|Min of the Mark
Author: Do Play With Fire PM
In the event of an invasion, a group of teens are ripped from their homes and forced to stand and fight against one of the most formidable opponents, an empire that is yet to lose a war.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Suspense - Chapters: 28 - Words: 44,435 - Reviews: 35 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 08-26-12 - Published: 07-12-12 - id: 3041295
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Min stopped the horse and looked over the horizon in the morning light. The horizon seemed very fuzzy and rippling. Min could already tell that it was the water of Shast Lake, but it was right in front of Shast Lake that impressed her. A gray mass with high towering spires stood near the horizon. Even from the distance, Streak could see its enormous size.
Joarsha pulled up to her and said, "That, my friend is Et'Topen."
"It is so big."
"I have heard that cities in the empire are bigger, but it is the biggest city in all of Gardlens. It is our capital. History and legend have it that my ancestor and namesake, Joarsha, led the first Gardlenian people here when the world was still young. They had been forced out of their own lands, which is now part of the empire. Their only option was to cross the mountains, which were uninhabited then. It is said that Joarsha would have gone south, but a Seer told him to cross the treacherous peaks, and the God guided him across and into the land.
"He was not completely satisfied with the land at first though. He felt the need to keep moving, because this was not the ideal place to build his city even though it was his land. Finally, he led his people into what is near the center of the land along the shores of Shast Lake. They set up camp there, and he said, 'Here we shall build an island from stone and mud, and atop the island we shall build our city which shall grow with our people. The lands from here to the mountains and to the sea shall be our lands, and they shall guard the surrounding nations.' And so my namesake became king, and the God opened his ears, and he always knew what happened in his lands."
"I find it amazing how the people always followed him to the end. They even built an island. Why can't you listen to the mountains?"
"The Hashads were not originally included in Gardlens. They were only boundaries. It was not until the Mark arrived that the mountains were included, but I do not know how. The history is written in Et'Topen."
"Well then let's go there."
The rode down through the plains, and soon they became plots of fertile farmland. There were farm people coming out of their houses to start the day's work. They stared at the two northern youths, and Joarsha could not quite tell if it was awe or fear. Joarsha looked at himself and at Streak and saw that they looked hardened and brave as if they had seen more than what was imaginable. In a way they had.
"They are all staring at us," Joarsha said to Min.
"Is that a problem?"
They stopped when they reached the bridge. The bridge was made of glistening white marble. It stretched out to the city, and it was the city took Min's breath away. Its white walls were tall and right in the water. There were tall towers on the walls that were packed with armed guards who seemed like they would rather be sleeping. The impenetrable oak and iron gate was open and waiting for Min and Joarsha to ride through. Even though Min was not in the city, she could already tell that it had been well planned. The buildings got taller the closer they got to the glistening palace in the center.
Min and Joarsha rode across the bridge, and Min could tell that the bridge was well defended. She could have easily been shot down from the wall of the city. When they rode into the city, Min saw that the walls were very thick and that there were two other iron grid gates that were also open. There also was another oak gate that sandwiched the grid gates. Despite the city's beauty and grandeur, it was indeed built to be defended.
The houses were all marble, and there were no beggars in sight. It seemed that everyone in the city had enough money to get by in life. There were no hungry impoverished faces looking at Min and Joarsha with helpless eyes. This was a dream city to live in, despite this, the people all looked weary and sad. Their King had not done a good job ruling, and there was nothing that these loyal good people could do about it.
Like the farmers that lived outside the city, Et'Topen's citizens stared at Min and Joarsha. It was clear that they were warriors, Gardlenian warriors, but what would the King say if two valiant youths came riding into his own city. The people knew of the Enthönien invasion and of the king's failure to defend his kingdom. It would be a shame if the King killed these young spirited warriors.
Streak and Joarsha rode down the street to the palace gate. The palace was huge. A high white wall that was similar to the one that surrounded the city surrounded it. The guards on the palace wall seemed more active and alert than the ones on the city wall, and the gate was shut. The palace's towers were white and elegantly designed. Maybe before, they might have looked warm and welcoming, but now they loomed formidably ahead in an unwelcoming stance.
"This is where we need to go," Min whispered to Joarsha, and he nodded. "Open the gate!" Streak shouted up at the guards.
"Why?" a guard shouted back down to her.
"We seek an audience with King Phillip!"
"His Royal Majesty King Phillip of Gardlens does not wish to see to beggar children that randomly show up at his door! Now off with you!"
"We are not beggar children! I am Streak, Min of the Mark, and this is Joarsha son of Arros from Thera!"
This caused many whisperings in the crowd. "Arros wasn't that Shay's son. King Phillip will not in the slightest bit like this. There is a Mark girl in our city. Why is there a Mark girl in Et'Topen? I thought that the Mark never left the mountains, yet this girl did. That boy looks like what the King is supposed to look like."
A Gardlenian soldier ran across the city wall to the guards that had been shouting to Min. He whispered something in the guard's ear, and the guard's expression changed. He turned to face the soldier and gave him a questioning look. The soldier simply nodded and then ran back down the wall.
