Elevea's Child

*Opening of the Elevea trilogy* In the ancient land of Elevea, the people of Hinnid have been surviving for a century after the rise of the Vanus (half-beings). Now, the Vanus are gathering in greater numbers than ever before, and Hinnid calls upon the help of the ancient magic protectors of Elevea, the Pistos, to help in the fight to survive.

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1. One

THE BODY OF the farm worker was found not long after dusk. The poor man had been mutilated, his bones broken and flesh torn off his chest, legs and arms. His face could not be seen for the spattering of dried blood. He was young, barely of age and was known be engaged to a young girl. After cleaning up his body and wrapping it carefully in an old cloth, they took him to her in a tiny shack of a house near the main gate. They tried to explain what had happened, but she shooed them away, pressing the fact that she was expecting a great amount of compensation for his death, and threatening to press charges on the outer guards of the farming perimeter. But, they said, there was no money to compensate with. They would simply give her the house for that winter before she had to negotiate with the farmer to whom it belonged. Then, they left, sending one messenger ahead to inform the King of yet another attack.

For King Sormol, this came as no shock. Sat on the desk in front of him was already a list of names, mostly men, a few women and one child: all who had been murdered by the Vanus. Opposite those names were the names of the missing, and on the next page were the names of those who had been infected - and consequently destroyed – by the plague of the Vanus, the half animated bodies of people, not dead and not alive. The only functions that still worked in their brains were the functions to survive, and attack. If they were hungry enough, they would eat the human before them, and if they weren't, they would simply bite, infect, and leave the human to become one of them: half alive, half dead.

And so it came about that King Sormol realised that these numbers of the Vanus were increasing: they were slowly and surely gathering around the city of Hinnid, his city, the city of his father and his grandfather before him who had first taken the stricken people to safety at the outbreak of the disease and created this fortress against the enemy. The Vanus were gathering and planning attack, and all that Hinnid had to defend itself was plenty of men and high stone walls. Sormol knew that this was not enough. The moment the Vanus penetrated they city, they would rampage, destroy and spread their virus until every resident would be like them.

King Sormol sat for many hours, pondering with the idea that had formed in his head. He knew too well of the deal that had been struck with the Pistos those thirty years ago. He knew the Pistos would save them but he also knew of their weakness. 

On that same night which the farm worker was found dead, Sormol sat thinking well into dawn, thinking of how to protect his people. In the end he came up with the solution: the only solution that could change it all.

"Send for Okmid!" he cried, just as the sun stretched above the high walls surrounding the hall. A soldier soon attended him and was sent to Okmid, with the message that he must come at once to discuss with the king a way of contacting the Pistos.

 

FALNON WAS RAISED from his deep slumber by his father calling his name. He quickly swung his long legs from the bed and threw his feet into the studded boots at the end of it. A little shocked by his father seeking him, Falnon swept the bed covers off his back and grabbed a cloak from the floor, springing up and striding with quiet steps across the wooden floor of his chamber. He answered the door, on which his father was now banging hard. 

"You are to join me in the hall in the hour," said King Sormol, the moment the door was opened to him. "Wear your clothes for council and the crest. This is important, so make sure not to cause any trouble for yourself." 

The king's silver hair and beard was ruffled and his thin face pulled down even longer than normal. His eyes were rimmed with dark shadows, as they had been for many weeks. He looked pale and distraught: the opposite of his absent minded son. Falnon's skin was dark, possessing a head of thick black hair, long and straight and a beard shaved regularly and perfectly shaped. Falnon also had dark eyes, but these glistened even when full of sleep as he stretched his long and powerful limbs. Everyone had already said that Falnon was fit to make a striking king. However, with manhood upon him, Falnon's features were still hinting boyish and feminine, his figure a little too light and he was not as down to earth as the court expected. Worries were still at hand, and here, Falnon was expressing his disgruntled nature.

"But Sir, I was having a late morning in."

