The sound of a door swinging open could be heard out of Kirith’s deep sleep. It made him shudder. Kirith turned in his bed and moaned. He didn’t have the strength to get up and see who or what it was. It’ll go away soon… he thought. Heavy thuds tromped across the floor. Footsteps. Kirith strained to keep his eyes closed and tried to stay in the dreamy state. He pulled the soft covers closer to his body. “Be gone feral beast…” Kirith muttered half-consciously to the ethereal demon conjured up by his mind.
“Not until the knight decides to get up off his bum!” a cranky voice came.
Kirith felt the sheets rip from his grasp. His eyes shot open to see an older plump maid stuffing the covers into a large basket. Bonita.
Of course, Kirith thought. He sat up groggily and rubbed his eyes. “Can I rest in peace for once?” Kirith complained. “And it’s so early!”
“You can do that in your grave, dear,” Bonita said with a hint of a smile.
“It’s time to rise and shine, princess!” For a woman who was rotund and slightly short, she did have the energy of a stallion. Bonita was always up and ready for the day’s work, and for awakening Kirith. She knew how to make him hustle and get himself situated, since he really wasn’t the type to do it himself. It was very ironic, a maid pushing a prince around.
Kirith groaned and fell back on his bed. “Leave me be!” he whined.
Bonita waddled over to the one of the windows and pulled the curtains, sending a blaze of sunlight into the room. “Your beauty sleep is over, boy! Come on now! Get up, chop, chop!”
Kirith squinted as the morning glory as his eyes began to sting. He grimaced and covered his eyes. Kirith had remembered that his curtains made it hard to tell if the day had come. But he had requested specifically ones that would “turn the room black”, only because he could sleep in utter darkness and have a reason to be waking up too late for tutoring. But Bonita was always there to wake him up extra early and chastise his laziness.
But today was the sixth day of the week, the appointed resting day. Why would Bonita bother to wake him up now?
“Bonita,” Kirith complained, “this is Etharin, the rest day, remember? You shouldn’t even be in here.”
Bonita walked to the other window and pulled the drapes aside, bringing more light into the room. She glanced back at Kirith, giving him an odd look.
“Today is your brother’s coronation!” she stormed. “Did you get troll ooze in your ears?!?” Bonita shook her head displeasingly, tying the drapes in place.
Kirith rubbed his head in realization. That was right! Nomaru’s coronation was that very day. Almost all the royals from the other provinces and kingdoms would be coming to attend it. Kirith began pulling on his shoulder length black hair. How could he forget his own brother’s coronation? It was to be the most important day in all of Grendalia!
“That’s today?!?” Kirith stammered in disbelief.
Bonita moved over to the other wall where Kirith’s closet was. “You really do have troll ooze stuck in your ears!” She shook her head again, opening the closet doors. There inside hung an assortment of tunics, vests, trousers, tights and many others.
Kirith quickly jumped off his bed. “Then I need to get ready!” Kirith exclaimed.
“It’s about time you started using your head,” Bonita grumbled. She pulled out a set of clothing out of the closet and walked back over to the bed. Placing the tunic and trousers neatly on the bed, Bonita narrowed her eyes at Kirith. “There’s your tunic,” she said sharply and pointed a knobby finger at him. “Now Kirith, if you go do any dirty business and mess this up on a day like this, so help me boy, I’ll have your head!”
“Of course, mother!” Kirith replied sarcastically. Though Kirith was pure royalty, Bonita still treated him like she was his mother. Before Kirith’s mother passed away from delivering him, Bonita and her were the best of friends. Bonita seemed to have vowed to herself that she would fill that empty space for Kirith and his brother Nomaru.
“I mean it!” she hissed. Letting out a humph, Bonita picked up the basket and walked out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
Kirith sighed and shook his head. She was right. He probably wouldn’t be able to keep that promise. Though, he wasn’t being very serious about it either.
Kirith pulled the tunic on over his head. He then pulled off the previous trousers and fitted on the new ones. Finally, he pulled on his boots and tied the lace. Now he was ready.
Kirith went to the bedroom door and opened it, dashing out of the room. The hall before him was long. Windows lined the white stonewalls, giving a radiant glow. One of male servants dusted a small table next to the wall. Lamek. Kirith ran in his direction. Lamek tried to avoid eye contact, obviously annoyed by Kirith’s presence.
“Lamek! Do you know what day it is?” Kirith asked cheerfully.
“Well it’s—” Lamek began firmly.
“Nomaru’s coronation day!” Kirith exclaimed, dashing past him.
Lamek sighed. “Yes…your majesty.”
Kirith continued on through the winding halls of the castle, greeting every person or living thing he came in contact with. This was a day he had waited so long for, to see his older brother become king. He had even counted down the days for it. Kirith was proud of his older brother. He knew Nomaru could take on the challenge of ruling a kingdom.
But even through all his happiness, Kirith felt somewhat jealous. Nomaru was going to be in higher placing than him. He had all the riches and could choose from any of the fine royal maidens of the land. But Kirith knew he would never try to take any of Nomaru’s wealth. If anything, he would want to support his brother in the days of kinghood.
Kirith dashed out of the hall to enter a dining hall. Long tables were set up all along it laden with blue cloths. Many of the servants were at work trying to make it neat. There was freshness to the air of many foods being cooked. A man holding a tray of steaming croissants passed by Kirith.
A smile emerged on Kirith’s lips at the very scent of it. He quickly stepped in front of the servant. “Hey, any idea where the ‘soon to be king’ is?” Kirith asked.
