|The Legend of Astille
Author: Aurelia Knight PM
Astille, a once prosperous land, has been crumbling in shadows since the evil wizard Calaghar captured it for his own. For two years its citizens have been crying for their princess to return and save them from his tyranny. Zyler is just a traveling knight with no real direction. He suddenly finds himself on a journey to save Astille and its forgotten monarch...or to die trying.Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Romance - Chapters: 2 - Words: 3,832 - Reviews: 1 - Updated: 01-30-13 - Published: 10-31-12 - id: 3070340
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Don't expect too many updates for this story. As I'm trying to write this as well as I can, each chapter takes a long time to write, flesh out, and then meticulously edit. I can only hope that content makes up for the time between chapters.
In the meantime, please, enjoy.
Welcome to Astille.
The dying leaves crunched softly beneath the leather soles of his boots. Zyler glanced about him, keeping his sword at the ready. If this section of the forest were anything like the fields he had ventured into, he would need it. As he plodded on, he strained his ears for some sort of sound save that of his own two feet. He found it strange that he had traveled this strange land for days now and still hadn't seen a single person. The castle on the horizon still stood proudly, but it seemed to him that it was actually abandoned.
It was then that he heard it: a dull thud against the earth.
Zyler stopped and whirled around, his blade drawn. No monster dared venture out of the bush and onto the overgrown path he treaded. He relaxed again and listened for the sound. Once more he heard it. He sheathed his weapon and decided to follow the noise, keeping to the path through the trees.
He came upon a clearing where a man worked quite hard at tilling the hardened earth beneath his hoe. Zyler cleared his throat as he approached. "Excuse me, sir."
The farmer jumped in surprise before looking at him. "Eh? Boy, aren't you far from home?" He tilted his head slightly.
"I… Yes. I'm a traveler." Zyler exhaled slowly. "I've been wondering what happened here. You're the first person I've seen in days."
"Ha! Well then, you're really far from home. Welcome to Astille, boy." The man went back to his plowing. "But, if you really want to know the story, head into Fayore. Just keep going on the path and you'll get there. There should be a girl surrounded by children. And if there isn't, just ask around; you'll find The Minstrel eventually. She can tell you everything you want to know."
Zyler nodded his thanks and continued walking. The closer he became to the town, he noticed the trees thinned out more and more. He saw few others attempting to farm out small plots of rocky forestland along the route. They acknowledged him with curious stares and whispers. He began to wonder exactly how many or how few travelers this town received for them to react in such a way.
He came out of the forest to meet with the whole of the town. Few houses were built along the clearing, with a store and another building he couldn't quite distinguish the sign on. A bubbling creek stretched through the middle, crawling from one end of the village and out the other. He quickly spotted the town square as he saw the woman mentioned by the farmer. He walked over to them to continue his mission.
She sat on a boulder, lyre in hand. As she talked to the group of wide-eyed children around her, she plucked various notes to emphasize her words. Zyler watched in amusement as one of the little boys raised his hand excitedly. "But! What happened then?" He called.
The woman stopped her playing and stood up. "Well now, you'll just have to come back tomorrow and find out, won't you?"
All the children voiced their dismay at having to wait a whole day to hear the end of the story. She laughed softly, sending them on their way with promises that the wait would be worth it. As she turned back around, she gasped. "Who are you?"
"My name is Zyler. I'm a wandering knight." He stepped toward her. "I hope you don't mind that I came in at the very end. I didn't want to interrupt."
She shrugged. "It doesn't matter to me at all. I teach the children history. If you don't mind having to hear it, it's all right with me." She reached up to push back the hood of her cloak, revealing honey-colored hair and soft blue eyes. "How may I be of service, Zyler? It's quite obvious you need something, or else you wouldn't be standing there."
He cleared his throat to regain his composure. "I… I was hoping you might be able to tell me about this country. I haven't seen anyone else before only a half hour ago when I met a farmer and he directed me here. There are monsters everywhere and I can see the castle is still standing in the distance." He gazed at her evenly. "I was told that you could shed some light on the ordeal."
The Minstrel laughed again, though unlike the warm, genuine laugh of before, this sounded cold and bitter. "Light? Hah. You want light, go back home." She sat herself down on the boulder again and picked up the lyre. "This country is dead. It's been doomed for two years."
"Could you tell me why?"
She sighed heavily. "Fine."
Zyler watched her play a small tune on the instrument. "Well?" He crossed his arms impatiently.
She shot him a glare before beginning her tale. "Two years ago, this country was in a much better state than what you see now. The fields were prosperous, producing more than enough food for all. The waters were clear and the hills rolled with vibrant grass. The mists shrouded the mountains in majesty while the surface of Lunar Lake shone as if composed of diamonds. It was a time of peace, of harmony, and for the first time in a long while, the people feared nothing.
"However, the princess saw the signs. Each day she could see a darkness approaching from the horizon. She went to her council, to the guards, even to the Royal Army… But they merely laughed at her, told her she was yet a child, and sent her off on her way. She was too young to be considered in power since the death of her father, and instead served as a temporary figurehead while the councilmen led the country behind her. In short, she was powerless to convince them of their impending doom, the disaster sure to strike Astille.
