|The Ice Realm
Author: Scribe of Elhnaka PM
The Elhnakan Empire seeks to conquer the Ice Realm of Intiopaglaton! The story follows the friendship between the mercenary Nogalen and Crown Prince Laeveros of Elhnaka during the epic campaign. The story is rated M due to violent and graphic scenes. Reviews are appreciated!Rated: Fiction M - English - Adventure/Fantasy - Chapters: 5 - Words: 11,808 - Reviews: 8 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 07-15-12 - Published: 06-09-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3030240
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The Ice Realm
From the colonnade the Crown prince gazed out across the verdant Opala valley. The view was magnificent. He had been right to defy the lamentation of his advisers and construct his summer palace on this remote cliff. It had cost a lot, in silver as well as patience, to get all the marble to the valley and been even more costly to haul everything up the steep slopes, but now the immense building embraced all three sides of the cliff.
Crown prince Laeveros was not concerned with regards to the silver. Admittedly the valley was poorly suited for growing wheat, but its sun drenched slopes would undoubtedly supply him with excellent wine, not to mention fruits and olives.
For centuries the Opalese lords have had these riches right before their feet, but as the valley was isolated from the rest of the empire, it had never occurred to them that these goods could be sold with a healthy profit in Tsivra or any of the other larger cities on the Elhnaka plain. Instead they had left this opportunity to him. The fortune this adventure should make him meant that he at last would be rid of the insistent questions from the councilors every time a copper coin left the imperial treasury.
Laeveros entered his intended audience hall. Scaffolding was still standing and color from the murals, which had not yet dried, filled the room with a pungent and unpleasant odor. With his right foot the Crown prince irritatedly brushed a small pile of dust from the mosaic floor. When he spotted two of his father's loyal generals, seated and squirming in the middle of the stench, his mood immediately improved.
"It's supposed to smell like this!" he exclaimed. "A liquid that improves the colors' luster and strength, according to the artist."
"No depiction of Your father, Your Highness," commented one of the generals, who had been studying the walls.
Laeveros pulled out a golden chain and let the medallion swing in front of the graying man's face. On the gold disk was an image along with the inscription. "Taechios II Voltanes amar alosoe vo Elhnaka*."
"I have him right here, closest to my heart!" Laeveros put the medallion back inside his shirt and smiled cunningly.
"Are You certain that these appointments constitutes a good idea, Your Highness?" asked the second General, who was younger but fatter than the first.
"Why shouldn't it be? We're marching North... what can be better than to have Northerners in my guard?"
"But as commanders, Your Highness?"
"Just over the other brennos," Laeveros used the name for the steppe people which in the Elhnakan imperial language literally meant 'wild'. He did not intend to stand here all day and listen to the thick headed prejudice of these generals. "Well then, send them in!" the Prince commanded his Herald. "One at a time!" Elhnaka's heir went over and sat down in between the generals, who exchanged skeptical glances.
Apart from the disappointment over the Northerners' ignorance about the ice realm, besides the regular tales that everyone had heard before, the day had been to the Crown prince's satisfaction. By midday he had already appointed the regiment Colonel and five captains. All of whom were large, blonde and horrible to behold. They would scare the shit out of the ice lords of Intiopaglaton.
"Call in the next one!" the Prince shouted enthusiastically.
Laeveros was not impressed by the body of the young warrior who approached them through the pillar hallway, he was at least no giant. But when the Crown prince saw the sharp gaze of the young man eyes his interest was sparked.
"What do you know about Intiopaglaton?" asked the older General without lifting his eyes.
"As little as anyone else I presume, General," answered the young man without any embarrassment over his lack of knowledge. "They build cities of ice, ride snow lions in war and if they are half as rich as rumor says, I would gladly meet them in battle."
Laeveros was amused to the Northerner's answer. He had to make sure that the intelligent eyes were not a mere illusion. "My father, Emperor Taechios, dislikes my recruitment of Brennish warriors. He thinks that your kind lacks the ability to submit to laws other than those of the sword. Is he right?"
Nogalen was caught off guard, but soon found his ground. "I do not presume to know better than His Majesty... But I hope to serve him in such a manner that will make him change his mind."
"You see, he thinks that power should belong to the wise old men in his Council and not to the warriors who fight for him in the army. I on the other hand think that no one has the right to send men to their deaths without being prepared to meet the same faith," Laeveros ignored the indignant silence from the men around him. "What are your thoughts on the matter?"
"Your Highness, surely you did not summon this savage to discuss matters of might and authority?" protested the older General.
"We all have the right to an opinion, I want to hear his," Laeveros answered calmly.
"It is men with swords who possess power, Your Highness!" Nogalen declared. He could see that the Crown prince was content with the answer and hesitated before continuing. "But in the best of worlds, these men are wise enough to exercise their power with great care."
