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For there are many unruly. MyMemory - Machine translation meets human translation. Letter 2, pg. 4 Quote 2: "we are unfashioned creatures, but half made up, if one.
My grandmother accidentally baptized my younger brother to get him to stop lying. I'm afraid, it did much more than that.
My younger brother Jimmy, though- he kept being a brat. Grandma’s Hellish tales amused him, he called those stories ‘bullshit’ straight to her face. Even cussing aside, he, and his best-friend Davey, never ceased from making trouble. Jimmy and Davey would chop off my dolls’ pigtails, pluck fruits off the neighbors’ trees, chase the stray dogs away with sticks and stones- essentially, they did all the things Grandma Verona didn’t approve of.
Suffice to say, she’d get mad. Never laid a finger on Davey, but after each one of their antics, she’d welcome my brother back home with some crude punishment or another. Spank him on the rear with her long bamboo cane, shut him up in the attic for half-day, make him scrub the toilets- you know? Classic, old-people, punishment stuff. Made me watch, too, probably to send a message. But watching my brat little brother succumb and squeal in fear only made me giggle.
Later, she’d make up for her crassness with a nice, pancake dinner for the two of us. She’d serve them with warm hugs and forehead kisses that’d make us both happy. Shortly after, Jimmy would revert to his insufferable ways. And that’s how the cycle kept running.
Of course, it had to stop someday.
That day came when Jimmy nibbled off a leg-piece of the Thanksgiving dinner turkey Grandma and I had prepped. When confronted, he lied- which only riled her more. Riled me too- we had worked hard on stuffing and decorating the bird, and frankly, I was getting a little sick of my 9-year-old brother’s misbehavior. Not as sick as Grandma, though- she had conjured a rather cruel, novel punishment for my brat brother.
Jimmy didn’t seem much scared when Grandma gripped his hands. But once he realized where we were headed to, he started flailing wild. You see, my brother, literally, never showered. Claimed that the water clogged his ears real bad, made him feel like drowning or something. We both knew it was just one of his white lies- Grandma never made much of a fuss about it. But at that particular moment, as we dragged my wildly screeching brother to the pond in our backyard, there was something strangely poetic about the whole ordeal.
“Liar, liar, pants on fire. This ought to quell your bad, lying-ways, boy,” she said, before dousing Jimmy’s head in the cold water.
I know- what kind of a monster grandmother tries to waterboard her grandson? And what a shitty sister I must have been to support her! Well, as far as my 10-year-old-self knew back then- Grandma was just trying to pour some reverence into his thick skull. She was smiling, after all- she had to be knowing what she was doing. At some point, she pulled him back up, and he made shrieking sounds like a girl. Sounds cruel, but hearing his shrill, effeminate, squeals- they made me chuckle. Believe me, Jimmy had been super irksome lately. It was nasty, the way he and Davey had ripped my beloved Dolly’s blue hair to shreds… he had this one coming. So I continued enjoying the music of his shrills, as Grandma kept his head-dunks flowing.
It wasn’t until his screams stopped that we realized we might have gone a bit too far.
Grandma pulled him back, but he had stopped flailing. She shook him vigorously- I did too- but he wouldn’t just stir. Five whole minutes of shaking later, we tried CPR. Half expecting Jimmy to open his mischievous blue eyes, and yell ‘Gotcha!’ at our anxious faces.
He stayed silent, though. Grandma checked his pulse. That too, refused to answer.
Jimmy was gone.
The mere sight of my formerly nimble-footed brother just lying at the pond-side- bloat-faced, unmoving and silent, warded off all pragmatism out of my head. Fear and terror had gripped my head- so much so that the thought of alerting the meds didn’t even pass my mind. Grandma Verona probably felt the same as I did- except that she had an extra, emotional baggage of guilt to deal with. “Jimmy, Jimmy, don’t you try pulling one over your Grandma now. Wake up!” That’s all she kept saying, crying- until her voice broke down.
Minutes flowed like hours, but we just sat there silent, contemplating our next move, still waiting for the grief to wash over us. Grandma Verona finally shifted, possibly getting up to break the news to my father. I did too.
And then, the pond started to bubble.
Grandma turned her head with a jolt. I followed her suit. And then we both faced the creature that emerged from the water.
A human-like, female creature- what with her long flowing white tresses, lilac gown, fair-skin, and whatnot. Her pitch-black eyes were what lent her an otherworldly appearance.
Even before we could react, she spoke- her voice as alluring as a siren.
“Say, I think you just dropped your little Jimmy in the water. He doesn’t happen to this Jimmy, does he now?”
As she finished, as if on cue, another entity bobbed up to the surface. Except, this was no other, otherworldly entity, no! The matted, blonde hair, the slight-tanned skin, the dreamy blue eyes that reflected a lost innocence.
