Book One of

The Legend of the Narra Quartet

Diamond:

The Epic of Leonarda

By G.L. Jarmin

A story by a Filipino,

Inspired by Filipinos,

And for Filipinos…

Prologue: The Battle of Leanro

A hawk soared over the night skies of the Valley of Leanro, surveying the carnage below with famished yellow eyes.

The ground below was soaked through with blood. The air was thick with the stench of the dead and the dying. For every lifeless form there was a crow to feed off it. Many, if not all of the soldiers, wished the bright moon did not reveal itself that night; maybe then the carnage would not be seen so easily.

Within the massacre, clad in gleaming bronze armor, stood a lone soldier.

He was tall—unusually tall—and lean with short helmet-like hair that looked like it was cut with glass. His bony jaw was outlined with short black stubble. People would immediately assume he was not from Gayuma because of his large, eagle nose, his dark skin and strange accent. His penetrating red eyes glowed with evil.

He looked down at the bloodied corpse, his long Bolo sword buried in its chest. The tall man waited as if to praise himself for his cruel deed. A despicable smile crossed his bloodied and hateful face as he reached for his Bolo's grip and pulled it free out of the unfortunate man's chest.

"Are you finally satisfied, Baltasar?"

The tall soldier turned around to face the source of the sound; before him stood a shorter female soldier.

She was short with a muscular, yet elegant build and waves of shining black hair that sculpted her round, tan face. Short but thick lashes framed her legendary amethyst eyes. Her nose, flat but adorable, was chiseled above silken, kissable lips. Heavily armored with her giant dagger-axe in hand, she faced him with an impassive and disgusted scowl. Her long hair hid most of her face, yet those infamous amethyst eyes of hers were still very visible, trapping anyone who looked into them.

"Are you?" she repeated icily; her voice was unusually deep for a woman's.

Baltasar took his time, staring at his feet, before answering, "I warned you, Narda…" He laughed wickedly, his voice darker than his deed.

She returned his amusement with her usual expressionless mask.

"I warned you not to scream so much," he continued. "Now listen to you…You've lost that sweet…songbird voice of yours and it won't be coming back anytime soon."

Narda shook from anger. She gritted her teeth and grasped her dagger-axe with both hands, ignoring the pain in her left wrist.

"What are you going to do, Narda?" Baltasar taunted. "You wouldn't kill me...You can't kill me…" He looked her in the eye, daring her to make the next move.

Narda swallowed her anguish as her angled eyebrows slowly dropped to a sharp V on her face. Her hands loosened around her dagger-axe; the glare she returned was most horrifying but Baltasar was unmoved.

The scene was interrupted by a nervous soldier delivering a message.

"Narda," he began, "the Prince is asking that you join him. King Hogon has reinforcements at the ready."

Narda nodded and sent the soldier away. After a moment, she turned back to Baltasar and said, "We'll finish this soon," As she turned to walk away, she felt Baltasar's strong hand grab her arm.

"Why not finish it now, my love?" And as he spoke, a twisted, despicable grin bloomed on his face.

Narda glared in return and pulled her arm free, causing Baltasar to stumble forward.

"What's happened to you?" she asked bitterly. "You're not the Baltasar I remember. The Baltasar I knew could have fought this."

He remained silent as he found his balance.

"Don't ever touch me again…" Narda heatedly warned.

Grinning wickedly, Baltasar sheathed his Bolo, mounted his horse, and rode away, leaving Narda with nothing to do but glower at his back.

Instead, she turned and walked over to the man he slew. She put aside her bloodied dagger-axe and kneeled next to the dead form. She gazed into its lifeless eyes for a moment before brushing a few strands of hair away from its face, closing its eyes, and reaching to take its hand in hers.

"I'm sorry I let this happen," she sobbed, bowing her head.

She knelt there for the longest time, fighting back the tears she so badly wanted to shed.

Narda rode to the look-out point: the peak of the tallest of Leanro's Rolling Hills. At her side and only a head taller, was Prince Imaw, mounted on his grey Gayuman warhorse; at his opposite side was Baltasar, who was on foot since none of the horses could carry a man of his height.

