Chapter 35 - Dian Nim Exos
June 2, 1645 (The Next Day)
The Seas Near Virlinn
The Sea Serpent (Duncan’s Ship)
-Queen Adrienne Almira Ivaris-
I stood on deck as the ship made its way towards its destination. The winds didn’t seem to be favouring us today for it blew towards the opposite direction. The waves too didn’t seem to want to cooperate. It attacked the hull of the ship with a vengeance. Together with the power of the wind, it seemed to pull the ship backward and away from the port of Virlinn which was now visible.
It’s only a short distance away but the waves and the winds were making it more difficult. A gust of wind hit me and scattered my carefully braided hair across my face. It stopped suddenly and I swore I heard a childish giggle carried by the winds.
My brows furrowed in confusion and I glanced around again, straining to hear the sound once more. I didn’t hear it again. Instead, I was snapped out of my thoughts when I heard Duncan and his men shouting at each other through the noise of the winds and the loud flapping of the sails.
“We have to row!” Jack, the lead sailor said.
“Secure the sails! Tie ’em down!” Duncan shouted. His crew scrambled up the long posts with ropes in hand. They had a hard time securing the sails for it was very heavy and the winds howled as if it wanted to blow them all to kingdom come.
Duncan stood on the prow of the ship with his hands on the wheel. He was fighting to steer it in the right direction and the muscles in his forearms bulged from the effort. He looked at me and motioned with his hand for me to come to him.
I nodded but it was hard to move against the harsh winds.
“Damn this!” Brodie’s curse rang out from above them. He and Rurik were battling with the fiercely flapping sails. Brodie looped his rope around the thick sails and fought to fold it and tie it to the posts.
I glanced around all of them and tried to think of a way how I could help. I clutched the ship’s railing with one hand while the other clutched my skirts. I squinted my eyes to shield it from the biting wind.
Little by little, I moved towards Duncan.
It was hard to move especially when the ship was being tossed about by the churning waves. The seas also deemed it fit to spray us with cold salty water. My gown became wet and it clung to my legs. My body started shivering for the wetness intensified with the harsh bite of the wind.
I continued to make my way towards Duncan amidst the difficulty.
Suddenly, the ship tilted precariously to the side. I lost my grip on the railing and slipped. I tumbled into the wooden floor and tried to find something to hold on to. I heard shouts as the shipped continued to tilt to the left side. A few seconds more of this and the ship would capsize!
I slid slowly towards the edge and my hands tried to find something to grab on to. But there was nothing I could brace myself to. I continued to slip and slide towards the ship’s edge. My slide was aided by the wet, slippery floor. At the last second, I was able to grab the railing. I looked down and saw the blue ocean with its treacherous waves as if waiting for me to fall so that it could drown me.
I looked up instead and saw that the others were in a similar situation like mine. They, too, held on to the poles for their lives. I glanced towards the wheel and Duncan was not there. More panic blossomed inside my chest.
The sheer panic overruled my thoughts now. My arms were burning from the effort to hold on tight. I scanned the area for something else I could hold on to but there was none. My grip was slipping and the ocean’s depths were waiting for me.
Fear seized me again and it coincided with the burn on my muscles. I tried to haul myself up once more but it just made my grip slip and my left arm fell down.
“Oh!” I gasped. Because my other arm fell down, it placed more strain on the remaining arm. I held on as much as I could but I could feel myself tiring.
“Princess!” Angus shouted. All heads whipped towards me. Angus swung himself up on the pole and started to crawl towards me. The others did the same. All of us were hanging on for our lives and still they wanted to help me.
“Save yourselves!” I shouted. And then I closed my eyes. I did not see the expressions of horror and fierce determination on their faces.
“Hang on, princess! We’re coming for you!” Brodie shouted. I knew that one of his legs was tangled on the ropes and he was trying hard to cut it loose. It would take a while for him to cut it loose. When that time comes, I would’ve fallen into the deep sea.
I wish I was not so afraid of the water. I wish I learned how to swim when I was younger. I wish I conquered my fears instead of avoiding it.
But it was too late now.
“Adrienne! What’s happening! I sensed your fear! Are you alright?” It was Seth’s voice inside my head. His voice, though very frantic, chased away my fear and I focused on hanging on.
