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Aurora - Book One of the Brightstone Saga

Summary

 

In a dying and repressed world, controlled by a cruel and deranged king through the help of his death squads. There lies a small village in the Kankor valley, where a strange occurrence begins.

Aurora is a girl in some eyes, a women in other's, shy but beautiful she is unexpectedly thrust into the harsh world of men, magic and death.   

She will face hardship and loss, on her journey to find the meaning behind an old evil that has arisen once again. An evil that promises to terrify and destroy all of Antar and it's people.

Transport yourself into Antar, a world filled with the marvels of magic and the bleakness of battle, with the realities of life and death.

And only one thing; that has been buried for 900 years can save it all.

Copyright © 2017 Lee Dawson | All rights reserved.

 

-Authors Note-

Hello and welcome to the land of Antar.

Thank you for choosing Aurora out of all the other books on Writersky, I am extremely grateful.

This is my first endeavour into writing and into the fantasy genre. It is also a work in progress, so is not fully edited yet and is a massive undertaking which will probably span multiple books. With that in mind please don't hesitate to comment good or bad on any suggestions including grammar, plot, characters etc.

Updates will be weekly on Friday afternoon BST.

Many thanks,
Lee.

Enjoy!

 

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Title book: Aurora - Book One of The BrightStone Saga

Author: Lee Dawson

Copyright © 2017, Lee Dawson

Self-publishing

leedwriter21@gmail.com.

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, stored in a database and/or published in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

 

-Betrayal-

 


They meet at the ancient cave of Raygor, just north of the burning plains, where the last battle of the Demon war had finally ended. The earth scorched by battle, the boots of a thousand men kick up dust filling every gap in their armour. Not a single weed can be seen growing, nor any squeaks or grunts from any animal. The only light reflects off the smooth walls, giving off a blood-red hue from the moon.

A tall, slender figure strides towards the mouth, with the smell of blood and burnt flesh in his nostrils. His armour scratched and dented, his body and mind aching from the final battle.

He sees Arrimis and Aisha inside, their blue armour reflecting the dark hues of the moon; both with broad shoulders and stocky legs, one taller than the other.

He steps inside this dank and mouldy tunnel with the blood moon and darkness at his back. He can see the ancient scripture, feel the runes, as he runs his fingers along the walls. He can smell death and blood in this wretched place of life.

'Folknor, you look tired my friend,' Arrimis booms.

Folknor lifts his weary head. 'I feel it too.' He laughs before continuing in his Kankorian lilt. 'It will soon be over, I hope. Where are the others?' He looks around not waiting for an answer. His eyes bleary, the space between shifting and swaying, he turns back to Aisha and watches as if his body follows jerkily after him as if pulled by a string. By the God's, I need to sleep. Squinting in the gloom he shudders as his senses start to sharpen again. He shuffles back and forth lifting little puffs from the ground.

Aisha looks to Arrimis with troubled eyes. 'We had thought they were with you?'

He looks up, his green eyes glowing. 'No, I saw Demitri and Dana on the far side of the battlefield at the end. But of Manu and Maya, I have not seen since the beginning of our assault.'

Aisha tilts her head, the moon reflecting a shade of violet in her blue eyes. 'Strange, they were with us at the beginning. We got separated shortly after.' She glances at Arrimis, her king. 'We heard murmurs about Freya's... end. I am sorry, old friend. She was a great woman and a magnificent queen.' Aisha bites her lip hard enough to draw blood. 'Did you find her Brightstone? You know we...'

They all hear heavy footsteps. They look into the darkness as the stench of the cave envelops their senses. They see a faint Grey glint and the sound of clinking armour. They relax, not realizing each of them had reached for their weapons.

'Demitri and Dana. They may have seen the others,' says Folknor.

He watches as the new arrivals reach the mouth of the cave. He studies them, seeing the filth and scratches from battle. Demitri carries his helm in the crook of his arm, his short red hair seeming to light his way. Dana, a hair shorter than her king, follows at his heels, her helm still on, but unable to keep her long fiery hair at bay.

They stop at the mouth of the cave, nostrils flared, taking in the stench around them. Dana whispers, 'I hate this place Demitri. It reminds me of what has been. We need to do this with haste and be done with it.'

Demitri flicks his head towards the cave. 'Yes, but we are missing Manu and Maya. And Folknor is here without his queen, where is Freya?'

'I know not, my love. Wherever she is, we must be on our guard.'

'I hope Folknor at least has her Brightstone? We need them all to finish this.'

They enter the cold, dank cave of Raygor joining the others in this destitute place of death and life.

Folknor greets Demitri, 'It's good to see you both made it. We wondered if Manu and Maya were with you? No one has seen them since the start of the assault.'

Demitri looks at Dana with small grey eyes and a troubled look. Dana turns sharply to Folknor, her fiery hair whipping around. 'Maya told me they were joining the fight with you and Freya. What have you done, where is your queen Folknor? She should be by your side.'

Aisha gasps and looks at Folknor. He blinks, taken aback with the ferocity in Dana's voice and the sudden accusation. He clenches his fists feeling the sweat run down his neck. He takes off his helm, his long black hair falling down his back. He looks up; piercing green eyes meet Dana's. Rising to her full height she stares back with defiance as seconds go by. Then finally she looks away.

'Demitri. I will not be spoken to like that again,' he says, his eyes locked to Dana's. 'As I said to the others, I have not seen them since the beginning of the assault. And of my love and queen, she fell, in battle.' He looks down at the blood-soaked earth remembering what felt like a lifetime ago. 'She was cut down from behind, I was too far away to reach her in time. She died honourably as we all should.'

'But what of her Brightstone?' blurts Dana.

