The Dragons of Keanna - Book II
by Jandar Tyr
In Prafa the streets were crowded. All the citizens people were out taking care of any business they had before nightfall when it might be too dangerous to be out. Keeping their faces covered, like most of the people out and about, Valkar and Azeal made their way through the town. Prafa was pretty big as Yadessian towns go. It had its common section and the places were the nobles lived. As the king, Valkar tried his best to treat his people all the same. The nobles didn't fare any better than the average citizens in his eyes. Valkar wasn't the kind to treat non wealthy like trash as Balthazar did. He was more the kind to be out in the fields with them, trying to better their crops and livestock. He always made sure everybody in his kingdom had food to eat and a safe place to sleep. And everyone seemed happy; at least that's what he thought. Now it seems some sided with Balthazar.
Well, first things first. Get back on the throne. As they walked they saw the way Balthazar's guards treated the people. They saw some kicked from their homes for not having their money to pay all the taxes Balthazar had imposed. Shops and businesses were taken over by the crown. There were beggars in the kingdom. That was the biggest shock. No one in Yadessa had to beg before. What is that crazy fool doing to his own people? The further they walked, the angrier they became. On one corner they stopped when they saw two guards drag a boy and his father down an alley.
"What could this be?" Valkar asked his son.
I don't know." Azeal said. "But I think we're about to find out. Be careful father."
Valkar frowned as he followed the guards. As they walked into the alley, they could hear the sounds of someone being beaten.
"We told you not to walk in our section didn't we?" They heard. "Now you pay with your lives since you have no money."
"Stop!!" Azeal called. On the ground in front of them the guards had beaten both of them down. The boy was hugging his father begging them to stop. With a final kick the guards turned to them.
"What business is it of yours?" One sneered. "Get on your way."
Valkar reached into his pouch and pulled out a gold coin. He tossed it to them.
"You had your fun. Take this and leave them alone."
The coin fell in front of them. One man stopped down and retrieved it. He looked it over.
"It's real." He said. He looked at the two strangers and gave them a devious smile.
"Maybe you have more?" The other said as he pounded his fist into his hand. "I think it's our lucky day. Hand over the money."
"I don't think so." Valkar said as he took down his hood. It was then that the two guards recognized him.
"It's King Valkar!!" One pointed. "He's worth more than a handful of gold. Let's take him!"
The guards rushed forward, one at Valkar and the other at Azeal. Azeal spun around and kicked the man as he lunged at him in the stomach. He fell back and pulled his knife from his side and moved back to stab at Azeal. He caught the guards arm in one hand and struck out with the other connecting with his jaw. The guard went down and Azeal hit him again knocking him out. The other guard that had attacked Valkar pulled his sword and tried to run him through. Valkar side stepped and hit the man in the wrist knocking the blade from his hand. The guard backed up. He knew he couldn't beat the ex-king. His only chance was to get away and get help. As he turned to run, the boy came up from behind with a plank and cracked him across the back of his head. The guard fell to the ground knocked out. Azeal and Valkar looked at the boy. He was dressed in dirty clothes like the other beggars they had seen, but they weren't rags. He looked hungry and weak.
"Thank you son." Valkar smiled. Azeal rushed over to the boy's father to check his wounds. The guards had beat him pretty bad, but Azeal thought his weakness from not eating was the more serious problem.
"We have to get them some food and rest father." Azeal picked the man up.
"Where are you taking him?" The boy asked rushing to his father's side.
"To a safe place." Valkar told him. "You're coming too."
"There is no safe place here." The boy said. "Not since they took our house and my father's shop."
"We have to get off the streets." Valkar said. "Azeal, if you carry him, people will want to know what's wrong. Can he walk with help?"
"Yes, I can." The man said. "You can put me down. Just give me your arm and help me along."
Azeal put the man down on his feet. He almost fell but Valkar caught him.
"What's your name?" Valkar asked walking the man down the alley to the street.
"I'm Ushar your majesty." He said quietly. "And this is my son Brand."
"Hello to both of you." Valkar said. "We have to get to the blacksmith. Do you know where it is?"
"Right over there." Brand pointed to the shop. Valkar turned and looked. There was a guard between them and the smiths shop. They needed to distract the guard to get past him.
"We need to get past him." Valkar said.
"I know what to do!" Brand ran across the street and tapped the guard on his side. The guard turned to look at Brand then stooped to hear what he said. Then he ran off up the street as fast as he could. Brand waved them over.
