It was an age of tragedy for all. The humans were under attack by mysterious, mythological creatures from the Other Realm, under the leadership of newly appointed king, Jovian. Many humans had fled, fearing for their lives, but many had stayed, ignoring the warnings, and been captured or killed as many villages were raided and burnt to the ground. The creatures, as they were known, did not hold any mercy, for they had been brainwashed into believing that their King, Jovian, and the human King, the fool Athos, would cleanse the two realms of bad, and become emperors, or overlords, whichever way you preferred to look at it.
King Athos and his band of loyal civilians in the capital were safe from harm, and many creatures had gone there to shelter and to rest. This left the Other Realm defenceless, and thus was a perfect target for the rebels to strike back.
A large group of rebels had been gathering in the Other Realm, under the leadership of Prince Nicolaus, who was technically supposed to be king, but his brother stole the throne from him. Nicolaus and his band of loyal warriors had a secret weapon up their sleeves; a powerful young woman called Sekrite.
Sekrite was the Keeper of the Elements, which meant that she had the power to use the elements as a power source. Also, she had a duty to protect them from harm, and with the assistance of a certain voice, had killed many enemies, and also had killed her best friend, a young man called Arthfael.
But that was in the past, and now it was a year later. Jovian and his men had taken hold of the Human Realm, and settled down there, biding their time until Sekrite would come to them. . .
It was only a matter of time.
In a quiet, undisturbed northern village lived an old weary man and his adult daughter. They were still mourning the disappearance of the girl they had taken in at birth, who had become family to them. She had gone missing a year or so ago, with her best friend, and they hadn't been seen since. But, so thought Arnol, it was to be expected, for Sekrite had met her uncle and witnessed his death the day before, and had scared off a small army of warriors from the King, led by the valiant, yet foolish black haired man known as Ivan.
As the village chief, Arthfael's father, Cornelius, had married the widowed chief's wife, and now thought of Ralf as a replacement for his son. Aeson had been killed while hunting, by a wild bear, and had a hero's burial outside the village. He had been a very respected member and chief, and everybody was going to miss him.
Daciana, now twenty-one, had married the young man Roran, and they now lived in a brand new hut next to Arnol's. Arnol felt lonely in his small hut; fond memories of Sekrite and Daciana as children often popped up in his head, and he could almost imagine their laughter as they played with one another, and the delighted excitement they had when Arnol told them a story. Arnol could recall the time they found the abandoned Isis outside the village, nearly starved, and how Sekrite had pleaded with him to keep the half-wolf pup. Arnol's face always cracked into a smile as he remembered the fond memories.
But that was in the past now, and he would never see Sekrite again.
“'Morning, Arnol. Beautiful day today, eh?” called Erik as he passed Arnol, carrying a plank of wood over one shoulder. It was a gorgeous Autumn day, the beginning of Autumn, and the trees were just starting to turn from lush, fresh green to the copper crimsons that made the autumn season so beautiful and memorable.
Arnol, on his way to visit Cornelius, gave a small, tired smile, and answered gruffly, “Aye, a beautiful morn, if I may say so myself. You off to fix the gate?” The village gate had been damaged by a skittish young colt a few days ago, and nobody had got around to fixing it.
“Yes, yes I am. Somebody's got to do it.” Erik gave a booming laugh, making his small beard go up and down, and then bid goodbye to Arnol and set off towards the village gate.
Arnol whistled tunelessly as he walked over to where Cornelius would be smithing. Even though Cornelius was the chief of the village, he still liked to pull his weight by crafting tools for the young and old alike, providing bolts, and shoeing horses. Arnol secretly admired this thoughtful, caring man, and they both held a similar pain in their heart, for both had lost their child.
Cornelius was putting the finishing touches to a short dagger when Arnol approached. Cornelius was a stocky, well built man, with big strong muscles and a ruddy face. His dark brown beard hid most of his tanned face, and his startling hazel eyes were intelligent and cunning. Cornelius looked up, and broke into a toothy grin. “Ah, Arnol. How are you today, my friend?”
“I'm doing well, Cornelius. How are you?” replied Arnol, sitting down on a wooden bench in the shade of the overhanging roof. Cornelius finished the dagger, and placed it to one side. His eyes were twinkling mischievously.
“Ah, Arnol, I feel as happy as can be. I have a beautiful wife, a step-son, and am chief of this untouched village. What more could I ask for?”
Arnol didn't share the blacksmith's joy in life, for news had reached him whilst coming back from a neighbouring village, that the creatures and their king were heading their way. Cornelius, sensing the older man's dark thoughts, sat down next to him, a slight stale smell hanging over him, and asked, curiously, “Look, Arnol, I know about the creatures. But we'll fight 'em off, like we did with those warriors the king sent up.”
Arnol gazed depressingly at Cornelius. Obviously, this bright cheery day hadn't infected the craftsman with its joy, for he said in a morbid tone, “Alas, my dear friend, we did not scare them off. It was Sekrite who did the deed, with her amazing power, that we have discussed many times.”
