Chapter One-Sea and Sky
Kallus Tuono stood before King Econa as the Lower Realm king studied the letter that Kallus had brought to him. As the king studied the letter, Kallus noted his several merguards who were waiting nearby, surrounding their beloved ruler in a half-circle of raised tridents and staffs. He could feel their eyes fixated on him; watching his every move. He had been sent to King Econa with terms for a truce, but this king would never accept terms that did not comprise of the total surrender of his enemy.
The Upper Realm and the Lower Realm were now in the thirtieth year of an ongoing war, and King Econa never showed a sign of surrendering, or a willingness to accept any peaceful propositions to ending the war. It was an enmity that was unwavering, strong, and intense. It was a war that was sparked by rumors and fueled by hatred.
There were three realms. Kallus served the Upper Realm, and it consisted of the infinite sky, the Lower Realm, ruled by King Econa, was confined to the vast oceans, and the Middle Realm referred to all the land in between. Each had its own castle, and each had its own ruler.
This castle seemed to be the darkest and coldest of the three. It was as if King Econa’s personality was reflected in the demeanor of his castle. The entirety of the castle was built with dark green stone, and these bleak walls were as cold and calculating as the king who ruled from within them. It was a coldness that radiated into every room inside, consequently making all visitors feel wary and unwelcome.
And as it was, the whole of the castle’s interior was dimly-lit regardless of the time of day, or how many torches burned in their sconces. There was also a perceptible, eerie stillness underlying any level of noise, which seemed to imply the care that everyone took when in King Econa’s presence, fearing to speak out of turn or say something that meant instant demise.
King Econa glanced up from the letter and gave Kallus a look that was meant to instill fear. Hatred for this king grew stronger in Kallus.
“What do Ralos and Kys want from me?” King Econa asked.
“You read the letter.” Kallus said coolly. He detested King Econa as he detested all Lower Realmers, and this hatred was mutual. This meant that at times Kallus’s own feelings and opinions about King Econa came through in his voice, whether Kallus willed it or not. Nevertheless, he knew that he still held a dutiful obligation to be respectful of his royal enemy; otherwise, his life would be on the line. So it was almost as an afterthought, when Kallus reluctantly added, “Sire.”
“I know that they expect me to comply with them.” The king’s voice was impatience laced with a deadly amount of fury. “But as I don’t plan on surrendering to them, why don’t I emphasize my refusal to make peace by sending back your head as my response?”
Kallus observed how at least half of the merguards gripped their mortal staffs and tridents a bit more tightly, in anticipation of the task that their king had just alluded to.
Time to tread a bit more carefully.
“All they expect at this time is a response to their request...Your Majesty.” Kallus said, his voice sounding a bit strained, as he fought to hold back the contempt that he felt.
King Econa studied Kallus for a moment, and Kallus rather thought that the king was waiting for Kallus to show him some disrespect. If he did this, King Econa could order his merguards to kill Kallus and he would not be in the wrong to do so.
Kallus remained calm, however, and merely kept the king’s gaze until the latter turned away. He sighed and said, “Very well. Tell Ralos and Kys that I respect their request for a truce, but it shall not be honored until they surrender to me.”
Kallus highly doubted that King Econa respected any peaceful proposals made by King Ralos and Queen Kys. He said naught of that, however, and instead inclined his head as slightly as he dared, before turning to leave.
“Halt!” King Econa’s voice rang out behind Kallus, his echo bouncing off of the stone walls of the throne room.
Kallus stopped in his tracks, feeling more impatient than anything else, and turned back to the king.
“Tawer will escort you out.” King Econa said.
“I know the way.” Kallus said, pointedly.
“I don’t trust you wandering about alone in my realm.” King Econa told him. “You could be spying for those treacherous rulers that you so adore.”
Kallus had to truly struggle to hold back his anger now. He did adore King Ralos and Queen Kys; he loved them and respected them, and with good reason. This was why it hurt him and angered him to hear King Econa call them treacherous. He had heard it before of course, from King Econa and from other Lower Realmers; this and other unfitting and unflattering titles for them, and for Kallus too, were rampant in the Lower Realm.
