Of Mortals: Chapter Seventeen

Terlynn stared speechless at his father after informing him of his plan, and still after, he could not find proper words to address his father with. It wasn’t until after they had returned to their homeland that the prince’s mind began to really work over the idea put forth. Perhaps it wasn’t the idea itself that stilled the boy’s tongue but possibly the way in which his father had presented it. There was a cold, detached manner in which the elder elk regarded the matter of the Taliann lineage, almost as though it were nothing but a game of jest. Imfay spoke of the Yerra- and his wife and the deceased prince as though nothing more than inanimate figures to pushed about to play out a scene of his choosing. It was, in so many ways, solely an image of his machinations that he sought to put forth like no other person, sane or not, would suggest such a radical course of action.

The Yerra- of Okyna should be a deer, as it always had been, and if it could not be another of the Taliann line, then a new house would have to come to power. Terlynn could not fathom why his father would suggest that he should be placed in that position once the dust had settled. Not only did it sound to him as an impossible thing to achieve, but one that would not weather even a gentle storm. The people of the southern lands would revolt, they would remove him from that place of authority by force, and once he was taken from there, Terlynn was sure he would find his head beneath the blade. Though it was not that he could not see what his father intended, merely he thought it something beyond the power his will could generate.

Knowing Imfay as he did, Terlynn should have suspected his plotting from the moment he decided to send healers to Okyna in an attempt to save the lame prince. As it seemed the boy drew closer to death, it was apparent some spark of excitement had been lit within the Yerra-. And once he was through, life having seeped from him in those final croaking breaths, Imfay had fully set his mind to it. He wanted the union to be cemented forever, a legacy which he would head and be known for until the last days of the world, but what he would sacrifice was not on par with his vision. Imfay was willing to throw the succession into question, the countries into turmoil for an avoidable war, and even his own flesh and blood before what would quickly become an angered peasantry, but even that may not be enough. Terlynn regarded his father again, unsure of how he would begin to explain his ambition with an honest tongue but realized that may be beyond the power of anyone who meant to paint a pleasant picture of it all.

Again, Terlynn was made to regard his own feelings on the matter, or at least how he would feel to be made Yerra- over any land, let alone the southern lands. Part of him wanted to be disgusted by the means by which it could be done, yet the other half had to regard his father with praise. After all, to unite even the south and central dominions would be a boast that none other could make. With the banners of the three great monarchs made one, the whole world would quake at their joint ambition. The north would not resist, and if they did, the caribou could only go on for so long. Imfay had always told his son of the harsh conditions in those lands and how the people of the north were often fighting nature itself more than they ever had or could an invading enemy. Perhaps it would all fall together and fit perfectly like the pieces of a puzzle. If the danger and risk of it all could be made minimal, relegated to an after thought, it was entirely possible his father’s plans would see the light of day and the approval of all that would witness them. However, there still sat on the horizon that threat of war, the war that Imfay himself was tending the embers of, in hopes of building a great flame.

The east was something Terlynn had only read of in books. The lands were evidently not too dissimilar from those of his home; however, the residents were a thing apart from what he knew. All of them were regarded as nomads and savages, with only a few tribes of the collective races taking up semi-permanent residents that they maintained as villages. Terlynn couldn’t be sure how much of that was true, but the tales of their brutish strength he could easily regard as fact with the evidence provide from the wars before his birth. They had fought endlessly for generations, the easterners sieging cities and attempting to topple the Yerra-‘s. It was no hard thing to guess that the war that Imfay would bring to them would be just as brutal. Yet, if they brought the fight to these nomads, Terlynn had to think they would have the advantage in the contest. They were disorganized, and without proper defenses, if they fought an offensive battle, the west could overwhelm their foes. But, if all went so well as to see the war’s end in his lifetime, what would Imfay do from there?

As the entourage of carriages made their way into the heart of Desmus, Terlynn had to wonder if his father’s ambition led his thinking to the east. He had to assume that Imfay was not so mad as to believe he would reign over the west and then move his power to consume the savages of the east. Then again, the initial idea of taking orderly lands and forcing a new monarch in, in place of what had come before, was already a maddening prospect. To think he would try to take the nomads and form them into something more cohesive and structured did not seem quite the daunting task as the other. It may, in fact, be done with ease if his father could shape his narrative correctly, but that would mean a sympathy Terlynn wasn’t sure Imfay possessed. As he began to refine his thoughts, Terlynn made to ask his father such a question as to his motives only to be silenced by the sound of bedlam.

Something powerful impacted the side of the carriage prompting the Yerra- and prince to climb out and see what had caused the commotion. It was ill-advised, to say the least, yet had they not have been so curious or fleet of foot, the two elk would have found themselves upside within the carriage if not crushed beneath it. A group of individuals, a mix of races so much so that it wasn’t that any was particularly one dominated, stood on the other side of the toppled carriage. Imfay flung an arm out to stop his son, who had immediately started forward. Instead, Imfay allowed his mind to work, the power to accumulate and then focus in where needed. Between his own countrymen, soldier and citizen alike, and the shadowy-furred invaders, their eyes glowing like the lanterns dotting the streets, Imfay knew he could turn the tide.

