I’m awake. I’m finally awake. It’s as if everything up to this point, was nothing more than a dream. A horrid reality that I had to exist inside of because the boogeyman of my nightmares forced that reality upon me. But now, I know. I know.
I know who I am. Who I was. Who I will be. Because my mind has been freed, and I am awake.
15 Years ago
“How long will we cower in these mountains? This is not our purpose! This is not what we were created for!” I can hear the muffled voices of my parents beyond my walls. I rub my eyes, sleep eluding me the more I try and catch it. My parents never fight. They always get along, always look at each other with love and understanding. This is the first I’ve heard of it.
I pull back the blanket, placing my feet on the floor. A whine sounds from the corner, and I see Tikaani looking at me with a cocked head. I hold my fingers to my lips.
“Shhhh.” His tail wags a fraction, but he understands my request and lays his head back down. I walk to the door, placing my fingers against it and pushing it open. I walk along the halls, following the sound of my parent's voice. I pass by what used to be my brother's rooms.
Kesuk and Siku. Twins. Inseparable since birth. But Kesuk married a woman from our tribe in the flatlands. And Siku is of age. A warrior. Both of them have moved out and have their own homes here in our village. Yet they are still inseparable.
I smile remembering the prank Siku let me in on the night of Kesuk’s wedding. Father was furious, but Kesuk was understanding. Kesuk is older by five minutes, but he acts like he is older by five years. I tiptoe until I am within earshot.
“These are the demands, Nela. We must obey them.” My father’s voice sounds wary. Like he’s tired of explaining. It’s the same tone he uses with me when I ask him more than five questions at a time.
“You’re ready to obey these... monstrous demands? She’s a child, Ti’yon.” My mother sounds angry. Very angry.
“Since when do we take demands from the Dragonborn, huh? Since when do they command us? We controlled them, Ti’yon!”
“That was in the old times, Nela things are different now.”
“So different that you would readily sacrifice your daughter to those beasts?”
“If it means the survival of my people, yes!” I jump, hearing my father yell. He never yells at mother. Ever.
“One for the many, Nela. We knew this would be a possibility. It was one of the terms of war.” He says. I hear a sob.
“But... she’s so young... so innocent..” She cries. It takes me a moment to realize they’re talking about me. I feel fear brewing inside of me. Sacrifice me? What for? What did I do wrong for my father to want to get rid of me?
“I know. This isn’t my first choice. But it must be done. So that we may keep the peace.” He says. I slowly back away from the room, and take off down the hall, tears stinging my eyes. I sprint down the hall, passing my room and heading for the door, pushing it open and flying out into the snow.
Family meetings. We used to have them a lot when the twins were still at home because they caused all kinds of mischief around the village. But since they grew up, our meetings were rare.
We’re all sitting around the hearth in our birth home. The wolves are in the corners asleep. Kesuk didn’t bring his wife. And Siku looks nervous.
“I’ve asked you all to be here, because of a request we have received from the Dragonborn.” My father says slowly. He’s barely spoken to me since that night. He doesn’t even look at me really. And my mother is always at my side, rubbing my hair. Hugging me.
Kesuk is the first to respond.
“Are you certain this is something Neytiri should be here for? She is only a child, father.” He says. I make a face at him, but my father isn’t amused.
“She needs to be here.”
“Is this about the humans? We turned away their requests. We haven’t broken the treaty.” He says. My father looks at him, and he looks tired. So tired. His usually bright eyes are dull. Like the ice before it begins to melt.
“We didn’t turn away their request. Their first request was to end the king they had. He was a tyrant, and we passed judgment and stepped in. I thought it would stay a secret, but they’ve found out and asked for something. To keep the peace.” He says. He seems to be struggling with his next words, but I fear them. I look around the room, making sure to take in the world as it is before his words confirm my fears, and change them forever.
“They’ve requested Neytiri.” He says. I don’t respond, but I feel all eyes in the room switch to me.
“They want you, to leave the mountains, and live in their castle, in the floating mountains. In the land of the Dragonborn. And when you become... of age... you will be wed you the future king. Prince Cassian...” I blink in disbelief. Leave? Leave the mountains? My home? Siku jumps up from his seat.
“Have you lost your mind?” He shouts. My mother stands from the corner, and I notice the wolves perk up from the sudden burst of noise.
“No. This is madness. She’s a child! She did nothing wrong! You’re telling me, she is to pay for your mistake because you broke the treaty?” He shouts at father. Father looks away, filled with shame. Kesuk's eyes widen as he realizes why and stands himself.
“Father... you don’t really mean to honor these terms... do you?” He says.
“I have no choice-”
“Yes, you do! Fight! Fight them! They cannot take our blood, and force her to grow up in a foreign land just to be bred for that beast! We have been under their rule, and terms for years!” He shouts. My eyes widen. Kesuk is always the calm one.
“You two don’t understand. We cannot fight them! We are not as strong as we used to be!” He turns away.
“The gods have forsaken us.” He grumbles to himself. He looks back to his sons, and he looks truly helpless.
