The Fate of Dust and Fire: Part One
The room was awash with blue flame. It tore through the room but did not leave a single scorch mark, almost as if it did not exist. There was no warmth in the flame, only a harsh light that burned into the eyes of anybody who watched it. However, one creature was watching; a red Kyrii in royal clothing. The Qasalan Cobrall on his headdress was shimmering with the fire's ghostly reflection. He wore a charming smile, yet it had madness waiting at its corners, just waiting to spring out. The Kyrii stood in the flames, rejoicing at their presence. He had done it! She was here at last.
Slowly, the flames gathered into a knot, spinning and twisting together as if on a loom until they wove themselves into the translucent form of a Dark Faerie. She flapped her wings once and watched as the flames fell away from her, seeping into the ground like water into sand. Her smile mirrored that of the Kyrii.
"King Razul of Qasala. And what I can do for you?" she asked, her deceptively gentle voice echoing off the walls of the room. It did not sound natural but instead echoed and crackled as though transmitted over a great distance. Razul bowed deeply to her but it was a mere formality. As soon as he stood up, he looked her in the eye and smiled.
"You are the Darkest Faerie, if I am not wrong," he said calmly, convinced he was completely in control. The faerie nodded.
"I am," she replied, her voice steady. She had seen many like him before and she had learnt patience.
Razul looked at her and for a moment, his face broke into a wide, insane grin.
"At last! At last I have you here in front of me!" he shouted and laughed, unable to contain his joy. The Faerie's expression did not change. She stood there and waited for the king to come to his senses.
Shortly, the peals of laughter that flew from Razul's mouth were silenced and he looked once again at the Faerie with the dignity and authority that was expected from a ruler. It was as if the giggling child who had appeared in front of her for a few moments was gone. No, she thought, not gone. It was simply buried beneath the veneer of royalty.
"What can I do for you?" she repeated, still patient as always. She could wait. The mad ones had the most to offer her. Razul's face once again spread into the vicious, uncontained grin.
"My kin once ruled over a vast empire, one that encompassed most of the Lost Desert, touching the mountains to the west and the Haunted Woods to the north. We were a glorious, proud people and our might even rivalled the Shenkuu Empire. However, most of that lies now in decay and ruin, even since Sakhmet broke it apart. Many of the people cannot even remember tales of the empire and are perfectly happy to let it go. I however can neither forget nor let it go. I tried to talk to Nuria but she was nowhere to be found. So I thought I would come to you," he said, every word full of worship and grandeur for old Qasala. The Darkest Faerie could see what was coming next. Her wings curled slightly in anticipation of the king's words.
"I want to take it all back. I want to forge a second Qasalan Empire!" Razul cried, his voice trembling with excitement at the last three words. He glared at the Faerie ravenously. "Will you be able to grant me the power to do so?"
She allowed herself a brief smirk before giving a curt nod. Before the king could rejoice, however, she lifted her palm and signalled for silence, an order Razul would not dare disobey. Even though she was sealed away, the Darkest Faerie was still a much more powerful magician than him.
"I will require payment, however. Just a little bit of your new empire should be enough," she said calmly to him, looking the Kyrii in the eyes. He nodded eagerly.
"Anything you say will be yours. Anything!" he cried. The faerie looked down her nose at him, opening and closing her eyes once, very slowly.
"You seem like a vengeful man. I assume your first conquest will be Sakhmet. I want you to give it to me," she hissed. Razul hesitated and looked down at her feet, his mind wrestling with the decision. He had wanted Sakhmet as his crown jewel. It was undeniably a valuable city, one which could have brought a lot of money and resources into the Empire.
"Remember, without me, you will have no empire," the Darkest Faerie said smugly, reading Razul's mind. He looked up at her in wide-eyed awe, like a child looks up at a parent.
"I accept your terms," he whispered. The faerie nodded, concealing a sly smile.
