Lyorta Vol 1: Chapter 1

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Chapter 1: Fires At Midnight

THE WANDERING PRINCESS I

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868 CE “2nd Season, 4th Moon, 1st Week, 3rd Day”

~The Pridelands, Aria at Midnight

Belairus stood stiff as a fence post. A circle of trees illuminated by midnight fires surrounds the young neros girl. Her ears twitched while a fresh breeze blows slag smothered smoke away from a burning log whistling strange tales. In the warm glow, she could see trees carved with some form of ancient writing. The feeling of the place was thick with tension, pouring over her pounding heart. Belairus wraps her arms around a muscular warrior, her father, Lymric, burying her face into his tone stomach while his great arm curls around her back. It did little to comfort, but it was better than being away from her father's grasp.


Though she was not sure about Fenrir, a stranger, who seemed to have an unhealthy fascination with her. He is a shady person and a dirty warung at that. His robes are black as the ash-covered soil that encircles. The thin warung arches his back while leaning on his rod of brass. From under a black shadowing hood his brown and white muzzle peaks. Some call him a mystic, most, a witch.


Peeking past her father’s side, she looks up at the head of an incline. Belairus cringes as she spies frightening people masked with red cloaks drenched in golden trinkets. They are watching, silent, like hanging stars. Their shadows look like giants dancing in the bonfire’s flare. Her eyes dart to the sides of the cliff to find a much more uncomfortable sight. A naked white furred man and woman holding torches that remind Belairus of strange beasts spewing fire out of their open mouths. What bothers her more was the tall pointed red hoods that cover their faces. Worse was the ungodly huge swords they held, stabbed deep in the earth. “There is no way they could lift those massive swords.” Belairus thought to herself. She imagines they are there for intimidation alone. Not even her father could raise something like that.


A snapping branch in the fire directs her sights. Her heart skipping a beat as she notices a shadow stood inside the flames. “Why isn’t anyone helping them.” she whispers. It became abundantly apparent the impossible image is real and her eyes are not lying. Someone was standing in the fire. Another snap of a branch, the person in the fire took a step forward. Belairus could not watch it anymore, someone had to do something. She latched onto her father’s side shaking him. “Someone is burning! Father someone is in the fire!” Belairus shouts. Lymric’s reply a swift harsh shush. How could he just shosh her? To her absolute amazement the absurdity of the situation grows as a man walks out of the blaze, unharmed from its heat and fury. “Is he a ghost?” This alone was enough to make her want to turn tail and run but her father held her in place, if she did, it would disappoint him and she did not want that.


Belairus desperately wanted to look away, though she found herself unable. A mix of fear and enchantment turned her once thin irises into large black spheres. The odd thing wore a mask she found to be rather inferior. It was a bird. Something commonly ate. The massive iron stave he held is half taller than himself.  Belairus remembered from the stories of the village elders it suggesting he was high priest of some kind. The priest’s clothes extinguish unburned as though the fire never touched his beautiful robes. That large stave must have been hot Belairus reasoned.


“I don’t like this place,” she whispers to her father with a childish hope that he would just take her home. Sadly she receives her answer by the familiar pet of Lymric’s hand on her head. With that gentle stroke, she knew exactly what it meant. We have to stay. Her tail brushed against the ground moving back and forth slowly, her pointed snowy ears turning sideways.


Her heart sinks as a rather dull and monotone voice from behind the black and red wooden mask calls “Belairus, come forward,” Her tail bushes out much like a duster while taking a step forward, sheepishly, as if dipping her toe in cold water. She looks back up to her father who bent down and pushes her forward. With a deep breath, she walks across the warm ash-covered earth painting her pale feet as black as the twilight sky. It rung in her head. This man that was either a god or ghost, walked out of fire. The masked man limply motions with his hand. “Come now child.”


Not wanting to upset the elder she leaps over the dust now before him gazing up. The golden detailing of the mask shimmers in the firelight. The man was taller than she had expected. Maybe taller than her father. She found herself crossing her arms as a chill ran down her spine, at the same time the heat was so intense she could feel it on her face. He lowers his hand with an exposed palm wrapped in cloths. Belairus slowly raises her youthful hand, the high priest's long bony fingers curled around her dainty appendages. “He is cold,” Belairus thought to herself. “But how? I am nearly sweating from this heat. How can he be cold?”