Nearly a mile before them stood the army of Sillerbo. Over two thousand men remained on that side, yet their numbers thinned after the first onslaught. Only a few hundred were left with Prince Imaw. This should make for an interesting conclusion to a sure-to-be historic battle.

"Persistent, aren't they?" commented Narda, startling the monarch beside her.

"Your voice...." said the Prince. He was in his early manhood and betrothed to a Tarpanese princess, which he still had yet to meet. Black almond eyes gave color to his tan complexion. A lovely nose, slightly sharp, protruded from his determined face. His shoulder-length black hair was gathered in a ponytail at the base of his head.

A hawk dipped out of the sky and perched on Baltasar's shoulder.

"Let's get this over with," he spat, sliding down from the vantage point and leaving the Prince and Narda alone.

The Sillerbo army marched onward, their eyes burning with fierce determination. Their gold armor and bronze weapons glinted in the moonlight and was the only indication that they were even there. They claimed the kingdom of Gayuma as their own in a bloody invasion a month ago. No one was spared that night; not the young, not the old. The entire kingdom was taken in one great sweep of armor and blades. Every house was burned to the ground as was the castle.

The people suffered the most; elders were tied to horses and buffalo and dragged to their deaths; men were hung in the doorways of the homes they tried to defend; wives and daughters became the victims of black desire; children were either drowned or given a quick death by decapitation. Those who could miraculously managed to escape to Tarpan or the neighboring islands. Sillerbo's actions were those of complete envy and hatred. Either that or their tyrant King decided his personal vendetta was more important than his country's credibility. Every member of the Gayuman royal family was submitted to unbearable torture before being dropped into a pit filled with jagged rocks and splintered wood.

Out of all of them, only one of the monarchs managed to escape: the Crown Prince, Imaw.

Prince Imaw proved to be an inspiring leader. He was loyal, that much was certain, but his skills as a monarch remained to be seen. With the remaining knights loyal to his family, recruited soldiers from their ally kingdom, Tarpan, and what was left of his people, he declared war on Sillerbo; the prize: Gayuma.

Lucky for him, he had Narda by his side. Imaw had known the mysterious girl for only a few weeks, yet that was all the time she needed to prove herself a dedicated Sibilyera, an undefeatable fighter, and a reliable friend. Another thing he discovered about her was her affiliation with powerful magic—Diwata magic.

She was not someone to underestimate in battle either. The two met when she saved him from an ambush by enemy scouts a few days after Sillerbo's invasion. She fought with the speed and skill that could only come with years of experience, yet she only looked his age—maybe even younger.

Her amazing fighting skill and strange weapons had earned her the privilege of being the first female knight, a Sibilyera. Imaw's other knights and Maharlikans were against it from the start but it was his word against theirs. Narda also promised to help them rebuild their kingdom. Her otherworldly presence has unfortunately left her dreaded by many. The Prince no longer considered her frightening, but those strange eyes of hers have always been what he feared most.

"Are you alright?" he asked, noticing Narda's stillness.

"Fine, Prinsipe," she said serenely.

Imaw looked at her doubtfully and shook his head.

"Please don't call me that," he said.

"It's what you are," she returned flatly.

Imaw remained incredulous.

"If he's done anything—" the Prince began.

Narda stopped him with a look. She managed a weak smile and said, "You can't help me…Now, let's finish this," Without looking back, Narda rode off to the head of the Gayuman ranks.

"Bathala protect you, Narda," whispered the Prince.

She took her place with the mounted soldiers. Baltasar stood with the first line of defense: the foot soldiers and spearmen.

Within minutes, the Sillerbon soldiers had closed in and the Gayuman army charged with a furious battle cry. And the final battle had begun.

The first of Sillerbo's lines were rammed back, unprepared for the impact. The Gayuman spearmen attacked first, their fury fueled by the loss and massacre of their families. The very sight of them made even the most determined of Sillerbo's soldiers hesitant. Bogged down by the adrenaline and confusion, the Sillerbon troops did the only thing they knew: react. This had always been their biggest disadvantage.

All brawn and no brains, Narda thought with a smile.

Gayuman fighters were very composed and disciplined. They had been trained to stay calm during battles and to not let anger cloud their thoughts. They also had more experience in warfare but having Narda and Baltasar on their side was their biggest benefit. The battle continued for hours and dawn soon turned into morning, and morning to noon.

