Aaricia and the Noland Army

An epic tale of adventure that features Aaricia; a young woman having being betrayed by a loved one, lost her family and her home, must find a way to raise an elite army to help reclaim all she’s lost. Bestowed with a remarkable gift to communicate with a rare kind of beast, and armed with a handful of mercenaries, she must rise to face the most revered ruler in all the lands; the evil Queen, and swayer of the great kingdom of Azzodonia.

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4. Ghourakan Blood

A moment of silent anticipation spread through the camp. Their impending victory is obviously short-lived as they await their fate at the mercy of their captors.  

Zack, bracing himself to defend his newly found companion, tries to shield Aaricia from the unexpected fire. The subdued Karazan maintains his bravery before his men as he whispers to Simo beside him, “Be a man, and stop wetting yourself.”

But on the face of Aaricia however, lay a smile as she walks towards the vanguard.        

“I’m Aaricia, and these are my companions,” she said as she began discerning the identities of their captors. “My maternal marrow was birthed from these mountains, I’ll like you to take me to your elders!”

“You know them?” Zack whispered.

“Yes,” she responded, “They’re the Ghourakans, we have nothing to fear!”

“You mean your mother was born in these mountains?” Zack asked relieved.

“Get moving!” ordered the leader of the troops.

Seizing their belongings, the Ghourakans escorted them up the mountains to a settlement.

As they were being ushered into the community, many of the mountain dwellers stood to their feet in stare, wondering who they were.

“What brought you through our valleys and unto our peaceful grounds?” Asked a limping old man, holding on a rod, “Speak!” his face concealed under the hooded robes he wore.

“I am Aaricia, daughter of the late king Jazekiah of Azzodonia,” she said as she bowed before him in friendship, “My friends and I came seeking for your help, Grapapa!”

“These matters must not be spoken in open grounds,” said the old man, “Assemble the council!”

Five Ghourakans quickly ran to announce the meeting that came on such short notice.

Only Aaricia was allowed into the council’s chamber, as Zack and the rest of the thirty three men were asked to stay behind.

As she made her way into the hall, the armed Ghourakans detained the men and locked them up.

While in the chambers, the council racketed as they stare at Aaricia, who stood upright before them.

“There’s only but one surviving daughter of the late king Jazekiah of Azzodonia,” said the old man, “And she is seated on the throne of Azzodonia,” he snorted pulling off his hood, “I have gazed on her, and you are not she!”

“Grapapa,” said Aaricia, “Don’t you recognize me? Your little Ricia?”

“Don’t lie to me, young woman!” said the old man, turning away his face, “Ricia is dead! Report of her demise came to us years back,” he added, “We have mourned her death, along with the rest of the royals! You’re not Ricia, you’re an imposter! Get her away from my sight!”

Some guards made their way to seize her.

“I have only come to ask for your aid,” she said, “Help me take back my father’s kingdom. He was good to all of you and your lands, let’s join hands and reclaim the lands and build the kingdom back together from its ashes, help me usher in a new dawn; of peace, prosperity, unity and development in all the lands!”

“And what makes you think this mountain does not relish in the valley of peace?” said another man, who gestured the guards to stop “Besides, we have enjoyed long years of peace with the Azzodonians, and have signed a treaty to allow the waters of chaos lay dormant between our lands!”

“You basked in peace because the late king found love in your land,” said Aaricia, “And have promised never to let the dark clouds of war hover above thy mountains!”

“Yes, and we shall honour him, even in death,” said the elder.

“You do not honour him,” she dissented, “You’re dancing on his grave!”

“How dare you speak in such hush tongue, lass!” shouted someone amidst the council, “Have you no respect for the elders?”

“This is why we cannot let the mountains be ruled by women!” said another, “Ramon is right, how dare you, woman?”

“Gentlemen, let us hear her! Please,” said the old man, as he moved closer to her, supporting himself with his rod “So, what tangible proof have you, young one. Which makes you believe that we will abandon our beloved peaceful mountains and valleys to go fight your war, which to us all, appears self-destructive! We all know how mighty and great the army of Azzodonia is!”