It was a topic of gossip for all of the villagers, about Sekrite, her uncle, and how they scared off the men. Many parents told their children about the mysterious sorceress Sekrite and her amazing psychic powers that could scare even the biggest of armies. Of course, the older folk scorned at the younger people, and told the truth to their grand children. It had raised many an argument in the village, which were often aimed at Arnol, Daciana, or Cornelius.
Suddenly, disrupting their thoughts, Erik appeared, flanked by his seventeen year old son Seth and another boy called Zachary. All of them had fearful expressions on their faces, as if they had just clasped eyes on a ghost.
Cornelius and Arnol stood up, curious and slightly perplexed. “What's wrong, Erik?” barked Cornelius, looking hard at the gate fixer.
Erik's face was bright red, and he wielded a small, fairly harmless hammer in one beefy hand. It was his son, Seth, who answered, “Sir, three figures approach on horseback! They're about to reach the village!” Seth looked ready to faint right there and now. By now, all of the other villagers had taken positions outside their huts, defensively, apprehension and terror thick in the air. A cloud passed over the sun, blanketing them in a shadow.
Cornelius grumbled in annoyance, and with Arnol hot on his heels, rushed to the village gate, where three horse men had stopped. All three of them wore cloaks and a hood, to mask their identity. The tallest rider was at the front of the group, riding a handsome, elegant, regal looking crimson coloured stallion. To his left was a slightly shorter, yet just as regal, midnight black stallion, pawing at the ground in anticipation. However, to the man's right was a shy, rather reserved, beautiful snow white mare, with a single black ring around one eye, which almost looked like a black eye. The three riders all had swords on them, and sat up gracefully.
A few of the villagers, including Daciana and Roran, came out to see the strangers, tense expressions on their faces. They instantly relaxed when they realised that there was only three of them, and that they weren't creatures (as far as they could tell).
Cornelius stepped forwards slightly, and boldly exclaimed, “Greetings, strangers. What brings you to the village, and who may I ask, are you?”
The leader of the group withdrew his hood, and the small gathering flinched. It was a bald, slightly red skinned man, with rich emerald eyes and a serious expression. His gaze flickered onto Arnol for a moment before returning to Cornelius. The stranger said in a clear voice, “Greetings, chief of this village. My name is Nicolaus, the brother of Jovian-”
At the mention of Jovian, the group hissed angrily, and Arnol and Cornelius exchanges looks. Was this the legendary leader of the rebels?
Nicolaus continued, unperturbed by the reaction of the crowd, “My companions and I are passing by on our journey to another village, many miles away. We wish to stock up on supplies, if you will permit it.” he did not say this sardonically, or mockingly, but as it was, factually. This made the villagers stop hissing angrily, and brought a small smirk onto the face of Arnol.
Cornelius nodded curtly, and added, “If you want, you can stay for the night, and journey out in the morning.” at this, the rider to the right of Nicolaus stiffened, but the other rider dismounted his horse and gave the reins to one of the villagers. Nicolaus did the same, and they waited for their other companion to do so as well.
“Come on!” moaned the rider standing next to Nicolaus. He pushed back his hood to reveal wavy black hair and an unforgettable face, that made everybody gasp.
“Ivan!” barked Arnol in surprise and shock. The very man who had been scared away by Sekrite...was here again, fighting against the King! Cornelius rubbed his chin thoughtfully, but made no comment.
The unknown rider on the mare reluctantly dismounted, and flinched when Daciana took the reins to lead the horse inside. Daciana frowned at the reaction of the rider, and said, “What's wrong?”
The rider stayed still for a moment, then stiffly removed their hood, to reveal long blonde hair, and intelligent blue eyes, and a pale, yet smooth face. Daciana and Arnol gaped in shock, and the small gathering of villagers froze where they were, startled expressions on their faces. The sun shone down on the young woman's hair, making it glisten like gold. She looked around warily, nostalgia in her eyes.
Arnol suddenly spluttered out, “S-Sekrite!” he rushed over to her and took her in a back breaking hug. She flinched slightly, then returned it awkwardly, eyes locked with Daciana. Daciana looked at her foster sister in a mixture of shock and happiness.
“Sekrite! Y-your alive! W-what happened?” she stammered cautiously, stroking the white mare softly. Sekrite broke the hug with Arnol, and locked her left hand over the black hilt of her sword. Arnol looked at the now sixteen year old in awe.
Sekrite had grown a few centimetres taller, and was now towering above Daciana and Arnol. She was about a head shorter than Nicolaus, but the same height as Ivan, and Arnol could see a similarity in their faces, which he hadn't seen before.
Daciana flung herself at Sekrite and squeezed her tightly, weeping in happiness. Sekrite patted her back comfortingly, and murmured, “I'll tell you what happened later. Right now, I need to tell Cornelius-”
Cornelius, however, had other plans on his mind. “Villagers,” he announced, “Prepare a feast in honour of Sekrite and her friends.”
