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Book One of the
About the Book
Atiluir was born to one of the many Clans of Naberius, Clan Ba’aleth. He was the son of Kresua, the Ba’aleth Chieftain and the Ba’aleth champion Keloneous (although this is unknown until near the end of the story). As followers of the Snake God, Aztaru culture demanded that Atiluir be sacrificed to their God Vassago before an impending battle. However, the death of his older brother, and eldest heir, Sallos, which was incidentally, at the hand of the second son, Uvall in the conflict which raised Ba’aleth to the tenth ranked Clan in the village during his birth. This spared Atiluir due to the law that one male of the Clan had already been killed for the way of Vassago.
Being the youngest of the Clan in Aztaru society dominated by the druids influence, Atiluir Ba’aleth suffered at the hands of his siblings in the first fifteen years of his life. His first decade was spent in the care and tutelage of his older sister Lucia; though she was far from caring, in his later years Atiluir would recall some loving emotions for her, stemming from the fact that their father was Kaloneous.
As a child, Atiluir displayed amazing agility and skill. Consequently, Kaloneous was able to persude Kreusa that Atiluir should become a warrior, instead of replacing Sallos as the Clan shaman. At the age of fifteen, Atiluir began his training to be a solider. It was then that he began learning the skills that would lead to him become one of the most formidable masters of the sword in all of Unukalhai.
Chieftain Kreusa hoisted herself out of her chair and willed herself to her feet. ‘Out of the way!’ she snapped at her daughters. Zahra and Lucia scooted away from the snake idol and the baby ‘See his eyes, Chieftain,’ Lucia dared to remark. ‘They are so curious.’ Chieftain Kreusa studied the child. Everything seemed in place, a good thing, too, for Sallos, oldest of Clan Ba’aleth, was dead, and this boy, Atiluir, would have a difficult job replacing the valuable son. ‘His eyes,’ Lucia said again.
The Chieftain shot her a venomous look but bowed low to see what the excitement was about. ‘Emerald and with the look of a snake’s eyes too.’ Kreusa said, startled. Never had she heard of such a thing. ‘He is not blind but how can he have the eyes of a snake? What could it mean?,’ Zahra was quick to put in, seeing the scorn spreading across her mother’s face. ‘Fetch the lantern,’ Chieftain Kreusa ordered. ‘Let us see how these eyes react to light.’
Kaloneous brought the blade up before his eyes. In his mind, the rapier had become more than an instrument of battle. It was an extension of his rage, his answer to an existence he could not accept.
It was his answer, too, perhaps, to another problem that seemed to have no resolution.
He walked into the training hall, where Atiluir was hard at work spinning attack routines against a practice dummy. Kaloneous paused to watch him at practice, wondering if Atiluir would ever again consider the dance as a form of play. How the short swords flowed in Atiluir’s graceful movements! Interweaving with uncanny precision, each blade seemed to anticipate the others moves and whirred about in perfect complement.
This young Aztaru might soon be an unrivaled warrior, a master beyond Kaloneous himself.
‘Endure?’ Kaloneous whispered. ‘Have you the true heart of warrior?’ Kaloneous hoped that the answer would be an emphatic ‘no.’ but either way, Atiluir was surely doomed.
Kaloneous looked down at his rapier again and knew what he must do. He slid its sister blade from its scabbard and started a determined walk toward Atiluir. Atiluir saw him coming and turned at the ready ‘A final fight before I leave for the Temple?’ He laughed.
Kaloneous paused to take note of Atiluir’s smile. A pretense? On the other hand, had the young aztaru forgiven himself for his actions against Zahra’s champion? It did not matter; Kaloneous reminded himself, even if Atiluir had survived from his mother’s ways, the Temple would destroy him. The champion said nothing; he just came on in a flurry of cuts and stabs that put Atiluir immediately on the defensive. Atiluir took it in stride, not yet realizing that this final encounter with his mentor was much more than their customary sparring. ‘I will remember everything you taught me,’ Atiluir promised, adding a fierce counter of his own. ‘I will carve my name in the halls of House-Gladio and make you proud.’
The frown on Kaloneous’ face surprised Atiluir, and the young aztaru grew even more confused when the champion’s next attack sent a rapier knifing straight at his heart. Atiluir leaped aside, slapping at the blade in sheer extreme anxiety, and narrowly avoided impalement.
‘Are you so sure of yourself?’ Kaloneous growled, stubbornly pursuing Atiluir.
Atiluir positioned himself as their blades met in ringing fury. ‘I am a warrior, he declared. ‘An aztaru warrior!’
‘You are an innocent fool!’ Kaloneous shot back in a derisive tone. He slammed his rapier into Atiluir’s blocking short sword so savagely that the young aztaru’s arm tingled.
‘An imposter?’ Kaloneous cried. ‘A pretender to a title you cannot begin to understand’.
Chieftain Cimeies addressed the accountable Clan. ‘Clan Gaap!’
‘You have broken our laws and have been rightfully judged’, Chieftain Cimeies shouted.
Fight if you will, but know that you have brought this doom upon yourselves’ with a wave of her hand, she set the Temple, the sender of justice, into action.
Enormous fires had been placed in eight positions around Clan Gaap, attended by heads of House-Slipher and the highest ranking prophet apprentices. Flames roared to life and shot into the air as the high druids opened gates to the lower Abyss. Atiluir watched closely enthralled and hoping to catch a glimpse of either Uvall or Lucia.
Denizens of the lower Abyss, gigantic, monsters, scale covered and spitting acid, stepped through the flames. Even the nearest high druids backed away from the monstrous host. The creatures willingly accepted such servitude. When the signal from Chieftain Cimeies came, they eagerly descended upon Clan Gaap.
Glyphs and wards exploded at every corner of the Clan’s frail gate, but these were mere inconveniences to the summoned creatures.
The shamans and apprentices of the Order of Magic then went into action, slamming at the top of Clan Gaap with conjured energy waves, balls of acerbic energy, and sizzling lightening balls.
Apprentices and masters of House-Gladio, the school of warriors, rushed about with long dart blowers, firing into windows where the doomed family might try to escape.
The host of monsters bashed trough the doors. Lightening flashed and thunder boomed.
Kaloneous looked at Atiluir, and a frown replaced the master’s smile. Caught up in the thrill, and it certainly was exciting, Atiluir bore an expression of wonder.
The first shrieks of the doomed family rolled out from the Clan, screams so awful and tormented that they stole any morbid enjoyment that Atiluir might have been experiencing. He grabbed Kaloneous’ shoulder, spinning the champion to him, begging for an justification.
One of the sons of Clan Gaap, fleeing a winged beast that resembled an octopus, stepped out onto the veranda of a high window. A dozen dart blower darts struck him all together, and before he even fell dead, three separate energy waves alternately lifted him from the veranda then dropped him back onto it.
Burnt, the Aztaru corpse started to fall from its high perch, but the ugly beast reached out with a huge, tentacle from the window and pulled him back in to consume it.
‘Aztaru justice,’ Kaloneous said callously. He did not offer Atiluir any comfort; he wanted the viciousness of this moment to stick in the young Aztaru’s mind for the rest of his life.
The blockade went on for more than three hours and when it was finished, when the monsters of the lower Abyss were dismissed through the enchanted gates in the flames and the apprentices and sages of the Temple started their march back to Feya Pyxis, Clan Gaap was no more than a shimmering lump of lifeless, molten stone.
Atiluir watched it all, appalled, but too afraid of the penalty to run away. He did not notice the artistic quality of Naberius on the return trip to Clan Ba’aleth anymore.