The warrior scanned to his left and then to his right. He carefully watched were he placed his steps as he continued to prowl through the darken forest. Caution marked every ounce of his movements, always careful not to stir a patch of leaves or to wrongfully snap a stray branch.
Azunia, the blue moon, was cast in the sky this night; its heavenly aura bathed the treetops in light like a mother would bathe her newborn with her unyielding love. Azunia's light however great, was not able to penetrate the thick underbrush of the forest. It mattered not to the warrior, he gently eased his blade from its sheath, a pale light started to emanate from its edge. A handsome blade it was, a golden hilt with a fire-breathing dragon engraved on the face of the blade. A fine weapon it was, who served its master well throughout the years.
It was apparent that the years had been kind to young Ryu Blueflame; the many years of hard training at the hand of the gray elf had sculpted the boy into a keen and cunning warrior. The lad, who was once diminutive in stature as well as strength, grew to a tall very capable young man. His tone muscular frame was fitted with a light but durable chain of mail. A crimson cape fluttered around aimlessly from a slight breeze, only a few times did the cape fall under the man's long mane of blue hair. There had been many times in the past where Ryu was hard pressed to follow the swift movements of the gray elf because his unruly mop of blue hair kept receding into his eyes. This forced the young man to collect his hair into a ponytail, which swung over his shoulder. Now only a few strands descended below his emerald eyes, which now where drawn to his left.
On reflex, he twirled Dragas-Bane in his hand, his emerald eyes searching the forest floor for any sign of his opponent. His breath eased as he allowed his mind to clear. His keenly honed ability to sense oncoming danger was slowly taking effect. A soft murmuring buzz echoed in the back of his mind.
His opponent was close.
A bush to the right of him moved when a second ago it laid still. Dragas-Bane swiftly moved to strike at the moving blades of grass before him. There was a mild growl. Ryu forked his eyebrows in confusion. He then moved the brush aside. "Night…?" the young man continued to stare puzzled as the black panther returned his stunned glance with one of sheer boredom. She then rose to her feet and silently patted away deeper into the forest to find a more peaceful place to continue her nap.
Ryu sighed as he watched his old friend leave. Instantly something flared in the back of Blueflame's mind. Dragas-Bane was drawn and quickly moved as Midnight came crashing down. The two blades interlocked, as well as Ryu's emerald eyes locked onto his opponent's viridian ones. "You let yourself get too easily distracted," Xian then brought out Lumina, its glowing edge whizzed straight in for the man's chest. Ryu then pivoted his blade upward just in time to deflect the blow. There was an instant spark as steel struck steel. Then the two combatants leaped back.
The young man stumbled back in his steps, while the nimble grey elf twisted, rolled then sprang to his feet. Xian drew deep into his cloak. Ryu's eyes widened as he was met by three streaming arrows! There was another flash of steel as Ryu swiftly cut Dragas-Bane downward arch deflecting the quarrel to the ground. The sheath to the blade then flared, twirling through his fingers as Blueflame committed a spin that batted the second arrow skyward. The apprentice completed yet another spin, Dragas-Bane in wait, making a clear cleaving swipe. A breath or two later the arrow sailed away, impaling itself into two trees. One to Ryu's left and the other to his right, arrow cut neatly in half with Blueflame still eagerly anticipating more.
His craving was swiftly met, Midnight and Lumina shimmering in the midnight sky delivering lightning fast pokes and jabs. Ryu's took Dragas-Bane in a spin, fending off Xu'in's flurry of attacks. He then thrust his blade forward then above locking his hilt with Xian's twin blades. The Blueflame then threw a kick to Xian's gut, but the gray elf long before perceiving the move, leaped over head completing a full somersault over the crimson caped warrior.
Even before Xian could even launch into his next series of attacks, surprisingly Ryu spun on his heel with a twisting lunge, Dragas-Bane seeking for Xian's heart. Choosing another escape over the very real opportunity of being skewered, Xian spiraled again moving underneath the approaching blade. Midnight came swiftly up as the sheath of Dragas-Bane crashed into it. Ryu pressed into the gray elf, a confident smirk played a crossed his lips. "Do ye yield?" He tautly asked.
Xian narrowed his eyes. "Hardly," the gray elf then shot the heel of his foot into Ryu's shin. The young man let out a shout. The gray elf then pressed his blade in, the butt of Lumina smashing into Blueflame's chest. Xian then moved to Ryu's in-step, Midnight ripped down battering Dragas-Bane's sheath.
Ryu instantly recovered with a swiping slash…but he only caught air.
The Swift Blades was already airborne coiling around Ryu's right flank. Quickly, yet not quick enough to follow, Ryu turned to face his mentor, the very next instant that Ryu blinked, the grey elf exploded into a rapid series of motion. His swift twin blades dancing through the air like poised blazing spurts of metallic flames. The young man could not even hope to follow the impossibly fast movements of Xu'in's blades. They continued for some time but they both knew what the approaching outcome would be. Then before the young Blueflame even knew it, both Dragas-Bane and its sheath were swatted hard to his sides and a blue-white blade sleeked forward, held firmly to his neck.
