Unlike Tadloe, where the rivers tend to run east and west, most rivers in Iceload flow north and south. The greatest river, the thick necked Etihw, carves through the center of the icy continent, splitting the mountainous tundra from the flatlands of the taiga. As for the shape of the land mass, Iceload stretches across the Aquarian Ocean like a two headed snake. Two thousand years ago, those frozen lands were far more diverse than they are today. Bearns, a furred, bear like folk, populated the most northern ends and southern reaches – sandwhiching four races of being inbetween them. On the eastern flank, the nellafs, which are more like humans than they are like bearns, lived on a rugid island, Icelore, near one of the Etihw’s three mouths. Icelore overlooked the Vanian Mountains – the largest range of mountains on our planet – where minotaurs and spirits lived in isolated peace. Across the Etihw from the mountains, in the low snowy plains, electric elves made their home and it is among them that our story takes off.
Creaton’s unification of Tadloe was paralleled with the elves plight to spread their patrilineal dynasties from one end of the continent to the other. The Ipativy, Sentry, Woodfolk, Oreh, and Etihw started as small tribes, like those of Tadloe, but after founding a base the electric elves thirsted for more. None had an apetite like the Ipativy. This dynasty of electric elves snowballed down from the foothills of the Vanian. Their home rested at the northern end of the very mountains that were named after their stronghold: Vanii. Their lands spread south of the Black River and across the forked tongue of the northern Etihw. It was winter of the third year after Creaton’s execution. Snow clung to the rooftops in round slabs, thick as a Knome stands tall. Steam rose from the chimney stacks and dissolved into the gray clouds above, turning the precipitation into sleet.
The legendary Warriors of the Blue Ridges began their story as outlaws. Zannon, the electric elf, had grown up under a separate dynasty – the Sentrys. There he had worked as a blacksmith until he took a job from a customer hunting down wanted men. The Sentry were at war with the Ipativy and, eventually, Zannon took a job to kill an Ipativian warlord that sought to take over the Sentry stronghold of Yelah. Zannon succeeded but when he returned to his home in Black Lake City he found the Ipativians had taken over in his absence. He was arrested and transported to Vanii to await his execution.
In Vanii, in the third January of Solaris history, Zannon met his cellmate – a chicken dragon with black scales. He had to teach him Etihwy, the language of the electric elves, before they could communicate. Zannon gave the man the name Cannon, because the reptilian refused to tell his true name and his arms were the size of cannons. His homeland had been destroyed by the forces of a man named Creaton. The lone survivor of his village, as all others had been slaughtered or sold into slavery, Cannon fled to Iceload but when first seen, by the Ipativians, they believed him a demon and locked him up. Having lost his people, Cannon believed he had also lost his name and vowed revenge upon the monster he called Creaton. Desperate to obtain the strong-man’s assistance, as they were chained together, Zannon promised to help find Creaton if Cannon was willing to help Zannon escape. The two slit palms and shook on it, becoming blood brothers, then, as soon as their jailor’s lowered their guard the two escaped – fleeing north across the river into Dustenhale.”
– – –
“Chicken dragons look pretty scary?” Joe’s tone made it a question.
“Well…yea…but don’t you think that’s a little racist?” Ekaf replied.
“I’ve never seen one before.” Joe stated, “It was an honest question.”
“Oh, well, I’ll give you a quick description.” Ekaf paused to think, combing his beard with his baby fingers until his mind concocted the correct way to explain. “They’re humanoid in size and shape but scaled instead of skinned. Their hair isn’t soft but instead its rather fleshy, like a wad of tails, and these tails can sprout up under their noses like mustaches and along their chins like beards. Normally, these folk are red scaled or purple scaled and I’ve seen some rather close to orange and even a few that are black like Cannon – they typically claim to be of his lineage, whether or not that’s true or not you’d have to ask the geneticists over in Space City.”
“Space City,” Joe repeated, “you’ve mentioned it before?”
“Maybe?” Joe couldn’t be sure, but he was still curious, “What’s Space City?”
“A city in the middle of the deserts of Batloe.” Ekaf explained, “They lived in isolation from the rest of the world for a long time, having gone without magic for centuries and centuries and instead they developed technology a lot more like the technology you’re used to on Earth.”
“Have they gotten into space?” Joe asked.