By early afternoon, three-fourths of the Gayuman army was dead, leaving only the archers and the Sibilyeros.

The Sillerbon army was now only half of what it was just hours ago.

Narda remained at the flank of the Gayuman army for the remainder of the night, constantly keeping an eye on Imaw. As soon as it was clear, she remounted her steed and rode deep into the heart of the battling heap.

Many of the enemy soldiers tried to rake her off her horse, but every attempt was countered by her deadly dagger-axe: a pole arm with a dagger blade affixed perpendicularly to the end of a metal shaft. At the weapon's opposite end was the sharp tip of a spear. Every arrow that was flung her way was blocked by an ironwood abaniko she constructed herself. It seemed as if nothing could stand in her way.

She was already halfway across the battlefield when her steed was shot down by an arrow; she tumbled head-first into the bloodied ground with it. She ignored the pain in her side and stood up, her dagger-axe to hand.

A dozen of the enemy soldiers rushed at her and she quickly fought them off. Despite its awkward structure, Narda wielded her dagger-axe with incredible mastery. One-by-one, every soldier that came at her fell. By the end of the fight, Narda's hands and armor were coated with blood. She clamped her hand over her mouth. Even though she was accustomed to the horrors of war, her stomach still churned and the strong urge to vomit was still inevitable. It sickened Narda that the same could not be said for Baltasar.

He was a few yards away and was clearly visible through the carnage. Still proudly mounted on his horse, he chopped and slashed at the enemies that came near him like a drunken madman. His hawk came to his defense by clawing out the eyes of unsuspecting soldiers or simply acting as a distraction, leaving its master to deal the final blow. What appalled Narda the most was that he did not even bother to distinguish the enemy from the Gayuman soldiers.

Her hand tightened around her halberd. Her eyes were so clouded with hate that she did not even notice the towering adversary behind her. A giant serrated machete came down at her so fast she barely dodged it. Luckily, she managed to block the blade with her weapon's shaft long enough to escape. Though she got away with a small cut, her dagger-axe paid the price.

The machete wielder came at her again, swinging his weapon wildly. He was a hideous, misshapen man. Narda guessed, as she dodged and ducked for her life, that his upbringing was malicious. He was a victim of selective inbreeding. The kingdom of Sillerbo was famous for its inhuman soldiers. They thought victory was worth everything, even their own humanity. Narda could not help but feel sorry for the creature.

She evaded the first slashes by ducking and leaping, but she could not keep this up. Even if she still had her pole arm, her opponent was to close for its great length. She waited for an opening and reached for her concealed weapon. It was a strange thing. Narda said it was a common weapon in her old world.

It was shaped like a hammer; though instead of a wooden handle it had a long blunt metal tube and in place of the pounding steel was a metal grip like that of a Bolo. She aimed the blunt end at her attacker and pulled back a small mechanism called a trigger, which was fixed onto the grip. The device recoiled, sending a deafening sound throughout the mass. Imaw once heard Narda call this feat 'firing'. In merely a second, the machete bearer dropped to the ground, a small hole smoking on his forehead. The wound was put there by a small lead ball called a bullet.

Narda lowered her weapon, her stomach churning at the sight of blood and fresh wounds. She dropped on all fours, firmly clasping her left hand over her mouth to stop vomit. Tears welled in her eyes. Her chest contacted in protest as Narda fought not to let go of her mess. She took a deep breath through her mouth, careful not to take in the nauseating stench.

"Oh my," commented Lakan Bato, one of the Sibilyeros. "Women and their weak constitutions." His fellow knights murmured in agreement.

Prince Imaw appeared beside, silencing all with his presence.

"Think she's had her fill of combat, Kamahalan?" asked Lakan Pilar, who was known for his intolerance of green knights. He was a Mestiso, being half Gayuman, and half Kastil—a race of humans from an island in the west; they were known for their arrogance. He was as tall as his father, Lakan Irene, at six feet and two inches with sun-browned skin and flawless dark blond hair that he kept short. Impatience seemed to be his virtue. When he heard a woman would be among the ranks, he'd finally had enough. With nearly everyone ignoring his wasted comments, he chose to loathe in silence.

