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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Staring out from the mirror's shadows, Kabandha's irate, but barely discernible, expression doesn't brighten at the new queen's information. In fact, the necromancer's shadowed frown intensifies.

Other than the howling wind outside, there is no sound in the ornate throne room.

"I also asked about the boy!" the sage growls.

"Ten thousand apologies, master!" the new queen whimpers. "But Ithuriel has--"

Ayana stops speaking in mid-sentence. Her complexion becomes ashen as she suddenly begins to wheeze & pant, grasping her throat. Ayana's hazel-toned eyes bug out & she convulsively shakes. Within seconds, the former princess falls to her knees.

The high-ranking citizens surrounding Ayana squeal in horror & shrink away from the writhing young lady. Ayana is now on her back & is thrashing about. Mercenary leaders begin to come to their mistress's assistance but stop short. It's incumbent upon them to serve Ayana, but none of them are foolish enough to give off the impression of challenging the world's most powerful sorcerer.

Kabandha's fearful frown deepens. The sorcerer neither likes nor dislikes torture. It is simply a tool to acquire whatever he desires. Or to instill abject fear in his lackeys. This particular pawn has failed him. This is not to be allowed. So the former princess will experience the evil mystic's wrath.

As the sage's torture of the former princess persists, the terror in the room remains palpable. Many of the elites continue to whimper in panic. The mercenaries silently watch this demonstration of Master Kabandha's power -- because there's nothing else that they can do.

Finally, the magus' glowing eyes relax slightly.

Momentarily thereafter, Ayana gives out a gigantic gasp as an implosion of air abruptly fills her lungs. It takes her about 30 seconds, but the new queen is finally able to unsteadily stand on her own again.

"You will rectify this, princess!" the wizard growls. "Or your reign will be quite short-lived.

"Shangoh!" the mystic shouts. Moments later, images shift in the third mirror from the left. This pre-historic era's version of urban violence in that looking glass transforms & becomes a semi-placid scene inside a resplendent throne room. This chamber, built from tan & warm grey sandstone, is as grand as Aston's royal mansion. But it is beautiful in its own way, with a completely different architectural approach. It's exquisitely majestic in its own right & reflects W'Bondei's arid terrain.

A lean, light-skinned Black man steps into one of the looking glasses' backdrops. Just behind this man, Shangoh, there's another, even lighter-skinned tall & lithe Black man. This warrior's name is Botocudoz.

"Yes, master?!" Shangoh, Sandeh's crown prince, lisps in his reply.

"Ready your best squad of assassins," Kabandha commands. "They'll be either moving on land or sea. Your killers should be prepared for either eventuality."

"May I ask why, great master?" Shangoh meekly queries.

"Kahnuri's last loose end -- Ithuriel's death -- has yet to be cauterized," the magus informs.

"You need me to do Ayana another favor?" Shangoh wheezes. "I've already sent cohorts of mercenaries to Kahnuri. I've even taken her three siblings into exile here. What else does the new queen need?"

"BOY!!" Kabandha thunders. "You are MY lackey! I give the orders!! All that's being done is to MY END! Understood?!"

Quickly bowing & covering his face, Shangoh supplicates. "Thousands & thousands of pardons, Master Kabandha! Please forgive my reckless comment!"

"Remember your place!" Kabandha snaps. "And have your cadre of killers ready to go on my command. Mysteries wrapped within enigmas surround this boy, Ithuriel. I want him found & killed immediately."

For extended moments, all the people involved & witnessing Kabandha's goings-on are silent. Other than sounds of violence reverberating from some of the mirrors, the quiet is absolute.

Then, in a tenor that's both whining & hopeful, Shangoh breaks this silence.

"Too bad that my best man, Botocudoz, isn't there, master," Shangoh opines. "He's one of The Nigritia's greatest swordsmen. I'm sure that he could be useful in this regard."

Ten seconds of relative stillness follow -- if one ignores the continuing cacophony from the mirrors' reflected rioting. "Very well," the evil sage says. "This additional effort, on top of those I'm expending to coordinate these simultaneous coups -- keeping all of you insurgents across the continent coordinated, will greatly tax my strength. But if we're able to kill the boy it will be worth the effort.

