Welcome back to Mammoth Monday! (now followed by Before Friday Thursday)
I am back! And woe to any that thought I would not be, for I have brought gifts as a reward for reading the chapter!
Hehe, now that my little rant is out of the way, I can make a proper introduction.
In case this is your first view, read the following, but if not, skip ahead.
This story is the third part of my A dance of Shadow and Light series, which follows the changes that happened because of one person's influence at the start of Inheritance. This is NOT a self-insert(at least I hope that it is not, but you will get that later on) but rather an amusing thought experiment of what were to happen if a special kind of character was added to the story. Neither is this a fix-fic, as some things got worse and some got better because of the changes. If you are at all interested, I would advise you to start at The beginnings of the Shadow, before reading anything further, as things might be confused if dropped into the middle of a story with no background. Do it! But if you are slightly lazy, a timeline has been added as the first chapter of my side-stories.
As always, "Bold text inside quotation marks means that the character is speaking in the Ancient language", but unlike the previous two stories, "Italics within quotation marks now means that the character is talking in the urgal language, and NOT the dwarven".
Other than that, enjoy!
Loivissa POV(246 ADG, outside the Nolondil outer gardens)
It had been 75 years since the shade had been killed and Mercury had left Alagaësia. Loivissa had since taken up the lordship of Eregion, and had, with the aid of the dragon riders, rebuilt Nolondil almost as it once was in just a few short years. She was to this day still amazed over some of the features that Mercury in his time had invented and built into the place without anyone's knowledge, like the water purification system for example.
The main differences had been that Loivissa had converted the chamber, where Mercury's old study used to be, to her own bedchambers, instead of using Mercury's master bedroom, along with the fact that Nolondil had been rebuilt as a true outpost of the riders, which meant that she had had to increase the dragon hold.
Although she had at first tried to learn how Mercury had managed to train the shrrg, she had found no records of their training within the hidden library deep underneath Nolondil, and neither had anyone she met with had any idea of how to do this, so she had abandoned the idea and chosen to hire human guards in their stead. She had also had the hidden library copied and put on display again, along with whatever remained of the treasures hidden in the vault.
Nolondil had in time turned into the cultural hub of the entire region, and with that came huge amounts of gold from the Empire to support this place of learning. It had not been long after that when Loivissa had no longer needed the gold from some of the shadier of Mercury's investments to run the place, so she had broken off from them.
Classes with actual scholars and pupils had sprung up inside Nolondil quickly after the announcement too, which in turn had brought a great many people to come live there permanently.
The increase in visitors had also meant an increase in the contents of the library, which Loivissa had continued the tradition that Mercury started with, by copying everything that went into the library, down and placing the copy in the hidden library below.
Unlike Mercury however, Loivissa had in time entrusted this job to a few of the scholars that lived in Nolondil permanently, although they were still forbidden from speaking of this to anyone else, as the entire point of the hidden library was to act as a secret backup, should the primary one ever be destroyed again.
Loivissa still kept in touch with Mercury, although the correspondence was only in letters sent back and forth. Each exchange of letters could easily be months, if not close to an entire year apart, so it was rather sparsely, but it was still there nonetheless.
From what Loivissa could tell from the letters, Mercury seemed to be doing well enough in recuperating, although he never actually mentioned what exactly he was doing or where he was sending the letter from. He would, however, often send a small present of some kind along with the letters, especially after a long period of absence.
It was always a mystery to Loivissa what he would send next. One time, he had sent a small painting of a flowing waterfall, where there was green grass and bushes at the bottom, but you could still see the ice covering the top of the waterfall. Loivissa doubted that Mercury had been the painter of the picture, but she had no doubt that he had been the one to order the painter to paint the landscape.
Another time, he had sent a small rock-like object, which Loivissa had since put on display in the museum, as it was something that she had never seen, nor heard of, before. The rock was a small purple rock with countless tiny multifaceted indents protruding out from its sides, which all seemed to be a random number of squares formed together, like a jigsaw with a million different pieces. No matter how long Loivissa continued to study it, she still seemed to always find just one more piece that she had not noticed before.
Currently, Loivissa was walking towards the outer gardens of Nolondil. This was another of the changes that she had made since taking over Eregion. The outer gardens were placed inside the massive walled-off area that had previously been plain grass planes.