Imaw's knights gathered around him.

"I expect nothing less from you, gentlemen," he said grimly, his voice stabbing through all fifty knights. "We Gayumans are not killers…but we do what we must," The Gayuman Crown Prince unsheathed his broadsword and raised it skyward. His loyal knights joined him in the Gayuman battle cry before charging head-long into the fray.

Narda could hear the thunder of hooves from behind her yet kept her eyes on the Sillerbon King, who looked at her defiantly. Her fellow Sibilyeros passed her, the Prince leading. The wind from their gallop blew in her hair and cooled her skin as she struggled to her feet. She stood up wordlessly and watched them sprint away.

Her part was over and all she wished to do now was rest and watch. She was on the verge of passing out when Baltasar was suddenly at her side. The hawk under his control was perched on his shoulder, a human finger wedged in its beak.

"A relentless bunch," said Baltasar. "the people we work for." The familiar, vile grin formed on his face again. "Seeing such determination just…gives you the urge to destroy their hope, doesn't it?"

She moved away from him and toward a boulder. She sat down, watching him cautiously. Even though it was all around, the smell of blood that surrounded Baltasar was much more sickening.

The afternoon faded away and slowly turned to dusk during the final moments of the Battle of Leanro. Only twelve knights remained in the Silerbo army, and just like their King, they came ill-fated.

The battle itself was the greatest ever seen in over a thousand years. Never before has the land seen the sparking of swords and clash of spears so ruthless, nor heard the bold dying shrieks of men and their horses as they made themselves known to history.

The Sillerbo men were on the run; the will to fight was simply fading away. Those who gave up and begged to be killed were prison-bound—Sibilyeros lived on the Code of Chivalry, and therefore knew better than to kill the unarmed.

At last, the battle was won. The Gayuman victory cry sounded the final time as the King of Sillerbo was captured and chained. The champions could once again hold their heads high in triumph. Plans of a festival and nights drowned in alcohol were exchanged between the knights and remaining soldiers. Their honor was restored. Everyone became restless at the knowledge that Imaw's Kingship could finally begin.

Narda pushed herself up with a piece of her ruined dagger-axe. The pain in her side somehow grew worse. Her legs were stiff. Her head felt heavy. Her vision was growing red.

What are you trying to tell me, Narra? she moaned in her thoughts.

Baltasar told his hawk to fly ahead. "It seems they won." he remarked.

Without waiting, Narda walked ahead.

The knights mounted their steeds and marched back to the castle and land that was rightfully theirs, all under the leading stride of Prince Imaw. They reached the Gayuman capital of Desideriyo as the rays of the sun merged into the western lands of Sillerbo. The Sillerbon King, Hogon, along with his remaining soldiers, was sent to a prison in Tarpan. As expected, all that remained of the city's once-grand ironwood castle was a fine black ash.

No spirits dampened. There was no time for that. Not when there was so much to do. By tomorrow, Desideriyo would come back to life with the return of its citizens. Gayumans were known for being resilient and this was the perfect time to prove it. Rebuilding their homes and lives would be but a day's work.

Prince Imaw, accompanied by fifteen of his knights, waited anxiously for Narda's return. Before the sun completely disappeared, the two arrived. Most of Narda's fellow knights welcomed her with open arms as did the Prince.

"We couldn't have done it without you." commented Lakan Silab, who judged Narda too soon.

"You truly have proven yourself, Girl," praised Lakan Haraya. Narda had always liked him; he'd been one of the first to welcome her in the ranks. His loyalty was his creed.

"Well done, Leo," raved Lakan Roho, patting her hardily on the back. Narda enjoyed his company as well; he was easy to talk to and had a way of calming people.

Narda ignored a glaring ovation from Lakan Pilar and his conservative friends.

Then Prince Imaw was before her. All he wished to say had already been, courtesy of his knights. He beamed his pride and gratitude in a single smile. Narda could do nothing but smile sadly back at her friend. The pleasant stillness was shattered by Baltasar's unwelcome voice.

"Yes. Yes. For a woman, Narda is…not to be taken lightly," He grinned that infernal grin of his again. "Am I right, King Imaw?"