Ekaf nodded, “That’s how the rest of the world found them. They flew to the moon and people noticed the spaceship. Search parties went out and found them. At the time, they were little more than a lab and a few villages, but as their fame spred and they integrated magic into their technology, they were able to grow to become one of the biggest cities in Solaris despite being in one of the most in hospitable environments.”
“You’ll have to take me sometime!”
“Eh,” Ekaf shrugged, “maybe in another book, this one is going to be long enough as it is…”
“What were we talking about?”
“You were describing chicken dragons.”
“Right! Yea, so, not only had the Ipativians never seen a chicken dragon, but Cannon’s black scales and purple eyes probably gave those uptight elves quite a chill.”
“I could understand that.” Joe stated, then he posed another question, “What about bearns, what do they look like?”
“They look like bear people.”
“What do bear people look like?”
“Half like a bear and half like a man.”
Once again, Joe decided that it’d be best just to wait and see. Still, he asked one more question, “And electric elves?”
“They’re pale like you but the men stand a couple inches above you. Their name comes from their hair, which is a vibrant yellow, like electricity, and their eyes, which are blue like a lightning bolt. And their ears are pointy, like mine.”
“Okay, I can at least see Zannon now.”
“Good, shall I continue?”
Having forgotten to ask about nellafs – though it probably would not have helped his imagination any more than Ekaf’s descriptions of the others – Joe approved, “Go for it!”
– – –
Zannon Sentry was a skilled fighter but he was far better a blacksmith. In Dustenhale, on of the Hale Villages across the river from Vanii, they set up a shop making tools and weapons for the locals. They saved their money to journey east to face the warlord that had invaded Cannon’s land. When Ipativy pushed there way into Sentry lands, the captives were sold into slavery and the most prized class of these slaves were the smiths. Forge owners bought these craftsmen from the war parties and it didn’t take long before enslaved-Sentry-made metal works became the standard of excellence among the Ipativy. Thus, the people of Dustenhale quickly recognized Zannon’s technique. To be of another dynasty and live freely in another’s land was quite the taboo but, as this was a peaceful town nearly devoid of military presence and Zannon and Cannon weren’t causing any trouble, no one bothered to rat him out to the Ipativians. Plus, allowing him to stay in their midst gave them access to Sentry smithing without having to purchase a pricy smithing slave or buy the products of wealthy, up-charging slave owners.
Eventually, Zannon took their savings north and bought a few Sentry slaves of his own. He justified the investment to Cannon as a way to multiply their stash in the long run so that they could get back to Cannon’s homeland sooner. Cannon didn’t put up much of a fight – the slaves they bought they essentially freed, permitting them to profit off their work and sheltering them from other more oppressive Ipativian owners. It was the closest a Sentry could get to freedom in Ipativian land.
The richer they grew the more comfortable Zannon became and the more ready Cannon was to claim his vengeance. Yet, neither got their way. A rag tag band of rebel Sentrys – made up mostly of escaped slaves – had begun to terrorize the smaller villages of the Ipativy. Many had been completely leveled. Finally, the thugs felt ready to target the larger villages along the Etihw – among them, Dustenhale. As they had done numerous times before, they spent a month waiting along the road, mugging those who came and went. Knowing of Zannon’s past as a bounty hunter, the people tried to pay him to deal with the bandits but Zannon refused. He could not spill the blood of his own kin! Yet, their metal supply, which they received from the mountains of Snowforge, ceased to arrive and, instead, was intercepted by the brutes. Now Cannon pushed to take the job but still Zannon resisted. Then his students, tired of their lack of materials, left to kill the bandits. Not a soul returned. Still, despite being utterly heartbroken, Zannon could not bring himself to fight. It wasn’t until the thugs descended upon Dustenhale that he became willing. Together, Zannon and Cannon slaughtered them in the streets – the fight was two to fifty and tales of the massacre was spread through out every elven dynasty in Iceload. Unfortunately, the warlord of Vanii, Thor Ipativy, heard the story as well. Within days, the Ipativy had Dustenhale surrounded and they demanded the townsfolk surrender the two fugitives.
Also during this time, a murder of sky dragons had begun to assualt the villages of the Ipativy. Towns were pillaged for cattle and treasure. Smaller villages were often stripped to the skeleton – many had been completely destroyed by these raiding beasts! Thor Ipativy had offered a lifetime of luxury for any brave enough to storm the dragon’s hold in the Vanian Mountains but few dared due to the myth that the sky dragons were led by a far larger demon, a god among dragons.