And so, all of the villagers bustled off, to prepare for a feast that would surpass even the grandest feast held in the King's hall.
It was night by the time the feast was ready, and Sekrite hadn't been able to speak to Cornelius about Arthfael. She would wait until the other villagers had retreated back into their huts before she did so.
Sekrite spent most of the morning speaking to the villagers about general information, hanging out with Daciana, Arnol, Roran, and Ralf. Ralf was delighted to have Sekrite back in the village, and Sekrite was dragged all over the place by the eager young boy. Nicolaus and Ivan found it very funny; the keeper of the elements being harassed by a young boy. Ivan even made a comment that Nicolaus had competition, which was unfortunately overheard by the ever curious Daciana. Sekrite told her that she would reveal all that night.
In the afternoon, Sekrite and Daciana prepared for the feast. They went down to the river, which brought back many memories for Sekrite, and they washed and cleaned. Then, they returned to the village, and retreated to the confines of their old hut, where both used to live.
As soon as she stepped inside, Sekrite was taken back in time. This was the place where she first remembered the voice speaking to her, at the ripe innocent age of four. Tears trickled down her cheeks as she remembered getting into trouble for nearly burning down the hut, recalling all the times with Isis, and just being with Daciana and Arnol. She quickly wiped the tears away as she changed into a black dress, similar to her travelling clothes, in the event that she had to make a quick getaway.
Daciana was delighted to have somebody to fuss over, and spent ages brushing Sekrite's hair, whilst revealing that she was three months pregnant, with Roran's baby. Sekrite felt elated for her sister. “Congratulations, Dacia!” cooed Sekrite, eyes bright in delight. This would make her an unofficial aunt.
Daciana dimpled prettily, and said, “Well, I haven't told father yet. . . I don't know how he'll take it.”
“Well, you should tell him soon!” insisted Sekrite, standing up and doing a little twirl. She giggled like a child, and skipped around the fire. Daciana rolled her eyes, and staggered to her feet, pretending to be more pregnant than she actually was. Sekrite could see a small bump on her brown haired sister's belly, and gave a secret smile. It was nearly dusk when they exited the hut, and Sekrite was immediately confronted by the sight of a large, square table laid out in the middle of the village. At the top was a grand chair, (where Cornelius would sit), and long benches down the sides. Already, there was an assortment of meats and vegetables sitting patiently on the table, and more was still arriving. Sekrite inhaled deeply, and sighed contentedly, taking in all the familiar smells of her childhood. It felt good to be home after all that had happened since last year.
Daciana wandered off to meet her husband, so Sekrite walked aimlessly around the grand table, smiling at the villagers, and occasionally saying a greeting or two. Nicolaus appeared beside her, adorned in dark clothes, but with the exception of a regal looking cloak. The villagers treated him the same as Sekrite, and he soon felt at home.
“What a lovely village.” he commented to Sekrite, as they passed a group of babbling girls. Sekrite rolled her eyes, and glanced up at the full moon. For some strange, primitive reason, the full moon always set her heart pounding.
“ Yes, it is.” she answered quietly, eyes darting to the fire-bearing torches that lit up the table. She spotted Arnol and Cornelius at the top of the table, and they waved at the walking pair. Sekrite gave a small wave back, and glanced up at the grinning Nicolaus. “What are you grinning about?” she queried, as they approached the two men.
Nicolaus suppressed his grin, then said, “Just thinking about something.”
Sekrite rolled her eyes, then smiled at Arnol. He looked at her in delight, then frowned slightly as he noticed that she had her black hilted sword with her. Sekrite must have noticed his gaze, for she put a protective hand on the hilt. Cornelius, too, looked at the sword, and said eagerly, “Sekrite, may I see that sword? I, of course being a blacksmith, have an interest in all types of swords.”
Nicolaus sat down on the bench, as did Arnol on the opposite side, and they all watched as Sekrite slowly drew out her sword. Cornelius' face lit up like a child's, as his eyes examined the glistening, snow white blade of Sekrite's sword. He noted that the sword wasn't that long, for it was more of a short sword, but it suited Sekrite completely, and also, was a sight to behold. It was beautiful.
Cornelius held out his hands, and Sekrite hesitated for a moment. A few other villagers gaped at the stunning white and black sword, then dutifully returned to the preparations. Seth and Zachary, the two older boys, came over and looked at the sword, as it was passed into the hands of the chief.
Cornelius checked the balance of the sword, which was perfect, and went on the examine the hilt, and frowned at the inscription on the guard. “Dragon Tongue?” he mumbled. Sekrite nodded absently, blue eyes locked on her sword.
“The sword is called Dragon Tongue,” she said. Seth looked at Sekrite, and felt his cheeks turn crimson. She had changed a lot since he had last seen her. No longer was she an innocent young girl, but a strong-willed, fighting woman. He could see the passion in her eyes, and the way she cared about others, that she had been through hard times.
Eventually, Sekrite eagerly took her sword back, and drew it back into its sheath. The feast was ready, and time for Sekrite and her companions to tell their story.