A sharp grin crossed the grey elf's handsome face as he sheathed his blades. "Well done," he said turning away. "I give ye 'nother fifty summers and you'll make a fine swordsman," the gray elf ended as he started for their camp.
Ryu frowned as he followed in suit. "Fifty summers?" he commented indignantly. "I'll be old an' gray by then."
"Aye, but none will be yer equal with a blade," the elf stated, he then grinned. "'cept me..."
Several days journey, away from the two companions, laid the glorious star of the northern continent, the Kingdom of Wyndia.
Unlike Taris, whose tall opposing walls seem to openly defy any possible intruding force that dared to besiege the famed city, Wyndia possessed countless spiraling towers and blossomed trees that always seemed in bloom. The kingdom was like a beacon to all newcomers, as if it warmly opened its boarders-and her arms-to any who would make the journey to the kingdom. Reflecting its welcoming appearance, the kingdom of Wyndia was one of the few realms that openly embraced any race into its domain. Most cities strictly sought for a populace of only humans, elves and wyndians. Not allowing woren, felinese or any other type of beastmen race anywhere near they're city. Some were known not to even admit dwarves into their gates. But Wyndia was a great exception, believing that the kingdom's cultural diversity only strengthen its people, not weaken. Everyone always held an open mind to any newcomers and welcomed them greatly.
In the center of the kingdom was the exquisite royal palace. The palace held five towering spires; four surrounded the center spire whose peak seemed to reach even farther then the clouds themselves. Placed in the center tower was a gleaming crystal of a multitude of colors, the range of colors alternating from various shades of blues, purples, yellows and even greens. The patterns seemed almost at random and yet there also seemed to be systematic order to the display. Which ever the case, there was never a citizen who spirits didn't lighten, after taking a second to gaze at the remarkable crystal. A crystal which was rumored to be a gift from the goddess Callisto, the enchanted gem, whose light never dimmed even on the darkest of days, brought the kingdom its name of the star of the north. It also is referred to in the mantra of the kingdom. May her light forever shine, which is taken from the fourth verse of the kingdom's national song.
May her light forever shine
May her glory forever reign
May her light forever shine
The star of the wind…
This day the sixteenth heir to the throne King Wilhelm, was having a meeting with all the heads of his court. They each continued to converse over the subject at hand. For the past three years, there was an amassing conflict beginning on the southern continent. For the most part, Wyndia remained impartial to the fighting; only sending supplies to aid its allies in the south. But after the sacking of two Wyndian outposts, the kingdom could no longer ignore the growing threat.
The weary king looked over his court. How many nights had it been since last he actually slept? He knew if Nina ever was aware of it, he wouldn't hear the end of it for many hours. 'How much was she like her mother?' he momentarily thought to himself as he returned to his subjects. The aged king briefly looked over the room, here were some of his most trusted colleagues and some were his most trusted friends. Each of them showing signs that they too have had a few sleepless nights.
King Wilhelm's blue eyes stared forward as he looked to the man in front of him. Never has there been a more nobler, honorable man than the one that stood before him. Standing well over six feet tall, his body was sturdy and strong from his many years of willful service to Wyndia. His close cut brown hair and beard had a few stray strands of a developing gray, though many would say his still youthful face contrasted his gray. Under the folds of his brown cloak, the gleaming crosspiece of his famous blade Striker 'the sunder-hilt,' could be seen, always faithfully at his side.
There also were signs of weariness rimming around the corners of warrior's blue eyes; these were the eyes of a man who spent many hours up late, effortlessly going through every directive and task making sure every single objective was met. Weary as those eyes were the sharp alertness of a warrior was always present, that would never diminish, always enabling the warrior to be ready at all times. "Finally," King Wilhelm began again. "Sir Riddick the provisions for your men…How are they proceeding?"
"Everything is in order your highness," Riddick said. "My men shall ride at first light in two days." The warrior paused as a small developing smirk crossed the warrior's lips. "Honestly my only problem lies now in making sure the men don't ride off ahead of us to meet the battle." Everyone in the court lightly chuckled at the famous adventurer's claim, all knowing it was probably a true statement; fore most of Riddick's men were mirrored reflections of their proud honorable commander always riding proudly to defend their kingdom.
Wilhelm smiled easily as he sent a hand through his gray hair. "Good, you and your company shall ride to Erran's Deep and meet with Mirgo Valance and his men. From there you shall travel south to Solamar. Our fleet will escort you to the Southern Continent."
"Understood…" Riddick stated while bowing before his king. "Well there are still many issues that need attending to, so if by your leave?" the warrior said as he was about to make his exit.
"Wait Sir Riddick, a few more words…" Wilhelm called the warrior back with a summoning hand. Riddick automatically stopped in his step, then turned to regard his King. He waited eagerly for any other matters that his King needed to address.
For a long time King Wilhelm watched Riddick, here was one of the few men he trusted dearly in this world. "I must apologize that Wyndia once again must ask you our greatest champion for this task," Wilhelm began. "I know you eagerly looked forward to seeking your retirement. It's just this force…" he paused for a moment to recollect his thoughts. "We have to stop them now, or soon they'll have control over the whole continent and from there…" He let the issue trail off, everyone knew that it wouldn't be long before the southern marauders decided to set their sights on other nations. "We cannot risk another raging war as we did with the east." To this, many in the room nodded their heads in agreement, each of them remembering what that costly war brought. Never was there a time when future of the kingdom looked so bleak. "We have to address and hopeful stop their advancement. We must never allow them to reach our soils!"