"Quickly!" He said.
With Azeal on one side and Valkar on the other they made their way to the blacksmith. Looking as casual as they could, Azeal knocked on the smith's door. A bald man answered. He looked at the two hooded men and the boy.
"Well?" He said. Valkar pulled back his hood to show his face. Wide eyed Luther slide open the door and helped them in. Valkar and Azeal carried Ushar to an arm chair and sat him down.
"Majesty." Luther said. "We've been expecting you. What happened to him?"
"He and his son." Azeal pointed to the boy. "Were beaten by some guards. We stepped in to stop them."
Luther rushed to the window and looked out in all directions.
"Don't worry, they didn't see us come in here." Valkar threw off his cloak and put it on a peg by the door. Azeal found a pitcher of fresh water and got Ushar a drink.
"I think they need something to eat." Valkar said. "Do you have a feeding animal they can draw from?"
"Yes, but Sire, they know you're here." Luther. "Can we trust them?"
"We are loyal to you." Ushar said." If you were on the throne, we wouldn't be begging for our lives. Balthazar is the cause of all this. Your fight is our fight. Besides, who else can get around this town as easily as we can?"
"This is going to be dangerous." Valkar told him. "I can't ask this of you."
"You fight for us, right?" He sat up in his chair. Brand came and stood by his side. They looked up at Valkar. "We want our lives back. If that means we have to fight for it, that's what we'll do. Right son?"
"Yes, father." Brand said. Valkar clapped Brand on his shoulder and smiled.
"You're going to need your strength. Luther will take you to feed."
"Sire, you have guest waiting for you in my shop." Luther told him. "Follow me. You too young Brand. I'll show you to the feed and you can take your father something to hold him until he can feed himself."
Luther led them, through the house to the back. They went outside and he showed Brand where he kept his livestock. Off to the left there was another building. There he did all his smith work. Valkar and Azeal followed Luther as he opened the door and ushered them in. Inside they found Angela and Arturus sitting at the table talking. When they saw him they both got up and bowed. Valkar rushed over and hugged Angela.
"I'm so glad you're alright." He said hugging her close.
"Thank you your majesty." Angela smiled. "It's good to be free."
"Call me Valkar." He waved Azeal forward. "This is my son, Azeal. This is Lady Angela Gaelich and Arturus Gaelich her husband's brother."
"You mean as in Balthazar Gaelich?" Azeal stood looking at them in shock.
"Yes, he is my husband." She said. "But I'm hoping to end that part of my life forever."
From behind them something stirred. Azeal walked over behind Angela and saw the huge blanket covering something. He poked it and it moved. In surprise he stepped back and pulled his sword.
"What is that!!?”
"That's Sting." Angela said. A large clawed arm reached up and pushed off its cover. Sting with his great insect like body stood and turned toward Azeal. Azeal stared open mouthed as it became taller and taller until he towered over Azeal. Clicking sounds came from him.
"He's with me." Angela told them moving to his side to help him up. "Balthazar did this to him. He was one of my guards, now he's my friend.
[King Valkar] Sting spoke in his head. [Help us.]
Valkar stared at Sting. His anger at Balthazar rose tenfold. How could he do this to one of his own?
[Punishment. I hear you in head.] Sting tapped the shell covering his head.
"That's it." Valkar said saddened by what he saw. "I can't let him do this to anyone else. Tonight we begin our move."
After eating and getting some rest, Ushar and Brand crept from the house. From alley to alley they moved in silence talking to every beggar. All those displaced by Balthazar. The poor sitting in their huts wondering how they came to this. They remembered that things were not always like this. Valkar's call was heard passed all over the town. Quietly they gathered. In the market, in the square whispers could be heard of rebellion. Their King has come to lead them back to the peaceful way it should be in Yadessa. Balthazar's guards on the streets heard rumors of something going on, but it was too late. One by one they began to disappear until soon the streets were filled with people screaming for their blood. Valkar, Azeal, Angela and Sting soon joined the fighting. Valkar single handed and Azeal armed with Justice battled side by side with Luther, Ushar and Brand. Angela blasting Balthazar's troops and Sting swatting and tearing them apart. Soon the town was back in their hands and the people were cheering. Any and all that favored Balthazar took flight from the city to warn their lord of Valkar's return, for his day would soon come. The battle had begun. Yadessa would be free.