No one felt the need to answer but the desire to glare hatefully was unanimous. Out of all the Gayuman soldiers that died, a large number of deaths were at the hands of Baltasar and his drunken frenzy.

"What?" he asked, pretending to be clueless.

Prince Imaw saw the look in Narda's eyes as Baltasar appeared. He couldn't bear to see her like this.

Without even stopping to think of the consequences, Imaw said, "Baltasar?"

"Yes, Kamahalan?"

"I think it best if you spend the night alone," This was an order, anyone could tell.

Baltasar cocked his head.

"What are you implying?" he asked playfully.

"Imaw, don't," Narda quietly pleaded.

He ignored her warning.

"I feel you need some time to think about your actions and be alone," Imaw just didn't want him near anyone, especially not Narda. His knights seemed not to agree with him; they would rather have him run through and roasted. "You'll not take one step into Desideriyo until further notice."

Baltasar half-winced and tilted his head.

"Those soldiers were in my way, Kamahalan,"

"If you insist on calling me that, then do as I say. You need to take responsibility," Imaw dared to add, "Consider this an order."

"Imaw, stop this," Narda begged.

"No, Narda," Baltasar cut in, his voice slowly enveloping with anger. "The King is absolutely right. What I did was unacceptable. I'll leave now." He faced the Prince again, this time his eyes completely red. "But not without taking his head as a trophy."

He unsheathed his Bolo and rushed at the Prince with blinding speed. Luckily, Narda was able to block him using her ironwood abaniko. A moment later, she disarmed him. She took his Bolo and flung it to one side. Both her eyes were flashing amethyst; she had finally had enough.

"Just go, Baltasar..." she said grimly. "Just leave."

Baltasar eyed her for a minute before cackling wickedly.

"You know it's not going to be that easy, woman," Without warning, he broke free and pulled out a long Kampilan from a hidden scabbard on his back. The knights unsheathed their own swords and tried to fend him off. All fifteen fought bravely but lost; five of them lay dead. Before he could finish anymore, Narda rushed in, the Prince's sword in her hands. She managed to wound him and give the knights time to escape.

Baltasar stood clear of her and ignored his pain. He lifted the cutlass and grinned in defiance.

"Recognize this, my sweet?" he prodded.

In his hand was a beautiful Kampilan with blue rattan bindings on its handle. A Baybayin inscription was carved into the razor-sharp blade. Its wooden pommel was carved in the shape of Kimat the Lightning Dog's wide-open mouth. Such a lovely weapon didn't suit a man like Baltasar. It was obviously stolen.

Narda glared hatefully but as she looked at the sword.

"…Askaraga?" The words were pushed out with a shiver. The strangest feeling of sorrow rushed through her. This feeling was soon replaced with pure hatred.

"You're dead!" she hissed.

Her vision abruptly became red and a sharp pain burst in her side. She suddenly found herself face-down on the ground, Baltasar still a few paces before her, and the salty taste of blood in her mouth. Her breathing became labored and painful.

"Narda!" she heard the Prince cry. He rushed for her but was stopped by his knights.

Narda raised a bloody hand to the Prince, halting his persistence. Streaked with pain, she pushed herself up with her sword and leaned against it. She could feel warm blood rushing down her face as well. She looked down at the source of her pain and she found her armor had been slashed at the waist. The wound was deep and bleeding profusely. In absolute shame, she realized what had happened: she let her anger cloud her vision and Baltasar quickly took advantage of the opportunity. What hurt the most was that Narda had taught him that exact dirty trick.

"I thought you knew better, Narda," Baltasar taunted. "I'm disappointed." He sheathed his new, bloodied sword and turned away. "I think I'll leave it at that for now. Rest assured…we will finish this." He walked away. "This began with a war; it's going to end with a war." he roared.

Narda's face contorted with pain. She watched him leave. Finally, the pain became too much for her; her vision failed and she lost consciousness. The last thing she remembered seeing was a hawk that screeched and soared proudly across the orange sky.

This story has multiple references and is based on Filipino Culture and Mythology. I'll be updating my profile to include a translation guide. If you have more inquiries please refer to Wikipedia on Philippine Mythology.