“Old friend, why have you brought this child here?”


Fenrir spoke up excitedly. “As you know the pride lands had rumors of a sacred child being born. I have followed these stories and was led to Belairus. I believe Belairus is a perfect avatar. I have tested her and she is able to hold the spirit of the Lumaria within her. With her, I believe we can begin the conquest of the human kingdoms. Her image alone could unify the tribes. She should be trained to become the high priestess and prepared to become the avatar.”


The high priest straightens up not saying a word. His hand grasps Belairus’s face gripping her lower cheek. His fingers clutched her jowl forcing her face to the side inspecting her left side, then her right. Turning her head back to gaze into her royal blue eyes a smile gradually developed as he examined her, nevertheless, no one could see it behind the mask.


All Belairus could hear was the beating of her own heart. Slowly it sped up as she looked into the carved eyes. “Child,” Belairus hears a voice call out to her. It was not distant but it was close, too close, it almost felt violating because the voice came from her mind. Her irises turned to slits. “I see you do hear me. You speak as we do. Interesting.” Another voice entered her mind.


“Belairus let's talk privately.” said the High Priest. “Have you learned to speak like this?”


“No.” Belairus thought to herself.


A small chuckle comes out from under the high priest’s mask. “That will do.” he said out loud. “Belairus do you understand what that man wants with you?” the high priest asked her in a soft, calm voice.


“I am the avatar.” Belairus thought.


The high priest turned his head to look at Fenrir. “Do you understand what it means to be the avatar Belairus?”


“No.”


“Are you willing to give yourself up to another. To a stranger, you don’t know. Are you willing to allow someone else to control and speak for you in your own body?”


“No. That sounds scary.”


“Indeed, it is.”


“Do I have to be the avatar?”


“I have made my decision.” the high priest said with a warm voice. “I see. So the rumors are true. She looks like the goddess. Looks alone do not prove anything. She is a girl. Don’t let suppression rule you Fenrir. You should know better than to lead a young lady like this astray. Does she come with some degree of knowledge of higher things? Belairus tell me our history. Where do we come from?”


The question struck her, she did not even know what higher things were. Trees? But that can’t be right. Maybe he means the birds, he seems to like birds a lot to wear a mask like that, still she didn't know anything about birds. The sky, she knew nothing of that either. She shrinks back a little before saying “I, I don’t know,” Belairus shyly lowering her ears.


With those long fingers the high priest pets her head. “And what do the spirits tell you?”


Belairus glances over to her father who was now giving her an inquisitively raised eyebrow. “The same thing as everyone else, to stay away from their domains.”


“Domains?” the high priest asked now sounding a bit interested.


“Yes, the sacred places in the woods.” Belairus said.


“See Fenrir,” the high priest said with a warmth in his voice. “She is a girl. Now let a child be a child.”


Fenrir did not take long to reply back in a snappy tone. “You would not know the spirits of the Lumaria if they were incarnate in front of you. Hiding from the higher worlds with your,”


“Are you suggesting I would purposefully let an opportunity such as this slip away?” mentioned the high priest. He pointed his rod towards Fenrir, the rings beginning to rattle. Wind blew causing the fire behind him to go into a blazing rage. Belairus was terrified while the fires burn around the high priest swirling, diving with a mind of its own. She clung into the high priest hugging him tightly burying her face in his robes. “We don’t bow to the Tempest here Fenrir. Nor will we walk among the Maelstrom like heretics. Young child, you are safe.” A hand proceeded to pat Belairus’s back softly.


“You have become a fool. You would deny our queen her right?” Fenrir said in a low voice.


The high priest shakes his head. “Watch your tongue or I will have you cast into the fires.” Fenrir swallowed knowing he went too far and has now angered the high priest. Lymric looks over to Fenrir with concern, with a grimace. “We have been friends for a long time Fenrir. Don’t challenge me, don’t ever challenge me.” Fenrir went quiet knowing his place.


The high priest then bent down to Belairus’s level and lifted his mask to reveal his wolfish warung face. “Belairus, I see great things in you. Don’t think wrong of me. I do not deny you your queen-ship if there is one to be held. Lo though you are not the avatar. I have a feeling you will play an enormous role in the future. Just not one that serves us here.”