After Prafa was free, men loyal to Valkar began to flock to Prafa. They all came to pledge their swords to their real king. It seemed there were many in Yadessa not satisfied with Balthazar's rule, and not even his magic could change that. Soon the city was fortified. Walls were built high; pits were dug with sharp spikes. Angela set magical traps around the outside incase spies lurked and tried to get in. She also put a spell on the gates and walls. This spell would warn them if anyone that had not sworn the oath to Valkar and Azeal entered. All was ready for the coming war. All Valkar had left to do was get the Dragons involved, and Cutter was on his way to talk to the Baron when he returned.
In the dark of night, a lone spirit moved through the skies. He was heading to find the last two of the three descendants he had left in a city that was fighting for all their people. His mind was set on a course that might free him from the horrors of his memories if all went well. Prafa was the city and King Valkar was the man he would defend. In his mind, he fought against the horror that tried every minute of the day to overcome him and take him over. That was Muerte, Goddess of death. Baron Valkar swore he would never let her control him again. This time, he would be the man his grandsons would be proud of. Maybe right some of the many wrongs he had done in his past.
Above Prafa, Baron Valkar saw the fighting outside of the walls of Prafa. Men battling back and forth, bolts of magic energy blasting out at each other as they fought. He streaked down into the city to find his two grandsons. In his mind he went over spells he could still use in his spirit form. Over the gates he passed. He saw a young boy being confronted by two armored men. They raised their swords to strike the boy armed only with a club. Baron Valkar flew between them and made himself visible. He called out a quick spell as the swords fell. His magic deflected their steel, causing the swords to shatter in many pieces. He pushed out with his ghostly energy and sent the men flying back to crash into a wall broken. The boy jumped up and thanked him.
[Run!!] He sent to the boy's mind. Visible but not tangible, the Baron moved on. Only a few had made it over the gates. Most of the cities inhabitants were on the walls defending the city. As he passed over the wall, the Baron noticed that the men outside fighting to get in were a band of mercenaries. Humans invading Yadessa. Balthazar must have hired them to give King Valkar as much trouble as they could. The battle wasn't going good for the humans. Their siege towers had been destroyed and many of them lay wounded on the field outside.
"I want twenty men to go out and end this." The Baron heard. He turned and saw Valkar and Azeal at the gates ready to go out to fight. He made his way over to his grandsons.
[I'm glad you're both safe.] He said to them.
"This is nothing Grandfather." Valkar smiled. "Just Balthazar trying to weaken us."
"Won't work." Azeal told him. "We're even stronger now. Many of the outer villagers have joined us because of all the raiding and nightwalkers."
[Good.] The Baron said.
"Grandfather." Valkar said." My allies the Dragons need your help. They're coming here to see you."
[Is Athene coming?]
"I think she is." Azeal told him as the men began to gather to go out and fight.
[Does Lady Angela know?] He asked.
"She's with her friend." Valkar told him as he walked to the gate. Behind him were the twenty five men he had called for. Loud noises could be heard coming from the other side of the gate. All the men were tense and eager to fight. Up on the wall Valkar had his wizards ready to move the enemy back from the gate so they could get out. At a signal from their king, they would cast and the gates would be open so they could storm out.
"Ready?" Valkar asked his son. Azeal pulled Justice from its scabbard and ordered it to longsword length. In his other hand he held a short sword. Azeal was dressed and prepared for battle.
"Need any help?" Valkar smiled at his grandfather, and then he raised his hand to the gatekeeper and the wizards. Spells were cast that covered the front of the gates with harmless flames. None of the humans were hurt, but it scared them enough. The enemy pulled back and the gatekeepers hurriedly pulled the levers to open the gates. Valkar and Azeal ran out covered by the flames screaming their battle cry to engage the humans. From the top of the walls the wizards sent different magical spells down on the enemy. One by one Valkar and his men began to battle their foes. They were outnumbered, but the enemies were human, not endowed with the abilities of the vampires they were fighting. Valkar and his men fought with fang, claw and swords. The battle pitched on, advantage switching from time to time giving the humans the upper hand. From the walls, Baron Valkar watched worried about his grandsons.