As Spring dawned, the sky dragons turned hungrily upon Dustenhale at just about the same time that Ipativy demanded the surrender of Zannon and Cannon. In the midst of the turmoil, the two brothers fled across the Etihw and past Vanii, into the Vanian Mountains.
– – –
“Wait, they fled through Vanii?”
Ekaf glowered, “That is what I said…”
“Isn’t that the opposite direction they’d want to run?” Joe asked, “Didn’t you say Vanii was like the Ipativian capital?”
“Yes, but they were going to the mountains,” Ekaf explained, “if they’d fled North or East they would’ve had to travel for days in Ipativian territory. As for West, that was ocean. So South, past Vanii and into the mountains, was their best bet.”
Joe nodded, “Makes sense.”
“Yea, one more: how big are sky dragons?”
“They get about thirty feet or so from head to tail. Their wings, though, are just about as long as their bodies. Few dragons have as strong of wings as sky dragons, at least relative to their bodies.”
“And they horde jewels and things?” Joe asked.
Ekaf nodded vigorously, “To impress their mates! Birds do it, as I’m sure you know, and birds are just fuzzier versions of reptiles.”
“That is true.” Joe agreed. “Are those the type of dragons that Creaton domesticated?”
“No, curlheads are more common to Tadloe. They’re smaller, all curled up, they’d be about the size of a mini-van on Earth. They have crests that curl off the back of their heads.”
“Like the shamoos?” Joe asked, “With that triceratops like crest?”
“No, no…” Ekaf hesitated, mulling over what to compare it with, “like the horns of a ram, except, of course, it isn’t a horn, its flesh.”
“That sounds disgusting.” Joe stated.
“Pity evolution didn’t produce creatures you consider ascetically pleasing.”
“Fair enough. You can get back to the story.”
– – –
Now it may have been spring but the spring in Iceload is much like the fall – it’s still winter. In fact, in the Vanian Mountains, it is always winter. Thus to flee into the Vanian Mountains with little to no preparations and no knowledge of magic was not the brightest decision the two boys could have made – however, alternative options were few and far between. They would have frozen to death within the first week if they hadn’t happened upon a charitable spirit. Her name was Rahsai and as soon as Zannon and Cannon laid eyes on her – even though none had ever seen a spirit and they believed her to be a ghost – both men fell in love. Saving them from the cold, she brought them to her people’s home – a mountain pass village called Grantara.
Historians say that Creaton was the first documented being to use magic because though we know the harpies were using it long before – we have no written accounts of it. This is much the same for the spirits of Grantara. Their history was transferred verbally and lost with the fall of their civilization. While it seems likely that a city dependant on magic had developed spells long before Creaton met Ali-Iya, we still attribute the first spell casted to Creaton. But, according to the word of Solaris’ first heroes, Grantara lived on magic much as we live on magic in the present. They were two thousand years before their time. Zannon and Cannon were quite scared, imagine it, not only is every being transparent with a purple flame bouncing within themselves but they used witchcraft as commonly as one used their hands. Their fear quickly fell to curiousity as they became accustomed to the peacefull nature of the Grantarans – yet not all of the Grantarans were peaceful.
Bluff, the brother of Rahsai and the young chief of Grantara, refused to teach the ‘outsiders’ magic and felt uneasy about even letting them witness. Time and time again, Rahsai would beg her brother to let them learn but he refused stating, ‘All men of flesh know to do is murder.’ Bluff declared that as soon as the men recovered from their frost bitten states, they would be blind folded and led down the mountain pass away from Grantara. His word was law and within a week Zannon and Cannon were cast out – Rahsai left Cannon with a charmed stone necklace that she claimed would one day lead them back.
Both men were so infatuated with Rahsai that neither could bring themselves to part from the mountains (for if they left, they would run the risk of being captured by the Ipativians once more and having the magic pendant confiscated – thus never being able to return to Grantara). Wandering around the Vanian Mountains, dangerously close to slipping back into a hypothermic state, the boys were once again facing near extinction when they ran into another good-willed stranger: Mycenae GraiLord.