She reached out a hand to the king and he tried to take it. The faerie laughed as it passed right through the projection but she did not move. Razul tried again but this time he rested his hand just above where her hand would be, his fingertips barely brushing the illusion. The Darkest Faerie instantly turned into blue flames which twined themselves around the king's arm and worked their way up his body, wrapping him in up like a spider would wrap up its prey. The flame was cold, although not quite to the point of discomfort, but Razul's hair still stood up on end at the flames' touch. However, he stayed perfectly still, not daring to move in case the magic would stop working. The thought of the power that was about to be granted to him made his stomach churn with excitement. He bit his lip in order to force himself to stand still and not skip about like an excited child, no matter how great his desire for it was. He closed his eyes as the blue tendrils covered his face.
The flames dug deep into his skin, causing him no pain, but the cold clamminess of their touch still made him shiver. They funnelled into his body and began to change Razul from within. He could feel them spreading rapidly, like water spreads across the table when it is spilt. The king gasped as the flames permeated every part of him, fusing themselves with his body and turning everything but his bones into fire. His skin could not contain the newly-assimilated flames that made up Razul. Fire replaced fur as a new being stood where the king once did. It was a horrific creature, a skeleton wrapped in angry red flames and dressed in the black robe of a Qasalan king with the royal Cobrall illuminated by his body's newfound light.
"How do you like it, king of Qasala? This form will last forever so you can conquer and rule your empire until the sun dies. Isn't that what you wanted?" the faerie asked him smugly, reappearing in the room surrounded by more blue flames. Razul looked at his hands, which were merely bones surrounded by fire. He flexed his fingers, watching as the flames shifted around his hand to accommodate his actions. Razul could feel the new power of his body, power enhanced by dark faerie magic and fire. It was a terrifying shape but to rule an empire, he needed to be terrifying. An immortal sorcerer emperor. He grinned at the thought as the mask of his face twisted into a smile. This was a good fate.
"I like it, Darkest Faerie," he replied, enjoying the sound of his new voice, crackling but deep and full to the brim with power.
"I'm glad," she said with a silky smile. "Now, about my payment..."
"I will get it for you. It will be my pleasure," he murmured to her, bowing deeply. The Faerie nodded, always keeping her eyes locked on him. The king shuddered at her gaze. Even though he was the one with the power, it was obvious who the one in control was.
He put it to the back of his mind. There was no time to think about that. He was now more powerful than all his subjects and all his enemies and peoples surrounding him. What was left now was to get the Darkest Faerie her payment and then he was free to do as he pleased. Razul could already taste the second Qasalan Empire in his future, gleaming hopefully like a beacon in the distance. The thought of it appeared clearly before him, a wavering but bright vision in which he was at the centre. He let it pass over him, filling the Kyrii with a sense of urgency and desire. He had to get to Sakhmet now.
With one deft flick of his skeletal hand, he disappeared into thin air, reappearing behind a dune just outside the walls of the city and away from the prying eyes of the guards. Razul felt no exhaustion from casting the spell, even though he had traversed a fair distance with its aid. He looked at his own hand, for the first time fully grasping the power that had been given to him by the Darkest Faerie and making him even more determined to pay her at any cost.
The king swept his hands over his face and watched as the flames gave way to the red scales of a Scorchio dressed as a desert merchant. He did not want to alert the Sakhmetians to his coming. You should only do that if victory was assured, he thought.
Razul stepped out from behind the dunes and approached the enormous sandstone gate of Sakhmet, noting the iron bars on it. Qasalan iron, purchased via the trading agreement. In exchange for their metal, Qasala relied on Sakhmet for food as the Sakhmetian kingdom controlled the river while Qasala held the ore-rich mountains. Razul spat at the thought in disgust. The greedy Sakhmetians were exploiting his people, ransoming their metal for the basic needs, and the Qasalan Empire had once held the entire desert, including the river. The only comfort he received was that this deluded kingdom, which had long ago grown out of a mere settlement in his family's mighty empire was soon going to cease its greedy existence.