The servant furrowed his brow and motioned with his head towards a woman. “Ask her,” he said impatiently.
Kirith grinned and took one of the croissants before taking a bite. “Thanks!” he said with his mouth full. Kirith strode over to the woman who watched all the servants studiously.
“Mmm no move it to the side a little more!” she said to them.
Kirith swallowed and began to speak, “Do—”
“Prince Kirith, I am quite busy right now, please,” she retorted.
Kirith squinted at her and frowned. “I’ll leave you alone when you tell me where my brother is.”
She sighed and rolled her eyes. “He is on the second floor… Yes right there is good!”
Kirith looked at the woman very unappreciatively. “You could at least be more specific.”
The woman glared at him irritably. “The dressing room!” she said it as if it were a threat.
“Okay, okay!” Kirith immediately turned right back around and dashed off down the hall.
“H-hey wait— you can’t—” the servant called after him, but it was too late.
Kirith rushed down the meeting hall passed through a corridor out into the main entryway. The ceiling rose high above him in a cathedral like manner. On either side of the entryway hung blue exquisite banners with a wolf symbol on them. Opposite of that was a wide staircase leading up.
Kirith made his way up the staircase and traced down the many halls. He wasn’t even sure himself whether he was allowed to see his brother or not. All the excitement in him just couldn’t keep hold any longer.
Kirith finally reached a pair of double doors and pushed them open.
There, in middle of the room and amongst four servants stood a young man dressed in an intricate, blue tunic. Armor adorned his chest and shoulders and a long cape draped down his back. His eyes were a steely sharp blue. His black hair flowed down to his shoulders in a layered and wavy manner. With his prideful stature and look, anyone would easily mistake him for being a king.
“Brother!” Kirith exclaimed, rushing over to him.
Nomaru looked at Kirith a bit surprised. “Kirith? What are you doing in here? Shouldn’t you be getting ready?”
Kirith stopped to examine Nomaru head to toe. “Yeah about that...you see I forgot your coronation was today.”
Nomaru laughed in disbelief. “But you were the one who kept reminding me how many days would be left till the day came. You were so sure to nail the date into my head! By the Creator, you forget every important day the morning it actually happens!”
“Yeah well I think Bonita got it jabbed into my skull just by blinding me with sunlight this morning,” Kirith chuckled.
The two of them laughed heartily at their own amusement.
Nomaru sighed and looked into the mirror before him as one of the servants helped strap a metal shoulder guard over him. Kirith moved over and looked at Nomaru’s kingly reflection.
“I can’t believe you’ll finally be...king. I mean— you’re definitely fit for a king! You’ll rule the kingdom well.”
Nomaru let out a tired sigh as he stared back at his reflection.
“It would be awesome to be king, like, think of all the riches you will have! Like, all the soldiers at your disposal, any women you could choose from, oh and maybe even the countries you could conquer—”
“Kirith, I don’t know…”
“Oh come on Nomaru! You’re perfect for the position! Well you do—”
“Kirith!” Nomaru snapped.
“I mean, you shouldn’t be so worried about that—”
“I’m not worried about being king!” he exclaimed. “I’m worried about...you.”
Kirith went silent and looked up at Nomaru. “Me...?” he asked. “I-I don’t understand…”
Nomaru took a deep breath. “I’ll become king...what of you? What will you become of you?”
Kirith fidgeted slightly. An unnerving silence fell upon them. What would become of him? What was he referring to? Kirith laughed nervously to end the silence. “W-well what do you mean?” he asked. “I’ll be here in the castle, with you! Right?”
“What about father? He won’t tolerate you staying here forever,” he said. “You know he wants you to marry the Baldorian—”
“Ew! I mean— no, just— father can’t make me do that! I could live beneath the castle!”
“And what, thrive off of the rats?”
Kirith shrugged. “Well I was hoping someone would bring me a meal everyday.”
“And then have them followed by a servant and discover your presence?” Nomaru said and smiled, shaking his head.
“Rats it is then. Or I could sneak through that passage way into the market—”
“You need me for that, Kirith, remember? I know the way around.”
“Oh come on, I’ve memorized how to get around myself!” Kirith teased, elbowing Nomaru in the shoulder. “Don’t underestimate me.”
“Back to the point,” Nomaru continued, “you can’t live like that. You can’t do— any of that!” He sighed and grabbed Kirith’s shoulders, looking him in the eye. “Promise me you’ll find a life most suitable for you. You deserve much more than being locked up in a castle. I know you do.”
Kirith sighed and rolled his eyes. He wasn’t the favorite of the two brothers, and he knew that fully well from his father. Though, Kirith had learned to live with it and shrug it off. “Fine! But I’m definitely not marrying the Baldorian princess!”
Nomaru laughed and mussed Kirith’s messy hair. “Oh she’s not that bad! Hey, maybe you two can get to know each other better tonight at the celebration!”
Kirith looked at Nomaru devastated. “What?!?” he exclaimed. “SHE’S coming?!?
“Of course! All the kingdoms of Vasnidale are attending!”
“Oh no,” Kirith said, pulling at his hair. “Why her?!? Why me? And I thought I would be able to enjoy ceremony!”
“Relax!” Nomaru laughed and patted Kirith on the back. “It’ll be fine! Just drink enough of the Swum and you’ll be away with the faeries.”
Kirith snorted and punched Nomaru’s shoulder. “You’re sounding less and less like a king by the second!” he laughed.