Now Zannon and Cannon were quite frightened when they met the mighty Mycenae. He stood eight feet tall with fur thick like a bear’s, muscles swollen like a buffalo’s, and horns curved like a dragon’s. Neither men had seen a minotaur and though they didn’t initially know whether he would be friend or foe they both gave him the benefit of the doubt – Cannon’s alien-ness had somewhat desensitized Zannon. The minotaur brought them to his campsite, sat them around the fire, and told them the legend of his plight – a legend that Zannon and Cannon were already accustomed to. The sky dragons that bullied the Ipativians also bullied the GraiLords only the minotaurs felt the reptilian pressure far worse than the elves. In fact, Mycenae described a full out war between man and beast waged among the peaks of the Vanian Mountains. Mycenae led his people while a heathen god led the others – a gigantic dragon named Kor. Kor sought to take the mountains as his own and though his strength was unstoppable, his lesser peons were losing the fight. Many minotaurs had died but finally only one roost remained in GraiLord territory and this dragon nest was where Mycenae was headed when he met Cannon and Zannon.
They were camped in a small valley that sat high in the mountains. Overlooking them was the jagged peak of Mount Krynor, a crater carved from its face as though the land itself were screaming. The following day, Zannon and Cannon accompanied Mycenae up this mountain and into the mouth of the summit. A cave led deep into the mountain. The three didn’t travel far before the mountain’s tenants decided to welcome their visitors. A murder of dragons doesn’t do much to express the vastness of the reptilian fleet that thrived within Krynor. They, with Mycenae wielding a spear and Zannon and Cannon with hammer and blade, fought for hours. The sky dragons were outmatched in skill yet they had numbers and the muscles of the three men were growing dreadfully tired. It was the minotaur king that fell first. The rock shifted beneath him and he tumbled down a zig-zagging shaft, breaking a bone in his right arm. Zannon and Cannon dashed after him and pulled him down a tunnel that grew narrower and narrower until the sky dragons could no longer reach, only tongues of flame pursued them there and, in the cold belly of the mountain, the heat was well appreciated.
Mycenae knew the cave they had wandered into. The cave, he said, would eventually lead them out of the mountain and back into the snowy slopes. He knew the entire floor plan of the mountain. Mount Kyrnor was a holy place to his people, they believed it was where their God, the Christian God, gave minotaur’s free will in the form of magic so that all could perform their own maracles. Mycenae even showed them the precise place this happened. The cave led them to a wide opening and they walked around the roof where the path had become a sort of balcony. Below them, another murder of dragons rested in a mighty spherical hole and, in the center of the hole, the Stone of Krynor sat. It was a mighty glowing rock, bright as a sun and blue as a sapphire.
– – –
“Wait, the Christian God?” Joe asked.
Ekaf nodded, “Do you have a better name?”
“No, I mean…you mean the minotaurs were Christian?”
“As were the spirits of Grantara.”
“So Solaris has a Jesus?” Joe pressed further.
“I believe it was the same Jesus.” Ekaf corrected.
“That’s wild…Are there still Christians here?”
“Yes,” Ekaf said, “but much fewer than you have on Earth. Here in Solaris it seems Christianity has peaked.”
Suddenly Joe remembered Ekaf’s mention of the people of Tadloe believing Creaton to be the Savior. Joe had just assumed this “Savior” was some alien Messiah. Could Creaton have been seen as part of Christianity? Joe asked, “You said many of the earth elves saw Creaton as a savior, did they think he was Jesus?”
“On the contrary,” Ekaf wagged his finger, “the Mahdi.”
“Mahdi?” Joe asked.
“Mahdi is Muhammad’s successor who comes at the end of time to deliver Justice.”
“Muhammad. Yall have Muslims too?”
“So how many of our religions do yall have?”
“Just Christianity and Islam. Holy texts from both religions were found by early civilizations in Solaris. The Gospels in the Vanian Mountains and the Quran along the Saluman River.”
“How’d you get here?” Ekaf blurted back.
“You think someone brought them through the Key Library?”
“Either that or it was some god’s crude idea of a joke.”
“Wouldn’t be the first…” Joe admitted.
“But if I were a Christian or a Muslim – or even just any run of the mill Solarin, they wouldn’t say it was the doing of keys.”
“They’d call it the Big Boom.”
“See, because of the two books, most Solarins know about and – even if they don’t believe either faith – believe in the existence of other worlds, including Earth.” The Knome explained, “To explain this phenomenon, most Solarins posit that there was – at one point or another – a split in the universe, a division of the third dimension into multiple interconnected realities. Make sense?”
“I’m probably butchering the explanation – you should get a devotee to clarify for you one day.” Ekaf acknowledged, “It’s a silly explanation in my opinion anyways.”
“Is that all there is to it?”
“One more important piece. Christians place the Big Boom at Christ’s crucifixion-”
“But the Gospels weren’t written until well after?” Joe interrupted.