As soon as he entered through the gate with the crowds of other merchants, the king lifted up his hands and created darkness in the skies of Sakhmet and blocked out the sun. The inhabitants looked up in confusion but seeing no eclipse, they began to panic. Screams erupted from all over the city and soon the streets and houses were choked with fear. Razul laughed and threw off his disguise. His flame reached to the darkened sky and burned brightly in the darkness. All who saw him covered their eyes and ran, their screams sounding like music to the man king's ears. He laughed even more. He was enjoying this. The Sakhmetians were like worms beneath his feet, just asking to be crushed.
Razul began walking up the main street, looking at the city. All sorts of pets were fleeing from him, crying and screaming like the base animals they were. He revelled in their fear, soaking it up and using it to feed his sense of power. The king of Qasala was the one who now controlled Sakhmet.
"That's it, Razul. Now, to claim the city, you must take the first stone of the city. It is found in the palace, beneath the throne," the Darkest Faerie's voice rang in his ears. "But watch out, there is a creature-"
"I will not allow you to go any further!" cried a brown Zafara standing in Razul's path in a clear, brave voice. Her feet dug into the ground and her hands were clenched into fists. She looked every inch ready to fight him.
"And there she is now. Defeat her for me, please, o king, but be careful. With your power she will be no threat but you will need to disable her. Do not kill her," the faerie purred before becoming silent.
Razul nodded, liking the way the faerie referred to him. He looked down at the creature standing before him. She was wearing poor-looking clothing, consisting of some baggy trousers and a torn up shirt, both of them different shades of dark green. Around her waist was a grey sash which was torn up and looked like she had picked it out of a heap of scrap material. However, what made the king confident of victory was that the girl's eyes were the silver white of blindness. She had a lot of courage to stand up to him like that but ultimately that was a futile effort. Why the faerie urged him to be careful or why she wanted this miserable street urchin alive was a mystery to him but then again, it was none of his concern. All he had to go was get her out of the way.
He put his hand on the ground, feeling the earth underneath it. He willed it to rise towards the Zafara and watched as towers of rock sprung from the dirty earth with a low, rattling roar and encircled his opponent. However, she dodged them easily, jumping out of the way just before they rose. The Kyrii scowled. An enormous wall overshadowing the houses around it sprang up in front of the girl, blocking her path. He smiled, thinking that would stop her.
His face soon fell as the Zafara appeared on top of the wall, not even exhausted from her climb or daunted by the height. Casually, she jumped down and landed gracefully, not even bruised from the distance she had to fall. She resumed her run with no decrease in speed.
He was more determined now to bring her down. Razul conjured several tendrils of flame from his hands and flailed them in the Zafara's direction. Each one glowed whiter than the desert sun and would have melted steel. The girl's eyes widened, as if she saw them, but she only sped up. Razul sent the searing flame towards her and the Zafara dove behind one of the stalls around them. Just before the tendrils impacted with the dry wood, she ran towards the next one. The tendrils turned like animals that had picked up her scent, missing the stall but their intense heat caused the dry wood to catch fire in an instant. The Zafara was not deterred by the flames, even though her fur was beginning to singe. She was coming ever closer to Razul.
The Kyrii began to feel afraid. This Zafara girl was definitely not blind and she did not seem to tire or be affected by the heat of a normal flame. Even with the white-hot tendrils chasing her, she was still willing to fight him. What was she?
His speculations however distracted him. The Zafara attacked him from behind, driving her fist into his back. Razul however felt no pain. He turned around. The girl's hand was on fire and she was running towards a stall selling exotic carpet. But she was doing it in a calm, orderly fashion and certainly did not look like she was feeling anything. It did not matter though. The girl was obviously very strong, yet he was not suffering from the effect of her punch. There was no way he could lose this battle, not with an immortal, unfeeling and untiring body. The mad king grinned, marvelling once again in his power.
The Zafara quickly wrapped her burning hand in a thick carpet and stifled the fire, all with a calm expression on her face. She took out her hand.
Razul stared at her in fascination. The Zafara, below her brown fur, was made out of what looked like pure silver. Yet as she flexed her fingers, he noted that her motions were completely organic. The king smiled. It certainly explained why she could see despite her milky, monochrome eyes.