It did not make it any easier for Kallus to hear, however, and he knew that King Econa was not only intentionally trying to anger Kallus, but was also expressing how he truly felt about the Upper Realm rulers.
Kallus did not respond, mostly because he was afraid that if he spoke, he would say something that he would end up regretting. In the silence that followed his statement, King Econa looked over to his head merguard and nodded. Tawer graciously inclined his head, and then swam up to Kallus. “Let’s go, traitor-worshipper.”
Traitor-worshipper was a phrase created by King Econa, yet used by him and all of his supporters, as a way of describing Kallus. King Econa and his followers all saw Kallus's rulers as traitors, and because of Kallus's love, loyalty to, and respect of them, he was known as someone who worshipped the pair of traitors.
Kallus paused halfway to the castle doors and turned back to the king. “You do remember that messengers of opposing realms are not, by law, to be attacked.”
“Tawer will not harm you so long as you try nothing against him, or other members of my realm.” King Econa turned to the merman. “Am I right, Tawer?”
Tawer bowed his head. “You have my word, Sire.”
King Econa nodded. “See him out.”
Kallus turned and left the meeting hall; Tawer swam wordlessly beside him. They left the castle, and began heading for MidLo Point. Along the way, Kallus endured scathing remarks, curses, and loathing stares as he passed. He had encountered the same on his way to the Ocean Castle, and every other time that he came to the Lower Realm.
Because of the war, messengers were the only Upper Realmers allowed into the Lower Realm, and vice versa. Due to this law, messengers of opposing realms were unarmed when they came to deliver messages, and if they wore any weapons, they were to remove them before seeing the rulers. But this law had invoked the one that Kallus had mentioned to King Econa: that opposing messengers were not to be attacked. For being unarmed, they could not defend themselves, and messengers had full right to be there as it was.
Messengers of the Upper and Lower Realms also had the option of asking a Middle Realm messenger to deliver the letters for them. The Middle Realm's ruler, Queen Thera, maintained that the Middle Realm was neutral ground, and would not take part in the war. She also asked that those in her realm remain neutral as well, and at first, they heeded. But over the past thirty years, loyalties had shifted, and many had chosen to side with either the Upper or the Lower Realm.
Kallus and Tawer reached MidLo Point; named so as this was the main entry point in and out of the Lower Realm from this area of the Middle Realm. Tawer had not said one word all this time. Kallus had no more of a desire to speak to Tawer, yet a question burned on his mind.
“Tawer, let me ask you something.”
The merman waited in silence. Kallus assumed that he was to take this as consent and continued.
“Your loyalty to Econa, is it only out of duty?”
“That's King Econa. What do you mean?”
“Do you loyally serve your king because it's what is expected of you as a Lower Realmer, or is it because you care about the king?”
“I asked to join his guard when I was seventeen. If I did not care about his well being, I would not have offered to protect him.”
“I see.” Kallus paused. “But do you think that it goes both ways? You care about Econa, but does Econa care about you, or anyone else in his service?”
“That's King Econa. Why wouldn't he?”
“So if something were to befall you, do you think that Eco—King Econa, would be troubled by it?”
Tawer's hand flew toward his sword.
Kallus put his hands up. “I don't threaten. It was merely a question.”
Tawer halted, but left his hand on his sword's pommel nonetheless.
Kallus slowly lowered his hands and continued. “Do you truly think that if anything unfortunate happened to you, that your king would weep for you, mourn for you, and be distraught by your absence?”
Tawer hesitated. “You do not think so?”
“No. But your king and I are not on the best of terms either.” Kallus paused. “Do you think that your demise would concern him at all, or would he just see a vacant post, and do all he could to fulfill it at once, so that he would not be left with one less guard?”
“His Royal Majesty would be greatly troubled by the demise of any in his realm.” Tawer answered with confidence. “We are all his people. He would mourn the loss of any of us.”
“You truly believe that, do you?”
“I do. But you do not.”
“I see Econa for what he actually is, Tawer. He is a tyrant, a dictator. Those types only care about themselves.”
