Alayne stood, white cloth in her hands. The Arena was filled with thunderous cheers and applause. There had to be millions of them watching her, sitting, teetering in excitement as she had stepped out to the grounds. Dust swirled in the air about her as she walked, the heels of her boots silent upon the gravel leaving not a trace as she maneuvered inward. The air was fresh that day, with the slight sting of chill that came with the early spring mornings. It smelt as new hope and rejuvenation often did. With a breath in Alayne filled her lungs with the best of it, steadying herself with the cloth in her hands, her hair swayed behind her tied up high in the ponytail that she had placed it in earlier.
Her ears prickled at the sound of the cheers filled with veneration and anticipation. Her name was repeated over and over again: A-layne A-layne A-layne. High above her, seated in the only balcony seating of the Arena, sat the King of the great land. His hair was black as night tumbling down his back in waves. His eyes were dark as night as well and his skin the color of a deep oak. His skin swirled in the tattoos, shimmering in a gold dust, that glowed from an inner light within him. Teeth sharp as his eyes, he sat adorned in golds and reds, facing her as she faced him, their eyes connected despite the distance. Besides him sat his foreign queen of ice white hair and startling blue eyes, her skin the color of the lightest ash wood that Alayne had ever known. Her tattoos were like the lines of a tree, working their way along her body in a color not so dissimilar from her skin tone.
Their children, still yet saplings with grey hair, jumped about in fright and wonder as they spoke to their parents in awe and fascination. Their skin was still green, of the lightest newborn leaves, as they had not yet come of age, matured, become one of the clans. In time a tree would call them, and in time they would swear themselves to her beckoning cry. With it they would change, and become one of her, their coloring changing to match her whim and their allegiance to her. For now, they were but children, watching her with the King of these lands and the Clan Elders of far too many others.
This day had brought at least one clan leader from each of the Clans. She saw an Ash and two from the Oaks. There was Maple, Fig, Birch, and Willow. She knew there were Beech and Cherry, Chestnut and Magnolia, Pine, Spruce, Juniper, and Elm. She wondered if Redwood and Cypress had arrived, as they traveled the greatest distance. Hickory, Larch and Cedar had arrived late that night, although she could not see their representatives now. Aspen, Gum, and Fir were in one corner away from Hemlock and Mahogany. She could not see all the Clan leaders of the major and their minor clans, but she knew they would not miss this day. None wanted to miss this day. They had traveled from all over the world, from secluded woods and major cities. They had shut down the bustling economies and placed armistices on wars, all for this day.
Today was the day Alayne was set to die.
She looked over the white cloth as she had for hours prior. She would not be able to see through it. With that, was her only protection. The spells were woven into the fibers of the cloth with a careful and steady hand. The lightest silver and blue threads shimmered in the morning sun, reminding Alayne of the time and care that went into the making of this cloth. It was her only lifeline, for not even she could trust herself to keep her eyes closed.
Once more, Alayne looked up to the crowds. Millions of Clankin cheered her on singing her praises and repeating her name. They were not alone, however. She could see a multitude of other races within the stands, of all parts of the world. They did not have the pointed ears of the Clankin, the only unifying feature they all had where the length and shape varied. Only Clankin had the sharp points at the tops of their long ears. Only Clankin identified themselves by their mother tree and not the land in which they were born. Clankin fought deadly wars amongst each other but grudges were often forgotten when new members came with outside perspectives, chosen by their mother tree to join the Clan. The outsiders may have come to see the great battle, but they would remain outsiders, and unaware of the importance of the day.
Alayne placed the cloth around her eyes and the world silenced around her. The white cloth made everything dark where no light could be seen. Her ears prickled at the slightest sounds and her skin moved based on the slightest breeze. Her hand went to her weapons, checking them one last time, each one chiming at her touch as their glass blades delighted. Her fingers stopped on the short sword of silver and woven magic; the killing blade it had been called.
“Are you ready?” The voice of the King commanded the silence that had befallen the moment she had made her final move.
“I am.” She spoke to him, to her people, to the world.
Today was the day Alayne was set to die.
She heard the sound of unified casting. She pictured the mages’ magic circling about and expanding outwards, high into the sky at the edges of the arena. Their magic would nullify the gaze of the beast, to protect those who watched. The magic was not perfect, as no magic was, but it would negate the cost of complete casualties. Those unfortunate enough to witness the gaze would fall ill or paralyzed but they would not die, not with the best healers in all of the world attending. All knew the risks of attending; all knew what was to come.