Folknor looks up again, his brows furrowed in pain. 'I got carried away in the surrounding battle. I know not where she fell. The Brightstone could be lost forever.'

'That will not do, Folknor. We have to find her, we have to find -'

'Enough!' shouts Demitri. His voice echoing off the cave walls.

The silence is deafening.

'What is all this shouting about?' says a wiry voice.

They all turn to the entrance, startled that they let the footsteps go unnoticed. Silhouetted in the mouth of the cave, in their red-tinged armour, stand Manu and Maya. One is tall and slim, the other shorter and rounder. Their red eyes are the only visible feature from beneath their half helms.

'Finally, you are here and we can begin!' Folknor barks, still angry with himself. He looks into the depths of the cave and begins the walk to the Sacred well. The others follow in silence, the only light the reflection of moonlight on their armour.

'We are all here. Let us finish this,' speaks Folknor, his voice weary.

'Where is your queen Folknor? She should be here. We need her Brightstone,' Manu's voice is shrill with annoyance.

'As I said to the others, if you had gotten here on time, you would have heard. She has fallen in battle and I know not where she or her Brightstone lies.'

Manu's ears stretch up like a bat's. He looks at everyone gathered, suspicion in his eyes. 'What! How can you not know where the Brightstone is?' His voice rising an octave. 'You're keeping it for yourself, aren't you? Where is it?'

Folknor looks round, sudden anger in his eyes. 'Calm yourself Manu, or you will regret it.'

Manu reaches for his short sword, reflexes as quick as a snake. In the same moment, Folknor grabs his two hurlbats at his belt, his arms rippling in anger as his gauntlets squeeze the sharpened edges. Arrimis steps in slamming down his massive Warhammer, sending out a shockwave felt by all.

'Enough of this,' Arrimis booms. 'We have come here to fulfil a task. Let us do that, instead of bickering like children.'

They reluctantly remove their hands from their weapons, continuing to stare. Maya pulls her king in close, trying to calm him. Folknor, fists still clenched, takes a breath. Calm yourself. This is nearly over, he thinks to himself.

They carry on, Arrimis at the rear, watching with shiny blue eyes. The only sounds are the echo of footsteps and the clink of rubbing armour. They see a light ahead. Sighing, Folknor says, 'This is it, my kings and queens. We are here, at last.'

'Good,' says Aisha, nodding in agreement.

They gather around the edge of the sacred well. It spans fifty footsteps across. It is a perfect circle cut deep into the earth. With a spectral glow, it has an array of every possible colour swirling around slowly. Its background a deep black nothingness reaching down and down. They look on mesmerised.

'Remove your Brightstones,' says Folknor.

They begin to pry their precious stones from their weapons and armour. Arrimis and Aisha two blue stones; Demitri and Dana two grey; Manu and Maya two red and finally Folknor removes his green Brightstone from his chest plate. He looks at this fist-sized Gem. It's beautiful, with its multi-faceted edges. He stares into the centre, thinking that he sees movement there.

'I hope this works Folknor, for your own sake,' rasps Manu.

Folknor takes a deep breath, still staring at this marvel in his hands. 'It will, I've been assured by our historians. This is the only way to finally stop this plague.'

'Bah, your historians know nothing. My mages tell me it's more complex than that,' replies Manu.

Folknor sighs again, his head starting to feel heavy, 'It will work. Now pass me the Brightstones.' He looks to each of them as he collects the Brightstones. He turns to Manu, a fierce glint in his eyes. He reluctantly hands over his Brightstone.

As Folknor turns to Maya he sees a glint from the corner of his eye. Then a searing pain down the side of his skull, he feels the stones topple and collapses to his knees. All he can feel is the pain. All he can hear is the sound of blood rushing through his veins. Then nothing, only darkness.

He begins to hear muffled footsteps and the faint clash of steel on steel. He tries to look up, but can't. He blinks to clear the dust from his eyes, he sees bodies on the ground, scattered everywhere.

All he can see is the red of leather armour. Manu's....troops, he thinks sluggishly. Then he sees them. First is Aisha, her eyes dull, her hair matted with blood and dirt. He turns his head to see Demitri and Dana heaped together with a ring of bodies around them. Demitri's chest caved in and Dana's arm-less body still seeping blood into the ground, she twitches as he watches as the light leaves her eyes.

Folknor can still hear the crash of steel. He sees sparks fly from short sword and Warhammer. Manu and Arrimis. He tries to make sense of this chaos. He watches as Manu, quick as a snake darts in and out of range, of Arrimis' Warhammer.

Arrimis bellows a defiant cry and charges forward. A hint of a smile touches Manu's lips and he ducks under the blow missing him by a hair's length. Then he sees it: the sparkle of Manu's Brightstone on the pommel of his sword, the blade piercing straight through Arrimis' armour like butter.

'Noooo,' croaks Folknor. He gets kicked from somewhere behind. He hits the ground face first drawing blood. As he looks up he sees Arrimis fall to his knees, Manu's sword still buried in his chest.

Arrimis licks his dry lips. 'Why Manu? Why?'

Manu looks at him with those deep red eyes and rips his sword away in one vicious move. Blood spurts over his armour as Arrimis falls back. Folknor sees all this in slow motion, not really believing, watching as his blood slows to a trickle.

Then Manu turns his attention to Folknor, 'Well my old friend, look what has become of us all.'

'What have you done Manu?'

'I have claimed what is mine!' he spits.

The blood drains from Folknor's face. This king, this king of Fire, is mad and he realises he will die here in this wretched place and never see his home again. He looks around. 'Where are the Brightstones Manu?'