“We’re talking about a God who can split the universe here, Joe.”
Joe nodded, “True.”
“Muslims place the Boom after the writing of the Quran.”
Joe crossed his arms, “Why do the Muslims get the more rational one…”
Ekaf snickered, “Maybe they’re right?”
Joe shrugged, “Maybe we all are.”
“Or yall’re all wrong.” Ekaf grunted.
Joe ignored the jab, asking, “Wouldn’t Jesus be the first to have used magic, according to Solarin Christians?”
“On the contrary, mainstream Christianity, under Solaris, does not include miracles.” Ekaf corrected, “The Gospel they first found in the Vanian Mountains didn’t contain the miracles only the parables and the teachings of Christ.”
Joe was intrigued, “No miracles? What’d your Jesus do?”
“Was it the miracles that made Jesus Jesus?” Ekaf’s asked, “Or was it what he taught?”
Joe responded without having to think, “What he taught.”
The two were quiet for a while letting the splash of the river against the hull fill the silence. I guess I never thought about it, Joe thought, but the miracles really aren’t the most important part about the Gospel…would the message be any different without them?
“All those miracles can distract people from the point.” Ekaf continued, “The message being – and correct me if I’m wrong – that God walked amongst his creation to tell us to love one another.”
“Essentially.” Joe agreed, “I mean, there’s a lot more too it but if it had to be summed up in one sentence, then you hit the nail on the head. That’s interesting.” Joe thought quietly again and Ekaf didn’t intervene. After a minute Joe admitted, “I suppose we get carried away in the details.”
“I can’t blame you, I’m sure you haven’t noticed, but I have a knack for getting hung up on embellishments.” Ekaf admitted. He shrugged, “Food for thought…if an adventure through an alien planet hasn’t given you enough.” Ekaf chuckled. “Anyways, where were we?”
Snapped out of his thoughts, Joe struggled to remember.
Ekaf beat him to it, “Ah, they went into Mount Krynor, fought the dragons, Mycenae got hurt, then Cannon and Zannon drag him out through a narrow tunnel.”
“Good, here we go: The wounded Mycenae led them back to his village…”
– – –
The GraiLord’s stronghold was where modern day Recercoff is today, at the base of the mountains near one of the many tail ends of the Etihw River. Smoke rose in great collumns from the city, half of Mycenae’s home lay in ruins. Before they entered the city, Mycenae had predicted the cause of the destruction – Kor. In ancient Recercoff, magic was used but not as often or expertly as it was in the spirit village of Grantara, mostly by the families of the aristocrats. Healers came to Mycenae’s aid and, as he recooperated, the locals told the three of the giant dragon which had raided their home for the sole purpose of extermination. The people said Kor came from the west and, at least they assumed, returned to Mount Krynor after his fill of murder. With this information, Mycenae decided to travel back to the mountain to fight the dragon lord and, promising to teach Zannon and Cannon magic upon a victorious return, the boys agreed to accompany him.
Dressed in the fire resistant fur of zeals, the three journeyed back to Krynor with a party of blood thirsty minotaurs to support them. They took the narrow passage through which they escaped and arrived in the belly of the mountain to find the sky dragons already at war – with the Ipativians. If not for the GraiLord, the elves would’ve perished in that cave but Zannon, Cannon, and Mycenae attacked the sky dragons from behind and together slayed every last reptile within that cave. Kor was no where to be seen. Few of the elvish war party survived, but of those survivors was their charismatic leader, Thor Ipativy. After seeing the face of his saviors, he immediately pardoned Zannon and Cannon (his heart had been softened by the harsh words of the villagers of Dustenhale who had chewed him out after Zannon and Cannon fled). Yet, criminal charges were the least of their worries in the deadly climate of an Iceloadic spring.
During the battle a snow storm blew in and engulfed Mount Krynor. The blizzard was so severe that one couldn’t find their own hand held out before them. It looked as though they were doomed to freeze to death in a cavernous tomb surrounded by the bloody bodies of their foes – but Cannon saved the day. He knew Grantara was less than a days march from the mountain. Using the charm given to him by Rahsai, Cannon led the war party through the unforgiving snow.