This entity we were facing… it was our Jimmy!
Grandma Verona seemed to be choking on her words. The lady from the water must have noticed her dilemma, so she turned her eyes on me. “Well, little Rosy? Is this your Jimmy?”
Child minds are wild. I couldn’t think of alerting the medics when I needed to, but at that moment, as I was that pond-lady charged me with her question, my mind wandered off to one of the stories I had heard my Grandma tell at Church. The story of The Woodcutter, and his wooden ax.
“Well…no.” I began. “Jimmy never combed his hair. And his shirt wasn’t neatly tucked in his pants. And…”
I wasn’t just being earnest for the sake of it. Something about this Jimmy- it didn’t seem right. His blue eyes didn’t have any of that mischief I had come to associate with my brother. Child minds know a stranger when they see them- and this boy in the pond? He was one of ‘em.
The pond-lady frowned. “This is not your Jimmy? Well… now that’s a shame! This boy here kept begging me to take him back to his Grandma Verona and little Rosy. A no-good liar, that’s what he is! Well so long, then, I- ”
Grandma slapped a palm over my mouth, “Oh that is our dear Jimmy, alright! Rosy here, she is being naughty. Children these days- always trying to pull one over us oldies, ain’t I correct?” Her voice had an eerie calmness. “Oh, you no good Jimmy boy! Won’t quit horsing ‘round, would you? Ah, but it’s all forgiven. Say, how would you and little Rosy like a plate of one of ‘em hot pancakes, eh?”
Pond-lady smiled. “Go on, then, Jimmy. Won’t keep you waiting on your Grandma's pancakes now, would I?”
Jimmy smiled and silently walked over to the surface. With her job seemingly done, the pond lady dove back into the water. Grandma Verona walked over and hugged him, telling her how sorry she was. She then ruffled both our hair and walked us in the house for her pancakes. I cast one look back at the pond’s edge where, not too long ago, my real brother lay unconscious.
Nothing. I saw no body.
“None of us gon’ talk about anything that happened today,” Grandma Verona’s whispering voice had an icy-edge in my ears. “Am I clear?”
I nodded. We had Jimmy back. That was all that mattered.
A week passed, but Grandma Verona no longer gave Jimmy a hard time. But I doubt it had anything to do with what we weren’t supposed to remember. This Jimmy, who had resurfaced from the pond- he said all his prayers before we dined, studied his class lessons every night, and even helped Grandma and me with the dinner. “It’s like he has been baptized!”, Grandma would playfully tease once she’d hymned him to sleep.
As a rather gullible, ten-year-old girl, I was unsure what to make of the whole, ‘baptized’ brother situation. Now and then, as I looked him on the table, finishing all his green-peas and vegetables without complaining, I’d get a strange feeling in my head. Something was awry, I knew it. But then again, I had no wishes of going against Grandma Verona’s words. I was, after all, still scared that disobeying her would damn me to Hell.
Eventually, though, I let my guard down, when my brother birthday-gifted me a cute, blue, woolen-wig for my bald Dolly’s head. “Stitched it all by myself. Nicked my finger,” he showed.
“Well, now, bro!” I squealed over a hug. “What’s the idea behind this sudden change into the best brother ever?”
He smiled. “You are good, Rosy. You pray to Jesus, you don’t cuss. I just like good people, I can trust them,” he patted me on the back. “Stay good. Stay honest, Rosy. Always.”
Eleven-year-old me smiled and hugged him back, failing to take note of the red flags that were popping up. But I did, eventually.
One morning, as I was leaving for my choir-practice, I caught a glimpse of Davey’s wild giggles coming from Jimmy’s room. Had been quite a while since I had seen the two monkeying around like they did. Who cared, though- boys are weird anyway. I wished Grandma good-morning and left for my practice.
I returned in the afternoon, tagging my choir-mate Nancy along with me. But when we entered my room, Jimmy was sitting on my bed. His chum Davey stood next to him.
“Jimmy, what the- ”
“Don’t say it, Rosy! This is a holy house, we don’t spew vulgarities around here.”
Nancy gave me a quizzical look. “Jimmy,” I asked, “what are you and Davey doing in my room?”
“Davey has something to tell you, sister.”
I looked at Davey, standing still as a rock, his eyes facing the hard-wood floor. “What is it that you wanna say?”
“I’m sorry for ruining your Dolly, Rosy. I sinned- but do not worry, for I have atoned adequately,” he looked up to face me. Something about his eyes, though…seemed off. “But I still do need to know that I’m worthy of your forgiveness, Rose Matthews. Am I?”
“Umm…yes, I forgive you,” I said, perplexed. “You two can leave now.”
Which they did. But not before Davey looking back and saying, “Thank you, Rosy. It takes an angel’s hearts to bless former sinners like me.” He shut the door.
