Another blast to the past. Don't worry, next chapter would be firmly in the present, more specifically in Elumia.
Interlude Part 1- Starcrossed
Cassius D’al Vernaris ran throughout the palace, dodging the servants that seemed endless in number. He had to avoid the hunter that was stalking him so. He could feel her eyes upon him but his foot was quicker, instantly shifting into an adjacent room within the archives. The Hall of Ancestors.
He took a deep breath before walking among the images of the long dead. Most of them had a grand tale of glory attached to their name but none more so than Ivell K’al Vernaris, the actual founder of his family line and the First Lord Protector of Isla Vernarae. Cassius always wanted to emulate this ancestor of his, for how many can create a legacy that stretch for thousands of years.
As he pondered the deeds of Ivell, small hands covered his eyes.
“Guess who?” the female voice giggled.
“Well you sound prettier than my sister.” Cassius jokingly said. “And my mother would never do something like this.”
“That doesn’t answer the question.” Eliza Hartly said playfully.
“Of course I know it is you Eliza.” Cassius said. “Now what do I win for this?”
A passionate kiss was the reply Eliza Hartly gave to the boy. After what seemed to be a blissful eternity, the duo broke their kiss and observed the statues.
“You know, this place gives me the creeps.” Eliza said shivering. “All those stone eyes staring at you, like they are judging you.”
“They are judging you.” Cassius confirmed. “Each ancestor judges us, wishing us to become greater than the previous generation.”
“Still. It seems like they want me gone.” Eliza stated while observing the stone face of Ivell. “That I am an intruder that doesn’t deserve to be here.”
“You do deserve to be here.” Cassius assured her. “The circumstances may not be ideal but in the end, I want you here.”
“I don’t think your brother or sister would like that.” Eliza countered. “They seem particularly hostile to the idea.”
“My sister would probably come around. After all she cares about my happiness.” Cassius grimly sighed. “My brother on the other hand. Well, he would want you out as fast as possible.”
“If your father dies, your brother would try to take the seat of Lord Protector.” Eliza cautioned. “If that happens then I would have to go.”
“I won’t let that happen.” Cassius firmly said. “Even if he is my brother, you and I belong together.”
“Even if you have fight?” Eliza questioned.
“Even if I have to fight.” Cassius assured.
“Even if it would tear your family apart?” Eliza asked.
Cassius sat in silence before confirming. “Yes but I hope he would stand down and reconsider his stance.”
The two embraced hoping that the future would be full of hope and free of conflict.
“Would you not reconsider?” Taven asked his brother. “If doesn’t have to end like this.”
“Oh yes it does.” Ivell K’al Vernaris proclaimed. “I am disappointed. You betray your family for a girl.”
“I love her.” Taven stated. “More than anything in this world.... Just surrender and this conflict could end peacefully.”
“No.” was the only reply Ivell had for his brother.
“Look.” Taven said exasperated. “This endless war to control the island have destroyed nearly everything. Peace can occur if you just throw down your arms and order your army to return home.”
“Peace can happen when Queen Selene surrenders herself and suffer a death as painful as our father’s!” Ivell angrily said. “Only when her blood is offered to the earth would I consider laying down my arms.”
“Please. For the love you have for me as your brother.” Taven plead. “End this conflict. Queen Selene have promised me that you will be given fair treatment.”
“You are not my brother.” Ivell said harshly. “You never have been.”
The two brothers sat on their horses in silence as they realize what is going to happen in the next few minutes.
“Then so be it.” Taven sadly said. “I hope you survive the battle.”
“Go and die as you lived.” Ivell stated. “A traitor to your own kind. Hurry along now to your mistress. Her boot needs licking.”
Taven shook his head and motioned for his horse to return back to the Queen’s forces as Ivell stare at his retreating form. When his older brother was halfway to Selene’s lines, Ivell kicked his horse and rushed to his own forces.
Queen Selene watched as her daughter’s lover rode back to her lines with seemed to be a somber look.
“There would be no surrender.” Taven quickly said. “Ivell would fight to the death.”
“A shame.” Queen Selene nonchalantly said. “I hoped he would not be as mad as your father.”
“He is blinded by hatred.” Taven replied. “All I ask if possible that he be given a quick death in battle. If he surrenders then please do not kill him.”
Queen Selene nodded and was about to speak before her daughter arrived in armor.
“Ah daughter, you finally joined us.” Queen Selene smiled.
“Of course mother! Why would I not join such a momentous occasion?!” Princess Merope exclaimed before kissing Taven on the cheek. “I can’t just let my mother and future husband go off to war alone.”
