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The caravan had stopped for rest. They had been moving for two days straight, pressed by hearsay that in the North, the King’s army was being pushed back. There was no hard evidence of this – no envoys had come, no messengers to tell them to hurry. But the spirit that hung over them all was that of skepticism. Especially the Commander, the King’s right hand himself – Lucas Doren veil app Skelik, by far the youngest and brightest strategist in the history of this dynasty – especially he could not sleep at night and edged the caravan on. This time, however, either they stopped, ate and slept, or he would be delivering the Royal Daughter to King Calvinus alone. And as much as the King loved and trusted him, even Lucas would have to pay with his head for risking the safety of the Heiress Apparent.
Mind you, dear reader, the Royal Princess was not what one normally expects princesses to be like. She was not prim and proper, and she had certainly never heard of being girly or dainty. Better yet, she strutted around with a giant sword across her back! But before you fall out of your chair, esteemed reader, know that, although most girls and women in this world had been reared to fulfill their God-given roles as wives and mothers, the royal blood of the dynasty that had ruled since time immemorial had in it something that not only made them kings over centuries, but something that made them not human. Or more than human, some said. It was also the reason why some members of the family of the female persuasion had been heard of wielding swords in place of ladles.
In the past, the forefathers of Calvinus were bloodthirsty brutes, who spent their days raping and pillaging, and conquering ever more land and gathering ever more treasure to fill their coffers. And amidst all that terror and rampant pursuit of egotistic pleasures, there was a woman, a bastard daughter of the greatest slaughterer in the family: Corrinth the Red. Her name was Mealilah. She was an avid witch. Raised on tales of woe and living with the disgrace of being her father’s unholy spawn, Mealilah swore to put an end to the curse that her blood brought to the world.
Legend has it that while trying for the nth time to summon a demon, which she sought to ask to make all those of her blood barren, Mealilah called forth a Throne, and archangel from the Lord of All Things Himself. The magnificent creature had been aware of the plight that this blood was bringing to the world, but it had become so indignant at the means by which Mealilah tried in vain to resort to to put an end to it, that it scolded her greatly and told her that none of her blood would ever be made barren. In fact, they would all be blessed with fruitful offspring.
At this, Mealilah, exhausted and broken clear in half by what she had heard, fell down to the floor and, drawing her last breath, whispered that if this was what God wanted, she was glad to forsake such an unkind Master. But the Throne did not let her die. Instead, he handed her an alloy of metals from all edges of the world, contained in a vial, and said:
“If you have courage enough left in you, you will take this and see to it that a drop of it enters the mouths of all your kin. Thereupon, you will have saved this world from your cursed blood, and given it protectors from greater dangers and greater trials that await it ahead.” Having said as much, the magnificent creature left.
Two days and one night did Mealilah lie on the floor of her incantation chamber, deep beneath the surface of the earth. On the third night, she took the vial and willed herself to her feet, and, taking with her only a walking stick and a warm cape, set out to find all of her kin. Legend also has it that when she became very old and had almost emptied the vial, the Throne appeared before her once more to tell her that it was time for her to die. Now the great mystery would be solved. The last of the alloy was for her to drink. The alloy would turn her body and the bodies of all those who drank it into swords – slender, long, chunky, blunt and sharp, each in the shape of their souls.
Sure enough, soon after grave robbers would find swords of all shapes and sizes inside coffins instead of bodies covered with jewelry. Whenever someone who had the cursed blood inside him lay hands on the sword, he became drawn to it and could wield it as if he had been born doing it. But if he used its edge to hurt those that did not deserve it, or wielded it without justice, a great searing pain would start coursing through his veins in place of blood. Many became little more than vegetables, incapable of walking or even holding their excrements.
And the swords changed hands, and again they punished those that used them for ill. Corrinth’s successors tried in vain to seal the swords, to remove them as far as possible from themselves, but if it were not them who would be bound to wielding them for justice, they would soon die beheaded by kin, who gave themselves into the sword. It was a time where brothers illegal bahis fought brothers indeed. Over generations, the cursed blood became diluted and less and less young ones were born with an affinity for the strange swords.
