Tales From the Universe Tree: Wolves of Ice and Fire. Part Eleven: The Start Of A Journey.
I Have A Task For You.
(Continued from Part Ten)
Two days later. Shenal had another surprise for Risa. She met The Shogun in the sitting room just outside their bedchamber. “I have a task for you.” She sounded as if she would rather say anything else.
Risa shook her head, “For pities sake, Shenal, don’t send me north now!”
Shenal swallowed. “Not North, my love.” Her tone took on a very serious edge. “South. I’m sending you to Dega.”
“Dega?!” Risa exclaimed. “Why?”
“You know why.” The Queen’s face tightened. “Bongal must be found and tried formally. Or I risk another Civil War.”
“You can’t be serious!” Risa snapped incredulously. “You think the Jontalians can dispute this?! After everything that’s happened? And in any case, you already risked one with that proclamation. And they did nothing.”
Someone I Trust Absolutely.
“Nothing that you know of,” Shenal said patiently. “But the Jontalian nobles are in an uproar. They don’t believe when I tell them what he did. And they won't, not until they hear it from his own mouth. And for that, we need to find him. I’ve already sent birds to the King of Dega explaining what has happened and to expect you.”
“And you’ll think he’ll help us?”
Shenal shook her head “No. Even if Bongal is in Dega, I doubt they would give him give up willingly. He’ll be too valuable an asset to their invasion. That means that we have to snatch him ourselves. At best, the letter would only buy us a little time, assuming it gets there before he does.”
“But why me,” Anger frayed around the edges of Risa's voice. “I’m no filthy spy, and I’m needed here.”
“I need someone I trust absolutely on this, Risa. Who knows how many of our spies are still loyal? Or even if they still serve us? I can't be sure that Eric was the only one who helped him escape.”
"You think a Jontalian nobel was involved?"
Shenal nodded. "I have no proof. But I can't take the risk that they were not. Elysium, for all I know, they could still be helping him." The Queen frowned thoughtfully. "reguardless if they were involved or not, Bongal must be found and brought back." she sighed. "And for what he did to you, I feel that the right of Justice is yours."
“That’s all the more reason for me not to go!” Risa's nostrils flared. “What’s really going on here, Shenal? If him being brought back alive is so bloody important, then you wouldn't send me, no matter what my right! It makes no sense! And someone you can trust? Shenal, finding him is important. But its not so important that I have to be sent personally!”
Shenal sighed. “You're right, it doesn't.” She said softly "I suppose I was just delaying the inevitable, but there is another reason why I can only trust this to you." She pulled a roll of parchment from the folds of her Kimono. Risa’s eyes widened when she saw the sigil on the broken sealing wax, a five-headed Dragon spewing fire.
“The Doma!?” Risa exclaimed. What by the Tree could the Gilannri Emperor want?
Shenal nodded. “An envoy from the Empire arrived last night, I only became aware of it this morning while I going over replacements for Bongal's positions. Risa, The Doma tells me that the Universes Wife and the First Children have come out of their forest and are heading to the Degaian capital.”
Risa’s mouth suddenly went dry. “What?!”
“He did not say why I don’t think he knows. But regardless, we have to make contact with her at all costs. We must make her understand what is going beyond The Breach. ‘Winter comes on Wings of Fire.’ and we are not ready Risa. You know that better than anyone. Dega and Jorna will not believe until the Lord of Winter is right on their doorstep. That leaves the First Children, us and the Gilannri to face the Darkness alone. If you cannot convince her to help us, then Yuska’s death will be your fondest dream!” She stood up and pulled Risa up into a tight embrace as if she was trying to hold on to something that was tearing away from her. “Please my love,” her voice dripped with fear. “You saved my life more times than I can count. Now I need you to save the world. Please!”
What Does The Tree Want With me?
Risa returned the embrace slowly. What should she say? She opened her mouth, and then an image flashed through her mind. Winter Spawn, horrors beyond description pouring through The Breech, burning, killing, turning the realm into an ocean of blood before. She shuddered. I can’t go. Without her wha…but what will happen if I don’t go? Am I willing to—Elysium, don’t do this to me! I need her. Her heart throbbed in her chest like the pulling strings of destiny. Finally, she nodded. “I-I’ll go.” She sounded strangled.
That night, Risa stood out on the balcony, staring out at the lights of the city and swaying into the cold wind restlessly, gooseflesh rose on her bare skin, but she ignored it. Dega, she had only been there once, and she never wanted to return. And yet that’s where I have to going. To catch Bongal, Talking to the Universes Wife. Elysium, why me? I don’t want to go! The beast in her belly pounded out her hatred like a war drum. What does the Tree want with me? The tears started to fall again, unbidden. She suddenly felt lonelier than she ever had in her life as if she was gone already. Yuska…Shenal…
You've Been Good To Me.
As if she had spoken aloud, the Queen embraced her from behind, tenderly. Her breasts pressing against the other woman’s back. “I’m sorry. there really isn't anyone else…but I don’t want you to go,” she said, sniffling softly as though she were missing her already. “I’m afraid, Risa.”
Risa bit her lip. “I know…” her voice quivered. She grasped the Queen’s arm. “I want to stay too.” She turned and held the flame-haired woman close. “You’ve been so good to me, Shenal...I don’t know what I would have done without you all these years. But…I have my duty.”
