CHAPTER 1* FOREST OF BONES AND BLOOD*
“What is the way out; Adrasteia is of your kingdom can you not call her to order? The killings are getting out of hand. The people are panicking?”
The Sottolunare King asks, eyes shooting dagger at the Vampire king.
“You think, if I could, I would sit here, in this meeting for a solution?”
The vampire king bites back, displeased at the undertone of insults from the Sottolunare king. Adrasteia might be of his kingdom, but it wasn’t his fault that the female vampire shut down her humanity switch for her hungry greed for power.
“Then why are you king? If you can’t control your walking corpses. The three kingdoms have been living in peace for centuries until you let that rabid dog out in the open with no leash to keep her down.”
The statement angered the Vampire King more than anything, and he snarled at the Sotto Lunare king. If there is one thing a Vampire hates to compare with, that has to be a dog. They are not animals to call them dogs.
Others might referred them as soulless, doesn’t mean they don’t feel like every other being in the realm of Akeldama inhibited by three diverse human/supernatural specie.
The Vampire kingdom ruled king Jarl, the kingdom of Termagant of the witches ruled by the chief Olephiar wizard of termagant, a direct descendant of Cercle Mystique, the witch who founded their kingdom after the great purge, and some specie got stuck in an unknown realm.
Last, the kingdom of Sottolunares ruled by king Erik a unique human race with distinct abilities that makes them different from humans. The Sottolunares do not posses supernatural abilities according to the beliefs the moon blessed them with gifts to survive Akeldama after the great purge.
These three kingdoms inhibited the realm of Akeldama, and they lived in perfect harmony for over 4000 years. All abiding by the rules laid down by their ancestors.
Until Adrasteia, a female vampire broke that rule, hence throwing the three kingdoms in a constant state of fear and distrusts.
“What? you want to bite me? Go ahead, become a rabid dog.”
“King Erik and Lord Jarl! We gathered here for a solution. You both biting the other head off would only leave your people in disarray. The three kingdoms of Akeldama have maintained peace for generations. We cannot allow one rogue vampire to put a strain in years of harmony. Lord Jarl, would you be able to provide the witches useful information needed to capture Adrasteia?”
The High Wizard of the witches question and Lord Jarl nods. Now focusing his attention on the Chief Olephiar.
“Anything you need as long as it gets rid of her, my people are being drained daily as well. She syphons their energy and it strengthens her.”
“Good, The witches came up with a solution. Adrasteia is getting stronger, too strong for a regular witch to handle. And I think we all are aware of that. A few witches from my coven tried had a face off with her, she barely kept one alive to tell the tale, but there is one person we know who can defeat her?.”
king Erik asks, his body perking up, and he leans forward on the old mahogany table
“Icarus Vardr Hreidmar The infamous warlock.”
The High Wizard replied and the two males present at the sitting stared at him like he had grown two heads. Only a child born yesterday would not know who Icarus was.
The cursed one who rumours has it he killed himself after what happened to him or some belief he lost his magic and died by boars.
“Icarus, the warlock your coven cast out for using dark magic when he was just ten? The cursed one?”
Lord Jarl questions bewildered and the Chief Olephiar nods, confirming the claims
“Okay then let’s invite him for dinner.”
King Erik suggests sighing as he drops his hands on the mahogany table. He thought it was that easy, inviting an outcast for dinner.
“Yeah, the only problem is, he doesn’t commune with the three kingdoms. According to rumours, he lives in the forest of bones and blood. That’s where you come in. He won’t talk if I or Lord Jarl go to him. We need you to journey to the forest of bones and blood to fetch Icarus. “
King Erik exclaims, eyes bulging out in wonder, the forest of bones and blood? Only a lunatic would purposely decide to journey there.
That forest is; believed to be inhibited but souls of the evil ones who started the great war, wizards who practiced dark magic, demons who possessed humans to do evil. The gods condemned their souls preventing them from crossing over and they roamed the field where the battle took place, hence why the ancestors named it forest of bones and blood.
For many fell, and the soil bathed in blood.
“Hold on a minute!”
King Jarl says, raising his hand.
“Correct me if I am wrong, but if my memory serves me right; I believe Icarus has lost his powers, according to the rumours after your people banished him and most say he is dead. Besides, if he is alive, what makes you think he would want to help us?”
