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.

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Outside the palace, the wicked windstorm continues to blow. But inside, a storm is also raging in Ithuriel's soul. This tempest can't be contained. This storm must break loose.

Ithuriel looks up at the chamber from the service doorway, still hidden in the king's main audience section, at this chamber's lowest level. He smiles, thinking that a bit of fortuity has come his way. The 2nd mercenary has meandered over to chat with her fellow legionnaire. Both are within a millisecond of Liwâ's reach & both remain unaware of their danger.

Though a few elites, the bewitched mirrors & Ayana's two mercenaries are in his vicinity, at the moment this area is less than an afterthought to everyone else in the throne room. Before the room's principals know that he's there, Ithuriel kills the two sentries. One of the privileged women shrieks & runs toward the nearest ramp as a bloody head arcs across the chamber. Within seconds, the other elites in the lower level follow her example.

"Ah!" Ayana exclaims as she turns toward this sudden violence's author. She's just outside the row of columns bordering the plaza. Ayana eases closer to the upper level's railing & looks down at her reviled enemy. "I thought Orkus & his squad had taken care of you. Since Tzumé's not here, we must've had success with him!"

Ithuriel growls at the princess's taunting statement. Ayana is still in the throne room's upper arena, moving toward one of the ramps. Stunned onlookers stand in her path, frozen by shock in place. Ithuriel mirrors Ayana's movements, beginning to ease toward one of the lowest level's ramps. The plateau on which the evil woman is standing is above the throne's plateau. The middle level—& its partygoers—is between the new queen & the young warrior. He has bypassed the servants holding the mirrors—these retainers cringing at his dripping blade—beginning to mount the nearest slope.

As Ayana continues to stride, the former princess steps forward, starting to descend the ramp & toward the large man. Three of her guards accompany the new ruler. A chubby, gaudily festooned elite moves in her wake, stopping at the upper level's railing. Ayana is "properly dressed," meaning that she is armed. A long, light sabre rests on her right hip, in its scabbard.

The eldest of Telamahn's children, Ayana is in her late 20s when these pan-Alk'bulaan coups occur. She has been a silent-but-vehement opponent to her father's societal changes. Though raised with kindness & consideration, Ayana's always been conniving, self-indulgent & lethal.

Despite Telamahn's wisdom & benevolence, the good king has had one glaring flaw: his blind faith that his daughter automatically shares his generous attitude. He's just old enough to remember warfare within The Nigritia prior to these socio-political changes' implementation. Telamahn, as a boy, watched closely as his parents began to forge these changes, constructing an egalitarian country's social foundations.

Ayana, on the other hand, is quite comfortable with power. It's her birthright. For generations, her family has wielded Kahnuri's power—in all kinds of ways. The princess has no intention to give hers up.

"Nice that you can join us," Ayana smirks. "It would've been nicer if you'd died, of course. I guess being the ultimate ruler means that I must accept that some plans don't work out. But minus the disappointment of you still being alive, this is a piece of good news: at least we'll have the pleasure of watching you die!"

"Your gloating is premature, princess!" Ithuriel retorts.

"QUEEN Ayana, you dog!" Ayana snaps, her eyes bugging with rage. As the regal woman's 3-feet long braids shake around her head, like angry snakes, Ithuriel has reached the chamber's middle level.

"Yeah. Whatever. But I'm here & far from dead. And I'm not gonna die now. Just like I didn't die on some Aston side street, stabbed in the back by Orkus & his foreign hit squad."

He pauses in an open portion of the mid-level, waiting for the group as Ayana & her guards ease toward Ithuriel. They all have murder on their minds.

The new queen's blue wrap dress, bejeweled with sequins, bunches at Ayana's waist. Though the apparel is tight-fitting, the dress still moves loosely & freely. Ayana has full mobility in her stylish & expensive outfit. The slit in the front of her dress allows the new queen to easily move her legs. In his rage, Ithuriel notes & ignores all of this at the same time.

"More entertainment, that's all you'll prove to be, boy!" the overly well-dressed, chunky man—still at the upper level's railing—barks. His sculpted brow & beard are evidence that this man spends more time & money on his face than on his fellow man. He leans forward, his belly slightly spilling over the balustrade as he continues his diatribe. "You can be sure of this!"