“The Tree damn duty!” The Queen said harshly, she broke the embrace and held Risa at arm’s length. “I’m afraid that you won’t come back, don’t you understand that!? Ever since Yuska died, you’ve been like a” she paused to swallow. “Like an empty husk! I’ve heard what you say in your sleep, every anger mutter, every sob! By the Tree, Risa, you haven’t smiled in a week! And now I’m sending you to…I feel…Gahhhh! Damn it, Risa! What if someone puts a knife in your back because you’re too busy brooding!? I-I c-”
Risa wrapped her arms around Shenal again, trembling. They both were she realized. “I won’t die.” Her voice was barely above a whisper. “I will come back. By the Tree and Elysium I will. And when I do…” she leaned in and kissed Shenal tenderly. “Marry me, finally. D-don’t part from me again.”
A Glimpse Of Things To Come.
Shenal looked up at her, and slowly a smile crept up on her face through the tears. “I was always yours, my Blue Wolf.” She returned the Kiss. “But I will. The Tree as my I witness I—”
A sound like a roaring fire erupted into the woman’s ears. Shenal’s breath caught suddenly, and her eyes stared at out at something. Risa whirled on her heels, following her gaze and then she gasped. Streaming across the sky from the south, less than an inch above the balcony, a bar of white light streaked across the night sky, leaving a tail as big as five men standing end to end. The light flooded the bedchamber. A rush of air slapped against the two Women, followed by a boom that shattered windows. Risa and the Queen crashed to the ground. Risa lifted her head slowly, shielding her eyes and then she caught a glimpse of something and her eyes almost popped out of her sockets. Someone was IN that light. A boy, or maybe a Young Man? Before she could see anymore though, the bar of light sped on northward. And then was gone, faded into nothing.
“What by the Tree was THAT?!” Shenal barked. More startled than frightened.
Risa didn’t’ answer at first. She kept looking in the direction the bar of light had gone. North. North to towards the Lord of Winter’s realm. “I don’t know,” The Shogun said finally. Her voice trembling. “I just don’t know.“
The Universe Tree: The Tree that is the source of all things. It is sentient, omnipotent and the creator of worlds.
Elysium: depending on who you ask, Elysium is either The Light that The Universe Tree emits, or it is a separate light from which the Universe Tree draws its power and where righteous souls go after death. Followers of the Shada Religion adhere to the latter.
Gilannri (pronounced as GILL-ann-REE): A race of half-man, half-Dragon hybrids. Although they take on physical characteristics of their Dragon ancestors, they are humanoid in shape (in the sense that they are bipedal). In the ancient past, they once had an empire that spanned the globe and used humans as slaves. Today, the only living remnant of that empire exist on the Southern Continent, inside the valley and mountain range called "Fodoma" ( pronounced as "FOE-DOH-Ma" which means 'The Valley of the Dragon' in their own language), but Gilannri themselves can be found almost everywhere.
Doma (Pronounced as "DOH-Ma"): Gilannrian for "Dragon." Also used as the title for the Gilannri Emporer.
The First Children: Also sometimes called 'Fairies.' A winged race of humanoids beleived to be the first life forms on the planet.
Universes Wife: According to Shada tradition, The Spirit of Universe Tree took a woman from the First Children to be its wife. And proclaimed that the other Races should "Worship her, for she is thy mother." Today, the term is used to describe the Queen of the First Children, who is believed to be the descendant of that first wife.
Shada: The most practiced religion in the world. With the Universe Tree and Elysium at the center of its beliefs.
The United Kingdom of Durranna (Dur-ANN-na): A country located on the continent to the north. Although the continent was once three separate kingdoms with their own history and customs, over time they became united under the banner of Durranna, the southernmost kingdom on the continent.
Rofin (Roe-fin): The Land of the Ice Born. The northern province of The United Kingdom of Durranna, and the last of the two kingdoms to fall under Durranna's banner. A cold, hard tundra bordered by the Umemai Mountain range to the north and south. Also the homeland of Risa Albus, the Shogun of the United Kingdoms.
Shogun: A title given to the supreme commander of the United Kingdoms' armed forces. Second in power only to the royal family.
Jontal (pronounced as "John-TALL"): The Mountain Kingdom. Durranna's easternmost province, and the first of the two former Kingdoms to fall under its rule. Known for its Gilannrian architecture, which was built inside of an entire mountain range, with structures that also seem to grow out of the mountains like flowers. Homeland of Igilancia Bongal, The High Lord of Jontal.
The Kingdom of Dega (pronounced as 'DAY-gah'): The Kingdom on the Southern Continent.
Jorna (JORR-Nah): Also called 'The Republic of Jorna.' A nation located in the Wheel Archipelago, between the Northern and Southern continents.
The Breach: Along the northern mountain range in Rofin, stands one of the tallest mountains in the world. Although its original name has been lost, it is known today as 'The Breach.' Becuase of the giant hole that runs through the side of the mountain. The hole is miles high and is wide enough for a thousand armies to pass through with room to spare. The Breach is also known for the fortress that spans the entire length of the hole, built to hold back the inhabitance of the Lifeless Lands.
The Lifeless Lands: A Chaotic Wasteland that is both frozen and on fire, with volcanic glaciers that constantly spew fire, ice, and ash into the air. Home of the Winter Lord and his horrid creations.
Winter Lord: An entity with many names, including "The Lord of Fire and Ice," "The King of Lies," "The Dark Lord," "The Shadow," "Ikulka (Ee-CAL-Ka)" and others. None of these names is an accurate description, save for one, it's true name, "Paganus." Evil. Although "Winter Lord" is one of the more common names, he is not a "Lord of Winter." And the name is most likely a reference to how The Lifeless Lands appears as an icy wasteland at first glance.
Winter Spawn: an umbrella term used to describe the many nightmarish creatures created By the Winter Lord.
"Winter Comes on Wings of Fire": According to legend, this was the warning given to The Doma when the Lifeless Lands and The Winter Lord was first discovered.
© 2017 Will English.