"You two truly do not understand!" He hisses.
“You would willingly give your young daughter away? Away from her home? Without even a fight, or a rebellion?”
Silence falls over the room, and we all have our answer. Kesuk has always been a large man. He and Siku share that trait. Broad shoulders, and not an ounce of fat on their muscular forms. Kesuk strides across the room in three easy steps, standing face to face with our father. Cold air rips through the room. Kesuk clenches his fist.
My eyes widen when I see a flicker of light wrenching from his form. But just as quick as it appears, it is gone.
“You are a coward and an old fool. You cower here, behind your walls, and we will fight for our blood.” He walks away, and our mother calls after him.
“Kesuk!” She shouts. He looks at her, narrowing his gaze. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen him look so angrily at our mother.
“You both let this happen.” He looks at Siku.
“Let’s go.” He pauses in front of me, and my gaze is frozen as tears fall down my face. He places his hand on my cheek.
“We will protect you.” He says. He places a soft kiss on my forehead, grabs my hand in his, pulling me to my feet.
“Kesuk! Siku!” My parents are shouting at them, but they ignore them. They keep their backs on them as we all leave.
My eyes slowly open. I feel the water around me. It’s comfortable. I look around and realize I’m floating above the water. My body feels different. My eyes fall on my family. Suspended forever in time.
My memories have returned. My past. My people. My life. Who I am. It’s all here. I am awake. I slowly sit up, standing. I place my foot above the thin surface of the water, and create the hard icy surface, walking towards the rocky ground of the cavern. Not a cavern. A burial ground. For the royal family.
I know this place. My father used to take my brothers here. He would never let me tag along, always telling me I was too young and to wait until I was older. I now see why.
It’s silent. I look around for the old woman, but she is nowhere to be found. I slowly sit up.
I am the daughter of a king, and now the queen of the Ikniri. When I was younger, I was to be sacrificed to the Dragonborn. So that the next time my people decided to break the treaty by interfering in the affairs of mortals, they would think very hard about it since their princess would be directly in the Dragons Den. And then, when the time came, I would marry Cassian. And bring about a “peace” among our people. But the ikniri knew what it truly would have been. Complete control.
My father knew what the consequence of fighting would entail. My brothers did not. And to protect me, and free our people from the oppressive rule, they went to the land of the Dragonborn and killed the entire royal families. All of them. Yet somehow Cassian survived. As did most of the Dragonborn. My brothers plan failed, and our people suffered because of it.
I laugh bitterly.
In the end, I still married the man this war was over. My people. My brother. Their deaths were all for nothing. Absolutely nothing.
My eyes sting from the flow of tears that finally roll over and splash into the water below. It freezes immediately. I slowly stand and make my way out of the water. I need to find the old woman, and figure out how these people are even still alive. And how Cassian didn’t even-
The world is immediately siphoned from around me, and nothing but darkness envelops me. My blood runs cold, my eyes grow wide, and my veins fill with fear. Eyes. Two eyes. Cassian's eyes. They’re watching me. Cold. Evil. Terrifying. My flesh feels scorched, and my legs turn to mush. The instant I hit the ground, the vision disappears and I’m back in the cavern.
I look around, my hands shaking and my breathing coming in shallow pants. My stomach is still churning from the surge of energy. I place my head in my hands, letting a soft moan escape me.
My skin crawls and I look around in fear. What the hell could be happening now? I feel a hand on my shoulder, and before I can turn around a shockwave ripples through me prickling my flesh and driving through every nerve of my body. I open my mouth, but nothing comes out.
The last thing I see is the bright light surrounding me before my mind blanks out.
More and more Ikniri have gathered around the entrance of the cavern. My nerves are becoming more and more grated on with each passing second. She’s been in there for hours, and we are becoming surrounded by the enemy with every hour she does not come out of that cave. The men are blocking the entrance, guarding it and my men can only stand and wait.
There’s nothing we can do that won’t scare the Ikniri. We are already not welcome here. The only thing keeping these warriors from slicing our throats is the woman that we came in with. I look around at the Ikniri that is slowly walking towards the cavern. How the hell are they alive?
The condition of the village shows that they are barely surviving. The homes are falling apart. The food is scarce. Even the people that remain look dull and weak. Not like the Ikniri used to look. And that's because of us. We took their king and their queen. The power that kept this place alive. But for some reason, it didn’t kill them. So how the hell are all of them still alive without their main power sources to provide and protect them?
Just as a thought forms in my head, a giant flash of white light protrudes from the cavern. My hand immediately goes to my blade, and I make my way towards the entrance. The warriors gaze narrow at me, and they step forward forming those deadly blades made of ice from their veins.
They begin shouting at me in a foreign language that I can’t understand. I feel a hand on my shoulder and turn around to see Merek behind me with a worried expression.
“Don’t.” He says.
