Of Ash & Blood
Many years ago, before Kings and knights, cities and castles, it is said the world was inhabited by the Fae. The Fae were believed to have been angels and demons alike, cast out of their original dwelling and had no other choice but to live in our world.
The once barren land was blessed by them, turning lands of dust and rock to rich, green fields of flowers and forests filled with green trees, creating Nymphs of each element to take care of them. Dry rivers ran with grand lakes and streams, water Nymphs swam all day in the lakes they created, forest nymphs lounged in trees. It is said that it was the Fae who also created man, using their angelic magic to create us to take over the lands they created. Others, of course, created monsters meant to torment them, history tells us some dark Nymphs were angry with the Fae for using their magic to create beings to take over what they helped create.
Years passed and the Fae slowly left our world, only few remaining. Finally drawing enough power to mimic the body of humans, the Fae began to fall in love with the mortals, creating sorcerers. Humans who were able to use magic angered the Nymphs even more. Giving mere mortals the divine ability was atrocious in their eyes, having humans held almost to their standards.
Thus began the Old War. Nymphs blessed few humans with their dark magic and created Night Walkers. Human like monsters with gray skin, blind eyes, however with the ability to suck all the magic out of one until they were nothing but ash. Nymphs, Fae, humans and sorcerers all fought one another. The last of the Fae in our realm pulled their magic together to bless one human, making him more powerful than anyone. He couldn be defeated, he tore through the old cities and dwellings, demolishing everything in his way. The most powerful sorcerer, Estrus, was said to be the one to claim the land he named after himself. Estrus went on to have six children with his wife, the bloodline trickling all the way down to the current King Connards. It is said the world smelt of ash for near fifty years after the war, all the dead burned in pits to release their souls back to the Fae in hopes of being reborn.
While King Connards held no magical ability, magic was still prevalent and strong throughout the land. No one dare try to invade or test the land so blessed by the Fae, in fear that their blessings would leave their own. That was, until, King Connards began looking at the neighboring region of Tarion. Tarion neighbored the kingdom to the east, nestled just beyond the mountains of the capitol city, King Connards began hearing reports of Nymphs working with King Micah to take over.
King Micah of Tarion was promised power, as well as eternal life if he allowed the Nymphs to take over his kingdom, and eventually, all surrounding regions. King Connards catching word of this, began to worry for his own. Hiding his true reasons as to not cause a panic in his kingdom, played it off as a want for more land, a need to expand to bring in more merchants, ports, and cities. King Connards was pressed to use the last of the Magic of Old to take over, possibly angering the Fae that helped create this world.
Once great friends with the King, Amabels father tried to persuade him against a foolish war over land. Not knowing the true reason, her Father begged the old King for peace. After losing favor and his loyalty in question, he was cast back to his small castle and estate away from court. After much thought, he went back, trying to reason with the old King. He offered him his eldest daughter, Iris, to the Kings young cousin, desperate to get back into his favor. The King accepted, while unsure. Iris and the Earl were soon married, and Iris soon fell with child. King Connards was, unfortunately, never blessed with children of his own, although he took many wives. He would need to choose a successor eventually. With any luck, Iris would bear a healthy child that would become King one day, or so he hoped. It was an easy pregnancy at first, but soon fell ill as she was about to give birth.
The King was outraged, accusing her father of trying to poison their bloodline with a weak child. Iris died during a violent attempt to birth the child that never came. She was soon burned at the pyre and ashes thrown into the ocean, and her father banned from returning to court.
However, on the other end of the court, Lord Ashdown and his children were held in the highest esteem under King Connards eyes. Lord Ashdown being the Kings most cherished knight, holding the title of Protector of the Realm. Surely, one day, Lord Ashdowns eldest son, Silas, would possibly be chosen as the next Protector, gifted with more land and riches to be past down. If he could play is cards right, he could marry his youngest daughter to Silas and be, again, held in high esteem.
Terrified of meeting the same fate as her sister, Amabel swore she would never marry or have children. Now forced to face her truest fear, she paced in her bedchamber all morning. The day was coming near that he would arrive. The seamstress had already come to visit, taking measurements and brought samples of lavish fabrics she did not care to touch or entertain. The thought of marrying into the Ashdown family terrified her. She was not always scared of Silas, and possibly one day had held him in her heart. The summers spent together as he trained at her estate were once her fondest childhood memories.
That was, however, until he one day returned from a short campaign through the mountains to earn his knighthood. A man could only be knighted by killing and bringing back the head of a Nymph or monster. In the area of their home, there were typically four types of monsters. Small trolls, Ogres, Black Anniss, and Bunyips typically nestled into mountains along the narrow roads and rivers throughout the mountains.
Typically, ones first campaign to be knighted took over a month, however Silas returned within a fortnight. Amabel watched from her window that spring afternoon as she saw him atop his horse. She rushed down through the castle to her courtyard to greet him. She stopped just at the bottom of the road and waited. Finally, when he came through. She began to excitedly wave and say hello, just as he passed by without a glance. Confused, she walked back to the courtyard as he dismounted his steed and grabbed a bag hooked onto his saddle. Without a word, Silas walked in wide strides through the courtyard to where her father stood. Opening the bag, he tossed the head of two Mountain Nymphs at his feet. Amabel gasped at the sight, turning her head. Silas wiped the blood from his hands and turned towards Amabel. She would never forget the look in his eyes from that day. The hatred that seeped through those eyes, the coldness that emitted from his body through the armor he wore.
Amabel looked away, forced to study the heads that were tossed onto the ground. Faces that looked more like rocks with black eyes wide open, mouths agape, sharp teeth peeking out, stained with blood leaking and falling down their faces. Amabel couldn believe the kind, warm man that once vowed to be her personal guard could do such a thing. She understood these creatures were dark, malicious beings from what she was told. But, then again, she had never seen one before in person.
Taking a short step back away from Silas, Amabel hurried back into the castle. She found a small area where she could vomit, the sight of everything too much for her to bear. The sharp atmosphere about in the courtyard unsettling her stomach.
From that day on, Amabel and Silas shared only hollow words together, and Amabel only went to the pasture on her own to sit by the pond beyond the castle. Any time she saw him, or looked into those gray eyes of his, she was only reminded of that day in the courtyard, and just how cold and dead those eyes appeared to be.
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