Chapter VI - "A Living Legend"
The majestic skies (‘Oos’) above Taelondria’s forestry were clear and vast, but so too were the cobblestone roads winding throughout Kessoshaero. Even Zell often walked in lieu of flight. Would a non-winged creature constantly run in order to arrive at each and every various destination? Nae--and it was a distinction which few considered. As Zell soared amidst harried battles--dramatically shifting speeds, vectors, altitudes, and more--such athletics required endurance. Thus, the Zell could become exhausted just as would any creature amidst such strenuous activities. Certainly, the fortitude which a Zell possessed was far more monumental compared to most creatures--Zi--the Zell were mighty. But, extreme fights or flights (or both) left them duly fatigued. No Zell could fly indefinitely, let alone with neither respite, nor drink nor food! And so, it was common for the Zell of Taelondria to WALK to many destinations, and actually--quite often.
But, when one was in a hurry...
Jackie, Raeniya and Link hurriedly attempted to catch up with ongoing preparations for Titan’s ceremony. Already late, the three heroes flew low over the winding cobble paths from the Soporichambers. It was fairly certain that Gertranimor was going to be angry. The old, charcoal-scaled matriarch of Kessoshaero was a pearl of wisdom, and a joyous delight of motherly love, but she detested tardiness. It was a rule of Kessoshaero for all Zell to assist with chores, and there was much to be done. Time was short. Cooking, cleaning, construction and more needed to be completed on Time.
As the three rushed their short flight to the Courtyard of Courage, Link’s especially keen sight allowed her to spot a few loose gems, and into her bag they went. Raeniya continued to ponder why they collected these ‘Jhaeoos’. Jackie and Link had never been so dedicated to gem-collecting--Nae--not until very recently. She was quite curious, and skeptical of their intentions.
“What’s with the gems?”
Immediately blurting out a response, Link had grown tired of kept secrets. Although she was normally quite the chatterbox, on this particular Sunsday she was feeling especially ‘sans filter’.
“Are you kidding?! Elder Artemis has been on the prowl for as many--”
Jackie, however, was not as willing to unveil a single shred of information. The old wizard had sworn them to secrecy, and it seemed under the most serious of conditions. Artemis even scheduled a private conference with the Bo and Ys Zell: to meet the two near the old Ivory Tower in the forest. It was all so wildly mysterious and enigmatic, but clearly for reasons which only Artemis seemed to be privy. The amber sorcerer had never before requested such a discreet quest. Or most any quest, for that matter. It was either trust or desperation.
Intrigued, Raeniya ignored Jackie’s attempts to stifle Linky’s blabber. Raeniya didn’t care about the Jhaeoos themselves; only the ‘why’ . It was one of the reasons she hated being compared to Princess Violetta.
“I thought that was last Tide?”
Link was quick to retort as her colorful wings fluttered out a dizzying rhythm.
“Well... it was. But then--”
“WHAT!?! She has a right to know!”
“I’ve a right to know WHAT?!?”
As if Timing was always of the essence in Taelondria, the three Amals had just caught up to the tail end of the crowd, and before they could begin, they were instantly swarmed with questions and directives from a slew of their superiors. Time for work! So much had already been prepared, but there still remained a solid dozen chores for Jackie, Link and Raeniya. Tables to arrange, decorations to assemble, torches and braziers to ignite... all to honor Titan’s glorious achievements.
It was a perfect Sunsday.
The Courtyard was glorious. Nearly every Zell of Kessoshaero was in attendance. Gratitude unlike any before flooded the hearts and minds of all as the final touches were completed. Displays reflected Titan’s selfless achievements to protect the city, his relentless work to train and to teach, and for defeating multiple, simultaneous assailants. The azure powerhouse fought with the strength and resolve of two--Nae--three Zell. But, perhaps of even greater monumental clarity was Titan’s pure heart (‘Cyur’).