King Jarl shared his worries, staring at the chief for a response. He cannot trust that they have a solution and hope that Icarus would suddenly agree to help them when his own coven banished him.
“I understand your reasons to second guess, but Icarus is still alive. Each coven has a special bond that links them together, hence if he was dead as rumoured, the coven would have felt the departure of his soul after death. And as for your question, we will make him an offer to reunite with the coven.”
Chief Olephiar says, and king Jarl shakes his head in disagreement.
“You think offering him a place back in your coven and kingdom would make him put his life on the line to save the same people that discarded him and left him for dead. No, that is not enough reason for him to put his life on the line.”
Chief Olephiar sighs and king Erik scowls at the vampire king, irritated at his lack of faith or hope.
“King Erik make him an offer he cannot refuse, if he succeeds and defeats Adrasteia the three kingdoms would make him our emperor.”
Chief Olephiar announces and the other males gasp in surprise at the ridiculous statement, making an outcast the emperor?
“What!! that is outrageous. What do you mean, make him an emperor of the three kingdoms? Each kingdom has its ruler besides do you think the people would agree to this. What would become of us?”
King Erik asks, head rattling in disbelief and irritation.
“If he still has his powers, yes. That Warlock is the only one powerful enough to defeat Adrasteia. We Need Him. We would remain rulers of our kingdom, making him emperor of Akeldama won’t change that, he would only get to benefit from the three kingdoms and we report to him. I am open to a better idea, if you have one. But I believe the safety or us and our people beats the pride of being king.”
Chief Olephiar comments and the room fell silent. He had thought about the decision throughout the night, what could motivate Icarus to help them, and he couldn’t come up with a better idea.
No sane person would refuse such an offer. The three kingdoms are vast in riches, becoming emperor would place him above them all.
Although the chief feared for what Icarus would do once he gets to that position, he pushed that aside and focused on ways to bring Adrasteia down.
"Αυτό είναι παράλογο!!!"
(This is preposterous)
The vampire king exclaims, his face contorting in annoyance.
"We are not the ones who sent a ten-year-old out of his coven and away from his family, why do we all have to pay for your covens mistake. Πρέπει να πληρώσετε για τις αμαρτίες σας και όχι εμάς."
(You should pay for your sins, not us.)
King Jarl snarls the last part in Greek, and chief Olephiar sighed.
"I actually support you on this one. It's just so absurd that we all have to give up half of our power as ruler to him just because of one stupid decision your coven made."
King Erik adds and the Vampire king nods, but looking at each other as they come to a mutual agreement for the first time since they sat together for this meeting.
"Καταλαβαίνω γιατί πρέπει να είστε διστακτικοί, but you need to understand that this right now is the only option we have. The only solution and now is the time to cast blame on one another. Also, your self-righteous asses could have taken him in if you thought the decision of my coven was harsh. But neither of you did. Unless you have a better idea, I suggest we all swallow our pride and do what's right for our people."
(I understand why you would be hesitant)
King Jarl and King Erik hold their stares as they contemplated over the situation. Another sigh of exasperation leaves the chief's lips and the two other kings nod as they give up.
"If I am being sent as an emissary, do I go alone.? I have heard tales about that forest and I do not want to leave my people without a king nor my family without a father and husband. So what is the plan?"
King Erik asks, summoning his bravery. He was a king after all, he should do that much for the safety of his people.
"You definitely won't have to journey alone. I have selected five of our best witches trained in protection spell and sword fight, they would accompany you to the outskirt of the forest, thereafter cast a protection spell on you against any dark soul or dark magic. And of course you can bring your specially trained warriors with you."
"I see, when I am set to leave then?"
King Erik asks.
"Probably in five days, if you are willing. Also, this plan must not leave the room. The witches who know about this are being held under an oath right now. Adrasteia has ears everywhere, we cannot afford for her to know about this."
"I have no reason to explain anything to my warriors, anyway. I'll be ready to embark in three days. Get your witches ready. Where do we meet?"
"My witches would wait at the entrance of your kingdom disguised as your guards or warriors. Also, if you embark at dawn, you would arrive at the forest of bones and blood in four days. It depends on how fast you ride your horses."
Chief Olephiar explains, and king Erik listens with rapt attention.
"Good. This better not be a waste of time."
