Forums » Pantheon Fan Fiction

Amensol's Shadow: In The Shadow Of The Sun, Part Three

    • 97 posts
    July 25, 2020 8:20 PM PDT

    Amensol’s Shadow: In the Shadow of the Sun (Part Three)

    The 11th Tale of the Unseen Pillar of the House of Amensol, by Benonai

     

             The young man sitting across from Kole was calling for the barkeep to bring him another ale.  He was a regular here since he had found a place to rent in the quiet of Avendyr’s Pass, not quite to Thronefast, the capitol city of Men. He had a commanding presence for someone his size.  He wasn’t a big man, but anyone could see he was strong and formidable; a trait honed after many years of back-breaking chores on an equestrian ranch in the eastern plains of Reignfall.  He turned his attention back to Kole, the man who alleged to be his estranged father, a man he did not know.

             Kole began, “So, like you, I was raised on a farm without the blessings of parental guidance.  My father died before I was born; a twist of fate sacrificing himself to protect a man who, in the end, failed in so many ways to protect me once he was gone.  Coincidentally, it was the man who left me with this…” Kole said, his right arm swirling around the ornate hook fastened to the end of it.  He continued.

             “My mother died on the day Thronefast burned to the ground.  And, by another twist of fate, she was the one who gave to order to set it on fire, and thereby saving the citizens of Thronefast.  She fought on behalf of the king with none other than the fallen god Ossari himself, and her death was invalidated by the supreme idiocy of Amensol who, instead of spending that time ushering his people to safety, died not so much at the hand of Ossari, but from an extreme case of hubris,”

             The young man chuckled at the remark.  It was only about two moons ago when the Thronefast memorial was held.  Some pilgrimaged all the way to the Silent Sanctum where Avendyr had made memorial stones to remember the lives lost in battle.  Others participated in the memorial with a day of fasting, followed by a festival which started the following morning that symbolized the time of desolation before the eventual victory over Ossari and the feast that followed.  People would recite pieces of speeches given by Amensol over the years, and older folks would tell stories of the war and the king.  The young man had picked up on the fact that King Avendyr went out of his way to make the most out of his father’s legacy, naming the capitol after the throne, naming the mountain pass leading to the capitol after himself.  If Amensol’s ego was anything like his son’s, he got that joke without needing to know him.

             Kole noticed a smile from the man sitting across from him; it was the first time since he sat down.  There was something about his easy, nonchalant smile that reminded Kole of his mother, the one who should have been celebrated during Thronefast Memorial.

             “So, I went to live with Allistan at my family’s estate in the central plains near the foundations of Havensong. Under different circumstances, it would have been a perfect life.”

     

             “You’re not riding in a parade, Kole!  Stop trying to keep your back straight,” Allistan yelled from outside the corral.  He had fitted Kole’s hook with a bushing that held a bow to the end of his arm.  Kole had been practicing for a few hours per week hitting targets from horseback, one if his mother’s specialties.  Generally, in sport or war, proper posture was key to success, but the whole body had to work as a spring to even out the jolts of riding on the back of a speeding horse.  This meant that the proper posture was none at all.

             “Get loose, get loose,” Allistan chimed in again.

             Kole reached back into his quiver hooked to the side of the saddle for easy access.  He was very good at nocking his arrows on the move, but absorbing enough of the pounding to keep his aim straight had proved much more difficult than his mother had made it look. He let another arrow fly. The grass in front of the hay bale. Kole yelled in frustration.

             “If I get any looser, I’m going to fall out of my saddle, Allistan!” the 16-year old said.

             “Fine,” sighed Allistan.  “Ten more shots and come in the house for dinner.”

             Allistan walked the short distance from the stables to the house, removed his muddy boots, and stepped inside.

             The estate of Carinna’s parents had been a labor of love.  They had worked diligently in the early years of the arrival of humans on Terminus and King Amensol had repaid them with the resources necessary to build a home for themselves.  And Carinna’s father did not do anything halfway.  Stone walled stables, workshops, and a simple yet elegant home lined the front edge of the property.  Several pens separated the pasture land behind that stretched far into the distance.  Kole trotted his horse over to one of the stables and put his gear away.  He led the horse out to one of the pastures and released it to join the herd grazing under the evening sun.