Nomaru chuckled. “On another note, the parade should be starting soon.”
Kirith mouth fell open. “Parade?!?” he exclaimed.
“It seems Bonita hasn’t told you everything,” Nomaru smirked.
Kirith rubbed the back of his neck. “But I believe she did tell me everything. Its just there’s a certain way she speaks that makes it hard to understand what she’s saying. Like a really cranky witch!” Kirith scrunched his face and pretended to hold a spoon. “’KIRITH YOU NASTY LITTLE FIEND!’” he said in an imitated and scratchy voice. “NEXT TIME I FIND YOU IN A MESS ILL WACK YOU IN THE—”
“I heard that, boy!” came Bonita’s voice from the hall. The plump maid came stomping in through the doors. As she walked towards Nomaru, she gave a quick glare to Kirith before looking back to the king and smiling. “Indeed you’ll be a great king,” she said. “Oop! Wait—” Bonita reached up and fixed Nomaru’s hair.
“Bonita—” Nomaru began.
“Shush!” she said. “You don’t need to look like that messy little scoundrel over there.” Bonita eyed Kirith.
Kirith frowned. “I combed this hair myself, you know!” he said sarcastically.
“Oh sure you did.” Bonita rolled her eyes and stepped back. “And I bet you perfumed it like any princess would, too!” That got a nasty look from Kirith. She tilted her to the side and made a toothy grin. “What a handsome king you are.”
Nomaru bowed elegantly and took Bonita’s hand, gently kissing it. “Why thank you, Milady,” he said softly. “But I am not yet crowned as king.”
Bonita blushed, her grin widening. “Oh you,” she began, “you’ll be crowned soon, your majesty!” Bonita looked over at Kirith, her smile fading slightly. “And you. I’m surprised you’re not a complete mess by now. A new record indeed.”
“I could break that record now if you’d like,” Kirith snickered. “It seems quite tempting now that I think about it.”
“You should very much reconsider that one. You make a mess of your clothes, I’m making you do the of the laundry for the rest of the week.”
“Tch! And who’s gonna make me?”
“Well your father did have part in this...”
Kirith groaned, “Of course he did!”
“You speak of your father in respect,” Bonita backfired, raising her nose in the air.
“All right,” Kirith said grumpily. He turned back to Nomaru, hope glinting in his eyes. “Hey, I’m going out to the fields. You wanna come?”
“Most definitely not!” Bonita said as she helped the other servants clean up.
“I wasn’t talking to you!” Kirith replied.
“Watch your tongue, boy!”
Nomaru smiled sadly. “Kirith, I would love to, but I must speak with father.”
Kirith’s shoulders hung a bit. “Oh come on, father can wait!” He grabbed Nomaru’s hand and pulled a little. “For old time’s sake! And…one last time to just have an escape before you become king.”
Nomaru exhaled deeply and stared back at Kirith. “I would give anything in the world to do it one last time,” he said. “But today is my coronation, and I need to be ready.”
Kirith felt himself deflate a little inside at his reply. Nomaru was right. He wasn’t a child anymore, and this was a day he needed to stay concentrated. “Alright,” he nodded, forcing a smile and letting go of Nomaru’s hand. “See you at the parade then, yeah?”
“Of course! And we’ll have a celebration tonight like none other,” Nomaru replied and smiled reassuringly.
Kirith nodded and took some steps back. “Well, see you later, your majesty,” he said before walking right out of the room.
Kirith treaded the back alleyways of the city, easily slipping through the shadows on a specific path. He remembered this specific path ever since Nomaru had shown him it as a kid. The twisting turns and quaint streets never seemed to change since then. It was like the city itself was forever in a loop. On one street, there was the distinct smell of baking pastries and the rising smoke from the bakery on the corner. Another street had the loud clanking on the anvil and the sizzle of hot in cold from the blacksmith.
But even though the city was alive with people, the journey to the outside felt lonely for Kirith. It was different when it was with Nomaru, there would always be something to talk about or something to experience with one another. They always learned something new each time they treaded the streets, small and large. But the coming of Nomaru’s coronation signaled that it was time to grow up and not live a life to simply just enjoy. Kirith felt as if those fourteen years of his life had flown right by and in came the new.
Reaching one of the outer quaint districts, Kirith made his way through a small square and past a stone well. He walked down a lonely cobblestone path towards a wooden door with a cross panel holding it in place so no one got in from the other side. Kirith reached the door and pulled the board up before opening the door. Walking through, he remembered to place a stone between the door and the frame to keep it from locking in place. The last time that had happened was when both Kirith and Nomaru were much younger and it ended up with them both having to walk all the way to the entry gates and receiving a long lecture from their father. Ever since, the two brothers remembered to keep something in the door. Do not want to go through something like that again, Kirith thought.
Before him was a broken up stone path. Trees clustered around and created a canopy next to the city wall. Birds of various different kinds chirped and flew from branch to branch. A fresh scent filled Kirith’s lungs and immediately set him at ease. He walked down the path, feeling all the reminiscence of the area. The path ended as the trees parted to reveal green hillsides. Far off in the smoky distance stood tall, snowy mountains, darkened with mystery and awaiting adventure.
Kirith left the comfort of the small cluster of trees and out into the field. As he walked further and further, the sounds of the birds became distant, and were soon replaced by the chorus of grasshoppers and cicadas. The city was quite distant now as Kirith reached the top of the hill. He stopped at the very top and surveyed the valley. From where he stood, almost all of the land surrounding the city of Grendalia could be seen. Far off were several farmlands and cottages. Everything seemed so still from such a position.
