Bloodline (Working Title)
Never Knows Best
No one would ever expect anything bad to happen on such a perfect day. The sun was high over the Myana Mountains, and Ri'Tai raised her face to catch the sun's rays. The young girl walked slowly up the dirt path that led to her father's dojo. The tiny, picturesque village spread out below her.
Ri'Tai stopped a moment to pull off her sandals and shook the stones from them. As she was fitting them back on she heard someone coming up the path behind her. She turned quickly and smiled at the boy running to meet her. "I was wondering when you were going to come around" She called happily. "I saw the caravan come in late last night. What took you so long to come see me?"
Rayk smiled back at her as he stopped at the top of the hill. "I don't always have to be the one to do the visiting, you know. You were just in town, why didn't you come to see me?"
"Sorry, I was in a rush." Ri'Tai explained apologetically."How was the trip? Did you get to see the Temple of Adeini?" Although the Temple of the High Goddess Adeini was located on her island, Ri'Tai had never actually seen it, although it was said that the beauty of its architecture was unmatched in all the world.
"Indeed I did, the stories don't do it justice."
"I wish I could see it," Ri'Tai sighed.
"I'll take you one day." Rayk promised. "So where are you rushing off to that you can't even stop in to see an old friend?"
"To the dojo, father said he had something for me."
"But of course. How silly of me to forget! It's your sixteenth birthday today, isn't it? How stupid of me to forget!"
"You cod! You knew it was today!" Ri'Tai bellowed, hitting him playfully in the chest.
"Okay, okay, you caught me. I remembered. After all, it isn't every day that you turn sixteen." Ri'Tai decided not to argue the logic of that statement and just nodded.
With a grin, Rayk reached behind his back and pulled a small parcel from the pouch tied around his waist. "Here, I got this for you."
Ri'Tai blinked, "For me?" She couldn't help but blush a bit. Although he was her oldest friend, Ri'Tai was not blind to the handsome man Rayk was growing up to be. His dark hair was perpetually messy, but his body was strong and his smile contagious. Ri'Tai knew that all the other girls in the village envied her because she spent so much time with him, but there was nothing romantic between them.
"Of course, for you! It is your birthday, isn't it?"
"Well, yes, but…"
"Not buts, here, take it." Rayk quickly shoved the clumsily wrapped package into her hands and grinned expectantly, waiting for her to open it. She took it gratefully and pulled the cloth from around the small box. She draped the cloth over her arm as she opened it. She gasped when she was what was inside. A gorgeous, emerald-encrusted, diamond pendant hung from a delicate silver chain. She lifted it carefully, her eyes sparkling. The diamond was shaped like a tear, and cut carefully to reflect the sun in every colour of the rainbow. Tiny emeralds spiralled around the tear, and a gold ring encased the teardrop, covered with arcane markings. Ri'Tai gasped at the beauty of it. She'd never seen anything so precious in her entire life.
Ri'Tai wasn't sure why she was so surprised. Rayk's father was a jeweller, and he often gave out trinkets as gifts. He was even beginning to pick up the trade himself, which was why he had been going on so many trade caravans of late. But this was far beyond his or even his father's skill level. Never in her life had she seen anything so beautiful. "Rayk, it's so gorgeous…" She gasped.
He smiled, "Do you like it? Really?"
"Yes, where did you get it?"
"Why I made it for you, of course." He pouted, "Don't you believe me."
"Not for a second," She joked. "Will you help me put it on?
"Certainly," He motioned for her to turn around, and she did, flipping the long, light brown braid over her shoulder. Rayk carefully unclasped the necklace and draped it over her neck, doing it up carefully in the back. "They say this design used to be worn by Queens." He told her and he spun her around to look at the jewel around her neck. "It is supposed to be a guiding light, to protect you throughout your entire life."
"How romantic…" Ri'Tai sighed.
Rayk frowned, "Romantic? I thought it would be good to keep you from chopping off your own fingers with your father's swords!"
"Stop teasing me!" Ri'Tai pouted, punching him lightly in the shoulder. He returned the gesture whole-heartedly. "C'mon, your father is waiting for you, isn't he?"