"The darkness came ever closer, and the princess soon stopped going to her council. She had come under the false pretense of peace as well, and soon the only thing that weighed upon her inexperienced mind was that of her underage rule. She continued on in her days as if nothing could shatter the peace shrouding the country.
"This peace was short-lived, however. There came a day when the darkness overtook the land. Before her eyes the princess watched an evil wizard, Calaghar, slaughter everything she had ever known. It was then that the guards, the army, and the council knew exactly what she had been warning them of all along; but it was too late. They, too, were murdered or enslaved.
"When the attack finally ceased, and Calaghar was seen to be victorious, the inhabitants of the city had either fled to the other parts of the country or been killed or enslaved to serve as his personal servants. And so you see the outcome of this now. The fields bear hardly enough food for us, much less any to give to him. Monsters, his sentries, roam the countryside preying on helpless citizens." She gave a long sigh and looked at him helplessly. "It's only a matter of time now until this once beautiful land crumbles into despair."
Zyler mulled over her tale a moment before he asked slowly, "What of the princess?"
"The princess?" The Minstrel thought a moment before shaking her head. "No one knows. Many claim to have seen her escape, while others are convinced she's long since died, killed in the attack on Astille Castle." She turned her gaze skyward. "I do know that everyone says if the princess were to return, then everything would go back to the way it was before Calaghar. But I know this to be false. She can't help them anymore than they can help themselves. After all… She couldn't even protect her own country in the first place."
"Do you know this for sure?"
She snapped from her trance to look at him evenly. "I just told you no one knows for sure, not even me."
"Then how do you know what she saw? How do you know what she did in the days before the attack?" He didn't mean to bother her with seemingly useless questions, but he felt she hid something behind those crystalline eyes of hers.
The Minstrel stood hurriedly, grabbing her lyre. "You asked for a story, Zyler. I told you what I know, and that's it! Now leave me be." She began to walk off.
Gritting his teeth, he followed her doggedly. "But how do you know all this? Not even the farmer could tell me that much."
She whirled to face him. "It's not important how I know, all right? The fact is that I know, and you asked for the story, which I took the time to tell you." She exhaled slowly. "Leave me alone. If you want to stay the night before going home, there's an inn near the general store."
"Before I go home?"
"I'm assuming you won't want to stay in Astille for very long. Within the next few years… I can't imagine Astille will still be standing." She flipped her hood over her head resolutely and continued walking.
Zyler watched her turn into a small lane leading to the forest. He could only imagine she lived in a small hovel somewhere among the trees. A moment more passed before he looked to the direction of the general store. He figured the unidentifiable building next to it could only be the inn.
He went up to the entrance of the inn and took a deep breath before opening the door. A warm gust of air met him, along with the smell of cooking food. "Hey there!" A cheery voice greeted from his left.
"Hello." Zyler turned to see a young woman behind the counter. "Do you have a room available?"
She nodded eagerly. "We don't get many travelers… So we always have room. Any preference on what suite?"
"I just need a simple room for a few days, miss." He pulled out his pouch, dumping a few coins of varying worth into his palm. "Would two silver do it?"
"That'll be more than enough." She took his money and handed him a key with change. "First floor, third door on the right. Anything else I can do for you?"
He was about to leave her when he nodded. "Yes, actually. Tell me about The Minstrel."
Her eyes grew wide. "Her? Well… All I really know is that she's been here for the past two years. My father found her on the edge of town. She was in pretty bad shape, but we took care of her until she was able to start working herself. She never gave us a name or where she came from; said she couldn't remember." The woman shrugged dismissively. "She teaches history to the kids. My little brother loves listening to her. Keeps things interesting when she plays her lyre all the time. It's…peaceful."
"Two years? Only?" His eyes narrowed.
She nodded. "Yep. She came here and then we found out about what happened at the castle. Not soon after that…" She shook herself. "Anyway, that's pretty much everything anyone knows about her."
"Thanks. That helps a lot." Zyler turned to go to the stairway. He began to scale the steps slowly, his mind heavy with thought.
As much as he wanted to believe The Minstrel regarding her lack of connections to the princess, he still could not shake the feeling that there was something she kept from him. How could she possibly know what the people in the castle were doing during the attack? He knew rumors spread quickly, and that some of the castle staff survived and fled—this much he gathered from her story—but even then, they wouldn't know what the princess herself experienced. Couple that with the fact that the woman didn't arrive in this village until two years ago, the same amount of time since the attack… It all seemed very mysterious.
He jammed the key into the lock on the door and twisted it to the side. A faint click chirped from within the mechanism and he pushed. The room he entered radiated a homey feel, a pleasant one, and he wasted no time in making himself comfortable. He kicked off his boots and fell onto the bed, relishing the softness of a mattress at his back instead of the hard earth. A quick glance out the window told him the sun had just begun its descent across the sky.
Zyler put his hands behind his head and decided not to move until he absolutely needed to. Besides, he'd been traveling all day just to get told off by a girl with a hand-held harp. He deserved a little rest before trying to get her to confess tomorrow. His green eyes closed and he sighed. He had a vague feeling he'd need a lot of rest if he were going to try to get her to talk.