“That's King Econa. And he is not what you say he is. His Royal Majesty has sworn to protect us all, especially those in his service. Your hatred for him will not allow you to speak well of him.”
“True. But your love for him will not keep you safe.” Kallus said. He hated the Lower Realmers, but he pitied them as well, for worshipping a king who could care less if they lived or died, while believing that he loved them. “Of course he swears to protect you. If he did not, you wouldn't follow him.”
“A cloud-hugger like you will never fully understand His Royal Majesty.” Tawer said indifferently.
Kallus was surprised that it had taken this long for the insults to begin. He countered
likewise. “And a coral-eater like you won't see the true Econa until it's too late.”
“That's King Econa. Now get out of the Lower Realm.”
Kallus swam up to MidLo Point, and clambered onto land. The unicorn that had brought him here was peacefully grazing on some nearby grass, yet when it saw Kallus, the unicorn looked up and made a soft nickering sound. Kallus approached the unicorn and lightly patted him on the neck, while he tightened the saddle. He climbed onto the unicorn’s back and guided him to the Sky Castle.
As the unicorn flew over the Middle Realm and began ascending into the darkening skies of the Upper Realm, Kallus had to wonder what had incensed him to attempt to reason with Tawer. But he knew one thing for certain. If the Lower Realmers saw King Econa in the way that Kallus, other Upper Realmers, and some Middle Realmers viewed him, their loyalty to him would vanish. But they so revered and respected King Econa, that nothing could besmirch their thoughts of him. And yet King Econa had begun the current war, based on nothing more than rumors—false rumors—that King Ralos and Queen Kys were plotting to steal his realm away from him and take it over.
A few minutes later and the Sky Castle was in view.
A pure white castle, with tall towers, strong fortified walls, and its own personal cloud to sit upon. It was the home of the Royal Couple, King Ralos and Queen Kys, the rulers of the Upper Realm. And from the age of six until he was eighteen, it was Kallus's home as well.
Kallus was twenty-six now, but twenty years ago, when King Econa's attacks on the Royal Couple became more frequent and more violent, those in the service of the Royal Couple had become targets as well. Because of this, the Royal Couple had given those in their service the option to stay, where the Royal Couple would do all in their power to protect them, or to flee to safer grounds.
Little by little, those in their service hesitantly began to take their leave. Torm and Nira Tuono, Kallus's parents, had been the last to do so. They had not planned on leaving at all, but then Nira was wounded during a raid on the castle one day, and that injury nearly killed her. Thus, they decided it was safer to flee.
But they knew that for Kallus, it was safer to leave him behind. He was only six at the time. Too young, they thought, to live a life of exile. But their biggest fear of having Kallus with them was the possibility of King Econa or his followers coming upon them, and using Kallus to get to them. Or even murdering him to weaken them.
Torm and Nira knew that it was best to leave Kallus behind with the Royal Couple who could protect him. And if he stayed here, he would be surrounded by his friends and his godparents as well; he would happier than if he were in hiding. With heavy hearts, they decided to leave him behind, and Kallus, even at that young age, understood why. They still wrote to him regularly, though they could never disclose their location, which changed from week to week anyhow. And therefore, Kallus could never write back. But oftentimes when they wrote, they would appoint a time and place to meet him, and the Royal Couple or someone else would accompany Kallus to meet with them. And if they deemed it was safe, Torm and Nira would sometimes come to the Sky Castle.
Thus, the Royal Couple raised Kallus from the time he was six, until he decided to move out of the Sky Castle at eighteen. They treated him like he was their own son, and to Kallus, the Royal Couple were more than his king and queen, they were like secondary parents to him. He loved them as much as he loved his true parents, and they loved him in return. Kallus's loyalty to them went beyond duty; he honored them sure, and deeply respected them, but perhaps more than others in the Upper Realm might. Unlike King Econa, the Royal Couple were respectable, fair, just, and kind. And as everyone in the Lower Realm was fiercely loyal to King Econa, so were the Upper Realmers fiercely loyal to their rulers. The only difference was that the Royal Couple deserved it.