"Your highness," Riddick said his head slightly bowed. "…Please know that ever since my blade was first drawn for her glory, I've gladly fought for the continual light of Wyndia," he spoke truthfully. His resole was strongly set.
A great smile of relief fell over the king, as if the adventurer's words eased some of the weight from the ruler's already burdened shoulders. "Its good to know men like you live within our city. I pity any foe that stands against you."
"Thank you, your highness…" the warrior stated bowing again. Riddick swiftly turned then headed down the royal court toward its doors. Every man along the way all giving words of praise and wishing him well and then he too finally made his exit.
Wilhelm turned briefly as an attendant came forward and whispered something to his ear. It seemed the next order of business was to take place. And this one might even prove to be more difficult. He waved the attendant away and asked for her to be brought in. The herald of the court nodded. "Her Royal Highness Princess Nina!" he announced as the young princess was escorted inside.
Everyone in the court stood as young woman entered. Taller she had grown over the years, coming only four or so inches under six feet. Her short honey blonde hair fell just under her ears, pushed behind an exquisite jeweled tiara-one that she seldom ever wore and liked even less. She was dressed in a grand flowing gown of pink and white. And beautiful…there had been many bards' song depicting the beauty of the princess of Wyndia, but even if you told her she would hardly believed it.
Nina glanced at everyone as she walked across the floor, so many people so many faces. How she always hated this room, she thought again to herself. It was so perfectly large and so opposing. Plus it held everyone she ever knew inside. She secretly held the fear, which during one of her proud strides across the floor, she step incorrectly, resulting in simply falling flat onto her face right in front of everyone.
How embarrassed would she be then?
Two adjoining rows of winged wyndian soldiers stood along the side of the room, wings expanded wide with their halberds raised in her honor. Each uniformed solider with their light blue and white plated mail, all standing tight and straight at attention as she went past. Often times, she wonder if she pushed one of the soldiers over would the other fall in suit, like resulting in largest set of dominos in all of the realm. The princess briefly smiled at the thought. Then a new-less devious-smile crossed her lips as she saw an old familiar face. Gury stood stoically on the end, his adamantine axe as usual by his side. He met her stare, but did not share her smile. In fact the longer she scrutinized him, the more uncomfortable the old dwarf seemed. She decided she would ask the old dwarf later when they were alone.
"You summoned for me father?" she asked bowing in a small curtsey.
A strained, almost forced, smile fell upon the King's face. "Yes my dear…" he stated with mock enthusiasm that did not slip passed the princess' attention. "As you well know, in a few days time your eighteenth birthday shall arrive in the few days."
"I do…" Nina nodded, though still not understanding why she was brought here this day. "And if I'd forgotten, the thunderous celebration from the entire city would do well in refreshing my memory," she cordially added. A few snickers and chuckles escaped from a few members of the court. Muses that ended with a deathly stare from the king. Not missing his scolding look, Nina narrowed her eyes. "Father I know my audience today held more than you informing me of…"
"No, it does not," Wilhelm abruptly retorted, slightly taken back by his daughter's straightforwardness. "On the morn following the celebration, you shall be taking a journey to the eastern continent."
"The eastern lands?" she curiously asked, "What ever for?"
"Well, it should be time that you finally meet your fiancé," Wilhelm responded calmly.
Blue eyes were never met to widen that far. "My fiancé!" she impudently shouted.
"Yes, the Prince of Ito," Wilhelm was surprised how calmly he was able to maintain his composure. Granted he rehearsed this scenario several times and expected this type of outcome.
Nina could hardly think. To put into words her frustration, her mass confusion. Incidentally, she found herself stroking the small necklace that she always held close. Memories of a long time ago came to her instantly, when things were so simple and innocent. She remembered that day, the dreadful, yet oh so wonderful day. She thought of that sweet blue hair boy, who she just met, yet meant more to her then she could have ever imagined. Her first kiss… Her first love… She held onto the image of the boy. She held onto that love. Those images gave her strength, strength that told her that, this time her father could not win. "I refuse…" her strength grew with her words. "You cannot…"
Not regarding the rest of his daughter's words, King Wilhelm gave a quick glance around the room. "Gentleman, would you leave us now. I would like to speak to my daughter in private."
"As you wish…sire," answered Azierath, the royal archmage of considerable power. At the wizard's words, the rest of the members of the court silently made their way out. Through his departure, the dwarven bodyguard, Gury Stonebattle spared a stern glance towards his princess. She only returned with one of sheer distress, silently pleading that her defender would stand beside her on this. But after another glance, Nina realized that Gury was bounded by his duties to the king.
Nina was on her own…
After rest of the members departed, Nina turned to the king. "Father what is this about?" she honestly said.
"Nina, you were only five when our war with the East ended. Those were such dark times for our kingdom…" the King recalled darkly.