But when they arrived in Grantara, they were not welcomed. Bluff and his compatriots looked as though they would explode with rage. Neither Zannon, Cannon, nor Thor could calm the spirit, but Mycenae, after sharing that he too followed Jesus’ teachings, was able to gain his audience. Mycenae explained the vulgarity of the sky dragon attacks, their plight to stop it, and the quest to find and defeat the mighty Kor. Bluff listened and concocted a compromise. They would leave Grantara and he would give them their dragon. After the blizzard, Bluff led the elves and minotaurs through the mountains until they reached the Frosted Coast. Summer was finally dawning and fortunately so, as the weather on the island west of Iceload is even worse than it is in the mountains. Bluff and the spirits gave the dragon slayers a small fleet of boats that were controlled by magic to take them across the Frosted Coast and into Icelore where, according to Bluff, they would find their dragon.
– – –
“Is Kor the Moon Dragon?” Joe asked.
Ekaf moaned, “How’d you know?”
“Well I figured if a dragon’s going to hatch out of a moon and land on a planet, it would probably be pretty noticeable and probably make for a pretty important story – too bad the dragon turned out to be evil.”
“Maybe, maybe not. Dragons weren’t exactly respected at this time. Even non-aggressive species were hunted like monsters. Some people think Kor merely wanted to raise dragons to the ranks of other beings.”
“Are dragons beings?” Joe asked, “Like…are they as smart as people?”
“Some are and some aren’t. Then again, not all people are smart. There’s a fine line between being and beast and the more you think about it the less likely the existence of such a line seems.” Ekaf said, “Anywho, we’re almost across the river, I’ve got to hurry and finish the story.”
– – –
What they found in Icelore astonished them. The nellafs of Icelore, a race of black-striped light-skinned humanoids, worshipped Kor. Their worship was not out of love nor respect but instead fear – how else do you live on an island where there lives a dragon the size of a moon? So the people of Icelore were not too opposed to taking this war party to the legendary dragon. But as they drew nearer, the nellafs grew more and more wary until finally they left them at the base of a mountain with no sort of directions (the minotaurs and Ipativians had enough trouble communicating but the nellafs of Icelore could barely comprehend the GraiLord or elves’ gestures). Dragons could be heard screeching as they soared around the peak, thus the men decided to climb the mountain in the hopes that Kor was waiting at the summit.
They fought dragons all the way up. At first it was only sky dragons, then it was ground dragons – which are much larger and far more menacing. Many elves and minotaurs died, but many more dragons perished, yet still there was no sign of the legendary Kor.
Then the ground beneath them trembled. Realization struck each like a dagger to the gut – the mountain, covered in a thick blanket of snow, was the dragon. The surprise was so tremendous that none stayed to fight. They scurried off the monster and ran back to the nellaf villages, hi-jacking boats to flee back to mainland Iceload.
Thor offered Zannon and Cannon safe haven among the Ipativy and Mycenae said the same of ancient Recercoff but in neither deal were the boys interested. Their hearts were still stuck on the gorgeous Rahsai and, though they’d been told not to on every visit, they returned to Grantara. This time, a reluctanct Bluff let them stay. Rahsai explained that Bluff had first refused their company due to a series of visions of a dark stranger that would wipe Grantara out from under Solaris. It was due to a new vision that they could stay – a white figure and a black figure would beg him for help and Bluff would refuse but when Bluff finally agreed their alliance would create a weapon so powerful that the dark stranger – who would come later – would be cast out. Neither Zannon nor Cannon put much weight in the predicting power of dreams but neither wished to argue.
During the summer, Bluff and Zannon worked together smithing weapons combined with void-dust. They made a series of magical weapons, weapons still wielded to this day, but still Bluff wished to try something more. He knew of the Stone of Kyrnor and wished to build a weapon using the emense energy the stone contained. All the weapons he had helped Zannon craft before, the Vanian Spear, the Pyricblade, the Koran Shield, the Thunder Armor, the Staff of Seas, and the Gustbow, (the Elemental Weapons) were nothing more than tests to see if Zannon was capable of creating the weapon of Bluff’s dreams. Finally the time came to build the weapon and Bluff told Zannon they must leave Grantara to do so. He agreed. You see, while he had worked with Bluff, Cannon and Rahsai had become close. Zannon hoped this new weapon, which Bluff told him only one man could wield, would garner Rahsai’s attention and allow him to steal her from his brother.
– – –
“But she obviously loves Cannon!” Joe cried.
Ekaf smiled, “You have to understand, while we are talking about heroes, that doesn’t mean these are fantastic individuals. All personal accounts of Zannon describe him as a hot headed punk. The elf thought he was the best there was and, while in some aspects this proved true, it caused a lot of drama between him and Cannon.”
