This is the tragic and rather unbelievable story of Evanna Duke.
Though it may be what seems like an extraordinary tale, I cannot stress to you enough the truth in these words and the pain in my tale. It will become apparent as you read this that it is not fiction, even if you are inclined to believe so. You will be told that this is simply a story, a lie- but you must not give in. No matter what you do you must have faith in what I say. If you do not care for the truth, or if you have only the time for romantic nonsense, then I suggest you put down this book now and give it to someone that will appreciate all that I have to say. You see, most stories have a moral message, a lesson to be learnt. But this is slightly different. This is true life- heartbreak, loss and unbearable suffering. Can you face the truth?
So, now that I have your undivided attention I will begin.
You must believe this.
Because I know the truth.
Though it has become somewhat a cliché, I’m afraid I must begin on a cold wintery night.
The moon was at its fullest, high in the black velvet sky, a glowing white orb reflected eerily in the silvery lake that spread across the landscape. The trees whispered to each other, black spindly arms reaching out under the low light, searching for comfort from the cold. Soft snowflakes silently floated from the heavens and landed as a blanket on the frozen ground. Mountains stood as kings across the skyline, watching over their kingdom and cutting open the blue-black canvas with jagged snow-topped edges. This was a place that had seldom seen life; not many creatures able to survive the harsh winters and searing summers.
This was the way it should have stayed.
Unfortunately, I would not have a story if this was the case.
Soon travellers found the land. Men with fur coats carrying parcels of food and tools, women wearing thick boots carrying the children and looking over the livestock. They saw the beauty in the place and decided to rest for a while under the shelter of the forests away from the sharp winds. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months. The travellers adapted to the extreme conditions. Summer brought rich, red berried and refreshing fruits whereas winter offered them vegetables to be turned into warming soups. The land looked after them, and in turn they farmed the soils and fished the lakes. For a while both Humans and nature lived in harmony.
But this could not last.
Soon most of the original travellers found partners and started families. These six families developed different traditions, different lifestyles. From this clans grew, which moved to new areas and evolved into kingdoms in their own rights.
The first kingdom was that of Amisolem.
Amisolem was quick to become the largest and ruling kingdom, the leader, Kardus, becoming king of the lands. Kardus ruled graciously alongside his wife, Ala, and treated each of the surrounding empires with equal respect. He was an old and kind looking man with a short, grey beard and fierce blue eyes. Each of the other rulers were happy under his reign, all knowing that he would put his people before his pride should there ever come a difficult time.
The second kingdom was named Arzar.
Arzar was a small empire just outside of Amisolem, known for the soft breads and crumbling pastries that it prided itself on. It was a peaceful place, a place where families thrived and small baking businesses were nurtured and encouraged. The man who ruled over this empire was more of a husband and father than of a ruler. His name was Baskow, a man on a first name basis with every one of his people. He had soft brown hair and kind blue-green eyes that crinkled in the corners when he smiled, which was always. He had a toddler, a sweet boy who he doted over. Being the youngest of all of the leaders, Baskow was very much protected by the others who saw him as a younger brother.
The other four surrounding empires (Valage, Zorthare, Baldan and Gourcina) were equally as friendly, each ruled by a noble man and watched over by the great kingdom of Amisolem.
And for a while everything was peaceful. Laughter and singing greeted every morning. Colourful crowds and mouth-watering scents bustled through the market places as eager children and chattering mothers spent their money on produce from farmers. Men on stalls roared with delight every time a piece of soft cloth or a warm roll was passed into a buyer’s arms in return for a few golden coins. Knights rode proudly down the lanes, smiling and making young women in fine gowns swoon.
The people both in the empires and in the small villages were happy and so were their leaders.
But one of the original travellers remained, forgotten by the others.
His name was Injvich.
Whilst the others, now known as The Six, had been forging their empires and developing their land, Injvich had been seething away. After retreating to the North into the mountains, he had created an army rumoured to be so strong it would be able to take down the great Amisolem itself. Horses, bowmen, catapults of enormous power.
He thought that he was invincible.
Injvich was a cold and bitter man. Eyes black with hatred, dirty blond hair falling in knots to his shoulders. His face appeared tight, as though his skin had been stretched over his skull, the strain almost causing tears as it was pulled over his skeletal cheekbones. At almost seven foot, Injvich was later known as The Giant of the Mountains, told in stories of myths and legends to children quaking in their beds from the chilling tales of brutality and slaughter.
The Giant of the Mountains, however, had failed to comprehend that The Six would join forces in the event of a battle.
Though vastly outnumbered, the war dragged on for six months from start to finish. Each army fought valiantly, but each suffered loss beyond measure. The land lay in ruins, the empires still pouring smoke from fires within the walls. Bodies lay mutilated, no longer recognisable. Charred and warped, bodies of men, women and children alike could not be distinguished from old, burned tree stumps. Amongst them lay Baskow’s five year old son, still in his mother’s arms when a fireball killed them both. Once the cheeriest ruler of the lands, Baskow now wept, shut away in his castle haunted by the memories of those he had loved most. Mass graves were introduced in the centre of Amisolem- a burial ground for the brave knights of The Six and the innocent citizens that had fallen victim to the violence.
The tight claws of sadness gripped the realm. Mourners in their hundreds wore black for weeks on end, the bright and welcoming market places deserted and ghostly. Surviving soldiers and guards paraded solemnly through the streets, wielding the flags of their empires but no weapons out of respect.
People began to believe that the great land would never be the same again.
It took time, these things do, but soon the pieces of the recently destroyed cities were being stuck back into place.
Granted, the strength and stability of the justice systems and governments wavered for a little while, but these too developed over time. One more empire was forged to home the orphaned and widowed too devastated to stay in their own. Amisolem’s ruler was no longer a member of The Six, but rather the Praetor of it, the new one taking its place. This new empire was named Soldide in the hope that it would bring solace to those left broken by the war.
The battle was recalled for hundreds of years by the descendants of the families of the time. It became hard to decipher between the parts of the story that were true and the exaggerations that had happened as a result of the many tales. The whole affair turned into an elaborate game of Chinese whispers.
Children grew up fearing The Giant of the Mountains, horror stories and myths circling, shrouding the truth in the dense fog of fear.
The truth remained only with the ancestors of the original rulers of the land: Amdis, Goodwill, Brone, Securis, Pallas, Ballista and Dolph.
These seven men were the embodiment of any hope and serenity left in the otherwise dark and blood-soaked lands. And they are the pillars of my story.