Lymric was stunned at what had just happened. He gawks over at Fenrir and then back at the high priest. "She was denied, how could this be happening," he thought to himself. “Please,” he said causing the High Priest to lower his mask and turn his head to face Lymric. “Please reconsider. At least, allow her to train with you,” at this, the high priest stood to his full height. There was silence for a moment as he stood ajar in Lymric’s orientation. “Train her in the ways of being a high priest like yourselves. I beg this of you.”


“There is nothing I can do,” he spoke in an indifferent tone. Raising a finger to her mouth, Belairus bit her claw. Lymric was about the speak again but the priest swiftly barks out. “Nothing. If you want her to be trained in the ways of, the mystics, it is not for us to do so. Have your mysterious Fenrir train her; he thinks himself higher than us as it is. Though, I would suggest it would be a grave mistake to teach her in such ways. She would be best to be trained in the ways of a warrior. Not in the ways of magical arts.” he looks down at Belairus’s overwhelmed expression placing his finger on her cheek making her smile. “It is up to you to prepare her for what is to come. I have seen a great struggle in her life. Prepare her for it or the stream of time for her shall run dry quickly. Now go…” said the high priest. His boney hand presses on Belairus’s back. She runs to her father. The look on his face was one of pure disappointment. She had done something wrong. She dishonored her father. Rejected.


A look of shock and shame drips from her expression. Lymric kneels down hugging her tightly. He grabs her hand leading her down a dark wooded path. Fenrir turns to walk with the two when the high priest calls out “Fenrir you stay," The three stop and turn to look back at the priest. He stood with his arm outstretched, a long claw pointed at Fenrir. "I have meant, to find you, and I am not through with you.” Fenrir faces the high priest and scowls baring his teeth with a small growl. “There is another matter I must speak to you about.” The high priest then motions with his hand toward Lymric and Belairus waving his fingers to go.


“And what might that be?” Fenrir snarls. Lymric places his hand on Belairus’s back pushing her along to continued down the path. She can’t help but look back at the two. Their voices trailed in the woods quite a distance but she could not make out what was being said.


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The red priest stood looking at Fenrir’s shadowy form. The fires snap. “As to your comings and goings as of recently. You have me curious. What are you doing?” questioned the priest.


“Oh, of course. So you have been watching me.” Fenrir proponds under his breath while he walks back towards the fires. Each step Fenrir took a small black plume of ash flew up with his stride. He snickers “Of course you would not allow a man to his privacies," Fenrir grits his teeth when he stood in the midst of the high priest, then scoffs, “If you had any sense at all, you would have trained her. I will train her myself, and when she sits upon the restored throne of the Aria, it will be you who is cast out of the temple.”


The high priest laughed heartily. “Bitter words my friend, angry words. You and I have a history. We both know this. Back when you were a lad, we did not accept you either, and now you spin tales with the surrounding tribes. You convince them you're an ancient seer, but you are far from it Fenrir. I chose the right path by refusing you, Fenrir. No, you have opted for a, darker path, and it is one not to be trusted. You have chosen to align yourself with demons. I have been watching you wandering. You have wandered many places these days. You're searching for something. Even within our lands. Are you campaigning?”


Fenrir looked at the priest with a fair amount of surprise. “Are you suggesting I am a traitor?” Fenrir retorts with a howl.


The high priest lowers his head. “That remains to be seen…”


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Belairus feels safe wrapped in Lymric’s arms. The two laid on top of a black wolf pelt carpet in front of a small fire pit. They snuggled warmed by the heat together inside of a leather tepee. Belairus wore a mask of happiness, though, Lymric sees right through the transparent smile. “Something on your mind my girl?” he asks her.


At first, Belairus shook her head no. Lymric just gives her a stern but loving look and slowly, her ears fall to the sides. “Father did I do something wrong?” disappointment, shame, pain, fear was etched on her face. The entire walk home she slumped, unlike her usual perky, cheerful self. So much so her tail dragged behind her.


Lymric held his daughter close to him playing with her hair getting a small smile out of her “I am so proud of you. You have done nothing wrong. The elders do not believe you are the avatar, but they think you will be a great warrior. That alone is something to be proud of.” Lymric chuckles with a slight amount of tears forming in his eyes.


Belairus was quiet for a moment as she thought about what she was going to say next. Though one question on her mind was really tugging and the meeting with the mystic just added weight to it. “What is the avatar anyways?” Belairus asked. It did not occur to Lymric, but no one had ever explained this to her. What it would have meant if she was. A part of him was glad she was not the avatar. Now she could remain with him at the village. He dotes on her constantly, in fact to the point of driving his wife jealous at times.


