The Tale of Two Youths
You have to admit, one must wonder how Meridell and Brightvale came to be. :o Enjoy!
The heavy footsteps echoed down the rather empty hallway. A small, yet portly blue Skeith with auburn hair rounded around a pillar and quickly huffed his way into a beautiful throne room. A wide, ribbed ceiling melted down into stunning marble pillars, veined and polished. Wonderful red tapestries embroidered in gold hung until they just barely brushed the marble floor, leading up towards three in particular that stood behind the throne, each bearing a symbol of the kingdom.
The throne itself was a podium, lead to by a crimson carpet. Upon the carved marble throne, inlaid with electrum, sat a regal Skeith that eyed the newcomer with beady eyes. And beside the king stood another of their species, but this time of a greenish skin. The blue Skeith graced the green one with an angry glare before trotting up to the throne, ignorant of the majesty of the surroundings.
“You are late, Skarl,” the regal Skeith said tiredly.
“Forgive me, Uncle. One of my personal servants lost his pet miamouse, and I was such good friends with him that I couldn’t help but to assist.”
The king scrutinized him for a second and then nodded. “A good quality in a king, to make himself look good in the eyes of his subjects. A king who has the respect of the people is a powerful monarch indeed.”
The green Skeith turned to Skarl and growled under his breath, but Skarl responded in a sneer. It was too easy to see the hatred that permeated the minds of the two fellows.
“You lie,” the green one hissed in a low whisper so that the king didn’t hear him.
“So what, Hagan? Uncle didn’t notice.” Skarl snickered.
Before Hagan could retort sharply, the red Skeith raised himself, giving movement to his long white beard. “You two boys must be wondering why I asked for both of you to visit me, in the absence of the court.” The two boys stopped their bickering and looked up with questioning eyes. “I am an old king now, my bones are weary and my mind as well from the rigors of running a vast kingdom, and I wish to find a successor soon.”
It didn’t take a moment to realize that the two youths were the intended successors. Both stood up straighter, gleams coming into their eyes and hints of smiles upon their wide lips.
“However, a kingdom cannot be run by two, only by the rule of one. I have decided upon my plan – whomever of you two boys proves to be the most acceptable choice for leadership will become the heir to the throne first made by the claws of your Grandfather, Throas the Great.”
Throas was the founder of Farndell, a legendary king whose name, even if spoken in the lightest whisper, would imbue awe into the simple folk. Aristocrats held him in their highest regard, and those of the royal family were proud to have such noble blood running through their veins. Indeed, the name of their grandfather filled both Skarl and Hagan with wonder. Would they ever manage to break through the shadow of their grandfather and become even more revered than him? Similar thoughts ran through their youthful minds.
“Boys,” their Uncle growled sternly, breaking them of their reverie, “remember, one, not two. I will be watching you both. If either of you I find wanting, then I will pass the throne to one more deserving.”
The harsh threat made both Skeiths shudder. “Yes, Uncle!” they cried in union.
“Now go back to your studies.” The red Skeith dismissed them and sat down upon the throne, watching with amusement as they dashed out of the throne room, struggling to be first to finish their studies of Farndell History.
When they were out of earshot, a lanky Gelert appeared from behind a pillar, striding towards the throne. The king turned around, surprised, and then relaxed. “Ah, Veren. Did you hear everything?”
“Yes milord.” The royal handservant bobbed his head, grinning sheepishly.
“Pardon me asking, but is it a wise choice? Not to imply anything against your intelligence, good sir, but those youths seem to be locked in combat against each other.”
The King roared with good-natured laughter. “Veren, I am aware of their spite. They must learn to put aside their anger to each other, lest it overpower them and cloud their judgment. A decision made in vengeance is an ill-made choice, always. Thus, whoever manages to concentrate more at the task at hand and gain favor in my eyes will become my heir.”
Veren paused, twitched his ears in understanding and then smiled thinly. “Of course, milord.”
Skarl glared at Hagan, and the green-skin youth reciprocated the gesture. They were both sitting in the famous Farndell Palace Library, a private collection stocked with tomes, books, codexes and ancient texts. At the moment, in the circular room, sitting upon velvet cushioned seats behind cherry-wood desks, flipping rapidly through the pages of their respective tomes.
Another was in their presence, the Duke of Aywerth’s son, a Kyrii named Aothel. He was diligently reading up his own book, paying no attention to the heated glares not that far away.
“Uncle will never choose you to be his heir,” Hagan spat first. “You are an oaf who prefers meals to the far more important doings of the court!”
“And all you do is keep your head in the books,” Skarl retorted. “Why are you still here? Didn’t you finish reading the entire library yet?”
Hagan would have snapped back should Aothel have not shushed them angrily. “Can you two be quiet? I’m trying to figure out the anatomy of politics and you aren’t really helping.”
“That book is easy! Why don’t you get it?”
“To you maybe. Stop being so high and mighty, Hagan.”
“Haha, get off your high uni, brother!”
“Skarl, why did you bring a chicken leg into the library?”
“I was hungry!”
“You’re always hungry!”
The threesome quickly flung themselves into a heated argument, baring teeth and twitching ears. Suddenly, heavy footsteps were heard and they all silenced, watching as the King passed by the library while humming a jolly tune. In the period of a second, Hagan and Skarl glanced at each other, grinned, grabbed their studies and rushed out, nearly crashing into their uncle.