"Oh, that's right!" Ri'Tai started, "We'd better hurry!" She took off in a run back towards the dojo where her father was surely working himself up into an impatient rage. He never was one for waiting around for people.
The dojo was a small structure, consisting of only two rooms with paper sliding doors and softly coloured wooden flooring. The main room was empty and was used for training, while the other, smaller room contained every kind of weapon one could imagine and then some. It was in the weapons room that Ri'Tai and Rayk found her father, Yighte.
As soon as he caught sight of his daughter, Yighte straightened out and smiled. But then he saw Rayk step in after her and his smile fell from his face. "Rayk," He nodded gruffly at the boy, who returned it just the same. Ri'Tai was ignorant of the obvious tension between her friend and her father. "Oh, daddy! Look at what Rayk got for me." She smiled and showed him the necklace. Yighte observed it for a moment and then glared at Rayk. "Would you mind giving me a moment alone with my daughter?" He asked.
"Certainly," Rayk replied coldly. He turned and left quickly.
"Father, why are you so cold to him? You never used to be this way."
"Times change, my dear." Yighte answered mysteriously. "Come, I have something to give to you."
Ri'Tai shook off the strange feeling she was getting from her father's behaviour and followed him to the other side of the room. Yighte carefully began removing racks of swords from on top of a wooden crate and then dusted off the top. He stared at it for a moment, as if contemplating whether or not to open it and give her what he had intended to. Finally, he pushed the crate open and reached down, removing something from it, wrapped up tightly in a velvet cloth. He cradled the thing like it were a tiny child and stared at it affectionately.
"Ri'Tai, come here." He said softly. She immediately did as she was asked, and her father removed the cloth from the object. It was a sword. But not just any sword; with one look she knew what it was and what it signified. It was the sword that had protected her family for thousands of years, used by her ancestor Val'saka in the Great Wars. The blue sheath was decorated with the family crest, and the hilt still shone as if it were new, shaped into two dragons heads that were just as sharp as the blade undoubtedly was. Yighte carefully unsheathed it and swung it experimentally. "This sword has been passed on from generations. Usually to the first born son. But I have no sons to give this to, and so it must pass to you, along with all the responsibilities and duties that go with it. There are secrets to this sword that are unknown even to me, for it has not seen combat in over a thousand years."
"But father, I…I cannot take this! The family name will die with me, and…"
"Shh, you have proven to me that you are a worthy match for any man in this village. Even me, I daresay." He chuckled softly and continued before she could get a word in. "You must promise me that you will keep this sword, the same sword that delivered the final blow to the demon Maviarc, safe. You must."
"O-of course, father." Ri'Tai said after a moment of stunned silence.
"Good," He slid the blade back into its sheath and handed it to her. She took it carefully and examined it. "Will it not break tradition to give this to me?" She wondered aloud.
Yighte laughed, "My girl, it is not every day you turn sixteen." He said, ignorant to the fact that he was quoting Rayk. "There is no one else to give it to. You are not married, and I doubt any man would be as worthy as you."
Ri'Tai actually blushed. "Thank you, father." She bowed, and he smiled. But as she bowed the necklace Rayk had given her fell forward into Yighte's view. He glared at the thing again. "There is something else I wish to speak to you of." He said suddenly.
Ri'Tai straightened and peered at her father questioningly through her intelligent green eyes.
"It's about that boy…Rayk." He spat out the name with such distaste that Ri'Tai actually flinched. "What about him, father? Rayk has been my friend since we were children. He trains in your dojo. What problem could you possibly have with him?"
Yighte snorted, "Sit down, dear, and I shall tell you."
Ri'Tai did as she was instructed. She looked at her father expectantly as he settled on top of a small crate and took her hands. "Ri'Tai," He started, "You are 16 now, and you're… of age."
"Yes father, I know that." Ri'Tai frowned, where was this going?
"Well, for the past few weeks, Rayk has been coming to see me. He…he has asked me several times for your hand."
Ri'Tai gasped and pulled her hands from her father's. "My…hand? You mean like marriage?"