"King Jarl, please prepare a group of vampires that are strong and would aid Icarus in finding Adrasteia, and every information you have on her would be helpful."
Chief Olephiar says and the vampire king nods in agreement. The three kings talked about common interest in trades and precautious measures to take in the meantime to prevent Adrasteia from Invading the kingdoms before the return of king Erik.
Soon enough their meeting ended, and each king departed to their different kingdoms at the dawn of morning unknown to them that someone, perhaps something or creature, lurked in the shadow watching them with vile eyes and a sinister grin.
The day for king Erik's departure came, just as planned by the three leaders. The five best witches of the kingdom of Termagant stood at the entrance of the silent kingdom, cloaking themselves for eyes that didn't need to see them or learn of their presence.
They only had their cloaking spell revoked when king Erik joined them, and after discussing the plan and the best route to take, they embarked on the journey to seek the cursed one.
King Erik did well to select the best of his stallions for the journey, The troop covered more distance on the first day than they had expected, only stopping in the night's wee for food and water.
Their rest had only lasted for five minutes before they began their journey again, knowing the fate of the three kingdoms now rest on their journey the troop would rather faint from exhaustion than waste more time resting on the way.
The second day of their journey they had their stop in the land of the forgotten, careful enough not to wake the rumoured undead that roam the shabby streets on the land as they quietly rode to the only source of water in the land.
"Have you heard the rumours about this land and what happened to its people?"
The youngest of the witches whispered to the male guard beside him, who despite hearing the boy ignored him and rather focused on the paying attention to their surrounding.
Despite the guard's rudeness, the young witch continued, not considering that the warrior had no interest in conversing with him.
"My Naï told me bedtime stories of what happened to the people who inhabited this land. The one I remember up to this day is about how the people denounced the gods, committed sinful acts in their holy temples and claimed to be immortal just like the gods. So the gods became angry and curse them with a brutal immortality. The only way to stay alive was eating the heart and flesh. They ended up killing one another and also strangers that traveled through the land. And slowly their lands decimated."
(Naï, means mother.)
The young witch story caught the attention of the female guard tending to the horses. And she lifts her head from the water.
"Why would your Naï, tell you such horrible stories as bedtime stories?"
The female guard asks, her hand rubbing the gilded scabbard of her sword that hung at her side.
"Mama said it helped me sleep at night, I don't know why or how. Oh, I remember one now, that was before they committed the grave sin......."
"Sh quiet child, if the story you Naï told are true, you wouldn't want to attract the undead to us with your non-stop talking."
The brute looking guard, who ignored the young witch earlier on said, shutting him up and the boy scowl.
"I am no child of yours, I have a name."
The boy says, sounding offended by the guard's choice of words and how he addressed him.
"I do not care for your name. Child."
The guard emphasised on the word child more just to piss the witch boy.
"My name is Xoel. If you call me child one more time again, I would fry your blood from the inside."
Xoel grinds out, advancing towards the guard who cackles at the boy's boldness.
"Okay, that's it, break it off, we don't have the time for unnecessary banter and Ikar stop messing with the boy, will you? Xoel stop talking, and your stories are true."
The female guard who witnessed their banter with amusement says, after seeing how serious it is becoming.
Only a few people who are close to Ikar would know how much he enjoys messing with other people and getting reactions out of them, which is one of the many reasons he has no friends aside from him not putting a leash on the words that leaves his mouth.
"Whatever Mara, you are such a buzzkill."
Ikar responds, moving away from the Xoel, and their oncoming brawl ended like that. Mara washes her face in the river, while Xoel filled the gourds in tied loosely around his torso with enough water.
"Alright, everyone mount your stallion, quietly. It would be best if we all remain silent. Now one knows how true the rumors about the undead are, and I don't think we want to test the theory."
King Erik addresses the troop, and they did as told, in the next five minutes the troop was on their way out of the land being as silent as they can until one person amongst them, purposely, hit his sword against and empty metal bucket in the streets.
"Who was that?"
King Erik boomed in indignation.
"Pardon me, Your Eminence, my sword swung involuntarily."
It was none other than Ikar. The conversation at the river had him wondering if the rumours were true and there is only one way to find out, even if it was dangerous.
Ikar didn't care. They are on an adventure anyway what fun is there in a mundane adventure, what better way to make it more like an actual time adventure other than waking the undead if they really do exists.
