Wanted to do a fantasy fic so here's my take on it.
Book One: Paradise Lost (part 1)
As a boy I remember hearing my mother tell me the tale of the realm. Outside of my room she was the fiercest warrior of the North, colder than ice and sharper than steel but with me she was the kindest soul in all four kingdoms. She had platinum blonde hair and the same ice blue eyes that I had. I’d spend most nights hopping on my bed pretending I was my Grandfather. Whenever the door creaked open I would feign sleep but she could always tell when I was trying to deceive her.
She laid next to me and flicked me on my forehead. I’d giggle and she’d smile back. “Sweetheart you have to go to bed.”
“But mum, I want to hear the story of the ancients.” I implored.
My mother shook her head. “I’ll tell you tomorrow. Growing boys need their rest.”
I shook my head back in protest of her protest. “I promise I’ll go to sleep right after. Pleeeeaaaasse!”
“Okay fine” she sighed. “Let’s start from the beginning…At first there was only darkness. The Creator stood isolated with limitless power, not knowing how he came to be or why he still remained. In time he grew tired of his ignorance and attempted to study his power. He clasped his hands, focusing all of his will into a ball and Lyora was formed. This first act of magic is how our world came to be. He knew that a ball of water, dirt, and air wouldn’t be enough to discover his purpose, so he put creatures inside the ball. The first creatures were simple, ants, lizards, deer, livestock, but like all craftsmen the creator’s skills made him make newer works more complex each time until he discovered his masterpiece--the human being.
Humans were made in his image each having strength, longevity, intellect, and most importantly free will. Though he initially took pride in this masterpiece he began to realize how flawed these creatures truly were. Whenever left alone mankind would act as the worst beasts of all, and threatened to ruin the divine paradise he had designed. Seeing his children giving into the savageries of unrestricted lust and violence repulsed him. He was baffled as to what kept his beloveds from reaching their full potential. It was at that moment he realized what had went wrong; in creating beings so similar to himself he unintentionally made creatures that lacked humility. Our own hubris prevented us from being his perfect invention. The creator was torn on what to do, he could either destroy what he had worked so hard to build or he could salvage the humans but lose paradise in the process. Ultimately he chose to destroy us so that he may save his paradise. To make us pay for our sin he gave us the cruel curse of fear—the creatures we now know as Dragons.
Dragons were the symbol of God’s wrath on Earth. Each of the thousands of dragons slaughtered millions of creatures. The world trembled with each terrifying roar they let out. The dragons breathed dark magic causing chaos wherever they went. This magic caused other humans shifted form, creating new species such as Dwarves, Orcs, Elves, Sprites, and Centaurs. At first, some creatures were actually arrogant enough to strike them; with no avail this only shortened their population faster. For a time it appeared as if the winged beasts would wipe out all species from existence until one fateful event. As Farenzeir The King of Dragons raided a young boy’s village, the boy stared into the face of death and clasped his hands together begging God to protect his loved ones. This was known as the first recorded prayer in history. The Creator was marveled by the boy’s selflessness and granted him the tools he would need to save the realm. As the dragon prepare to burn the boy into oblivion a lightning shot down from the sky scaring Farenzeir away.
The boy was given five gifts from god. First a sword rose from the ground with his name on it. Eomann’s blade could pierce through the toughest of dragon hides. The second gift was a shield that floated in the lake behind his hut. The shield was made of dragonbone and whenever it was brought to his chest it would cover his body in a suit of armor. The third gift was a bow that shot arrows of lightning. The fourth was a magical spell that was spoken in the language of dragons. When pronounced correctly it could vanquish almost any dragon. Lastly, Eomann’s fifth gift was the greatest of all. He created a daughter to guide Eomann and teach all of humanity the path back to paradise.
After several decades, Eomann and Lady Serephine amassed an army to slay the Dragon King. The resistance formed a ring around the remaining dragons forcing them to retreat into the center of Lyora. The final result was an all out battle for the fate of Lyora. The fight between Eomann and Farenzeir ripped a gash into the center of the land, leaving a gash in the center of the battlefield. Though many casualties were lost but the resistance prevailed. Eomann slayed the Grand Dragon Farenzeir and melted a crown from his bones. By wearing the crown he now controlled all of the remaining dragons in Lyora. Henceforth, the new king of dragons was known as Eomann the Great.
After the war was over, Eomann the Great married the prophet Serephine. The King and Queen vowed to protect the realm and imprisoned all dragons as their first course of action. The last dragons were locked away at the center of Lyorra’s core and the realm was at peace…for awhile.”
“But what happened to the peace?” I asked
“No one is fully sure. In any tale of word the truth gets damaged with each time it passes. I know of only the legend my mother told me.