“Such peace you speak of is made possible because my father, the late great king offered it to these grounds!” she said, “If you do not help me, not only would that legacy be dishonoured, but you and the beds of your mountains and vales shall be awakened by the drums of war, drums made from the skins of sons and daughters of our once beautiful kingdom. Do not wait for the clouds of death to rain down ruins and brimstones upon you and your children while you feast in your sleep, while you dream dreams that is envenomed by doom!”

“I told you,” said Ramon, “She is the spawn of a madman! No one in their right mind would go against the Queen. Poppycock!”

“My child,” said the elder, “We are experienced enough to know that the Queen’s presence on that throne shall one day spell the end to our own civilization, she had sent us letters and we have visited her castle and we have agreed to keep the words of the late great king.” He sighed, “I’ll ask again; what tangible proof have you, convincing enough to make us support your dream in order to bring peace? And what army do you have to back this plan?”

“I have with me thirty four men,” she said, “And all I ask is, you give me half of your riders, put them under my command.”

“This is madness,” rattled the council.

“Child-talk!” shouted the one called Ramon, “I have better things to do in my farm! I am out of here!” as he walked his way down the gallery.

Aaricia pulled the rope that held her cape, and as it made its way down. All the men stood to their feet.

“Impossible!” some shouted.

“This cannot be!” said another.

“Where did you get the belt?” said the elder, “From whom did you steal it?”

“This is my mother’s!” she answered.

“Your mother’s?” asked the old man, “Impossible? This belongs to Athena, my own daughter!” the old man managed to sit on a chair, shaking.

“I am Aaricia, first daughter of the great king Jazekiah of Azzodonia!” she said, “My father and brother were killed, poisoned in their sleep years ago, by someone dear to their hearts! When my mother found out who was behind it, she kept it to herself and never revealed it to anyone. According to the story I heard, she was ashamed and heartbroken, she could not share it with anyone. When she felt that my own life was in great danger, she arranged to fake my own death, so I would escape the enemy’s snare. She handed me over to someone my father so much trusted; a peasant farmer! This man, looked after me like his own daughter. He taught me a lot in the way of combat and self-preservation!”

“My child, our weak ears cannot just swallow your words as though they are sweeteners!” said the old man, “I know the king was murdered along with his son, months later, we received news that our daughter and her first child were killed as well. If you are Athena’s first child as you claimed, then it means…”

“You’ve got to help me bring an end to the evil Queen’s reign of tyranny,” she interrupted, “We need peace in all the lands, and you are my mother’s people”

“Yes, there is no disputing that, child,” said the elder, “But we are a people of peace, and problems? We have none with the Queen!”

“So, because your land is peaceful, you do not care about the others and the sufferings they faced?” she said, “Why stay ignorant to destruction until it knocks on your doors?”

“Maybe this is how things are supposed to be,” said the old man, “In order for peace to reign!”

“Grapapa,” said Aaricia, “This is my home as it is my mother’s! I am doing this for us all, for the children of tomorrow! The Queen would not spare even your cattle! I grew up alongside her, I know her heart more than you know the smell of the trees in your mountains!” tears rolled down her eyes, “Help me, let’s ride into Azzodonia. They greatly fear the riders of Ghourak. If you love your daughter, and if you truly value peace as you claim, then release the gryphons and their riders, put them under my command. Let me reclaim all the lands from the wicked Queen. Let us bring peace and prosperity in all the lands!”

“But she is your sister,” said the old man.

“My sisters are the ones who stand by my side in light,” she replied, “Not those who collude against me in the dark! If my mother had not saved me from the wicked claws of the Queen, I would’ve been dead by now! Please, release the gryphons! Release your fighters! For it is the only thing that would strike fear in the hearts of the Azzodonian army, and they shall surrender even before a gryphon lands its foot on the soils! The Queen lurks in the dark, waiting, waiting for the right time to take your mountains and your valleys!”

The old man stood up, facing the council who were all mute. He hobbled back and forth lacking what to say.

“She is our own, alright,” he said, “She bears the mark of Azzo’s sword on her right hand! She’s my…granddaughter! Just as stubborn as her mother, and her mother before her!”

“Griftbear, you told me never to bad mouth my mother-in-law!” said one of the men in the crowd.

The council began to laugh.

“Griftbear, may I be permitted to speak?” said one of the men, clearing his throat.

“Yes, Ammakia,” answered old Griftbear, “You may speak!”