"Be warned the next time that sword swings, it would be against your neck."
The king warned. What they didn't know was their little not so silence conversation and the clanking sound of the metal had attracted unwanted attention.
"Who is that?"
Xoel asked, he being the first to notice the distance figure, who seem to have trouble walking as it stumbled towards them.
His question caused a sudden silent to fall upon the troop as their eyes followed his pointed fingers. Soon the one figure multiplied the closer they got. And it wasn't just who is that, but who are those.
"The question should be; what are those.?"
Mara says, pulling the rein of her horse.
Soon the grumbling, furious snarls, raspy growls, hungry groans and screeching moans of the undead reached their ears and they needed no more confirmation of the rumours.
"I believe this is enough proof to show the truth in the rumours, now RUN."
King Erik commands and the troop all at once squeezed their hands around the reins, sat up straight and put all their weight deeply into the saddle while closing their legs around the horse's barrel.
They squeezed their calves and heels, giving the horses the cue to lengthen their strides, and the stallions obeyed, galloping out of the land, away from the undead at great speed.
"Won't they follow us?"
Xoel asks, panting as they stopped at the outskirt of the land.
"They won't, rumours have it, a powerful wizard put a barrier around the land that stops them from crossing into another land or they burn on the spot."
Mara replies, after gulping down a needed amount of water.
"The journey continues, and Ikar do something foolish like that again and I'll feed your carcass to the vultures."
King Erik warns, and the troop continued on their journey, the witches could have used a spell to cloak them from the dangers on the road, but it is best to save up their magic as they need it for the king's free passage into the forest of bones and blood.
"We have to stop here, we cannot get too close to the entrance of the forest."
The leader of the five witches says as they reach the fine land of fresh grass that demarcates the pleasant lands from the forest.
Without saying a word, the king gets down from his stallion, securing his scabbard around his waist, and scan the surrounding lands.
"You need to drink this."
Xoel tells king Erik handing him a gourd that contains spelled portion.
"It would strengthen your loins, the forces in the forest weaken the heart of a man and make them cower in fear. This would prevent that from happening."
The leader of the witches says, getting down from her horse, and the remaining four follow her, forming a circle around the king as they joined hands together.
As the king tilts his head back to gulp in the contents of the gourd, the witches began chanting their spell.
"Quería tan mal, escuro coma a noite. Chameite agora á luz da bruxa." [Wanted as evil, dark as night. I claok thee now in the witch light.]
The first witch chants and the second one followed.
"Para darche tempo para fuxir ou loitar." [To give you time to flee or fight]
The third witch follows,
"Coraxe e forza mentres tece o mal do bosque." [Courage and strength as you weave through the evil of the forest]
The fourth witch follows,
"Agora estás oculto á vista do demo." [You now are, hidden from the demon's sight]
The fourth witch chants, louder than the rests and the last of the spell rests on their leader and she raised her head to the sky as she sealed the spell.
"Ray espírito espumante, espiritual, Ray espírito espumante, espiritual."
The leader chants, and the four other witches followed her lead after the first chant from the leading.
Reciting the incantation nine times before breaking their circle and they help king Erik, who knelt on one knee up.
"Consume nothing from the forest, and try not to touch the trees, or even rest against them. Some entities in the forest would sense your presence, you would see them but they can't see you. No matter what you see or what form they take, don't scream out in fright. Take this."
The witch leader says, giving to King Erik what looks like a compass.
"This would lead you to the cursed one, if he is still alive. I cannot attest for the accuracy, but it would make finding him easier. A member of his family spelled this specially, they designed it to lead you towards the body that shares the same blood with that spelled on the object."
The leader explained how to use the compass like object to king Erik thoroughly and the king nods.
"Mara, I am putting you in charge, Ikar is unruly and I cannot trust him to not cause trouble. Whatever happens, do not enter the forest nor try to come after me. Stay at alert, I will be back soon."
King Erik commands and Mara quickly stands before the king, saluting him once before the king turns his back on the troop and makes his way into the forest of blood and bones.
Without looking behind him, King Erik steps his right foot into the entrance of the forest and the left leg followed. He maintains the steady beat of his heart as he takes a few steps further into the forest.
Wanting to see if his soldiers remained in their place, King Erik turns back to look at the troop, but he stumbles back as his eyes meet with darkness.
