The Prologue (Unimportant - Unfinished)
Prologue (unimportant - unfinished)
The Solemn Oath of Neath:
Across this world there are many lands. Within these lands are vast empires, spread from North to South, East to West. Yet only one of these is my homeland. The Gods Empire of Neath, beheld by all as the origins of men.
We share the continent with other empires, all of which are possessed by men. Men have spread across the globe and controlled the land. Known by many names both near and far but here they shall be held under the name of Man. And as we control the land, we have a responsibility. My responsibility to respect the others borders, to respect these men and beasts that dwell within them and the lands we plant.
I accept this burden as the King of Neath as it is the honorable duty of the one true King to uphold the peace between every tribe and empire wherever possible. Be it within our borders or beyond, I pledge to act honorably during both times of Peace and times of War.
As King of Neath, I solemnly swear to abide by this pledge, and forever act with honor and in the best interests of my people, the people of Neath, until my dying day.
The caravans rattled along the tough, stoney road as they had done for the last few hours. Carick the Merchant sat in the back of the leading carriage, counting the golden florins he had accumulated from his latest trade. “Don’t get any ideas merchant, those belong in the Royal Treasury,” Merion, the royal Guard mumbled in a half joking tone. You couldn’t blame him for joking though. Carick had a woeful reputation across Neath, Farrow and beyond, known mostly as a greedy pig who would sell his mother for a single copper coin. Yet he always traded fair in dealing with the King’s court and on this occasion, he was only tasked with closing the deal and carrying the King’s coin back to the Neathian capital, Wighton. Carick Laughed aloud, as he ran his fingers through a greasy, clumped curl of hair that hung past his right ear. The air was thick with unease, just silent enough to hear the wheeze of the traders breathe.
“It’s pleasure enough doing the Kings bidding,” he replied, one eyebrow raise and a grin dropping from his left cheek.
The very sight of him turned Merion’s stomach. Ugly faced, broad in the shoulders, and even wider in the belly. He wore more gold on his body than the Mortalacion Mountains could provide. Merion grunted indifferently, turned his face away and sat quietly. The King’s financial adviser, Lord Folan Fletchet, had chosen Carick to transport the Crown’s goods in exchange for coin, afterall. It was simply Merions place to insure their safe passage, and who was he to judge the decision of a Lord? Like most from Neath, Merion was unquestionably loyal. Loyalty was in his blood, and the Canom’s had treated him well. He had fought alongside the King and his father before him. His life had been pledged to the protection of the Kingdom of Neath and the destruction of those who stood against it.
He leaned out through the curtain that covered the back of their carriage. The rain beat down on his face, icy cold, forcing him to close one eye to focus his vision. He glanced around in search of Fergal, his second messenger, having sent the first out on departing the Farrowien Capital of MountainsEdge some hours before. He had nine remaining soldiers, only one of which was seasoned enough to carry a message under Royal seal.
“Fergal, prepare, its time to deliver,” He ducked inside, gesturing for Carick to hand him the letter bearing the seal of the Mantor family of Farrow. Carick shuffled a little before pulling the document from within the chest of his shirt. As he reached out, Merion noticed the perspiration lining the edge of the parchment as Carrick released his grip on it. The trader nodded respectfully to the soldier, before turning back to counting his florins.
The carriage slowed as they entered rough ground. Merion knew these lands like the back of his hand having travelled this way countless times. No longer wishing to enjoy the awkward company of Carick, he got to his feet and hopped from the back of the carriage. He stumbled a little before gaining his balance on the wet stoney surface. His physical prowess was not what it once was, yet Merion still enjoyed the dirty part of his job. The discomfortable caused by his bear fur cape against his skin as it filled with the rain from above, worked as a reminder that he was a softer man now than he had once been.
“My orders?” asked Fergal, lowering his hand to take the parchment.