Letting out a sigh, Kirith sat down and lay back in the grass. He stared up at the blue sky as his mind began to drift off. What memories Nomaru and Kirith had as children, simply spending time out there together. Nothing was going to be the same there on out. Nomaru would be king and the country would move on, but what about Kirith? Was Nomaru right? Kirith closed his eyes.
“What do you mean leave?” Nomaru laughed, lying at his side.
“I mean go on an adventure! Just the two of us!” Kirith said, sitting up excitedly. “We could— we could fight dragons and explore dungeons!”
Nomaru grinned and shook his head. “Are you even ready for that kind of thing? It’s easier said than done.” He sat up too and flicked Kirith’s forehead.
Kirith turned slightly red and crossed his arms. “And what makes YOU the expert about this, huh?”
“Just listen to your big brother, squirt,” Nomaru replied and lay back down. “But in all seriousness, I don’t think father would want me to leave anyways.”
Kirith furrowed his brow. “But you’re so powerful! You have the power of the Seal!”
“And that’s exactly why.” Nomaru opened his eyes and looked up. “He says there are people out there, bad people who want to take my power away.”
“Well I won’t let ’em!” Kirith said, puffing out his chest. “I won’t let anyone take you or your Seal!”
Suddenly there was a distant chime far off. Kirith’s eyes snapped open, causing the childhood memory to fade off. He immediately sat up, hearing the chime more distinctly. Bells. Kirith’s eyes widened. “The parade…” he muttered. How long had he been out? There was no time to think. Kirith cursed under his breath as he scrambled up onto his feet and ran back in the direction of the city.
The city became ripe with excitement, as the parade had started off the build up to the crowning ceremony. The royal family of Grendalia had rode in glamour and elegancy as the people cheered and exchanged tears of joy. Once Nomaru was finally crowned in the city’s main chapel, the rejoicing began.
Though the parade felt like it had gone on forever, the day passed quicker than it began. The kingdom and its people then saw the crowning of their new king and rejoiced to the Creator and the years of prosperity to come.
“CHEERS! TO OUR NEW KING, NOMARU!” A meaty man roared, holding a large tankard dripping with wine.
“TO OUR NEW KING!!” The people in the ballroom said in a joyous unison.
And the dancing began.
The harmonious sound of music, laughter, and drinks clinking filled the ballroom. Men and women, adorned in the finest clothing danced in a whirl of color and splendor. The atmosphere was filled with the sounds of joy and celebration. Even some of the royals from the other provinces attended to partake in this momentous occasion.
Kirith stood up next to where the newly crowned king sat on his throne, over looking the people. He leaned against the throne, close to Nomaru. “Guess you were right about it not being so bad,” he whispered.
“Guess this could go for an I told you so,” Nomaru replied and smiled. But the look on his face was somewhat distant as his smile began to fade.
Kirith took a slight step back and examined Nomaru. “What’s with that look?” He caught himself. “Wait… you’re still worried about me...aren’t you?”
Nomaru averted his gaze. “Well no…not really,” he answered finally.
Kirith rolled his eyes. “Oh brother, come on! Don’t worry about it! Celebrate! Enjoy yourself! You’re king!”
“I know! I know! But you’re not the only thing I’m worried about.”
Kirith cocked an eyebrow. “What else could you possibly be worried about?”
Nomaru bit his lip. “I-its nothing…forget what I said…”
Kirith sighed dramatically. “Well if you’re not going to tell me, then you should at least ignore it!” He grabbed Nomaru’s hand and pulled a little. “Come on! Let’s find you someone to dance with, it’ll bring your spirits up.”
Nomaru suppressed a weak smile. “No I don’t—”
“Kirith, it’s best I stay where I am now.” He motioned with his head towards the crowd. “Besides…”
Kirith let go and looked behind him. With the crowd, he caught the glaring gaze of a tall and sturdy man with a perfectly cut beard and a dark tunic. His father. Kirith pulled off a poker face and looked back to Nomaru. “He’s giving me that look again. You sure you don’t want to dance?”
“I’m very sure, Kirith,” Nomaru said.
Kirith began to walk backwards. “Suit yourself!” he said, shrugging. “I’m going to go have some fun and not waste my time with a sour-puss.” Kirith turned away to enter the dance.
“W-wait!” Nomaru called after him.
Kirith turned on his heel to face him. “That was quick.”
“N-no! Gah… W-will you come back, here? When you’re done that is…” Nomaru asked, pointing down to the area at which he was.
Kirith cocked an eyebrow. “Ah— of course, it’s not like a moping person like you will go anywhere,” Kirith teased and turned back around. What’s going on with Nomaru? He’s been acting so strange. Being king must have really hit him hard, he thought.
Avoiding the dance area itself, Kirith made his way to the tables filled with foods of all kinds. He gaped at the amount one table could how for such a bounty. Fruits, pastries, cakes, breads, steamy meats, and much more that he couldn’t find the names to.
Kirith felt the saliva in his mouth nearly fall from his lips. He quickly shook his head and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. Where do I even start? Kirith thought. He quickly made up his mind and grabbed large leg of meat. Kirith pulled it close bite into.
“Well, if it isn’t prince Kirith,” a feminine voice spoke from behind.