'Maya has them.' She raps Folknor with the pommel of her short sword. She has been at his side from the minute the chaos started, guarding.

With a dizzying head he tries to speak, 'Will you end this war? Or let them destroy our world forever? Maya? Surely you can see this is wrong.' She stays silent, only looks to her king.

'Maya is with me, she is my queen Folknor, there is no stronger bond. Now, let us finish this task.' Manu removes his Brightstone from his sword and takes the others from his queen. He then turns to the sacred well, the spectral glow illuminating his eyes. He stops at the edge, with outstretched palms.

Manu speaks in the ancient tongue of Raygor:

'Wid Saur, Vindur, Bal and Vatn I det shor minesaf tu vu, sal thi potan wi mine heartstone.'

('With earth, wind, fire and water I do show myself to you, seal this portal with my heartstone.')

The wind picks up, even though they are deep within the cave. The dust swirls into little tornados along the ground. A howling starts and it gets louder and louder until it's no longer audible.

Manu's men, skittish, exchange worried looks. One turns and runs, then another and another but Manu, he takes no notice. He can see the giant swirl moving, gradually getting faster, mesmerised. It's swirling faster and faster, this giant beautiful hole in the universe.

The Brightstones slip from his hands and zip to the centre of the well faster than the eye can see.

Suddenly, beams of light in all directions. Manu stumbles back and falls, he looks up from his back, not feeling the sudden pain in his side, to see a multitude of coloured lights bouncing off the walls, lighting up the great cavern they're in. The walls, covered in ancient runes begin to change. They seem to stretch and then they begin to disappear, carried away with the beams of light.

There is a sudden eruption, of ear splitting sound for what feels like an eternity, then nothing. Just darkness. Darkness and silence.

As their eyes adjust, they see a tiny faint glow coming from the centre of the well. Folknor tries to turn his head but can't, he can feel the blood running down his face.

Manu sits up feeling the pain in his side, he pulls his hand back, feeling a wetness that can only be blood.

Still standing over Folknor, Maya stares into the abyss, her red eyes now black and dead.

Manu moves away from the well and walks to his queen. 'Maya?' she doesn't move a muscle. 'Maya, what are you doing? Did you see that?' He moves towards her; still no movement. He touches her hand and flinches, the skin stone cold. He can't understand. She's solid like a statue to one of the gods.

Manu turns, not seeing anything other than his grief. The world spins around him and he screams, his voice cracking.

Manu falls to his knees in despair, still and silent. Folknor rises to his feet, realising this is his chance. With blood trickling down his face, blinding him in one eye, he shuffles towards Manu, who kneels alone with blood and bodies surrounding him. He releases one of his battle axes making a tiny scratching noise. Manu's ears prick up but he still does not move.

Folknor steps close enough to strike. He lifts a single hurlbat readying the killing blow. Folknor sees a sudden movement, Manu strikes. In his despair, he is still quick. He thrusts his short sword straight through Folknor's stomach, not taking any notice of his now dull armour.

Folknor gasps, still standing with a sword through his gut, 'Why? We could have done this together.' He slowly falls to his knees. Still holding the hilt of his sword, Manu stands up towering over him. Folknor can see his red eyes and the tight grimace on his face.

'I want to rule, Folknor. I wanted to rule with my queen, but you took that away from me.' He rips out his sword. It catches on Folknor's armour throwing out a bright spark illuminating their faces.

'I did nothing Manu, the Brightstones...' He coughs, bringing up blood. 'When they...fused together...they must...have.'

'Quiet,' barks Manu.

'How...could...I?' Folknor replies feeling the blood draining from his body.

Manu kicks him over onto his back. 'You will die in this wretched place Folknor. Knowing that at this very moment your royal bloodline is being wiped out with the others. Mine is the true bloodline and I will rule. Goodbye my old friend, may you never rest.' He gives out a strangled laugh and plunges his sword through Folknor's neck.

He twitches once, then lies still.

Manu lifts his sword flicking off the blood in one fluid movement. He walks from this place of death and life without looking back, not noticing the faint pulsing of the tiny light as it slowly grows.

 

-One- (new)

Kankor - 900 Years later.

 

Aurora doesn't walk; she glides, or that's what people tell her. She is a tall, lithe young woman, who carries herself well for someone from Arrowedge - a tiny village, on the edge of the Kankor Valley.

The night dark, the only light coming from the broken blood moon, it shines down on her long jet-black hair. The light casts a shadow bringing out her high cheekbones, showing off her beauty. Or so they say.

Aurora walks towards Wryamt forest at the edge of her village. She looks up with big doe eyes, green as grass, turning a strange yellowy-red from the reflection of the moon. What wonders there must be out in the world, she ponders.

As she reaches the tree line, she looks back towards Arrowedge, her home and birthplace. It's a place she loves dearly, her friends, family and even the occasional stray dog. She loves it all, the smell of grass in the morning and the smell of wood smoke in the evening. She loves her little cottage she shares with her family, even though it's isolated, on the very edge of their village.

She enters the forest, surrounding herself with the smell of oak and birch. She touches each one she passes, feeling the rough bark on her palms. She brushes past the tall ferns and all the pink wildflowers that cover the ground. She loves it here with the smells and sounds.

She goes deeper into the forest where no other humans normally go. She sees the trails of the deer and foxes; she notices the occasionally floppy ear from a half-hidden rabbit. She touches everything as she passes feeling if it's warm or cold.

She can hear the animals squeaking and rustling through the undergrowth. She smells a vibrant blue wildflower; it's strong and overpowering but still beautiful. As she walks further down in amongst the trees, she listens to the sounds around her. Listening for the distinct grunt of her furry little friends.