The sound of gates opening, and the beat being let lose was accompanied by screams of terror and additional battle magic. Alayne wished she were a mage, but she was not yet with magic, too young to touch its influence, too young to know its love. She was alone, with her weapons and her trained body, nothing else. She pictured the beast in her mind from the drawings and the stories. Born from a serpent egg, fertilized by magic, hatched by a cockerel, the Basilisk would have been huge for how long it had terrorized the lands. The magicians slated with its creation had already been judged, but it was time to kill the beast. Its breath so venomous that Alayne’s skin burned as soon as it breathed in her direction.
This was not the type of battle a sapling should be facing. Without magic, without a mother tree, without a true name. She was alone in the Arena facing a monster that teams and heroes struggled to take down. She would do it alone or not at all. She knew that the body of this beast was that of a snake while the head was that of a bird. It had wings and could fly but they had been clipped for this battle, for her, and for the safety of those who watched.
Alayne moved first, glass blades out throwing them at the creature, their spells activating and purifying the air around her as they hit the ground and their target. The beast screamed and Alayne ran, silver weapon out and skin screaming at her to flee. She counted the paces, listened to the wind, and felt her target moved. It had tried to kill her at this point, but what she could not see would not kill her. She sliced upwards, resulting in the scream of the monster, and she jumped back before its blood could melt her away into nothing.
The dance began, with its retaliation. She felt it lunge towards her and as she spun away, she threw out another set of glass daggers their song of breaking glass pacifying her ears as she continued to fight. She swung her silver sword again, stepping into movements that had been ingrained in her to hide and to fight. The silver cut through the beast with ease, chopping its wings off with a terrible screech. She did not relax, encroaching the beast with a series of jumps and slashes until she was certain she had taken its head.
With a thud she landed, and waited on bated breath, sheathing her sword as she reached up to her face and removed the blind fold. The moment it was past her eyes she was blinded by the mid-morning sun. The air around her was thick in its miasma and fog, frothing and bubbling, eroding her and the clothes, but all at once a great chill filled the area as Mages purified the air, and a tremendous cheer went up through the crowd. A-layne A-layne A-layne. The King sat smiling in his chair as the children beside him released their grip of their mother, who smiled as well.
Alayne rose her fist holding the white cloth to the sky, her green skin marred by black poisoned scars that would take time to heal but would heal all the same. Another roar went up in the crowd with her actions before she started towards the exit, pulling her curls from their ponytail and finally looking to the beast she had slain. Its body was a mess and its blood was a bright green that had ignited fire to the dirt around it. She turned once more and led herself through the exit, and to where her steed stood waiting for her safe return.
Alure was the color of a clear summer sky, turning itself towards her as she approached, stomping its hooves in anticipation of their next journey. Once the saddle was placed, Alayne got on Alure reigns directing them outwards and towards the streets. From a walk to a trot, Alure raced into a gallop as soon as they left the long corridor, out into the city. Caliburn glittered and shined in the daylight, the largest of the Clankin cities and the home to the King of the Clankin, this city had been her home for the entirety of her life. Surrounded on all sides by a plateau, the only way in and out were by the mountainous trails or by sky on skymounts.
Alayne and Alure rushed away from the Arena that was beginning to empty and through the barren city past the inns and taverns, homes and stores, to the edge of Caliburn and into the trees that surrounded it. The Great Forest contained one of every tree, at least, with one type of all other flowers and plants that could exist on land. The Forest hummed with bristling excitement as Alayne and Alure made their way to the great fall and the oldest tree in the world. She lay at the edge of the plateau near the Northern waterfall, the only one of which that moved up, instead of down, towards Caliburn instead of away like the Southern waterfall. She healed all waters of impurities and granted all Clan claims. Like her father before her and her grandmother before him, going generations back to the first of the Kings and Queens, the World Tree had always granted her family’s tree affiliation.
Different trees stood for different causes, different meanings, different philosophies. Clankin were permitted to choose their own Clan, offering themselves to the trees and accepting their rejection should it come. For those who offered them and were rejected, they would be claimed in dreams by another tree. Some were claimed before they had the chance to be rejected. Other times Clankin would journey to the capitol to offer themselves to the World Tree so that she may assign the kin personally. Most opted to speak to the Great Forest instead of disturbing the Great Mother, but her family could only be blessed by the her will. They mother claimed her family despite their colorings correlating to other Clans.
When a sapling became mature, they were dyed the colors of their Clan and tree. Their skin was marked in the blessing marks of the Clan bestowed by the trees in the form of elaborate tattoos and designs. In most cases these markings were but a shade lighter or darker, without standing out. Clan Elders dyed theirs white and black in permanent ink, and saplings had none. For three generations her family had been of the Oak, strong, resilient, wise, with the markings of the Great Mother.
Today was the day Alayne was set to die.
Alure raced them towards the edge despite Alayne’s protests. Alure had always been stubborn but she had not anticipated such a detour. “Where are we going?”