The carriages ahead came to a sudden halt. “What is it?” yelled an impatient Merion. A hollow gurgling sound came from above, loud enough to be heard through the beating of the rain. He glanced up once more, only to see the closed eyes of Fergal, blood pouring from his mouth. An arrow had struck him in the neck neck, likely a fatal wound. Merion stepped back slightly shocked, grasping his sword and turning right, then left. Merion was skilled in combat, but it had been years since he had been involved in anything more than a bar brawl. His position had consisted of nothing more than posturing for the best part of a decade. “We are under attack. Scower the bushes,” he yelled to his soldiers. Fergals horse rared up as another barrage of arrows hit his chest plate, sending the rider crashing to the ground. It was a familiar sound to Merion, not something a soldier ever forgot. The sound of a man’s dying cries. Two of his soldiers went left, rushing into the bushes from where the arrows came. He directed another two into the brush to his right. Lunacy, who would attack a caravan flying the Banner of Neath?, echoed through his head.
He stepped back pausing for a moment. In the corner of his eye, some way down the trail, was where they stood. The shadows of three luring figures, dashing across the torch light which shined some way down along the stone trail. He glanced at his three remaining soldiers, their torches in one hand, and their trembling swords in the other. They were more exposed than he, and less experienced. Most had probably never wet their sword with the blood of a man. “Off,” he yelled to one of his men, almost dragging him from the saddle. “Stay in cover.” He mounted, and rushed into the brush to his left where the shadows left the trail. He hadn’t gone more than a few feet when he saw it. A downed horse lay across one of his men just off the trail, a half dozen arrows sticking from the stallion’s heart. The man had been crushed to death by his own horse. A terrible way to die. Merions heart began to thump, perspiration ran from his forehead, he needed to dig deep.
He advanced, his sword in hand, instinctively ducking left as an arrow flew past his neck. A slight smile broke on his face, brought on by the feeling of battle, a feeling he had missed. Another arrow came from the brush, not even close to him. The aged Merion threw himself from his horse into the cover. The briars sunk deep into his flesh, as he clashed with the enemy archer, knocking him violently off his feet. He grasped the enemy’s throat, punching with his left. This was not one of the three he had seen on the trail though. Knowing they were hardly alone, he needed to end this quickly. He held the soldier down with his left arm across his neck. He was young, too young to be well experienced. His chubby face shivered, his eyes knew it was the end. Merion’s right hand grasped the ground desperately for his sword which had fallen loose during his dismount. The archer attempted to struggle, but the briars helped to hold him fast. He enemy was weak and flustered.
Merion grasped the handle of his sword, and slashed his throat. The blood sprayed from the wound like a burst dam, splattering outward across Merions face. As a bolt of lightning rattled across the landscape, he could see the now scarlet vines tightening around his dead victim’s neck. The briars caused great pain as he pulled them from his skin and struggled to gain his footing. Feeling dizzy, he wondered if the briars were poisoned thistle.
A dying shout rang out in the distance, and then another. An arrow pierced his shoulder where he stood, still knee high in briars. He struggled forward, and freed himself. The pain of his wound was excruciating, but hadn’t rendered him useless. As he moved quickly toward the path, every second was a wait for the inevitable second and last arrow. But it never came. Another shout, this time of a different, disturbing pitch, “The Canom Family will die.” Flashes of his King, the Queen, and their children ran through Merions mind. ‘Insanity,’ he thought, ‘who would want the King dead?’
As he dragged himself forward, there was a light glowing on the path, just outside the brush. He could see another person ahead of him and it wasn’t one of his own. An armored helmet, similar to the one of the dead archer. Merion lunged forward through the edge of the brush, uneasy on his feet and took down the towering figure. He stood out in the open now, his hands covered in the blood of the enemy. He unpinned his saturated cape, letting it drop to the ground beside the body of his victim, his sword still protruding from their back. How many more could there be? The dead body of his enemy slumped forward as he pushed them off his blade with his foot. As he raised his head he could see the carriages were alight, flames dancing through the rain.
“Canom will die,” came a voice, once again from the darkness.
An extended whisper echoed through the rain, loud enough to hear over the crackling of the burning wood caravans. The smell of it filled his nostrils. A shiver ran down his spine, with the overwhelming feeling that this would be his last night. If that was to be, he was glad to go out a fighter. He walked around the side of the carriage, now in flames, which had housed Carick the Merchant. As he went, the bodies of his soldiers, some with monstrous wounds, lay scattered along the trail. A blade came from high, behind him and pierced his back. A whisper in his right ear, “the Canom Family Must Die,” the soldier fell to his knees in the flickering fire light. Looking down, he could see the tip protruding from his chest. Merion raised his hand to the emblem of Neath covering his heart and turned to meet his killer, but the second blade came too soon.