Queen Selene laughed. “Alone? I suppose we would be if you didn’t count the army at our backs.”
“Is this really a time for jokes.” Taven said. “Let us finish this quickly. I have no desire to drag this out longer than necessary.”
“All in due time. All in due time.” Queen Selene told him before turning to her daughter. “Stay behind Sir Anders, he would protect you with his life.”
The young girl nodded at her mother’s request after all the queen is the one with battle experience.
“You too Taven.” Queen Selene said as an afterthought. “If I fall in battle, at least you youngsters will survive.”
“If you fall, we will all die.” Taven stated coldly. “Ivell will not hesitate to put any of us into the ground.”
“He is your brother.” Princess Merope said. “I would thought that he would at least spare your life.”
“Not anymore.” Taven sadly shook his head. “Not after I declared my love for you.”
Princess Merope looked down in guilt but her mother quickly forced her head back up.
“Never look down when it is not your fault.” Queen Selene firmly assured. “You are the granddaughter of King Aznable. Act like it.”
With those words, Queen Selene drew her sword and motioned towards the Vernaris lines. Her vast army the largest the island has ever seen began marching towards their foe, the army they have fought against for years. Victory was theirs, there was no question about it.
“Well, you got us into a predicament.” Hartly deadpanned. “Oh this is so winnable you said. I should have stayed home.”
“Then you should have but you shouldn’t worry. We can win this.” Ivell responded to his friend as Queen Selene’s army began marching towards them. “Even if they outnumber us ten to one.”
“Now those odds are not favorable.” Hartly jokingly said. “What are we going to do? Ask them politely to die?” Ivell laughed loudly. “Why not? It will even the playing field.”
Hartly snorted as his friend’s jest before putting on his stag helmet. “It begins. I got to head to my men if we are going to commit to the plan.”
The young man placed a hand on his blood brother’s shoulder to reassure him as he started to leave. Ivell could only stand in silence as his blood began flowing throughout his body to the thumping of his heart. As the Queen’s men made it halfway to the forest lines, Ivell donned his boar pelt. This was going to be a great fight.
“AXE TIME! SWORD TIME! SLAUGHTER!” Ivell chanted as he lifted his axe to the sky.
“AXE TIME! SWORD TIME! SLAUGHTER!” the Vernaris army chanted. “AXE TIME! SWORD TIME! SLAUGHTER!”
The considerably small army slam their weapons against their shields, provoking the large army to attack them. The army of the forest howled and roared as their hated enemy approached even closer only to run and disappear into the trees. Ivell K’al Vernaris was the last to leave only laughing as the first man of Queen Selene’s army entered the forest.
It seemed like an odd choice until the majority of Selene’s army began moving through the forest in their tight formations, only to be cut off from each other as tall and sturdy trees began to collapse. Some of which crushed those in their path causing the fallen to scream.
The Vernaris army charged into the confused Queen men, screaming loudly filled with bloodlust and unstoppable rage. Axes clashed against shields just as spears attempted to pierce the bodies of those who aggressively attacked their fellows.
Screams perforated through the air as everyone seeked to survive the chaos of combat. Limbs separated from the bodies of their owners. Cowards fleeing into the forest or out of it as their friends were cut down. Blood was spilled everywhere as far as the eye can see.
Taven cut down one of his brother’s warriors, fighting back-to-back with his lover and her mother. He was getting exhausted from the constant fighting, his arms aching from the exhaustion, his breathing getting heavier. Princess Merope was in the same condition along with Sir Anders who suffered some wounds.
“Where is the rest of the army?!” Taven shouted.
“Probably in the same situation as us!” Sir Anders answered, parrying a soldier that got too ambitious. “That or they got slaughtered!”
“I hope not!” Princess Merope exclaimed. “I rather not die in a forest!”
“Fear not Princess! I am sure that we will carry the day. After all we-” Sir Anders stated before an axe embedded itself in his face.
Taven stared in shock as Queen Selene’s greatest warrior fell and sought the warrior that killed the man. He got his answer when he looked up to the rocks and saw his brother standing with his boar pelt.
Ivell was about to throw another axe but a loud horn sounded through the air, prompting him to retreat along with the rest of the Vernaris army.
“Where are they all going?” Princess Merope asked.
“I have no idea.” Taven replied wiping the sweat on his forehead. “Maybe they suffered too many losses?”
“Regardless, we have to hunt him down.” Queen Selene stated. “I swore to end this war on this day. And I intend to fulfill that promise.”