Absolute darkness clouded what once looked like an entrance, and the king shuddered in fear. What they say about the forest being a world of its own must be the truth, because somehow it just made the outside world vanish from king Erik's eye.
The king closes his eyes, shaking the fear off himself, and he turns to face the life of the forest, tying the string of the compass like object around his wrist, letting it guide him towards the right part.
The farther he walks into the forest, the more his eyes opened to the life of the forest and it amazed it as much as it scared him.
Unlike most forest wherein the rays from the sun danced between the trees, a sunless infernal darkness enveloped this forest, weird as it may seem and it reeked of mournful secrets of vile and mysteries.
The farther he walked the denser the forest got and the somehow it felt as though temperature worked differently in the forest.
In fact, the king can't tell if it is day or night, because it appears time stopped, and the eery quiet of the forest scared him more than he thought it would.
The forest got thicker; as King Erik journeyed through it. What baffled him more was how every part of the forest looked and felt different.
Taking a left turn as directed by the object in his hands, he noticed the forest life around him and the king halts, taking in the scenery with awe.
One part of the forest looks rich in life, embryoid with a sea of deep green plants, flowers he had never seen before beautified the shrubs, and he had the urge to move closer for a better look.
The other part of the forest looked like someone sucked beauty of life out of it. The trees stood tall with an impressive structure and the shrubs engulfing it appears at though someone forced them to be there.
King Erik shook off the feeling of despair that descends upon him the longer he stared at the shrubs and continued on it journey, too lost in his thoughts, King Erik didn't note how far he had walked away from the right part until he felt the brush of wind against his neck and his blood ran cold.
That was when he halts, trying not to make a sound as he scanned his is surroundings and he noticed he is now standing between trees, magnificent trees that stared at him like silent sentries.
King Erik might be a person without magic but he knew he didn't need a wizard to tell him the trees staring at him weren't just trees but entities, their arm structured branches explained that much.
Somber shrubs hid dangerously around the root of the trees, most forests smells like damp moss, rain, wet tree trunks, some even smell like a tree stump that's creating new life, but the farther King Erik journeyed into this forest, he realised it smelled nothing like a normal forest.
This forest smelled like blood, decaying bodies, and the stench of death hung off everything. Slowly King Erik backs of the tree sentry's territory. Without turning back or looking away from the trees, he took careful steps one after the other as he walked backwards.
The item in his hand trembled and the pointer darts towards the same path king Erik passed through to this part of the forest.
Turning his head to see if he wasn't walking into anything behind him. King Erik sighs, seeing a thin road, and he turns his head back to the tree sentries only for his eyes widen in shock.
A few metres away from king Erik stood one tree, and he visibly gulped. The king could have sworn he saw the tree amongst the others, but now it seems there to follow him.
Not wanting to incur more attention, King Erik stops moving, taking his time to pay attention to every sound movement made.
He knew the tree moved, even if he didn't see it with his naked eyes, King Erik was sure of the tree's initial position, a few minutes passed and it seems, his planned to see what moved the tree wouldn't work, about giving up when he felt the gush of wind behind him.
"Why can't we see who it is."
The wind shrieks and king Erik's heart hammered against his rib cage.
"We felt its presence. Smelled like one of those wretched sottolunares."
Another voice shrieked in the gush of wound, and the king felt his heart traveled up his mouth. They know he is in their midst.
But what are they, why can't I see them? King Erik thought to himself, and he heard voices cackling.
"It's royalty, and it hears us, wants to see us."
"Royalty?, that makes it better. My roots need the blood of a royal one to last another one hundred years."
An old voice cackled in the wind and the king quaked in his boots, breaking out in cold sweats, wondering how they heard his thoughts.
The wind suddenly stops, and he watched as the shrubs and tiny branches of the tree comes together in a string to form what took the shape of a human, but they weren't really humans.
They are Hamadryads, ones that their beauty despite being male Hamadryads compelled him to cast away the mission and give himself to them, but the king didn't need a soothsayer to tell him that is a wrong idea.
He knew he needed to leave their territory, and so he fights hard with his subconscious to cast out the fear compelling him as he continues his backward steps, out of the home of the Hamadryads.
LANGUAGES USED IN THIS CHAPTER.
GREEK. used when the three leaders had their meeting.
GALICIAN by Xoel when referring to his mother.