             Kole headed b ack toward the house and had rounded the front fence when he heard the bell at the entrance to the property.  Someone was announcing their arrival.  Kole’s grandfather had installed a large bell down the path at the edge of their property as a way to signal peaceful visitors in order to limit the tension that came with knocking and rustling at the door.  There had been very few times since humans arrived in Terminus where one could be at ease.

             Kole looked down the path and noticed the banner first; crimson with a fighting lion.  It was the King’s banner.  The rider approached the house at a cantor.  It wasn’t the King approaching.

             “Lorn!” Kole exclaimed, running to meet him.  The general of the army of men was an infrequent visitor but Kole’s favorite person from Thronefast.

             “Kole,” Lorn shot back. “Don’t think! No time!”  Lorn threw some cloth into the air he had pulled out of a satchel.  Kole quickly paced off a few feet and, in one smooth motion, slid his dagger from its sheath and flicked it toward the flying target. It hit center mass and handle first as he had intended.  The cloth fell heavily to the ground as Kole ran over to greet his old friend.

             “So good to see you’re practicing, boy,” Lorn said, wrapping his arms around the young man who seemed to look more like his father every visit.

             Kole raced to retrieve his dagger and held up the cloth it was wrapped up in.  It was a heavy and ornately trimmed tunic, a deep blue flirting with black.  Around its collar were embroidered symbols, a white line that grew larger on its end, and at the tip it widened to engulf a red circle.  The symbol repeated around the entire collar.  Kole admired the handiwork for a moment and handed it back to Lorn.

             “No, Kole, this shirt is for you,” Lorn said smiling at Kole.  He placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder.  “These shirts were recently ordered special for this year’s Memorial.  One is to be given to each surviving soldier who fought at the Sanctum.  I wanted to give yours to you in person, for valor above and beyond your calling.”

             Kole’s eyes widened. “I wasn’t a soldier, but I’ll take it.  Thank you so much,” he replied.

             “Well, you might as well have been.  You have the battle scars to show for it!”  Lorn grabbed Kole’s right arm and held up the stub left after his hand and wrist were taken during the final battle when he was ten.  Kole always felt comfortable around Lorn since he went out of his way to make his missing member seem so natural and insignificant. Someone who wouldn’t think twice about grabbing someone’s arm would generally withdraw at the thought of grabbing an arm that was missing its hand, as if it were any different.  It made Kole feel so at ease.

             Allistan stepped out of the house and hollered at the guest a good 40 paces from the front door.

             “Oh, no!” Allistan cried.  “Don’t tell me there’s been a drafting.  If I’m being called back into service, I want a job at a writing desk!”

             Lorn stepped through the gate and met Allistan halfway between the house and his horse, who was being led out to the stables by Kole for feeding and unpacking.  Lorn generally stayed the night after taking the long trek to their house from Thronefast.

             “How are you, my friend,” Lorn said, embracing Allistan.  The two stood there for a moment reminiscing quietly to themselves at the sight of their fellow war hero.

             “Well, don’t just stand around,” Allistan finally said, “Come in.  Just like you to show up just in time for an evening meal.”

             Allistan turned his head and shouted at the side of the house,” Kole! Finish up and come inside for supper!”

            

             Lorn leaned back in his chair at the table and wiped some crumbs from his short, manicured beard. The meal truly was fit for a king with roasted beef, root vegetables, and local fruits.  Kole’s family’s ranch was a money maker, needing very little staff and some of the best horse trainers among men and elves.  Coupled with farming some local produce, Kole would never be in want as long as his inheritance was handled wisely.

             “So,” Allistan smiled faintly at Lorn; it was the look of politeness given to soften a coming blow.  “I imagine that presents and a wont to escape city life is not all that’s brought you here... General.”

             Lorn understood the chide remark from Allistan referring to him as general, assuming he was here on state business. “It’s not like that, Allistan.  I promise,” Lorn answered.