Twenty years later, and Torm and Nira were still in hiding, and they would have to remain in hiding until the war ended. Whenever that would be. Torm and Nira still wrote to Kallus, and still met with him on occasion. Of course, Kallus was old enough now to meet with them on his own, which he had been doing since the age of fifteen. But there were times when others wanted to see them too; such as Kallus's best friends, two Middle Realmers, Danel Busch, and Flora Branch. Danel and Flora were only one year younger than Kallus, and the three of them had grown up together. In fact, Kallus's parents were Flora's godparents, and vice versa.
The unicorn landed outside the castle's front entrance. Kallus climbed off and walked inside as the unicorn flew away. He found the Royal Couple in the meeting hall, and bowed to them upon walking in.
“King Ralos and Queen Kys.” Kallus said. “I have a response from King Econa.”
Queen Kys took the letter with a word of thanks. As she opened it, King Ralos asked, “He didn't give you any trouble, did he?”
“He threatened to lock me in his dungeon overnight if I refused to let Tawer see me out.” Kallus explained. “Other than that, he only vainly tried to frighten me.”
“Threatening to lock you up goes against the laws regarding messengers.” Queen Kys said.
“Only if he had actually done it, Your Majesty.” Kallus replied.
“A threat is a threat,” King Ralos said, “whether it is done through words or through actions. Econa will hear of this.”
“With all due respect Sire, it may only provoke him.” Kallus said. “I don't desire for any harm to come to you or to Queen Kys.”
“We don't desire any harm coming to you either, and thus Econa must be reminded when he has stepped outside the boundaries of the law.” Queen Kys said.
“Will Your Majesties have anything further for me this evening?”
“I don't believe so, Kallus.” King Ralos said. “You may take your leave if you wish to.”
Kallus bowed again. “Thank you, Sire. My queen.”
Kallus turned and left the castle, where he waited outside for another unicorn to come by and take him home.
Danel Busch had just woken up, when there came a knock on the front door. He opened it to find his friend, Kallus, on the other side of it.
“Morning, Kallus.” Danel greeted him. “Come on in.”
“I didn't wake you, did I?” Kallus asked as he stepped inside.
“Not at all.” Danel closed the door, and when he turned around, he noticed the letter in Kallus's hand. “Is that for me, or for King Econa?”
“Econa.” Kallus said. Danel knew that Kallus hated asking him to deliver messages to King Econa. And indeed, Kallus followed up with, “I apologize.”
“That’s all right.” Danel replied. “It’s true that I can barely stand to be in Econa’s presence, mainly because he frightens me so, but I have to deliver messages to him from Queen Thera sometimes, too. You would think I’d be used to it by now.”
Danel's older brother, Nald, entered from the back of the house. “Who was at the d—?” He stopped when he noticed their visitor. “Kallus.”
“Nald.” Kallus replied curtly.
Danel instantly felt the tension rising in the room. Like Danel, Kallus, and their other friend, Flora, Nald had also grown up with all of them. He was two years older than Danel, and he still got on fine with Flora, but with Kallus it was a different story.
Nald and Kallus used to be friends as well, but one day, when he was seventeen years old, Nald decided to join King Econa's side of the war. He became one of the many Middle Realmers who was no longer neutral. This meant too, that he had to resign from Queen Thera's service. He was still deeply loyal to her, all Middle Realmers, even those who had chosen sides, were still loyal to their own queen in every respect. But Queen Thera would not allow anyone to work for her if that person was not neutral.
Nald's choice to join King Econa also had another consequence to it. It meant that his friendship with Kallus came to a quick and brutal end. Now whenever they were in each other's company, they either got into a heated argument, or they ignored each other completely.
Danel was hoping for the latter, until Nald said, “Kallus, you have a letter there from those cloud-hugging, treacherous, realm stealers?”
Kallus's eyes flashed angrily, and Danel prepared himself to stop Kallus, should he charge at Nald. They had never gotten into a physical altercation yet, but this was only because Danel always forestalled it. On several occasions, he had to hold Kallus back to prevent him from attacking Nald.