“I’m terrified, Seth! I don’t know how to swim!” I answered, hoping that he could hear it. If I was delusional, then I'm happy I heard his voice one last time.
I heard a string of curses as an answer to my terrified statement.
And then suddenly, my grip slipped. I screamed as loud as I could as I fell. My body hit the water and it seemed as if all the breath was knocked out of my chest at the impact. I struggled under the churning waves. I tried to flail my arms and swim upwards but the dangerous currents dragged me lower.
Terror consumed me. I tried to grab onto anything but there was nothing. I opened my eyes and saw only the darkness of the ocean. The saltiness of the sea stung my eyes so I just closed them again.
I gasped for breath and continued to struggle. But it was no use...
I was like lead and I was sinking fast into the unknown depths. My lungs burned to breathe air but there was no air here. Only cold and darkness. I struggled against the burning pain. The desire for breathing overwhelmed me and I opened my mouth.
Salty water rushed through and burned my throat and my lungs.
I was drowning...
My head felt heavy and blackness started descending over me.
“Adrienne!” It was Seth’s fear-filled voice I heard before I gave in to the darkness...
I motioned for Adrienne to come to me so that I could secure her near one of the poles. I would tie a rope on my waist and tie it to hers so that if the ship capsizes, she won’t be lost. She struggled to walk towards me against the wind while I struggled to maintain my hold on the ship’s wheel and steer it towards the right direction.
Suddenly, there was a huge burst of wind and it caught the sails. The men who were securing it were almost thrown overboard at the impact. They managed to hold on to the poles and ropes but the ship started to tilt towards the left side.
Various cargo and equipment slid towards the left thereby aiding the ship’s tilt.
“Hang on!” I shouted. I scanned the deck for Adrienne and saw her sliding downwards. “Adrienne!” I shouted but she did not seem to hear me. Her face was a mask of terror as her hands tried to grab anything she could hold on to.
I grabbed a length of rope and started to run towards her.
“Captain! Duck!” Rurik shouted. I halted for a split second and rolled. But it was not enough. One of the low lying, horizontal poles suddenly swung towards me as the ship tilted. It caught me on the side of my head.
Sharp pain exploded through me and then darkness descended.
I woke up a moment later and felt as if my head was being split open. I heard the howling of the wind and the crashing of the waves around me.
“Oh gods, Princess!”
“Go get her!”
“Grab some rope before you jump!”
“The waves are too treacherous!”
“Gods, I can’t see her anywhere! She’s not surfacing!”
The panic cries of my men filled the air. I rubbed the sore part of my head and felt warm wetness on my hands. I pulled it back and my palm was covered with blood.
“The captain’s awake!” Brodie shouted.
He scrambled towards me and helped me up. And then I glanced over at the churning waves and remembered the last thing I saw before I lost consciousness.
“Oh gods, Adrienne!” I shouted.
Without another thought, I jumped over the fallen debris and into the ship’s railing. I heard the men shout for me to get some rope but I did not heed them. I know that Adrienne didn’t know how to swim and that she has been terrified of the seas since she was young.
I dived into the ocean and felt the chilly water engulf me. The churning waves tossed me around and it was hard to swim anywhere for the current was too strong. I scanned the seas for any sign of Adrienne. I caught a glimpse of her white dress and hope surged inside me.
My lungs were already burning and I had to resurface. I took a quick breath and then dived in again. The current battered my body but I fought off the pain. I needed to save Adrienne. I swam down towards her.
Gods, please help me save her. Please let her be alive.
I scanned the ocean again and there was no sign of her this time. I closed my eyes and swam deeper.
Suddenly, as if answering my prayers, the seas calmed. The current vanished and the waves stopped churning. The clouds rolled away and a blaze of sunlight lit up the waters. The sea became as calm and as tranquil as glass.
I swam further and then I saw her. I sent a silent prayer of thanks to whoever Gods were listening. My arms pumped faster and I swam towards her. Her hand was outstretched and I quickly grabbed it. I kicked my leg upwards to propel both of us towards the surface.
I took a huge gulp of air and hauled Adrienne towards me. I made her lean forward so that she could cough out the water. But she didn’t move...
Panic immediately seized me. Her lips were blue and she was very pale. Using the heel of my hand, I struck her back so that she could cough out the water. She still didn’t move.