The beautiful ‘Courtyard of Courage’ was a tranquil melding of nature and innovation, peppered with crystalline markers and way-points. Precision-cut stone decor was fashioned by the dedicated design work of talented, expert Zell. But this Sunsday, special additions amazed and dazzled every eye and ear. Vellum-lined lamps were lit aflame, hung high, and triumphant music was strummed by the brilliant Bardiche: Kessoshaero’s primary minstrel (with accompaniment by fellow Amals). Gorgeous foliage and fresh flowers were carefully arranged. Tables of delicious edibles and pitchers of glorious, honeydew liquids abounded--all complementing the natural landscapes. Even the stone and wooden staircases which led through the forest, over brooks, and into gazebos were strewn with ivy, lighting, and precious gem shards. Simply enchanting!
Titan wore a distinct black, onyx amulet. He’d carried this artifact for Epochs, far before he’d set even a single claw upon the grounds of Kessoshaero. But few understood why he donned the pendant, nor where and when he’d received it. None knew if it held power of any sort. Most postulated that it was a family heirloom, or possibly an item which once belonged to a partner. But again, none knew for certain. And fewer still (if any) were likely to trivialize Titan’s rigorous daily schedule by pestering him about such trifles.
A dozen Zell guards stood at-the-ready, holding intricate staff-like torches. These poles would later be lit via varied bursts of breath from the sentries. Tall braziers of metallic and crystalline origin were also to be illuminated by these staves. Later, all of these would easily be extinguished by icy breath from other Zell.
Front and center at the Courtyard, Elder Chi-Zell Leijimoto stood tall, awaiting Titan’s approach--proud as any life form could be. He had longed for this moment, and here at long last, it had finally arrived. That perfect Sunsday. It reminded Leiji of a very special Sunsday--one long ago. His mind was briefly whisked away. Time stopped, and he reflected, revisiting memories of when he’d first laid eyes upon fair Althe’aya...
Althe’aya was Leijimoto’s love. He’d encountered her long ago, peacefully sleeping amidst a meadow of silky flowers and wild grass. All at a Time when he thought no other Zell could possibly exist in the lands of Taelondria. The castle--Kessoshaero--had not yet been built, as, the two Zell themselves were the ones who would later construct the fortress! Prior to this, Leijimoto assumed he was alone. He had flown a lonely journey, far from his previous refuge, retreating from a planet-wide Vas Tach (great war). He believed himself to be the very last surviving Zell. Fortunately, he was mistaken, and in the best of ways. Althe’aya’s eyes, golden colors, and very existence had struck such a chord in his Cyur (heart), it was indeed relevant to quote Bardiche’s own poetic phrases: “Music is Magic!”. To Leiji, Althe’aya was BOTH. Her voice was of unequaled intelligence and verve, but she resonated vibrations of magic into his soul beyond all compare.
CHEERING! Elder Leijimoto’s vivid dreamscape quickly dissolved as he heard the raucous cries of his subjects. He smiled, fully re-awakened to the wonders of it all. The celebration was glorious, and the Sunsday: perfect. His eyes beamed as did the magically decorative torches.
Soon, the azure, monumental Titan approached. A long, double-row of six and six ceremoniously outfitted Zell lit twelve corresponding braziers as the hero of legend passed. All eyes revered Kessoshaero’s champion, and few to none could compare. He was the protector which anyone of any land and any Time had hoped for--one whom they prayed would forever remain.
Titan’s pace slowed to a respectful gait as he admired his dearest leader. Claws over his fist, he greeted Leijimoto, bowing with deep adoration and humility. He, too, had awaited this moment for so very long. Leijimoto was not only his liege, but more importantly, his Vas Amal (loosely: ‘friend of deep respect/love’).
A Sunsday like none other! The sun was bright. The breeze wafted a refreshing and crisp scent, and tree leaves fluttered like Ys Zell wings. Awaiting Leijimoto’s command, the crowd grew anxiously silent. With a nervous breath, a nod and a smile, he signaled to his subjects that it was all to begin. Compelled to truly communicate the event’s importance, Leijimoto dramatically swooped his arms in a grandiose, circular manner, finally placing his right, open-clawed digits over his left closed fist. This was a custom of honor--a gesture in which Zell paid respect, greetings, and even farewells. Some may have understood it as a ‘bow’, perhaps demonstrated from expert martial arts practitioners within other cultures. Leiji’s six outstretched right claws specifically formed an oval, ring-like shape, but three of those claws simultaneously aimed toward the heavens. The left fist underneath represented a sense of grounded strength and resilience, but compassion as well; and also: a promise to offer all three when required.