Despite it coming to him without rhyme or reason and seemingly being something that others lacked, even his own son, Imfay, had found he could sway the hearts and minds of others at a young age. The ability imbued all aspects of his life, his speech, his gaze, and even his overall presence. Though forcing unexpected emotional changes in others was something he had almost mastered, what would come of these influences was never clear. Even if he couldn’t be confident how the coin would land, he would still make sure to toss it and hope for the best. Looking to the mail-clad halberd men not far from the road, he called, “You men! To us! Bring us good weapons to defend ourselves with and bring Terlynn to safety.”

Snapping into action as though mechanisms triggered by a lever, the soldiers rushed to the Yerra- at once, forming around him a defensive ring. As they enclosed Imfay and Terlynn, two men offered up their short swords for the Yerra- and prince to protect themselves with. Once they were prepared, a contingent of the men broke off, taking prince Terlynn with them. Imfay remained behind, the four halberd men making short work of the group of shadowy figures that had toppled the carriage. It was very well that they had dealt directly and hastily with the rabble, as Imfay forced his own mindset to steadiness, edging himself to more bold action. Yet, it was difficult to maintain himself in such confidence eroding times against such a dread-inducing enemy. Even as they fell, they let out such wretched noises, but that was not the most alarming thing to note of them.

As Imfay proceeded past those who had assaulted the carriage, he was privy to a sight he’d rather have note witnessed. The dark the surrounded, almost like localized clouds of blackness, poured into their wounds, not suturing them but surely filling them. Once the gashes and slashes were overflowing with the shadow, the hosts to such wickedness began to twitch and spasm back to life. It was an uncanny sight that Imfay was forced to quash the fear of with his power before calling back the knights to help dispatch the invaders further. They had, at first, been skeptical of the notion, but as finger twitches became arms flapping about, looking for purchase on the cobblestones, they were won over. Together with his knights, Imfay slashed apart the enemy though the darkness did not dissipate from their ruined bodies, and still, the removed limbs jerked about on the ground in an unsettling manner.

Looking from the mess he and Terlynn had found themselves in upon arrival to the rest of Desmus, at least as far as he could see, Imfay noted the battle was not going well for any of his elk. Even if he bolstered everyone with courage and an eagerness to fight, which could very easily result in their deaths, it would be almost pointless. These villains did not seem mortal. They almost responded to attack in the same way the blood demons would. They were emboldened and almost strengthened through violence rather than weakened. Even if they had twice their numbers over the invaders, which Imfay could not be sure of, there was no way this battle would be one with simple bloodshed. Feeling within himself, Imfay could be sure he had quite a surplus of Erkinan built up within him, having hardly had to use any to sway Maxinimus. It wasn’t exactly a guaranteed method of removal, but Imfay was determined to at least try, even if it did not turn back all of the invaders.

Moving through the anarchy that consumed the streets, Imfay reached a fountain that sat as near the center of Desmus as possible. Climbing the multiple tears of fragmented discs accented by elegantly carved stone feathers with inlays of gold and silver, Imfay made himself the most noticeable of anyone out in the melee. Broadcasting his power as far out as he could reach while still remaining potent, he sought the foes that dotted the streets of his city and caught them in his glare. Then, as more and more eyes fell on him, Imfay rang out with a gravelly call. He was ready at any moment to strike, but as he pressed down with his power, Imfay was certain words would work.

All present quavered as he ordered his countrymen to remove themselves from the streets before they could succumb to the enemy. As for the invaders, he pressed the influence of fear deep into them, almost forcing all of his energy out in that one great wave of terror. They did not seem terribly troubled by the fear of death, but the certainty of failing a master who had limited man-power was another thing. A few, the closest of the opponents to Desmus, looked to genuinely falter, their eyes flickering a paler light while they’re frozen stiff muzzles only barely worked into something of concern. Despite the elk still attacking them, the creatures began to retreat, slinking away into the dark of the wild beyond the city. Some lingered on, taking dozens of strikes and capable hands to be brought down, yet, inevitably, all of the foes fell into heaps of gore.

As the fight petered out, some of the soldiers came about to burn away the blood and removed what remains could not be charred or burn apart. They were beside themselves when they came to find that the writhing limbs did not leak blood and were still flinching and twitching. Rather than removing all of the more significant limbs to be placed in a mass grave, the Desmians created a massive burning pit for the pieces. The inferno raged with flames that did not seem natural. They waved more rapidly than any organic fire and flared a red, not unlike pickled beets. As they gathered around the pit, Imfay had the message passed amongst his men. They were to find whoever had brought such a heinous attack to their lands and remove their leader. It was clear this was not some random act of terror, and Imfay would ensure the responsible parties would see it paid back tenfold. Watching the bodies still wriggling about, Imfay growled inwardly, “There’s too much at stake for such an unexpected invasion right now. If we did not require building up the army for a charge to the east… And of course, placing Terlynn in the position of Yerra-. Damned and burn the tail of whatever mad man has come to bring war on us!”

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