon and so did my parents and then upon orders of Eferen’s guard waiting outside our room, we got ready for a proper meeting with the leader.
We were ushered into a private room and there already waiting were my biological parents sitting in plush chairs.
My other parents too took a seat and so did I and then came the tale of my early life that had been kept a secret for so long.
Jude spoke first, “Aiden…first off you must know me and Melina are very close, and this all happened when our husbands worked together at the same job before the Schism happened, it was there that they met and even though one knew Gorse and the other Antrera, that did not stop their friendship and soon we were joined in. We were so close in fact that even traveling far from our house here to Melina’s house there, was no reason not to visit.” She now seemed to pause thinking I might have not understood the reference, because I did not know the world before the Schism or even during the Schism.
“Our friendship was such that the first few people who got see my baby, you Aiden, was them. Of course, you were only a few days old, but thinking it would be a fun surprise to visit Herof and Melina seemed like nothing but normal back then. But that visit seemed to be the turning point of both our lives.”
Melina now gestured her to stop and spoke.
“I would like to continue from here” she said and upon receiving permission she spoke. “There you were sleeping peacefully in the cradle of our old house, unaware of nothing but your baby dreams, and there we were too speaking and laughing with your biological parents, us too unaware of something happening right outside us. It was the start of the Schism, Aiden, and we had been unprepared for this sudden event. All of a sudden there was banging on the door and, it was violently swung open to reveal the guards of Aelbourne. They had come to send the citizens of Aelbourne back, because of the rising tensions.
The guards said there was no time, and that attacks just started, and just as your mother tried to grab you our house caught on fire. Someone had thrown something that was on fire and our previous house which was made of dry hay and mud instantly went up in flames.
Your mom and dad were escorted off by the guards who paid no heed to your mother’s cries, fearing that even wasting a second could get them killed and so we were left with you and we had to hide you so that the violent protesters wouldn’t kill you.”
“And just before I left I pleaded with Jude and James to save you, to raise you as their own and….I don’t think you remember I told you that I always loved you and you would always have a place in my heart.”
Suddenly everything fit into place and then suddenly I felt the urgent need to hug my mother, both of them.
First of course my biological mother and after a fierce hug it was my other mother’s turn. This was when Herof spoke. “But it doesn’t end there Aiden” and my mother translated the sentences so that everyone could understand.
“We had hid you well and for long…very long, we had hoped this would be only a small dispute, but it turned out to be something that tore our villages apart, and along with this the river Imbical was growing powerful every day and very few people could cross it and it almost seemed like the Gods above were creating a physical boundary between us two giving us no way to deliver you to your parents without getting harmed or killed. Fortunately or not the river grew stronger every day and then one day it was so strong and conscious that it actually rose and swatted planes from the skies in a bid to curb the settlements from invading each another.
Although for some reason it did not swat the birds that tried to cross the river and so friends across the settlements like us and Jude and James started communicating using these birds by tying pieces of parchment to the leg of such birds and making them cross the river. And although it had some success most of the birds since they were not trained before to deliver messages flew away and never made it to their destination. One such bird that did reach your parents had the inscription of the so-called ‘prayer’, you say every night and this was what your parents Jude and James had written so that you wouldn’t forget the names of your original family. It also contained the gem from your mother, Jude, who told to keep it close as she knew the powers it held.
Anyways, with this new boundary formed the attacks stopped almost immediately and the invaders in each of the settlements were killed or scared off in fear that they would secretly try to murder the King or Queen in their respective settlements. I know it was harsh but that’s what the army commanders in charge ordered their soldiers to do.
Ivor was at the time the commander in charge of Voulderan and since the Queen was gravely ill unable to move a finger or utter a word, took it upon himself to save the village.
At this time I and your mother were in such a desperate situation as to what to do with you as we knew sooner or later you were going to be found. We couldn’t just send you off on a Xion’s back into our western villages in the hope that they would save you. And so me and your mother both decided to meet the Queen herself, for guidance. We knew she couldn’t help but it was our only way of saving you and to be really honestly our only shot at saving before Ivor’s men came knocking at our door for inspection.