It was not something which humans could truly comprehend.
“Approach! TA RAS ZI WA CHI-YONG! Yong... for your Vas deeds, my courageous Amal... and our seasoned warrior of Kessoshaero... LoSumm... Chi-Zell... TITAN!!”
Magnanimous roaring cheers split the wind in the trees. Even the nearby ocean waters ‘heard’ what heroics resonated upon this perfect Sunsday. Titan knelt, bowing his head. He rested his wings low to the ground--a symbol of allegiance and great respect. In his distinct, deeply resonant tone, he answered:
“CHI-YONG. Chi-Foi... Eyayeli-ha!”
“EYAYELI-HA, TAEUUSAH-AY, Foi Amal. You have faced much evil, Titan. Yet, even amidst treacherous Vas Tach, you are calm; at peace, with the Suust of Oos. And may the plentiful Oos watch over us ALL!”
As it was customary, all Zell of Kessoshaero echoed Elder Leiji’s words with a resounding, unanimous shout:
“VAS OOS WATCH OVER US!! JEE ALL!!”
These were ‘group prayers’ requesting that the heavens render aid, and for a sense to ‘see all’ of the Future...
Jackie, Link and Raeniya were certainly interested in the days to come, and quite respectful of the ceremony, but, Raeniya’s curiousity got the best of her. She wanted to know what Artemis was planning when he’d requested Link and Jacks to collect Jhaeoos shards. To her, it didn’t make much sense: what was the point? Certainly the imperfect fragments were useful here and there, but... why Jackie and Link? And why so secretively? She felt compelled to figure it out, ceremony or not.
“Right to know WHAT??!”
Raeniya whispered at mere claws-lengths, so as not to disrupt the ceremonies. Jackie and Link glanced at one another, then, back to Raeniya. The two simultaneously mimicked Elder Leijimoto’s usual methods of quieting a crowd...
No creature enjoys being ‘shushed’ (even though the sound of this dragonspeak was closer to ‘soost’), but Raeniya knew that pressing the issue would have led to embarrassment and dishonor. This was Titan’s Sunsday: not the moment for silly banter about imperfect Jhaeoos collections. Still, her interest was piqued.
Link surreptitiously delivered her bag of shiny treasures to Artemis. He smiled and nodded, acknowledging her fine work. Link returned to Jackie and Raeniya, and the three continued to vaguely listen as Elder Leijimoto rambled on. Oddly, Raeniya felt as if something was awry, but ignored it and quipped:
“They’re not even COMPLETE Jhaeoos! Just... useless shards!”
More cheers erupted from the crowd. Leijimoto’s speech had finally ended, and so, the azure hero of Kessoshaero was prompted to respond (as tradition decreed):
“The blessing has been mine, liege. By focusing only to serve my Zell Amals, I am steeled with both Chi-Yong and Chi-Foi. My Talos and Cyur have been put to their best usage: service.”
“Zi, Amal. And we too, have Vas Taeuusah-ay for you! As do our... many... Bo Zell? Now, where ARE our Future heroes?”
Elder Leijimoto scanned the courtyard. Raeniya realized that they were not in their correct positions. This explained why they hadn’t seen Mestrius, nor their green-scaled Amal, Elliott (a happy-go-lucky Zell of acid and poison). Jackie, Link and Raeniya scrambled forward, nearly knocking Elliott over. He beamed, gleefully ecstatic to have located his only Amals. Leiji finally caught line-of-sight of them, nodded to the plucky younglings, and charmingly smiled, claws over fist. Although Elder Leijimoto wasn’t concerned about their tardiness, there were other authorities who were far less forgiving.
