Enchanted Crowns

“And how are you supposed to help us fight a den of trappers?” Zakhira asked. Drayk ran his hands through his beard and Zakhira took this silence as his answer. “I thought so, I think you have wasted our time.” She turned to Shiv. “We have to hurry.”

“What’s the hurry?” Drayk asked still stroking his beard.

“Every second that passes is one less for our companion.”

“So, you are only here to save your companion nothing else?”

“No, why?”

“No reason.” Drayk smiled.  “Come over here.” Drayk walked over to a large chest at the corner of his house. “Do you know how my legion became the most feared legion in the war?”

Zakhira shrugged. “Because you were a united legion of gods?”

“Good observation, but no.” He flipped the lid open and pulled out two concentric circles wrapped by a red cloth. “It was because of our armor.”

“Your armor?”

“Do you know my true power?”

“You control the dragon spirits, you have the power of all elements.”

“Partly true, I can also imbibe my powers on weapons and armor.”

“Just like Gemma?”

“In a way, but I don’t need to cry out random gemstones, I can enchant anything with whatever I want.” Drayk unfurled the red cloth and revealed two silver crowns. “Here try this.”

Zakhira picked up a crown and wore it on her head. “I don’t feel anything different.” She looked over at Shiv and he was examining his crown, looking for gemstones. “He already said there are no gemstones on these, what are you looking for?”

Shiv shrugged. “There must be some sort of inscription right? Just like Esen’s bracelets?”

“You have a point.”

“You don’t believe me?” Drayk pulled out a long horn from the chest. “Let me ask you something, why would it be difficult for you to fight a trapper? let alone a den of trappers.”

Shiv recalled his encounter with the trapper that abducted Anastasia. “I remember I couldn’t move.”

“The petrifying scream.” Drayk blew on the horn. A high pitched sound filled the house and the furnishings vibrated. Glasses, plates and other items cracked while others shattered.

“What was that sound?” Zakhira asked looking around at the mess. “Is that one of your enchanted weapons?”

Drayk smiled. “Look at your companion.”

Zakhira turned to Shiv and noticed that he was frozen like a statue. “Shiv? Shiv?”  Zakhira reached for Drayk’s robe. “What did you do to him?”

Drayk chuckled. “Now do you believe me?”

“Believe you?”

“The crown works doesn’t it?”

“Huh?” Zakhira caught herself moving about while Shiv was stuck in a frozen state. “How do I get him back?”

“Just put his crown on and it will block out the petrifying scream.”

Zakhira took the silver crown from Shiv’s hands and placed it on his head. In a moment his fingers flexed and he took a deep breath lunging forward and falling onto a table with some clay pitchers and jars on it.

“Ow!” Shiv screamed moving his arms in a defensive position, protecting his face. “What happened?” He said picking himself up.

Drayk turned to Zakhira. “I am only loaning these crowns to you, as you can see the power that our weapons and armor possess, they cannot leave the sanctity of this village, otherwise a new war would start up.”

Zakhira frowned sitting on the bed next to Drayk. “There is a new war bubbling under the surface.”

“Ahhh, so the prophecy is true then?”

“What prophecy?” Zakhira asked.

Drayk glanced at Shiv as he tried to fix the table back on its legs and picked up the fragments of broken clay.

“He reminds you of him doesn’t he? Minus the power of course.”

Zakhira nodded her head at Drayk’s reference to Ryuu.

“He was a powerful warrior, probably the only reason why we didn’t overwhelm the half-bloods early on in the war.” Drayk gripped on his staff and looked up at the ceiling. “But there is something odd about him isn’t it?”

“Odd?” Zakhira asked.

“Just look at him.”

“I am.”

“No, look past his human flesh. Look closer, he seems to have no power but there is a spirit of change.”

“Change?”

“Tell me, why is he here?”

“I can’t tell you that.”

“It’s because of Esen isn’t it?”

“Esen?”

Drayk pointed at the bracelets on their wrists. “It’s obvious that Esen is behind all of this, she is the only one capable of restarting the war.”

“Yes, yes it is.”

“I think you are on the way to the seer are you not?”

“How do you know all of this?”

“It’s obvious isn’t it my dear?” He turned to Shiv once more and then chuckled. “If the prophecy is indeed true, that a person who resembles the hero of the half-bloods with a spirit like no other would appear, then you would want to visit the seer to uncover his ability.”

“What is his ability?”

“If I told you will you still visit the seer?”

“Yes.”

“Because you have a different mission don’t you, it’s not to uncover his talent but something else?”

“I’m just here to accompany him, the mission is all his.”

“Ahhh, but your father, the great Shesha has his own mission for you doesn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“And you have doubts?”

“Yes.”

Drayk smiled. “It’s a foolish man’s destiny to think, but it’s a heroes destiny to act.”

“What do you mean?”

“Your time is running out.” Drayk raised his hand opening the flaps of his house. “Your companion and one of my villagers are about to be dinner.”

“Wait, you have to tell me how you know all of these?”

“Come back alive and I’ll tell you.”

“Shiv, stop playing with that table.”

Shiv placed the last fragment of broken clay on the table. “Sorry Drayk.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Drayk waved his hand over the the broken pieces and they moved slowly together merging back together into their original forms of clay jars and pitchers like they had never been destroyed.

“How did you do that?”

“They are made of earth, earth is one of the elements that I control. It’s nothing that I can’t do or nothing that you can’t do for that matter.”

“I can’t control earth, I don’t have that kind of ability.”

“Come on Shiv.” Zakhira tugged on Shiv’s arm. “We have to go.”

“Wait! How did he do that? What did he mean that I have the same kind of ability?”

“Leave it alone!”

“No wait!” Shiv pulled his arm from Zakhira’s grip. “He has some answers, he knows something, didn’t you say that we have to find out what they know?”