"I know, I know…I've heard the stories," Nina angrily snapped.
"You know nothing girl!" Wilhelm roared. Nina took a step back, never in her life had her father ever raised his voice to her. Nor was he ever so deathly serious.
Wilhelm took a pained breath, also shocked by his uncharacteristic outburst. "Nina, you are very young and so very naïve to all the ways in the world. During those times Wyndia was on the brink of crumbling, but somehow how brave warriors like Sir Riddick paved a way so we managed to survive. At the end of all the battles, a treaty was formed; one that would unify both the nations of Wyndia as well as Ito, but the total unification would only come with the marriage of the first children of the two nations, Ito's prince and Wyndia's princess. "
"Father how could you agree to this…" Nina's eyes widen at all she was hearing. "I know nothing of him. How can I wed someone I do not even know, much less love?"
Wilhelm returned to his throne as he continued, his wings that were closer to gray than white, following behind him. "Nina, you are the daughter of the Wyndian kingdom, a title that goes beyond the power and the wealth of the nation. You also have responsibilities and often you must make sacrifices, sacrifices such as these for the better good. Think of the good it will be for our people, when we are joined with the empire of Ito."
That sole notion stopped all of Nina's thoughts. "Our people…?" Many things, she could ignore, but the responsibility she held for the people of Wyndia was not one of them.
"Yes," Wilhelm continued. "I know your feelings on this issue and I admit I shared them also before my first meeting with your mother."
Nina's eyes widen. "Mother…?"
The old king nodded to his daughter, as he placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. "She was so beautiful, the first moment my eyes set on her, I was sure at that moment my parents were correct in setting my engagement," he admitted proudly.
For several moments Nina remained silent. Her mind was racked with so many sensations. She wanted to scream, yell at the top of her lungs in frustration! Never in all her life did she hate who she was…No she hated the title she had. Fore she knew she couldn't defy her father, far too many would suffer for such a selfish demanded. So with a quiet voice an hour later, Nina consented to her father's wish.
With a heavy heart, King Wilhelm embraced his daughter. Proud that she made the right choice. Nina accepted his praise with little comment. But Nina knew her father was wrong about one thing. She knew no matter however long it might be she would never come to love the Prince of Ito.
Routinely, she found herself stroking her necklace, as her mind thought of an early day when things were so much simpler, yet her heart was sure.
The announcement was made throughout the court that the end of this year, the Princess of Wyndia was to wed the Prince of the powerful eastern nation of Ito.
Though surprised from the sudden announcement, the people cheered all praising the good fortune of their beloved Princess, all wishing her well. That night a small celebration was held in the princess's honor a prelude to the grand celebration of her birthday, which would be in only two days.
Through the celebration many did wonder of the absence of the Wyndia's fairest gift. King Wilhelm assured everyone that the princess was still overwhelmed about the event but her hopes were bright for the up incoming wedding.
So the celebration commenced without the maiden of the hour. All the while the people danced and cheered throughout the city, Nina alone in her room wept.
Xian poked around at the campfire, the two companions just had another day of intense training, with Ryu making great strides in his route to becoming a profound swordsman as his instructor. Now was a time of resting. Ryu sat quietly to the side in deep contemplation. Nightmorrow, who normally used this twilight hour to commence her hunts, remained at the camp this night with her two friends, peacefully resting by Ryu's side.
Blueflame stared off for some time, then his eyes shot forward as if he came to a suddenly conclusion. "What of the name 'The Green Eye Bandits?'" he suddenly asked his elven companion. For the past several months, since Xian decided Ryu was capable enough to be of use, Xian resumed his previous life as a grand thief. So the past few months, there have been dozens of cases where the most wealthy of Etheria's nobles, had been terrorized by the strange band. Of course, they never taken the life of any they encountered. Often the skill and speed of the elven warrior, the cunning and strength of the blue haired man and the sheer horrifying gaze of a nine hundred pound black panther, quenched any resistance. Eventually it was decided, mostly by Ryu, that the troupe should have a name, as a way of a calling card for their unwitting victims. "The two of us, plus Nightmorrow, it makes the perfect sense," he strongly stated, which was true the three of them all held varying shades of green. Ryu was closer to a bright emerald stone. Xian's was a flourish viridian color. And Nightmorrow, a beast of the forest also shared forest green colored eyes.
The gray elf's gaze rose from the fire, he had a look as if it was almost going to pain him to respond to the boy's last statement. "If you plan to present us as fools, correct it does."
Ryu narrowed his eyes. "Ye see fault in the logic?"
"Plenty," the elf retorted. "A green eyed bandit is the mark for pure jealousy." Ryu opened his mouth to protest, but Xian continued anyway. "Granted, I suppose you'd prefer people believing we'd sooner be at each other's throats than accomplishing any given task." He shot doubting stared. "Then yes, tis a fine name indeed."
"I see ye're point."
"Ah, a first!" Xian shouted, face brighten with a laugh. "Sleep well Ryu Blueflame, tomorrow we reach Wyndia."
"Wyndia?" suddenly Ryu appeared quite interested. Throughout all their journeys, never have to the two journeyed into the famous royal city. "Have ye ever met any Wyndians before, Xian?"