As Link, Raeniya and Jackie had pushed their way into proper position, they suddenly found themselves face to face with one of their many superiors: Gertranimor. Motherly and nurturing as she was, Gerty was not lenient like Leijimoto. The pearl and ashen-shaded grand dame of Kessoshaero was strict: a Zell never to be crossed! Not if someone valued their teeth (or ears--she was often very loud). And, on the terrible occasions when Gertranimor was angry, she rattled off rapid admonishments with a dizzying haste! Anger and speed: not a pleasant combination. Luckily for Jackie, grandmother Gerty was in a pleasant mood this Sunsday, thanks to the festivities. Besides: she actually liked Jackralvian. She hollered a response to Leijimoto.
“They are the Future! OUR Future!”
Although publicly proud, privately, Gertranimor smacked Jackralvian quicker than her tail bash, whispering a scolding: “Late!! Why’re you always LATE?!” . As Elliott watched, Jackie winced, praying that Gerty’s short but mostly painless assaults would soon cease. She only struck him thrice. It was a mostly perfect Sunsday.
Bardiche noted the tardiness as well. He was not a medieval weapon in the most literal sense, but nearly: he was a minstrel. Zi, that is correct: a bard! Bardiche was ready to play for the festivities; his multi-faceted musical instrument (‘Leutronica’)--attuned to begin. This ‘Leutronica’ was a device capable of creating just about every subtle musical tone and sibilant percussion under the two moons of Taelondria. While adjusting three strings and three knobs, he jokingly spouted prose to his eccentric companion (named ‘Garjeegyl’):
“Presently, our ’Future’ is late to the party. As usual... in the Past.”
Bard smirked, but his ally scowled. Garjeegyl was a wiry, gargoyle-like Zell with wild eyes and a quirky demeanor. He floated nearby his poetic Amal, and scolded him for bothering to chide Jackie’s tardiness. Who cared? And why did it matter? Sunsday was for celebration! To Jeeg, all that mattered was that everyone was having fun, and enjoying the drinks and food he’d prepared.
“Alright-alright-alright, just leaves ’em BE, Bard!”
Garjeegyl had a very unique way of spouting ‘alright’--and, rapidly. Part of his quirky behavior, certainly--but it was both charming and endearing whenever he’d trill out: ‘ahriteahriteahriteahrite’ prior to, and after most anything he wished to say. Everyone loved him, especially for all the wonderful concoctions he’d dream up and dole out. Jeeg was Kessoshaero’s main cook, rations expert, herbalist, and mix-master of fine libations and wacky beverages! He’d prepared a literal throng of mysterious drinks this Sunsday, and he intended every last one to be quaffed--bottoms up!
Suddenly, as if Timing was of the essence in Taelondria, a trumpeting fanfare echoed throughout the winds of the Courtyard (complete with pomp and circumstance), announcing the arrival of none other than the Zell Princess Violetta. A Chariot beyond the clouds materialized in the distance as it grew ever closer.
Everyone stopped and took notice, although it wasn’t exactly a unanimous mindset of joy and wonder for all. Most disliked Princess Violetta. Some did not approve of her... behavior. Others merely tolerated her. Those who remained merely ogled her luxurious but sultry beauty--mesmerized by her seductive exuberance. Violetta was... controversial. Elliott, however, was always smitten by her silky ways--whether she was coming or going. Struck like a bolt of Thuune ('lightning/thunder') as he watched her float down like an angel from the heavens, his Jee sparkled like the Vas Oos. She didn’t even know Elliott existed.
The Bard, as usual, subtly played upon his own words, as oft a poet is wont...
“Spohsing of ‘as usual’...”
As Bard observed Violetta’s lavish caravan closing in, Dupree’--a Zell who fancied himself a ‘Paladin’ (at least, from a human’s perspective)--stood nearby. The knight wasn’t fond of Violetta, either. However, unlike his comrade-in-arms (Llewelyn), Dupree’ believed that the Princess was merely young and impetuous. Her lack of sanctity and virtue were primarily signs of immaturity. This greatly saddened Dupree’, especially because he’d devoted his life to serving fellow Zell (not unlike Titan). He shook his head in disappointment.
