Chapter 1 “Elderborn”
The grass was flowing and high winds roared as the crystalline sky shimmered. The landscape was scorched from endless wars of the past. Vast mountain ranges score the horizon, with a scarred castle resting at the highest peak. A castle that had seen many wars, and fought off many attacks. In its hallowed halls rested a throne forged of amaranthium, adorned with trinkets, weapons, and tapestries of all kinds. The scrawny servant approached the throne.
“Garroltis, mine King.” in a shaky voice.
“What is it Larn?”Garroltis rose from the throne standing as tall as an oak tree.
He was blessed with an almighty physique. His flowing silver hair wrapping around his head framing his tough and jagged face, outlining his well groomed beard. Anyone who had a chance to lay their eyes on the King would be ripped of their confidence instantly.
“Mine King, Aiden has completed his first trial.”
“Excellent, I will see him now. Take charge of the courts.”
“Mine King.” the servant bowed, not with respect but fear barely making eye contact.
Garroltis exited the halls and made his way into the courtyard where his son had been training for 2 years now. On the ground lay a full sized bull, impaled by a silver sword in the torso. Garroltis looked at the bull and then at Aiden, with bloodied hands, and grinned.
“Well done, my son.” Garroltis acknowledged. “How did it feel?”
“It was tough mine King.”
“I’m your father!”
“…Yes mine- …Father.”
Aiden was reluctant as ever to believe that someone as monstrous could be his father.
“Have you chosen yet?”
Garroltis knelt down and tried to meet his son eye to eye but still looked down.
“No, Father. I can’t seem to decide.”
“Aiden, my son. You must realize that you come from an ancient bloodline. We Elderborn are rightful successors to the Crystalline Throne.” Garroltis laid his finger under Aiden’s chin, bringing it upward. “You will be turning 8 soon. It is your birth right to seek the high council on the rising of your 8th. You will need to choose then, and it will be best for you to do so soon. For on our 8th rising, if we do not choose, we Amaranth are better off dead. Would you like to work as a stable boy for the Crueg?”
The Crueg Empire, the only power that stood between Amar and total domination. Until now, The Cruegs have only been barely able to withstand the Amaranth attacks because of their overwhelming numbers. Before Garroltis took the throne, Crueg had ruled all of the kingdoms. It was under Garroltis that the banner men took up arms and annihilated them.
It was the eve of Aiden’s 8th rising. He would soon have to make an important decision. Upon an Amaranth’s 8th rising they are taken to the Council of the Three. It is at this commencement ceremony when an Amaranth is truly born. The Council of the Three, rightful caretakers of the Amaranthine Crystal, saw to it that every Amaranth was bestowed dominion over three aspects: Agility, Strength, or Magic. However, this right was only given to the Highborn, peoples of the court, and of course the royal lineage of the Elderborn. This ensured that the highest born of the court always had an advantage over the peasants. Refuse to pay tax, lose your life. Rebel, lose your life. If you were born into normalcy; you were powerless.
“Father, why is it so important I make my decision.”
Garroltis paced around the room spinning a sword as maids hustled around Aiden, grooming his hair and fitting his night clothes.
“Aiden, we are Elderborn. The royal Amaranth bloodline. If our hearts waver in the presence of the Amaranthine Crystal, then it will see fit to take our lives instead.”
“But why must we go before the Amaranthine Crystal? Can’t we just not go?”
“Aiden…” Garroltis shakes his head. “This is a gift. To be blessed by the crystal with fearsome power. If we do not have this, our advantage over the Crueg disappear. We are few in numbers.”
“What did you choose, Father?”
“Ag-” Garroltis corrects his posture and resumes pacing. “Look at me, of course I chose Strength.”
“Should I choose strength?” Aiden looked around still muddled in confusion.
“Aiden, there is great power within all three aspects. The reason you undergo these trials is so that you may have a better understanding of what you’ll need to survive as an Amaranth. If the bull was too fast for you, perhaps Agility is your calling. If the bull overpowered you, then you must trust strength. And if the bull outwitted you, then you must depend on Magic.”
Aiden looked troubled. He still could not decide. But the hour of his rising, was approaching. Would he lose his life? Or would he embrace the blessing of the Three Aspects? This was all just too much for a child of 7 to comprehend. Aiden was put to bed to think of this decision as Garroltis left him with some words of wisdom.
“Aiden, do not disgrace the Elderborn.”
Garroltis closed the door as the room quickly became pitch black.
In his quarters he sat in his chair sipping wine and looking out the window at the night sky. A frail man cloaked in black entered from the shadows taking one knee.
“Friede, I’ve been waiting.”
“It is done.”
“Everything?” Garroltis quickly stood up.
“Yes. It has taken us a long time but we’ve finally been able to extract another crystalline essence.” the man unwraps a crystal pearl gleaming with energy.
“Whose is it?”
“Mine King, it came from Viktor Blazerift.”
Garroltis rested his chin in his hands.
“Viktor…he was Ran Windstrike’s maestro, was he not?”
“Indeed, Mine King.”
“So then, he chose Magic. How fitting it is, that Viktor be the one to give me Magic, as Windstrike had given me Agility. They both died for their King.” Garroltis moved swiftly and took the crystal pearls from Friede. “I need more Friede. We will strengthen my most trusted guards with this new power.” He laid out his palm as the crystal lifted into the air and spiraled in front of Garroltis. A high wind roared through his room, and the halls.
Awoken from the glancing winds, Aiden ran down the halls towards Garroltis’ chambers. As he went to knock on the door, he heard chatter.
