Friday, July 1, 2011

The Lost Adventures of Ænya: The Ballad of Titian and Midiana

Chapter 1
The Nibian War

Let me tell you, if you have the heart to listen, of how I killed the only woman I ever loved.

To know my story, of the awful murder which blackens my soul, you must first know of how I came to the island of Aea. You have heard of this island, perhaps, of how its people founded Hedonia. Though it does not appear on any map, and no two sailors can be found to agree on where it can be found, it is no myth, for I came to be there, to live among its people. 

Before I came to this island, I was alone, but for this sword my only companion. I wandered from land to land without a home. The world was joyless and bitter, and I unprepared for it, for the way others battled starvation. I built fences and slew monsters, and for that they called me Batal. It gave the poor bastards hope though I had none. And they marveled at me and my sword, wanting to touch me, to touch it as if they too might be blessed.

Life for me was a waiting for Death.

I couldn’t do enough to change the world and I wondered why things were so. Everywhere I went, the answer was the same. The gods are angry with man, they would say, so these are dark times.

News of war would rekindle my faith. The Kingdom of Nibia was marshalling its forces against the Dark Hemisphere. Their hopes were great; to crush the bogrens and reclaim the lost lands, so that men could venture forth during the night without fear, to farm what had been despoiled so the hungry might be fed. Nibia gathered an army of bold men and women from throughout all Ænya, and I was determined to lend my sword to the cause, to win the war alone if need be. This was my eighteenth year.

We amassed I don’t know how many thousands. We were so numerous that none believed in a chance of defeat. I remember parading through villages, reveling in celebration before the first blow was struck, fastening to my belt handkerchiefs of maidens as I marched beneath their windowsills. Fate smiled on us, or so we thought, and a new age of prosperity seemed within reach.

We pushed onto that shore of eternal twilight, fighting all along the border. The first cycles were promising, the fighting merciless, more horrible than I could have dreamt. We trampled over the mangled corpses, bogrens so numerous they littered the countryside as far as eye could see. Days were spent hacking off their heads, pushing steel into their cold hearts to assure ourselves of their deaths. Afterward, our commander planned an assault deep into that land without day, to seize the bogren stronghold, Crooked Mountain. It was a bold plan and I was confident in it, but soldiers who had not flinched before the sight of numberless rushing bogrens, fled in terror upon crossing into that accursed wasteland. Some whispered that it was an unnecessary waste of soldiers’ lives. We had, after all, reclaimed what was ours. These men accused the commander of hubris, and went on saying such an affront before the gods’ good graces could only bring about the wrath of Fate. This split the army, shortening our numbers. The deserters elected a new commander to lead them back to Nibia. But I was among the faithful.

Our commander guessed Crooked Mountain a few weeks’ march. But when that time was past, having come upon nothing but darkness and desolation, we became distraught and our dreams beset by nightmares. Fearing total mutiny, our leader directed us westward. Everyone was in good spirits but I, who longed to spill the blood of those mongrels; I believed myself a true patriot, a devotee to the cause, and thought of those that would return home as cowards. That was before it happened.

Most were in their tents, unarmed, unsuited for battle. It was to my good fortune that I sleep with one eye and one hand on my sword. Our commander shouted, desperate to rouse us, but time was a fleeting thing. We did not even know what we were fighting, or, I should say, what was killing us. It was neither human nor bogren. The clouds obscured even the light from the moons, and also there came, I could swear it, a sudden, unnatural fog. But though we could not see our enemy, they did, most assuredly, see us.

When those things were gone, the few of us remaining agreed that the attackers were huge, with rows of sharp teeth—and that they were unlike anything any man had ever seen or would want to see. Why they chose to depart, just short of slaughtering our entire legion, remained a mystery. Perhaps they had had their full.

The commander was lost to that nameless horror. So with heavy hearts we withdrew from the Dark Hemisphere, and after a two-week march, our army, if it could still be called that, reached the dividing line where the sun shone on our faces. But we soon learned of more unhappy news, from the captain of a Nibian vessel. The deserters had been attacked before reaching daylight. A few survivors were ferried back to the Nibian capital, which was under siege. The ship seemed the only safe passage home as bogrens have deathly fear of water.

But our eyes never met that familiar shore. Our ship met with a storm, churning, black, unholy as all hell. Debris ripped the hull to pieces and all but two men drowned. I was the one. The other was a soldier and a friend of mine. His name was Valis.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.