They were located near the part of the wall that was closest to the summit of Eregion, right next to the lake that supplied the water to all of Nolondil. The outer gardens were a fenced off area that boasted a wide range of plants, flowers and miniature trees and bushes, which were all cut in various shapes and sizes. They also had small paths running through them to allow people to travel through them and enjoy the scenery without trampling the plants.
Small streams of water from the nearby lake ran through the garden, and had in several cases been shaped into miniature waterfalls and used to drive small watermills, which would then be used to lift some of the water up through a statue and spray it out as a gentle stream.
As Loivissa neared one of the gardens' gates, the pair of human guards guarding it snapped to attention at the sight of her. When she arrived there, they promptly gave a small bow, while simultaneously muttering, "my lady".
"At ease, gentlemen", Loivissa replied, as she stopped in front of them.
It had been difficult at first to get used to being called 'my lady' whenever she met with any humans not of noble birth or a dragon rider, and she had tried to make them stop calling her that in the start, but had since then learned that it made them even more insecure about what to do without some sort of social hierarchy to cling to, so she had eventually stopped trying altogether.
"Was there anything else, my lady?", the eldest of the guards spoke, as he noticed that she had not proceeded inside the gardens, but had stopped in front of them instead.
"Has there been any word from the Ushnark tribe or any other of our allies?", Loivissa questioned the guards, which the eldest responded to, "I am afraid not, my lady. Their silence as of late has me worried".
"Very well, try to contact them again, but prepare for the worst and expect another night-time lethrblaka raid tonight", Loivissa said.
"The guards will stand ready at the towers, and the ballistae will be ready to receive them, should they choose to come", the elder guard answered, before he motioned for the younger one to go spread the word.
"Is she still inside?", Loivissa questioned after the other guard had run off.
"I believe so, my lady", the guard answered her, before he opened the small wooden gate to allow her entry into the gardens.
As Loivissa walked through the gardens, she began to reminisce about how it had all come down to this.
When Mercury had left, he had left a note behind that had warned them of the possibility of something happening in the south. The warning had, however, fallen on mostly deaf ears, as no one inside the Surdan government had taken it seriously, which had left the job of following up on it with the riders.
Evandar, Loivissa and their parents had managed to convince the council to search the sea in the area for two years, but had found nothing of interest, so the searches had been called off. Evandar however still believed that something was amiss, so he chose to continue patrolling the southern sea for another three decades after that, before he eventually gave it up as a waste of his time too.
It really was too bad that they had given up their patrolling, because if they had not, then Alagaësia might have been more prepared for what had happened since then.
36 years after Evandar flew his last patrol, seven years prior to now, two massive armadas of men suddenly appeared in Reavsten and Aroughs and captured the coastal cities within hours of their surprise attacks. No one even managed to get word out to warn the rest of Alagaësia, so when the armada from Reavsten suddenly attacked Aberon a few days later, the defenders were woefully unprepared and quickly swept aside.
The Surdan royal family had been summarily rounded up and executed by the conquering armies, which then finally declared their presence and the purpose of their conquest to the rest of Alagaësia.
They were armies sent from the empire of the original homeland of the humans, from which Palancar in his time had fled, and they were in Alagaësia to bring the traitors that fled back into the fold.
With the removal of the Surdan royal family, they claimed the land as their own by ancient rights. The Empire and its vassal state of Teirm would however not acknowledge their claims, and so, in accordance with the ancient treaty that bound the human kingdoms together in mutual defence of one another, they declared war on the newcomers.
Messengers were sent out to both the elves, urgals and dwarves to request aid in this war, but each of the races, who had long since forgotten their old alliances and did not wish to involve their respective nations in what was essentially a human internal affair, turned down their request for aid.
The dragon riders also had to turn down the request for aid, as the old treaties limiting their actions within the Alagaësian nations forbade them from interfering in internal affairs among the races, unless requested to do so by at least three out of the four main races of Alagaësia.
So the Empire had marshalled its massive armies and sent them down south with high hopes that they would be able to expel the invaders by themselves with the sheer mass of volunteers and conscripts that were pouring in.
It had turned into the worst military fiasco in Alagaësian history.