“These are her people and we are in their territory. Fighting them would not be the smartest thing to do at this point, Caius. Just... keep a level head.” He says. It takes everything in me, but I remove my hand from my blade and take a deep breath. I’m about to respond when a shiver runs up my back, and I sense something that I haven’t in a while.
I know all of the men do as well. None of us have felt this kind of energy since that day. The day we took it out of this world for the last time. My eyes travel over the people that are now flocking to the entrance of the cavern. We all feel it. And I know a shift is about to happen in the world because I know every single person here feels it. And everyone outside of this village will as well.
I look back to the entrance of the cavern and notice all of the ikniri are surrounding, on their knees, bowing. Slowly my gaze wanders and I see it. The light. It’s slowly creeping, lighting the dark caverns halls until it falls over the snow. And its source is amazing. I immediately drop to my knee, placing one hand on the ground as I bow before her.
Except she’s different now. She’s fully matured, and all of her wonders is flowing out of her pores in waves of snow. The air around her carries small ice particles, and her eyes seem to be lighting up from within. She’s literally glowing from the inside out. She’s the Ikniri we’ve all heard stories about, but never seen. The one we should have killed that day, but by the grace of God we didn’t.
In the legends of the Ikniri, the royal family is the only ones capable of becoming this way. Although all Ikniri is a gift to the mortal race, this particular Ikniri is a gift to the world.
She’s the rare.
I blink in confusion. Never in my life did I ever think I would be seeing this. Never. We made sure to end the royals. Or so I thought. But as it turns out, the one that we spared, is the most important one of all. I hear the men bowing around me, but I can’t take my eyes off of her. She’s beautiful. Pure. Wonderous.
Her usually pulled back hair is flowing around her, filled with so much light and energy, it’s floating through the air, dissipating into icy mist at the ends. The clothing she wore into the cavern has been stripped from her skin. Her caramel colored skin that stands out in stark contrast to the white hair, and snow that surrounds her.
Her eyes are so bright, and filled with a calm I have yet to see from her. I smile.
Her eyes travel over the village. Over her people. Over us. The air is cold enough to have frozen the world around us, but somehow it doesn’t affect her in the least. She doesn’t even shiver. She looks relaxed. At peace. Happy. Something I haven’t seen from her the entire time she was in our custody.
She holds her hands out in front of her, and a soft wisp of wind makes its way through everyone bowing to her. Washing over our skin. I feel the cool breeze. It’s like a chilled feather is washing over my flesh. And yet, I can hear the words she sends. The ease she commands. I know exactly what she is saying to us.
“Do not fear. For I am awake.”
I open my eyes. I can’t help but smile.
So it seems my inhibitions were correct. She is the one we needed to kill that day. The one that could change everything. And I let my emotions cloud my better judgement. I let myself grow weak and complacent. And now I am paying for it.
She has fully matured. Her power is now beyond imagination. The only thing that can come close to stopping her is me. And that’s coming close. In the past the Ikniri were responsible for keeping the Dragonborn in their place. We were born to conquer. To take over, and never to give. Only take. We were a powerful race that everyone feared. Everyone except the Ikniri. Their power kept us from going overboard. At least, the rare did anyway.
They are only of the highest order of their species. And my father found their weakness, and exploited it. Killing them one by one, until none were left except only those that were born into it. The rare. Those of direct lineage.
I let out a deep sigh. I only wish my father had passed his secrets on to me before his passing. It would make killing her easier. Now it will be a bloodbath.
I stand from my seat, making my way to the tents flaps, pushing them aside. Familiar sounds greet me. The loud clang of metal. The melodic tone of armor. The smell of iron and fire filling the air. War. The sounds of war. I look over my camp. Twenty-Thousand men. Ready to follow me into battle, and crush whats left of the ikniri, my men, and their newfound queen. And this time, there will be none left behind. None. I am ending the legacy.
I imagine the moments when she was a child. When she would smile, and look at me with so much love and adoration. So much innocence, that she didn’t even know the man responsible for her current situation was sitting right in front of her. She was always so excited to see us. Never once realizing that she was using her own power to find us. Our camp was nowhere near her village. Her power was trying to develop, but without her home, or her people, or even a source it was runnign wild. Randomly coming out in bursts until she subconciously focused it on finding my camp. No matter where we were.
And years later when her villagers dumper her right into my arms again. I would have left her out of everything. Let her grow up her sheltered life with those psychotic villagers had they not dumped her on my doorstep.
And even still, behind that fear and innocence, I saw a part of her remembered me, and still cared for me. I let out a deep sigh reigning in my emotions.
It’s a cruel thing. Fate. No matter what path we chose, somehow we still fulfilled our destiny. Even if it is different than what could have been.
In the end, it is still the ikniri against the Dragonborn. A fight for our freedom. She must have recieved an awakening from her past ancestors. She must know now what she must do. My eyes travel to the mountains in the far distance.
An Ikniri and a dragonborn. Fighting the fight to determine the worlds future. Whoever prevails will control the fate of this world. And I will prevail. And she will die. And only then will the world fall back in order. Only then will I truly be at peace.