The Zafara looked straight at him, her anger restored. The brown fur slowly disappeared from her body, leaving her silver frame fully exposed. Razul would have licked his lips, if he had any, at the thought of the battle that was to come. Simply fighting an ordinary pet would have been too easy. A silver golem was more of a challenge.
He let white hot flame gather around his hands and felt their heat, hot as the desert sun at midday. The Zafara's eyes widened as she saw what was going on. She ducked behind a barrel, just as Razul shot them towards her. The Zafara run just as the barrel exploded in a flash of burning wood and steam behind her. She scrambled behind a building as the flames raced after her. The Kyrii grinned maniacally, pleased to have his opponent on the run.
He moved closer to her hiding place, slowly and with a feeling of triumph. He turned the corner where she was hiding. There was nothing there.
Suddenly a weight dropped down upon him, knocking the Cobrall off his head. The Zafara's silver hands grasped at his cloak and pulled at it, his body flames reflecting eerily off her skin. She tore viciously at his robe, each rip increasing her speed and determination. Razul thrashed as he tried to get her off but her grip was like a vice. As she tore the fabric, the fire that made up the Kyrii's body dissolved in the air. Razul let out a bloodcurdling scream and slapped his hand onto the ground.
A hand made out of white flame enveloped the Zafara and tore her forcefully away from the king and still clutching her, dove into the ground. She struggled and tried to get out but she was buried too deep. All she could do was curse at her trap.
Razul let out an insane laugh. He had defeated this creature! She was still alive, just as the Darkest Faerie asked! This was too perfect but who was he to question this good fortune? Now he could take the city.
"Well, you've defeated me. It's only fair I tell you. Water is-"
"Why do I need water?" Razul replied. The Zafara stared at him, her eyes searching his expressionless face. Finding none, it slowly morphed into the form of fear. She looked away.
The Kyrii looked at his fallen opponent. She was clearly downhearted. Her eyes were closed and her head was bowed. Words were forming on her lips but they were like the whispers of sand grains on a dune; insignificant and inaudible. Razul turned his back towards her, preparing to resume his conquest of Sakhmet.
"Darkness," the Zafara whispered, becoming audible. Razul turned around and grinned at her.
"Yes, I am," he said smugly. However, she paid him no attention.
Razul looked at her, tilting his head a little confusion. There was nobody else here besides him. Was she asking him to save her?
"He's after my temple! He wants to use me to get into Nuria's temple!" the Zafara shouted. Razul, despite himself, looked around desperately for the other half of her conversation.
Here I am, whispered a voice. The Kyrii could have jumped. The voice was female but it was different to the Zafara's. It was much more powerful, more resonate and most importantly, it had no source. It came from within his head.
He clutched at his fire-cloaked skull, his fiery eyes widening, terrified. He turned away from the Zafara, forgetting all about her in an instant. He thrashed to and fro, hoping that that might displace the voice.
Sorry, I'm not so easy to get rid of, it whispered. Razul lowered his arms.
What are you?! What do you want? You're not her! The Kyrii shuddered feeling the panic well up from within him. Even with all that had been given by the Darkest Faerie, he still felt powerless.
You tried to destroy one of my kin and take her temple. I don't appreciate that.
Temple? What temple? I was not told anything!
You still did it. Whatever made you obviously did not tell you the whole story. Doesn't matter. All I know is that you're here and you should not be.
Razul felt everything drain out of him and leave only a feeling of sheer dread in his bones.
Looking at you, you're a creature held together by dark powers and your mind. This should be easy.
Razul cried out and collapsed at the sudden pain that lodged itself inside every part of his body. His thoughts became clouded and words which were once familiar stopped making sense. The Kyrii brought his shaking hand up to his eyes and almost screamed as the flames tore themselves away from it, exposing his bones. Shreds of fire fell away from every part of his body and melted into the ground. Razul sent weak balls of fire in all directions desperately but it did not stop the flames from going out. Whoever the voice belonged to, she was tearing his mind apart.
