Prologue: The Last Emperor
This is Book 2. Reading Book 1 may not be necessary, but it is recommended as an introduction to the characters and the world. But this is a new storyli involving old characters. Visit my profile for the first installment, if you're enjoying this one!
The young emperor stood on his palace balcony, overlooking the ruins of his once glorious realm. All around him was a great ring of what his people had always considered to be impassable mountains, open to the valley only from the north, which itself was cut off from attack by a massive wall. But who would have thought the Mountain Tribe knew ways around these mountains? Who could’ve predicted the Ontoni turning on him and transporting his enemies across the sea? And the Hekeni – he had never seen so many animals! It was the first time in history the Hekeni loaned their animals to other tribes, the first time in history the Solg even used trained animals, and it was all to get at him. They had blown through that wall like it was plaster!
It had all gone so wrong so fast. The Ontoni destroyed his navy. The Zolgaf had used poisoned arrows to devastate his army in the field. And his animal riders, well… what chance did they have against the Hekeni, who, in all their millennia of existence, had never once lost a cavalry battle? All the while, they had all been given Lanchaq medicine, Yaxog armour, Golaran weapons, and were supplied with endless amounts of food from the River Kingdom, kept fresh by Trontoll storage vessels. Finally, the young emperor knew the truth – the rebel tribes, when united behind a cause, were unstoppable.
Now, his capital was about to burn. Legions of men and animals surrounded the city’s walls. It would only be a matter of time, he knew. Curse his father, for beginning such a foolish lost cause! And now he’d have to clean up after the cruel old man’s mistake! A large, armoured diplodocus was smashed with the rock of a catapult, causing the great beast to fall over! Well, that meant slightly fewer enemies at his gates, at least. But it was a lost cause, and he knew it. The rebel tribes of Adiaruna had never unified before… but they had for this.
“Sire!” his guard captain entered. “The Trontoll have breached our walls from the south!”
“Take troops from the east walls.” he ordered.
“We can’t, they’re being hammered by the River Kingdom and the Flimzoak. The west is held by the Golarans mostly, but they’ve got Borchillian and Yaxog with Hekeni pterosaurs covering them from the sky. And from the north-”
He shook his head. “I can see the north.” he replied. “Hekeni? Vorrog? Kluugon? It makes no difference, they’re all on the same side. For all our efforts to divide them, they’ve remained united. We can spare no men?”
“They’ll be at the citadel before the day is out, my liege.” the guard captain bowed, crestfallen. “I’m sorry.”
“My father truly was a fool.” he scoffed.
“If it’s any consolation, you would have made a great king in times of peace.”
“In times of peace, perhaps, but alas… what might have been.” he sighed. “Tell me, do you think there’s any hope of a truce? If I surrender the Stones, would they spare my people?”
“I don’t think so. Maybe if you’d done it before they breached the wall, or before they routed General Delrik’s army, but now… they know they’ve won. They don’t need to accept terms.”
“They haven’t won yet.” he said, darkly.
“Gather the palace guards, and grab the Stones.”
“My liege, meaning no disrespect, but your father–”
“I know what happened. I’m not going to unite them.” the emperor said. “Our empire may fall, but we might just make it a hollow victory. Their children will never see that which their parents would kill millions for. Come, my friend, it’s time you fulfil your oath, and truly follow me to the edge of Adiaruna! Let them regret this day for the rest of time!”