We covered you in a blanket and somehow, through begging and deceiving made it to the Queen’s chambers, where she lay on the bed almost lifeless with her right-hand man, Ivor right beside her, watching keenly for any sign the Queen gave to him.
Like I said before the Queen was in a very dire state and although it was rumored that she could hear everything that was said to her, her illness prevented her from doing anything…I mean anything.
And so we desperately spoke of our situation in front of the Queen as Ivor watched in horror at the sight of an Aelbournite being brought right into her chambers as he drew out his sword to kill you right then and there, but then the Queen’s finger moved.
Yes! She was totally paralyzed and had never before shown any movement during the illness that struck her, but now by some miracle she had moved a finger, her index finger to be precise, and with it, she gestured the symbol ‘No’ in Gorse and that was the end of her.”
“She had used the last reserve of her energy to save you Aiden,” continued Meliana “and that said that she knew something we did not, And since she was the Queen and Ivor a loyal subject of hers, he knew even when she was dead her order was still an order.
And so protected by the Queen, Ivor had no choice but to prevent his own army from killing you, but the many people who were still enraged by the fact that an Aelbournite was living in their village peacefully, demanded justice.
Since the Queen had no obvious successors Ivor took upon the throne himself and seeing the hate he was getting because of his contradictory orders sentenced Herof to serve twelve years in jail for his act of keeping the Aelbournite in the village. This seemed to go quite well for many of our villagers, and since you were protected from the Queen herself from death by any Voulderan, you couldn’t be harmed and so instead, and quite naturally, the name-calling happened.”
At this point I really wanted to ask the meaning of the word voule, but seeing that I was in front of the leader himself, not to mention my two pairs of parents, I thought there was a better time to ask that question.
Herof continued. “Aiden there is another thing that we hid from both you and Xaya and that was, Ivor had actually treated me with respect and dignity, the cell I had in the prison was actually different from the others. There was a secret compartment built right into the floor, built by none other than Ivor’s men, and it is very spacious, and having more amenities than any other of the prisoners, and I must say I kind of enjoyed my stay there, but of course being close to your mother, Xaya and you was something that never left my mind. I wanted to show you and Xaya the secret room every time you visited, but I had to keep my promise with Ivor. Speaking of which he visited me ever so often, to see how I was doing.”
Now so many things fell into place, why the curtain was always drawn in my father’s cell and even that annoying, stupid habit of Freag blowing that damn whistle. It might have been a sign to my father to come up from his underground cellar to come up because we were visiting him.
But this all left me with one burning question and I spoke it. “But why did you hide this all from me? What purpose did it serve? Of course, I would have been devastated that I was separated, but about the other things?” I was not angry at this point even though I felt a slither of flame down my throat.
“That’s because you were not of age.” said a very familiar voice. Everyone in the room turned around and I got the shock of my life. It was Ivor himself as usual accompanied by the two guards.
He now took one step into the room and I was taken so aback by his presence that I did not know my immediate feelings. On one side, he had instructed his men to murder so many innocent Aelbournites who were trapped in Voulderan because of the electrifying of the river, but on the other according to my father, who had helped him by visiting him frequently and building a cellar for him to live comfortably, I really did not know what to think.
I had always loathed Ivor and even though I really did not know his true identity I still knew he was up to no good, but since now I knew the terrors he had committed I could finally stand up to him asking the questions right to his face.
So my anger seemed superior to all of my other emotions and I stood from my seat and spoke in a hissing voice, ready to pounce at any moment. “How could you kill so many innocent Aelbournites? How can you be proud of that? How can stand before the leader of Aelbourne so proud of your achievements?”
Anger suddenly drained from me, suddenly I became self-aware of the situation, and what I hadn’t realized was that I wasn’t the only person standing in that room. Eferen was standing up too.
Ivor now spoke and he seemed to ignore my comments as he had to address the leader before things got out of hand. “Leader of Aelbourne..” I was suddenly aware that Ivor was speaking Antrera and that would’ve meant he would have actually understood the snarky comments me and my sister made against him every time we crossed his path. “I am so very sorry to enter Aelbourne, so uninvited, and for the first time in so many years, but my guards had told me the matters were at the changing point, and so I wanted to help out.” and Ivor’s voice with that heavy Gorse accent seemed very slick and cunning.