“Have you forgotten about Anastasia?”

The image of Anastasia’s petrified body being carried away by the huge trapper returned to him. “No, I haven’t, it’s just that.” He looked at Drayk. “I need answers.”

“We will be back, but right now Anastasia is running out of time.”

“Okay fine.” Shiv followed Zakhira through the flap. “How do you expect us to find her then?”

“Just follow the screams.” Drayk chuckled.

The Village of Abstinence

Shiva and Zakhira willed their gargoths forward with the two men sitting behind them. Zakhira gathered that the young man wearing the bandanna on his head was named Owain.

“We’re here.” Owain said pointing enthusiastically to a nearby village.

They moved toward the village on foot, leaving their gagaroths in the middle of a field with other beasts grazing on some grass. “Where are we.” Shiv asked Zakhira.

She shook her head indicating that she didn’t know. “I’ve never been away from the main road before.” She looked at the large fields, tall trees and irrigated lands. “I’ve not seen any place like this my whole life, except.” She looked at Shiv. “Except at your home realm.”

Shiv nodded and recognized the large farms with men in similar attire to the old men wielding different farming tools, one of which he recognized was a hoe. Another person was spraying seeds from a wide brimmed wicker basket.

Owain moved forward with his forked staff guiding the way. “We live a peaceful life as you see.”

“Don’t you have any abilities?” Shiv asked.

“We all have abilities just like Zakhira and her kind.” Owain said poking at the fact that Shiv didn’t display any kind of power.

“Listen, he is skilled in more ways than one.” Zakhira said picking up on Owain’s insult. “At least he has the courage to fight even without abilities.”

“I have abilities.” Shiv whispered to Zakhira. “Nigel said so.”

Zakhira waved Shiv with her hand and focused on Owain. “And what about your kind?”

“We choose not to use our powers, we live in harmony with the earth out of respect for the energies around us.”

“Are you saying that using powers is a disharmony to the earth? How can it be when it is as natural as breathing?”

“It’s not natural for your human friend is it?” Owain chuckled.

“Hmph!” Zakhira stepped back urging Shiv to walk next to her behind the two men.

“Why are we here Zakhira?” Shiv asked looking around at the men and women who were now staring at them. “We have to go and save Anastasia we shouldn’t be here at all!”

“I know Shiv, but there is something odd about these men, they know so much about us and our kingdom.”

“Is that odd? I mean Esen is the queen.”

“Half-bloods are not true royalty, the only people who know about the kingdom are other half-bloods and they all stay inside the kingdom.”

“Then who are these people?”

“That’s what were here to find out.”

Owain led them through a dirt road after passing through a wooden fence and gate. Small huts made out of lumber and padded with leaves as roofs lined the road. An old woman pulled out a bucket from a stoned well and poured the contents to an empty bucket which was then carried out by a young sturdy man to a nearby hut. At the end of the dirt road a hut, the same size and as unassuming as the other huts greeted them. Owain pulled open a wooden door and led his guests in.

“I have been waiting for you.” An old man spoke. His robe hung in mid-air and Zakhira gathered that the man was hovering. He rested his arm covered in triple layered cloths.

“Who are you?” Zakhira asked ahead of Shiv. She glanced at him and gave him a stare that told him not to say a word.

“Is that a way to address your host?” The old man chuckled. “I see Shesha has not taught his daughter any manners.” He paused and then continued. “You have that haughty royal arrogance even after you lost your kingdom to the half-bloods.”

“How dare you mention the kings name?!?”

“You don’t recognize me do you Zakhira?”

“How, how do you know me?”

“Does the name Drayk ring any bells?”

“Drayk?” Zakhira thought and tried to remember the half-bloods in the war, the different generals and ace warriors. She could not think of anyone. “Drayk there are no half-blooo….” Zakhira froze, she looked up at the old man, at his thickly padded arm, it was the same padding that Ryuu had it was the sign of the dragon spirit.

“You can’t be?”

“Oh you do remember me then child.”

“You are the god of dragons, the dragon spirit, ruler of all elements.”

“Oh I wouldn’t go as far as that but you’re close.”

“What is this place?” Shiv interjected and ignored Zakhira’s stunned stare.

“Oh the human speaks.”

“Are you going whack me with a piece of rock?” Drayk and Owain laughed in unison.

“I can fight anybody and match them on the battle field.”

“Hmmmm, you know I believe you.”

“You do?” Shiv asked.

“Why do you look surprised human? I just agreed with you.” He turned to Owain. “This human nature is really odd don’t you think?” Owain nodded and then spoke. “Very much indeed sire.”

“Stop calling me sire! I told you we don’t have kingdom anymore, can’t you get that in your thick skull?”

“Yeah.” Owain shook his head. “The good old days are gone.” He turned and walked through the doorway and said before he disappeared under the flaps. “If we stuck around the war, the half-bloods would be the ones in hiding not us.”

“What is he talking about?” Zakhira asked.

“We are all gods here.” Drayk took a deep breath and continued. “We were tired of the bloodshed and the struggle for power that we took a vow to abstain using our powers and work like the humans do, living in harmony with the earth. We spend our days, taking care of our herd and tilling land at peace away from the outside world.”

“You are all gods?” Zakhira took in Drayk the king of the dragons and the name Owain jogged in her head. “Owain, he is the lightning god isn’t he? And you were all called the ‘Terrible Fate’, the fiercest legion in this realm.”

Drayk chuckled. “I am amazed that you remember us my dear, it was because of that reputation that we had a change of heart.”

“Change of heart? You were the fiercest group in the war.”

“All our power did was bring suffering and we found peace with living in simplicity.”

“And you let your friend get taken by the trapper.”

Drayk chuckled. “That is where you come in my child, you will have to save our friend and yours.”