She looks at all the trees surrounding her. She can see oak, birch, pine, spruce and even some maple trees. Her father used to bring her here. He taught her about the plants and trees, how to tell which is which from the fallen leaves. She knows what plants are edible and which are poisonous. And he taught her about the animals too, her favourite things in this world.

She's still looking for the signs and sounds, and as she rounds a grassy knoll she sees them and thinks back to when she told Matti about them.

'They're my friends, Matti. They have been forever.'

'You're mad Aurora. To get that close to them, you need to stop.'

'They've never hurt me in any way. I can't stop.'

'You're going to get hurt, maybe killed Aurora. So don't blame me when it happens.' she storms off, not even looking back.

She didn't listen to her sister then and she isn't about to start now. She almost runs to them. These majestic beasts of raw power, every bit as ferocious as people have heard.

As Aurora runs, she shouts out in greeting. They all turn with what can only be described as smiles on their small faces. They beam out below their short snouts. Their bodies huge, covered in hair with massive claws.

It's a family; five of them. Their home a little bright grove in the middle of the forest floor. A wide area covered with ferns, shrubs and flowers alike, with a small burrow into the side of the hill. As she nears, she notices the moonlight reflecting off the dew-covered leaves.

She runs to them with open arms and they envelop her in their embrace. She can feel their massive claws around wrap her waist. Rough at first, then they soften. She buries her head into this beast's chest and inhales, smelling the damp earth and the scent of crushed grass and tree sap.

'Hello again, I've missed you all,' she says, she goes to the smallest and ruffles her fur. 'And I've missed you the most, little one,' she hasn't named them; she knows it's not her place.

As she spends her time rolling around in the grass, she notices how the beasts seem to be happy nuzzling her and each other. Her favourite, the smallest one, bounds over to her, nibbling her foot and pulling at her leg.

Aurora wonders what she's doing; she's never grabbed her foot before. It doesn't hurt but she can feel her small teeth through her leather boots. The little one pulls again, a bit harder this time.

'What do you want little one?' she asks. She seems to be pulling her towards the tree-line. 'Do you want me to follow you?' She pulls again, harder this time, so Aurora follows.

Her little furry friend pulls her past the tree line and into the forest. They go past the tall ferns, scattering the rodents and smaller mammals on the way. She is being led deeper into the forest than she has ever been before. She passes the trees she knows, and then she notices everything is getting bigger. She notices the old oaks, covered in green vines; they reach five footsteps wide and as tall as mountains.

The little one lets go but carries on running, Aurora follows, even though she's not sure how to get back. She trusts her, even for a youngling. As she passes the old oaks she starts to see plants and shrubs that are new to her. These strange and wonderful flowers, so familiar but at the same time completely different. They're taller than normal, their shapes bulging, with a kind of fluorescent colouring.

Aurora suddenly loses sight of the youngling; she stops and calls out, 'Where are you Little one?' Nothing, just the faint rustle of leaves. She calls out again, 'little one, where have you gone?'

She hears a rustling from her left. She turns, seeing the youngling just at the last minute bounding out from under the shrubbery heading straight at her. She moves her body not even thinking about it and catches the youngling in her arms; the sheer weight topples her to the floor. They roll around laughing and grunting together.

When she finally stops herself, she sits up pulling grass from her hair. 'Wow, that was fun, don't you think? Even though I'm covered in grass, ha, ha, ha.' The youngling grunts in agreement, wriggling her snout.

As Aurora looks around her, she notices that it's brighter than normal. She looks up expecting to see the blood moon shining through the trees, but instead, she sees the giant branches and leaves of the old oaks. They are intertwined and push against each other, a solid wall of nature, protecting her from the outside world.

She looks at the trees seeming to glow, and at the wildflowers and tall ferns, their stems illuminating. She spins in excitement taking everything in.

'Humpf.'

She stops dead in her tracks.

'Humpf.'

She looks around at the youngling suddenly remembering she was there. Aurora flops down next to her, 'what is it my little one? Can you see it all too? It's beautiful.'

'HUMPF, HUMPF, HUMPF.' The youngling grunts.

'What is it?' asks Aurora.

The youngling turns her head, looking toward the biggest oak tree Aurora has ever seen. The trunk, bigger than her families' cottage, the top mixing and seeming to melt in with the canopy of the other trees.

The youngling pads over to it and Aurora follows. Seeing the ancient trunk up close in all its glory, the thick gnarled bark with its bright green vines stretching all the way up. She places both hands on the trunk. It seems enormous to her. She runs her hands over the bark feeling every hole and crevice. Slowly moving around, she starts to hear a faint humming seeming to come from within the tree.

As she stops moving, she takes her hands off and the humming suddenly stops. 'Interesting, I wonder if?' She places them back on and there it is again. She does this a few times just to be sure. She turns to the youngling. 'Is this what you wanted to show me little one? It's fascinating.'

With what looks like a smile, the youngling stands up on her hind legs and places her small paws on the ancient oak, 'mmmm mmmm.' An expression of pure joy comes over the young-ling; she closes her eyes, 'mmm, mmm, mmm.'

'I feel the same way little one.' As Aurora places her hands on again, the humming is louder. She listens, trying to pinpoint where the sound is coming from. She walks around the giant trunk again this time looking up and down. Then she sees it, a small nook about midway up the tree. She removes her hands again and the hum stops. She steps back trying to get a better look and maybe find a way up.

She sees it clearly now: a small nook with a faint green glow emanating from it. She moves further back, trying to see inside to no avail. She lines herself up with the nook and walks back to the base of the tree, looking for a way up.

As she gets there the youngling looks around with her big dark eyes. She scratches at the trunk, barking, 'Ime, ime, humpf,' she looks up towards the nook and seems to speak again. 'Ime rora, ime.'