"A few here and there…" Xian shrugged.
Ryu remained quiet as thoughts from so long ago started to return to him. "I met a Wyndian once before. She was the most beautiful being I've ever laid eyes on. The most enchanting bright blue eyes and the warmest smile…"
A sharp grin, found its way to Xian's slender lips. "Ah, could it be that young Ryu had his first embrace with love?"
"Love?" the young man scoffed. "Ye're words are nothing more than a minstrel's tale; I was but a boy when we met." He crossed his armed indignantly.
"For shame…For shame…" Xian said while shaking his head. "Ensor would be disappointed in you."
"The reason being…?" Ryu answered a bit sharply then he expected. Any references to his adopted father, Ryu always took personally.
Realizing this fact, Xian didn't take Ryu's tone to personally. Making his point was more important. "There are very few things that are without limits, without bonds, that are simply eternal my friend. Love is such a thing and shant be taken lightly even if it was from the heart of a silly young boy."
Ryu wanted to pursue the point, extending the conversation, for this was a rarity that Xian ever spoke this deeply on the subject. From his tones, it almost seemed as if the arrogant gray elf was in love or at one time was deeply in love with another. Which intrigued Ryu, for even after six years of journeying with him, Ryu still knew very little of Xian's past. But one look at the gray elf that turned over in on his sleeping roll, said the matter was closed. At least for now…
The next morning was very bright in the palace; the sun seemed to brilliantly bathe the kingdom with glittering rays. And it was this early bright day that Nina walked through the gardens towards the stables where she finally found the person of her search.
The young man, busy at work, tending to his stead, he continued to outfit his travel bags with all the supplies he would need for the approaching journey. As she approached the brown haired young soldier, she noticed the newly awarded royal crest on his armor's breastplate signally that he was one of the Riders of Riddick.
"Good morrow, Master Dwight..." Nina greeted as she entered the stables. Throughout the years of growing up in the palace, Nina found that there were very few peers her own age, but through it all one lowly palace hand, who recently turned to palace guard, was one of those people she could call friend.
Dwight Mullenhart, a young man who appeared to be summer or two older than Nina, brighten instantly to her approach. "Good morrow yer highness, today's the day is it not?" he congratulated her, for as of today she was eighteen.
Despite Dwight's brightening nature, Nina frowned to the statement. "So it is, "she glumly replied. "And tomorrow I leave though I wish I could convince father of otherwise, but alas I have no say in the matter."
The young man frowned. "I am sorry yer highness..." He truly wished he could some how be of help to her, since he was one of the very few people that knew what was truly in her heart, but his station bound his hands.
"Do not let my troubled thoughts dismay you," she honestly stated. "Fore it seems today is a big day for you as well," she returned with a smile.
Dwight grinned eagerly. "Yes, this is the day myself and Sir Riddick start our journey to the front lines of the Southern Continent."
"It must be very exciting for you to finally be traveling with your hero," the girl recalled the countless hours, the he would spend retelling the tales of Sir Riddick's feats. His enthusiasm often reminded her of another boy, who shared the same love for grand adventure and the hero.
"I can not put proper words to the feeling ye're highness," his green eyes sparkled. "I just hope I don't get in Sir Riddick's way."
"Master Dwight, I've seen you fight before. You appear to be very capable in battle. You should do just fine. You need to have confidence in yourself," she found herself saying, not for the first time either. Though it was true, despite his very pleasant polite nature, on the battlefield Dwight almost seemed like a demon possessed. Granted, he was no where near Sir Riddick's equal, but the boy was not far from it. Her expression then darkened. "Greatly though I am hoping that tensions will not escalate to that level. "
"Neither I, yer highness," Dwight's green eyes darkened as well, to the unpleasant thought.
Breaking the two from their dark discussion, noble warrior Sir Riddick, entered the stables. "Good morn, your highness," the warrior bowed to her.
"Good morrow to you, Sir Riddick," Nina returned in a half curtsey.
"I am sorry to interrupt but Dwight we must be on our way. The road lies ahead and we should make a good start, I hope to be in Erran's Deep the day after next. So say your good byes and let us be off," Riddick calmly instructed. He turned and bowed again to Nina, which wordlessly she acknowledged. The warrior then left to the adjacent stable where his mount was housed.
"Well I must leave now," Dwight stated as he mounted his horse. A brown colored stead that almost was a perfect match for his brown hair. Dwight stated the phrase calmly but Nina could see the anxiousness in his shaking hands.
She frowned. "Why good friend, why are you still so ill at eased? All will be well," she comforted. "Besides you have Sir Riddick with you."
The young man sighed. "I know..."
"Dwight…" the two heard Sir Riddick call again from outside, the two then saw the warrior trot off to the meeting point for the rest of his men.
"I have to go your highness." If he wasn't nervous before he was twice that now.
Nina heartily laughed; Dwight would always be the same. "Ok..."
"Good journey to you and give my greetings to Gury when you see him," he called back as he trotted out as well.