Nancy teased me that Davey was trying to flirt. I smiled, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling of something not being quite right.
Nancy was going to spend the evening, so we had a lot of fun games planned up. After a while, though, we got bored of playing Hasbro’s Sorry. That’s when Nancy came up with the fun idea of prank-calling our classmates.
I won’t bore you with the cheesy details; Nancy dialed one of our dorky classmates named Travis Penn, and lied that she wanted to date him. Much to our amusement, Travis couldn’t see through our ruse, and ended up confirming the next weekend free. Soon after hanging up, we burst into a squeaky school-girl laughter. We were just prepping for fake-ordering a pizza, when a domineering voice startled us.
“How does it please you to shatter someone’s weak heart with a lie?”
We looked over. Jimmy was standing at the doorway, his arms crossed. “Jesus, Jimmy, you scared us. God, what is up with you today?”
“Do not take the Lord’s name in vain, Rosy. Lest you want to end up like your sinner friend here,” his fingers were pointed at Nancy.
“Give it a rest, Reverend Douchebag!” Nancy hit back. We both giggled. Jimmy left, prompting us to laugh louder.
Night came soon after, and Nancy and I soon drifted off in my room. Midway through my sleep, a faint splashing sound woke me up. You know how scenes like this work- Rubbed my eyes, didn’t find Nancy in her sleeping-bag, wondered where she was, heard another splash, looked at the window- yada, yada, yada, right? I’ll straight skip to what I saw from the window.
I saw Jimmy, trying to hold down a struggling body against the pond’s water surface. Even before I could call any names, the struggle ended, and the limp body sank into the water. Seconds later, it rose on the surface, her face visible this time.
My heart froze, as I watched my brother hand Nancy some towels to wipe herself. After she was done, they did a small bow-down at the pond’s edge, before heading back indoors.
I would’ve rushed to Grandma that very instant, were it not for Nancy quietly opening the door to my room. And for as naive as I was, something in my head advised me against confronting her at this hour of the night.
“Let angels bless your dream, Rose Matthews,” I heard Nancy say.
Winter solstice had just passed, but in my eleven years growing up, that was, undoubtedly, the longest night of my life.
I bid ‘Nancy’ a quick farewell the next morning- which wasn’t hard to do, considering she had to ‘bask the Lord’s glory in Church’. First time in my four years of knowing her I had heard her say something like that. Soon after she left, I bolted for Grandma’s room.
“Grandma, wake up! There’s something seriously wrong going on with our pond!”
“Jesus H Christ, Rosy, can’t you give me- wait, what did ya say about the pond?”
I told her everything, opinionating as much as my young brain had been able to process. This ‘baptized’ Jimmy who was living as my brother- he was pious. Otherworldly pious, so much so that he’d resort to purify everything uncouth around him. By drowning those said uncouth objects in our backyard-pond- trading them off for the pious entities the Pond-Lady had to offer. Had made two, human trades already- Davey, and Nancy- and unless we addressed the matter, that toll would only keep rising.
Grandma Verona stayed silent for the longest while, before uttering, “You are just jealous that Jesus loves him more than he does you, ain’t ya? And he does, Rosy, let me be clear about that. Jesus doesn’t as much bat a second eye for jealous, crazy girls like you! Talking all non-sense about your own, little brother! And what did I tell you about the pond? Honest to God, girl, you have…”
What had I been thinking? Of course, she wouldn’t help! It was up to me to stop my brother. I grabbed Grandma’s mobile-phone off her counter, barely managing to avoid her grip as I shut the door to her room. Call, Jerome (her son, my Daddy). No Signal. Obviously. I had to think on my feet. Outdoor reception was better out in the backyard. So that’s where I rushed.
The call connected, and just started to ring when a pair of hands snatched the phone off my hands. “Grandma, please, you know this is real, we cannot- ”
“I valued your honesty, Rosy. Why would you ever betray me?”
I turned, adrenaline coursing wild through my heart. It wasn’t Grandma Verona. It was my little brother.
“Jimmy, please, stop what you’re doing. This isn’t you- drowning innocent people, this- ”
“You’re da- oh, dear Lord, pardon me- you are darn right, Rose. I am not the Jimmy who kept tormenting the world with his unholy, Christ defying shenanigans and whatnot. I am, something much better, something this world desperately needed. And so were you. You, Rosy- we didn’t need to drown you to cleanse you of any sins. Loyal, honest, loving- you were perfect, Rosy. I guess that’s where you faltered, sister. I should’ve known. Even the perfect match burns out someday. But that’d be a shame, now, wouldn’t it?” An ice-cold grin on his face. “How about we douse you instead?”