The horse did not respond as the raced over the edge of the cliff that had come suddenly and without warning. Alayne felt her heart leap from her chest as Alure’s hooves collided with what felt like solid ground and they took off into the air. A laugh bubbled at her throat for a moment before it raptured into giggles and delight. Alure ran through the sky having come of age as a skyhorse the same day that Alayne was to come of age herself.
It was said that a sky horse knew when it could fly, and it alone would know. The experts could hypothesize and guess but there would be no guarantees. When a sky horse could fly it would want to, and the first moment Alure had gotten to attempt to fly had been this day, the day Alayne was unmade.
The two made their way to the northern falls from the sky, arriving at the World Tree, where she stood waiting and blowing in the softest breeze. Quick to dismount, Alayne hurried over to learn of her destiny. Dropping to her knees in the shallow waters, Alayne reached for a root and breathed out all her apprehension. A wave of love washed over her and when Erimentha stood she was no longer a sapling.
Chosen by the Willow and the Great Mother, Erimentha’s skin was outlined in not gold but bronze. For a moment she starred at the tree perturbed and frustrated, yet no malice formed.
“We had always believed you’d be my heir.” Her father spoke from behind her. She knew his voice anywhere and knew that with him came the Elders and her siblings. She had lived her whole life as the daughter of love produced by her mother and father who had not been married. he had been claimed by them both and when their love had fallen apart, she had stayed with her father. Her step mother had raised her but was not of her the way that her father was. She had fought and trained, studied and learned until there was no more to learn, and yet she was not chosen. She had always hoped that she could be chosen by the World Tree to lead the Clans, to be their pillar of support, to be their Queen, and yet she was not chosen.
Her Clan was Willow, which was not problem, but her markings were bronze not gold. She was royalty but not the heir. One of her other three siblings would have the honor.
Erimentha turned to those who had gathered in haste to witness her rebirth into maternity. The King, her father, stood examining her as if he were seeing her for the first time. She was not his Alayne, precious first daughter and child of his first love. “Erimentha.” She supplied to him and them all, her new name, “Willow.” She then gave her clan. “Aura.” In time her magic affiliation would manifest into fruition but for now she knew under which path she would walk. There was a chorus of whispers as the Elders whispered about themselves, colluding and plotting, considering her circumstances and planning alliances not yet formed.
“We should return to the palace.” Her step-mother spoke in a lush soft voice. “To celebrate my dear Eri.” She gave Erimentha a nickname, as if it had always been Erimentha’s nickname.
“I was given a destiny.” She spoke ignoring the chatter and the offer to return home. Her words startled those around her. It was rare that newly rooted kin would be given a plight to follow as dictated by the World Tree. Often times they came in dreams, if they came at all. Destinies were provided to rare few in order to protect, guide, and shape the Clankin and the Clans. “I am to find a boy, a boy not yet born. I know naught his name. I know naught his origin. I know naught his appearance.” The difficult thing about destinies were that there was limited information given. Little could be given, as the world was constantly shaping and evolving. She did not know why she had to find him, or what his significance would be. What she did know, however would be enough to find him. “Metal will breathe when he touches it, and magic will bend at his command. His will shall wrought the world.”
She saw how the words concerned the audience before her. A powerful mage was a danger to the balance of the world.
“And when you find him?” Her father asked.
Protect him. “I will fight heaven and earth for him.” Erimentha faced those who were likely to become her destined enemies seeing them for the first time as an adult without the rose light of youth. They, too, knew that she may become her enemy in the future. Mages were a danger and had to be regulated. The Great Mother gave destinies that were both noble and vile, with little distinction between them until retrospect and historians were able to analyze them. Time had to pass before they would know what she was to become.
Alure trotted over to Erimentha’s side and stood at her side, facing the Clan Elders and the King of the Clankin. The weight of the knowledge pressured them all. At this moment she was but herself, a warrior who had defeated great evils before maturity. The daughter of the King, and great talent. Alayne may have been dead but Erimentha had taken the mantle that would never be erased.
“Do you have a date for when he shall be born?” Her father asked.
“I do.” She starred him down daring him to ask her. He would not.
“Then for now we are not enemies. Come, we have celebrations to attend.” He held his hand out to her, and she stepped forward to take it. In the dark of the night she would leave. She would train in the academies across the world. She would learn and grow. She’d spread her legacy and control, creating a network and web to support her charge once she found him. She would leave that night as to give herself ample time to prepare for his coming, but for the day she’d let her celebrate.
Today was the day Alayne was set to die and the day that Erimentha, The Valiant, was born.
Hello all! I know that I forgot to post on Monday. Sorry. I really am. I’m still trying to get back into posting regularly, which includes YP. I have book boxes, tea, and reviews for you coming soon. I swear.