"I will...Fare thee well!" she waved as he departed. She only saw Dwight half-heartily wave back then continued on…
Dwight pressed his steed into a hard trout; trying to make sure he wasn't late. He simply couldn't be late, not on his first outing. What would Sir Riddick think of him?
Mullenhart continued to ride, but then a small form of a shadow, appeared right before his horse, seemingly from no where. He pulled on the reins hard, almost causing the steed to throw him off. His horse neighed in protest while he still fumbled to gain control of his steed. "What wits have ye, standing in the middle of the road!" he shouted down to the stranger who was dressed in a dark brown cloak, but if the stranger regarded his words they did not show it. "I could have run ye down," he continued to shout, but still the cloaked figured paid no regard to him.
"Halt ye!" Dwight called while drawing for his long sword. He swiftly trotted in front of the stranger, his blade firmly held an inch before the figure's chest. "What business have ye, in the castle?" he pressed, then his eyes widen as he stared down into the most venomous fierce golden-brown eyes, the young man had ever seen. But Dwight, unrelenting, held his sword fast, "Who are ye?"
The figure slowly then drew the hood of the cloak back. The first thing Dwight noticed that he was again taken back by the golden-brown eyes, though they still held the deadly stare that was unyielding, but he noticed how deep and almost soulful. Her face, for she was undeniably female and also undeniably beautiful, was dark in complexion. Along her cheeks were dark lines that he almost thought were stripes. Her hair was a reddish brown, almost auburn color that was thick and braided, falling behind her. The next thing that drew Dwight's attention was her ears, which were thickly full of dark hair and seemed to level off, like one would expect from a dog or a cat.
Dwight's eyes widen even more as he realized he was standing in front of a beastmen, a Woren. Woren were rare throughout any of the cities, fore they often roamed the land, staying with their tribes. The race was known to live off the land, barely having any contact with the cities.
Using his obvious fascination as an opportunity, the woren woman swiftly moved for Dwight's sword arm. With a surprisingly powerful grip, she dragged the man down from his saddle. He fell hard to the ground hitting his head. Before he came back to his senses he found the tip of his blade pressed firmly to his throat, the woren woman's brown eyes blazing. In that instant Dwight noticed along her armor's breastplate was the same symbol he shared…A Rider of Riddick.
"Enjoying the show, are ye!" the woman hissed. There was something thick also stripped that swished back and forth behind her, which Dwight could only guess was her tail.
"My lady?" Dwight seemed to fumble out, embarrassed by his brash actions to a fellow rider and also for being dismounted by a female. But for some reason he couldn't take his sights away from her eyes. He never had seen eyes like that. They of course had a slight feline detail, narrowing further than a human's would, but they were so gripping, so powerful, so lovely that he couldn't turn away.
"Get a good gander!" she continued. "Fer' it's the most ye'll ever see!" The woren then tossed the blade to the side and stormed off, her tense stripped tail swishing dangerously behind her.
Dwight rose to his knees watching her depart. For some unknown place he found a voice inside of him to speak. "My lady!" he called after her. For a brief second the woren woman paused then turned halfway to at least regard him. Taking one breath Dwight said, "I wronged ye greatly, for that I'm at fault…"
For a few seconds the woren continued to stare at him blinking unbelievably, almost as if she never expected the man to express those words. Wordlessly she continued, but Dwight noticed the agitated swing of her tail had left.
Later that day, all of Riders of Riddick had been assembled at the castle gates. Dwight stood still in his plated armor waiting for the king's address. He looked to the side observing the several other Riders of Riddick. The whole lot all seemed to be hardened battle experienced warriors. His eyes continued their patrol as they then met a familiar set of furious brown eyes. Dwight quickly turned away, wishing not to agitate her even more. But despite himself he found himself drawn to look once again. He nearly winced at the sight; he fought hard at the urge to raise his shield to fend off the hurling daggers her eyes were transmitting.
Once again he found himself thinking this would be a very long journey. Though even at his own personal risk, he couldn't help but to be drawn to those eyes. Eyes, who were wild, seemingly untamed, even enchanting…But he decided to do away with those thoughts for right now. The king was approaching.
High above in his balcony, King Wilhelm stood overlooking the full encampment of the Riders of Riddick, the army totally close to five hundred in its ranks; men, women, elves, wyndians all working together, all fighting together for the sake of his kingdom. Boarding the warriors, the citizens of Wyndia bathed the event with their cheers of praise to their love ones. King Wilhelm paused as he regarded the trope. Here were some of the finest warriors, from around the world. All composed to defend his country, to defend his home.
He took another breath then raised his hand to calm the crowd as he began to speak. "People of Wyndia," the king began his voice booming through out the gathering, a small enhancement made by Azierath to increase the volume of the king's voice to reach the whole yard. "These great men and women will soon ride to the southern boarders of our land…" The king's speech continued on for sometime giving detail to everyone the news of the growing army in the south. King Wilhelm was considered one of the most influential of speakers of this time. His words all beautifully concocted always motivated all that listened. When he spoke the people were moved.
King Wilhelm further explained that from all other options this was the one that had to be taken. "…Please, know that it is with a heavy heart I now must send your loved ones, our loved ones away to defend for our Wyndia, to fight for her continual glory!" the king shouted. Cheers from the crowd poured in, shouts of agreement and even louder cries of "Long live King Wilhelm!"