Kirith froze. He knew that voice. Kirith lowered the leg from his mouth and slowly turned around to face a slim girl with long brunette hair pulled back into a braid. She had the most disgusted and despised look on her face.
“Oh no...” he murmured, lowering the meat.
“It’s been a while,” she said, glaring at him.
“It has...Riona of Baldoria,” Kirith sighed.
“That’s princess Riona to you.”
Kirith cocked his head to the side and shoved the leg of meat back down on the plate. “What difference does it make? We’re both on the same level of royalty.”
“There IS a difference! That I’m not on such a low level like scum like you.” She swished several strands of hair out of her face. “Don’t think that I haven’t forgotten what you did to me the last time we met.”
“Scum?” Kirith said, his voice rising a bit. “That was a year ago! And it was an accident that I spilled all that ale on you… But now that I recall it, I think I may just have done it on purpose. It at least made you a little bit cleaner than you actually were.”
Riona gasped. “How dare you! You’re insufferable, Kirith! I wonder how everyone at the castle must feel about how they have to live with someone who has a mindset like yours!”
Kirith was about to shoot something back at her when his gaze drifted away to where Nomaru was. He was speaking with someone adorned in fine clothing with a sword at his hip. The King’s royal guard, Quan Alberisk. Nomaru had a perplexed look on his face as Quan spoke with him. He rose from his throne and then followed Quan to a door on the left to which a guard stood next to. He opened the door for them before closing it behind them.
“Are you even listening to me?!?” Riona spat.
Kirith kept his eyes on the door, afraid if he lost sight of it, it would disappear.
“Yeah...sure,” he said, walking past her, towards the door.
Riona’s angered calls could be heard from behind, but Kirith didn’t bother. He strode towards the door was about to grab the handle.
“No one enters ’ere, my prince,” the guard said, his voice rich with an accent. He stepped in Kirith’s way of the door.
Kirith looked at him and narrowed his eyes. “I have fair pass.”
“No one enters here. King’s orders—”
“And I say I have fair passage!” Kirith snapped. “Unless you want me to report badly on your behalf.”
The guard looked at him for a moment and sighed beneath his helmet. He stepped aside and nodded.
Kirith turned back towards the door and opened it. Before him lay a dark hall, only lit by the moonlight flooding through the windows. He stepped inside and closed the door behind him, shutting out all sound. “Brother where did you go...” he murmured and walked down the hall. Kirith turned a corner at the end of the hall. But something was oddly peculiar. Double glass doors to the courtyard were wide open. A cold breeze wafted through the hall and ruffled the curtains along the windows. Something wasn’t right. Kirith jogged to the doors and outside into the courtyard garden.
Though it was night, the first of the seven moons, Mortem, casted an eerie moonlight glow, revealing the courtyard garden. Wind swept up fallen leaves through the desolate garden and passed a still fountain. Kirith felt chills run down his back at how lonely it was. This wasn’t right either. Usually the garden was filled with fairies of all kinds. But now it was as if nothing ever lived there in the garden before.
Kirith walked over to the fountain and looked over it to see if there were any hiding. But all he saw was his reflection in the water staring back at him.
“Prince Kirith?” came an almost inaudible voice.
Kirith turned his head to where the voice came from at the upper half of the fountain. A small fairy emitting a blue glow peeked over the rim of the small bowl. She trembled in fear as she stared back at Kirith with fear in her eyes. This was odd…usually fairies weren’t the kind to be afraid and more self-centered.
“Fae, what’s going on here? Where are the rest of your sisters?” he asked.
“We are hiding, your m-majesty,” she replied.
“Hiding? From what?”
“We sensed a dark force. It’s nothing like I’ve ever seen or felt before…”
Kirith’s eyes widened. What? “Where? Where did it come from?”
“It was— it was with your brother,” the fairy replied. She pointed a small hand towards a path through the garden. “They went that way…”
Dark Force? Could General Quan be doing this? But he was a trusted servant… Kirith pondered. “Er— I’ll take care of it, don’t worry.” Kirith jogged in that direction, into the large, thicker parts of the garden. His surroundings became darker as he entered, but he was sure to be careful about where he went. Trekking lightly on the stone path, Kirith listened for any evidence of movement. Something lay ahead, he could feel it. Kirith reached into his boot and pulled out his small dagger. But something made him freeze. Rustling came within a rose bush. Kirith stopped to stare at it. Something was in there, but what? Hesitantly, he approached the bush slowly, holding his dagger up and ready. Kirith reached out a hand to the bush and pulled back one of the branches.
A crow flew right from it, cawing loudly and frantically. Kirith yelped and jumped back, blocking his face with his arms. After several seconds, he lowered his arms and sighed. It was just a bird. Relax. Kirith continued on down the path, treading lightly on the path. What could Nomaru and Quan be doing out in the garden? Had something gone wrong? And what did the faeries mean by a “dark force?” Nomaru was worried about something, but he hid the truth from him. Kirith’s thoughts pushed aside when something pricked his ears.
Kirith’s heart pounded in his chest. Was it them? There was only one way to find out. Kirith bent low as he approached a garden archway that led out to a balcony. Using the shadows to his advantage, he hid behind the archway and looked around it towards the balcony.
Two figures stood in the lunar light. Their features slowly became distinct, revealing that it was Nomaru and Quan. Kirith held his breath and listened.
Nomaru was pacing and massaging his forehead anxiously. “You don’t have to hide in that form of yours, we’re alone.”