Eferen’s face seemed to emanate anger and he seemed just like me, angry about his innocent citizens killed at the mercy of Ivor. He did not give any response and Ivor seemed to get the message.
“Oh holy leader, I knew I couldn’t avoid it and even though its all in the past, the apology was well on due, and like this little boy speaks of here, I am guilty of ordering my men to kill the innocent Aelbournites, but you knew, how the times were, you too, I have to think must have had…uhm…difficult decisions to make.” and although he seemed legit in his apology, his slick accent made me so want to believe he was planning something up his sleeve.
Eferen seemed to think otherwise, as his face had changed to seemingly guilt and he spoke. “Uhm..” the leader’s face now turned from anger to that of guilt. “I...I had to do the same, and it was unholy, cruel and the most inhumane thing, and it was all due my uncontrollable rage, all because of the murder of my father.”
With this Eferen suddenly shredded into tears, kneeling over, and when his guards approached him, he waved them off as he wiped his tears into his cape.
He spoke now with a weary and weak voice “I knew it was you and I knew it was your men who committed that sin. But as you said it was a long time ago and so I am willing to forgive and forget. After all, Aiden winning that event and getting that scroll has really opened my eyes to what actually happened before the Schism was only but a big misunderstanding between the people of Vouldran and Aelbourne.”
At this point, he presented the scroll to Ivor who had a quick glance of the contents and his eyes widened in amazement.
After reading the contents he looked up, his trembling hands still on the scroll, keeping it opened and for the first time, his voice was not sly as he spoke.
“Uhm…” said Ivor and the leader seemed at a loss of words. “This…this…I beg your mercy…I…I only thought what I did was right…I..I cannot forgive myself…please forgive me..” and for the first time, I saw my leader someone so selfish and full of pride, fall to his knees in an attempt to plead for forgiveness.
Eferon now walked over to him and put a hand on his shoulder. “I have already done that and if your offer is still open to make peace within ourselves and our settlements, I’m still all ears.”
“Yes, my offer was honest, I really think it’s time we mend this misunderstanding, my village is on the brink of destruction and joining a force such as yours is what we need right now. “
Eferon spoke, “And the same is here, we are struggling to grow crops and even with all this development in our village our soil is just not fertile enough to grow crops.” Eferon now turned towards me. Okay this changes things, I think our discussion was over anyways, and all I did was listen, and out of curiosity I must add and now since there are much more important decisions to speak with Ivor, I think I should help him out. We can speak later and Aiden-”
Eferon looked me in the eye. “This was all because of you! I thank you from the bottom of my heart! Finally, because of you our settlements can be united once more.”
“But it was not all me!” and I spoke out right before both the leaders left me. “It was not me. My brother Rolland was the one who distracted that Minokova, and he showed the bravery to take on that beast head-on. He knew he had no chance against such a beast, but he did it all so that I could escape. Otherwise, the event would have ended like every other event. It was teamwork that was the only way we could win the event, and I think the King Nefatrus, your father, knew about this and designed the arena, in that way, But-”
I was now choked up and the thoughts of my one night brother, but I wanted to speak this out and so I turned to all my parents and spoke. “He knew I was his brother the minute we entered the pit. It was because of the gem. We both had one of a kind gems ones that I think they shined when we were close and in the dark. And he knew this and even after this he acted mean against me so that I wouldn’t care about him, he did not want me to know I was his brother, he could not…” I was now full of tears. My mind’s gears were only now turning and finally, I understood the events that happened to me.
Eferon now walked towards me and placed his hand on my shoulder just like he had done with Ivor just a minute ago.
“Yes, of course, Rolland too, both of you really did it, and I had made a mistake sentencing him to the Zelia, if I had known it was brothers who were fighting against each other I would have personally intervened to stop the fight, but as we were doing from so many years, all we sent in a letter was the event or dispute that had happened between the settlements and when to host the Zelia, we really kept conversation to a minimum so as to not start an all-out war, and to show how much Rolland meant to you, and to me as a loyal Aelbournite, we will arrange an exceptional ceremony, is that okay?”