By now, only one sword had remained within the kingdom. What happened to the others? No one was sure. Perhaps, having done their work and lost their influence, they fell to rust somewhere and the souls of those sealed inside could finally rest in peace, having cut down the evil they spawned. Perhaps they were again forged, but this time into ploughs or horseshoes. There are many versions. However, the sword that remained in the kingdom was now in the hands of the Royal Princess, Heiress Apparent, Mealilah IV, who had an affinity for it.
Before, when Calvinus was still a baby, a law was passed that no kinsman of the cursed blood was to ever take up a sword for fear that he should discover an affinity to it and continue on the hunt for his brother. Clerics had all agreed that the cursed blood had been thinned sufficiently and that the clan had atoned enough for their sins, and that the time had come for them to become the professed protectors of this world, as the Throne had told the first Mealilah, the Mother of Redemption. The clerics believed this to mean becoming guardians of the kingdom and of the people, forsaking all arms, not even keeping an army.
However, this policy – followed since Calvinus was a boy – finally led to the kingdom being left vulnerable to an attack from the North-East. An old and sickly man, but still with passion burning in his heart, Calvinus sought to mobilize his country to resist, even though it had not known war for generations now. Never in his time had Calvinus expected to regret that he had always ruled his people with a gentle hand, but there was also a reason to rejoice in all this. His eldest daughter, his darling little Mealilah would be able to return to him with her head raised, and as a hero.
As a young girl, Mealilah managed to find one of the catacombs where all the swords that could not be re-forged were left and forgotten. Unaware of the categorical law that forbid her to touch anything that had a blade on it, she reached for the first closest weapon she saw, amazed by the luster it had compared to all the others, consumed almost entirely by rust. The castle pages saw her walking out of the shadows in the long main hallway, thrusting and round housing the slender long sword as if she had been doing just that all her life. They ran to the Chamberlain, a man dead by now and at the time well ahead in years than King Calvinus, and well versed in the symptoms of the strange affinity to a blade. He said that the opalescent glow of the princess’s eyes and the ease with which she could carry the blade twice her length and about her weight with just one hand was unmistakable.
Calvinus learned of everything moments before the Chamberlain was about to leave with the child to hide her away in a monastary. He could not say goodbye to her, for fear that she might strike him. Three of the palace guards had to hold His Majesty back, as he watched the still entranced Mealilah, clutching the long sword inside its sheath, being whisked away to the other end of the kingdom. There she had been until this day, when her affinity was no longer a curse – for she had had time to master the sword under the careful eye of the monastery’s sisters, and to resist the control it had over her. In the face of the threat to the kingdom, it had stopped being a crime and turned into a blessing that might yet help save it from invaders.
Lucas was busy analyzing maps and making measurements when the princess stepped into his tent.
“Your Highness. Welcome. Take your seat. I shall be with you shortly,” he said, glancing over his shoulder and returning immediately to his maps after showing her a cushion. She stood in the entrance for a while, examining his back, then strode forward slowly and plumped down on the cushion. The sword was hanging across her back. It was always with her, even when she slept.
Lucas finished plotting a course, put his instruments away, and went over to pour two glasses of wine. He handed one to Mealilah and sat on a cushion opposite her.
“Glad to have you with us, Your Highness,” he started, toasting.
“Pleasure to be here,” she answered, raising her cup. They each took a sip. Mealilah looked into his face. She had an intense gaze, as if she was searching for something, expecting something specific. Lucas could not help trying to avoid making eye contact.
“I understand you had been briefed on our situation,” he started again, turning his cup in his hands and focusing on it deliberately.
“We should take advantage of the fact that there are valleys located to the north-east. When the first wave comes, we should put all our efforts into keeping the enemy below us. Anything we can hurl, shoot, throw, or pour from on high, we should use. His Majesty has illegal bahis siteleri agreed to mobilize archers and pelleteers there. I do not know how long we can hold them there before they start dividing and circling the mountains. However long that takes, I would like to ask you, Your Highness, to train the peasants in the use of a sword. You may have a week, two weeks at most. I know an army cannot be prepared in such a short time, but it is the best we can do. I have already ordered my officers to recruit and train people in villages, to help them build fortifications, so that they might survive the first wave. Can I put my trust in you?”