After Eomann the Great died it is believed that Serephine ascended to the heavens. The crown passed to Mortus, the eldest of Serephine’s five children. Mortus was originally a gentle king and fell in love with a beautiful wife. Shortly after his marriage the new queen fell ill and died. Mortus became obsessed with bringing her back and began to practice black magic. After seeing the dark power corrupt their brother’s soul, Mortus’ siblings overthrew the mad tyrant and imprisoned him in the tomb of dragons. Though the mad king was dethroned it was unclear who should succeed him. Each of siblings made a claim for the throne but none were unable to unite the entire region. As a result the realm was divided into 4 kingdoms: Loras of the West, Suchin of the East, Euliza of the South, and of course--our king, Yoeden of the North.”
“Mum, what happens if Mortus or the dragons return?” I asked
“You shouldn’t fret little pup.” Mother replied. “It’s been over millennia since any dragons have roamed the skies, and even if they returned I’d gut any monster who wished to harm my blood. That’s a Jarl’s promise.” She said as she raised a clenched fist in triumph.
Someone knocked on the door before entering. It was High Seer Olaf; he sweated profusely and panted for air before heaving his words. “Jarl Borghild!...There are some matters…that demand…your attention…downstairs.”
She nodded at the elderly man, then tucked me in. “Time for bed little pup.”
“Can’t you tell just one more story? I want to know how you met my father.”
“Another time little pup, every great Jarl must learn to serve the people even better than they serve you. Goodnight my North Star.”
“Good night mum.” She kissed me on my forehead and walked away with Olaf. That was the last time I ever saw her.
10 years later
After my mother’s passing I was raised by my uncle, Jarl Eomund and his wife Siggred. I was lying in my bed until a loud shriek woke me from my slumber.
I arose quickly, for I knew the harpy-woman was near. I gathered my footing and prepared for whatever danger may face me. The hay haired wench pounced through my door; she glared into my soul with her eyes and drew out her fangs like a rabid dire wolf. Then she hurled a ball of metal at my chest, the sheer weight combined with her speed granted her a victory.
“Get dressed boy and for once just try to look like a man.” Siggred yelled.
I slipped on my armor and noticed the empty lodging across from my quarters. “Where’s Etric?”
“You’re cousin has already left for the meed hall. You should follow his example.”
“But, I’m older than him!” I defiantly proclaimed.
“Then act like it!” Siggred snarled back. “Someday all of Heißenwülf will be your responsibility; you have to start thinking of the people.”
I sighed whilst nodding in agreement, “I understand. I’ll go there now.”
Just then a little girl with unkempt locks wrapped her arms around my waist; it was my youngest cousin Æxis. “You can’t just leave without saying goodbye”, the child lectured. She pouted her lips and made her mimicked her mother’s scowl, “That’s very rude.”
I almost laughed but was distracted by the bulky box hidden in her pocket. “I’m sorry little pup but you know how much I hate saying goodbye. Is that thing for me?”
She pulled out a small wooden box that contained herbs and bandages. “I made one for you and Etric. It’s for emergencies—so only use it when you need it.”
I smiled then saluted the girl, Æxis giggled and curtsied back. “Alright, I’m off now.”
“Eat well at the feast!” Siggred nagged.
--“And try not to die!”
I understood Siggred’s frustration with me. She was my mother’s best friend and has raised me a one of her own children ever since my 5th harvest. In those she’s been preparing me to become the next Jarl. Any other woman in her position would have tried to kill me so that their children would become the new heirs but she never raised a hand to me when I didn’t deserve it. Today was the Raider’s Quest, a day where all of the boys in the village became men. Everyone cherished this event; in fact, I think I might be the only person in all of Heißenwülf who wasn’t looking forward to it. It’s not that I hated the battling or leaving home, like most teenage boys I dreamed of doing both, but it felt as if I would remain a child regardless of the outcome. Up until today every moment in my life has been planned out by my family and I know that if I become a raider the Jarl will shelter me inside the village until he passes his title to me. I just wished I could control my own destiny for once.
I scurried through the streets to reach the Mead Hall. By now they’ve probably started the opening ceremonies, if I was lucky enough I could slip in between battle hymns without attracting much attention. A wall of urchins assembled at the front entrance of the hall so I slipped through the secret tunnel beneath the blacksmith’s shop. After running through the narrow catacombs I lifted a lid above my head and entered the hall’s cellar. I quietly slid the latch back into place before I felt a pair of arms coil around my neck.
“Gotcha Ulfi!” Shouted a familiar voices. I glanced up from the headlock an saw that it was my best friend Naldwyn.
“Lucky shot Birdbrain!” I retorted. “How’d you even get here?”
“No one ever checks the roof.” He answered whilst pointing at his wings. Naldwyn was a Halfling; meaning only half of his blood was human. His mother was an Engelin (half bird half women) so he inherited ability to fly. He was orphaned at a young age and left in the care of the church. Many of the other villagers tried to bully him but me and the Seers always defended him.
I gazed at his clothing, and smiled with joy. He was wearing armor instead of his usual holy garments so he must have been given permission to partake in the quest. “Quick! Let’s head upstairs.”
Upon entering the main room dozens of eyes shifted to both my feathered comrade and myself. Three young warriors approached, the first was a boy dressed in the only other armor equally durable to my own. His shoulder length hair flowed like a river and his eyes were as cold as his heart. The other two were Zofi and Donglaf, each the offspring of the Jarl’s most loyal vassals.