Nald on the other hand, never got close to hurting Kallus. Where Kallus would get more and more fired up as their argument progressed, Nald always seemed to grow calmer and calmer. Of course, Danel knew that for Nald, it was a source of entertainment, to see just how far he could push Kallus.
“They are not treacherous, they are not realm stealers, and they are a thousand times better than that rotten Econa!” Kallus said.
“That's King Econa.”
“You sound like Tawer.”
“Or, His Royal Majesty.” Nald added.
Even Danel could not tolerate this. King Econa expected, even required, the Lower Realmers to address him in this manner. His Middle Realm supporters were not expected to do this, but they seemed to enjoy using the title, and thus, Nald and many other Middle Realm supporters of King Econa used the same term. “Don't call him that, Nald. You're not required to use it, and you only do it because it makes King Econa sound so important and regal.”
“Which he is.” Nald replied as he sat down.
“He's a terrible king. That's what he is.” Kallus said.
“Based on what?” Nald asked.
“Oh, I don’t know...maybe because he started this wretched war?”
“He didn’t start it; the realm-stealers did.” Nald said. “If they hadn’t attempted to steal His Royal Majesty’s realm, he wouldn’t have had to protect himself and his people. And the only way to protect anyone, was for His Royal Majesty to retaliate.”
“The Royal Couple did not try to steal Econa’s realm.” Kallus said, and it sounded as if it took every bit of self-control that he could muster to remain this calm. “Those were rumors. False rumors. But Econa and his followers were too stupid to see them for what they were. They have a realm; why would they want another one? There’s also the fact the Royal Couple’s realm is in the sky, and Econa’s realm is in the ocean.”
“King Econa,” Nald said, “and what’s your point? Just because the sky and the ocean are in two completely different directions, does not mean that they wouldn’t try to steal it. If Queen Thera wasn’t neutral, they would be after her realm, too.”
Danel intervened. “Do not bring our queen into this.”
“I’m not,” Nald said, sincerely. “I’m just trying to prove to this traitor-worshipper, that the traitors he worships are power-hungry. They don’t care where the other realms are located. If they can claim if for their own, then they will.”
“You don’t know how wrong you are, Nald.” Kallus put in.
“You think that His Royal Majesty is incompetent, and you think he began this war.” Nald said. “Those are the false rumors. But even if they were true, he's still better than a couple of foolish, double-crossing, realm-takers.”
Kallus lunged forward, and Danel jumped in between him and Nald, as the latter regained his seat. As was common, Nald had brought Kallus up to a level of pure anger and loathing, and that being done, he calmly sat down and waited for Kallus's reply.
“The only reason that Econa believed rumors about the Royal Couple stealing his realm, is because he is so insecure, that he believes everyone is out to get him!” Kallus said, finally losing his temper. “And if he continues to carry on in this way, then that will one day be true!”
“His Royal Majesty’s word is worth more than a couple of cloud-hugging traitors.”
“If I remember correctly, Nald, you once respected the Royal Couple, too.”
“That was before I came to my senses.” Nald stated.
“You mean before Econa manipulated you into joining him?”
“I joined him of my own free will.” Nald said. “Now, as I was saying, I once respected the realm-stealers, but that was before I realized that they are dishonest turncoats and conspirators.” Nald replied. “And you, traitor-worshipper, you're all that as well. But you're also a spy. And the only business you could have in the Lower Realm would be to spy on His Royal Majesty.”
Kallus looked as if he did not know which of Nald's statements to tackle first. After a short pause, he turned and walked to the door. As he opened it, he turned back to Nald. “I refuse to stand here and listen to you insult the Royal Couple. Nothing I say is going to change your mind; I know because I've tried it before.
“And as for your insinuation that I'm spying on His Royal Stupidity, let me tell you that would be damn near impossible. Because I know, without having to spy on him, that he is treacherous, vicious, and untrustworthy, with far too many evil schemes for a spy to track!”
With that Kallus walked through the doorway, slamming the door shut behind him.
