On the day the second moon hatched, Baldura Ipativy, Bishop of Dogloe, was found by the door watchman strangled in her bedroom. The guard, an enslaved minotaur named Theseus Icespear, was mortified, for not only did he feel like a father to Baldura but she had been through the better part of a pregnancy. He was just about to gather the rest of the guardsmen when he heard a squeal from beneath the late Bishop’s bed. Difficult as it would be for an eight foot tall old man, Theseus managed to look beneath the bed and retrieve Baldura’s infant. Theseus examined the crying baby and, seeing the brown eyes, realized what had happened. Of the four races of elves, none had brown eyes. The child had undoubtedly been Baldura’s, but the father could not have been Aldo Sentry, her husband. So Theseus fled, with the baby, and hopped on the first ship he came to which just so happened to be heading to the Dreb Empire in the rainforests of Munkloe.
Once in Munkloe, Theseus dodged the larger cities and settled in a small, tree-top village of bearns called Radderock. Theseus fit in quite well but it was not the same for the boy. Despite his brown eyes the boy still had blonde hair and pointed ears. To the bearns, he resembled their oppressors – the Ipativians – and as he grew up the villagers kept their distance from him. As soon as the child could walk, he was assigned the job of shit-shoveler. Alone, he scowered the roots of the great jungle trees that lifted Radderock and gathered the dung that was used to fuel the village’s fires. While big cities were switching to magic torches powered by enertombs, most empires neglected to provide these to their smaller villages and these villages could not afford such luxuries on their own, thus they retained their old traditions.
Including Theseus, the half-elf only had four friends in Radderock. At the age of five, he learned the ways of the shit-shoveler from a fragile old bearn, far too old to keep up with the dung-demand, named Dindayal Azuran. The crone’s diet consisted solely of epiphany shrooms – shit shrooms which sprout from turds as they marinated in the fungi on the rain forest floor – which meant he lived in a state of constant hallucinations. Though the villagers saw him as crazy, which he probably was, many took his wild ramblings to hold prophetic value. He was one of the higher ups in Radderock religion, which focused on the Delian god Kuru. Saint’s third friend was another religious figure, in fact, the villagers saw him as a deity – half man and half god. His name was Quonon. He was a harpy and was many centuries old, though he hadn’t aged past his thirties. At this time, only the rich were educated enough to know their history so few had heard the tales of Flow Morain and his banshee army of Doom Warriors. If these stories had reached Radderock, they would’ve seen Quonon for what he was, a banshee, but instead they thought him holy. Quonon taught peace and acceptance, rather than using the villager’s faith to his advantage, thus when Saint arrived with Theseus, Quonon made sure to show the young outcast kindness. In fact, it was Quonon that gave Saint his name. Though these three men all saw Saint as a friend, they were more father figures than equals with the half-elf. Saint’s best friend didn’t appear to be a man at all.
Before he turned ten, after a late-autumn morning spent moving manure, Saint was headed home. Though Saint could not see the puckering rain clouds through the canopy roof, he could tell from the lack of light on the jungle floor that the first rain of the wet season was soon to fall. The rain was late. In Munkloe a storm normally arrived within the early days of October. With the distortion of natural cycles, village tempers ran high and the beasts of the jungle behaved iratically.
The brooks – giant, thick scaled lizards that crawl across the ocean floor, from Tadloe to Munkloe to enjoy the rain of the wet season – had been acting especially vicious. The pieces of three young bearn children who had been playing on the jungle floor were found only a week before Saint encountered five of the monsters alone. These reptiles were known to be clever. Before brooks devour their prey, they torture and taunt it. All Saint could do was flee and pray that he might find a way to evade the brooks before they got tired of toying with him. He was chased to the mouth of the village’s holy cave – the Cave of Kuru.