"Prepare yourself, Botocudoz!" Kabandha commands.

Initially, the third mirror from the left "reflects" no change.

Then, something happens. After another moment, Ayana can see the Sandeh general's shocked expression in the looking glass. His body is dissolving into a bubbling purple haze. With another 2 or 3 second time lapse, a similar haze begins to grow in Aston's throne room, directly in front of the six mirrors. A twinkling later, Botocudoz -- bubbling purple haze & all -- completely transposes into Kahnuri's royal castle.

The general stumbles a bit as he fights off the impulse to vomit. But Botocudoz quickly recovers his composure. His simultaneously calm & stern demeanor matches his stately, crisp attire. The warrior's light armor plating -- made from high-grade lacquer -- is patterned after his home country's numerous sea shells. This detail from the armor is dyed light blue, mirroring The Sea Ashran's gentle waves that wash W'Bondei's beaches.

Steel chain mail, plated by silver, creates a mesh that protects Botocudoz' vitals. The metal also interlocks with the sea shell lacquer plating. He wears a long leopard loincloth & mid-calf high boots made from softened rhino hide. The Sandeh's sword belt & other strap-work are made from the finest leather. All of these details are encrusted with irregular-sized emerald gems.

Like other martial-minded adults of that day, Botocudoz wears numerous weapons, but his main weapon -- his most lethal killing tool -- is his long broadsword. He'd long since stopped counting the total of opposing warriors that he's slain with his sword. Botocudoz ceased doing so because this total had long-since passed into the high hundreds.

The general is Sandeh's most accomplished soldier. Botocudoz is in his late 30s. Having worked his way up from a menial position as a lancer afoot (in his teens) -- a status often considered inconsequential fodder in battles by generals & rulers, Botocudoz has beaten all odds. He survived. He distinguished himself. He gained respect & distinctions. He has eclipsed even his wildest dreams.

Additionally, in his career, Botocudoz has risen to become a general, a trusted bodyguard for his country's influential few & finally a confidante within Sandeh's ruling circles.

However, unlike these pampered elites with whom the soldier works closely, Botocudoz has a strange-yet-strong sense of honor. Other than his physique & his skills, the superb swordsman has another distinctive trait: the diagonal scar across his face -- where he lost his left eye.

With a voice that's a bit weaker, Kabandha's image turns away from the mirror. "I'll soon be back in touch with all of you," he says as the collection of mirrors goes blank & then reflect what's actually happening in the imperial chamber.

The silence in the hall holds for lingering seconds. Moment-by-moment, the room's intense apprehension subsides. Finally, everyone gathered feels as though they may freely breathe.

"Good!" Ayana declares, her confidence returning as her fear subsides. She half-heartedly greets Botocudoz. "Nice for you to visit us, general -- especially on this hectic night. Pardon me, but we're kinda busy. Help however you can."

Turning toward her senior mercenaries -- ascending the ramps once more, the neo-queen continues to issue commands, "The rest of you, come with me. Ithuriel's trying to flee & the fastest escape routes are either across The Hinterlands to the north or east toward The Sea Ashran."

"Kl'Lol's cohort knows Sandeh's back routes best, your highness," Elryx informs as the group talks as they walk. "Perhaps he would be--"

Botocudoz parallels this group for a moment. Then he suddenly stops. He grasps one of the generals by the elbow, forcing the female warrior to turn toward the Sandeh soldier.

Botocudoz asks this mercenary military leader two questions: "How smart is this Ithuriel?"

A bit surprised by such a query, Faash, the often-decorated general, answers, "Extremely smart."

"How accomplished a warrior is he?" Botocudoz presses.

"Though young, he's very accomplished," the general replies. "In a decade, he'll likely be Alk'bulaan's greatest warrior."

The Sandeh general takes in this essential information & mulls it over for a few seconds. Then, with a curt, reflective nod, Botocudoz pivots & exits the room's continued activity. 

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

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Words and illustrations by Robert Roach