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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The throne room's critical, era-determining action continues. Still smirking, the evilly gorgeous queen steps behind her private mercenaries as they step in front of Ayana. Swords up, they engage the larger warrior.

As her three mercenaries move in to attack Ithuriel, Kahnuri's new queen turns her back on the combatants. All of this is beneath her full dignity. Ayana has already soiled her royal hands with her father's blood. Her personal dogs of war may dispatch this cur. Everything about this attitude is reflected in her actions. And she will soon have important business to conduct at the blank mirror, so she & her entourage ease toward the lowest level.

Ithuriel battles the three, fighting with desperation. The mercenaries are fervent. They fight with gusto. However, since these guardsmen don't have the princess's exceptional skills, they also lack her subtlety. They lack Ayana's ability to think six or seven moves ahead. Ithuriel no longer needs to be overly cautious -- just "regular" cautious.

Almost naturally, the people in the chamber slowly congregate -- near the ruler's dais. Following in the new ruler's wake, everyone has moved to either the lowest or the middle levels. Even the soldiers.

However, the legionnaires' attentions are split. The mercenaries in the chamber, closely monitoring the battle, see that their three fellows have yet to end Ithuriel. "Pri -- apologies, your eminence -- Queen Ayana," her sergeant queries. "Shall we assist?"

The new queen & her group of elite supporters, now in the chamber's lower staging area -- the space ringing the royal throne, initially ignore the sergeant. The servants continue to hold the various mirrors. Having arrived, this group is passing in front of each bewitched looking glass, observing the fighting & dying in the other Nigritian capitals. They pause close to the blank mirror -- the pane that has yet to show a reflection or any activity.

Finally responding to the query, Ayana impatiently snaps & dismissively waves her hand. "No, no! Those mongrels are fine! Preparing for the master's imminent visit is paramount. Surely, that trio can handle Ithuriel."

If Ayana had stopped her musing & fussing around the mirrors to watch the fight, she'd realize that her "mongrels" are far from "fine." Ithuriel has begun to dictate the fight's rhythm. He's driving the three warriors toward the structure's rear wall -- toward the large portals leading to the exterior patio.

Historically, Kahnuri has had a conscripted army. This army has been supplemented by hired mercenaries. The realm also has a small merchant marine force on its western coast (but -- due to Kahnuri's relatively limited ocean-side territory -- other Nigritian navies are much larger).

Though these lethal foreign legions have traditionally fought hand-in-glove with Kahnuri's national military -- made up by citizens fulfilling their mandatory three years of service, the two forces are distinctive. They are distinctive in the composition of their soldiers, the soldiers' chosen weapons & their accoutrement's idiosyncrasies. Much more individuality & cultural acknowledgements are tolerated in the mercenary ranks. For example, the Sandeh legionnaires often sport parrot plumage throughout their light armor -- much as Ithuriel & Tzumé's assailants had.

It's now evident to Ithuriel that, somehow, Ayana & the elites have undermined this army-mercenary relationship & have bought off the legionnaires. Moreover, there seems to be many more random, foreign soldiers of fortune in Kahnuri. Most likely, the elites have hired these private troops too.

In this particular fight with Ithuriel, Ayana's mercenaries are huffing & puffing. They're used to much easier kills than Ithuriel is proving to be. But if they work in concert -- if they pay attention to their efforts, they'll wear this sizable Kahnuri soldier down.

Or so they think.

Despite whatever Ithuriel's attackers presume, this fight goes on. The quartet battles to-&-fro -- near one of the throne room's veranda. Ithuriel drives them toward a middle portal, directly opposite the royal dais. Two of the combatants -- the woman & one of the men -- simultaneously overextend themselves. Ithuriel chooses the man, to his right. The large Kahnuri swordsman gets inside that soldier's defense & cuts off the man's sword arm at the bicep.

The man silently shrieks, falling to his knees as blood gushes from the wound. It's a fatal -- if not straightaway deadly -- injury.

The two mercenaries shout, reacting to their fellow's plight. Attracted by the battle's uptick in noise, Ayana looks up & above the mirrors in the swordfight's direction. The three are fighting close to the third entrance from the left -- near to the veranda's threshold.

"Fools!" Princess Ayana hisses as she runs up a nearby ramp again. "You haven't killed that miscreant yet?! Must I do everything myself?!"

