Chapter 18: One General's Thunder
“We should sweep in at once. Their army is weak. They’ll be easily defeated.” Terdar states, running his finger over the map of Fulor and its surrounding countries.
Helio’s hands curl into fists as he listens to his parents and brother speak of Fulor with such callousness and contempt.
“Would it not be better to appeal to them for an alliance? If we take them by force they will rebel.” Helio counters, looking to his mother and then his father.
“We did not grow to be so powerful by appealing. We are warriors. We take what we want.” The Emperor scolds. Helio drops his head in apparent reference while in truth it conceals his sorrow and rage. He didn’t expect his parents to agree, but he hoped they would, that it would buy him time to come up with a better plan. He will not allow Fulor to fall as the others have.
Helio glances at his brother to find him smirking. His claws shoot out and dig into the wood of the table; Terdar’s smirk widens.
“Terdar,” the younger Prince looks to his father.
“Yes?” He inquires.
“Would you like to lead the invasion?” Terdar sneaks a glance at Helio. His face is tight with barely contained rage.
“I would be honored father.” Terdar knows what his parents expect. While Helioson gets to reign over their vast empire he will be condemned to a life of fighting his brother’s wars, serving his whims. He own anger rises. He deserves the empire and he will have it.
“The preparations will be made.” Apollonis says, her voice carrying through the War Room. “Helioson, come, I must speak with you.”
“Of course mother.” Apollonis kisses Solus and leaves, beckoning for Helio to follow. He does.
She dismisses her guards with a flippant gesture.
“Where is the mercenary?” She questions. Helio straightens.
“She had personal business to attend to. She’ll return in a few days.” He is careful to keep his voice calm and detached. Apollonis nods, as if she doesn’t believe him.
“You sound quite sure, my son.” She observes.
“She stops and turns to him, her posture straight and stern-that of a soldier. “Don’t get attached to her Helio. She’s only a mercenary.” Helio forces himself to hold her gaze. If only she knew they are already far too attached.
Helio slips into the Treasure Room for some quiet. The room is home to the weapons of past Emperors and Empresses as well as revered heroes and warriors and treasures, both gifted and seized. It is often visited.
Helio has felt a flurry of emotions of varying degrees since Ra’venna’s departure and she is a constant presence, as if lingering over his shoulder. He is able to constantly feel her. When her emotions surge it’s as if she’s in the very room.
His mother has noticed their growing closeness. She’ll have Ra’venna killed if she ever finds out Helio shared his blood with her and he doesn’t know what the consequences of her death would be. Would he die as well? Or would he feel the life drain from her? He can’t imagine which would be worse. He and Ra’venna must be more careful.
He can no longer delay his family. His arrival stalled them, but they will send Terdar to Fulor and he will destroy it for the sake of getting back at Helio. He will slaughter thousands. It won’t be a conquest. It’ll be a massacre.
Helio whirls around at the sound of the door opening. His eyes darken at the sight of Terdar. The prince strides in, his red cape trailing behind him. and his silver crown glistening on his head.
“Little brother,” Helio greets.
Terdar’s jaw momentarily tightens. Helio resists the urge to smirk. If his brother wishes to play, then play they shall. “I’m curious, brother. How does it feel knowing your precious Fulor will fall?” He mocks.
“It hasn’t fallen yet.” Helio replies, his voice steady.
“Do you honestly believe a country of half-wits with no respect for their species, can survive our army, my army?” Fulor is the most unified country on Tevata. As most countries have a population of a selected species with a minority of another species. Fulor has a diverse population and has served as a safe haven for those of all species and heritage.
“It isn’t your army. It’s Quvania’s army and you will not get the chance to find out.” Terdar throws his head back and laughs. He strolls across the room with his hands clasped behind his back, glancing at the weapons lining the walls.
“Brother, you haven’t changed at all: still a bleeding heart.” He spats. “Speaking of chances and bleeding hearts, where is your mercenary? Did she tire of you?” He taunts. Helio’s hands curl into fists, his claws drawing blood. “I’ve hit a nerve.”
Helio stalks over to Terdar, snatches him up by the collar of his shirt and slams him into the wall. His back is pressed against a long shield with a Dragon painted on it. “If you so much as look at her the wrong way I’ll end you Terdar. I will tear your heart from your chest and toss it at our parent’s feet.” He snarls. The edges of his lips curl up to reveal two rows of pointed teeth.
“Oh, this is too good. You love her. The mercenary I hired to kill you and you love her.” Terdar chortles. “You cannot honestly believe you will ever get to be with her, brother.” He feigns sympathy. Helio roars and throws Terdar across the room.
He slides across the polished floor and slams into the wall. His eyes flare with power and his lips pull back to reveal his Dragon teeth. “You know nothing brother, you’re nothing but a weak child throwing a tantrum because he’s not the center of attention.” Helio growls.
“I am an Emperor.” Terdar screams. “You respect nothing. We are warriors, conquerors. Our family has demolished entire kingdoms and you, you want to make peace. You are a traitor to everything Dragons stand for. You’re a traitor to this family.”
He charges at Helio, tackling him to the ground. Helio knees him in the gut and flips them over. He punches him, breaking his nose. “And you are greedy and selfish. You understand nothing. You’re so blinded by your desire for power that you can’t see what it leaves in its wake. You’ll burn and I’ll gladly watch.”