“I bet…” Joe shook his head. “…like what though?”
“Well, remember when they raided the bandits and fled from the Ipativians into the mountains, Cannon had wanted to flee east.”
“That’s what I said they should’ve done! I thought you said that’d be impossible?”
“I didn’t know it would come up later, to be honest…” Ekaf muttered sheepishly, “But, in my defense, the Vanian Mountains was probably the best option in the end – it only went so bad because they weren’t prepared.” Ekaf shrugged, “Cannon wanted to risk it and go east so he could catch a boat to wherever Creaton came from and get his revenge. He didn’t know about Tadloe, but he knew that Creaton attacked Batloe from the north which, to Cannon, meant that Creaton’s home was probably east of Iceload.”
“Why’d he listen to Zannon?” Joe asked.
“Zannon wasn’t just a punk, he was very clever.” Ekaf explained. “He had quite the silver tongue. He argued that they would undoubtably get caught traveling east – which wasn’t necessarily untrue –but that the last place Ipativy would expect them to flee was south – past the mighty city of Vanii and into the mountains.”
“Why did Zannon want to go to the mountains anyways?”
“He didn’t, but he didn’t want to leave Iceload and, to be honest, he preferred freezing to death over dying at the hands of the Ipativians.”
“Huh…So what happened with the weapon?”
– – –
Though Bluff didn’t know it, his years spent studying the Stone of Krynor provided him such a sophisticated understanding of the properties of the Voidstone that his knowledge out did that of many of the Fate Programmers. He knew that the Stone would fling you through time and space if you were to strike it. After decades of observation, analyzing the patterns in the giant gems seemingly eratic vibrations and shifts in brightness, Bluff could tell Zannon when to strike so that the Stone would send him right back to where he would be a second after striking – a jump so quick, Zannon didn’t even know he’d been moved. Bluff also knew where to strike it and how to strike it so that the Stone might let some of its power slip off into the object doing the striking. In this manner, they forged the Mystak Blade. One faulty swing could’ve swept Zannon out from under Solaris but he struck with supreme accuracy and immediate adherence to Bluff’s commands. The blade was so powerful that neither dared to touch it directly. Bluff told Zannon that they would have to undergo a ceremonial ritual in which the power of the weapon would be halfway transferred to the wielder, otherwise the power would kill any who touched it.
Traveling back to Grantara with the blade cradled in a wooden frame, the spirits began the ceremony. Bluff said he knew Zannon was not to be the wielder, he believed it was to be Cannon. Zannon objected, saying the blade should get to chose from all those willing. The spirits of Grantara were peaceful, not a soul wished to own the sword, thus only Zannon and Cannon were contestants. The two stood side by side on a raised platform, the blade lying between them, as the spirits chanted their holy vernacular and a swirling storm materialized over head. Finally, a giant fork of lightning was thrown from the clouds to strike the platform. When the flash faded, Cannon stood wielding the blade as Zannon kneeled bowing his head.
It had been Bluff’s plan for the blade to be made and for Zannon and Cannon to live in Grantara until it became evident who the dark stranger would be. After Zannon’s denial, however, the elf grew so bitter he had to find a way to leave Grantara. Seeing Cannon happy with Rahsai was driving the poor soul mad. Never before had Cannon gotten the girl over Zannon, you see, elves tend to prefer skin over scales but not spirits. Spirits cared not of the type of flesh but instead the type of soul. Zannon claimed to have a vision that the blade was made so they could kill Kor. Bluff, being fond of visions and having found himself trusting the elf, believed holeheartedly. Thus, the three, Zannon, Cannon, and Bluff set off for Icelore.
Cannon was kind and somewhat gullible but it was not hard for him to note the jealousy of his brother. As they traveled towards the Frosted Coast, the two began to bicker. Cannon only wanted Zannon to be happy for him. Thanks to the love Cannon had found in Rahsai he finally felt at home in Iceload, he no longer wanted to leave Iceload in search of revenge – Zannon finally got what he wanted, Cannon to stay, but Zannon no longer wanted Cannon’s companionship, he wanted Rahsai’s and – even if platonic companionship was enough – he did not want to share. The fight quickly moved from verbal to physical. Both men were some of the greatest fighters this world has ever known, in fact, they were equal in their abilities, but Zannon fought out of hate and Cannon fought for love. In the end, love prevailed. Zannon, bloodied and bruised, ran off into the mountains, but Cannon and Bluff did not halt their quest.