The day had started off well enough with the two armies making camps on either side of the planes near Cithrí, while sending messengers back and forth to try and negotiate the other's surrender. When negotiations failed, the two armies had lined up in front of one another to do battle, and in an attempt by the imperial generals to emulate the victory of the Varden on the Burning Plains during the Rider War, the numerically superior imperial army had broken into a full on charge.
The charge had done nothing more than tiring the men out and providing the enemy's archers with excellent targets. Countless had fallen before the two armies had even met, and when they had met, the enemy lines did not falter and waver, as had been hoped, but instead they stayed strong and held their ground with a contempt for death that no imperial soldier could understand.
It was then, when the two armies were engaged in melee combat, that the true masters of the enemy showed their faces. With terrifying screeches, a horde of lethrblaka launched from behind the enemy line and began descending upon the imperial army, like hawks picking off mice.
The sudden development had spread utter chaos inside the imperial army, which soon turned into a full-fledged rout. Only a quarter of the men originally participating in the fight made it out with their lives intact, even less were still able to continue fighting.
The loss did however have some sort of benefit to it, as, with the new development of the lethrblaka and ra'zac as the leaders of the invading armies, the riders, with Eragon in the lead, found a loophole that dictated that since this could technically be considered a continuation of the Ra'zac War from before the Fall, they were free to aid the Empire in its struggles.
The timely intervention of the dragon riders secured the beaten imperial army's retreat to the north and stalled, what was now dubbed the Ra'zac Empire's army's march north, although they were not able to stop them, as the numerically superior lethrblaka and the still intact ra'zac army made it impossible for the dragon riders to engage in anything other than skirmishes.
Their advance was stopped at the old Surdan border from before the Rider War, although this had more to do with the ra'zac choosing to stop, than the efforts of the dragon riders and the Empire.
The Ra'zac Empire, by now believing its victory over the rest of the human kingdom to be secure, launched a surprise attack against the dwarves next. The attack would have been a complete success that would have no doubt scattered the dwarven clans before they could even muster their armies, if not for two brave sentries that had chosen to sacrifice their own lives in order to give the dwarven kingdom a fighting chance by collapsing the tunnel around them, thereby stalling the ra'zac's army's march until it could be cleaned up.
Their sacrifice gave the dwarves enough time to muster enough men to set up barricades in the tunnels leading to Surda, along with closing off most of the previously open gates from the sea to the Hadarac-desert.
When the ra'zac army had finally cleared the debris, they had been faced with entrenched dwarves, who were accustomed to living, moving and fighting in the tunnels, where the men from beyond the sea clearly were not.
Without their lethrblaka support, the ra'zac army faced dozens upon dozens of defeats in the tunnels, until the ra'zac leadership eventually called their attacks to a halt and instead ordered them to dig in to prevent the dwarves from marching forward in turn.
The action of attacking the dwarves also served to rally the remaining races of Alagaësia together to create a joined front against these invaders, but because of the Empire's earlier defeat, they were unable to put up much resistance as the Ra'zac Empire took Feinster, Melian and Furnost with hardly any effort.
The attacks had been unexpected, as it had been deemed that the Ra'zac Empire would not have the strength necessary to initiate three simultaneous sieges at once so shortly after losing so many men in the tunnels of the Beor mountains, and with a large part of their army still hold up in them, but the Ra'zac Empire had in the meantime used the captured coastal cities to bring in massive reinforcements.
A few years later, the combined Alagaësian forces had had to concede Belatona as well, while the Ra'zac invaders in the meantime turned Feinster into their major seat of power in Alagaësia, because of its massive harbour and strategic location.
At present day, the dwarves are still able to hold down a large part of the ra'zac army inside the tunnels in what has quickly turned into a trench war, with no one really winning or losing any ground, although they are only able to continue this because of the massive amount of supplies flowing in from the elves via the Âz Ragni river.
The imperial navy have managed to prevent the ra'zac armadas from landing any forces further north by using the Boar's Eye to cripple one of the armadas, while using Sharktooth island as a naval base to prevent any landings in Kuasta or Teirm.
Dras Leona has been under siege for the last two years, only holding out and preventing starvation because of the water convoys that flows through Leona-lake, which the Empire still controls due to the Ra'zac Empire's armadas' ships being too large to go upstream and entering it.
Meanwhile, Ilirea protects the eastern route to the northern parts of the Empire, but fails to prevent the lethrblaka raids flying through the Spine and up north to terrorize the northern villages, which are crucial for maintaining supplies to the southern besieged cities.