Kuru was the Delian god of courage, the only god worshipped by the Radderock. The cavern was an ancient enertomb mine, once used by the extinct harpy kingdoms. The walls shimmered with purples and blues and it was difficult for one to deny the supernatural vibe of the place. Though magic scholars attributed this to the energy in the rock, the religious claimed that the energy was implanted by a higher being. At the end of the cave there was a steep drop off into a pit where rain water drained. Though the sides were jagged, it was nigh impossible to climb out due to the slipperiness of the wet rock. During a powerful rain in the wet season, such as the first rain, the drainage becomes so thick that anyone near the cave mouth would risk being washed inside and dragged, with the current, into the bottomless pit. The first rain had just begun when Saint found himself pinned between the blood thirsty brooks and the mouth of the merciless cave.
With little hope, he attacked the giant lizards with his shovel but was quickly subdued. Bloodied and bruised, Saint fought until consciousness drifted from his body. When he awoke, he was still alive. The bodies of the five brooks lay scattered around him and beside him sat a dog fur black as midnight marred only by red streaks. He brought the dog, which he named Crimson, to Theseus but the old minotaur would not believe the tale until he saw the brook bodies himself. Once he believed, Theseus couldn’t keep the story to himself. The villagers ate the beasts then used their hide for armor and their teeth for spear heads. For the first time, Saint was embraced by the people of Radderock but his acceptance was short lived. Quonon, his trusted teacher, frowned upon the murder. He reminded the village that five beasts had sacrificed their life for one man. The feast ended in somber meditation for the creatures that had died.
– – –
“That’s crazy.” Joe stated.
“Huh?” Zalfron asked.
“Wasn’t he glad Saint was okay?”
“Yea but…Quonon was trahna taech em to live in harmony with nature and what not.” Zalfron explained, “Ya know, hae taught that true Kuruin courage meant, aven when faced with vahlence, one ramains paeceful.”
“But to survive, you have to kill something, even if its a plant. Even animals kill one another – shoot, didn’t you say the brooks had been killing children?” Joe countered, shaking his head.
“Yup,” Zalfron shrugged, “but revenge ain’t courageous.”
“I’d think it can be.” Joe muttered, then he spoke up, “Did he want them to not eat animals, too?”
“Yup, plants too.”
“How did Quonon expect them to live?”
“Well…hae kahnda didn’t.”
Joe sat upright, “He wanted them to die?”
“No! Its lahk what the Quaen of Darkness wanted.” Zalfron said.
“And what’d she want?” Joe asked.
“Seriouslay?” Zalfron groaned, “Alraht, so…you know how folks see mancy as dark magic?”
“Yea.” Joe nodded.
“Well not everyone does, raht?”
“Yea, like the harpies in the First Void War.”
“Uh…sure…anyways, most folks thank Doom Warriors-”
“Jaez!” Zalfron cried, “That’s a-whole-nother storay…uh, you know what a banshae is, raht?”
“Yea, like Creaton.”
“Thank God.” Zalfron let out a sigh then continued, “Raht, so most folks thank of banshaes as aevil, lahk dark magic, but not all – not Quonon. Sae, hae wanted everyone banshae-fahd.”
“I gotcha,” Joe said, “and banshees don’t have to kill because they don’t have to eat.”
“Exactlay! But insteada just sprayin everayone with Well of Youth water, hae wanted them to wanna bae banshaes too.” Zalfron explained, “Hae was trahna get em ready for it with all his religious taechin and what not.”
“Did it work out?” Joe asked.
“They never got that cha-” Zalfron sighed, “Yer gonna ruin mah story!” He scratched his forehead then asked, “Where was ah?”
“You just explained how Saint met his dog.” Joe answered.
“Ah yea, this next part is where thangs pick up,” Zalfron pondered for a moment longer then jumped back into his story.