Suddenly a loud screech pierced the air. From the forest behind the humans a large group of gargoyles came winging out to attack Valkar and his men. Balthazar had sent the humans help, winged help. Diving out of the sky they began to attack Valkar and his men. Plucking them from the ground taking them up high then dashing them to the ground. A large gray one grabbed at Azeal. He ducked down and went into a roll. When he got back to his feet, he thrust Justice up without looking and pierced the beast through its chest. The magic of his Justice blade lit the gargoyle into blue flames. It launched itself into the sky hoping to douse the flames but nothing could put out these flames. Valkar stood back to back with Ushar, both their swords flashed with the speed of masters. Valkar had no idea Ushar was so talented with a sword.
"You're very good." Valkar said without missing a strike.
"I was a swordsmith and master before Balthazar took my shop." Ushar said as his short sword decapitated the enemy in front of him.
"You'll get that shop back when we're done." Valkar said. "That I promise, and I think we'll base you in Winterhaven or New Keanna so Brand can go to school."
Suddenly from the left a gargoyle came from high. Valkar didn't see him coming but Ushar did.
"WATCH OUT!!!" From his belt he drew a dagger. Before Valkar could even turn, Ushar draw back and sent the dagger flying. As the gargoyle grabbed for Valkar, the dagger sank into its forehead between its red eyes. It crashed to the ground dead at their feet. At the same time a human dashed at Ushar. With the speed of a high lord vampire, Valkar sprang in front of Ushar and cut him down, slicing the man in two. From behind him, Baron Valkar heard Lady Angela calling Sting beside her.
"What's going on?" She asked running onto the wall.
[Valkar needs help.] The Baron called to her flying off the wall into the fray.
"Sting!!" She called. "Go help the king!!"
Over the wall the large mutant jumped. With the sound of thunder he hit the ground running reaching out to rip apart anyone that was not vampire. Slashing and snapping he fought his way out to Valkar and Ushar, men stabbing at his armor. Sting was unstoppable. He had two sets of arms. One set ending in a pincer, the other in a clawed hands both deadly as the men around him could tell, had they lived beyond that day. In the sky, Baron Valkar intercepted gargoyles. As they grabbed for vampires, he would send shocks into their bodies knocking them from the sky. The battle raged on. From the wall Angela sent bolts of magic into the air incinerating gargoyles and any humans that were unlucky enough to be in her sights. Soon the Humans were running for the forest and the sky was clear of gargoyles. It was over.
The ground was littered with the dead and dying. Out of the twenty five vampires Valkar had taken out with him, half had been cut down, be still cheers went up. This was a small victory, but it was a victory for them all. Prafa was safe again. The gates opened and help came out for the wounded. Towns people came out to carry the wounded in for healing. The humans that were hurt were healed and held for questioning. None were made into vampires. There was no blood lust here. No attacks on weak men. Angela helped with the healing while Valkar and the rest of the people cleaned the surrounding lands outside of the city. Azeal walked along the wall checking to make sure there were no weak spots when he heard a voice in his head.
[Looks like you and your father have been busy.]
[Athene!!] He turned and saw Athene riding Eheren over the field. With them were Jandar, Rage, Tanis and Cutter dropping down for a landing. Azeal ran out to meet them. He hugged them all asking how things were back in New Keanna.
"It's getting really weird with this war and everything." Jandar told him.
"Ono and Shayn miss you." Rage told him.
"Where are they?" He asked.
"They're at home with an old friend." Rage said ruffling Azeal's head. "Where's your father, we have to talk."
"He's back in town." They heard from behind them.
"Uncle Arturus!!" Athene and Tanis hugged their uncle in surprise. " What are you doing here?"
"Come with me." He said. "Both of you."
Athene looked at her brother with a curious look. They wondered what was wrong that he needed to see them in private. Silently Arturus walked back into the gates while they followed. He made his way over to a tent where the wounded were being treated. In the tent Athene saw the white haired woman she had dreamed about tending to a man with a slash wound. Arturus headed over to her and spoke in her ear. She turned and looked at them. Then she ran over to them and grabbed them both and started to cry as she kissed them again and again. Athene pushed her back. She was glad to see she was safe, but this was a bit much she thought.
"Uncle." Tanis asked. "Who is this?"
"This." Arturus smiled. "Is your mother. Lady Angela Gaelich."