Aurora looks at the youngling in disbelief, thinking to herself that she didn't just hear her speak. 'It's not possible, is it?' she asks herself. Her head seems to spin slightly; she sits down on the warm grass.

Finally, she turns to the youngling who's just staring at her now, and asks, 'Are you telling me to climb, little one?' the youngling tilts her head, then nods up and down in agreement. Aurora can't believe it. 'What is happening, am I going mad?'

She stands up deciding that she isn't going crazy. She steps up to the youngling stroking her fur on the way past. Aurora looks up again and starts to climb. She realises that the trunk is so big the bark seems to have natural handholds, perfect for climbing. She can feel it under her fingers, a slight sponginess when she grips. She continues her climb towards the nook. As she gets nearly halfway there she looks down to see the youngling watching. She seems to sit on her hind legs, eyes locked to Aurora watching and waiting.

She carries on up the tree, careful with each movement, she loves to climb but this is different, dangerous. As she gets near to the nook she relaxes again. Holding on with one hand she releases the other clenching her fist and wiggling her fingers. As she grabs hold again, she can feel the humming in her bones now, it's getting stronger the closer she gets.

She climbs again, the final part; she reaches the nook and grabs hold. Her fingers grow cold and she feels something slimy, her hand slips off and she starts to fall. She frantically grabs at anything she can hold on to. She finally scrambles and grabs a nearby branch. Breathing heavily, she just freezes, thinking about what could have been. She stops herself, 'But it didn't happen,' she says aloud. 'Get a grip, literally,' she laughs to herself, a short and croaking sound.

She shakes her head relaxing and continues to climb, this time to the left of the nook. She does it slowly and carefully. As she gets level she peers inside. She thinks the nook is just big enough for her to squeeze inside, it looks hollow and seems to reach far back inside the tree.

She grabs hold again making sure she has a firm grip and pulls herself inside, brushing the sides as she goes. She crouches at first feeling with her hand and then sees that it's a lot bigger than she first thought. She tries to stand up and hits her head. 'Ouch. Not big enough,' she says aloud. She moves toward the glow and sees that it's a gemstone, maybe the size of her father's fist. It looks strange, with many uneven edges, the outside seeming to be clear and the inside bright green. As she looks closer she swears that she can see movement right in the centre. It's suspended in mid-air, within some sort of liquid bubble.

She stretches out her hand and then pulls it back instantly. 'Should I even touch it?' She says to herself, 'It's beautiful.' She leans forward, reaching out her hand, it seems to glow brighter the closer she gets. She stops before the bubble. Hesitantly, she reaches inside. It's warm but not wet, as she grabs the gemstone the bubble pops and disappears. The only feeling is of warm air rushing over her body.

She turns her hand to look at the gemstone; it gives off a slight glow but nothing as bright as before. It's fascinating, this glowing gemstone. It must be worth a fortune, she thinks. She looks at it in amazement, turning it around in her hands, looking at each facet in turn. As she looks deeper she can see a slight swirl from inside, she looks closer still and sees it's a multitude of colours.

Suddenly, the gemstone flashes brighter, it begins to warm then get hotter in her palm. It fills the whole space with brilliant white light; Aurora feels a searing pain in her left palm, smells burning flesh. She realises it's her own and cries out in pain, tears coming to her eyes.

She falls to her knees feeling a sudden surge of energy fill her body. This time she screams, for how long she does not know. Her body goes rigid, her every nerve twitching in pain. She begins to shake uncontrollably still screaming, her throat raw and bloody. Finally, for what feels to her like days, the pain starts to ease, she curls up in a ball and sleeps.

 

-Two- (new)

 

He looks at the setting suns on the horizon, great blue jets of light illuminating the darkening sky and wonders, just for a moment, what life could have been like if he had just stayed. But he can't think like that now; his choice has been made.

'Keep your head down,' comes a harsh whisper from behind him.

He looks around to a pair of piercing bright blue eyes as he ducks down. Squatting in the mud he awaits the call he has heard a thousand times before, his supple leather boots feeling every movement. He brushes his shaggy hair from his eyes and takes out a band to tie it back.

He no longer gets nervous, but waits patiently, slowly breathing in and out, in and out. He listens to the sounds around him, the rustle of the trees, the last remaining animals being ushered inside their pens for the night, hears the howling of the wind in his ears straining his senses.

He rolls his broad shoulders loosening his muscles, cracks his neck and hands releasing the pressure. Checks his leather jerkin is tight around his chest; that his dagger is loose in its sheath at his belt, and finally makes sure the broadsword strapped to his back is within easy reach. He grabs the hilt squeezing the familiar feel of leather and steel. He settles, happy with his routine and awaits as the final rays disappear on the horizon.

'Breeeeeeup, toowee.' Comes the call.

'Finally,' he says under his breath.

'Hush Kantos, we are all ready, keep your own thoughts,' says Blue Eyes.

He drops his head scolding himself. Fury building inside that he let something slip. 'It will not happen again,' he whispers, a determination in his heart.

'Good,' answers Blue Eyes. 'It is time, we move now.'

Blue Eyes looks to his left; a glint in his eye. 'Kantos, take Ferren and Bados to the left. Derry, you take Flinn and Garett right. The rest of you with me. You all know the plan, let's go.' He says all of this with no hint of a smile, his piercing eyes looking towards their goal, hard and cold.

They start to move, Kantos takes the left with his men. They move quietly watching their step. They move out from the trench and along the side of a small dilapidated barn. He holds up his hand and the others stop instantly taking a knee. He slowly moves to the corner, slowing his breathing, he looks around the edge squinting his eyes in the darkness.