“Neither we nor the gryphons would blindly follow the footsteps of anyone who comes forth claiming to be who they say they are,” said Ammakia, “If she’s truly your granddaughter and the rightful heir to the throne of Azzodonia, and she possesses the mark of Azzo’s sword. Does she possess Azzo’s sword as we speak?”

“Yes!” they cried, “Ammakia is right!”

“Yes, show us Azzo’s sword and we shall march beside you, fearlessly!” yelled another.

“And even die for a good cause!” shouted another.

“The Queen, according to what we heard, also bears the mark of Azzo’s sword!” said Ammakia.

“All the royals possess the mark,” cried another, “But doesn’t the Queen possess the sword? Isn’t it why she is on the throne?”

“Brothers,” said Griftbear, “Don’t we all know where it is? Have we all forgotten that the sword is said to be kept safe?”

“Yes,” cried Ramon, “The prophesy says that on the days the daughters of the great king shall dominate the greatest of all the kingdoms, where one shall rule and the other lead; Azzo’s sword shall be found hidden in the house of wisdom, that appear old and wilted, where the heavens caresses the earth!” he giggled, “We all heard the stories told when we were born, and so did our fathers; before their own time! We all know this has proven to be a myth so far, if not, then Queen Assiana possesses it, which makes sense why she is the one ruling the lands!” he cleared his throat, “She hardly spares her own pets when they’re not loyal, let alone anyone who dares rise against her, we all know that!”

“I thought you left to attend to the ladybugs in your farm, Ramond,” said a joking old Griftbear.

All the men laughed.

“You all know that many decades back we took an oath of allegiance to the throne of Azzodonia!” Ammakia added, “And our mountains have experienced peace ever since, even after the great loss of the great king, his son and his Queen, our very own daughter, whose hand we gave in the greatest of all unions, may their souls rest in peace.” he turned to the council, “If the one who stands before us is the heir, as she claims, let her show us Azzo’s sword.”

“Yes! Yes!” the men cried.

“Also, we all know that the elders who went to congratulate the new Queen years ago, have witnessed Azzo’s sword hung in her throne room!” Ammakia added.

“Only seven men can identify Azzo’s sword and now, only the great old Griftbear is alive to attest that,” yelled another, “And we know the Queen barely allows him get close enough to see it properly!”

The rest of the council nodded, saying, “Yes!”

“So what are you insinuating, Bouziah?” Ammakia asked.

“All I am saying is, even a blind man could tell the Queen was hiding something on the day of the ceremony!” said Bouziah, “We all know none of us is happy with what the rest of the lands are facing, with all the sufferings and sights of malnourished children. It’s only a matter of time before the Queen lifted her scepter against us!” He emphasized, “Just because our mountains and valleys are green and our cattle, wives and children are living in abundant wealth and peace, doesn’t mean we should turn our backs on our brothers and sisters.” he turned to Griftbear, “We cannot deny that they are our blood, and we are all one. We were one big family. Whatever happened to love? Whatever happened to unity? And if drought befalls upon thy neighbours, should you smile and be glad simply because it hadn’t touched thy roof?” he paused, turned and looked at Aaricia, “I will give my vote to the young woman, not because what she says makes sense, but because it’s the best for the whole of mankind! Queen Assiana’s sword shall soon stretch to our valleys, and maybe we would be deeply asleep to hear the footsteps of her army coming. And maybe then, just maybe, the words of this young woman would bring folly upon the wise. When it is too late!”

“Hold your tongue, Bouziah,” said Ammakia, “Speak for thyself, and not all men!”

“You’re both right,” said old Griftbear, “So, I urge you to raise your hand, if you agree that we release our riders in support of the dethronement of Queen Assiana!”

Only Bouziah raised his hand, the rest of the men turned their faces away. Aaricia was disappointed in her grandfather, wondering why he didn’t raise his hand.

“Well,” said old Griftbear, “All those in favour of keeping to the treaty should raise their hand” 

All the men, exclusive of Bouziah raised their hands, and so did her grandfather.

“Free the men, escort them down to the valleys,” said the old man, “Offer them food and water for their journey!” he limped his way out of the council looking sad.

Aaricia felt let down by what she witnessed. She took a deep breath, bowed and left the assembly in tears of disappointment.

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