I was dumb; dumb enough to have walked right into Jimmy’s watery trap. I was weak; so weak, that I was unable to resist my two-year-younger brother’s vice-grip on my neck as he pushed me in the pond’s chilling water. And as my head descended the chilling, water-surface, I could see the Pond-lady, purity brimming in her pitch-black eyes, as she held up the holy, dead-eyed version of me, Rose Matthews, who would join Jimmy, Davey, and Nancy, to make this world a much better place. She smiled at me- this Rosy- a smile benign of any happiness. That is when I realized.
She. Was. Perfect.
The shortness of breath soon started to drown out my consciousness. I could feel the other Rosy’s palms on my face, sinking me deeper, and deeper, as she tried to make her way up to the surface. Jimmy’s grip was still iron-strong on the other side, drowning out the final bits of my unholy life out in the muddy water. I could feel her now, the other me, just about to raise her head above the water, replacing me for good. I had no choice but to accept- not with my brother’s strangle over my near-dead body.
A loud-gunshot broke me off my swift-flowing train of thoughts. I felt the plunging grip on my neck loosen, soon replaced by a tug that pulled me out of the water. The breath of hot-pancakes filled in my conscience- just like the ones Grandma Verona used to bake us after a day of Jimmy’s insufferable antics.
Slowly, and slowly, my eyes opened. Vision cleared. A young body floated on the pond’s surface. Grandma Verona was facing me, a pistol aimed right at her left temple.
“I’m sorry, Rosy. It’s all my fault. Unholy souls like me have no right to live. But you- Rose Matthews- you are one honest, and holy soul,” a sad smile on her face. Tears in her eyes. “Always stay that way.”
My screams of ‘NO’ were cut short by an ear-deafening gunshot as Grandma blew her brains off. The sound of her limp body splashing on the pond punctuating her sentence.
I sat there, head leaning against a tree, half-crying, half-coughing the water out of my lungs, as I watched my brother and grandmother’s corpses sink into the pond. Seconds later, the surface bubbled, and I was greeted by the Pond-Lady, holding up Grandma and Jimmy’s bodies by the hair.
“Say, Rosy. An old woman and a young boy just dropped by my waters. They don’t- they don’t happen to look anything like ‘em, unholy bodies over here,” the dead faces gaped with their open mouths at me. “Do they?”
I screamed, and dashed back into the house, the Pond-Lady’s sickening cackle accelerating my steps.
Daddy returned home that same evening, found me shivering in my room. Heard my story, called the cops to recover all the bodies from the pond. Sure they were skeptical, what with an eleven-year-old girl constantly telling that some Pond-lady took the corpses with her. Still, on my repeated insistence, they didn’t send in any divers, and just used manual machinery for the process. They didn’t find no corpses.
Neither did they find my fingerprints on Grandma’s gun, so I wasn’t culpable for her or Jimmy’s ‘disappearance’ in any way. A detective brought in both ‘Nancy’ and ‘Davey’ for questioning, so that pretty much refuted my claims of Jimmy ‘drowning’ them. The dead-eyed, friendly looks they gave me as they left the room still gives me chills to this very day.
Daddy moved with me to his office apartment in the city, which is where I spent the next nine years of my life growing up. Before leaving Grandma’s country house, though, we poured a layer of kerosene on the pond’s water, and flicked in a few burning matches. I have have no clue if that destroyed the pond. Heck, I don’t even know if someone bought Grandma’s house. I don’t want to do nothing with that place- neither does Daddy ever force me to. He misses his mother and son a lot- but my therapist discouraged him from prying too much.
“Still sticking with that Pond-Lady story,” I once overheard him say. “ Now I’m not saying she’s lying, but… I believe the lesser we bring those tragic events up, the better.”
Although he does occasionally tell me of what has happened in my old town. “Very uptight, holy, conservative people coming up there, I hear. Davey and Nancy run the Church. Grandma always said they were a wild bunch of kids, didn’t she? Geez, I wonder how they do it.” Not a question I want to think much about.
I graduated law school, and am a practicing attorney now. You know what they say about that kind of job- it’s all about painting lies and half-truths and fact. And I do lie. A lot. But then every night, I seek forgiveness to the holy Lord, thanks to Grandma Verona’s young-age grooming. I’m not perfect, though- sometimes, I forget. And on those nights, as I prepare to immerse myself in the bathtub, I see the water surface foam up in the middle. And then I’m reminded of my late Grandma and my brother- and how a single, white lie cost them their lives. The thought horrifies me, brings back memories of the Pond-Lady’s sickening cackle.
Nights like those are when I grab my Bible from the shelf, and pray to my lord to forgive me for my uncouth lies.