“Oh by my sword and Althe’aya above.”
Dupree’ carried a sword which boasted a jagged blade. The metal resembled a lightning bolt’s shape, but it was--of course--incarnated of steel, silver and bronze; certainly not of actual energy. Dupe also wore (extra) armor: a breastplate with chain rings and strong links separating key areas of the mail, all of which allowed good freedom of movement. No other Zell was as pious as master Dupree’, nor did they carry nor wield steel.
Llewelyn growled and grumbled a sarcastic, disenchanted tone...
“Errggnnnhhehhhh, joy. Here she comes...”
Llewelyn (an icy, faint cyan-shaded curmudgeon of old) didn’t trust Violetta. Perhaps because he was an old-fashioned, hardened warrior, far older than the Princess. But her pretentious attitude, and air of haughty disdain severely clashed with Llewelyn’s blunt, serious nature. He did not ‘use’ his Zell Amals for pointless monetary nor societal gain. Gain, however, was Violetta’s very instinct--much to Kessoshaero’s chagrin.
And thus, the arrival of Violetta trumped even Titan’s popularity. An amethyst Zell of extreme riches and status, she was adorned with large gemstone rings on all her digits... a circlet, two anklets, two bracelets, one amulet, and six ‘winglaces’ as well. The quintessential ‘Cleopatra, princess of Dragons’. A truly hedonistic yet dainty Zell, always posturing to appear as twice what she wasn’t, and thrice what she’d ever accomplished.
Descending into view, her four Zell servants paraded Violetta in circles as she luxuriously lounged in her bed-like ‘Sky Chariot’: a literal flying carriage of decadence for her convenience! With certainty, nothing was wrong with Violetta’s lavender, butterfly-patterned wings, she simply preferred not to ‘waste’ her energies flying about when others could do it for her. How charming she was. But Elliott remained enamored.
The crowd cheered with wild abandon, parting in the center to make way for the gold and silver airship’s landing. Shortly thereafter, the music, chatter, and excitement hushed into a curious silence. Violetta stepped down from the portal of her carriage, and addressed the entourage. She spoke with regal energy:
“VAS VAS RA CHI-YONG, LOSUMM ZELL Titan! You honor the royal family with your strength, power, and virile cunning as a warrior, great defender of our city! None hold you in higher regard than do my father, my mother, and I. And thus, we present a glorious GIFT!”
As she spoke, a monumental crystalline statue of the azure legend’s likeness was hoisted into the courtyard’s center, and summarily unveiled! Elliott’s heart thumped. Titan stared at Violetta, leering with suspicion. His eyes fixated upon hers, searching for a hidden agenda--usually revealed by her transparent lack of tact. Still, he ceremoniously placed his left fist under his open-clawed right, and subtly nodded as he gestured.
She ignored his dismissive nonchalance and smiled, playing to the crowd. The gargantuan Jhaeoos statue nearly eclipsed the tops of Kessoshaero’s towers. Callously, it overshadowed everything within the Courtyard of Courage--the trees, too. The sculptured effigy skirted upon the edges of gaudy, irreverent design, and was certainly too large to be anything else but a metaphor for Violetta’s... over-compensation.
Bardiche knew an opportunity when he saw one.
Garjeegyl, Link, Raeniya, and other Zell snickered, but Violetta blabbered on, paying no pause nor notice.
“Titan, in addition to this glorious statue of your likeness, I am also blessed with Chi-Foi to offer yet another present to you: myself! We shall dine together this Moonseve. Perhaps YOU will tell me of YOUR triumphs, and I shall tell you of MINE...”
Dupree’ shot a glance to Llewelyn, not three wingspans away. As Lew drank, he groaned. His eyes rolled so far into the back of his head, even Gerty felt it. Then, he grumbled and growled, sneering. Charming, indeed.
Titan was required to respond, but chose to do so with careful tact--mostly to negate the lack thereof from the Princess. Again, he nodded with subtle apathy.