“Owain said we are not equipped.”

“Oh you are not but we are.”

Search Party

Shiv grunted as he fell on the ground. His body felt cold and numb, his blood circulated slowly returning the movement of his limbs.

“Are you okay?” Zakhira asked as she got up on one knee.

Shiv nodded, he retracted the blades of his gauntlet and stared at the crooked path left by the monster. “What was that?” He asked.

“It’s a trapper.” She looked over at her gagaroth and it was shivering in fear. She turned back to Shiv. “It hunts by luring unsuspecting animals with its color and scent.” She thought for a moment about Anastasia. “She will be eaten by the end of the day.”

He stared at the sun, the sky was still pinkish-purple, and the bright rays told him that he had time to search for Anastasia and maybe even save her. “We have to go after her.” Shiv held on the horn of his gagaroth and beckoned him to come close.

“We can’t” Zakhira said forcefully jumping on the saddle of her gagaroth. “We don’t have time.” She pointed up at the clouds. “The seer is on the move, if we miss this opportunity we may never find her again for a long time.”

“We can’t just leave her to die!”

“We have no choice.”

“I’m going after her whether you want to or not!”

Zakhira yelled and followed Shiv with her gagaroth. His beast ran quickly following the broken path of trees and foliage. Zakhira reached beside Shiv and held his arm. “Are you going to disobey the queen?”

“No, but we have to do something.”

“She means that much to you?” Zakhira paused waiting for an answer, she knew by the look on his face that he would do anything to save Anastasia, it was the same look Ryuu had whenever she was in trouble. “Fine, but you have to listen to me. We are not in the protection of Esen anymore, we are on our own. Do you understand?”

Shiv smiled at her and told his gagaroth to run faster.

Zakhira followed suit and led the both of them through the make-shift path. The main road started disappearing and the foliage grew thick. There were large insects flying around and unusual lizards with large tongues hanging from tree branches. Zakhira’s nose picked up a sweet scent, it was the smell of overly ripe fruit. She thought that they were close. Her father had told her of the trappers. These monstrous plants, would gather their prey and take them to their lair. A lair that looks like a beautiful garden on the outside but once inside all anyone could see was blood. The smell of the trappers, the sweet scent of ripe fruit covered the stench of death and she thought that they were riding on to their death. She hoped that Nigel had thought Shiv enough about combat to get them in and out quickly.

“What is that?” Shiv pointed to a group of men in white robes and forked staffs.

Zakhira looked over to the direction Shiv pointed to. A group of men sat down hunched over a patch of grass and mumbled to themselves. She stopped and looked at them. “What is going on here?” She said with an authoritative voice telling the men that she was someone important.

One of the men who wore a red bandanna over his shaved head looked up at Zakhira. He tapped on his staff and wondered who they were. No one rode on beasts unless they were combatants, he deduced that they must either be mercenaries or members of the royal army. His gaze drifted to the gold bracelets on her wrist. “You come from the Tower of Esen?”

Zakhira nodded. She wondered who this people were, realizing that she came from Esen without so much as a hesitation on their faces. “Answer my question?”

“No need to be rude Zakhira.”

Zakhira flashed Shiv a look of contempt. “Hmph!”

The young man stood up and bowed. “No disrespect.” He said and then approached the pair. “One of our friends screamed and we came over here to look for him.”

“But he disappeared.” Said an older man. He sported a shaved head like his friend but he had a solemn look on his face, like someone who was at peace with himself and everything around him.

“The trapper.” Shiv mumbled.

“Yes, our friend was taken.” The young man said. He turned to Zakhira. “What brings you here my lady?”

Zakhira smiled at the politeness of the young man. “One of our friends were taken by the trapper as well. We are searching for it before it reaches its hive.”

“I see.” The old man played with his graying beard. “Perhaps you can help us?”

“Help you?” Zakhira asked furrowing her brow.

“You see, we have chosen not to fight, no acts of violence since the war.”

“If you can’t fight, what use are you to us?”

The old man chuckled. “You don’t expect to fight of a hive of trappers with just the two of you? One human soldier and one half-blood.” He paused and then continued. “A half-blood that can change to any beast is no use to a hive of trappers my lady.”

Shiv leaned close to Zakhira and whispered. She didn’t hear anything, all the voices around her drowned out as she sat there shocked at what the old man said. “How do you know all of this?”

The old man smiled. “Why don’t you follow us my lady. We may be of more use than you think.”

“We have to go Zakhira, we are wasting time here.”

Zakhira raised her hand. “We have to follow them Shiv.”

“Why?”

She looked at Shiv and pierced him with a penetrating stare. “They know something we don’t”

The Quest

“What are you doing Nigel?” Shiv said as he walked out to the courtyard. Nigel turned and noticed Anastasia’s hand in Shiv’s. He smiled and said. “Just finishing up the preparations.” He gestured towards Anastasia beside Shiv and continued. “I see you were a little bit occupied.”

Shiv unclasped his hand from Anastasia’s and coughed. “Yes, well.” He looked around before asking Nigel. “Where is Zakhira?”

“Over there.” Nigel nodded to a gray beast with a flat skull plate and five horns sticking from its forehead, similar to the beast that he was strapping a leather saddle to.

Zakhira glanced at Shiv and tsked. “You are late.”

“I’m sorry.” Shiv scratched his head and continued. “How can I help?”

“You can say goodbye to ‘her’ so we can start moving. We lost too much time as it is.”

Anastasia counted the elixirs in the satchels beside the saddle and turned to Shiv. “The queen requested me to ride with you.”

Nigel lightly elbowed Shiv and whispered. “You get to have two beautiful women on a ques? You are the luckiest man alive!”