Danel hesitated for a few seconds, and then followed. Kallus was not too far ahead, and Danel called out to him. Kallus turned around, and then waited for Danel to catch up.
“You didn't give me the letter you wanted me to deliver.” Danel told him.
Kallus looked down at the envelope in his hand. “Oh, right.” He handed it to Danel and then added, “I'm sorry that I took off like that, but Nald just...”
Kallus shook his head. “You know how I feel about Nald. But he's your brother, I know you care about him, and I hate to say awful things about him in front of you.”
Danel nodded. “But he hasn't any right to say such awful things about you and the Royal Couple either.”
“Nothing could ever make me understand or support his choice to side with Econa, but I think I may be able to tolerate it a bit more if Nald wasn't so blatant about it.”
“He's just as loyal to Econa as you are to the Royal Couple.” Danel paused and then added. “But I think he's more outspoken about it around you, because he knows that it will upset you.”
“So he doesn't talk about Econa if I'm not around?”
“No, he does. But he's not as blunt about it.”
“He used to be my friend.” Kallus said quietly. “That's another thing that makes his choice so difficult for me. I know he's been supporting Econa for ten years now, but sometimes I still can't believe it.”
Danel nodded. There were times when he couldn't believe it either. “If the Royal Couple wants their message delivered, then I better go.”
“Right. And he shouldn't, but if Econa gives you any trouble, the Royal Couple would like you to let them know.”
Danel grinned. “That's King Econa.”
Kallus glared at him. “Don't you turn on me as well.”
Danel laughed and then said, “I'll let the Royal Couple know if Econa troubles me.”
“He threatened me with imprisonment yesterday, so just be careful, even though you're neutral.”
“Wait, Econa threatened you? Isn't that against the law?”
“Yes, but since when does Econa obey any laws unless they are written by him?”
“You're right. But still, he shouldn't have done it.”
Kallus indicated the letter in Danel's hand. “Apparently, that's what the letter to Econa is all about. It's a reminder that he's not supposed to threaten the Upper Realm messengers. Well, me anyway. I'm the only Upper Realm messenger who has the authority to enter the Lower Realm; however unwelcome I may be.”
Danel and Kallus bade farewell to each other and then headed in opposite directions.
As Danel entered his house, he noticed that Nald was getting ready to leave as well.
“Where are you going?” Danel asked him.
“The Lower Realm.” Nald paused. “Did your traitor-worshipping friend have a message for you to deliver to His Royal Majesty?”
“No. But Kallus had a message for me to deliver to Econa.”
“King Econa, Danel.”
Danel did not respond; it just wasn't worth it to argue this point with Nald. Especially since Nald always had to have the last word; for both himself, and for King Econa.
They left together for MidLo Point; each taking a sea tab along the way.
Sea tabs were small, round, tablets, dark green in color that Upper and Middle Realmers inhaled before going into the Lower Realm that allowed them to breathe properly underwater. It also neutralized their body temperature to that of the water and kept them physically dry.
Lower Realmers had a similar thing, white in color, called an air tab, which allowed them to breathe out of water. Those born in the Lower Realm, even the humans, were adapted to living underwater and could breathe normally down there without any assistance. But once they were on land, it was a whole other story.
“What business do you have down here?” Danel asked his brother as they entered the Lower Realm.
“None. I'm came down here to visit Klay.”
Klay Courant was a Lower Realm messenger for King Econa; his parents, Evir and Kela, were the godparents of Nald and Danel. And before they died, the parents of Nald and Danel were Klay's godparents. Like Kallus, Klay had also grown up with Nald, Danel, and Flora, and therefore they were close friends with him as well.
Before the war, Klay's parents had been good friends with Torm and Nira. But once the war started, that friendship was destroyed. As a result, Klay and Kallus, while they knew of each other, had never met, and probably did not have any desire to do so. Klay and Kallus were the same age however; one year older than Danel, and one year younger than Nald.
As they walked, several of the Lower Realmers greeted Nald. Some greeted Danel too, but due to his support of King Econa, Nald knew many more Lower Realmers than Danel did.