He sees them then, the royal soldiers standing guard. Their red and black armour of house Bal reflecting in the torchlight, each carrying a short sword on their hip, a shield on their backs and a man height pike in their hands.

Kantos only counts eight soldiers, there should be twelve. Do not panic Kantos, he thinks to himself. He searches the village square for the others, his eyes darting from one place to the other. Searching the shadows, he sees a glint of armour coming from the right. Its two more guards rounding the corner of a small hut. He can hear their chatter as they move in their direction. He freezes as they pass within reaching distance not even breathing.

They pass by Kantos and his party unaware of the danger that is about to befall them. As they reach the other soldier's one of them laughs and slaps the other across his back. Now is the time! He thinks in his head, we need to move now before they carry on their patrol. But I must wait for the signal, I must be a good soldier myself.

Kantos looks from one hut to the next still searching for the remaining two guards when he hears it: 'Toowit, toowit.' A distant sound, the call to move.

He looks around at his men with steel in his eyes. 'Ready yourselves. This is what we have been training for; be calm and have faith. Now follow me.'

Kantos takes his men left and around one of the many huts in the village. They creep along the side, inching closer to the soldiers. All three step to the edge keeping to the shadows. They wait and watch only seeing the guards and no one else.

'It's eerie; Kantos, don't you think?' asks Ferren in a whisper. He is a wiry man in his early twenties. 'With all the villagers trapped inside, it feels too quiet.'

'Keep it quiet, Ferren. We must be patient. But yes, you are right, it feels wrong, we are here to do something about it right,' says Kantos. His men nodding their heads in agreement.

They hear the whistle, 'whee, whee, whee - wheeee.' The signal for attack.

'Let's move,' Kantos says in a half growl.

They silently move towards the soldiers. They brace themselves for the fight to come, hoping the element of surprise will give them victory. Kantos unsheathes his broad-sword from his back without a sound as the others follow suit. They get to within 10 steps away when one of the guards turns. They run.

The soldiers' eyes go wide, he sees three men sprinting down on him. They are so close now he can see the whites of their eyes. He sees the one in the front with broad shoulders and blond hair, bearing down on him faster than he can move. He cries out as Kantos' great broadsword slices into him, severing his shoulder and arm. He falls to his knees and topples dying as the blood pools around him, the blond warrior already onto his next victim.

Kantos slices through the first guard with all of his strength, his sword hitting bone and carrying on through without so much as a snag. He jumps over the dying guard as he slumps to the ground. He is on to the next soldier in a heartbeat; he opens him up from his neck right down to his hip spraying blood in all directions.

He gets to a third, but this one is ready for him with sword and shield drawn. A mountain of a man a whole footstep taller than Kantos, with arms the size of small tree trunks. Kantos swings for his chest it bounces off his shield, he counters to the head, Kantos skips backwards just in time as the short sword brushes his cheek drawing blood. Kantos circles around, watching and waiting for any weaknesses he can exploit. He faints left as he swings his broadsword one-handed round to the right, it catches the top of the giants' shield and bounces off his helm putting him off balance. Kantos pulls back and strikes two handed using all his strength, this time cracking his helm crumpling the giant to the ground. He finishes him off as he drives his sword through the soldiers' chest.

Some of the soldiers have rallied now, still confused as to what is happening but their training kicks in and they form a basic defensive line with pikes drawn down.

Kantos sees two guards that have been isolated, too far from the others. Ferren and Bados cut them down as they turn and run. They rejoin him now awaiting his command. He holds them back as the remaining soldiers try and hold them at bay with their pikes.

Kantos, breathing heavily now calms himself, where are the others? They should have been here by now, he thinks. He keeps his composure trying to keep his men calm. As he looks on, thinking about the best assault, he sees them creeping up from the side. He smiles turning towards his men. 'This is it now, make them pay,' he turns and charges bellowing out a war cry making the soldiers flinch.

Before his little party can reach the soldier's, blue eyes and his men attack from behind. Blue eyes' uses a short-sword in either hand cutting and slicing his way through, his men following. The remaining soldiers panic as they are being flanked, there are screams and shouts in all directions.

Kantos and his men join the attack, finishing off what remains. It takes seconds as both forces trap the guards, slashing and cutting till everything is dead.

***

A calm silence proceeds the fight as they drag the bodies into a pile in the village centre. They only count ten soldiers in total; there should have been twelve.

Kantos looks around at the blood and destruction. All for the right cause, he tells himself. He watches his party, counting them as he goes. He sees Ferren and Bados with a few scrapes and bruises, he sees his leader blue eyes' and his five men, with only a few cuts between them. But he doesn't see the last three. Where are they?

'Where are Derry, Flinn and Garett?' he asks aloud, looking at blue eyes.

'Hmm, I don't know. They should have found their way here by now,' says Blue Eyes, Kantos sees the worry on his face, then it is gone. 'Kantos, take your men and find them. Take Haden, too. Now go.'

Kantos moves, taking the three men with him. He unsheathes his sword as he starts to jog. He takes his men back to the trench to retrace the steps they took. As they reach it he takes them off to the right going wide around the outskirts of the village. His eyes searching every dark corner. They finally round the corner of a larger hut and come across carnage.

That is the only thought that comes to mind, blood-spattered up the walls and body parts scattered everywhere. He looks closer smelling iron and death in the air, he cannot differentiate between his men or the soldiers. He sees maybe four men if he adds the parts together. They seem to have been ripped apart as if by some giant beast.

'What in all of Antar could have done this?' Kantos says aloud, not really wanting an answer. He looks from an arm then to a leg and then what he thinks could be a foot, all completely shredded and destroyed. It's a massacre of pure carnage.