“Captain, grab on!” Colin shouted.
A length of rope was tossed towards me. I grabbed it and twirled it around my arm. The ship has already capsized and the men were able to salvage one small boat. They were already in it and they were pulling the ropes.
They hauled Adrienne up and our medic, Angus, quickly checked her over.
“No pulse, captain.” He said in a panicked voice.
The men’s eyes widened and their mouths opened with fear. Angus quickly pushed Adrienne forward and pounded her back just like I did.
“Adrienne... Oh gods no...” I whispered. I wrapped my arms around her and leaned down. I fit my mouth into hers and blew air. Her chest expanded a bit. I pulled back and gulped more air and blew again.
Suddenly, she lurched forward and began coughing out water. I held her and rubbed her back in soothing motions. She was leaning over the side of the small boat and kept on coughing out more and more water.
Thank the Gods...
I sighed in relief along with my men as I saw my princess breathing again. Slowly, color returned to her lips and her cheek and she slumped heavily on my chest. Her eyes were filled with the terror she experienced.
“Thank you...” she croaked.
I hugged her tightly. “Anytime, princess...” I replied and kissed her forehead. I did not let go of her as my men rowed us to shore. I know the terror she experienced for she was very frightened of the water. She did not know how to swim and that was the reason why we always stayed only in the shallow parts of the river and never went swimming.
When we were younger, a royal family visited Amaranth. The King and Queen had twin sons who brought nothing but mischief. King Andrew and Queen Irina, the King and Queen of Amaranth planned for a picnic by the river along with the visiting royals. Adrienne invited me for I was her favourite playmate. I guarded her but the moment my back was turned, the naughty princes pushed her towards the water.
She did not know how to swim and she sunk like a rock. I quickly dived in after her and rescued her. After that, she cried on my shoulder for a long while. After that incident, she had nightmares about drowning for months.
I sighed and gathered her closer. She was limp in my arms once more and her evened breathing told me that she was asleep.
The men rowed and we got closer and closer to the port. A large group of soldiers waited at the docking area. They must’ve seen our ship from afar and came here to investigate. The moment we arrived at the port, all of us were surrounded. Swords were placed on our necks and hostile glares were thrown our way.
“Who are you and what is your business here?” one of the soldiers asked.
“We came from Amaranth. We have business with the King. He is the one who sent us. He knows we are coming.” I bit out.
The soldiers glanced at one another as if weighing my words.
“For now, you shall stay here under our watch. We shall send a raven to our king to verify your words.”
It was so cold and the fact that all of us were wet and forced to stay out wasn’t welcome to all of us. My men glared back as their bodies were searched and their weapons taken away. I know that we could all take these men if it came to a fight. My men knew it too and that is the reason why they had such smug looks on their faces.
“We shall wait. But please... At least give the lady a blanket. She almost drowned.” I bargained. The leader nodded to one of the soldiers and he went off to get some a blanket. The man returned with a woollen blanket and a towel. I dried Adrienne as best as I could and wrapped the woollen blanket around her shivering frame.
She stopped shivering after a few moments and settled more comfortably in sleep.
The men moved closer to me and we settled down on the cold ground. The guards still circled us and they still had their weapons pointed towards our throats. I didn’t mind. As long as Adrienne was safe, everything’s fine for me. And should a fight arise, I know that my men and I can easily take these guards.
Rurik, my second-in-command, sat beside me and looked at the guards. He seemed to be assessing them and our chances when it comes to a fight. He is also eyeing their cloaks with interest. We were wet and cold and warm cloaks and a fire would be akin to something heaven sent.
We waited for a long time. I can see the restlessness in everyone for they were growing bored and the glares from the soldiers were beginning to grate on their nerves. Adrienne slept blessedly through it all.
After what felt like a few more hours of waiting, we heard the sound of hooves pounding on the ground. The soldiers straightened and they eyed the distance warily. My men tensed beside me and we all prepared for a fight. I gently shoved Adrienne behind my back to protect her should something unpleasant arise.
I was surprised, however, when the guards started to bow. They parted to make the riders pass and they headed directly towards us. My men and I stood up and braced ourselves for what was to come. The head rider’s blonde hair was visible in the distance.