Quan sighed. “Hmmm if you really insist…” His features suddenly began to change as a dark layer of fog moved down his sturdily built body. As quickly as the fog came, it diminished completely to reveal someone entirely different. His complexion was young, perhaps in his late twenties or early thirties with glowing red eyes. This new-man’s hair was silver and slicked back, reflecting off the moon’s light. Black and grey clothing replaced the previous suit of armor. “Though, I have to agree, this form is much more comfortable.”
Kirith felt his heart begin to drop at the sight of the demonic man. Who is this guy?! he thought. This was some sort of magic that Kirith had never seen before.
“Your family made a deal, Nomaru... Now hand over the seal,” Quan said.
Nomaru turned to him defiantly. “I decide the deal is over!” he snapped. “The seal doesn’t belong to you, and I won’t bow to your will any longer, Aydonin.”
Aydonin stepped towards Nomaru and grinned cockily, revealing a set of white teeth that contrasted with the darkness. “We made a solid deal, boy…are you really going to let everything go for this?”
“I’m not letting everything go,” Nomaru replied. “I’m getting rid of you!”
Aydonin laughed darkly and began to idly walk around the King. “You really intrigue me! You think you’re being a hero by doing this…heroism doesn’t save your life, nor does it save the lives of your family.” He stopped in front of Nomaru. “Now hand over the seal or you’ll regret your decision greatly.” Aydonin held out his hand as a blade made purely from the shadows began to form in his palm.
Nomaru was unfazed as he glared back at him. “You’ll never take this power,” he said coldly. Reaching beneath his cape, Nomaru ripped out an elegant sword and swiped it across Aydonin.
Aydonin swiftly blocked the attack and shoved Nomaru back.
W-wait, they’re actually going to fight?!? Kirith thought. What is going on? What deal were they talking about?
“I’ll see to it that your country suffers because of your actions,” Aydonin hissed, twirling his blade as he grinned madly, “and that your family falls into the hands of the Abyss!”
“Over my grave you will!” Nomaru snapped and charged at him again. Their blades clashed once again causing a ricochet of sparks. Though Nomaru was agile, he wasn’t quick enough to lay a blow on Aydonin. His attempts were useless against Aydonin’s many years of built up skill. And before Nomaru knew it, he had already received a slice to his left shoulder.
The two then clashed their swords together, coming face-to-face.
“Why do you slow your death?” Aydonin asked, amused by the entire situation. “You know all your family will fall to my blade. Unless…I could keep one in particular.” He cackled loudly and pressed his weight onto Nomaru. “Your brother, perhaps? Nobody really cared about him anyways.”
Nomaru winced under Aydonin’s weight. “You wouldn’t dare!” he growled, a spark of blue flashing in his eyes.
“I’m sure my lord could find some use of the boy,” he replied, simply enjoying how aggravated Nomaru was getting.
“NO!” Nomaru roared shoved him back. He lunged foreword and sent a fury of swings and movements.
Aydonin was caught off guard as he stumbled back, nearing falling over the balcony edge. He quickly regained his balance in time to block Nomaru’s blows. Aydonin was weakening.
As Nomaru tried to keep up his fight, he began to weaken also. He made one last attempt and leaped foreword, swinging at the demon. Aydonin dodged his attack and took the opening. He jabbed his sword straight towards Nomaru’s midsection. Nomaru dodged it but only to be nicked in the side. He clamped his hand over his hip as blood began to flow through his fingers.
Kirith’s eyes widened in fear at the sight. I-have to stop this! I have to help Nomaru! Kirith thought. But is it my place to intervene? Kirith shook his head. What did it matter? His brother’s life was on the line. He charged out of the shadows and rushed at Aydonin, dagger in hand. “YOU’LL PAY FOR HURTING MY BROTHER!” Kirith yelled.
How foolish of him to yell. Aydonin saw it all coming.
His blade slashed across Kirith’s vision. Searing pain ripped through his skull and down. Blood spewed from the newfound wound on his face. Kirith stumbled back and fell. He covered the cut with his hands and cried out in pain.
“Kirith!” Nomaru exclaimed.
Kirith tried to sit himself up with one hand on the wound. The warm substance dripped from between his fingers. The pain in his cheek became worse.
“Ah, you came just in time!” Aydonin said. “To watch your brother die!” He quickly slashed his blade at Nomaru. Nomaru blocked the attacks Quan sent at him.
Quan pulled back his blade and sent a mighty blow towards Nomaru. Nomaru parried the blow, but the strike to him was too powerful for him to withstand, sending his sword flying out of his grasp. It skidded across the stones, far from reach.
Nomaru turned back to face Aydonin but stopped.
Kirith watched as Aydonin drove his sword straight through Nomaru. Everything went dead silent.
Nomaru slowly looked down at the blade in horror.
“No…” Kirith murmured.
Aydonin ripped the blade out of Nomaru, sending flecks of blood to scatter across the stone. Nomaru fell back and smacked into the stones, his crown rolling from his head as blood began to pour from the wound.
Kirith couldn’t believe his eyes. This couldn’t be happening, it couldn’t be real. “No no no…” he muttered, his lips beginning to tremble. “NOMARU!!”
Aydonin chuckled and sighed. “That wasn’t as fun as I hoped it would be,” he lamented. Aydonin looked back at Kirith as a large grin spread across his face. “Though, I do enjoy the fear and sadness in those big blue eyes of yours.”
Kirith stared back at him as tears were beginning to form in his eyes. Who was this man? What right did he have to any of this? Where was the real Quan? Was it all just a lie?