'Aaaahhh, heeelp,' come's a strangled voice from the shadows. Kantos spins around at the sound as it chokes off. He steps closer with sword ready.

'Hello, who is that?' he asks.

'D-D-D-Derr,' it cuts off with a hackling cough.

Kantos takes another step trying to make out any features. 'Derry, is that you?' he kneels down, sure that it's him. He sheathes his sword turning to his men, 'keep an eye out boys,' he says.

He brushes his blood-soaked hair away from his face and sees a giant gash going from his scalp to his chin, his nose gone completely. 'Derry, Derry look at me,' he asks shaking the man's head. 'What happened to you? What was it, Derry?' Kantos asks again frustration building.

He gets no answer from Derry; he searches him for other injuries. He finds a large ragged gash across his chest and his left foot seems to have been ripped off. He has lost a lot of blood, Kantos thinks. 'We must get him back to the others, NOW!'

Kantos rips fabric from his trousers and ties off Derry's bleeding stump. 'Bados, Haden, pick him up, Ferren with me. Keep your eyes peeled,' he says to them struggling to keep his voice level.

They set out towards the village centre looking to every shadow for dangers. Kantos picks up the pace wanting to get back to the others. He searches his mind for anything that could create so much havoc be it man or beast.

They turn the corner of the stables, nearly back with the others. As he turns, Kantos hears a scuffle from his left. He stops instantly, raising his sword two-handed stepping into his stance all in half a second. The others stop taking his lead. Kantos braces for the unknown. Peering into the darkness straining his eyes, he shuffles forward trying to calm his mind.

Kantos jumps back in astonishment as a pair of pure white eyes snaps open no more than two footsteps in front of his face. He shouts out as he hits his men nearly knocking them to the ground. The eyes - so bright in the gloomy darkness - just stare, unblinking back at Kantos. He looks on as fear sets in, taking a hold of his heart seeming to crush it slowly taking his breath away.

Catching a sparkle from the darkness, he looks closer trying to focus his eyes as he takes another step back. Shining in the darkness are five long blade-like claws attached to two black hands he can barely see. They seem to shimmer reflecting blood-red from the full moon. He lifts his sword high above his head, ready to strike. He can feel the sweat rolling down his face and back.

He looks on at this creature because that's what it must be, he keeps telling himself. He keeps his eyes focused on what is in front of him as he speaks. 'Keep your heads, men. We do this quickly,' he says with a slight wobble in his voice.

Kantos takes a deep breath calming himself. 'Ready yourselves,' he says, as he takes a step forward.

'You are, not yet, ready, man-thing,' comes a slithery voice from the darkness. Kantos stops, suddenly feeling drained of all energy, his head feels light as he looks around at his men falling to the floor. He drops his broadsword swaying now, he cannot focus, he tries to think of anything he can do. He drops to one knee his head pounding.

A sudden fury erupts in him at the realisation of death, his but more so his men, at the hands of this rotten creature. He forces himself to straighten up and sees the white eyes in front of him go wider than he thought possible. He tries to clear his mind searching for a way out of this, a way to kill this wretched beast.

His hands are at his sides as he feels for his dagger silently and carefully, he hears a hiss from the darkness as the creature slowly move towards him. He unclasps it waiting for his time to strike, he sees it clearly now, skin as black as night smaller than himself but wiry with muscle, it has giant claw-like hands and small horns atop its head. It smiles showing small sharp teeth the same shiny colour of its claws. It moves slowly with fluid motions, its head moving side to side. He cannot be sure if it wears clothes or not the darkness seems to cloud his mind.

It's within striking distance now, Kantos knows it too, he slowly unsheathes his dagger keeping eye contact all the while, hoping he can get his revenge for Flinn and Garett.

The creature strikes quicker than he has ever seen. He sidesteps, still feeling sluggish, and receives a gash along his ribs. He breathes hard feeling the burning in his side. He still keeps his dagger hidden, waiting for his opportunity. The creature darts forward again aiming for his head this time. He jumps back using all of his strength, his knees buckle sending him down face first.

He sees the smirk on the creature's lips as he falls, this is my moment, he thinks somewhere in the back of his mind. As he lands he rolls to the side, hoping the creature has followed him down. As he rolls, he stabs back blindly, hoping to hit something.

He feels resistance, then a howl shrieks through the air. He pulls his dagger free continuing his roll, he pops up onto his feet instantly regretting it as his knees buckle again. He watches from his knees his head screaming from the inside, as the creature gets up, it turns towards him, 'Ha-ha-ha,' it shrieks laughing at him. 'You thinks you can fool me man-thing, you thinks you can harm me?' it asks looking at him from above.

Kantos looks at his dagger, and with a smile holds it up to show a dark bluish liquid dripping from the blade. 'What is this then?' he mocks. The creature looks on the mocking laughter gone from its eyes, it looks down only now realising what has happened. It grabs its side just above where its hip should be. It hisses at him with its high-pitched voice, Kantos struggles not to cover his ears to this foreign sound.

Kantos forces himself to his feet with sheer willpower alone. He stares at this creature, standing taller, he takes a step forward seeing a hint of worry in its eyes. 'Now I will finish you,' he says gritting his teeth as pain shoots up his side. He takes another step and another.

The creature looks on with furious eyes spitting curses at him all the while. Kantos gets closer, then realises the creature has gone quiet. He braces himself for what to come whether it be life or death.

'You cannot win,' says this black daemon creature. It pounces fast and hard going straight for his throat. Kantos slashes wildly with all he has left. He hears a scream and smiles in satisfaction as he adds another mark to this thing.