When they got to Icelore, they found their old buds, Mycenae and Thor. The minotaurs and elves had created a united army of a couple thousand men, all trained in combatting a dragon. Giant machines with chain-strapped harpoons had been created to root Kor to the ground. This time, they were prepared. Cannon gave Mycenae the Vanian Spear and Thor the Pyricblade, two weapons you will hear about in the coming days, then they marched towards the resting moon dragon. The fight lasted a week and, many claim, it was the most intense battle ever seen on this planet. Kor broke many of the chains, but not once did the dragon escape. He slaughtered numerous men and, for a while, it seemed the men could do no more damage than draw a few drops of blood. Every village in Icelore was leveled and the nellafs, out of necessity rather than choice, joined the fight alongside the elves and minotaurs. They would chain the dragon to the ice, then climb the chains and cut frantically at Kor’s hide until the dragon loosened his bondage enough to swipe them off his flesh and gobble them up. Then, those on the ground would relaunch the harpoons or retighten their holds and the process would repeat. Attack, retreat, attack, retreat, it seemed neither side would give but the numbers and energy of the men was dwindling. Finally, after six days, Cannon knew they would not be able to make it through another night. He decided that there would be no retreat – he would fight until he killed the dragon or until he was slain. The last chains were launched and Cannon climbed onboard the monster. He cut deep into the beast, but each time he was forced out of his burrows as blood poured forth and threatened to drowned him. Success continued to evade him and eventually Kor broke free and there were no more chains with which to bind the beast.
Cannon was left with but a handful of soldiers as Kor took to the sky. In a last ditch effort, he climbed beneath the dragon’s arm, clinging to the rough surface of the scales like a rock climber on a cliff face, and tried to cut into the monster’s chest. Realizing that Cannon would soon reach his heart, Kor writhed and squirmed and snaked his mighty head around ready to gobble the chicken dragon up. Kor would’ve succeeded, if not for a lone elf, that stepped before Cannon to save him. It was Zannon. The elf had seen the error of his ways and had joined the battle two days in, without telling his comrades. Using the Thunder Armor, the strongest armor to ever be built upon this world, Zannon acted as a shield for Cannon as Cannon carved his way into Kor’s chest. Cannon had to climb through a waterfall of blood as he sliced deeper, but finally he reached the heart and cut it free.
Cannon would’ve drowned inside the dragon if Zannon had not pulled him out. Together, they rode the dying Kor back to the ground where the dragon staggered and fell, never to rise again.
– – –
“Dear God that was bloody!” Joe cried, “I almost feel bad for Kor!”
“In someways I do to, but Kor wasn’t really the nicest dragon either. He did start the fight.” Ekaf shrugged.
“What happened to Zannon, Cannon, and Bluff after that?”
“Well, they went first to Vanii where Thor Ipativy presented them as heroes then they did much the same with Mycenae GraiLord in ancient Recercoff. Finally, they returned to Grantara where they resided until Creaton breached the frost bitten shores of Iceload. Cannon married Rahsai and Zannon, well, he wasn’t the type to maintain a long term relationship. He travelled back and forth between Grantara and Vanii, occasionally bringing a pretty young blonde thing with him.”
“Well it turned out good for everyone!” Joe said.
“But the peace didn’t last long. Kor was killed in December of the third year, Creaton came to Iceload in the summer of the fourth.”
“Alright, so what happened?” Joe asked.
“I’ll have to tell you later, I’m honestly quite tired of story telling. Aren’t you getting tired of listening, I’ve been talking for well over ten pages – depending on your medium – I’m talking single spaced, size 12 font too!” Ekaf crowed.
“If you keep breaking the third wall this story is going to lose all of its integrity.” Joe muttered.
“You’re assuming it had any to begin with – what is this, the fifteenth version?” Ekaf retorted.
Joe nodded, “Something like that.”
“No wonder he didn’t pursue any legitimate form of publication.”
“He’ll probably re-edit it for a sixteenth time before its all said and done.”
“We should probably stop,” Joe said, “this is beginning to feel strange.”
“Indeed.” Ekaf cleared his throat and changed the subject, “We’ve just about crossed the river anyways. I need you focused on our surroundings– we have to keep our eyes and ears opened for those spirits. Without the warp cube, they’ll be back after your key. Now, give me a hand dragging the boat ashore.”