“The avatar is a great sign to our people. This individual shall be the goddess in the flesh among us.” Lymric asserts.


“I don’t understand… how could I be that?” she asks pondering the impossibility of being a god. “And if I was, why would they not believe I was? Wouldn’t they know?” Belairus said curiously as the idea grew, “Wouldn’t I know?”


“Yes Belairus, they would.” Lymric pauses rubbing Belairus’s pointed ear. “I believe Fenrir may have been mistaken. Though the mystic is rarely wrong about anything. He is just hopeful for you and sees a lot in you. Perhaps to his detriment.”


“Is that so.” Belairus turns over to look into the fires as a smile crept across her face. Her fangs were poking out past her rosy lips.


“You have potential Belairus. I will let you choose what path you take. You can train under Fenrir if you like or you can train under your uncle. He will train you with that spear of yours.”


It really would be something else to command magic powers Belairus thought. To be like the mystics and call fire out of thin air or to bring rain when needed and even to speak with the spirits. At the same time, she wanted to make her family proud. If she were a great warrior she could protect the tribe and no one would challenge her tribes rule. She would become the greatest of all heroes, even dragons would run and hide from her.


She did not like Fenrir very much. He seemed, wrong. The thought of being around him more turned her stomach into knots but her uncle, Asgar, was another story. Such a fun person. He often would take her into the woods and show her all kinds of animals. He even taught her how to tan leather and when he comes back from long trips he always brings her a gift. “I love uncle; he is good…but sometimes I wonder about the spirits.”


Lymric, in all honesty, has never been fond of the spirits. Without them interfering with their way of life the village would be far better off. Almost all conflicts between tribes happen because of these spirits. He often wondered if they were even on their side or if it was just some kind of sick pastime they had.


“Why isn’t Uncle Asgar chieftain?” Belairus’s curious voice breaks the silence.


“Because I am stronger. Including the elder picked me over him. When father died, Asgar was about your age. He was not the man he is today. In fact, he was a little stupid. Jealous old trike he was. After I had been appointed as chieftain, he and I were at odds for a while. That is until he decided he would be the best warrior of the tribe.” Lymric remarked in a calm tone. The fires snap softly now and then, not like the blaze at the tribal council.


“O… he seems to be a better hunter than you,” Belairus said causing her father to laugh a small chuckle.


“I am stronger than my brother, but he is faster than me. He is probably smarter too if I must be honest.”


“If you are stronger then why don’t you train me, papa?”


Lymric let out a long weathered sigh. “I don’t have the courage to train you Belairus. I could never let you fail.”


Belairus grabs a stick to poke into the burning embers at the edge of the rock circle. The small flames become alive and start to dance. She lets out a gentle breath to cause the fires to sway back and forth. Her smile grows warm. “And uncle would?”


“He wants to ensure you are the right kind of chieftain to rule. One with strength and power.”


It had never occurred to her that she was going to be taking her father’s place as chieftain. If she was going to be ruler one day, then she was going to be the greatest leader her tribe has ever known. She would be cunning as the fox and wise as the serpents. For her people, she must learn from Fenrir, as foul a taste it left in her mouth. “Is there any way I can train under both?”


Lymric nods his head without any hesitation. “It would be a lot of work. Training under both means you would have less time to play.”


“I know. I am alright with that.” Fenrir was still not back to the camp yet. Belairus thought the high priests must be scolding him still for being rude. Fenrir seemed unwelcome even though he too was a mystic like them. “Why do the high priests not like Fenrir?”


“He has… been in the dark far too much for his sake. This scares the high priests. Fenrir is a good man. He has been close to the tribe since ancient times. They say he is older than all the trees in this land. Even older than the earth itself. A true native of Lumaria.” Lymric said with a smirk.


“Really?” Belairus turns to her father wide-eyed.


“No, I don’t believe those stories.”


Belairus frowns for a moment “Why not?”


“While Fenrir is a smart man he is not that smart.” Lymric looks into his daughter's eyes and felt all the wonder of her child like mind. This was indeed good times he thought to himself. There like a crashing avalanche; trouble crept over Lymric's mind. He knew she was growing up. Soon she would not be his little girl any longer but a real woman of the tribe. A warrior at that too.