Terdar growls and kicks Helio, sending him flying across the room. His back slams into the axe of a revered general. He lets out a strangled cry as his body falls to the ground. He lifts his head only to be met with Terdar’s foot. Helio digs his claws into the floor.
“I will kill you.” Terdar declares. His voice bounces off the walls. “But first I’ll kill your precious memory. I’ll torture her in front of you and make you watch as she begs for her life. I’ll break her and then I’ll slit her throat. I’ll drive a blade through your skull and show our parents who has always been the better brother.”
Scales ripple up Helio’s arms and neck. All of his self control is focused on keeping his wings from bursting from his back. Fire flares from his hands and coils around his arms. The idea of Terdar so much as laying a hand on Ra’venna sends him over the edge. He hurls a fireball at Terdar. The younger prince raises his hand, forming a shield of light that swallows the attack.
He summons a ball of light and hurls it. Helio ducks to the side and it flies past his head. Helio knocks Terdar to the ground. Terdar tries to fire another orb at him, but Helio catches his arm and twists it. He cries out. Helio twists it until he hears a crack. He releases his arm and stands up. Terdar glares at him while clutching his now broken arm.
“i said you won’t touch her and you won’t. I am your better Terdar. I always have been and I always will be.”
He straightens his tunic. His claws retreat back into his fingertips and his teeth into his gums. The scales melt back into skin. Helio turns and leaves without so much as a glance at his brother.
Helio paces in front of the fireplace in his chamber; his blood still simmering with anger. Terdar’s threats have done their damage. Helio cautiously glances over his shoulder at the door. He half expects Ra’venna to come gliding in, her violet cloak trailing behind her. He misses her more than he expected to.
Terdar’s threats are as real as the suns and moons, but he is an even greater fool if he believes Ra’venna will be easily subdued.
There’s a knock at the door. “Enter.” Helio orders, not bothering to tear his gaze from the dead fireplace.
“You have a visitor, Your Imperial Highness.” Helio looks at the bowing Dwarf (Replace species) slave.
“Who?” He inquires.
“Lord Vladire.” The Dwarf answers, not raising his head.
“Thank you, you’re dismissed.” The Dwarf leaves. Helio snatches his crown from the coffee table, places it on his head, and exits his chambers.
Helio sweeps into the throne room to find his parents seated on their thrones chatting with Vladire. The room falls silent as he comes in. Lord Vladire turns and bows to the Silver Prince. “It’s been too long, Your Imperial Highness.”
“Vladire,” Helio acknowledges his childhood companion. “It’s been a while.”
“You look well, Prince. Quvanian rejoices at your return.” Helio bites the inside of his cheek to keep from scoffing. What a predictable thing for a noble to say.
“Helioson, perhaps you and Vladire should get reacquainted.” Apollonis suggests. Helio knows it’s an order.
“Of course, mother. Vladire,” he beckons.
Lord Vladire is from one of the oldest families in Quvania. He is a direct descendant of the first Quvanian General and his family has always been piously loyal to the Shalquims. Vladire is one of the strongest fighters in Quvania, third only to Helio and Terdar.
He’s a formidable Dragon; able to hold his form for two days. His wispy, silver hair is a sign of the Element he inherited from his father. He has sharp, orange eyes, the same shade as Amsyn’s hair.
The two walk within the walls of the garden behind the palace. Helio wonders if Vladire is the faithful companion he had years ago or if Terdar has sunken his poisonous claws into him. There’s no way to know how many supporters his brother has. Vladire has always been an ambitious Dragon and ambition can distort one’s world view.
“You look quite different, Your Imperial Highness.” Vladire’s words are laced with a thick Quvanian accent that tells anyone who hears it he has never strayed from his homeland.
For a brief moment Helio thinks he’s mocking him. He dismisses the paranoia. “It’s been a while Vladire. As times change so do creatures.” He replies.
“Remember when we used to hide from the guards. Your parents were infuriated.” Vladire chuckles, pointing to the wooded end of the garden. Helio smiles slightly. He and Vladire were close as children. They played together, dreamed of storming the battlefield together. Until Helio realized the price the battlefield demanded.
“Those were better times.” Helio agrees.
“What do you say Prince, for old time’s sake.” He veers into the woods, glancing at the Dragon Prince over his shoulder. Helio lets out a breathy laugh.
“For old time’s sake, my friend.”
The trees are as familiar to him as the palace itself. The trees stand in the their places, as do the rocks, and even the animals seem to return to the same nests. It almost seems frozen in time.
“You and Prince Terdar appear to be at odds.” Vladire observes. Helio looks down.
“My brother and I have never been particularly close, you know that. My time away hasn’t helped our relationship any. My brother and I are just too different.” There’s a sadness in his voice that catches even him off guard.
“Perhaps you should try seeing things from your brother’s point of view.” Helio halts and slowly turns towards his childhood friend, his stomach falling.
“What did you just say?”
Before Helio can react he is thrown backwards by a spiraling ball of ice. He rolls over, grappling for leverage only to be struck across the face with the butt of a spear. Through his blurred vision he catches a glimpse of an armored man wearing the crest of Sowhait.