Yighte nodded solemnly. "Naturally I said no. Even if you are of age…"
Ri'Tai stood up abruptly, "I'm sorry father, I must think about this." She left before he could stop her, leaving the sword on the floor of the weapons room. Rayk wanted to marry her? Rayk, who could have any girl in the village he wanted, had his eye on her? But she had never thought of him as anything more than a good friend, or even a brother. Never had the thought of having any kind of romantic encounter with him crossed her mind.
She fled the dojo, her chest feeling tight and constricted. As she ran from the door, a familiar voice stopped her. "So what did he give you?" Rayk asked.
She spun around to face him, and she suddenly remembered the dazzling necklace he'd given her. She grabbed the pendant as she stared at him, confused and torn. "Is that why you gave me this?" She asked, pulling the trinket from her neck. "As an engagement gift? Is that what it is?"
Rayk blushed, "Oh, so he told you did he?"
"Of course he did," She choked. "Why didn't you tell me…tell me how you felt about me?"
He looked down at his feet, "I was afraid you would react like this."
"Because you know that I have never thought about you that way! You know! Why would you put me in this position!" She roughly shoved his pendant back into his hands.
Rayk took a step back, "Ri'Tai, please just think about this for a moment. You know I care about you, don't you?"
"And I will make a good husband to you. I've loved you for years, Ri'Tai. But I could never find the courage to tell you. But now you are old enough, we could get married. I would take care of you."
"Please just consider it, will you? Please, Ri'Tai?"
She looked up into his pleading blue eyes, so handsome and intense, and she sighed. He did seem to love her, and she supposed she could learn to do the same, couldn't she? He was, after all, her best friend. "Alright, Rayk, I will think about it." She sighed deeply and quickly ran off to the house situated just behind the dojo. She hurried up to her room on threw herself on the bed. Today was her sixteenth birthday! It was supposed to be a happy day, instead all she got was a lot of confusion and added complications to her life. Suddenly she didn't want to grow up anymore. What ever happened to those carefree days of her childhood? Why couldn't her days be like that again?
With a sigh, Ri'Tai buried her face in her pillow and closed her eyes, trying to sort through the day's events in her mind. She wanted nothing else than to go to sleep and pretend like none of it had ever happened. And so that was what she did. However temporary the solution might be, it was still a solution. So Ri'Tai closed her eyes and willed sleep to take over her.
When Ri'Tai finally awoke again, it was dark out. She could hear the crickets chirping loudly outside, and could just make out the curve of the river in the moonlight through her window. She looked around her room and sat up, and noticed that her father had brought her sword up and placed it on her dresser. She smiled and picked it up, pulling it from its sheath and swinging it in the moonlight. It really was a beautiful sword.
She was just putting the sword back when she heard a loud thump downstairs, followed closely by a kind of gurgling sound. Ri'Tai froze and strained her ears to hear something else. After a moment there were footsteps, too heavy to be her father, and they were coming up the stairs. Her heart constricted and she quickly ducked behind the door and waited for the intruder to come in.
The person tramped up the stairs and walked slowly around the landing, stopping only for a second outside her door. Ri'Tai held her breath as she waited for the door to open. Finally, it did, and she swung her sword as soon as the man became visible, not even stopping to think about who it could be.
The man was impaled and coughed before fell to the ground. He was dead. Ri'Tai stepped up to him to study him, and her eyes widened in horror. The man was not a human at all, she could tell by the scaly, wide black wings extending from his back. It was a Draygon.
The Draygons were one of the four races that ruled the world of Isodynia, and of all of them, they were the most ruthless. They were known to take the other races, especially humans, being the weakest, as slaves or as 'pets'. And now they were in her village! And they were in her home! "Father!" She gasped suddenly, remembering the strange noise that had alerted her to the intruders. She pounded downstairs to look for her father.
It wasn't long before she found him, lying in a pool of his own blood, face down. "Father!" She screamed. She ran to his side and fell to her knees. Carefully, she turned him over and pulled him into her lap. Her sword clamoured to the ground loudly, but she ignored it. Her father was still alive, but barely. An open wound in his stomach was rapidly draining him of his blood. "Father, please be okay," Ri'Tai sobbed.