He snaps back into reality as Belairus burst out “Do you think Fenrir could be a thousand years old?”


“Yes, perhaps even from an endless time.” Lymric rubs his daughters hair again messing up the twig antlers wrapped in it.


“Endless?” Belairus asked.


“Perhaps while you’re studying under Fenrir you should ask him,” Lymric laughs.


“So if Fenrir is wise as everyone says… why has he not learned to hold his tongue,” Belairus said with all the bluntness of a young child.


Belairus's short words provoke a belly laugh from Lymric “That is a mighty good question. Speaking of which, it is late, and you should be sleeping.”


“But I don’t want to bed.” Belairus frowns with a kind of disappointment so exaggerated it became almost comical.


Lymric grins and pats her head. “Silly. I am going to see Fenrir before we sleep. You lay down and be good. Would not want you getting lost out here.”


“We are in Aria! There is no one to harm me.” Belairus said with a smug smile.


Lymric stands up. “No, you stay here. I have something I would like to discuss with him. Also, you don’t want to be sleepy tomorrow. We got a long walk back home.”


“It takes seven days to walk back from here,” Belairus argued.


“Seven days, if you don’t get your sleep it may take eight or even nine.”


“Fine… I will sleep, but if I wake up early, you need to get up with me, so I am not bored.” Belairus said with a toothy grin.


Lymric nods his head “Of course, my queen.” At his comment, Belairus gave him a bit of a bashful glare.


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Morning came swiftly for Belairus. She awakes abruptly. Her eyes peer over the empty tent seeing the blankets her father slept in already rolled and packed. The fire that warmed her through the night was long dead. Light pierces through the small hole at the top of the tepee and fills the room from the open doorway. She looks outside seeing that her father is nowhere to be seen.


Fenrir, however, was sitting on a log in front of the lifeless outer campfire. Belairus slowly pushes herself up. She rubbed her messy hair and face with her ash-covered hands. Her makeup was smeared, and the moon crescent was no more. Just a black mark on her forehead.


“Morning mystic.” she said in a groggy voice as she sat up inside her tent.


Fenrir looks over with his hood down. A toothy grin appears over his muzzle. “Ah, child you are awake. Good. Your father is hunting.”


“Why are you not hunting?” Belairus asks confused by Fenrir’s lack of work ethic.


Fenrir chuckles. “Your father is far more suited for such a task. Come now child. I am supposed to teach you. Might as well make your first lesson be now.”


Belairus slowly crawls out from under the tent and over to the log that Fenrir sat upon. “O’ alright. I am just waking up. Not sure if I will be a good student.”


“This is a perfect time, child. Look, tell me what do you see.” Fenrir points into the cinders.


What an odd question Belairus thought to herself as she looks at the empty campfire. She looks carefully seeing if any detail she was missing. Frustrated she simply says what she saw “A burnt out fire.” Fenrir smiled and kept looking at it.


“Keep looking.” Fenrir says.


Still it was a burnt out fire. “It’s still a fire pit.”


Fenrir shakes his head. “Look past it.”


Belairus watched the center of the stone circle turn dark like ink. The ash overtook the ground until it was blackness in the circle. She could see faces of rotted things. It frightens her. “The dead! I see the dead!”


“These are the old ones. Seek wisdom from those who have lived longer than yourself Belairus. These are the most sacred of guides.”


“The child has seen,” says a deep voice out of the darkness. “The child has seen.” comes another whisper. “The child is a witness. She is the witness,” says more voices from the darkness. Belairus shrieks and closes her eyes.


“I don’t want to hear them anymore! I don’t want to see them,” she yells. Fenrir quickly strikes the ashes with his rod sending a plume of dust into the air. Belairus opens her eyes to see the burnt out campfire. “I did not like that.”


Fenrir smirks. “I was frightened the first time I saw the old ones myself. They are drawn to fires. See they can’t show themselves without a source of power. The fire is the source that allows them habitation with us.”


“But they are dead. The dead should stay with the dead,” she says as her chest raised and fell with each breath.


“On occasion, even the dead should be given life for a time to gain knowledge from them. Remember that Belairus. It is how we get the wise counsel of our ancestors.” Fenrir stands up. “Lymric, what have you brought for us.” Belairus looked up to see her father walking down from the path, several water otters were tied to a stick perched on his shoulder.



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