             Kole knew what happened when politics came up in this household.  “Well, I really should go feed the horses and put out the lamps. Excu-“

             “No, Kole,” Allistan said. “Just stick around for a little.  You’re old enough to take part in these discussions. Go on, Lorn.”

             “Just so we are clear, this is not the only reason I came here today,” Lorn protested. “I do hate living in the city day after day.  I come back between wars overseas and return not to a plowshare, but to training for more war.”  Lorn paused for a second before continuing.

             “There’s a problem at the King’s Hall,” Lorn said in low tones. Allistan looked away and sighed, trying to convey an apathy toward all things Avendyr.  “As you know, Minister Narian Castigue has been in the King’s Hall now for almost a full year. His research into the ancient Dragon writings had caused quite a stir as more political powers heard rumors of their survival. The stories seem more outlandish every day.”

             “Well, like what?” Kole inserted, having his interest piqued by the though of outlandish stories.

             “Well, there’s a rumor going around now that Narian had been invited by the God King of the Dwarves himself, Lord Khazas, to accompany him on a quest to seek out one of the Royal Dragons to inquire about the research.” Kole’s eyes widened.  “Rumor is that Narian stood in a mystical cave and spoke to the dragon directly, confronted it and walked away with unknown powerful information.”

             “What a load of rubbish,” Allistan said, rolling his eyes.  “That tale has been around for a few years now and gets more outlandish every time that pompous egomaniac opens his mouth.  The original story was told to his companion, Elder Greyborne from the Elven Council.  He had been allowed to sleep in a stock room  while researching in Khadassa.  He couldn’t get a real room since all the dwarves took him for a nut.  The stock room where he stayed had a secret passage which, as  it happened that night, was actually traveled by Khazas.”

             “So he really did have an adventure with Khazas? Wow…” Kole remarked.

             “No, he didn’t.  He was awakened when Khazas and a companion of his burst through the hidden door.  Apparently, Narian spoke of his research and Khazas told him he had learned nothing of the Dragon Accord from a dragon he had met recently.  Once the door was shut, Narian could not reopen to see where it went.  Narian may be a researcher by trade, but he is a natural fabricator of events.”

             “True or not,” Lorn spoke up, “he has captured the ears of many who believe at least some of his claims.  He’s a herald while drunk, spouting all manner of wild things about his research which are finding themselves out in the public square, then beyond.”

             Allistan swore under his breath.  “I happened to be there when the initial discoveries were made showcasing the power of the Dragon tongue.  You do need to fear this threat, Lorn.  The king doesn’t know what power he is flirting with or the consequences of opening the box.”

             “Why is what Narian is doing so bad?” Kole asked.  It seemed to him that some great power that we have would be a good thing for men.

             “Follow it out to its logical conclusions, Kole,” Allistan said, leaning back in his chair and folding his arms.  “Avendyr is seeking power; a power not presently known to any other that we know of.  Other leaders learn of this, formulate opinions.  Do we join with Men?  Do we race to get the information ourselves? Do we take what Men have?  Do we eliminate the threat while we can?”

             “We are already into this step,” Lorn interrupted. “Avendyr has been making many state calls, providing my men as mercenaries to other leaders to assist with their battles.  He has been setting up trade deals, proposing treaties.  He is building a coalition of favored nations that can help with pieces of Narian’s puzzle.  Some are not even aware of the chess match being played.  They are blindly accepting the gifts from Avendyr as just good will, and he is winning them over.  You know how charismatic he can be.”

             “So, you see, Kole,” Allistan continued, “the level of your perception shapes the way you see the world.  One sees a gracious king seeking peace and mutual respect from his neighbors.  Another sees a tyrant, trying to build an army to take over those unworthy or unwilling to join his cause.  And another, reading the context of both sides, sees an oblivious ruler stumbling about in the dark after his own ambitions, failing to see outcomes of his decisions.”  Lorn sat in silence, having worked this issue out for himself before ever leaving on this trip.  Allistan continued, “He will build a coalition of nations while leaving others out.  Others see him gaining stature and searching for a magical power greater than any other nation.  This now pits one coalition against rogue nations who now feel banding together is the best option.  This leads to a total world war, again, not from an outside threat as the Ravaging Lord brought, but neighbor state against neighbor state, when none are safe, where all villages and hovels are now battlefields.  And all this for a blind quest for a power you don’t even understand.  And this is why the fool, Narian Castigue, must be stopped.”