At a sudden cheer, Wilhelm let an easy smile. He then refocused himself. "To all the Riders of Riddick, know that there will not be a day, after this, where you will not be held in our prayers." A thunderous cheer roared in response from all the warriors. "Sir Riddick…" he paused as the man stepped forward from the other soldiers. "I and all of Wyndia salute you!" Sir Riddick took a deep bow then returned to his position. King Wilhelm gave one last look toward the Riders of Riddick, to the citizens, to his people then said. "May her light, forever shine!"
Thousands of thunderous cheers and applause ensued, streamers and confetti danced through the skies as the soldiers marched through the city. Dwight looked to his left and to his right. This might very well be the last time he ever see his beloved city. He then frowned and shook the thought away. He wouldn't allow his fears to conquer him. So he continued on and marched out of the city to the start of his adventure…
At the departure of the Riders the people of Wyndia began a celebration, although all were deathly afraid for those that have left, the King ensued it was best to honor they're bravery with a celebration. And that very night the streets of Wyndia started a celebration so grand that one like it hadn't been seen for many years. The celebration continued to the next night when the Princess finally reached her eighteenth birthday.
Upon reaching the age of maturity, every maiden of the Wyndian royal house was presented with the Wyndia Star a royal heirloom that had been passed down from generation to generation. The Star was a beautifully studded necklace with several series of jewels orbiting around the base, but the most captivating image of the Star was the stunning blue and green gem in its center. There were even some legends that the Wyndia Star held some great unknown power, but there had never been any historic documents to prove the claim. Therefore it was believed more to be an object of esteem.
Nina was nearly breathless when her father presented her the jewel. During the ceremony, she remembered in her youth the countless times she recounted her mother wearing the gem. She always thought the jewel looked so very beautiful on her. And now that little bit of her mother would be hers.
The presentation of the Star did much to rekindle the princess' spirits of her upcoming unwanted engagement. But the item could never make her forget whom her heart truly belonged to.
The celebration in Wyndia drew crowds never seen before in ages. It seemed everyone in the majestic kingdom turned out for the event. Dancing in the streets feeling the years of age rolling right off to when they were at a carefree age.
Yes, it was a grand night in Wyndia one that wasn't missed by a pair of calculating emerald green eyes.
"What was with all the commotion at the palace?" Xian asked as Ryu returned to their camp. They set up not to far along the boarders of the city. He sent the boy into the city to scout around to find the prime targets for their strikes. Not only was it test of the boy's skills of surveying and resourcefulness, it also gave Xian a few hours rest. But the bright smile on the young man's face said his surveying might have proved to be successful.
An unnatural wicked grin crossed the young man's face. "It seems the spoiled princess of Wyndia's birthday is today. " He smirked while drawing a bowl from the prepared meal. "The whole city is celebrating."
The gray elf quickly pondered the great news. "Which means they are filling the streets, thus leaving their homes and more importantly their valuables unguarded," he grinned. "You did well my boy," the gray elf gave Ryu a full smile, while rising to gather his things. Tonight will be a busy night.
"Wait Xian…" Ryu cut in. "Why trouble ourselves with shabby family trinkets and heirlooms?"
Xian fixed onto him a peculiar look. "Because we're thieves…It's only the proper thing to do." He responded not missing a tempo.
Ryu narrowed his eyebrows at the statement. 'What a queer thing to say…' he thought. "No what I'm referring to is, the following morn, the Princess of Wyndia is leaving with her entourage towards the Eastern Continent." The young man drew his argument to a close as he could tell his partner was started to understand. "Why busy ourselves with small chicks when a royal hen is lying in wait?"
"A...royal hen?" Xian asked incredibly.
"Aye, with all the jewels and treasures in the royal coach, it would be a plump royal hen, prime for the plucking," he eagerly stated. Ryu then caught the dark look that formed on the gray elf's face. "A doubtful expression crosses your face, Sir Elf."
Xian merely shook his head as he continued with his far out look. "No…merely reminiscing."
Ryu narrowed his eyes and directed his gaze to the gray elf. "Of…?"
"Our past escapades and how often they seldom run as smoothly as you predict," Xian replied, his white eyebrows slightly raised.
"All in the past, my elven friend," Ryu assured him, though he didn't miss the doubting frown. "Merely trivial events that should keenly be swept under the carpet and be long forgotten," Blueflame slyly grinned.
Xian's white eyebrows narrowed. "It's hard for one to forget when one nearly had their head separated from one's shoulders."
Ryu flushed at the statement. "Aye, but ye claimed my forgiveness was already found."
"Forgiven you I have," Xian nodded. "But the memory still remains."
Ryu frowned having no retort to the statement. It was true, he did have a less than impressive record when it came to selecting their jobs, but some way or another the pair…well the trio-including Night-found away to succeed. Leaving them both with remarkable stories to tell whenever they returned to Darak.
The two held the notion in the air for a few more moments then defeated, Xian sighed. "Let's see if there is some truth to your claim. We track the caravan tomorrow, if the hen is as plentiful as you say, then we act, if not we head towards Taris for fairer gains."