King Sormol had already turned to leave so subsequently spun back around to glare at his son.

"You have no choice, Falnon!" he menaced, biting his tongue. "This is about your duty as a prince."

 

LATER THAT DAY, the King, his courtiers and office were waiting at the city centre and the people of Hinnid excitedly gathered around to hear what the King was to say. They had already been warned of its importance and had come flocking in from the fields. As they peered over one another's shoulders, they saw King Sormol in all his aged grandeur, his son Prince Falnon by his side and a few other high advisors standing by. Some other residents of the court could be seen in high windows, eyes on the courtyard, watching expectantly for Sormol’s plan to be revealed.

"As you may well know," started the king, throwing his head up to gaze directly from face to face, as the centre fell immediately silent, "we are suffering from a great threat, here in our beloved city of Hinnid."

A few feet shuffled and a few heads turned, flicking frantically around, most eyes still locked on their beloved king.

"The Vanus are attacking us, our wives and children, they are mutilating farms and still growing in numbers," he continued, casting a cautionary glance at his son. "We need to protect our city from this threat and we cannot achieve this on our own. Therefore, we are sending for help." 

At this point, muttering sprung up from all corners of the courtyard, the people reacting badly to this news.

"For this help is the help of the Pistos, the ancient group of men and women possessing powers as the protectors of Elevea’s kinsfolk. Thirty years ago they agreed to come to Hinnid’s aid should we need it, so now they will fulfil that promise,” Sormol raised his weary hand and began pointing defiantly as he spoke. “Not a single man or woman more needs to be slain at the hands of the Vanus!"

There was a small cheer and a hushed interruption, every eye now beaming onto the man stood before them. Sormol lowered his hand, took a breath and continued.

"The Pistos are based at the very edge of the land of Elevea, far beyond the Western border of Hinnid and its farms. So, it has been decided that we shall send word to them. We shall send two messengers, the strongest, bravest and noblest amongst our people to reach the Pistos and gain their guidance. Our hopes will rest on their shoulders as they travel through the wild land, inhabited by the Vanus to reach the Pistos."

The silence throughout the courtyard continued, until one strangled voice from the back of the crowd called out.

"Who?"

The King acknowledged this by turning briefly to his son and nodding.

"Your Prince Falnon shall be sent accompanied by one other. One amongst the people shall be granted this honour." This he shouted over the crowd, his hard eyes fixing over ever more over those he was surveying.  Heads flew from side to side, looks being exchanged and confused whispers being shared. "I have already consulted a wise and powerful man with whom I have chosen the most suitable candidate who shall go."

The King waited for another moment's silence as a different strangled voice, nearer the front called out.

"Who?"

The King frowned momentarily, ran his head through his hands and took a step away from the crowd. He showed his back for a moment as he descended from the raised platform he was standing on. Now standing at the front of the paved courtyard, King Sormol glanced along the edge of the crowd, his eyes searching. After a minute or two, just as the courtyard fell completely dead, he took his first step, to his left and began to walk slowly and powerfully as the people made a hasty way for him. He could clearly see who he was walking towards now, and they were watching him, like the others, with terrified eyes. As he approached, they fell away with the others around them and lowered their pearly eyes to the ground. He adjusted his position as he stopped in front of the person, turning his shoulders towards them and softening his physique. They still did not look at him, unaware that they were the subject of his stare.

"What is your name, my Lady?" he asked, gently.

Finally, the girl lifted her tangled head in startled awe, gasping in a quick breath.

"Marda, Your Majesty," she managed to breathe. 

The crowd spun around in shock and whispers once more rendered the air. She at once fell to her tiny knees, looking extremely distressed. The King bent down and clasped her hands in his, pulling her back up. With her still avoiding his eyes, he softly kissed her small yet hardened hands.

"My Lady Marda, you will join?" he asked.

Marda took a taunting moment to think, panic and feel trapped, before nodding.

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