“The queen said what?” Zakhira’s face contorted revealing her dissatisfaction. She then remembered the conversation she had with Shiv and her father in the dungeon. The queen was up to no good, Anastasia was there to make sure the job got done.

Shiv jumped on the saddle and felt the hard leather resting between his legs. He jostled a little trying to get comfortable and turned to Zakhira with a smug look on his face. He was proud of hopping on the horned beast. “Is there a problem with Anastasia coming?”

Zakhira looked at Anastasia and then moved her glance to Shiv. “Of course if ‘you’ don’t have a problem with it, then how can I have a problem with it?”

Shiv pulled Anastasia up to the space behind her. “Comfortable?” He asked.

Anastasia nodded her head. She wrapped her arms around his waist and said “Do you know how to ride the gargoth?”

“Gargoth?” Shiv asked and then thought of riding the ox in his village. He looked for the reins but could not find any.

“Here.” Nigel handed Shiv a long rope with a large horn attached to it. “Put that around your neck.”

“What is this?” Shiv asked.

“That is the sixth horn of the gargoth, hold on the horn and tell the beast what you want it to do.”

“Sixth horn?” Shiv leaned over the flat skull plate of the beast and saw the cracked remnants of where the sixth horn had been on the right cheek of his gargoth. He slipped the necklace around his neck and gripped the horn. Can you hear me? The gargoth lifted its head and growled.

“Now that you have finished your lesson can we go?” Zakhira said curtly.

Shiv nodded his head. Let’s go my friend. The gargoth got off its knees onto its feet and took slow steps forward, walking carefully on the paved path just behind Zakhira and her gargoth, his mate. “So where are we going?”

Zakhira looked up at the orange and purple skyline, basking in the thought that she won’t see her father for a long time. She had never been far away from her father for a long period of time and she trembled at the thought of being completely alone to fend for herself. “Do you see those clouds?” She gestured toward the sky.

Shiv looked up and saw a bunch of clouds in the vivid backdrop. “Which one?”

“Do you see those?” She pointed specifically at a cluster of clouds that were very thin and seemed to curve to what seemed like a winding road. “That is the way to the seer.”

“So we just follow the clouds?” Shiv thought that was a clever way of finding directions. “We can take our time then.” He leaned and felt Anastasia’s head snuggled on his back.

“We have to hurry, no time to waste. These clouds only appear at certain times when the seer is in her abode. If she leaves then the clouds will disappear and we have to wait for her return.”

“How long with that take?” Shiv asked knowing fully that he was tugging on Zakhira’s patience.

“Hmph! If you don’t want to go on this quest then why did you accept it? Just tell the queen that you would rather take her pet to your bed.”

Shiv felt Anastasia’s embrace tighten and looked at Zakhira. She was obviously angry at his pushing her away last night. He kept his mouth quiet and savored her furrowing brows. She looks good when she’s angry.

They went through the cracked path and circled around the city center, passing by ancient ruins and destroyed statues of Gods. Shiv noticed one of the statues resembled a bearded man perched on a large staff. He thought that was Hanuman and wondered why he did not greet him as he left for his quest. It seemed unusual for Hanuman to ignore him, but he seemed different. Something was troubling Hanuman since his arrival in the realm. He didn’t blame Hanuman, everything was odd in this realm.

“You are awfully quiet back there.” Zakhira looked back at Shiv and noticed that he was staring blankly in the air. What is he thinking about? No doubt something happened between him and that woman.

Shiv shook his head. “Nothing Zakhira.” He smiled and then continued. “What are these statues?” He pointed at the cracked statue of what he thought was Hanuman and asked. “Is that Hanuman?”

Zakhira turned to the statue that Shiv referred too and nodded her head. “This used to be one of the palaces of the Gods and all of these ruins where the Gods resided.”

Shiv looked around and understood that this must have been where the battles started. He thought of asking the most obvious question but before he could do that Zakhira stopped. “What is wrong?” He asked.

“We are passing the threshold.” And then said. “From here on out we are on our own.”

Shiv felt a cold chill pass over him and looked down on his wrists. The engraving of the four wavy lines on his bracelets started fading away. “Esen is not protecting us anymore?”

Zakhira shook her head. “Don’t worry I can go on alone if you’re scared.”

Shiv smiled. “I think you will miss me too much.” And with that Zakhira willed her gargoth forward and he followed her, step by step just like on the bridge in the dungeon. They passed by a small dirt road and he turned to his left. A small hill with a solitary tree sprouted d and Shiv could have sworn that he saw Hanuman waving at him. He waved at the tree hoping that he was right.

In the distance Hanuman smiled. Shiv saw him as he thought he would. He wished that he could have been there seeing him off to his quest, but he didn’t want to be around Esen, not for the time being. He hopped down on his staff and tapped the tree twice with his hand. A large root sprung up from the ground, and then another. The large tree moved a step, making use of its roots as legs. A branch swooped down and Hanuman rested on it, taking out a small joint from under his shawl. This is going to be a long trip. He lit the joint with his fingers, just like he did with Shiv not too long ago and took several puffs as he laid there carried forward by the large tree.

“They look very pretty.” Anastasia pointed at some pink flower with yellow anthers. “Stop! Stop!” She released her embrace and jumped next to the flowers.

“What are you doing?” Shiv asked.

“I just want to pick one out.” Anastasia bent low and tugged on the stem of the flower.  It must have been quite hard because she was tugging on it for a while and it did not budge. She pressed a finger against her lips and tried to observe the flower. “Hmmm…maybe.” She leaned close to the opening of the flower and shrieked.

Shiv turned and watched as a strew of vines grabbed Anastasia by her leg and dangled her in the air. “What?” He hopped off from his gargoth and clenched his fists, revealing the knuckle-spikes and elbow blades of his gauntlets.