Ryu had a hard time containing the bright smile on his face. "Agreed…" he grinned while going to set his sword. The two then quickly put out the fire and gathered their things. They always packed light whenever they set up for camp, so if per chance their location was found in a moment's noticed the two would be gone, leaving no traces of their presence. That was the life they lived as thieves, always moving always on the run, never leaving any traces or tracks. Because to do otherwise, could mean their own death.
Deep underneath the palace of Wyndia, in the catacombs that even the present King knew not of its existence, deep down, where the screams of the victims of his heinous experiments could not be heard, dwelled the dark laboratory of the Archwizard Azierath.
Having born half wyndian and half human, Azierath relied on the strong magic induced blood of his wyndian heritage to draw his power. The wizard had never known his mother, nor did he ever care. He grew under the hard hand of his father, a human mage of some power, but little standing. There was seldom a night where young Azierath found a peaceful rest. Often or not his father's frustrations from his failings at wizardry were taking out on his frail son. His weaker wyndian frame made him susceptible to the abuse. It was only after the great fire, did Azierath's pain ever cease. A failed attempt at a high level spell sent Azierath's family home into flames. But from the ashes of the destruction, orphaned Azierath clawed his way from his background and through the ranks of several schools of magic to finally attain his arch power. Not long after he was then appointed the royal mage of Wyndia, a title that earned him the recognition of one of the mightiest mages of the land.
But there is a curse upon those that seek power, one taste of it often consumes the soul, driving it to new lengths and even driving it to the point of obsession. All of his days and night are consumed with thoughts of greater glory of greater knowledge and of greater might. In his eyes there was no grander purpose, the pursuit of power had been his only goal. Even his title as the royal Archmage of Wyndia, meant nothing to him with greater beings such as the flamboyant Aeon Avanthas Ensor and the elven sisters of Magieria in existence.
Increasing his mystical power was everything to Azierath and he finally found a way how…
Through his reign as the royal palace's head wizard, Azierath found it was almost imperative to keep an extensive list of allies, operatives who could perform and never would lead a trail back to the wizard.
A group of orcs and ogres entered through a side passage, one they used often whenever they were told to do the wizard's bidding. There hoots and grunts filled the passage all the way to when they reached the domain of the Wizard. Then every pig-snouted face closed shut as they entered.
Groab was the orcian leader of the rouge band of orcs and ogres. Smarter then some and nastier then most, the orc had proved a worthy ally to have for the wizard. He moved from before his brethren to go to the archwizard's side. Groab stood a little under six feet, far larger then normal. His round face and large gapping jaw, with two tusks protruding from his lips, one broken in half from an earlier deadlier encounter, gave the orc a natural opposing grimace that he often used to its fullest.
The raven haired archmage narrowed his eyes as Groab stood forward. His dark eyes borrowing deep, a sharp scowl formed on his thin lips. "I summoned for you days ago!" he shouted his voice ringing through the whole laboratory. "Why have you only arrived now?"
The orc's beady pea colored eyes shifted left to right. He hated wizards and their tricks. He hated wizard's dens too, all full of trickery. "My sorries, my lord…" the orc grunted in his own attempt at the common tongue. He nervously rang his hands together, "Businesses, much businesses to attend."
As soon as the orc ended the sentence, Azierath's eyes flashed brightly. Then suddenly breathing became harder and harder for the orc. He clutched his throat, as if some invisible hands where choking his scrawny neck. The wizard raised his hand, in a clench, the tighter he squeezed, the tighter the hold on Groab was. It would be so easy to end the orc's life…So easy indeed. "My businesses…" the wizard said sharply with a deadly edge. "…comes first." He then with a simple flick of the wrist released his hold. Groab sank to the floor, wheezing and hacking. The wizard continued on as if nothing ever occurred. "The dawn of tomorrow the princess shall leave for the continent of Ito. The Princess has something I desire, a small gemmed necklace. I want you to take you and your horde and ambush the caravan. Kill everyone there and bring me the necklace."
The wizard's words were still foggy to the orc leader, but he understood brunt of the discussion. Then he paused as a thought-one of few-came to the orc. "The princess…"
The wizard's eyes narrowed. "What of her?"
"She's a pretty, my lord. Very pretty…" the orc hissed, a very lewd snagged tooth-filled grin forming on his twisted lip. Other vulgar grunts and cheers of agreement followed from Groab's horde.
The Mad Wizard shivered from repulsion by the thought of orc carrying out any of what it was hinting at. But no matter as long as it kept them happy. "Fine, let her fulfill whatever sick perverted fantasies you may have. Though, make sure she dies when you're done with your games."
Groab gave a mangy tooth grin and joined in with the hooting cheers of his followers. Tomorrow was a day for easy prey….
Ah, finally…Almost thought this would never see the light of day. Sorry for those of you that has waited patiently for this addition; the last few months have been at the least very interesting.
Wyndia star, this will be at whole the most of what the series will hold. A lot of things are going to be in store for our heroes. Also be on the look out for a side-series involving the Riders of Riddick's on Dwight Mullenhart.
I think that's it for the moment….See you all next chapter.