“W-who…who are you?!?” Kirith asked shakily.
Aydonin laughed and let his sword disappear into particles of darkness. “I’ll let you find that out for yourself,” he said in a singsong tone. He walked to Nomaru and knelt next to his writhing body. Aydonin pulled something from his satchel. A necklace, and it had a glowing blue crystal that dangled from the end.
He held the necklace above Nomaru’s chest as it began to glow a brighter hue.
Nomaru gasped and moaned before crying out in pain. Suddenly, his chest began to glow too. A small blue orb was then extracted from Nomaru’s chest and slowly levitated towards the crystal. All the while this was happening, he screamed in pure agony.
The demonic man grinned evilly. “Your seal is mine!” he cackled.
Kirith’s blood boiled in rage. He drew in rapid breaths as his nails dug in between one of the rivets between the stone. Kirith couldn’t believe any of this. This general had been playing them all along just for Nomaru’s Seal.
Kirith rose from where he was, not even bothering to wipe the bloody mess on cheek. He picked up his dagger and dashed towards him.
“I’LL KILL YOU!!” Kirith yelled, stabbing the dagger deep into the demon’s shoulder.
“Aaaaagh—!” he cried and dropped the necklace. He swiped a hand at Kirith before stumbling back into the balcony railing. Like a rabid animal, Aydonin clawed at the knife, trying to yank it out.
Kirith averted his attention back to his brother. Rushing to him, he fell to his knees at Nomaru’s side. “No no no no,” he mumbled, pulling off Nomaru’s chest plate. “Just relax…it’ll be all right!”
Nomaru cough and hacked until blood began to seep from his lips. He sorrowfully looked at Kirith. “Kirith—” he began weakly.
“Sh sh you’ll make it worse, j-just stay still,” Kirith sputtered, choking on his words. But he didn’t even know what he was doing himself. Kirith pressed his hands over the wound to try to stop the bleeding. But it was no use.
“Please work! Please work!” he cried.
“Kirith…please…” Nomaru protested weakly.
“Nomaru, I can do this! I-it’ll be fine!” Tears began to spill from Kirith’s eyes. “I WONT LET YOU DIE!”
Nomaru grabbed Kirith arm. “KIRITH!” he growled. “LISTEN TO ME FOR ONCE!”
Kirith bit his lip and slowly turned his head to Nomaru.
Nomaru looked back at him with a pained and weary look. Something about the way he was seemed much more different. Something Kirith couldn’t explain. There was unbearable pain, but acceptance along with it.
Nomaru held fast onto Kirith’s arm as the two brothers stared deeply into one another’s eyes. “Kirith...you need...to make me a promise,” he began. “Y-you must...you must swear by your life.” Nomaru coughed again and finally settled back.
Kirith shook his head, tears running down his cheeks. He clasped Nomaru’s hand with both of his hands. “Brother I—I can’t let you go— I don’t want to…”
“I-I know you don’t...” Nomaru replied. “But I…have faith in you, brother.” He swallowed as his he blinked himself awake. “I don’t have much time left… Take my seal, venture far from...here. Find the...other Seals...with the necklace. It will guide you…to the other five Seals. And…defeat the darkness that threatens this land, along with the universe…” Nomaru paused and let out a deep breath. “Kirith...will you do this...? For me...for Tellaria?”
Kirith looked down at the small orb, the Seal. Could he do this? Could he embark on such a journey? He was just one person, just a boy. But if this was what his brother wished.
“Yes,” Kirith said, his chin quivering as more tears flowed down his cheeks. “I’ll do it, I-I swear…”
Nomaru laid his head back and smiled with relief. He looked up as a single tear formed in his eye. Nomaru let out another convulsion of coughs.
“Please...don’t go,” Kirith pleaded.
“I will...never leave you brother. I-I may...not be here...but I’ll be with them,” Nomaru said, “look to the heavens...”
Kirith looked up into the night sky. Mortem still sat frozen in the heavens, but Vitae, the second moon was just beginning to appear. Both cascaded their divine light down on them. The stars twinkled with them in the endless dark atlas. It seemed as if they spoke to him. Yet nothing could put their magnificence into words that could be understood.
Kirith looked down at Nomaru’s lifeless body. The brother he knew and loved for so many years, passed on to the next realm. Kirith pushed Nomaru’s strands of hair out of his face and gently leaned down to kiss his brother on the forehead.
“May the Creator guide you through the cosmos...brother,” he whispered.
Kirith picked up the crystal and the Seal orb. He ever so slowly rose from the ground and glared darkly at this wreck of a demon keeling over the railing. He had successfully yanked the dagger out and tossed it to the side.
“You…pathetic mortal!” he hissed, standing up. “Be a good boy and hand over the Seal!”
Kirith didn’t reply. He looked down at the Seal in his palm. This was it. He had to take on the Seal. Meeting Aydonin’s gaze again, Kirith shoved the orb into his chest. A stinging sensation entered his body as he pressed the orb deeper. Kirith grunted in pain but continued.
“NO!” Aydonin growled, moving from the railing and weakly trying to scramble towards him.
Kirith finally pressed the Seal inside him fully. The pain was soon replaced by a new strength ran through his muscles and the very core of his existence. It felt like nothing he had ever felt before. The power was...exhilarating.
Aydonin stopped and scowled. “You little—”
“This way, Milord!” a male voice called from the gardens. Kirith and Aydonin both looked towards the thicket.