“What is going on?” Zakhira saw Shiv facing a trapper, a large flower that acquired it’s prey with it’s vines. She knew that the trapper was deadly and would start moving in a moment to its lair. She joined Shiv and pulled out two three-pronged daggers from the sides of her green sash. “Be careful.”

Shiv studied the monster, it was very different from fighting with Nigel. The monster stood there waving Anastasia about. He tried to read its movements but it seemed very random and he could not think of a plan of attack. He thought that going in wildly at it would not be an option, there was a lot of vines popping up from the ground and he counted that he and Zakhira were outnumbered 30 to 1.

Anastasia dangled in the air and bent up toward her feet, she pulled out a wavy dagger from her boot.

“Anastasia wait!” Zakhira screamed.

Anastasia with her dagger slashed at the vine trying to free herself from its grip. The trapper released a loud scream which froze Shiv and Zakhira in their place.

“Ahhhh!” Shiv tried to move his arms but he couldn’t. The large monster started moving, first forward to him and Zakhira and then it shook sideways. In a moment it released another petrifying shriek and it crawled away from them, still holding the frozen body of Anastasia. “No! Anastastasia!” Shiv could do nothing but scream as he watched her disappear in the distance.

Restless Night

“Zakhira, where are you ?” Esen’s voice sang softly in Zakhira’s ears and she cringed. “Father, the queen is summoning me.”

Shesha raised his head and hissed. “Then you must go child, you must take Shiv to the seer.”

“But father…”

“It is his destiny to undertake this quest and it is your destiny to accompany him.”

“No! I don’t want to go, I don’t want this responsibility! Why does the lives of everyone in this realm have to rest on my shoulders?”

“Shiv!” Shesha craned close to Shiv. “We all are part of a greater plan, I don’t have the answer to all of your questions but the seer will make things clear to you.”

“Is she that powerful father?” Zakhira interjected.

“She knows all and can see events unfold, she can manipulate a person with her words and make the world move to her will.”

“Then how can I trust her?” Shiv asked.

“Because you have a part of me with you.”

Shiv touched the loosely hung gauntly on his belt and frowned. A few months ago he was easily living the life of a rickshaw driver and all he cared about was when he would get his next morsel of food. Now he had the lives of God’s, half-blood’s and even human’s riding on his back. No one should have this kind of power.

“We have to go.” Zakhira tugged on Shiv’s arm and he stumbled backwards until he forward-faced the bridge. He followed Zakhira as she hopped on the special stones. A despaired howl echoed from below.

“The monster.” Zakhira said. “He eats souls.”

Shiv looked over into the abyss as he stepped from the last stone and landed onto the landing. He thought that he should just jump into the abyss, it seemed like the easiest choice. Someone else could take his burden, maybe Zakhira, she was the daughter of the King of Gods after all. He stepped closely and listened as his heart beat quickened. He had never felt this way since Nigel pinned him under his large boot. No. Shiv thought that Hanuman would have been disappointed if he did so. Hanuman was always there for him and pulled him out of darkness, he wished that he was around so that he could get the counsel of his good friend. Shiv followed Zakhira through the iron gates.

“Where did the monster of the abyss come from?” Shiv looked back as the door to Shesha’s lair closed. “Such a powerful monster, is it a God?”

“No. The monster is not a God or a half-blood, it is not born or created, it has always existed.”

“Always existed?”

“The monster of the abyss comes from the hearts of everybody, you, me, the God’s everyone.”

“What do you mean?”

“Greed, blood-lust, hunger for power. These and many more feed the monster making it stronger.”

“I thought it fed on souls?”

“The monster is more powerful than anything, all of those souls are God’s, half-bloods who seek to control the power of the monster.”

“They are controlled by the monster instead.”

“No one can control the monster, that is why it is kept in that dungeon.”

“Can’t it escape?”

“It is protected by a magic incantation, no one except me can open it.”

Shiv wanted to ask the most obvious question that he had an idea to the answer. “Why is your father there?”

“Esen wants to control him, the most powerful of Gods cannot be released, one wrong step and he is dead.”

Shiv ran up the steps and reached the floor of his room. He walked slowly behind Zakhira and noticed that she did not keep five steps ahead of him, rather she walked closer to him, almost next to him.

A shrill echoed through the hallway, a piercing shriek that was only followed by sobs.

“What is that?”

“Gemma.”

“Gemma?”

“She is one of the God’s that Esen captured during the war.”

“Why is she crying?”

“She is being tortured.”

“What?”

“She has a very unique ability. Her tears produce enchanted jewels.”

“Enchanted jewels?” Shiv asked.

“Jewels that can make ordinary weapons burn through forests, cut down mountains and drown people in dry land.”

“Nigel told me something about that.”

“This is how we can build an army that can rival the Gods, by giving soldiers with abilities that can withstand and deal more damage to the Gods.”

“So the war really is starting.”

Zakhira bowed her head and a tear rolled down her cheek. “It is sad really.”

“What is sad?”

“Gemma, like my father she is one of the twelve ruling Gods. Unlike my father she is not kept in place by a being much stronger than she is, only normal binds and chains keep her in place.”

“Is she not powerful?”

“She is…was the finest warrior in this realm, she can slice an army down with just a dagger.”

“Then why doesn’t she escape?”

“How can you escape when your limbs have been torn away from your body?”

Shiv took a deep breath, he couldn’t believe what he heard. The thought of living the rest of his life, helpless only to fulfill the whims of those who controlled him. He realized that he was no different from Gemma, everyone around him wanted him to do something for them. The only difference was that he still had his limbs.

“We’re here.” Zakhira stopped in front of Shiv’s room.

Shiv didn’t hear her and continued walking forward.

“Hey! Were at your room!” Zakhira slapped Shiv’s head.

“Ow!” Shiv turned back and looked at Zakhira. “What was that for?”