– – –
During this age, most history knowledge was restricted to only the richest of the rich who could afford to visit the Pillar of Pasts on the island of Panta. This island was under the control of the Bishop of Greater Iceload, even though it’s closer to Sondor, Munkloe, and Dogloe. The Bishop of Greater Iceload’s neice Mimira Ipativy was the Deacon of Panta. In 1499, historians from the Pillar of Pasts came to Mimira and told her that they had possibly found the home of the Voidstone – a place called the Well of Youth in Munkloe. When Mimira told her uncle, Loki Ipativy, the Bishop of Greater Iceload, he sent his right hand man, Mimira’s brother, to explore. This man found the Well and the pyramid which it surrounded. In the pyramid, he found stone carved maps that showed a web of tunnels carved through nothing but enertombs that stretched across Munkloe. All but one tunnel came out beneath larger cities. The one exception led to Radderock.
This man, Hodur Ipativy, received permission from the Bishop of Munkloe to set up a mining operation in Radderock. Apache Dreb, Bishop of Munkloe, agreed for three reasons: to protect the mines beneath the greater cities, to pay off some of their Energy Tithe, and to keep the Alliance off Munkloe’s back for their illegal production of booze. By the dry season of 1500, Hodur and a crew of miners arrived in Radderock. The villagers were horrified but peaceful. They argued while the miners set up but quickly became aware that their words fell on deaf ears. An entire neighborhood in the canopies was abandoned as the Ipativians cleared the trees, most of which were hundreds of years old, from the mouth of the mine. The villagers took the offenses in silence, except for Dindayal.
On the day the mining was set to begin, the miners found the cave entrance blocked by Dindayal Azuran. When the miners attempted to push past him, Dindayal screamed and flailed. Frightened, one of the miner’s thought Dindayal meant to attack them and so he attacked first – imbedding the spike of his pickax into the scalp of the old bearn’s head. The people of Radderock might’ve understood the situation for what it was had Hodur spoke with them, however, when the miner’s took the limp body of the crazed bearn to the elf he told them to toss the body in the bottomless pit at the end of the cave.
Hodur and his miners would have gotten away with it if it were any other hole but this hole collected the drainage, not only from the jungle floor, but from the Well of Youth. The tunnel that stretched from the cave to the pyramid connected to the bottomless pit into which flowed the Well’s enchanted water. Any who fell into it would become a banshee, that is, if they were still alive when they fell in. When Dindayal’s corpse was tossed in, his soul had long since left the body. Still, his flesh was preserved and ghostly flames engulfed him but his consciousness was gone. In the dark of the night, Dindayal rose from the hole not as a banshee but as a demon – a mindless, blood thirsty, zombie.
That night, a white rodent, like the snow foxes of Iceload, woke Saint. The creature asked Saint if he was a friend of Dindayal, when Saint nodded, the fox then told the half-elf to follow. The fox took Saint to the Cave of Kuru where he watched a mindless Dindayal, still with the spike of a pick ax lodged in his cranium, levitate from the wet abyss. At first, Saint thought his old friend had become a deity, for his flames resembled those he saw on Quonon, but when Dindayal yanked the pick from his skull and came after Saint, he could sense an intent to kill and realized Dindayal was no longer the Dindayal he had known. There in the cave Saint killed his friend, who then melted into black fluid that trickled back down the cavern and into the hole from which he had risen. Afterwards, Saint cried until his sorrow was replaced with rage when the fox told him what had happened: Dindayal was blocking the entrance, so a miner struck him.
Saint didn’t care which miner had committed the crime, he wanted them all out. So, he marched straight from the cave to the tree house in which the Bishop’s men had taken residence. There, he found Hodur who he tried to kill but was forced to flee when the rest of the miners woke up. He did not leave Hodur unharmed, though, he managed to slice the elf across the face – breaking his nose and blinding his eyes. Without waiting for the sun to rise, Hodur addressed the elders of Radderock and demanded they surrender the ‘blond haired boy’ when the Bishop’s men return in three days. Then, Hodur and his miners left on the dragons they’d flown in on.
– – –
“Before you said the world was split up between twelve bishops,” Joe stated, “were they basically their kings?”