They took another sip of wine. Lucas was still averting his eyes, and Mealilah had stopped drilling him with hers, disappointed. She gave a barely audible sigh. Lucas swallowed and ventured to continue his monologue.
“I am not quite sure what to expect of this war. Our villages and cities have been adapted to defend themselves against forces of nature over the past 200 years. I was thinking that we could use these to fight against the invader, but eventually we will need to push them out physically from our land, and for that we need…”
“Alright, alright, I understand, enough with the strategy!” Mealilah suddenly stood up. Lucas looked at her squarely for the first time, puzzled.
“But… Your Highness…”
“I did not come here to talk about the war! No matter what you say or think of, it will happen and people will die, destruction will be rampant. How much more can we talk about it?”
“Of course, Your Highness, but if we can devise a good enough plan to defend ourselves…” he started, putting his wine cup aside and focusing all his attention on her.
“What plan do you want to devise, if most of the country does not grasp the concept of fighting back?”
“Does that mean we should abandon all efforts, since our prospects are so bleak?” he asked calmly, clasping his hands in front of him and resting his elbows on his knees. His head tilted in that characteristic way Mealilah remembered from whenever they would argue, but it would be obvious from the beginning who would win. He was much more comfortable with her now than when she came in here an hour ago.
“No! Of course not! That’s not what I mean,” she waved her hands about.
“What do you mean, Your Highness?” he continued without moving a muscle.
“Stop calling me that! You’ve never called me “Your Highness”, not even when you were ordered to!”
It was obvious now that the princess was indignant over something, although Lucas was still either not aware of what it was, or refused to acknowledge it. There are many versions.
“That was a long time ago,” he said after a moment’s silence, where they locked eyes, and neither pulled away.
“True! That was ten years ago! You haven’t seen me for ten years, Lucas. And when you finally do, you don’t even greet me!”
“How did I not greet you when I asked you to come with us back to the castle as Heiress Apparent?” he stood up slowly, careful not to let his annoyance show in his voice.
“That was no greeting! That was formality.”
Lucas sighed and made as if he wanted to get back to his mapping table, but Mealilah stood in his way.
“With all due respect, Your Highness, I do not believe this is the best time. There are fates of too many people hanging in the balance.”
“Of course, use the war as an excuse! You haven’t changed at all! You couldn’t tell me you wanted me then and you can’t do it now! When they took me away, the only thing that kept me sane was the thought that I would one day return – to you! Was I wrong to have waited?”
There was a pause before he answered. He was avoiding her eyes again.
“We were children back then. You are the next Queen of this kingdom. What do you expect from me? I could never…”
“You know damn well that my father would like nothing better than to have you be my Prince Consort. He puts loyalty and skill above blood and connections. Was I wrong then?” she insisted.
“I… I have moved on… Your Highness,” he finished, without looking at her.
Mealilah’s expression did not change as she examined him for a little longer.
“Liar,” she said as she moved for the entrance, and strode out with long deliberate steps, the sway of her body causing her hair to twist and turn behind her. When the thundering of her gait died down, Lucas exhaled and sunk back into his cushion. He put his face in his hands, then suddenly bashed them sideways in anger, but lost his balance, and tumbled on his back.
At night, when the caravan had finally settled, the guards were on patrol, the animals sleeping restlessly, and the troops, the cooks, the prostitutes, and the orphans, which had joined the caravan on its way to the monastery, had all gone to sleep, or some form of it, Lucas Doren veil app Skelik was still busy mapping a course for the momentarily largely canlı bahis siteleri non-existent army of King Calvinus. He had already taken his bath, gone to bed, but then was overcome by a stroke of genius and was scribbling and marking and scratching away at the parchment, clad only in his leather riding trousers. He did not hear the intruder until she was directly behind him.