"Ri…Tai…" Yighte gasped quietly, "The sword…"
"What?" Ri'Tai asked, "Father, what did you say? Are you alright?"
"Ri'Tai…I don't have…much time…"
"No father! Don't speak like that!" She pressed her hands to his wounds as the tears obscured her view.
"Listen to me!" Her father shot with his last ounce of strength, "The sword. You must protect our family's sword. Use it…please…protect the village. Live at any cost…"
"Stop it!" She cried, "Stop talking like you're going to die!"
Yighte just smiled at his daughter and touched her face gently. "Live," He repeated, just before his eyes rolled back. "No!" Ri'Tai shouted, "Father please! Father!" But there was no time to mourn. No sooner had her father's last breath left his body did the front door slam open and a crowd of Draygons forced their way inside. Ri'Tai was on her feet in seconds, picking up her sword and hurrying towards the back of the house. She slipped out the back door, praying that she would be able to get far enough away from the Draygons and perhaps save herself. But the minute she got outside she saw that it was not to be. More than a hundred Draygons circled the village both in the air and on the ground, going through homes and violently slaughtering the people.
"Dear Gods…" She gasped, she offered a quick prayer to Adeini, the High Goddess, for her safety and barrelled down the hill to the rest of the village. She soon found her feet carrying her toward Rayk's home. The entire village was in flames now, and the stench of burning flesh made her eyes water. "Rayk!" She called desperately, holding her sword ready for any surprise attacks. She ran down the side alley near his house, looking for him.
"Ri'Tai!" She heard someone call. She spun around and saw her old friend racing towards her. "Ri'Tai! You're alive," Rayk shouted. Without warning he flung his arms around her, pressing her against his chest.
"What's going on here, Rayk?" she asked. "Why are the Draygons here? How could such a small town attract their attention?"
"Looks like they're in need of more slaves. I saw them take Vives and Reis just a few minutes ago." He said, referring to two girls in the village who were also close friends of hers.
Ri'Tai frowned, "This doesn't look good. How can we expect to defeat so many?"
"We can't," Rayk concluded. "We'll have to run."
"There are no buts, Ri'Tai. We don't have a choice. Come on, we'll head for the mountains. If we're lucky they won't spot us leave." He grabbed her hand and pulled her roughly towards the mountains that protected the valley on the east. "By the way," He said, "I believe you lost something." Rayk pulled something from his shirt and pressed it to her palm. She risked a glance down and saw the diamond pendant he had given her. She managed to smile weakly at him and quickly put it in the pocket of her long skirt.
The pair ran for the mountains with all their speed, Ri'Tai dragging her sword behind her and stumbling as she tried to keep up with Rayk. They wound through the few alleys that existed in the village, avoiding the Draygons whenever they could and killing those that they could not. Both were very skilled in combat, and for a while Ri'Tai actually believed that they would make it out.
However, as they broke free from the cover of the village, a large Draygon above spotted them and called, in the gruff, guttural language of the Draygons, to his fellows. Within seconds nearly the entire group of Draygons were upon them. They swept down on Rayk first, knocking him off his feet and away from Ri'Tai.
Ri'Tai found herself screaming as the remaining Draygons circled around her. She swung at them with her sword but they were too fast, even for her. The largest of them stepped forward and knocked the weapon from her hand. Ri'Tai backed away from him, only to step into another who was behind her. The Draygon grabbed her arms and held them behind her back. The older one grabbed her chin and pulled her face up to his. Ri'Tai immediately found herself full of loathing, and the coldness in his eyes didn't help any.
Shivers ran down her spine, but she forced herself to meet his eyes. If she was going to die then she would do so bravely, and with pride. However, the old Draygon simply nodded to the others and turned his back as they spread their wings and took flight from the ground. Ri'Tai screamed and kicked, but it was no use. The strength of a human was no match for that of a Draygon. As she was lifted higher and higher into the air, she caught sight of Rayk, fighting to get away from his captors, who were quickly overpowering him. The Draygons holding her turned so that she could no longer see him, and headed west towards the sea. The last thing she heard before she fainted was Rayk's painful scream.