             A silence fell on the room for a moment where all let the weight of the issue sink in.

             Lorn finally spoke up.  “As much as I feel this is weighty enough, this is not even what has been on my mind and is partially the reason for my visit.”

             Lorn pushed back from the table and stood.  Kole’s eyes were fixed on Lorn, pacing back and forth by the table as Lorn tried to find the words he needed to solicit Allistan.

             “Come on, my friend.  News doesn’t age well,” Allistan said, smirking and trying to ease his old companion.

             “Avendyr’s moves have reached the ears of would be enemies.”

             “Ugh,” Allistan sighed into his hands, playing in his mind where this was headed.

             “I have received some intelligence from one of our sources,” Lorn continued, “and they have reported the presence of a known assassin heading cross country toward Thronefast.”

             “Who is he?” Kole asked.

             Allistan waved his hand at Kole, not wanting him to interrupt with little details like that.  “It could be any number of groups, most likely Red Raven. Go on, Lorn.”

             “A coded note was covertly read that belonged to the assassin that we believe are instructions to eliminate Avendyr and Narian at the King’s Hall.”

             Allistan looked up from the table at Lorn who was leaning over a chair, weighing down on Allistan.

             “Wait,” Kole spoke up again, shooting out of his chair in his new found adult zeal. “Why doesn’t the King’s Guard just maintain a constant presence around the King.  We have plenty of soldier to keep them safe, don’t we?”

             Lorn was still watching Allistan for reaction, and Allistan finally spoke up, “They can’t, boy.  If they show they know of the conspiracy, those involved will go into hiding, find new ways to operate in the shadows.  We lose the advantage.  If we suddenly build up a contingency around the king, that also signals other allies and/or enemies that we are about to act on something others will not appreciate and could start the beginning of the end.”

             “This must be handled with discretion, Kole,” Lorn said firmly. He looked back at Allistan. “My friend, I trust no one else.  You have been out of the light for so long.  You would set off no signals of any kind.”

             “You know the oath I swore to myself…”

             “I am pleading with you, Allistan.”

             “…that I would not set foot in that city of deception…”

             “You are my best option and you know it.”

             “…and I will not fight for that king anymore!”

             “Do it for you people, Allistan!”

             “THE PEOPLE GET NO MORE OF ME!” Allistan shouted at Lorn.

             Kole was too uncomfortable to take his eyes off of the floor in front of him.

             “Lorn,” Allistan said quietly, “I have given everything I am willing to give to this king and to these people.  You know.  You know I will not do this.”

             Lorn looked at him, defeated. “You know I had to try.”

             Allistan felt the weight that his friend carried.  Allistan considered his choice to leave the King’s Council and all its glory a noble cause, but he knew that Lorn’s decision to stay also was noble, not wanting to abandon his troops or the ones he had fought so hard to protect.  As much as he knew Avendyr’s path would eventually lead to war, he also knew that Avendyr’s assassination would also lead to war.

             Allistan finally rose from his chair while the other two watched for his reaction.

             “Kole,” Allistan said in a commanding tone, “bring me gray satchel from you know where.”

             Kole’s eyes lit up.  “Are you serious!?” Kole exclaimed with a shocked look on his face.

             “Go.  Lorn, I imagine that this act is close to fruition?”

             Lorn looked confused. “Well, actually, yes.  I… have to be ready by tomorrow night. What is in the gray satchel?”

             Allistan was standing over his desk, pouring over some papers in a drawer.  He pulled out a large one and spread it out on the desktop.  Lorn shifted his direction and noticed it was a blueprint for the King’s Hall, complete with all floors, rooms and windows.

             “What? What is this? Where did you even get this?” Lorn said, partly petrified and partly impressed.