“Nah, they were bishops.”
“What I mean is,” Joe rolled his eyes, “were these guys just in charge of the church or were they in charge of it all?”
“Oh! Yea, yer raht, they were kangs.”
“Okay,” Joe chuckled, “So it was a theocracy…was the entire world under Christianity?”
“Fer the most part. Tadloe’s the only place ah can thank of raht now that wasn’t but there were places hare an thare.”
“Was Munkloe’s Bishop an Ipativian?”
“Nah. Hae was a bearn named Apache Dreb.” Zalfron thought for a moment, then added, “But Loki Ipativy had men everaywhere, watchin and advahsin the bishops an what not. That’s one raeson wah the folks in Radderock didn’t raelly trust electric elves.”
“And you said Loki is the Bishop of Greater Iceload, right?”
“It seems like he’s top dog.” Joe stated.
“Well the whole Bishopray, the Hunnerd Empahr Alliance, it was all his ahdea. Since it started in 1415, Loki made sure to have loyaltay from a majoritay of the Daecons.”
“They carried out the rules of their Bishop in their own lil districts. They also were the ones who voted fer Bishops.”
“Was Hodur a Deacon?” Joe asked.
“Nah, jus Loki’s nephew.”
“How do you know all these things?”
“Ah studied histery.” Zalfron ran his fingers through his long, greasy hair and shrugged, “Mahta skipped language class but ah was damn good at histery. In fact, ah was plannin on goin ta Panta to bae a historian but that plan sorta fell through what with the war and all.”
“You definitely could have!” Joe exclaimed, “I wish I knew my history as well as you know yours!”
Zalfron blushed, though Joe couldn’t see in the darkness, and did his best to brush off the compliment, “Well, this story is close to mah heart, thas all. Saint’s a personal hero of mahn. Can ah keep goin?”
– – –
The villagers of Radderock gathered in the Great Cabin, their tree-house version of a town hall, and Saint explained his actions. Though Dindayal had been somewhat looked down upon in life in death the old bearn’s vices were forgotten. He was one of them and he died defending their holy cave. The Great Cabin grew louder as the villagers grew resolute: when the Bishopry’s men returned they were determined to fight. Then Quonon flew in. He was disgusted by how the towns folk had been seduced into violence and as he compared the bearns to the Ipativians. Dindayal had been murdered, but what sense did it make to sacrifice the entire village in his name? No matter how hard they fought, the Ipativy would win and whatever wounds Radderock might inflict would quickly heal. Still, the bearns had their hearts sets to fight. Quonon looked to Saint to end the matter, telling the young man to turn himself in so that the village might be spared. But Quonon’s words fell on deaf ears. Even if Saint had agreed, the villagers’ minds were made.
Saint’s mother, Baldura, was to bear Aldo Sentry a child which would then rule the Sentry’s Bishopry of Northern Iceload as an Ipativian Puppet after Aldo died. But, partially due to Aldo’s infertility but also thanks to Baldura’s infidelity, the plan failed. Aberthol Sentry, Aldo’s nephew, was Plan B. Loki Ipativy sent him to destroy Radderock in Hodur’s place. If he was successful he would win Mimira the Deacon of Panta’s hand in marriage. This was but a formality, a display of Aberthol’s loyalty to Loki. Aberthol was sent with enough men and dragons to destroy Radderock without raising a finger, unfortunately, the boy was a tad bit cocky, as Sentrys tend to be. He expected the townsfolk to be surrendering the ‘blonde haired boy’ so he had his men land in the trees and approached the Great Cabin with a small guard to protect him. When he demanded the half-elf show himself, Saint did. Aberthol wanted to impress Loki by displaying his initiative, bravado, and the extremity of his loyalty to the Bishopry. Rather than arresting Saint and bringing him back to Iceload, Aberthol decided to execute Saint right then and there in front of all the villagers.
