Daily writing exercise, 750words.com
fiction by Jason Edwards
Turn the corner off of Zunder Strasse onto Pfennig and you may be blinded by the white walls of the Z’at Ki Dak, an edifice that has been in place and maintained for centuries. The legend goes that Kind Gellen, king of the Ground People, suspicious that the Arachnid Armies would invade that summer, consulted with his wizard, Eld the Root. The wizard prophesied a long drought, by which the king deduced many hot, sunny days. Knowing that the Orcs were underground dwellers with large eyes, and that they’d be riding spider-mounts, beasts with hundreds of eyes, the king had the wall built and painted white to reflect bright sunlight at any advancing armies.
The story explains how a spy had infiltrated Kind Gellen’s retinue, and reported back to General Anathemus, leader of the Arachnid. Anethemus decided to stage a night raid– and on the very night the Orcs descended on Castle Hilo, a torrential rain flooded the plains, effectively killing the entire army. Not a single Ground People soldier was lost in the fight.
Kind Gellen was pleased, but also incensed that Eld’s prediction of drought had been so wrong. Eld pointed out that while his prediction had been incorrect, it was not his decision to paint the walls white. The king decided to banish Eld, rather than have him executed for treason. When word of this edict got out, the Ground People became nervous, since the last time a King had banished his court wizard, the resulting war had led, essentially, to the spawning of the very Orcs that had menaced them ever since. However, Eld took the banishment without any argument, and left.
Soon after, Kind Gellen had a new court wizard, who was, to many people, almost indistinguishable from Eld the Root. He called himself Ban the Branch, and like Eld, derived his power through Earth magic. Everyone assumed that this was Eld himself, with nothing more than a name change, allowing the king to save face while at the same time keeping an otherwise expert councilman.
That is, until several years later, as Kind Gellen lay on his death bed, surrounded by his retinue and family, his twin sons Gehalis and Gander, his daughter O’Nelitae, and his wife Demosa of Banyon. That was the problem– Demosa had died giving birth to the twins. Ban the Branch was using earth magic to conjure her spirit, to welcome Kind Gellen into the Summer Lands, but in doing so Ban was using graveyard earth, a touch of necromancy that Eld the Root would never have used.
For it wasn’t Demosa at all, but a demi-imp from The Fifth Oval, who, in exchange for Kind Gellen’s soul, had promised to give Gehalis the heart of his brother. Of course, as a being of purest evil, he had made the same promise to Gander. Each had approached Ban individually, asking him to assist in this plan, and Ban had decided he’d let the demi-imp have all three of them, wed O’Nelitae for himself, and become the first wizard-king of the Ground People.
That’s when Eld the Root returned. The fight between Eld and Ban was epic, lasting all through the night as even Kind Gellen struggled to stay alive. For so long as the King lived, his land gave power to Eld. As the king slipped closer to death, that power shifted back to Ban. On they fought, pyro-works and freezing sheets in a maelstrom, foul beasts against noble forest creatures, each wizard conjuring up an exhausting and exhaustive array of monstrosities both savage and divine to fight the foul battle.
On the plains outside Castle Hilo they waged relentless war, and soon the land was as black as Death’s blood from the terrible magics. Ban even brought forth those dead orcs and their now skeletal spider mounts to charge at Eld’s quickly diminishing supply of Elven archers called up from the Jade Slumber. Inside the castle itself, Gehalis and Gander discovered one another’s wiles, and fell to fighting as well, all but tearing down Hilo itself as they battled, for they were at the time the two most puissant knights of the realm, and their melee did considerable damage to stone and any person accidentally caught up between them.
O’Nelitae used what medical training she’d received from the Sisters of Broken Misery, with whom she’d been raised, to keep her father alive, battling her own consciousness, for she knew how much he suffered and that releasing his soul now while Ban was fighting meant the demi-imp would not be able to claim his soul- but she also know his very life-force was what kept Eld in the fight.
The battle between the wizards reached its peak, and Ban conjured a final massive creature, a bone-dragon from the depths of the Marching Under. Dragon, Orc and Arachnid descended on Hilo and Eld’s position in front of Z’at Ki Dak– and as the sun rose over the distant horizon, the light that reflected off those piercing white walls blinded them all, burning the eyes out of Ban the Branch as he stood locked in his final power gaze.
The battle was won, the king died, and Eld fell to his knees. From a tall tower the bodies of Gehalis and Gander fell, the two still fighting even as they dropped, only to die locked in each other’s arms at the base of the white wall.
Eld recovered, and stayed on to advise O’Nelitae until her reign as queen stabilized, and then left once more, stating that he had a duty to maintain the late king’s banishment. In his honor, Z’at Ki Dak to this this day is also maintained, its walls kept an immaculate, blinding white.