             Allistan was already across the room pulling a small plank from the wall behind a small drawered table.  He pulled out a small sliver of paper and took it back over to the desk and laid it down next to the blueprints.  Lorn only saw scribbles on this piece of paper, a script unrecognizable to him.

             “Got it!” Kole said, crashing back through the front door.  Lorn ducked out of the way of the satchel as Kole threw it across the room to Allistan, who caught it in stride to the dining table.  He cleared one end of the table with a wide swing of his arm, pushing all the dishes to the center.

             The satchel was thrown onto the table and Allistan fished out a rather ugly brownish black overcoat.  He turned it over and stretched the fabric on the back as tight as he could.  Lorn noticed what appeared to be white dust on the back of one of the shoulders.

             “Here!” Kole shouted from across the room, digging through a drawer.  Allistan raised his hand even before looking and caught the piece of chalk Kole retrieved from the drawer.  Allistan went back to the desk and picked up the small piece of paper that had been hidden in the wall and threw it down on the coat.

             “Can someone please explain what is going on?” Lorn said, struggling to keep up with the flurry of activity around him.  Kole came over and leaned over the table.

             Allistan took the chalk and placed the tip on the back of the shoulder.  He slowly and intentionally began redrawing the symbol on the piece of paper.  As he drew it, Lorn could hear him mumbling to himself a single word over and over, but in no language he could place.  The character’s last stroke was written and a breeze picked up the coat seemingly from underneath, and if Allistan’s hand hadn’t been on top of it, it would have blown clear to the ceiling.  And in an instant the breeze faded.

             “Allistan,” Lorn said staring at the strange happenings, “what is going on?”

             “Lorn, I have a solution to your problem. Both of you sit down.”

             Kole and Lorn both slid back into their chairs at the table as Allistan struggled over his decision.

             “Lorn, I have not been into Thronefast ever, in protest for Carinna, my love.  Kole, on the other hand, has.”

             Lorn looked over at Kole, then up at Allistan, still utterly confused.

             Allistan grabbed some dark chalk and his blueprints and laid them on the table after sliding the mysterious cloak to Kole.

             “I have been following Narian’s research much closer than you probably are aware.  I have a few, um, busybodies in my employ working in the employment of Narian.  I  also may have sent Kole… a time or two… to fetch some items that were… difficult to acquire.”

             Lorn snapped his head back and forth at Kole, who was smiling largely, and Allistan who was not.

             “Narian’s research has led to the realization that certain words in the High Dragon dialect, along with their spoken counterparts, imbue certain magical qualities on items in varying fashion.  Take the cloak, for example.  I have worked out by various means that by writing the High Dragon word for ‘peace’ and uttering it, the item bearing the mark will make little to no sound and have little effect on the objects that it come in contact with.”

             Kole, still smiling, took the coat he was holding and threw it at the dishes piled at the other end of the table.  It tumbled as it normally would across the tabletop, but made no sound and the only item on the table that moved was a tall pepper shaker that wobbled slightly as the coat fell off the end of the table.  Lorn looked on, amazed.  He’d never seen magic quite like this before.  Generally, incantations had a much less effect and at great physical effort from the one performing the incantation.  This required no effort seemingly from Allistan and was very potent in its effect.

             “Narian knows about this?” Lorn said, grasping the weight of the potential of this new found power.

             “As I mentioned, Kole has rescued a few items from the drawers of Narian’s study. A time or two. You can guess that such a cloak, which when worn passes along its properties to the wearer, would be most useful in the clandestine arts.  Kole happens to have a knack for such things... it would seem.”  Allistan put his hand on his hip and tried to brush it off, but still not quite looking Lorn in the eye.

             “So what does any of this have to do with the King?” Lorn said, trying his best to overlook the obvious crimes of his two friends.

             "You must swear to me that the knowledge of this plan must not leave our conversation.  You cannot alert a soul if this is to work properly, Lorn," Allistan warned. Allistan looked over at Kole.  This time, Allistan’s face carried an empathetic heaviness to it, a weight on his brow that took the smile from Kole’s face.