“Uncle! I finished my book on the Consequences of Leadership! It taught me a lot, and I feel that it would help me if I would ever reign.” Skarl edged towards the surprised king.
“And I finished my wonderful scroll on Ancient Scriptures.” Hagan pushed the other Skeith aside, twitching his wings with eagerness as he spoke. “I think I might be able to decode that old riddle that you kept fretting about!”
Skarl, obviously displeased by the smile upon his Uncle’s lips, quickly dragged Hagan aside and rushed forward. “I also finished cleaning the library; it was so dusty!”
“I cleaned the top shelves, the dustiest of all!” Hagan quipped.
“My, what educated and thoughtful nephews I have!” Their uncle clapped his paws, eyes twinkling with delight. “Keep up the good work!”
In a fluid movement, the king turned on a heel and departed, leaving the two youths with hanging jaws and shocked stares. Without a doubt, they expected some kind of reward other than the praise.
With a frustrated grunt, Hagan retired to his quarters while Skarl made his way to the royal kitchens. In their wake remained the poor Kyrii Aothel, who adjusted his hat and watched the twosome depart before returning to the library to finish his studies.
After a long day in the courtroom, listening boredly to the complaints of the populace and watching their uncle resolve each situation with a smooth demeanor, even though some scenarios were positively laughable, Skarl and Hagan retired to the feasting hall with the King and his court.
As they settled down in the grand hall, chefs brought in huge platters of food and goblets brimming with good drink. All settled down and began to eat in earnest. Before the royals were brought forth choice delicacies and fresh cheeses with the finest leafy vegetables. Skarl saw everything with hungry eyes, but then spotted his uncle and proceeded to carefully serve himself. Hagan saw this, and glared at his brother quickly.
Already the mind of the cunning youth went out to spoil his brother’s meal!
Everything in Skarl’s demeanor was that of a poised noble, chomping down carefully on his food, but up close, one could see him struggling not to devour everything on the linen-cloth table.
“I say, how does it feel to have a chance to be next in line?” queried a nearby lupe to the two.
“Fine,” they said together, seeming quite tense.
Suddenly, through a masterful nudge that seemed to be very inconspicuous, Hagan pushed a delicious platter of meat towards his blue brother. The rich aroma floated towards the other’s nose, and it was as if the thin line holding him together snapped. At once, Skarl grabbed three steaks and stuffed them into his mouth, chewing noisily.
The whole court watched with shock, and it took Skarl a minute or so before he noticed the stares and then proceeded to gulp down his meals, wipe his broad maw with linen, and smile sweetly.
As the feasting recommenced, the brothers noticed that their uncle was glaring at them. Not just at Skarl, whose stomach got the better of him, but also at Hagan. He saw the slight movement, and it was no accident. The two youths sank into their chairs, and didn’t eat for the rest of their feast, but they were obliged to toast for the health of their uncle.
“My decision has been made.”
The Skeith brothers watched their uncle pace quietly, as if rethinking his decision or replaying it in his head over and over.
For a long time, or so it seemed, the king did not respond. His tail was brushing the marble floor, unraised as it usually was. Suddenly, he turned around to the two and gave them a beaming smile.
“You will BOTH be my heirs!”
The booming voice struck them like a hammer. “Both??” Hagan cried. “But you told us only ONE can rule the kingdom! I read the books on Farndell law; only one can be king!”
Their uncle sniffed nonchalantly. “I can create my own rules if it serves the populace best. Skarl, you may have a voracious appetite, but you care for your subjects and you are pretty good with war tactics. Hagan, you always have your head in books, and knowledge can defeat even the mightiest blade. You two will be perfect for the task of ruling this kingdom, and who knows? Maybe it might bring you two closer.”
Stunned though they were, the decision was announced the following day to the public, met by great cheers and great celebration.
Many years passed since that day, and when leadership passed to King Hagan and King Skarl, the exact opposite happened of what their uncle expected, and it spread to the subjects. The people of Farndell were divided between the two kings. Hardier people took under Skarl’s banner and left to the north east, with the left over populace and many of the aristocrats remaining in what was left of Farndell.
Hagan quickly took the opportunity to clean the place up to the best of his ability. The castle, which fell during a severe earthquake, was rebuilt and made more splendid than that of the past. Buildings and farms, libraries and such were all reconstructed to the new colors of the kingdom, green and gold. Hagan himself made his people learn, as he knew that a well-taught populace could do more than one unlearned.
Eventually, the ruined hills were made anew, and the surrounding regions of Farndell played host to beautiful, healthy trees, rolling grasslands and distant foothills, and it seemed as if there was always an aroma of honey and flowers in the air, with the sun shining upon them all. In honor of his success, King Hagan renamed Farndell into a more glorious name: Brightvale.
Meanwhile, the hardened and poor folk that went with Skarl arrived in a slightly drearier landscape, more forested and covered in fertile soil. The farmers settled down and began to plow the earth, with wheat, barley, rye, potatoes, tomatoes and all sorts of vegetables being the fruits of their toil. King Skarl, meanwhile, had a great castle constructed. He also developed a new livery for his kingdom: red and blue.
Knights were trained to protect the people from the bandits that stalked the farmers and such in the forests, and soon King Skarl had a great army at his disposal. The land was rather poor, as he had a tendency to tax the people heavily to fuel his own projects, but even though the land seemed dreary, King Skarl named the land a bright and happy name: Meridell.
Meridell and Brightvale, King Skarl and King Hagan, would not see each other again for many, many years.