What Makes a Legend
Some had said it made the snow capped peaks, yet Ilith brought together all the Crownlands. Others would claim it made the cold winds blow, yet Ilith had control over the winds of change. Few even suggest it was made from the stars, yet Ilith resides among the constellations of the cosmos. In all things the great wyrm, the Root of Caelmar-Throne in Heaven, is the lesser of the supreme power of our people’s founder.
As a descendent of her line, with blood far more powerful than any beast or monstrosity could hope to rival, am I not then at least its equal? No, I can only be its better! I’ll need to be if we’re to return down from this chilling wind swept snowed covered rocky ascent… I will be!
It was late into the morning when the Pride of Honor granted me permission to undertake my quest. No support being withheld, as sign of this he entrusted me in the care of his 50 attendants and bodyguard retinue who would, up until the mountains themselves, Communion with us 4 Commuters, 10 split between each and 10 remaining as replacement, the bodyguard there to protect them among the mountain lowlands in the case of any attacks while we’re further up among the Uzretag Heights.
All 4 of us ready, we set out from Fort Aenebog shortly before noon. Yet similarly to the Pride of Honor, my 3 companions all came with a form of aid of their own.
Though both Gjerge and Ekinla both questioned Ztigyo’s presence among us, especially seeing as he’s the only unaccustomed among us in fighting beasts and monstrosities. Ztigyo however assured us, though he may not be counted among those of the Tourney of Honor he is still a Magistrate of Virtue, and to show his determination he provided boons. Blessed in the presence of a statue and altar devoted to Ilith, he gave to each of us a charm pendant necklaces, all of them enchanted to relieve strain and improve stamina as well as fend minor wounds. This we accepted graciously, aid of this kind being among those that only the Jury of Virtue is capable of readily providing.
Ekinla, not one to be out shone, presented a plethora of goods prepared prior; her interest and fascination with alcohol not purely for pleasure alone. Providing us with oils for our armament, one for our weapons especially made to pain the cold blooded and one for our armor to fend the effects of temperature, balms to warm the skin and resist cold, lastly potices of numerous improving effects including: pain resistance, internal functioning, muscle response and resilience as well as bone strengthening. Back in our training days under Zvojerka it was always Ekinla who was most apt at chemistry preparations; despite how crude and rough she can sound there was no doubt that she was the most intelligent among us three students.
Gjerge, quite unlike the other two, claimed that him providing us with our simple supplies was enough for him, he didn’t need to do anymore for us. Still, he had made sure to prepare a special draught, an old Zeslurdga spirit not known to many nor widely sold or sought. A swig of it, though strong and unpleasant, will aid breathing which will be much needed among the pinnacles of the Uzretag Heights, Zenith Nembesany.
With the support from not only all 3 of my companions but the Pride of Honor himself we set off from Fort Aenebog among the highlands of the Uzretag Heights. After several hours' travel we finally reached the mountains’ lowlands, with night quickly coming upon us we set our campgrounds alongside the Pride of Honor’s 50 attendants and his bodyguard retinue. Despite seeming so close to the end, all was quiet that night, as though there were not a disturbance in the whole world.
Early in the morning my 3 companions and I readied ourselves to meet my destiny; the Pride of Honor’s 50 attendants settled in to make their Communion split among us. His bodyguard remaining alongside his attendants, they gave their farewells and best of luck as we departed, their tone almost as though they didn’t expect us to return. From then on we’d be able to move much faster with just the 4 of us, so our ascent from the mountain lowlands to and up the mountains themselves began.
Only an hour later in the morning, the change was staggering, the mere presence of the sun was the difference between shivering in the frigid chilling winds as we ascended rocky ground at increasingly steepening angles. Even regardless of the balm’s application, the frozen touch upon us still forced occasional shakes out of our bodies. Yet not a single one of us spoke a word of it, all of this we understood from the beginning, we remain determined, resolute as we path forward.
“I don’t think I’ll want to return to Zeslurdga domain after all this is done…” Gjerge spoke up through the blowing winds’ cold. “If it means never seeing these damn mountains again, I think it’ll be worth it.”
“Your family would be pretty disappointed to hear...” Ekinla noted as we pressed on against frost sweeping breezes. “Isn’t the Uzretag Heights supposed to be in your blood?”
“If it’s not frozen solid by this point.” Ztigyo commented to Gjerge’s barely audible scoff among mountains’ rushing air. “Maybe you’d prefer us set up a campfire somewhere sheltered from the winds. Just to make sure you have all your toes still attached.”
“Like I’d settle down before a Magistrate!” Gjerge retorted bitterly to Ztigyo’s amusement. “You wouldn’t be thinking it’s all too fun if the only food you had up here were your own or your companion’s fingers.”
“Better set up that fire soon then, don’t want you to lose the last of them!” Ekinla laughed aloud to Ztigyo’s snicker as even from behind me I could feel Gjerge’s scowl annoyed. “Maybe I can make us something to dip them in, literal finger food!”