“Your room?” Zakhira pointed to her right.

“Oh yes.”

“Listen don’t think too much of what my father told you.” She clasped Shiv’s hand. “The seer will give you the answers that you are looking for.” She looked straight into Shiv’s hazel eyes and focused on the speck of gray. The same gray that reminded her of Ryuu. She ran her hand across Shiv’s face. Zakhira closed her eyes and leaned close to Shiv.

Shiv pushed her back and pulled her hands from his face. “Goodnight.”

“Oh yes…goodnight.” Zakhira turned around and shook her head. What am I thinking? He is not Ryuu! He make look like him but he is just a mere mortal!

Shiv noticed that his door was slightly ajar, a cold wind blew in as he pushed the door open. He walked into his room and looked around. The large mirror at the entrance reflected his image fluidly like a pond would. He moved his hand and the reflection pool followed him as he walked through his room. The pool reflected small tables with bowls of fruit, a pitcher and a couple of clay drinking glasses. He walked to a large terrace which overlooked the garden where he walked with Hanuman. The life bushes, a taste of what this realm had to offer, still stood there taunting little winged creatures to their death.

“The view is more beautiful over here.”

Shiv turned around and was surprised to see Anastasia standing in the living room. The silvery light of the full moon illuminated her curvaceous naked body. “What are you doing here?”

Anastacia smiled and walked toward Shiv. She ran a finger down his chest and looked up at him longingly. “The queen told me to cater to your every need.”

The God of Serpents

“What is your name child?”

“Shi…Shiv.” Shiv swallowed a huge lump in his throat. “Who…who are you?”

The large serpent hissed. “I am called by many names, in this realm I am known as Shesha.” Shesa slithered close to Shiv, the chains dragged along the bare ground and rattled to a stop. Shesa bent low and stared at Shiv with glowing yellow eyes. “You look like him, yet somehow you are different.”

“It is his eyes.”

“Ahhh yes, his eyes.”

“My eyes?”

“Yesss.” Shesa he leaned close. “Ryuu has silver eyes but yours…”

“What is wrong father?”

Shesa trembled as he drew away from Shiv. “Darkness…”

“Darkness?” Zakhira looked at Shiv’s eyes all she saw were his hazel eyes. “What darkness?”

“Why did you bring him here?” Shesha growled.

Zakhira stuttered, she had never heard her father lose his temper. It was as if he was scared of something. “The queen told me to bring him to the seer.”

“The seer?”

“We leave in the morning.”

“She is up to something.” Shesha turned to Shiv. “Why are you here?”

“I don’t know…that is what I hope to find out from the seer.”

“You don’t know?”

“He was taken from the human realm father.”

“Taken?” Shesha slithered back to his resting spot and coiled his body. “What is special about this boy? No one is brought from other realms to ours, that is against the truce.”

“There are more half-bloods in the kingdom in recent times.”

“That is the reason for the bracelets.”

“Yes father.”

Shesha glanced at Shiv. “What is your power boy? Why did Esen bring you here?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“He doesn’t have any powers father.”

“No powers?” Shesha thought for a moment. Esen was up to something but why did she want Shiv to visit the seer. There seemed no logic. “What did Esen tell you?”

“She told me the seer will help release my power.”

“Release your power? That is impossible!”

“Why?”

Zakhira spoke. “No one can teach you to release your power, it comes out naturally with you just like how you move your hand or walk. The only training you get is how to control it.”

“So I don’t have any powers?”

“I’m sorry Shiv, you haven’t shown any powers.”

“But I can fight Nigel, he is much faster and stronger than me!”

“Nigel hasn’t shown you his true powers, if he did you wouldn’t last.”

“So why did he tell me that I was ready for the war?”

“War?” Shesha hissed. “What war?”

Zakhira sighed. “Father, the queen is planning to start the war with the Gods.”

“What!?” Shesha’s eyes closed for a moment and he pondered for a while. Esen planned to restart the war, and she had been recruiting half-bloods without the knowledge of the God’s. No matter how many half-bloods she brought they would still be no match to the powers of the God’s unless they had Ryuu. Shiv looked like Ryuu but he did not have any powers to speak of. “Shiv do you know who Ryuu is?”

“Ryuu? No.” Shiv remembered Zakhira mention his name previously but he did not ask anyone about him.

“Ryuu was the leader of the half-blood revolution.”

“He was the one who was as powerful as the God’s?”

“He was as powerful as five Gods.”

“A half-blood as powerful as the God’s?”

“It is true, it even took the God’s by surprise. But he is of a special breed, not really a God and not really a half-blood.”

“What is he?”

“He was a menace.” Shesa hissed. “He destroyed most of the realm and to have peace the God’s agreed to a truce.”

“What truce?”

“The leaders of each army have to be kept captive by the other and no one can be expand their forces.”

“That means that God’s cannot procreate with the humans to create their own half-blood army and the half-bloods cannot bring other half-bloods from the human realm or any other realm into our realm.”

Shiv thought for a moment. “Ryuu sounds very powerful, and he is kept captive by the God’s?”

“Yessss.”

“Who did the half-bloods keep?”

“Me.” Shesha hissed. “I am the king of the God’s.”

“You are the king of the God’s?” Shiv stomped on the ground. “You are the reason for the war? You are the reason why I am here?”

“Watch yourself human, I may be locked up but I can still tear you to pieces!”

“The war was not caused by the God’s, who told you that?”

“Hanuman.”

Shesha scoffed. “The hermit?”

“Say what you want, Hanuman is the only person that has looked after me even before I came to this realm.”

“The truth is much more complicated than that Shiv. The half-bloods started the war not the Gods.”

“Why?”

“Power, that is the only reason anyone would start any war. The God’s ruled this realm and the half-bloods wanted to rule the realm.”

