Ithuriel: Inception (Chapter One)

Presenting original fantasy fiction from Robert Roach, this prose series features sword and soul hero Ithuriel in adventures placed in fantasy lands.

read the previous installment | Read the next installment | Read the latest installment


(Kuanzishwa is the Swahili word for "establishment" or "inception." It's the calendar designation for this era.)

In spite of the wooden practice sword's impending impact on his head, Ithuriel seems as if he barely moves. With speed that belies his size -- at the last second, the young man quickly raises his arm, flicking away his dad's attack.

"Slowing down over there, 'old man?'" Ithuriel laughs as he parries.

"'Old man,' huh?!" Tzumé enjoins. He launches a quick flourish, pushing his son back a step or two. Most swordsmen would be pressed into full retreat, but the young warrior is like a living, brown wall.

Ithuriel's about 6'8" (over two meters) tall & weighs about 280 lbs. (approx. 125 kg). All muscles. He's arguably one of his world's strongest men. He's also fast, quick & agile. The barbarian is a superb athlete.

Ithuriel feints at his dad's neck & doubles down toward his thigh. But Tzumé is ready for this & blocks this assault.

Dad thrusts at Ithuriel's waist. Ithuriel blocks Tzumé's strike, swinging downward & leaning backward.

Tzumé strikes at his son's forehead. Not moving, Ithuriel blocks this swipe.

Ithuriel goes on the offensive, swinging his wooden "blade" at Tzumé's head, who ducks. Both return to center, smiling at this fun -- squaring off.

Thrust. Parry. Parry. Thrust. Swipe. Block. Step forward. Step to the side. The two superior warriors stay at the room's midpoint -- neither giving quarter as they rehearse this lethal dance.

Ithuriel lunges forward, aiming for his father's upper body. Tzumé blocks with his staff, simultaneously pivoting at the waist, intending to use his strength & Ithuriel's momentum against the young warrior.

Nearly anyone else would fall to this plan, but Ithuriel's power & agility allow him to shrug off this attempt as if it had never happened.

Swipe. Thrust. Toward the leg. A tag on the shoulder. A powerful clash near the hilts. The father & son go at it for extended minutes.

Tzumé runs another flourish & then steps in close to his son. This time Ithuriel shuffles his feet but he does not retreat.

Father & son go chest-to-chest. Quickly & subtly, Ithuriel shifts slightly to his right. In relation to his dad's position, Ithuriel's movement has created an angle.

Before Tzumé knows what's happened, Ithuriel pushes his dad, fully extending his arms.

Tzumé flies across the chamber, landing in a heap in front of the room's low couch. A triangle-shaped chess table sits next to the couch. Pankthwa, a far-off country in The Sea Ashran's north/central region, created this version of chess most of a millennium earlier. The pastime has since been the world's most popular game of strategy.

Though everyone knows Pankthwa Chess, this particular table & its ornate pieces have been executed with a Kahnuri design.

Father & son are both slightly surprised at the results of Ithuriel's power. And they're surprised at the power itself.

Ithuriel & Tzumé look at each other for a couple of seconds. Then they both erupt with laughter.

Ithuriel rushes over to help his dad up. "How long has it been since we sparred?" Tzumé asks. "Two years or so?"

"Yes, sir," Ithuriel answers.

"You've been practicing," Tzumé comments. "Plus, you're already much stronger than I've EVER been. And still growing! These are the reasons why I say that you must choose your future carefully -- & that you have more options than anyone I've ever encountered.

"I'm not just speaking as your father, son. I'm speaking as someone who's lived & observed life. You have the potential to shake & shape the world. This is why you must be judicious."

"What if I don't want to 'shake & shape the world,' Dad? What if I just wanna stay in the background & be me?"

"As long as you're perfectly fine with this," Tzumé answers, "I'll be perfectly fine with this.

"However, it's been my experience that if Life has expectations of you, Life will find a way to make its demands."

"That's not very reassuring, Dad," Ithuriel replies.

"Yeah. But it's true. What idiom did I teach you from your boyhood?" Tzumé asks.

"'There's no heavier burden than great potential.'"

"Yes," Tzumé says. "I'm sorry, son, but yours is among the greatest potential I've ever seen. Now, don't get caught up in this fact. Continue to live your life & keep your options open. Your proper path will unfold."

"I understand you, Dad," Ithuriel offers. "What you're saying is logical. But it doesn't help me to think any clearer."

Ithuriel grabs a large wrap. Like nearly all men in this era of pre-history, Ithuriel lives his lifetime fully strapped. The light armor he's wearing -- burnished & burgundy -- is a must. Though it won't protect the young warrior from heavy weaponry, this protective clothing helps to deflect smaller attacks.

More importantly, Ithuriel also wears his own longsword & dagger. All self-respecting, grown men -- & many, many women -- buckle themselves up as instinctively as they eat every day.

The young barbarian hears the blustery weather building in intensity & preps for the inclement elements. He's going out for a walk to clear his head.

"Okay, son," Tzumé says. "I'll hold dinner for a couple of hours. Don't reflect too deeply on your decisions, Ithuriel. All will turn out good. Be safe, son."

Ithuriel waves at his dad as he exits the room. He's soon outside their shared estate. Their home is grand, but far more modest than many of the homes in which Aston's affluent, influential & elite reside. Their grounds are well kept but not overwhelmingly expansive. There's a sense that almost everyone is welcome at Tzumé & Ithuriel's home.

As he wanders the capital's thoroughfares, the large warrior waves & nods in greeting at people that recognize him. Due to Ithuriel's size & stature alone, he's recognizable. But added to this is his father's stature -- Tzumé's standing within Kahnuri's politics & society. 

Tzumé is considered Kahnuri's ultimate "renaissance man." He's pretty much done it all -- student, soldier, businessman & politician.  Due to his intelligence & contacts, within five years after his retirement from the military, Tzumé had amassed a fortune -- quite a success for this middle class born man.

Having come from relatively humble beginnings, Tzumé is uniquely qualified to help the king implement the political & social changes that all Nigritian royal houses are employing.

The majority of Kahnuri citizens love him. Everyone in the country's "ruling class" -- whether they are Tzumé's foes or allies -- respect him. He has become Kahnuri's most revered statesperson.

These facts make Tzumé a very dangerous man -- dangerous to others' nefarious plans. Unbeknownst to this civic leader, he has made a target of himself -- & his son.

read the previous installment | Read the next installment | Read the latest installment

Words and illustrations by Robert Roach