Suddenly, it stopped. Razul vanished, leaving nothing but his robe and crown. The darkness that he brought on Sakhmet lifted, revealing broken streets and overturned stalls as well as the silver form of the Zafara trapped beneath the earth. People slowly returned to the scene of the battle. One merchant, a blue Eyrie, began digging out the Zafara. Soon, nobody would even remember the mad king.
Razul opened his eyes. He was back to his old flesh and blood form. As if in a dream, he desperately grabbed at his fingers, at his face, at his skin. All of it felt real. Razul's breathing quickened as he tried to prevent himself from panicking. All the power was gone. He had failed her! She was going to take everything back!
The king got up and looked at his surroundings, trying to find the best way to get away. To his horror, the Lost Desert had gone. He was surrounded by dark mists which wound around his fingers, probing him like curious dogs. A dark void stretched out in all directions. Its mournful emptiness flooded into his brain and he forced himself to look away, turning his eyes to his robes.
"Razul," a familiar voice said, one that sent chills up his spine. The king forced himself to look up and face the Darkest Faerie's gaze. Her face was calm but her eyes were boiling over with rage. He tried to look away but she took several long strides towards him and grabbed his face in her hands, turning it towards her and forcing him to face her in all her anger.
"You told me you would get me Sakhmet," she said calmly, every word sounding like an insult. The king struggled but the Faerie kept gripping him tighter, letting her sharp fingernails dig into his skin.
"I did! I tried to! Something went wrong! Somebody stopped me! But please, let me try again! I won't make the same mistake! Please!" Razul begged and pleaded, his voice growing higher and whinier with panic. She scoffed at this pathetic display.
"No second chances. You promised me a city, didn't you? So," the Faerie said with a smirk spreading across her lips, "I think I'll take yours."
Razul's eyes widened. The Faerie waved her hand and a small window opened in the void. She turned him towards it, moving her hand from his face to his neck.
"This is the future, Razul."
He was watching from the walls of Qasala as a sandstorm began brewing in the distance. It stretched from the ground to fill the sky like an enraged beast emerging from under the sands. Its roar was like the swarm of a thousand demonic insects humming in unison. Razul knew in an instant what she was going to do with it.
"No! Take half of the people! Take the children! Take Jazan!" he screamed.
The Darkest Faerie paid him no attention.
"PLEASE!" the Kyrii continued crying. "Please! I'll do anything you ask of me, anything! Just let Qasala survive! I'll get Sakhmet for you! I'll get it!"
The Darkest Faerie tilted her head a little. A wide smile suddenly graced her face. The window faded.
"Alright, Razul. You may be useful to me."
She let him go. Razul fell down only to be caught by the mist. Happiness and relief burned through him like the fires that once covered his body. Those emotions overwhelmed all other thought and blinded him to everything but relief.
"I shall take Qasala. However, you can get it back," the Darkest Faerie said, hovering over him.
"How?" the Kyrii cried out. He was met with a mocking smile.
"Your son shall inherit Sakhmet for me. Once that happens, I shall restore your power and all you have to do is claim it. I'm sure even an idiot like you can manage."
Razul nodded eagerly. Desire for the power he had tasted and the glory of Qasala that he had foreseen blinded him. The Darkest Faerie stood in front of him.
"Your son shall take a princess of Sakhmet and in that way, he shall lay claim to it. You shall then take the city. It will be simple and that Zafara will have no right to stop you. However, we need to get your son on board with this," she said calmly to him, talking slowly as if to somebody who was simple.
"But how? That boy has no ambition. He is useless layabout." Razul spat. The Faerie laughed.
"Easily. You'll see, Razul. Now, sleep."
Razul yawned, feeling his bones grow heavy. He sank down into the void and was caught by the mists. The Darkest Faerie smiled as she stood over him.
"Although, I may have no use for you, if your son proves too good a pawn."
In the Lost Desert, the wind picked up, stirring up the sand into a powerful column. In Sakhmet, the Cobrall crown left by Razul was picked up by that same wind and directed towards Qasala and its future ruler.
To be continued...