The urgals, whom originally dwelled inside the Spine, have no effective means of stopping these lethrblaka raids, and instead are forced to hide whenever the lethrblaka arrive, so another plan was formed. Nolondil was turned into a military outpost, had watchtowers with ballistae installed all across the outer walls and inside the towers of the main castle, while a garrison of two thousand men were stationed there to man the walls.
The urgal tribes, among them the Ushnark tribe, would then warn Nolondil of any new raids coming their way, which Nolondil would then be able to intercept and prevent from wreaking havoc.
Nolondil's new fortifications also served another purpose, as it, along with a heavily fortified Daret and Gilead, would act as the next line of defence if Ilirea and Dras-Leona were to be overrun.
The dragon riders had suffered major losses too; among them was Fagosh the Grey. He, along with many others, had died in one of the early skirmishes, back when the dragon riders had just gotten engaged in the war.
As a result of the loss of so many seasoned and experienced riders, the order had been forced to cut the training of some of the newer ones short in order to be able to replenish their ranks.
Despite these losses however, the eldunarya had not been taken into combat yet, as to do this, the order was required to hold a vote for all the elder riders, where at least 90% of them would have to agree on it. The rules had initially been set into place to prevent misuse of the eldunarya, and to lessen the chances in which a rider could become tempted by the amount of power that the eldunarya would give him or her, thereby becoming another Galbatorix.
As Loivissa let these thoughts drift from her mind, she took the time to enjoy the gardens around her. They truly were beautiful, and whatever troubled her mind, she had found that the peaceful aura of this place could soothe it.
Ahead of her, Loivissa thought she could hear children's laughter, so she quickened her pace slightly. Soon enough, she was able to see source of that laughter. It was a little girl, no more than nine years old, standing on a small wooden arched bridge with railings on the sides that had a small stream flowing down below it.
She had long flowing raven hair, green eyes, a gentle face, which was lid up in a smile, and she wore a cream-coloured dress that reached all the way down to her ankles.
When she sensed Loivissa's presence, her head turned around to look at her, before she burst into a full on sprint towards Loivissa while shouting, "auntie!", before she enveloped Loivissa's waist in a fierce hug, which Loivissa returned as soon as she recovered from the sudden impact.
"So what has my favourite niece been doing all morning?", Loivissa questioned her niece, as they parted from each other, although her niece, Helen, kept a fierce grip on Loivissa's right hand.
"It does not count that I am your favourite, when you do not have any others", Helen said and pouted.
"That does not make you any less of my favourite though", Loivissa shot back, before she playfully added, "although, if I were to have another, then you might have some serious competition".
Helen was stricken for a moment at the prospect of her auntie having another favourite, before Loivissa laughed and lifted her into her arms, while saying, "do not worry, you will always have a very special place in my heart".
It was true, the stars would know that Loivissa loved her niece very much, although she could not always help but feel sad when she thought about never having a daughter of her own. That was a possibility that had been forever barred by a wicked twist of fate 75 years ago, but most days, Loivissa managed not to think of it.
"Auntie?", Helen asked from her position in Loivissa's arms, as she noticed that Loivissa had zoned out.
"Sorry, I was just lost in thought", Loivissa apologized and promptly lifted Helen to sit on her shoulders and began walking down a random path, "but what have you been up to all morning?"
"I made grass boats and followed them downstream from where the water from the lake enters the gardens", Helen answered proudly.
"That sounds nice", Loivissa said, as she continued walking, "guess what, I have a special surprise for you".
"What is it?", Helen answered with all the joy of a child expecting a present on her birthday, "is it another painting from that special friend of yours?"
Helen was one of the few people that knew that Loivissa was still in contact with Mercury, and whom Loivissa had one day decided to show some of the gifts that he had sent her over the years. Helen had initially inquired as to who he was and whether they were mates.
Loivissa had spluttered at the final question and managed to answer her that, no, they were not mates, although she had confided in her niece, after making her promise not to tell anyone, that she had once had a small crush on him, but that he had had to leave before she could ever confess her feelings.
Since then, Loivissa had slowly come to realize that her crush had been a silly one. Of course Mercury had thought of her as nothing more than a child needing protection and guidance at the time, so the feelings had slowly been allowed to fade away.