“Why didn’t the God’s share the power with the half-bloods?”

“Only the God’s can protect this realm, the half-bloods are too weak but the half-bloods could not believe this and they rose up against the God’s.”

“Why am I here? I still to know why I am here!”

“You are going to start the war, you look like Ryuu and when the God’s find out that you are leading an army against them then they will rise up from their slumber and fight the half-bloods.”

“But why will Esen send Shiv to the seer?” Zakhira asked.

“Tell me child what did Esen tell you? Why did she really want you to see the seer?”

Shiv shook his head. “I can’t.”

“It is important that you trust us.”

“Please Shiv.” Zakhira touched Shiv’s hand. “We need to save this realm from another war.”

Shiv felt Zakhira’s cold skin and it chilled him. It was the first time he felt the same cool touch that reminded him that he was human. He was human no matter what Nigel or Esen told him. “She wants me to kill the seer.”

“Kill the seer?” Shesha lowered his head. “That witch is cunning.”

“What is it father?”

“As part of the truce, all of the God’s dispersed and fell in slumber across the realm. The only way for the half-bloods to kill of the God’s is if they fight them one by one an army of half-bloods have a chance against a single God especially if they wield enchanted weapons and armor.”

“If a God dies won’t the other God’s find out?”

“There is only one way. The God’s are looked after by the seer, if anything happens to any God the seer would find out and she will inform the other Gods.”

“What if the seer dies?”

“Then the Gods are isolated and they are vulnerable to the strategic attacks of the half-bloods.”

Zakhira trembled and fell on the ground. “It would be a massacre!”

Shesha approached Shiv. “You cannot let this happen! You have to make sure that the seer lives, you have to make sure that the war doesn’t come to pass.”

“What can I do? I am only human.”

Shesha turned to Zakhira. “Daughter, you have to do something for me and don’t ask questions.”

“Yes father.”

“I need you to remove one of my fangs.”

“Father!”

“I will explain later.”

“Give me your gauntlet Shiv.”

“My gauntlet?”

“Give it to me!” Zakhira screamed.

Shiv withdrew his gauntlet hanging from his belt and handed it to Zakhira. “What are you going to do with it?”

Shesha opened his mouth wide and revealed two large fangs. Zakhira walked close to her father and touched the fang on the right with one hand and with the other touched the sharp elbow blade of the gauntlet. She recited an incantation and a glowing light emanated from her palms. Shiv covered his eyes and when the light faded Shesha closed his mouth.

“Here.” Zakhira handed the gauntlet to Shiv.

“What did you do?”

“You have one of my fangs on your gauntlet Shiv.”

“What?”

“You have the the power of the God of Serpents, the King of the Gods.”

Shesha’s tongue slipped in and out of his scaly mouth trying to find the large fang that had occupied the gap in his mouth for thousands of years. “My fang attached to your gauntlet can poison anyone and kill them in an matter of moments, use it only if you must.”

“Why are you giving me this?”

“Protection, you will face a lot of enemies on your travel and you need some Godly powers to protect you. But that is not the main reason. I want you to go the seer with Zakhira.”

“You want me to kill her?”

“No.”

“You must show her my fang and you must gain her trust, only then will she tell you the truth, only then will she guide you on what has to be done.”

“Father! You cannot trust this human! Why don’t you give me the fang? I will make sure that the seer is protected.”

“No daughter, Esen had chosen him for a reason and it is he who must complete this task.”

“But what if he kills the seer?”

“Then we are all doomed.”

“You will let him decide the future of our realm?”

“It is his destiny to decide the fate of this realm. It is he who must determine if we are all destroyed or if we live. That is a power greater than any God.”

The Dungeon Captive

Hanuman thumped his staff on the ground and screamed. “Get your hands off me witch!”

“Watch your tongue hermit!” Zakhira raised her arm, palm-facing Hanuman. “That is the queen you are talking to.”

Shiv lowered Zakhira’s arm and gave her a fierce look. He turned to Hanuman “Hanuman what is going on?”

Hanuman hopped on his staff and scoffed. “It is not of your concern.” He looked at Esen and hovered up in the air and spoke before exiting the hole on the roof. “I’ll see you around Shiv.”

“Stupid hermit!” Esen slumped on her throne. “Come here dear.”

Zakhira walked forward and bowed before speaking. “As you requested.” She looked at Shiv and thought for a while thinking of what to address him. Should she call him a brethren, a half-blood, maybe a subject but all of these meant that he possessed some kind of power or ability. She did not observe anything that would justify that title. “I have brought the human.”

Esen urged Shiv to come forward with her hand. “I see you have been busy.” She glanced at his toned body and smiled. “Nigel has done a good job.”

“Thank you Esen.”

“Show your respects human!” Zakhira yelled.

“Control yourself Zakhira.” Esen touched Shiv’s long hair. It had grown long in the time since he had arrived. “Have you learned anything from Nigel?”

“We have been sparring.”

“Show me.” Esen looked over to one her guards. “You over there, fight him!”

The guard on the right stepped forward and bowed in front of Esen. He drew his large sword and swung at Shiv. Shiv dodged and rolled to his left. “What?!”

The guard moved in a flash and appeared behind Shiv he thrust his sword and Shiv sidestepped. “I don’t have any weapons!” Shiv dodged a series of thrusts and slashes until he was pinned up against the wall. The guard moved quickly and thrust his sword once more. Shiv jumped and landed on the blade of the sword. The guard looked up at him, his hood covering any form of expression on his face.  Shiv kicked the guard and he fell on the ground. The blade fell on the ground and Shiv landed on his knees. He looked at the guard and then at Esen. His smile revealed his delight, Nigel’s training had paid off.

“Where are your powers?” Esen asked.

“Didn’t you just see it?”

