Chapter 1 Blood War

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Twenty-one thousand.

Meah Flandine reads the letter in her hand again as she walks. Another two thousand men and women arrived from a village located several days north in the canyon.

The Kellahn army now stood at twenty-one thousand soldiers. But if they’re to have a chance against the Blood King, the number needs to grow exponentially over the coming days.

Word had yet to return from the major allies with real armies. Without their added numbers the war wouldn’t last very long. And Meah is already feeling the strain of asking the men and women who already gathered to follow someone who wasn’t there.

Almost two months had passed since Ime left with Kiphy to train. There had been no word or any sign of either man. Meah had faith Ime would return with his fire, but she was beginning to doubt if he would return in time to keep those gathered ready for a war.

Reaching one of the many open squares located throughout Kellahn, Meah leans on the stone wall overlooking the canyon. Her eyes trace the breathtaking beauty of the city. Carved into the walls of the canyon, Kellahn earns its legendary titles. Numerous bridges link the two sides of the canyon and the two sections of the city. Hokiocs fly through the canyon, playing on the winds that blow between the great walls.

The river below provides fishing and swimming to the people of the city. The beautifully carved buildings blend into the walls of the canyon perfectly and are protected from the sun at its peak and from the prying eyes of any who would do it harm. Watchtowers lining the tops of the canyon are the only sign of man’s presence from above.

“Meah!” Kylii Lakeen runs up to her, smiling, his golden eyes glistening with excitement.

“You look cheerful today,” Meah says, standing straight. She raises a curious eyebrow. “What did you do?”

“Funny. I just got back from the hokiocs nest. Have you tried flying one of those things yet? It’s insane!”

“I’m not flying on one of those things. I’m too afraid of falling off.”

“You don’t have to worry about that. The hoks can feel their riders and adjust to prevent you from falling. It’s amazing.”

“What Kylii is trying to say is, you don’t have to fly alone if you’re uncomfortable. You can ride with one of us,” Daniil Lakeen says, walking up behind his twin brother. His pale blue eyes tried to hide the same excitement of his brother’s.

Meah notices someone is missing. “Where’s Tanith?”

“Assisting Deven and Saunem with an errand. There’ve been some strange stories coming out of villages East of here. They’re going to check it out.”

Kylii forces his way to stand between the two. “You heard him, Meah. You can ride with one of us. The hoks wouldn’t let you fall and neither would we.”

“I’d still prefer to keep my feet on the ground at all times,” Meah responds.

Whining, Kylii places both hands on Meah’s shoulders. “You haven’t had any fun since the Festival of Magic. It’s all been messages, work, numbers, work, armies, work, and more work. You need to relax.”

“Leave her alone, you two,” Jaxon Parth says, walking towards them. He’s wearing his black armor and his blue eyes bounce from Daniil to Kylii. “She has a lot on her mind.”

Meah meets Jaxon’s eyes with hope in her own. “Have you heard anything about Ime?”

Gently brushing Kylii aside, Jaxon shakes his head as he moves in front of her. “No, but Kiphy said it would take about three months. Ime will return when he’s ready and no sooner.”

“I know, but Klaeon is gathering more forces every day. All we’ve managed to do is recruit farmers and simple village folk.”

“We’ve sent messages to all of Altan’s allies,” Kylii whines. “Relax and take a break.”

Lowering her brows, Meah shakes her head. “But we haven’t heard a single response.”

“And we won’t,” Jaxon says, stepping in front of Kylii. “If they’re on their way they won’t waste time responding. We’ll know more in a few more days. Be patient.”

“And what about my dreams?” Meah asks.

Jaxon sighs. “Gaeran Banish would be a powerful ally, but he refuses to accept any of our messengers. He’s threatened the life of the last two we sent him. Forget about him.”

“I can’t. I had another dream last night and I know he’s important to this war,” Meah says.

“Altan says he isn’t worth the effort. He’s a brute who would rather rule his own perfect little part of the world than help others,” Kylii says.

Daniil scoffs. “He probably thinks he’s immune to Klaeon’s influence.”

The city shakes. Everyone looks at each other confused. Another shake sends hoks flying into the air, fleeing in fear. The people of Kellahn appear at their windows curious about the strange quakes.

“What is that?” Meah asks.

“I don’t know,” Jaxon says.

“Those don’t feel like normal earthquakes,” Kylii says.

“We should go to the Great Hall,” Jaxon says worried.

They quickly head through the rest of the city. Those in the streets stare around in bewilderment. Earthquake is spoken, but the odd patterns of shakes surging through the city are unnatural.

The Great Hall appears before the group, a large white building with only one large room in it with windows opening it to the entire city. Altan’s throne sits on a raised platform in front of the largest window. The floor is a huge mosaic of a large hok. The ceiling is another mosaic of the canyon and the city.

Altan stands next to his throne, hanging onto the white stone with one hand. He stares out the large window overlooking the canyon. A shattered pot is on the ground next to him and his hands and legs are shaking.

“Altan! What’s going on?” Meah demands.

Turning to the group, Altan’s expression is stern. “I don’t know. I’m hoping Deven will have the answer for me.”

“My lord,” Deven calls, running into the Great Hall. Tanith and Saunem follow him. “The reports from Rudo Village were correct. A jordra is heading this way.”

“What’s a jordra?” Kylii asks.

Altan’s face pales and his expression changes to one of grim worry. “Jordras are behemoths that roam the plains beyond the canyon. They usually avoid areas where humans live, but this one has been trampling through small villages, killing dozens.”

“The jordra is heading for the canyon. It doesn’t seem to be changing course and if we don’t do something it will destroy the city,” Deven says.

“What? How?” Meah asks.

The group grabs on to each other as another quake shakes the city. “These tremors you feel are being caused by the jordra,” Deven answers. “It’s half a day from the canyon.”

Everyone, besides Altan, stare at him in shocked silence. “The beast causing these tremors is half a day away?” Jaxon asks. A stronger quake moves through the canyon, causing the last of the pots in the Great Hall to fall over. “If it moves too much closer, buildings will start falling, possibly even the canyon walls could crack.”

“What can we do to stop it?” Daniil asks.

“If we can gather all of the earth mages to create a blockade it may stop the beast, or at the very least change its course, but there’s no determining if it will be successful,” Deven suggests.

“There’s no knowing until we try,” Kylii adds.

Altan turns back to his city and takes a deep breath. “Do it. We can’t allow it to destroy our home.”

“We’ll help,” Jaxon says. Daniil and Kylii give him a look. “We can help gather the mages and organize them quickly. Don’t act like either of you don’t want to see the jordra.”

The brothers debate whether to argue, but instead shrug. They did want to see the animal causing the shaking.

“But how are we going to reach the jordra if it’s half a day away from the city? By the time we reach it, it’ll be close enough to destroy the city.”

Daniil and Kylii smile wide and grab a confused Meah.

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