He never got the chance. As soon as Saint got close, the half-elf pulled a dagger from under his shirt and slit the elf’s throat. The elven guards were quickly subdued and the foolish dragon riders that swooped in next, abandoning their beast to fight the bearns in the canopies, fell easily aswell. A good number of Aberthol’s men stayed on their dragons and as they saw the battle would not be won with steel, they set fire to the treetop village. The only villagers that survived were spared by merciful dragon riders who bound them and slung them over the backs of their reptiles to sell them back home as slaves or turn them in as prisoners. The Great Cabin was fully aflame when Quonon flew in. There was little time, but he offered to carry Saint to safety. Saint refused unless he would save Crimson first. Quonon complied and returned before the Cabin crumbled out of the trees. Now it was Saint’s turn and he agreed only after he forced Theseus to promise to surrender, to the Ipativians, rather than fight and die. As Quonon toted Saint to where he’d left Crimson, Theseus was tied up and strapped onto a dragon to be taken back to Iceload.
There are many elves with the last name Sentry but a select few families that are considered a part of the royal family. With Aberthol Sentry dead, Aldo Sentry was the lone survivor of the royal family. If he were to die, the Deacons of Northern Iceload would be forced to select someone that was not a pure blooded Sentry or, as Loki hoped, pick a member of another royal family as their Bishop merely to keep their leader of pure electric elven lineage. So, Loki ordered Hodur to assassinate Aldo, which he somehow managed despite being blind, and they set up one of their recently acquired Radderock captives to take the fall: Theseus. No one questioned the legitimacy, after all, minotaurs and elves hated each other. A date was set and Theseus Icespear was to be executed in Yelah, Iceload.
Quonon took Saint and Crimson back to Theseus’s tree house, which was on the outskirts of Radderock so it had survived the attack. When Quonon refused to help Saint save Theseus, the harpy left and Saint realized how impossible it would be for him to accomplish such a thing himself. As far as he knew, he’d never been out of Munkloe! Yet, then came the fox. The fox offered to assist Saint in saving the minotaur but he warned the half-elf that his methods might disgust the young man. Saint cared not. The fox sent Saint to a canopy dragon nest where he slaughtered nearly two dozens of the beasts. Throwing the corpses from the tree tops, Saint descended and found the fox waiting for him with an army of demons – yet there was something unfamiliar about these demons. As the fox moved on to converting the dead dragons into undead forms, Saint realized that the fox had turn the dead villagers into demons but, unlike Dindayal, these demons listened to the fox. Though Saint acted unperturbed, the creatures around him frightened him. A slow distrust towards the fox began to grow within Saint but still he had no choice. If he did not work with the rodent, Theseus would die. So, on the backs of undead canopy dragons, Saint, the fox, and a small army of demons headed west to Iceload.
– – –
“Huh?” Zalfron asked.
“How’d the fox do that?”
“Well…ah don’t wanna ruin the surprahs…” Zalfron hesitated.
Joe waved his hand, “Ruin it.”
“The fox was a banshae.”
“And banshees can make other banshees?”
“Yup. But since they were already dead, they weren’t reglar banshees, lahk Flow Morain or Creaton, they were daemons.”
Joe was still puzzled, “But how does he control them if they’re demons?”
“You cain’t ever raelly control a daemon, evenchly they’ll turn on ya or aech other, but if yer their sayance-ayer and yer rael powerful, sometahms you can gettem to obey.”
“Fell in the water. Hae wasn’t turned bah the fox or another banshae.” Zalfron corrected.
With narrow eyes and furled brow, Joe asked one more question, “Who is the fox?”
“Now that ah ain’t gonna ruin…where was ah…oh yea! The execution!”
– – –
Mimira, Deacon of Panta, stood on the scaffold alongside Theseus. Loki had decided to have her kill the minotaur, who they had not only pinned Aldo’s death on but Aberthol’s aswell. Loki portrayed Mimira as a distraught lover, though her almost marriage to Aberthol had been anything but romantic. To further extend his family’s dominance, Loki planned for Mimira to replace Aldo as the Bishop of Northern Iceload. Having her execute Theseus would make her a hero to the Sentrys. Yet, once again, Loki’s plans would be foiled.