“What?” Esen looked at Zakhira. “Did you see anything?”

Zakhira shook her head. “No queen, this human has no powers.”

“No powers?”

“Yes.”

“That is impossible!”

“I do have powers, I beat up your trained guard with no weapons or armor.”

“Anyone can learn to fight.” Esen slammed her fist on her throne. She could hear Hanuman’s chuckle reverberating in her head. “This can’t be.” Esen waved her hand at the guard and he returned to his post after retrieving his blade.

“Nigel told me…”

“That oaf does not know anything.” Zakhira turned to Esen. “He is but a human and his kind have no business in our kingdom.”

“You sound like them.”

“It is true! He has no powers! What use is he to us?”

Esen massaged her temples. Zakhira was right, if Shiv cannot use his powers he was completely useless. But the old woman told her...Yes the old woman! “Zakhira.”

“Yes my queen.”

“You have to take him to the old woman on Craven’s peak.”

“The seer?”

“Yes.”

“What will he get from the seer?”

“His powers are hidden and the seer will show him the way.”

“But my queen!”

“Enough!” Esen raised her hand. “Do as you are told or you know what will happen.”

Zakhira frowned. “Yes my queen.” She disappeared into a small room behind the throne.

“The seer?” Shiv asked.

“She is one of the God’s, the power to see all.”

“If she is one of the God’s why will she help us?”

“Not all of the God’s want to hurt us. God’s are selfish, some like to create, others like to destroy.”

“And the seer?”

“Neither, she likes to watch. She had foretold a prophecy long ago and she has spent her whole life watching the event unfold.”

“Have you seen her?”

“Everyone has.”

“What will she tell me?”

“She will tell you many things, but be very careful.”

“Why?”

“You must find out what is the truth and what is a lie.”

“How will I do that?”

“Enough questions, you must get ready.” Esen waved her hand. “Anastacia!” A maid-servant appeared from a room to Esen’s right. The same maid servant that tended to Shiv since his arrival.

“Yes my queen.”

“Shiv needs to prepare for a trip. Make sure all the arrangements are taken care of.”

“Yes my queen.”

“Shiv.” Esen whispered in Shiv’s mind. “No one must know what I am about to tell you.”

Shiv nodded his head.

“After you have talked to the seer, I need you to kill her.”

Shiv turned to Esen with a look on his face that said why?

“She tells people what needs to be said to make the prophecy come to pass.”

“What prophecy?” Shiv asked in his mind.

“The death of us all.”

Shiv nodded his head and walked toward his chambers. He knew what had to be done but he did not understand it, he did not understand why. Many things in this world troubled him and he did not know why they needed him, why they did not just send him back to his home or why they took him in the first place. All he knew was that there is a struggle between the God’s and the half-bloods, that there is a war about to begin. Now he needed to find answers, his heart raced at the thought of discovering the truth. He felt nervous and light-headed. He reached his room and heard a voice.

“Shiv.”

Shiv turned around and looked around. All he saw were torches and shadows there was nothing else. “Who are you?”

Zakhira appeared from the shadows with a sullen look on her face. “What did the queen tell you?”

“You heard it all didn’t you?”

“Not what she said in your head.”

“I…”

“I know you don’t understand why you are here, truthfully I also don’t know why you are here.” Zakhira looked up at Shiv and the look in her eyes, the look of longing, like she wanted something from Shiv, something that had been forcefully taken away from her. “Shiv I need you to come with me.”

“But the trip? The quest…”

“This won’t take a minute.”

Zakhira held Shiv’s hand and led him down the hallways. They climbed down a tower of steps on their right. Through another hallway which was different. It was completely dark and had several iron gates one after the other. “Where are we going?”

“I need to open your eyes.”

“I can’t see a thing!”

“Don’t worry we are almost there.” Zakhira turned to Shiv and he noticed that her eyes were glowing yellow.

“Is that your ability? Glowing eyes?”

“You haven’t seen my ability yet human.”  Zakhira stopped short in front of a large iron gate.

This gate was different from the others, it was not built with bars but by a solid stab with four jewels embedded on all sides. “Were are we?”

“The dungeon.”

Zakhira planted her palm on the gate and recited a short incantation. The solid iron structure disappeared and a long narrow bridge appeared. “Just follow me.”

“Isn’t that what I am doing?”

“Every single step!”

“What?”

Zakhira pointed to the sides of the bridge. Shiv looked over the rails, it was completely dark and he could not see anything. “Where does it go?”

“Nowhere.”

“Nowhere? It has to go somewhere.”

“It is the Abyss of the Damned, anyone who falls over will never go anywhere. There is no escaping it.”

“Why is there something like this here?”

“Whoever falls in will stay there for the rest of their life, slowly being drained of their energy feeding the monster.”

“Monster?” More questions entered his mind and he needed answers, he wished that Zakhira would give him the answers that he was looking for.

Zakhira gripped tight on Shiv’s hand. “There is no time for that. Quickly follow me!”

Shiv followed Zakhira and like she said every step she took. He darted, hopped, skipped and made sure his feet landed on stones with odd symbols that he had never seen before. The scripts looked round, very soft with no sharp edges or lines.

“We are here.” Zakhira recited the same incantation she had previously. Torches burst into flames and lit up the whole area.

Shiv noticed that they were standing in a large floating island. He looked up and it was all empty just like it was below. He took a step forward and kicked on some chains. “Why are there chains?”

“This is a dungeon.”

“Is that the monster?”

“I am no monsssster.” A rough voice hissed.

“Who is there?”

A large snake that seemed to be over five stories high slithered forward into the light. Shiv took a step back teetering close to the edge of the floating island.

“Be careful.” Zakhira pulled Shiv back.

“Is this him my child?”

“Yes father, this is the one that resembles Ryuu.”