"It seems that King Phillip has requested your presence, Min of the Mark, even if it means bringing that northern rat with you!" the guard shouted down to Min. The gate was raised open, and Min and Joarsha rode through into the desolate palace courtyard and dismounted from their near dead horses. They were on a marble path that was surrounded by neatly trimmed grass. In the center of the courtyard, the path widened out to accommodate a dry fountain. The courtyard lacked all signs of life.
"This way please," one of the guards said or commanded, and he ushered them through the door at the end of the courtyard. The palace was just as lifeless as the courtyard. Not a servant was in sight. The interior of the palace would have been beautiful with its marble floor, red carpet, circular throne room, and beautiful hanging tapestries if it had not been for the tension in the air and the man in the throne.
King Phillip was not ugly. In fact, most people thought that he was a rather handsome man if it not been for the angry glare that he always wore that kept even the bravest man from approaching him. He was an unwelcoming figure who made his word law without any opposition. People were afraid to oppose him, and he wanted that to be so, for he knew that if he loosened his iron grip just a little bit, then his rule would come crumbling down. He was a coward, and he was weak. He had blue eyes that were not as blue as Joarsha's and straight black hair.
"Well if it is not that Mark girl," he sneered when he saw Min, "and her pet boy."
Min and Joarsha looked at each other. They both knew that it was the Enthöniens who called Joarsha a pet boy, not the Gardlenians. What did this make King Phillip? Was he betraying his own country?
"Ah," he said, "It seems that you are aware of the northern rat's imperial nickname. I do have spies. I wanted to see what the invaders are like. I would not dare betray my own people."
"But you already have," Streak said. There was anger in her voice.
"And how have I done so, Streak, Min of the Mark? I kill my servants who speak to me like that."
"You are refusing to defend your people. Enthöniens run freely across Gardlens killing everything, and all you do is sit cooped up in your palace doing nothing. You are King. Your job is to defend your people."
This comment made Joarsha nervous. He was afraid of where this conversation could go, and how it could reference him. Commanding Lord Roman was one thing, but King Phillip was entirely different. King Phillip did not know the difference between right and wrong, and Joarsha could tell by the contempt in Phillip's glances at him that he would not hesitate to kill him. If there was one thing for sure, it was that King Phillip would not give up his throne.
"Are you saying that I am doing not my job? Do you wish to replace me, well I can assure you that I will be King as long as Gardlens survives." King Phillip drew a throwing knife from his belt, and by his hand position, Streak could tell that he was not any good at knife throwing. He could only possibly hit Joarsha by chance.
Streak drew her swords, crossed them over her head, and pointed them at Phillip. "I know that you are not good at throwing knives, and I can honestly tell you that I have no intention of having your throne stolen from you," she said coolly, "but all I want is to defend Gardlens, and if you harm Joarsha, then I will kill you. I am being serious when I say this. Who is the better warrior here?"
King Phillip put his knife down and sat back in his throne. This Mark girl was a threat to his power. Her audacity to defy him could not be tolerated, but he knew that if he acted against the Mark girl, then his people would likely act out against him. He could see in her eyes that she was a battle leader. She was confident of her abilities. Perhaps that could be her downfall. It would have to happen in battle.
"Just because you come charging into my sanctuary does not mean that I will change my mind about what I will do in the war. I will not let my people fight, and I will not either," he said.
"Why are you refusing to fight and save your kingdom?"
"In a way I have already told you."
"If you will not defend your kingdom, then I will. We shall see who your people shall follow, the one who does nothing, or the one who protects." With that, Streak stormed right out of the throne room.
Joarsha took one last glance up at Phillip, and Phillip met his vibrant blue eyes. Now that he was no longer being shadowed by Min, King Phillip could see that he was indeed a fighter, but he was subtler in his showing of it. The boy had a face that girls would moon over and the piercing blue eyes and curly black hair that the king of Gardlens was supposed to have. Finally he said the words that King Phillip hoped would never come out the boy's mouth, "I can Listen." Then he walked out following Min.
Min had just kicked the palace wall, and she was about to do damage to something else when Joarsha found her. He crossed his arms and said, "You are going to hurt yourself if you keep doing that."
"Why should I care?" she replied.
"I don't know, but that is not what I came here to tell you."
"I know what you love."
"Congratulations. You have finally realized that I love nothing!"
"No. You do love something, or some things for that matter."
"You are wrong."
"No I am not."
Min stopped fuming and turned to look at Joarsha. "Then what do I love?"
"First, you love Gardlens. No one is going to destroy your beloved land when you are still alive. You loved Gwyneth, which is part of the reason why you have vowed to destroy Falcyra. You love war and everything that comes from war, which is what I do not understand about you, and why my feelings have changed for you, and finally, you love me. You admitted it earlier." Joarsha said the last bit with a smile.
"I DO NOT LOVE YOU!" Min yelled right in Joarsha's face, but the smile remained.
"I know that you do not love me in the romantic way, but there has to be an explanation to why you threatened to kill Phillip when he threatened to kill me." This left Min dumbstruck.
"I am always right," Joarsha said cheerfully as he skipped away.
A/N Any theories to what King Phillip meant when he said, "In a way, I have already told you."