Saint’s ontourage was far smaller than the troop of Ipativian dalvary that guarded the skies above Yelah but the undead were far more difficult to kill than the living and the terror they brought with them caused many of the elves to falter. The fox led the demonic murder to distract the Ipativians as Saint flew straight for the scaffold. Crimson, his beloved hound, fended off the guards as Saint fought Mimira. Before he could kill the Deacon, slicing her head clean off, she pulled the lever and Theseus was dropped but his neck did not snap. If Theseus had been any other man, he would’ve died then and there but few in Solaris’ history have been able to match the strength of muscle and will power of the great minotaur. Still, if Saint hadn’t been swift, Theseus would have been strangled but, with Crimson’s help, they pulled up his adopted father and fled on the undead beasts they flew in on.
– – –
“I’m not saying this Loki guy sounds like a real gem,” Joe interjected, “but Saint seems pretty savage to be the good guy…”
“The paeple hae killed deserved to dah.” Zalfron countered bluntly.
“But he’s sinking to their level!” Joe argued.
“Alraht, Quonon!” Zalfron chuckled, then he admitted, “A lotta people agrae whitcha. In fact, Saint would bae one of em, hae’s changed a good bit since hae was thirtaen.”
“Thirteen!” Joe exclaimed.
“Huh?” Zalfron asked.
Joe assumed he had misunderstood, “He wasn’t thirteen when all this was going on, was he?”
“Thirteen’s a little young to be running around chopping heads off!” Joe crowed.
“Thirtaen ain’t no lil boy,” Zalfron laughed then he paused, “Wait, is it on Earth?”
“Yea!” Joe cried, “On Earth, you don’t get treated as an adult until you’re at least eighteen!”
Zalfron was intrigued, but doubtful. Having grown up the son of high-ups in the royal family many of his cousins had been sheltered so much so that they didn’t appear to achieve adulthood until such an age. He suspected a similarity. He asked, “Raelly? Aven for the poor?”
The shock caused by Zalfron’s prior statement decreased as Joe realized he was wrong. There were plenty of places on Earth where adulthood began well before the age of eighteen. This is a war-torn world, Joe realized, they don’t get the luxury of a long childhood. Suddenly, he felt pity for the elf beside him. He felt ashamed of the privileges he had gotten to enjoy and, with that shame, he began to feel the first tugs of responsibility to help the alien world he had come to. These people live such rough lives they can’t afford to be merciful…maybe that’s why Ekaf chose me. Finally Joe pushed his pondering aside and responded, “No, you’re right, but where I’m from, we are pretty well off compared to the rest of our world.”
There was quiet for a moment. Joe could hear Zalfron’s lips part, smacking quietly, but after a moment of hesitation, no words came out. Finally, Joe broke the spell.
“What is it?”
“You ever killed anyone?”
Joe nearly laughed out loud but quickly choked the outburst. He didn’t find the question funny, he thought it was quite sobering that such a question need be asked, but never on Earth would anyone have asked him such. Before he answered, a frightful thought floated to the top of his mind: if I join in this fight, if I help these people, I will have to kill. Will I be willing? Will I be able? He shuddered and responded, “No.”
“I never had to.”
Zalfron was quite for a moment. In the silence, Joe could feel the elf’s hopes in him diminish. But Zalfron didn’t voice his concerns, instead, he continued the story.