Laeveros became thoughtful, then he nodded smilingly. "You see! Quick minded, this savage! Perhaps we should make him a councilor?"
A heavy silence descended on the room. Nogalen hardly dared to breathe.
"Well, until that offer is made you will have to be content with serving as captain in my guard!" Laeveros exclaimed triumphantly. "If no one disagrees?"
When nobody uttered a sound the Crown prince made a confirmatory gesture towards the young warrior.
"Thank you, Your Highness." Nogalen bowed deeply.
A week had passed since Emperor Taechios's Envoy had arrives to Intiopaglaton. Now the well dressed man was shown into the mighty throne hall, apparently annoyed by the delay. His mission was simple, to issue a final warning to the Paglatonian King and demand the full submission of the ice realm to Elhnakan supremacy.
Besides conveying this message he was tasked to investigate and observe, particularly for traces of the kingdom's legendary riches. As he had been more or less locked in confinement the last days he would not return with much to tell, but the Paglatonian secrecy had strengthened the Ambassador in his conviction that the devious ice lords were hiding something.
When the Envoy entered the throne hall he lost his breath. The entire colossal ice tower he had seen from the outside was a single gigantic cylinder. Neither he nor the two guards, who escorted him, had ever seen something similar. Wonderfully colored silk cloth hung from lines suspended between the walls with the purpose to mute the echo, which was substantial nonetheless. Two rows of columns in man height were adorned with gold cups, but otherwise the audience hall was far more sparsely decorated than the residence of even the lowest Elhnakan provincial governor. At the far end of the hall, the Ambassador could see the King and Queen, standing on an elevated platform.
King Lysias appeared as anything but impressive in the eyes of the Envoy. He was short, set and swarthy. He wore no crown and his fur mantle looked every bit as ruffled as the man wearing it. The King appeared particularly shabby next to his gallant spouse whose straight black hair glistened in the cold. Her features were pure and her eyes commanding. To the great surprise of the Ambassador she was also the one who began to speak.
"We welcome you to Intiopaglaton, Your Eminence!" sang the Queen's voice, which bounced along the width and height of the tower walls.
"Your Majesty," said the Envoy and bowed deeply.
"You bring words from your ruler," the Paglatonian lady established.
"He brings decrees, more like it..." her husband interrupted. The man's inner lack of grace was clearly a reflection of his exterior.
The Ambassador immediately assumed a well rehearsed stance, pulled out a paper scroll from his sleeve and began to read with a solemn voice. "I, Emperor Taechios Voltanes of Elhnaka, ruler of upper and lower Opala, King of kings over the Maratan and the Estan, bring grievances before King Lysias of Intiopaglaton." The Ambassador continued without pause.
"He has given support to my enemies in attacks against my allies. He has further, on several occasions, refused to enter into a pact of friendship with me. Therefore I, Emperor Taechios of Elhnaka, demand that Intiopaglaton's ruler immediately cease with open and hidden hostilities and pay indemnity of three thousand six hundred sihr bantilos. Furthermore, he shall henceforth refrain from any act of war without my expressed consent. If he does not listen to this my final warning our realms will be at a state of war!"
A deep silence descended over the hall. The only noise heard was the constant lamentation of the ice. Eventually Kins Lysias spoke. "I will not let my people come to any harm," said the Paglatonian ruler with a sigh.
The Elhnakan Envoy extended his hand and the King embraced it with both of his. The Envoy was just about to commend the King for his wisdom when the ruler interrupted him.
"That is why I have an army to protect them!"
At that very moment a Paglatonian warrior cut of the Ambassadors hand, which was still resting in the firm grip of the King. When the Envoy realized what has happened he could do little more than to shout in panic while his warm blood corroded the shiny ice floor.
"Curse upon you, Lysias! Curse upon Intiopaglaton!" was all the maimed man got through his throat. The two Elhnakan guards who had accompanied him hurried to get him out of the hall.
"You Elhnakans cut the hand off thieves!" the King called out after them. "Tell Emperor Taechios that we do the same!"
When the Elhnakans had removed themselves the King took a spear and threaded the hand onto it, as if he was baiting a fishhook. He observed it with a melancholic smile and gave it to a guard. Then the King took a deep breath, and with a concerned look, he turned to his wife.
"Do not worry my love, all the flames of Elhnaka are not numerous enough to melt our ices," said the Queen comforting. She waved to a girl in white, who had witnessed the bloody audience, to come forward.
"What do the dragon bones tell?" the Queen asked.
The emerald green eyes of the little girl glistened as she threw half a dozen oracle bones into a gilded cup. The girl examined the runes on the tiny pieces of bone. She looked up at the royal couple. "This war will change our world and theirs!"
Per J.H. Olsson
* amar alosae = Emperor, lit. Great High-priest King