             “Kole, I have loved you like my own son.  I have trained you like you were Carinna’s and Honnai’s son, trying to make them proud of the warrior they would have raised you to be.”  Allistan knelt down beside Kole’s chair and put his hand on his shoulder.

             “I have tried to instill modesty and compassion in you.  But those are virtues of peace.  War has different virtues, Kole.  Even when defending your home, wrath and violence are your garments. You must fill your heart with fire, understand.  You had a fire in you already, years ago.  Bring it out now.” Allistan’s eyes grew soft as he stared at the young man before him and thought of the young boy who had cried in his arms many times thinking of his mother.  He had taught him to honor her memory in his honor and commitment.  This time, he needed him to honor her memory in service to their people.

             Lorn looked at the inspired Kole, so confident and strong.  With his skills, he completely forgot most of the time about his handicap. “Kole,” Lorn said, cutting in.  “I want you to know, when you are ready, you have a place at my side in the army of Men.”

             Kole had been torn for some time over his family’s commitment to the men of Terminus and Allistan’s defiance of its leadership.  He understood Allistan’s complaints about corrupting power, but his love for his mother and her devotion to her soldiers was one of his strongest memories, and he would not betray that devotion.  “I’ll be ready, Lorn,” Kole said, and looked back at Allistan. “It’s time I took my place.”  And Kole turned to the map in front of him and received instruction from Allistan.

     

             “Yeah,” the young man said to Kole,” sounds like a real slice of paradise growing up at the ol’ farm.  So, what? You decided it was so wonderful growing up without your parents as some back breaking farmhand, you wanted to pass the experience down to me? Is that it?”

             Kole had been waiting for that, and yet he wasn’t ready for it when it was said out loud. He dropped his head for just a moment, realized his weakness, and raised his stare back up to his son.

             “Your mother was better off without me.  She was a tough woman, good soldier, but the paths our lives took diverged shortly after you were born,” Kole said.  “There’s a burden, a curse, on our family that comes in the form of sacrifice for the greater good.  We all run from it and yet somehow it finds us wherever we are.  Once your mother died, I set you up with the assets I had acquired from my family, sent you to a place far away from the capitol and all the evil that accompanies it to live a peaceful life on the eastern coast.”

             “No. Actually, what happened was I was taken from everything I knew and dumped with an old man in the middle of nowhere.  At least I no longer care why you didn’t want me.  I know now that you’re a messed up old man with grandiose dillusions and I’m so glad I wasn’t raised by you.”

             Kole nodded at the young man, granting the notion. “You’re right. I had no idea what I was thinking.  Tell me something, Kador, son of Kole, son of Honnai.  Do you know how to ride?”

             Kador looked back at him, obviously not as uncaring as he was making himself out to be that his father abandoned him.  Before he had a chance to answer, Kole pressed again.

             “Do you know how to fight?” Kole asked in an almost taunting tone.  “Are you stronger than your peers?  Are your reflexes heightened due to the work you have endured? Do you dream of adventure and welcome conflict like an old friend?”

             Kole sat there as his estranged son stewed on the questions for a moment.

             “You may think,” Kole continued, “that your life has been a series of horrible mishaps or bad luck and blind chance, but I can assure you… nothing is further from the truth. Your life, my young son, has a purpose.”

             Kole listened to his own words to Kador, but they seemed to be aimed at himself just as much.  He stared across the room, busy with ordinary people living their ordinary lives in their ordinary towns with their ordinary families.  He pitied them. But, he wanted so much to be one.


    This post was edited by benonal at July 26, 2020 9:24 PM PDT
    • 351 posts
    July 31, 2020 5:37 AM PDT

    Another worthy addition to your story! Narian being perceived in that way is really interesting and adds a sense of time and place to the story. Keep up the great work! 

    • 97 posts
    August 2, 2020 8:39 PM PDT
    Yeah in the lore the only one who tells about Marian is Marian which lends itself to a rosier portrayal than it could be. Same goes for the king. The Victor's write the textbooks right? BTW part four is posted.