– – –
When Saint, Theseus, and Crimson returned to the ruins of Radderock – they had left the fox behind in Yelah – Theseus went ballistic. He immediately turned on their undead dragon and hacked away until it melted into a omnious black goop. Then, he demanded Saint tell him where he learned such magic. Theseus did not know who or what the fox was but he recognized the banshee magic and decided that whoever the fox was he was no good. He forbid Saint to ever speak to the fox again. They spent their days rebuilding the village and Saint spent his nights, reluctantly, sneaking out to speak with the fox who slowly began to seduce him towards dark magic – starting by teaching him the Sacred Tongue. Saint was not interested in dark magic but he was interest in growing stronger plus the fox claimed to know information about his parents and claimed he would tell Saint when he was ready. Eventually, Saint was caught by Theseus who so fiercely rebuked the fox that it left, promising that the next time they would meet, the fox would destroy Saint and Theseus wouldn’t be there to stop him. With the fox gone, they managed to enjoy a few more weeks of peace before chaos came to them yet again.
Quonon found Theseus and warned him that Loki Ipativy was threatening the Bishop of Munkloe with war if Theseus and his mysterious savior, the ‘blond haired boy’, were not given up. This time, Saint agreed to surrender. He realized that if he had surrendered in the first place, Theseus’ neck would never have faced the noose but because of him he would be hung yet again. So, they traveled to Sereibis where they were taken to the bearn named Apache Dreb. Apache was the son of the prior Bishop of Munkloe. His father had been a puppet but Apache resisted the Ipativians’ influences as best he could. Still, he had inherited the disgusting debt of his father’s foolish investments in enertombs that now lit the streets and powered the machines of the few large cities of Munkloe. Apache sought to pay his debt, called the Energy Tithe, with the growing fruit beer industry. Unfortunately, any alcohol aside from wine was illegal in the Bishopry thus Munkloe’s market was basically limited to Tadloe, the only continent completely free from the Hundred Empire Alliance. Loki Ipativy saw Tadloe as an enemy. The beer trade was one step away from treason and, because of this, Loki and Apache despised one another. Now Loki finally had a reason to attack and to open another seat in the Bishopry for a member of his family. Apache’s military could not stand against the forces of the eleven other Bishops but, even still, when Saint and Theseus came into his throne room, his heart was conflicted on whether or not he should turn them in. In the end, he put aside his pride and bowed to the Alliance.
The blind Hodur Ipativy was sent to collect for though he could not see to confirm it was truly the boy, he would recognize the voice. Little did Hodur know, Loki had already figured out who the ‘blonde haired boy’ was. After they captured Theseus in Radderock, a prison guard recognized him as one of the aristocracy of the late GraiLord Empire. The records were examined and Loki found that Theseus had been captured in the Third War of the Blue Ridges and sold to the Bishop of Dogloe as a bodyguard. The records also showed that Theseus disappeared after Baldura’s murder – yet this had not been in the report Loki had received from Hodur. Hodur was the only living soul who had seen Baldura’s baby and Hodur had given Loki his word that the child had been slain. Then there was his blinding in Radderock. Hodur had not mentioned that his attacker hadn’t been a bearn until the half-elf showed himself at Theseus’ execution (the elves had believed the attacker to be a blonde bearn). Loki concluded that Hodur had allowed Theseus to escape with the child and that the blonde haired invader was the son of Baldura. When Loki sent Hodur to bring back Saint and Theseus, he handpicked the guards that would accompany him. The guards were instructed to wait until Hodur, Apache, Saint, and Theseus were in the throne room then to attack Hodur. It was to look as though Apache was defending the two murderers and it would give the Alliance more than enough reason to turn against one of their own Bishops.
And so, as the wet season was drawing near, Saint and Theseus kneeled before the Bishop Apache while Crimson and Quonon watched from the shadows. Hodur strode down the sprawling carpet. The Iceload guards followed to collide against the Munkloe guards in the middle of the chamber. Then, just as the transaction began, a guard slipped behind Hodur and slid his sword through his back. As Hodur fell to the level of Saint and Theseus, the elves attacked the bearns. In the midst of the conflict, the guard who had slain the Ipativy withdrew his sword and stumbled back. Engulfed in sapphire flames, Hodur rose from the carpet and drew his blade against the men that had betrayed him. Many bearns died, but Apache and his men came out on top. All but one of the elves died: the Ipativian. Apache, Saint, Theseus, Quonon, Crimson, and the remaining guards surrounded Hodur.