I nodded and now my eyesight full of tears I watched as the two leader exited the room and walked away.
I now turned back and saw Jude, my biological mother too in tears. She now said. “Aiden after the separation from you was the worst thing that happened to me in my life and everyday day in and day out I used to cry thinking you wouldn’t survive the next day and that I might never see you again.” She now broke down fully and this was when James continued.
“That is why we adopted Rolland, his parents had been killed during the Schism and he had no home to go to. So we adopted him and he was only but a couple of years older to you but nonetheless we treated him just like our son, like our lost son you, Aiden.”
Few minutes of counseling later we walked out of the room but there was still one thing that needed explaining.
“And what about that coffin? Do any of you have an idea about that?” I asked, thinking back to the thing that started it all, that heavily melted piece that had started this chain of explosions.
To this James spoke. “For that..” he said as took in a breath and I expected this too to be one long sequence of events, “For that, we need to go back to the previous fight.” he said and just to confirm I asked him. “Muite’s fight?” James nodded. “I think you know what caused it right?” he asked. I confirmed by replying. “I remember him saying that some piece of garbage had landed on his field and destroyed on his crops.”
“Yes.” agreed James and he took another breath of air as he continued. “That piece of garbage, Aiden was actually an attempt to cross the river. It was a test flight.” This sentence really confused me and so I waited for more details. “That flight was an attempt by an older brother and younger sister to launch themselves using a catapult-like system to the other side.
According to what the leader later said, this was a two-man operation as one would be the pilot of this unusual object while the other would be the one to remove the pin and launch the so-called ‘coffin’.
And of course, since that flight was a test flight, thankfully no one was the pilot, as what we heard later on was that the ‘coffin’ had not survived its ordeal to the other side. The river Imbical had destroyed it and even if it would have survived the landing as reported to us, it was a nose dive, which would have instantly killed the pilot.
After this incident, our leader Eferon found out who was responsible for this illegal act of trying to cross the river and caught hold of the sister’s brother and sentenced him to fight in the Zelia.”
Now slowly a name formed in my head and I spoke it out. “Was that Varien Roger?”. James nodded and continued. “Yes that was Varien and he was to fight against Muite. We know the rest of that story right?” there was a brief silence as each one of us re-encountered what happened.
James broke it almost instantly and I was glad he did because bringing back those memories only redirected my brain into thinking of the horrible fight that happened last night.
“Well for you Voulderans since you might not know what happened to Varien after the fight, I will inform it to you now. He too was badly bruised and was actually bedridden due to his injuries, but thankfully he is still alive.
But that’s about it for him, but his sister, oh she really wasn’t done there. Somehow even after her brother almost been killed in the arena, her dreams of crossing the river were not done and I do not know why she did it, with the stakes so high, but I may have a hunch, but let me tell you that a little later.
So coming back the sister, whose name was Alyssa Roger, shortly after Muite's fight started perfecting the design of the ‘coffin’ so that it would soon make its maiden flight and something we did not know back then and what we regret not knowing now, was that our boy, Rolland was friends with her and was helping her build this thing.
And like I had told earlier the launching of this coffin was a two-man operation and a few days later Rolland was the one who pulled the pin out and launched the coffin miles up in the air from the catapult. Alyssa and Rolland’s plan had worked and now Alyssa was miles high of the river and I do not know the details but something tells me she succeeded in her mission, and as to how you got into this mix of things, I do not know but just like that out of the blue both of my sons were now facing each other in an arena, trying to kill each other.” his voice now cracked and there was a shed of a tear but he remained strong.
Something else was going on in my mind now and then with a jolt, I realized that the person inside the coffin was, in fact, alive, and probably very badly hurt due to the very hard landing and due to the wrath of the river Imbicial.
And to think she was now in the hands of Ivor. But thinking about Ivor only brought mixed feelings and I did not know what to think of him right now.
But it all turned out fine, as years later I finally married the girl, Alyssa Roger, who risked her life to cross the river and unite our kingdoms.
Oh and the meaning of that word voule? Ahh, I don't care about it as no one uses it against me anymore.
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