Like lemmings, everyone in the room begins to flow toward this unfinished combat. Her rented warriors have their hands on their hilts, ready to get involved, if ordered to do so. They're all traversing the lower levels, heading toward the fight.

The three fighters clash blades, dancing around the fallen combatant. The moribund man gasps & coughs. Though the mercenary's gaze is unsteady, he's still looking for a chance to sell his life at a high price. Since he's going to die anyway, he might as well make sure that this upstart from Aston dies too.

Ayana & her company are at the bottom of the upper ramp, rushing toward the fight. The new queen has her rapier out once more.

As a stiff breeze blows in through the proximate window, the hired hitman rises to his knees. The dying warrior sways as unsteadily as the distant trees in the garden below, are whipped by the winds. Though in a pool of his own blood, the killer continues to persevere.

Others in the chamber ease closer to this fight as the last two mercenaries redouble their efforts. They're determined to kill this young swordsman. But the barbarian is like a stone wall to their attempted advances... 

...until the dying guardsman reaches out -- bloody hand & all, tripping the back of Ithuriel's ankle.

The large Kahnuri warrior stumbles but doesn't quite go down. Ithuriel nearly rights himself by executing a pirouette. The move places Ithuriel halfway in/halfway out & onto the veranda. His foes choose this moment to press this opportunity. Their slashing efforts continue to disrupt Ithuriel's balance.

The assassins snarl with evil glee. This is their chance!

The two close in on the young warrior, going for the kill. They're convinced that they've got him.

They're wrong.

Though going backward & out the patio's portal, Ithuriel swings a backhand stroke. Liwâ slices halfway through the tall male assailants' neck. The mercenary immediately flops to the veranda's tiled, marble floor. His longsword clatters on the polished stones.

The female merc rushes Ithuriel, keeping him off-balance. Despite this, Ithuriel is on the verge of regaining his equilibrium. Then his boot lands on the halfway headless man's discarded blade. Ithuriel's foot flies loose and, as the Sandeh assailant pushes him, the colossal warrior spills over the veranda's short wall.

As he begins to fall, Liwâ flies from Ithuriel's grip.

Below, the trees composing the garden's faux-jungle & the clump of trees most immediately below the terrace wave in the wind. Clouds in the sky continue to boil & swirl.

Ithuriel sees the garden's reflection pool -- its waterfall spilling from the palace's fourth floor outlet -- about 2 dozen feet to his right. He'd love to use the pool as his landing spot. Undoubtedly, the water will provide a softer landing than the ground below. But, unless he buds wings, this'll be impossible.

These thoughts/realizations -- & a silent plea for help -- flash through Ithuriel's mind before he can blink. At that moment, a strong blast of wind almost grips him. Falling, Ithuriel looks below at the trees. The warrior twists his body & hopes that he isn't impaled on a large bough.

Ithuriel grasps a large limb -- as smaller shoots whip his face, arms & legs. Though being violently buffeted, the colossal warrior uses this largest branch the way that a gymnast uses a high bar.

Ithuriel's able to vault/control his descent through the tree. He's lost track of the recent seconds & his location in the canopy. But -- as he catches a mouthful of leaves -- Ithuriel figures that he's about halfway down. Then, suddenly, the large man is astounded as he alights in the garden, with just a few scratches & bruises.

As soon as his surprise fades, Ithuriel coughs & spits the leaves out of his mouth.

Getting his bearings, the young man frantically looks around himself. Finding what he's looking for, Ithuriel relaxes.

Liwâ has landed beneath the tree, vertically impaled into the knoll.

The neo-queen, other elites & the rest of the guardsmen have rushed forward, to the patio's edge. They urgently peer over the veranda's wall & look into the garden. Seeing Ithuriel -- standing upright & virtually untouched, Ayana is enraged.

"Get him, fool!" the new monarch screams as she pushes one of her personal protectors toward the portico's edge.

Ever eager to please his mistress, the guardsman hops atop the small wall, leaps from the ledge toward the tree -- arms outstretched -- & is reaching for the branches. He plans to replicate Ithuriel's feat. The warrior thinks, "If that big, clumsy oaf can pull off such a move, so can I!" As the merc floats, he's hopeful for a moment. The man is sure that he has a chance.

Then the guardsman face-plants onto the ground with a "splat."

After re-sheathing Liwâ, Ithuriel sneers toward the balcony's congregation & then fades into the garden's gloom & the miniature jungle's safety. 

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

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Words and illustrations by Robert Roach