“Will you two stop with the dumb jokes?” I asked back to them, my intervention seeming to have no improvement on Gjerge’s grimace. “We won’t be up here long enough for any of that anyway, we really ought to be preparing ourselves for the summit.”
“What’s there left to prepare? We all understand one another’s roles and capability.” Ztigyo questioned to the others’ nods in agreement. “I guess we haven’t discussed the terrain.”
“Snow.” Gjerge answered simply. “Unlike the heights here that are currently only frost covered rock, the Zenith Nembesany is white cloaked year long. Blood of Ilith, I just hope the damn thing is still up there...”
“We’ve got nothing to worry about, don’t you fret. Well, us from the Tourney don’t at least…” Ekinla stated snickering to herself as she looked smugly to Ztigyo who confused, merely nodded in acknowledgement. “At the base of it we’ll need to free climb; good thing all Honors of the Tourney are trained and experienced climbers, isn’t that right, Lackling?”
“While you all spend an extra decade galavanting about pits and dredges we Magistrates serve the needs of the Crown and its Ilitheen people.” Ztigyo snapped back to Ekinla’s persistent amusement of which he could only sigh and shrug in response. “Thornies wouldn’t be able to understand that sometimes there’s more important things to be done than learning what molds are edible or what texture any particular species’ droppings possess…”
“Important like this?” Gjerge asked with a particularly contemptful tone taking all by surprise. “Or would you say otherwise?”
“This is important!...” Ztigyo replied swiftly, yet his voice almost seemed hesitant to speak further. “Though, it may well be both…”
“It won’t be.” I retorted sharply standing stalwart at the fore staring back to the three who looked up at me with eyes driven yet unsure why that was. “I’ll ensure it.”
The four of us quieted for a time after that, little needing to be said in regard to our own capability, nor that of our foe, all we know of it being only rumor and tale. No strategizing, tactical talk or anything of that nature, all that was said had been. The far heights of the steep cliff faces that is the Zenith Nembesany approached, its shadow and ascent toward the heavens looming over closer with each step.
While it is true that those of the Tourney of Honor are trained in rock climbing whereas the Jury of Virtue is not I do not doubt the capabilities of those around me now. If any could not make it, we’d have already known. So we began our climb up the frost coated freezing wind brushed mountain cliff faces that is the Zenith Nembesany, the highest summits of the Uzretag Heights.
It was the day I was told that I had been chosen to join the ranks of the Tourney of Honor, Ztigyo being the only I informed about this. Though sad at our parting he was glad that I was another step closer toward my goal. I had asked him if he had wanted to join the Tourney of Honor himself, this was his answer. “‘I don’t have any big goals like you do, Kivjak, I think it’s better this way… I’m just okay doing anything I can to serve the Crown.’”
It was on a cold midnight’s eve that upon waking to take watch, my mentor and we her three students on the trail, that Ekinla had decided to remain awake that night just a little longer. There I had asked her what it is she hopes to come. “‘What I hope, well… There is someone… No, not someone, I didn’t mean someone! There’s something, I meant to say something!... You know, shut up! Idiot boy, making me say the wrong things… But, no, nothing, other than that one thing, I don’t have anything in mind…’”
It was a few days after I had officially joined the order as an Honorable of the Tourney that I met with Gjerge who wanted to congratulate me on making it into the Tourney of Honor and successfully tolerating being alongside my mentor, his grandmother, for a whole grueling long decade. Not entirely sure of which way I wanted to proceed I asked him his mind. “‘What do you mean? You think there’s a choice?... Alright, here, I’ll tell you what I think. Don’t think about it. The Tourney will take you all throughout the Crownlands and if you think you can plan out where these messes will spring up, you’re wrong, you can’t. So take this advice, don’t think about a year from now, cause you don’t know what a year’s time will even look like, understand?’”
The three of them, just like my family, my siblings, my mother, the whole House of Venkoja. All of them tried to forget, forget that my father, Champion of Ilith, everything that he was, that my family was, all tried to forget he even existed. And for what!? To take their place where they may find it, they had no idea of where to lead their future! They turned from the beacon, tall and magnificent, that which held us together and they didn’t even think of what would replace it, what visage would guide our lives… How could they just forget, disregard the light of my life as if he was never the sun which shined over us!?...
And now… I cling to the freezing mountain summit’s cliff face, the brisk blizzarding winds brushing along the cold rocky steeps, ever trying to throw me several dozens of meters to an instant death below. Yet as I stare up, my gaze among the unrelenting nimbos clouds, there is no peak in sight… Still, all the same, these three clinging to the freezing mountain summit’s cliff face alike, they follow me to these heights with no end in sight. Why? Why change now, is it me? In one way or another it was me that brought them here together, but is that all there is? Is that all it means to them? I don’t understand it, why they climb up to peaks unseen yet don’t even seem to have a reason to do so… My purpose is clear, but how is their own?...