From the garden path came Kirith’s father, pervious king Elros and two guards, both armed with spears.
“What is going on here?!?” Elros barked. “I demand an answer—” He stopped as his eyes looked down upon Nomaru’s body. His eyes widened in horror. Elros ran to Nomaru’s body and knelt next to it. He felt for a pulse and caressed Nomaru’s pale face. Elros looked up at Aydonin and Kirith.
“Who did this? Who killed my son?!?” he roared, tears forming in his eyes.
Kirith was just about to open his mouth.
“Your son was slain by his own kin!” Aydonin claimed, pointing at Kirith. “His lust for his brother’s power overtook him.”
Kirith froze. That wasn’t the same voice he heard. Kirith slowly looked over to Aydonin. He had completely transformed back into the previous Quan. But he was just—
Elros slowly looked over at Kirith. “Kirith...?”
Kirith looked at Quan and back at his father. “W-what? N-no it wasn’t—” he began. “Father, he’s lying!”
“Don’t listen to his foolishness. He stole the King’s Seal. Look! He’s even covered in the king’s blood!” Quan said.
Kirith looked down at himself. Indeed, his tunic was soiled with Nomaru’s blood. He looked back up and shook his head. “N-no it wasn’t me! Father you must believe me!” Kirith cried.
Elros rose and scowled at Kirith. Something in his eyes seemed to change…it was only for a split second that Kirith had caught it but it was there. “You? Killed Nomaru?!?” he growled. “He is one of your own! He was…he was your brother!” Elros whipped his head to the two soldiers. “Guards! Take him to the dungeons!”
The guards quickly strode towards him. Kirith stepped back but his boot pushed against something. Kirith looked down to see Nomaru’s sword. He quickly snatched it up and dashed for the garden at a speed he didn’t even know he had. One of the guards jabbed his spear at Kirith. He dodged the attack and dashed into the garden.
Twigs and leaves slapped his face as he ran. Something inside him made him feel energized, like he could do anything without even a drop of sweat. Was it the Seal that made him feel this way?
Making his way out of the garden, Kirith could hear the angered calls of his father from behind. He ran towards where the open glass doors were and dashed inside the castle. Making his way down the hall, Kirith opened the door to the ballroom. Just before he was going to enter the room, Kirith hid behind the curtains shielding the door from sight. He couldn’t run out there, everyone would see him soaked in blood.
Kirith looked across the room where another door was. If he could make it to the other side, he might just be able to take another way out. That is, if no one noticed he was there.
Kirith crept from behind the curtains and tried to look casual, though he looked like literal bloody murder. As he passed the throne, the door on the other side opened. Two guards enter through it.
“CEASE HIM!” a guard yelled from behind. Both guards looked up and charged towards Kirith upon instinct.
Kirith cursed under his breath. He bolted straight into the crowd without a second thought. Cries and murmurs erupted all around as the people witnessed the violent scene play. Kirith pushed through the crowd hastily, ramming and shoving people out of his path. Out of nowhere, Kirith ran right into Riona. He stumbled back and looked at her in shock. Her long ornate light pink dress was now stained with blood. Riona looked down at herself and screamed.
“I am actually really sorry this time...” Kirith said breathlessly.
“Don’t let him get away!” a guard roared.
Kirith huffed and ran past her and to the large ballroom doors. The screams of horror died away as he ran down the lonely torch lit hall.
Weaving through the castle and out, Kirith made his way through the city and towards the city-gate stables. Everything was happening so fast, too fast for him to keep up with. It felt like a dream flying right past him before he could really bat an eye; Nomaru’s crowning, the celebration, Nomaru’s death, and finally the escape. Maybe this all was a dream, and Kirith was simply playing the part. But it was too real, too real to be fake.
Upon reaching the stable, he thrust open the tall doors and entered the long isle of stalls. Kirith fast walked, looking for a certain horse. “Come on where is she…” he muttered through clenched teeth. He stopped in front of the stall of a black stallion. Tharja, the fastest steed they had. Not even bothering to grab a saddle or reigns, he unlatched the stall door and entered. The sounds of the guards yelling were getting louder and louder by the second. Kirith hastily fitted Nomaru’s sword in his belt and climbed onto the Tharja’s back, grabbing hold of her silky black mane. He kicked and guided her out of the stables. “Alright, come on girl, let’s get out of here,” Kirith whispered and sent the horse into a gallop in the direction of the castle gates.
The bridge leading out was beginning to rise ever so slowly. They knew Kirith was coming this way. “Seal the gates! Faster now!” one of the guards yelled from behind.
“Come on, come on!” Kirith growled, kicking harder into the steed’s sides. His heart pounded rapidly in his chest as he trained his eyes ahead. Sweat beaded down his temples from the tension all around.
The bridge continued to rise higher and higher.
Arrows whisked passed him. Any moment now, one of the guards would hit him.
Kirith’s grip tightened on Tharja’s mane. “Just a little farther!” he said to her, kicking a bit harder. The bridge was only seconds away. Finally, the stallion ran up the diagonal bridge and leaped to the other side. Kirith felt himself nearly rise off of the horse’s back but he held fast to its mane.
Tharja landed on the earth and fled off into the countryside with the young prince on her back. Kirith didn’t dare to look back. The life he once knew was gone forever, and he would never return to it. He wiped his tear and bloodstained face and looked on ahead. Brother, I promise I’ll find them all, Kirith thought. And into the unknown lands, the first Seal began his longest journey.