“You missed the ceremony kinsmen.” He growled. “Do you intend to shame our family or is playing with birds more important than our traditions?”
“Don’t fret Cousin, the day is still young. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of more opportunities to disappoint you.”
“Um…guys I think we’ve already attracted too much attention. Let’s not allow our emotions cloud our judgment.” Naldwyn warned us.
“Quit squawking beast!” Etric demanded. “I don’t take orders from birds or half-men.” I smashed my fist across my kinsman’s jaw, the strength of the punch pushed him over one of the tables. He pulled an axe of off his waist and shouted “I’LL END YOU!!!” but before he could strike Olaf slammed the boy on another table and disarmed him.
“Contain yourself boy!” the High Seer implored. Etric saw his father shake his head in disappointment before being released. He scolded me with a look of contempt, then sheathed his axe an exited the hall.
The guests and the young warriors were left speechless, until the Jarl rose from his chair and said “On with the feast!” Within seconds, gallons of mead and dozens of trays were brought into the hall as the music made the crowd oblivious to anything other than bliss.
A stranger in a large fur pelt walked passed me and sat down next to the Jarl. Judging by the white whiskers on his face and the runic tattoos on his limbs it had to be a member of a neighboring clan.
“It’s been too long Eomund. How do you fare?” The stranger inquired.
“The years have been kind to me and my family as well.” My uncle responeded
“You’re a lucky man Eomund. There’ve been fewer Jarls each quest; we’re the last remaining three.”
“I’ve come to warn you of”—
“Jarl Ulric”, my Jarl interrupted. “I already know of the danger he presents.”
“Ulric want’s your land. He’s amassing an army and so am I. You should join me Eomund, if we band our forces we could end this once and for all.”
“Not yet Hrorik. I must try to reason with him first. I owe him that much.”
“That’s what I came here to warn you! Ulric’s Seer claims he is the new king of the North. He will not listen to reason if he truly believes he is a profit.”
“Ulric was my shield-brother; he saved his life more times than I could count. I cannot conspire against him until I am certain he cannot be saved.”
“Very well old friend. May Yoeden’s strength guide you.” Hrorik concluded.
Once the feasting was over Etric and I were called up to the war room, where my Uncle planned the course of each raid. We heard muffled shouting through the door, but as I tried to place my ear to the door Olaf flung the door open. I lost my balance and stumbled forward, falling on my face. Etric sighed from boredom and passed me then kneeled before his father.
“Will you please reconsider my lord?” Olaf pleaded. “The vision foretold of a great danger!”—
“Enough Seer! The quest will go on as scheduled.” Eomund proclaimed. Olaf nodded before making his exit. I kneeled next to my kinsman before our Jarl. “Rise” he commanded. We rose to our feet in silence. “Over my harvests I’ve watch you both grow up, but if this morning’s incident is proof that you still have a long way to go.” Before we could raise any protest he smacked us both behind our heads. “Hark! You’re kin and outside of these walls you must always trust one another. There will come a time--much sooner than later--when your lives will be in danger. Remember that the wolf’s greatest strength is not in the fangs but rather the pack. Both of you have your own strengths and weaknesses but together you’re unstoppable. Ulfberht you have a great heart but you need to take things seriously, in a life or death situation there is no room for error. Etric, my son, you are by far the most disciplined Northman that I have had the privilege of training but your temper weakens you. We cannot always control every detail of life --if we could we wouldn’t need gods—but if you allow those frustrations to dominate it will only lead to your downfall. Promise me you’ll put aside your differences and work together.”
We both nodded in unison “We promise.”
“Good” he said as he pulled open a large chest of weapons. First he pulled out a large steel shield encrusted with our clans sigil and traditional black and white colors.
“This was your mother’s shield; I think she’d want you to have it.” Though the shield was massive it was very light in weight. It wasn’t particularly beautiful for a Jarl’s weapon but it would certainly help. He then reached deeper into the chest and withdrew a beautifully crafted spear which he handed to Etric.
“This spear was forged from your grandfather’s bones, use it well son.”
“I will!” Etric swore.
“Then off with you!” My uncle told us. We headed for our boats after being dismissed.
Eomund sighed. “I’ve done all I can for you now. Only Yoeden knows if that was enough.”
We met our friends and competition on a chain of rapids we called the narrows. The rules were simple. Each man would sail his own vessel up the river to the lost kingdom. Once ashore all contestants would have two days to bring back their offering to the Jarl. All those who returned with an offering would be granted a spot on the Raider’s ship, whoever brought the most difficult bounty would become the ship’s Captain which was almost a guaranteed claim to nobility. Any who failed would have to take a spot in the underclass. The crowd roared with anticipation as the starting bell drew closer. Even though Naldwyn’s and Etric’s boats were beside my own, I still felt an uneasy feeling. For the first time ever I was unsure of my fate, it was extremely liberating and equally terrifying. The bell rang and we all raced upstream. As the ringing buzzed our ears we were all certain of one thing, we would either die boys or return as men.