I’ll make it so. They won’t have a reason to doubt or question, I’ll make the purpose that moves them now clear and together, we’ll show all who forgot, all who disregarded, denounced and disdained, we’ll show them the results of our conviction clear!
And with that it came into sight, the clouds’ cloak which once hid the peak, the Zenith Nembesany, now parted and unveiled. We’re above the clouds, among the heavens now, our goal just within these final grasps up this summit’s cliff face.
Like the high noon’s sunlight on fresh morning snow it glistens, dazzling opal ends, the rainbow on each row of white smooth cut polished marble like dorsal scales.
In serenity it clings and climbs upon unseen branches of the world, its serpentine body gracefully twisting and turning swimming through air beneath the beat of midnight wings which blocks out the sun and fills its night sky canvas with twinkling stars.
From its torso at its fore it stretches them, that which unveils dusk’s dark shroud filling the distant horizon from east to west, that which whips the skies and moves the winds and stirs the tempest storms with only the flex of each four strong powerful rending clawed limbs.
From upon its wisened ageless gullet it holds high a long narrow pointed all consuming maw, with fierce eyes that stare death, nostrils which blow scalding vapor, within its throat said to contain the very sun itself. Wearing its crown of death, quills webbed together with the pitch black night, a plumage mane of bones, its pinnacle its cranial crest center piece.
In its immensity before us four heroes, its clawed feet clung to the mountain’s peak, the clouds for as far as could be seen, illuminated by the evening’s sun an endless sea of white surrounds this summit, Zenith Nembesany, holding itself over its throne in heaven.
Before me its grand visage spoke, its words saying to me; come, come and claim your destiny, your fate is held in the grip of this immaculate sword caught between the scales of my nape!...
There once lived a tyrant, a great wyrm which ruled from its mountain tops with terror for over a century’s time, the Root of Caelmar-Throne in Heaven.
Many had climbed the mountains’ heights yet none were able to fell the tyrant king, but then came four brave warrior souls, among the greatest in all the lands. Their names glorified, remembered for their unyielding courage and their stalwart resolve: Ztigyo the Keen, Ekinla the Stalwart, Gjerge the Steeled, and Kivjak the Reclaimer.
Together the four great heroes ascended the tyrant’s mountain, climbed its cliff face summit, and stood before the despot wyrm in defiance resilient.
The Root of Caelmar-Throne in Heaven, a leviathan beast without equal, beset the four stalwart warriors with all the power of its wrath and fury. Ztigyo met with the great beats of its wings whose force and energy summons gale winds. Ekinla faced the powerful blow of its nostrils whose fumes are scalding and blistering clouds of steam. Gjerge was set against the deadly rend of its claws whose power and heat melts stone and boils metal. Kivjak combated the immense swipe of its tail whose strength and mass shreds the very ground.
Yet faced with their unrivaled foe’s menace and mortal peril the four did not back down. Kivjak met the beast’s vast tail with stalwart foot and halberd planted firm, even with all the great wyrm’s might could he not be moved. Gjerge struck back the fiend’s riving claw with strength of arm and twin axes swift, even with all the great wyrm’s rage could he not be bested. Ekinla faced the monstrosity’s scorching vapor with impenetrable determination and sword staff ready, even with all the great wyrm’s malice could she not be deterred. Ztigyo fought off the terror’s wing squalls with focus honed and magic winds challenging, even with all the great wyrm’s exertion could he not be undone.
Both however remained resistant, neither side gaining any advantage over the other, but the great wyrm had not shown the extents of its power yet. Revealing its teeth the tyrant opened its maw and from within was a brilliance unlike any other, as if within it was the very sun itself. The light blinding soon focused and honed until from its mouth shot a lustrous ray that tore apart the rock ground melting it into molten magma. Swiping its head left to right, down and up, the near solid beam of splendid light tore into their battleground with devastating efficiency displacing the four warriors’ positions who all with deft skill only just avoided contact and surviving intact.
It was in this brief moment of immense fatal peril that Ztigyo, with his sharp insight noted something upon the unleashing of the great wyrm’s terrifying power, he knew what needed to be done. So the battle continued, the four facing bout after bout against tyrant, a hundred skirmishes all of which could take anyone of their lives with only one mistake. There the despot wyrm opens its dreaded maw once more began shining its brilliance of the sun, yet Ztigyo was ready.
Like arrows of magic energy they formed before him the moment all were cloaked in the great wyrm’s brilliance. Ztigyo sharp had keenly noticed upon the build up the tyrant’s furious attack that the despot itself was momentarily dazed by the brightness of its own luminent attack. So shot out repeatedly like a salvo of missiles magic bolts, yet none meant to damage or harm as its natural resistance would mostly nullify, but to explode in a spectacular display of sounds and light all around its immense maw.