"Auntie, you spaced out again", Helen chuckled from her perch at Loivissa's shoulders.
"Right, sorry", Loivissa muttered as she shook her head clear of her errant thoughts, "no, it is not from my friend, but I think you will like the news nonetheless. I have just received word that Nolondil has been chosen to host the next war meeting between the races in a month".
"Does that mean that daddy is going to come here?", Helen squeaked hopefully.
"As a matter of fact, he told me that your mother was able to free up her time to accompany the meeting as well", Loivissa answered, which made Helen squeak with joy.
When Evandar had been stripped of his position as the leader of the dragon riders in Alagaësia 75 years ago, he had suddenly found himself without the responsibility of leadership hanging over his head all the time, and had suddenly had both the time and energy to pursue more private interests.
He and Celiste had since then become much closer, and in less than a decade after the shade's death, they had become mates. Helen had then been born two years prior to the Ra'zac Empire's invasion, and had been named after Celiste's mother.
When the Ra'zac Empire invaded, Evandar was among the ones to go out and fight them in the early skirmishes, while Celiste stayed behind in Ilirea, as one of the lead healers, together with their two year old daughter.
When Belatona fell and Dras-Leona came under siege, Ilirea, the previous safe haven of the Empire, suddenly found itself under the constant threat of coming under siege. It was therefore that almost all of the families in Ilirea with relatives in the north had sent their children north to be safe, while they stayed behind to help in the war effort in whatever way they could.
As dragon riders and talented mages, Evandar and Celiste had been too precious to spare, so they had been forced to send their seven year old daughter into the safe care of her aunt in Nolondil.
The only reason that Loivissa was not sent down south to aid at the front lines, along with the rest of the dragon riders, was that her situation was a bit more peculiar than most'. Her status as a noble of the Gilead province bound her responsibilities to Eregion as well as her oath to the dragon riders, while Nolondil's strategic position made it a valuable asset to the war effort by forming the next line of defence, along with acting as a shield for the north from lethrblaka raids from the Spine.
"Auntie…", Helen said slightly nervously, as they continued to walk the peaceful paths of the outer gardens, "when do you think that the war will stop, and the bad people will go away?"
That was a loaded question for Loivissa to answer. On one hand, Loivissa did not want to lie to her niece, but on the other hand, she definitely did not want her to be scared and upset by telling her the complete truth. Loivissa honestly was in doubts about whether they would win the war at all, seeing as the hordes of the Ra'zac Empire were seemingly endless, evidenced by the newer stopping flow of reinforcements arriving from the sea.
To be honest, even with the massive aid of the urgal and elven armies at their backs, the Ra'zac Empire continued to beat them bit by bit. If things did not change, and the Ra'zac Empire was able to continue supplying fresh men constantly, then Alagaësia would likely be overrun within the next decade, but that was not something you could tell a small nine year old girl, who feared for her parents' safety.
"I am sure that it will not be much longer. We just have to stay strong a little longer", Loivissa answered her niece, before she tried to cheer her up by saying, "now, would you like to see something really pretty? I have a special scale in our secret hide that can show a rainbow by sending light through it".
"Really?!", Helen asked excited, successfully diverted from thinking of her parents' possible deaths.
"Yes, really, but you must remember that you promised never to tell anyone of that place, all right?" Loivissa cheerfully said.
"Yes, yes, I know. I am not to tell anyone of it, and am to go down there and stay there until you come get me, whenever I hear the warning bells", Helen said monotonously.
"That is right", Loivissa chuckled, before picking her niece off of her shoulders and setting her on the ground, "now, who do you think will be the first to reach the master bedroom, hmm?"
Loivissa had not even finished speaking before Helen had already started sprinting with all the force that her little legs could muster.
Yes, with Helen here, Loivissa could not give into despair for even a single moment. She had to be strong for her niece's sake at least, and, if worse came to worse and Nolondil became an active war zone, then she would secure transport for Helen to reach the elven capital of Ellesméra to live in safety with her great grandmother, the queen of the elves.
So, good start? Narh, I know what you really want; the gifts!
Besides the newly added timeline in my Side-stories, I have also worked together with a good friend of mine to produce the following characterization of my male protagonist: ocadioan dot deviantart dot com/ art/ My-main-protagonist-Mercury-Iridium-after- 0-ADG-383855104
A link will also be found on my page.