Up ahead, a sign could be seen looming into view. Danel knew what this sign portended, and he experienced a sinking feeling in his stomach as he drew nearer and read what it said.
Nald spotted the sign just before Danel came to a complete halt before it.
Sand Shark Nesting Grounds
Nald glanced over at his little brother, wondering what kinds of horrible memories were brought back to Danel's mind, every year the sand sharks returned, and this sign was erected.
To Nald, it was more than a memory. It was something permanently stamped into his mind that he was not allowed to look away from, nor forget. And at the sight of that sign, Nald saw that moment again, as plainly as if it had only happened ten minutes ago, as opposed to ten years ago.
Nald had been walking through this very area of the Lower Realm with his and Danel's parents.
He was seventeen at the time. They were on their way back to MidLo Point, and Nald had wandered off of their path a bit, when he heard his mother scream; a scream that was abruptly cut off.
Nald had looked over at the sound of Terè’s screams, but he had not seen much more than a continuous thrashing movement within a cloud of dust from the ocean bottom. Yet he knew what was happening. Terè’s scream had drawn several people to the scene, and when they saw the sharks attacking her and Garel, they began to use swords, arrows, and even nearby rocks and stones to drive the sharks away. Evir had been among those people, while Kela stayed back with a distraught Nald.
By the time the sharks had been chased away, the damage was already done. There were not even any remains to speak of. Nald had tried to get over to the scene of the attack once the sharks left, but Evir and Kela did not allow him to. He was glad of that now. The memories of that terrible day were horrible enough; he did not need any more of them.
And while Nald wished that he did not have to live everyday with the memory of their parents' deaths, he was glad that Danel did not have to live with it instead.
The next hardest thing after witnessing the death of their parents, had been when Nald went home and told Danel what had happened.
And while he always loved Danel and cared about him, Nald knew that he and Danel would need each other more than ever, and Nald always did whatever he could to protect his younger brother, and look out for him. Something that he still did to this day.
Danel had not moved since spotting the sign, and Nald did not want to rush him. After a few more moments of silence, Nald said, “Are you alright, little brother?”
Danel nodded. A pause and then he added, “I miss them.”
“I know.” Nald said quietly. “Me too.”Danel hesitated a bit more, before he wiped his eyes, and said, “We should keep going.”
Nald nodded, knowing that it had become too much for Danel to take anymore. Nald understood; it had become too much for him as well. He turned with Danel to continue on their way.
The Ocean Castle was soon in view. Even to a King Econa supporter like Nald, the castle looked foreboding.
It was dark pine green in color, with spiky turrets atop each of its several towers, and a single barred window down in the dungeon. The window was above ground, but the dungeon was below it, so that any prisoners could not see through the window, nor reach it in an attempt to escape.
Parts of the castle's exterior were cracked and peeling. King Econa had acknowledged this, but he never seemed to see the need to repair it. Nald somewhat believed that the king preferred this look to that of a more inviting one. After all, to be welcomed into King Econa's castle, you had to personally be welcomed by the king himself. And aside from those who worked and lived there, this was usually only those who supported him, and messengers who brought him letters.
To add to the darkness of the castle's appearance, there were tall seaweed plants all along the walkway to the castle's front doors. The castle was also located in one of the darkest and dankest areas of the Lower Realm.
Danel trembled slightly at the sight of it, and Nald knew that the mere thought of going inside was frightening to him.
Danel was intimidated by King Econa. Or maybe terrified was the correct term. And because he was Nald's brother, King Econa seemed to think that Danel may eventually join his ranks too. Therefore, whenever Danel was present, King Econa tried his best to recruit him. But even for Danel's fear of the ruler, he was still able to turn him down again and again.King Econa had asked Nald to convince Danel to join him, but if the king himself could not get Danel to join, Nald wasn't going to have any better luck. Whenever Nald did bring up the subject with Danel, he only saw it as Nald boasting instead, and paid no mind to him.
When they reached the walkway to the castle, Danel hesitated before continuing. Nald waited with him, until Danel finally made his way to the castle doors, and knocked upon them.