Like dazzling stars sparkling and fizzling, whizzing, and whistling all clapping, popping, cracking, and snapping in their chaotic disorder of lights and loud noises. The great wyrm whose sight was already blinded by the brilliance of its own charging beam was thrown into disarray at the myriad of sounds and force felt exploding all around its head. Even as it honed its lustrous assault it teetered, lurched and reeled as its nearly solid ray of focused energy cut across the sky in its havoc.
Yet this tactic could not remain effective for long as soon the tyrant honed its ray of death on the source of its assailant, only then for it to receive the blast of its beam directly back at it. In the despot’s frantic confusion Ztigyo, as per his plan, used what little energy he could spare left to magically construct a mirror that when upon the great wyrm focused its fury on the source of Ztigyo’s attack that he would part with one last glory.
Though the despot wyrm’s own powerful ray of light blinded itself again it did not relent its immense attack, and so Ztigyo the Keen in sacrifice for the whole, died at the hands of the Root of Caelmar-Throne in Heaven.
Yet his end was not in vain, for his efforts not only damaged the source of his unequaled foe’s attack but he allowed his companions to close the distance. Their critical strikes assured Gjerge and Kivjak brought their arms down each upon one of the abyssal wings of the great wyrm who shrieked crying agony and fury as they rendered the tyrant flightless.
All while this occurred Ekinla herself came upon an opportunity. While the despot wyrm’s ability to fly had been compromised the tyrant itself still upon its mountain peak throne still stood tall with power and strength. So it needed to be brought down to their level, and Ekinla knew just how.
Only just able to catch their glimpse Ekinla spotted at the base of the tyrant’s peak throne was a clutch of sizable eggs. She knew she only had this one chance, and she wouldn’t let odds deter her from opportunity. As the great wyrm panicked and struggled against Ztigyo’s gambit Ekinla took to a folly of her own, and while the tyrant had yet to adjust itself to protect its nest, she beset it and in one fell swipe split all of the eggs but one alone.
Taking this one egg she backed away as Kivjak and Gjerge did along her sides, yet both her two companions free of any extra burden hurried with greater pace, and with Ztigyo the Keen undone Ekinla the Stalwart knew what this would mean. With power of arm and magic’s guidance she threw the egg to Gjerge who upon receiving her Communion turned catching it as she too turned staring face to face before the Root of Caelmar-Throne in Heaven, stalwart in her final moments of sacrifice.
Now down what little of the mountain peak’s slope remained, the great wyrm enraged descending after them, yet the two had little time to think of a plan before they reached the far down steeps of the mountain’s summit. They would have to make their stand there, both understanding their odds, neither regretful in the chance they took. Yet Gjerge the Steeled had no intention of allowing Kivjak to follow with him.
Throwing down the egg, the great wyrm’s wrath intense and hatred seething fixed upon him as with what magic remained within him Gjerge forced the tyrant to close in on him. Thus in one fatal lunge the Root of Caelmar-Throne in Heaven clamped its jaws down upon Gjerge the Steeled, sacrificing himself for just this one chance.
Despite his devestatation and sorrow of loss, Kivjak the Reclaimer would not let their lives be lost in vain. With all his grievance and all that he devoted his life to, with everything within him he struck with magical halberd, the Burden, the weight of the great wyrm’s maw magically multiplied pinning the tyrant just long enough for Kivjak to grasp in two hands the legendary sword, Venkoja Rectitude, which was stuck in the scaled nape of the Root of Caelmar-Throne in Heaven.
The blade pierced through the scales of the great wyrm Kivjak pushed with all his might feeding the sword magical energy from the blood of his immense foe, the power of which he used to immolate in an infernal pyre of flame. Bypassing the tyrant’s scales natural near immunity to magic the great wyrm agonized with a pain it had never felt before, thrashing and smashing its body against the mountain peak’s short slope the despot writhed in throes screaming its fury and anguish heard miles around as it tried desperately to remove its resolute opponent. Yet Kivjak the Reclaimer would hold steady, no pain nor harm but death itself could see him removed as he all the same to his 3 lost brave companions devoted himself utterly to the end of the tyranny of the great wyrm.
So in its struggle and fight for its life the Root of Caelmar-Throne in Heaven stumbled, flinging itself off the great steep summit Zenith Nembesany, Kivjak the Reclaimer holding steady and unyielding as both fell toppled down from the peak above the clouds to the solid ground below. Thus the Root of Caelmar-Throne in Heaven, who’s century-long tyranny reigning from its throne above the clouds among the peaks of the world, was brought low, down to the ground where all roots belong.