Theseus stood up for Hodur, revealing to Saint that Hodur helped him save Saint as a baby. Then Saint asked why he had the flames of a demon to which Quonon answered. He had watched as Hodur and his men explored the Well of Youth and had witnessed Hodur, along with a few other men, taking dips in the enchanted lake. Just as Dindayal had been changed when baptized in the water, so had Hodur evolved into a banshee. The group could careless about how Hodur had come back from the dead, they were worried about the future. Apache realized this was an attempt to frame him for treason. To ensure their safety and obtain retribution for the corruption within the Bishopry, he demanded Hodur go public about being set up. Hodur agreed but Theseus pointed out a flaw: no one would trust the words of an undead. Unlike the villagers of Radderock, when the Alliance thought of banshees they thought of Doom Warriors and of Flow Morain’s rein of terror. Hodur was dead to the Alliance.
It was in that throne room that these five men, Saint, Theseus, Quonon, Apache, Hodur, and a dog, Crimson, conspired to over throw the Bishop of Greater Iceload, the, though Loki would never call himself this for truly all the Bishops were equals, Archbishop. Their ultimate goal was to revise the Hundred Empire Alliance. They, even Quonon participated, began by preparing Munkloe for war and the Munkloens eagerly obeyed.
As for the Alliance, well, many Deacons had begun to smell something fishy with the antics of the Ipativy but the majority welcomed ignorance. For though revolts were constantly being thwarted in the colonies, which consisted of the Northern Hemisphere plus Munkloe, those who lived in the south lived happily unaware. Few Bishops remained unbound to the Ipativy. Four of the eleven other Bishops were already Loki’s puppets: Bragi Ipativy replaced Aldo in Northern Iceload, Sigyn Ipativy had been given Etamladep’s spot to maintain order amongst the barbarians of southern Sondor, Valkyrie Ipativy was voted in after her father died as Bishop of the Spirits in Manaloe, and Gramur Woodfolk took Baldura’s empty throne in Dogloe (Gramur was not a part of the Ipativian family but he had married in through Valkyrie, one of Loki’s three daughters. The truth of the matter was that Gramur was but a figure head manipulated by Hel, another one of Hodur’s daughters.).
All in all, Saint and his comrades knew they would not be victorious. Even if they managed to keep the Alliance at bay, there would be no end until Loki had won. Quonon often verbalized the futility of the whole thing. Though the Munkloens were a peaceful people, they felt as though they were being bullied by the power hungry Ipativy and they would rather die than let the elves tell them what to do.
– – –
“And that’s it!”
“Hey wait, we were getting to a fight!” Joe cried.
“Ah’m tahred, cain’t we finish the storay later?” Zalfron complained, “Wae got at laest two hours worth left!”
The elf had a point. Through out the tale Joe had caught his eyelids drooping and, though he wasn’t sure, he might’ve dosed off for a couple minutes here and there.
“I suppose Grandfather will be getting us up early.”
“Who?” Zalfron asked.
Joe attempted to discern Zalfron’s expression with the light of his stone and saw the boy appeared genuinely curious, “The Knome, remember?”
“Hmmm,” Zalfron shrugged and rolled over on the cold stone, “Ah don’t remember a Knome…”
“I just reminded you before the stor-”
Zalfron had already begun to snore. He can remember all the tiny details of what happened five hundred years ago, but he can’t recall meeting Grandfather a couple hours ago. Joe laid back down and watched the roof. He was tired too but despite his exhaustion, with the bear growling next to him, Joe couldn’t bring himself to fall asleep. It wasn’t just the noise. Something weighed heavily on his mind and as the hours dwindled by he lay awake trying to decide what to do.