The large warrior shifts his focus off of approaching Ayana & her three protectors. He scornfully looks at the immaculately adorned elite. The man stands there, his expensive rings glittering in the lanterns' bright lights. He feels fully assured in the protection around him. The ability, or even the necessity, to protect himself with his own sword or skill never enters the chubby man's mind.

"I'm surprised at your confidence in your bastard, Kanta!" Ithuriel taunts.

"He's long wanted to earn his place with us & this coup—where we reclaim our proper station—has become his chance," Kanta rejoins. "His effort tonight is to his credit!"

"Seems to me that it's a pyrrhic credit," Ithuriel cryptically laughs.

"What do you mean?!" Kanta counters in a concerned voice.

"Your 'credit' toward Orkus is likely too little & too late. You'll find your bastard son bleeding out on Molímo Bridge, next to his dead or dying hit squad!" Ithuriel snarls at Kanta as he waits in the chamber's middle level for Ayana's party.

Kanta flinches, looking back at Ithuriel with pure hatred. Then, after a second or two, he hurries out of the room, motioning three legionnaires to accompany him. Though uncomfortable & suddenly unsure, the other "elites" in the chamber stay.

"Predictable that you'd rush here to assist my father & 'save the kingdom!'" the former princess half-laughs/half-growls.

Ayana's three private guards, mercenaries whom she has long employed, step between her & the oncoming warrior. The blood on their broadswords has yet to dry. These hardened combatants are ready for this new battle.

Contemptuously, Princess Ayana steps forward & gently/forcefully pushes one of her sentries—the female of the three—aside. "Thank you, boys & girl, but I can protect myself," she coos as she draws her long, light sabre.

"Tsk, tsk," the evil woman continues. "Your daddy dead tonight; mommy dead—or whatever—years ago. Kinda lonely, I guess."

Stepping closer to Ithuriel on the wide, semi-circle platform, Princess/Queen Ayana gestures with her sabre toward the throne room's dais & her dead father's body. "I guess I qualify, too. Looks as if I lost my daddy tonight, just like you."

Ayana smirks at her remark's irony, Telamahn's blood still tainting her hands & the dagger strapped to her right thigh, discreetly hidden beneath her skirt. Then, the two cross swords.

Despite the heat of this moment, the two coolly engage each other. Both have talent with their blades. Initially, the princess gives ground & backs toward the ramp she has just descended, feeling out her big adversary.

Then—halfway up the ramp—she suddenly halts her retreat. Ayana applies a sudden flourish, stopping the warrior's advance.

Ithuriel's shock clearly registers & the princess smirks at the large man's surprise. "Not the soft, pampered princess that you expected, eh, orphan!"

Re-engaging, Ayana snarls. Their swords continue to clash, crystal-colored sparks flying from their steel. Ithuriel is truly skilled. He's been trained by the Kahnuri Army's best. But the former princess's skill is oh-so slightly better than his. The two combatants realize this fact.

The three guards jump & slide out of the way, faithfully obeying Ayana's dictates & staying out of the conflict. The two fighters twirl & shift, constantly changing their positions on the slope. Both of them are fully engaged in this violent moment.

Despite the neo-queen's excellent expertise, Ithuriel still has the advantage. His overwhelming power & speed help to make up for this slight "skill deficit." Ayana is also aware of all this. But, at the moment, she isn't in danger. Not yet. And she's enjoying this encounter.

She continues to taunt & toy with Ithuriel as she retreats upward, toward the upper level.

"Did you know that my father once toyed with the thought of us being married?" Ayana asks, snarling as she swirls her blade. "Not that it was ever more than a fleeting thought. But even I must admit that you would've been better than some of those soft & pampered princes throughout The Nigritia who were rumored to have interest in a royal marriage.

"However, why marry a single man when you can RULE many men?!" the princess sneers. All of her comments punctuate their battle's slashes, feints & clangs.

"You're skilled, big man. I've enjoyed this. One-on-one, this might have been a good fight," Ayana says as she melodically laughs.

"Might have!" she reiterates. The former princess steps back & motions for her three nearby guards to fill this gap. Ever obedient, the three immediately step in. Ayana derisively chuckles as she disengages from Ithuriel. What had been a duel moments earlier is now 3-on-1. 

Ithuriel story elements are the sole property of Robert Roach/Hometown Productions ©2020

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Words and illustrations by Robert Roach