Lucas turned to face his opponent, prepared to block the first blow, and then to thrust with all his might, but stopped short of either. Mealilah was looking up at him, cocking her head a little, an arrogant little smile playing on her lips.
“Your Highness, what brings you here at this hour?” he asked, trying to sound as natural as it was possible while putting away the puginal he had intended to skewer her with a moment ago, and ignoring the fact that her nightdress reached only to her knees and was sheer, leaving little to the imagination. She had her leather riding-boots still on, as well as her long sword across her back. It was always with her.
“Imagine the face of my father had you stabbed me just now,” she mocked him, taking a step closer, coming arousingly close to his naked upper half.
“I wouldn’t do that,” Lucas answered, now composed once more.
He turned back to the table, picked up a few sheets, and went over to his bunk. There, he lit an oil lamp, dropped on the bunk and concentrated on the figures on the parchments. Mealilah, not in the least deterred, went over, and drew her long sword. With one swift motion, she cut the string holding together the front part of the leather riding trousers.
“What are you doing!?” Lucas jumped back, dropping his papers, and clasping his pants in a dash to prevent them from revealing his nakedness. They were tight trousers. He had picked the worst possible “closest thing” to wear in his opinion, but by far the best, according to Mealilah, who was amused while watching him writhe in his innocent, bashful efforts.
“Mealilah, you will behave yourself now!” he yelled, as he pulled the bed covers over himself, since the string in his trousers was now useless. Mealilah in the meantime did not show any signs of behaving. Still with that arrogant smile on her face, which by now had gotten wider, she used the tip of her long sword to pick up the oil lamp.
“Progress. You are addressing me by my name now. Good. Take off your pants,” she said, swaying the oil lamp on the tip of the sword, trying to make it go around in circles.
Lucas looked at her incredulous for a split second, and then decided that his bashfulness is less important than the imperative to stop this lunatic and teach her a lesson. He threw the covers aside and leaped at her with the objective of pinning her to the ground in mind. She dodged very gracefully.
“What do you prefer, Master Skelik? You taking off your pants or me setting fire to this entire camp and disappearing in the woods? I promise you that you will not find me before the end of this war,” she said as she turned the tip of the sword toward him, still trying to make the lamp twirl around it.
Lucas pulled himself to his feet and turned to face her. His face was somehow different from before. He was not trying to frantically close his trousers anymore. Or stop them from opening wider.
“Do what you will, you selfish brat. I have no need for you here.”
With these words, he went past the sword she now extended towards his chest, the oil lamp still hanging on it, and back to his bunk. He picked up his parchments and made a point of examining them with practically no light. Mealilah did not appreciate being ignored. After a moment, she set the oil lamp back on its rightful place, and appeared to be heading for the exit, but then the blade swung and made a whistling sound, and Lucas felt a searing pain on his shoulder.
“Argh! You little…!” but he couldn’t finish because she jumped on the bed like a wild animal, ripped the parchments out of his hand, and raised her long sword to burry it like a giant pin. Lucas could not believe his eyes. The thought of this being his last moments crossed his mind. Mealilah’s eyes were glowing opalescent.
But the sword sunk through the bunk next to him. It disappeared almost completely; she must have buried it into the ground. He watched as she raised herself once more, his breath a little short. Her eyes were still glowing, but the trance was receding. Eventually, her eyes went back to being dark and brown, much like her hair. She fell into his lap, striding him. She looked as if she had too much wine; here eyes were hazy and her lips were moist, slightly parted. She had always had perfect lips. Lucas froze as he felt a part of his body refusing to follow the regime he enforced upon himself the moment she walked into his tent, wearing that sheer nightdress. Mealilah blinked, and looked down curiously, wondering where the sudden hardness between her legs was coming from.
“Go,” he breathed through his teeth, his eyes averted.
“Why? What are you afraid of? Do you fear my father will punish you?”
“Afraid? Is that what you think? You would have me skewered with that thing because I would not be with you! Go ahead then, draw it and pierce me or go!”
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