“Greetings.” The man greeted with a smile when he drew closer. I finally saw who it was. It was James Murray, the King of Virlinn himself who came to welcome us.
“Greetings.” I replied and inclined my head with a nod. My men did the same but they still kept their wary stance.
“I see that you have the princess.” He said. I nodded.
He turned towards the guards and addressed them. “Lower your weapons. These men are my guests.” He ordered. The guards bowed and did as he commanded. He turned back towards me and grinned. It was the kind of grin which sent my senses tingling.
I don’t know what it is but something told me to watch my back when it came to the King of Virlinn. Adrienne clearly did not trust him and has warned me a lot of times. I did not understand her concern before but now, something inside tells me that something about him should not be trusted.
My instincts never failed me and right now it’s screaming at me to watch my back and run away as soon as I can.
“Saddle horses for these men, they are coming with me!” he ordered the guards. “Where?” I asked.
“To my castle, of course. All of you are welcome there. You’re going to stay there with me for a few days until I can find something more permanent for you and your men. I also think that you should stay there for now. I’ve received word that the King of Ivaris is on his way here.”
That statement got my fists clenching. “He will not take her away from me.” I bit out.
“Yes... He won’t. That’s why you are staying at the castle.”
“My men and I will stay close to her always.”
“I would not dream of separating you with the princess. I do not want to find a dagger on my back.” The king said with a laugh.
There was silence when the horses were brought to us. I handed Adrienne over to Rurik while I mounted my horse. Then, he held her up to me and I took her and placed her comfortably on my lap. She was still sleeping very peacefully. My men mounted the horses provided for them too and they circled me and Adrienne. I can sense that they were still wary of the King’s actions but at the same time, they were glad that we would be sleeping in comfortable beds tonight instead of a ship at sea.
We followed the King and his men as we rode towards his castle. While on the way there, I scanned the place for familiar landmarks so that I could find my way back should we have a need for escape.
Aside from that reason, I just couldn’t help but explore my surroundings. Everything about Virlinn was beautiful! Virlinn was a country which was composed of many islands. They boasted of beautiful shores and it was said that the forests here were very beautiful and abundant.
There was truly something about this place that was different. It is true that it’s very beautiful but there’s more to it than that... It seemed as if it contained some kind of power. It was as if there was something else about this place.
It was as if there’s something here that I just couldn’t quite understand or remember...
What the hell am I thinking about? I shook my head to clear it of insane thoughts. The event at the ship that happened earlier must really have affected me. I think I’m not really thinking straight right now. Or maybe there’s really something about this place...
The sun was already about to set when we reached the King’s castle. Just like the rest of the island, it was beautiful. Different kinds of trees were scattered everywhere. The King’s castle was huge but Ravenswood was twice the size of it. It was also very simple which gave it its own kind of elegance.
“Welcome to my home.” James Murray said.
“Thank you for your hospitality.” My men and I replied with a bow. It is customary to do this whenever offered food or lodging by another person. It is what is considered polite. My men and I might be wary of the King but he hasn’t done anything evil yet so we must remain polite and respectful. This is his home after all and he is opening it for us.
“I have asked the servants to prepare an entire tower for you and your men. Only one staircase leads to it. You will be able to defend your princess better there.” He stated to me and then turned his horse around to bark more orders to the servants who came.
James Murray dismounted his horse and walked towards me. I handed Adrienne to Rurik again and dismounted too. I faced the King and held out my hand. “Thank you. The accommodations you prepared for us are excellent.” I told him.
He took the hand I offered and shook it.
“Clothes have also been provided for you and also a bath. Please refresh yourselves. I have things to do. I will see you at the evening meal. If you need anything, just tell my servants.” He said.
“I will. My thanks to you.” I replied with a bow.
-King Seth Liam Ivaris XV-
“We are sorry, Aiken!” a high-pitched female voice shrieked inside my head.
“Terribly sorry indeed!” said a child male’s voice.
They have been apologizing to me for the past hour now. Earlier this morning, I’ve ordered them to try and stall the ship that has my queen. They joyously obeyed but at the same time they’ve endangered my queen’s life.
“It’s fine. I have forgiven you. Just don’t use that much power again.” I chastised.