“Zi, it will be certain. Ahem. Now... we celebrate your PROWESS!”
The crowd knew that Violetta hoped to incite boisterous cheers, so, they obliged and acquiesced. It was better than hearing her endless drivel. Anything to get back to the celebration, chats and drinks. Artemis stepped forth moments later, prepared to deliver a speech of his own. His lessons were always of great wisdom: directly in contrast to Violetta’s vain, self-serving ramblings. An astute sorcerer, Artemis even donned the white beard and silver locks humans considered a ‘wizard’s likeness’. But, there was no coincidence here: it was simply a matter of age. Artemis was over 1,400 Epochs old (very loosely akin to ‘Earth years’)! It was not atypical to reach such an age: there were several Zell even older than Artemis. Leijimoto, for one. And Gerty was nearing her 2,000th Epoch--approaching what would normally be the ‘end-of-life’ for a Zell. And with great age came experience and wisdom. However, the ages of dragons were not meant for humans to understand: one Earth year was not identical to an Epoch, as, their planet’s diameter was far greater.
But Jackie, Link and Raeniya were interested in other matters of speech this Sunsday (but also the food and drinks). As Artemis made proclamations of hope, inspiration and courage to the Courtyard’s entourage, his voice seemed to fade into the background. The three Amals focused upon Violetta’s shocking behavior. The triad most definitely should have been listening to Artemis’ great wisdom, but the Princess’s actions were scandalous--enough to take precedence. Frowning, Raeniya gawked at Violetta’s copious array of jewelry.
“Prowess?! Wow, get a load of HER--”
Link wanted nothing of the such. Or, so she retorted:
“Naess, no way. All that jewelry and flashy nonsense makes me sick!”
Violetta strutted and primped. The Princess was almost like a display cabinet of... wares. Sultry, suggestive wares. Raeniya and Link continued to inspect Violetta’s surplus of Jhaeoos.
“Zi, right?! I’d never use jewelry to flaunt MY powers. And imagine it, Raeniya: removing all that nonsense EVERY single Starseve?! Nae, Naess.”
Raeniya could barely contain her chortles. Link giggled. Both agreed that Violetta was quite haughty. In fact, Violetta often treated them as ‘lesser beings’. It was rare that she even addressed the two. It was possible she’d never done so. It was also entirely plausible that Violetta knew neither of their names. Charming, indeed.
Jackie, however, hadn’t cared in the least, nor noticed. The white Bo Zell had intently observed Titan throughout the entire ordeal, curiously studying the giant hero before he posed a question to his Amals.
“What’s HIS power?”
“Titan. He’s amazing, but... no Flam, no Frol, no Thuune... what are his powers?”
Like Bardiche, Link rarely missed a chance to point out both irony and humor.
“You mean OTHER than being humongous and stronger than a hundred of me?”
Raeniya adored Link almost as much as did Jackie. She didn’t always scorn their tomfoolery.
“NO one’s stronger than YOU, Link!”
The Ys Zell grinned with a playful blush, but proudly agreed as she flew off, muttering a confident: “I know, I know”. She was trying to get a better look at some of the ceremonial fun as she casually quipped back:
“I said one-HUNDRED!”
Link, being an Ys Zell, was often misunderstood. She hinted to comparing Titan to one-hundred Ys Zell--not simply to herself alone--a fair correlation. In fact, one-hundred Ys Zell were likely stronger than any one Zell.
Jackie continued to study Titan with great curiousity. Raeniya munched on Brambleberry topped with Shallice. Dupree’ and Llewelyn drank heartily as Bard merrily played magnificent tunes. Elliott was Elliott, and mostly gawked at Violetta. The Sunsday’s ceremony promised to be the most lavish, beautifully executed pageantry of pleasantries Kessoshaero had experienced in a long, long while. The first real triumph in at least three Epochs. The weather felt perfect, the wildlife frolicked in playful harmony, and the patrons of Kessoshaero were well-fed. Everyone drank heartily as they smiled from ear to ear.
It was a gorgeous Sunsday. Nearly perfect.