“I think we should fall back.” Taven suggested. “We don’t know how many people we lost in this cursed forest.”
“No we continue marching.” Queen Selene firmly said ending the discussion. She motioned for her horn blower to rally the remnants of her army to her location.
Taven and his lover took the opportunity to rest along with any of the surviving soldiers. Slowly more and more soldiers rallied to their queen, many wounded in the resulting battle that seemed to end in stalemate more than actual victory or defeat. However many of the soldiers did not care if they won but if there was water or food as the battle lasted hours. Taven only wished that this day would end with him still alive.
Battle quickly erupted again after a short while as arrows and axes fell upon the resting soldiers of Queen Selene. Her soldiers quickly rushed to take defensive positions as Ivell’s warriors descended upon them from the rocks. Ivell stood above observing the conflict, not moving a muscle as his forces was getting slowly dwindled in their attack. He raised his hands and motioned for his people to beat a quick retreat. Few of the queen’s soldiers died.
“IS THAT ALL YOU GOT!” Princess Merope shouted to the young man as the Vernaris forces . “CHILDREN FIGHT BETTER!”
Ivell laughed loudly for the next two minutes. “No. This is just beginning.”
“Your army is crushed Ivell. They are broken and I don’t think you got enough warriors to fight us.” Taven told his brother. “Surrender. The queen has promised you fair treatment. Remember?”
“And I promised a painful death.” Ivell replied. “Nice of you all to gather in one spot.”
“Wh-what?” Taven said confused as Ivell turned away to the sounds of horns.
Howling and roaring akin to that of bears and wolves sounded the air causing Taven’s blood to become still with fear. He knew what those sounds meant.
“Capture the queen alive.” Hartly told his band of warriors. “Our esteemed leader want her mostly unharmed.”
His men gave grunts of acknowledgement before charging into the fray, screaming as loud as possible in uncomparable rage.
“BERSERKERS!” Taven shouted as he saw the wolf, bear, and boar pelt clad individuals rushed toward their lines. At that moment, he realized that the day was lost along with his life.
Queen Selene woke up in chains with Ivell staring right in her face. She took some time to observe the young man. He like his father was pale and had the same raven hair with a streaks of white. Eyes were pale gray as well, creating an eerie feeling of being captured by someone she killed.
“Where is my daughter?” Selene finally questioned her captor.
“Dead and lying in the cold iron ground just like my brother.” Ivell coldly answered.
“Not just a madman but a kinslayer as well.” Queen Selene chuckled. “How low can you go, son of Ver Naris.”
“Laugh all you want.” Ivell D’al Vernaris said. “It is time for your death.”
“I spit upon you Ivell. Just do it quickly.” Queen Selene said defiantly.
“Quickly? No.” Ivell laughed. “My father was killed by being torn apart by horses. You deserve an even more painful death.”
Ivell pulled out a knife with a small hook on the end. “You see this blade. Small but sharp. Sharp enough to cut through the first layer of skin and peel.”
Queen Selene suddenly seized with fear. Being flayed was the last thing on her mind of executions. However she can’t allow the young man to have the satisfaction of seeing her in fear.
As she was carried to the execution spot, she noticed something. Princess Merope and Taven were chained to a rock clearly alive but gagged, preventing them from screaming.
“Y-you said they died.” Queen Selene said. “That they were left to rot.”
“I lied.” Ivell shrugged. “I didn’t see my father die but your daughter would have the chance to do so.”
“You are a monster.” Queen Selene spit in Ivell’s face who clearly was amused.
“I am descended from one.” Ivell smiled cruelly. His surviving warriors gathered around to see the death of their master’s greatest enemy. Among them was the progenitors of the new families such as the Hartlys, Thanes, Solis, and Heartsbane. Each one of them was banging their shields as Ivell began to skin the formidable queen.
After an eternity and long hours of screaming, Queen Selene’s heart gave out before Ivell could skin her face but he did so anyway. He took her skin and gave it to one of his warriors before approaching his brother and his brother’s lover.
“Don’t worry brother.” Ivell calmly said, wiping his knife. “I will take care of her skin. It will adorn my banner as I approach the site of our father’s execution.”
Taven screamed in anger but the sound was muffled by the gag in his mouth. He screamed louder as Ivell bent down to Merope.
“Don’t fear. You and your......lover would join her mother.” Ivell said while caressing Merope’s face. “There is enough room on my banner for decoration.”
All that could be heard now was Ivell laughing cruelly.