“What about Mine Prince Aiden?” Friede asked.
“Not yet. He hasn’t even chosen his aspect. He must prove himself to me.”
“He would not like to know that his godfather Windstrike died for this.”
“Silence! Watch your tongue in these hallowed halls. The words travel unimpeded…” Garroltis glared at the door.
Aiden’s eyes widened. He wanted to scream but his hands covered his mouth as if he knew that this was no ordinary secret.
“They died for their King. And I now…alone control all 3 aspects. And there’s nothing the Council of the Three can do about it. Crueg, is mine.”
Aiden quickly returned to his room. He could not truly and fully understand the magnitude of what he had heard. His father now controlled all 3 aspects of the Amaranthine Crystal. But more importantly, soldiers died because of it.
The morning came and Aiden awoke. He knew that what he had witnessed had to be a nightmare. He was 7. What else do children of 7 experience during the night. He put on his ceremonial robes and entered the Crystalline Hall.
“Son. Are you ready?” Garroltis stood up.
The subjects and all the Highborn knelt at Prince Aiden’s presence.
The priests of the council took Aiden’s hand and began to lead him into the rear of the castle. Garroltis followed with a troop of his personal guard. They arrived at an archway laden vine and half swallowed by the earth. The priests began reading from a grimoire as a doorway opened in front of their eyes, blocking the scenery that once stood before them. They descended a spiral stairway, which led to an opening in the cliff’s face over looking the deadly vertical drop of Mt. Amaran. Pillars surrounded the altar as the priests and Garroltis’ personal guards lined against the rear of the altar room. In the back, behind an altar were 3 magi dressed in silver and mithril linens and robes. Their faces half covered by silk, and their eyes white, devoid of pupils. In unison they began to speak.
“Aiden Elderborn. Step forward.”
Aiden stepped forward. It was odd however. Garroltis had signaled him to move forward, but then glanced behind Aiden at his personal guard, Sentius. Aiden glanced back at Sentius, as he was acknowledging the King. He glanced downward at Aiden and met eyes with him as his face was ridden with fear. He quickly adjusted himself accordingly and smiled back at Aiden.
“The Council of the Three now commences the ceremony of the Aspects. Aiden Elderborn, are you ready to receive your blessing?”
“Yes, I am.” Aiden answered without hesitation.
The Council put forth their hands as they summoned a large crystal pearl. Garroltis’ eyes lit up with anticipation.
“Amaranthine, we bring you now, a child on his 8th rising. Will you heed his request?”
“Step forward, child” a voice devoid of gender answered. The whole room was enamored as always by the ubiquitous nature of this crystal.
“I, Aiden Elderborn, appear before you now…on the rising of my 8th.”
“Will you accept Amaranthine?”
“When you are on a linear path, and you come to a wall. Do you jump over it, break through it, or destroy it?” the crystal asked.
“An enemy stands before you. At first glance he may appear superior to you in every way. How do you proceed?”
“I will wait for a moment to strike, find a weakness, and strike swiftly.”
“Aiden Elderborn, on this day of your 8th rising, you have received the blessing of Agility.”
Garroltis was astonished at Aiden’s steadiness. From the large crystalline pearl emerged a smaller one. It resembled the essence of last night’s events in which Garroltis absorbed the powers of Magic. The essence flowed into Aiden’s chest as it began to assimilate itself into his body. Sentius, unsheathed his sword and with lightning speed charged at Aiden slashing at his chest. At the very moment the sword touched his flesh, Aiden awoke from his ecstasy, looked up, grasped his chest, and fell from the perch into the chasm of Mt. Amaran.
“Mine Prince!” all of the subjects yelled. It had happened so quickly. The mage guards of Garroltis could not act quickly enough to save him from falling. The Council of the Three were in shock and the priests could not move a muscle.
“Insolence!” Garroltis screamed.
“How dare you strike down an Elderborn on his 8th rising!” Garroltis’ muscles began to ripple, as the veins in his neck began to throb.
“Sentius, I sentence you to Ending!”
Garroltis lifted his hands into the air and aimed at Sentius. Flames emerged from the ground engulfing Sentius. As he burned alive, he could no longer scream. Another guard kicked Sentius down into the chasm as well, speaking his last words.
“I am sorry…Mine Prince.”
The priests and Council were still in shock after witnessing the murder of an Elderborn, they did not come to realize that Garroltis had just expunged one of his own, using Magic, an aspect he was not afforded.
“Leave here!” Garroltis demanded.
The Council and the priests scattered, as the Amaranth crystal submerged yet again into the sealed altar. Only Garroltis and his personal guards remained in the altar room. Friede emerged from the shadows and took his cloak off his head.
“Good show Mine King.”
“Quiet! I just lost my son!”
Flaregraze, a personal guard stepped forward, “Mine King, I hope you realize you just demonstrated dominion over Magic in front of the Council.”
“They were too shocked to realize this.” Friede said with great confidence. “Do you think he survived?”
“Sentius? I laid his body to ash in the hottest flame I could summon.”
“No, Mine King…your son.”
“He was 7. His greatest achievement was killing that of a bull. He chose Agility. And Sentius’ sword struck at his heart. If his agility grants him a swift landing, he will soon die of the wound.”
“Of course, Mine King.” Friede digressed.
“What’s done is done. He was the last remaining of those who knew of our experiment. We will continue as planned. And destroy Crueg…” Garroltis looked into the horizon pointing his sword towards the South.