There's no way to describe the shock and surprise Athene and Tanis felt at that moment. They both thought their mother was dead. Athene thought she had died in childbirth and Tanis thought Balthazar had killed her as a traitor. They both always had questions about her that no one would answer. Balthazar had her hidden always so Tanis wouldn't find her and Arturus didn't like to talk about her, it was too painful for him. Arturus had told Athene how beautiful she was and she always knew he was in love with her. Now here she stood in front of them.
"Is it true?" Athene asked her. "Are you my mother?"
"Yes I am." Angela smiled, a tear running down her face. She reached out to touch Athene's face. She could see Balthazar in her eyes, but she knew he had nothing to do with raising her. But Tanis, he looked just like Arturus. She was so sorry he had been ripped from her arms after his birth. Athene and Tanis sprang into her arms crying. What a happy day this was for the four of them.
Over their heads, Baron Valkar watched. He was pleased. This was a reunion he planned to make happen since he met Angela, now here it was. Now he was glad Muerte had brought him back. Somehow he would have to thank her for all this.
[Baron.] He heard Valkar call. [Can we see you please?]
With one last look at Angela and her happiness, Baron Valkar turned to find his grandson. Valkar was back in Luther's house surrounded by their new guest, the dragons. As he floated into the room Eheren stood up to greet him.
"Baron, not to long ago a few of us left New Keanna on a mission to find Ganon's spell book." Eheren told him. "We found it. Not all of it, but enough."
[Then she will be coming for it.] He told them. [You just made it easy for her to acquire what she needs to fulfill her plans.]
They all looked at each other in surprise. They hadn't thought of that. Now all she had to do was to get her hands on Texa and she would have all the power she would need to enslave the world.
"Then we go on the offense." Rage said his eyes flashing a red glare.
[How?] Baron Valkar asked. [She's a god. Do you have one on your side to fight her?]
"We have two." Jandar said. "But we need your help too."
[What could I possibly do against her?] He asked. She was so powerful. All he wanted to do was protect Valkar and Azeal. He was afraid if he left, something would happen he could have prevented.
"Grandfather." Valkar said. "This is more important than Azeal and I. This is to save everyone, everyone in our world. Go, we'll be fine."
Baron Valkar thought about it for a second. His grandson was right and he was being selfish and protective. Valkar and Azeal had proven themselves many times. They could take care of themselves and hopefully, the rest of Yadessa. He had to help destroy Muerte. That was more important.
[If you need me.] He said. [Just call my name and I'll be back in an instant.]
"Don't worry." Rage told him." He's our ally; we'll be here to help him. I'm leaving Dragons with him to help."
[Then what can I do?]
"Can you still locate her?" Eheren asked.
[Yes, I can find her.] He nodded.
"Without her knowing?" Jandar asked.
[No, I'm still bonded to her.] He said. [Once I get close, she will feel my presence.]
"I can fix that." Texa stood up. "There's a spell I have that will break her hold over you. It will make you invisible to her."
[But she's a god.] Baron Valkar said.
"Have no worries." Texa said with a sly smile. "My spells will work on her. Why do you think they were hidden by the gods?"
"We need to know exactly what she's planning in order to fight her." Rage said from his seat next to Jandar.
"We know she's making vampires with Balthazar's help." Cutter said. "But is that all? And why?"
[Isn't it obvious?] The Baron said. [She plans to make the world over into her image.]
"I don't think so." Kalin said.
"Neither do I." Valkar told them. "That makes no sense. What's she going to start farming humans to feed all these vampires?"
"And how would she control them?" Azeal asked. They all nodded their agreement.
"She's planning something else." Jandar said. "And we need to know what it is before it's too late to stop her."
All their talk made sense to the Baron. Muerte was not one to have followers. But what did she want? He went over to Texa and hovered before her.
[Then free me of her influences and I will go spy on her.] All fear of the goddess was gone from his eyes. [With luck, she will reveal something that will help us.]
"You have to cast the spells." She told Kalin. "They were meant for you. Take my hand and the spell will be yours to use."
Kalin stood and took her hand. Suddenly he saw in his mind many different spells in a language he didn't understand. As he concentrated on them he found he could read them. He found the spell he wanted and started the incantation. As Baron Valkar floated before them his image blinked out for a second. Then he was back.
[It worked!] He said smiling. [I don't feel her pull anymore. I'm free!!!]
"Please find her Baron." Jandar stood and faced him. "We may not have much time."
[I will be back as soon as I can.]
With that, he drifted up and out through the ceiling.
"Good luck Grandfather." Azeal whispered.
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