“We only used as much power as we could because we are not in the mortal realm. We are in Ilyia and we need all of our power to cause a noticeable effect there... But then they crossed the sacred line and we were too late in holding back.” Raijin reasoned.
“Sacred line?” I hissed.
"Yes! The boundary to Dian Nim Exos!" Kaori replied.
I paced my cabin until I think I have worn down a path on the rug. The term seemed familiar to me. It was rarely mentioned in Ilyia but I know that it is something special. I just never asked what it was.
“What is it?” I asked. I am centuries late with this knowledge but I think I really should know about it now.
"Dian Nim Exos translates here as The Fountain of the Gods. It is a vast reservoir of power. No one exactly knows what it is or where it exactly lies in the Sacred Land except King Rashad and Princess Selene. Whoever controls the fountain, controls the power source. King Rashad entrusted it to Princess Selene. They are the only ones who know how it works or how to wield the power..." Kaori explained.
“This land is sacred here in the mortal realm for it contains the Fountain... Instead of using it for herself, Princess Selene shared the powers of the Fountain to all of us here in the mortal world. When we are here, the Fountain amplifies our powers so that we could have help in doing our tasks. Without it, our powers in this world are weak. The Fountain is also the reason why we can travel from Ilyia to this world.” Raijin added.
“Is this the reason why Selene is called the Key to Ilyia?” I asked. It seemed that I still didn’t know a lot of things about my wife.
"Yes and no.” The twins said at the same time.
“Explain.” I commanded.
"Queen Selene is said to be the Key to Ilyia because she is the Princess. It was a term of endearment as first. Her father loved her so much that he said his world would crumble if she’s gone. That was the reason for the term. But then time went on and the Princess grew to be a very responsible, righteous and just goddess. King Rashad entrusted to her the care of the different gateways... The Fountains... The sources of power. She alone knows all of its secrets.” Raijin stated.
"She is the master of the Fountains and the gateways. Her life force feeds these Fountains and she is the only one who can wield its power. She is the only one the Fountains recognize. When she died, the Fountains kind of like died with her. She wasn’t able to give its guardianship to another god so the Fountains sealed off its power with her death. The gateways were sealed off too and this is the reason why we cannot leave Ilyia." Kaori explained.
“I think it is a good thing that the Fountains and the gateways did that. If not, Argyll would have invaded the other worlds too and enslaved those who are powerless to fight him just like the mortals in this world.” Raijin added thoughtfully.
“So this sacred line you said, it is sort of a boundary or a gate?” I asked.
"No. It is simply the immediate area that surrounds a Fountain. Those things might have shut down but the trace of its magic lingers in the air. There’s still a large amount of power that can be harnessed but within a small area only. Queen Selene and the ship taking her crossed that line. Our powers became amplified by the magic within the Fountain and we realized it too late. We weren’t able to stop right away."
"We are sorry for that Aiken." Kaori said. Her voice sounded as if she was really close to crying.
“It’s alright. I accept your apologies and your explanations.” I said calmly.
“So where is this Dian Nim Exos? Are we on the right course? I had reason to believe that her captors were taking her to Virlinn. It’s a kingdom that belonged to my enemy in this life.” I told them.
“It’s the same thing, Aiken!” Kaori said more cheerfully this time. Maybe she has already accepted that I am no longer mad at both of them.
"Dian Nim Exos is now called Virlinn. The country’s boundaries are exactly the immediate area where the Fountain is said to be located.” Raijin said.
It was as if things were starting to fall into place now. I think the past events are too good to be mere coincidences.
I think that James Murray may have discovered something about the Fountains. Maybe he was able to read a sacred text about it or a kind of knowledge was passed down in his family. Maybe he wanted the power for his own. The mortal King is so ambitious that he wanted to have power just like the Gods.
I clenched my fists and resumed pacing.
This is not the time to speculate about these things. I will know soon enough as I face that bastard of a King. I will wring the truth out of his neck or shed his blood until he talks. I am not sure about the kind of pain I will inflict on him but one thing is sure: he shall die by my hand.
He would pay for capturing my queen. I will set him to his rightful place and quash all his notions about having a kind of power that equalled that of the Gods. I will go into that hated country and I shall destroy that King as I should have done years and years ago in this life.
Now, he shall pay double for taking my queen away from me.