'Curse you. You will die.' It hisses. 'But maybe not today Man-thing. Ha-ha-ha.' Kantos steps forward again ready to finish it off, but before he can even move the daemon creature turns and flees seeming to go at an unnatural speed. It is gone in seconds, leaving Kantos drained of energy and bleeding out. He falls to his knees finally relaxing, sucking the air as he scans the horizon wondering when the suns will rise. 

-Three- (new)

Staring at the muddy and blood-soaked ground, he looks up to see the rising of the two blue suns of Antar. Beautiful. He squeezes his eyes shut feeling every ache, pain and cut on his body. Still kneeling, he opens his eyes to shouting. He wants to stand but his body will not obey him.

He looks around to see his men, still lying motionless around him. He wonders if they are dead, but he cannot move his body to check. He tries to speak but only a croak comes out. He clears his throat and tries again. 'Fer...Ferr...Ferren?' he finally gets out, throat dry as bone-dust. 'Ferren? Bados?' he asks again with no response.

He looks to where Derry now lies. A pool of his own blood surrounds him, his wounds no longer bleeding and his skin pale, he is surely dead. Kantos' head drops to his chest. Feeling ashamed he shouts, 'WHY?' His eyes close, he licks his lips. 'Why did this happen?' he asks again, one last time, hoping for something good to come from this gat.

'Flinn? Garret? Haden? Be alive...' He looks to his left hearing muffled footsteps. He blinks once, then again, trying to focus his eyes in the brightness of this new day. He sees men running toward him; he cannot discern who they are, GAT! Is this it for me? Is this how I die?

'Come on then you sons of whores,' he whispers, struggling to his feet. He manages to grab hold of his broadsword. It feels heavy in his hand but familiar, he uses it to finally stand.

'Kantos? Kantos, put down your sword, please.' He barely hears it, his sword still held high with a slight waver. But somehow the voice sounds familiar. 'Kantos please,' this time he hears, he looks toward the voice, at blue eyes, his leather armour splattered with red.

Kantos lowers his broadsword, the tip touching the blood-soaked ground. He blinks again and winces, feeling the pain in his side. 'Commander. You have found us. Thank you.' He looks down at the ground again as his head flops onto his chest. Blue eyes steps to his side to help him sit.

'What... Happened here?' he asks looking around at the carnage.

Kantos looks up with watery eyes, he swallows, his throat dry. 'It was a...Daemon. It killed them all. I... I... don't know how...' He looks up at the brightening sky, the green hues taking over from the darkness. He takes a deep breath, wheezing.

'Kantos? Are you sure?' asks Blue eyes.

Still staring at the sky, remembering the slaughter and carnage, he starts to speak. 'We found the bodies.' He stops and looks at his commander. 'Then we found Derry,' he points to the corner, the pool of blood surrounding him like syrup now. 'I didn't believe, I couldn't believe something could do that with its bare hands. Then we saw it, the daemon; black skin with pure white eyes and it moved. I don't know, I am not sure, like a snake, it was strange and slightly mesmerising.' He takes another deep breath, the wheezing sounding worse. 'It killed my men just by looking at them. It didn't work on me. I don't know why. I injured it with my dagger, but I couldn't finish it. I failed.'

'It's okay Kantos.' Blue Eyes says. Looking to the corner, he closes his eyes. 'Derry my friend, you will be missed.' He looks at the bodies scattered on the ground, his men checking if anyone is alive. He turns back. 'Kantos, my son. We will avenge this. I promise.'

Kantos blinks away the tears. 'Yes...father.' He sets his mouth in a grimace. He almost sags, feeling the weight of the night's battles. His father and commander catching him as he lands on his knees.

One of his men comes running up. 'Commander Blakos,' he says, saluting. He is a small man, with wiry arms bare to the shoulders, his long straggly hair tied back against his head.

'What is it, Kain?'

'The other men sir. Ferret, Bados and Haden, they are alive. They were only unconscious; they have started waking up sir.' He says all this with eyes darting backwards and forwards from father to son.

Kantos' eyes brighten, 'Is it true? Maybe we are luckier than we first thought.'

'That is some good news indeed, thank you, Kain. Prepare them to move if they can. We need to get home,' commander Blakos says with a determined look in his bright blue eyes.

'Yes, sir. What about our fallen comrades?' Kain asks.

'We do not leave anyone behind, not even our dead.'

'Sir? We are not sure who is who though.' He pauses eyes averted to the ground. 'They are in...pieces commander.'

Commander Blakos looks at Kain with a sudden rage in his eyes. 'We will take them all! We will not leave them to the dogs. Gather the men. Make stretchers if you have to; we have a long trek home. Now go.' With that, he turns his back on the soldier and faces his son again.

'Kantos? Can you stand? We need to go and you may be our true saviour.'

'I don't know what you mean father. True saviour?' Kantos asks.

'I am not sure, but from what I remember from the stories of old, the black-skinned daemons, they are meant to be a myth. Scary stories for children. Fables. But you stood up to it, even wounded it. That is a feat in itself.' He helps Kantos struggle to his feet. 'We must consult with our elders, come now, we need to get home. Can you walk?'

He steadies himself, assessing his injuries before answering. 'Yes, I think so. I will be slow though, Father.'

'Slow or fast, it matters not, so long as you can move. Come now. We must go.'

Blakos turns still holding his son, steadying him. He looks at his men working to collect their dead. 'Time to go. Collect what you can. You have five minutes, then we move out.'

He turns to Kantos. 'Will you be okay?' He asks.

Kantos looks at his father and nods, 'Yes, I will be fine.' With that, he turns on his heel and marches towards his men. He leaves Kantos to his own thoughts, surrounded by blood and the smell of death.