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.

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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.”

The Queen’s Summon

The days passed into weeks and weeks into months. Shiv’s training with Nigel turned his fragile body into a sinewy and agile. He now could move almost as quickly as Nigel. Although Nigel was still much faster and stronger, Shiv’s mind raced, he could calculate movements and thoughts of his sparring partner in a blink of an eye.

Zakhira had avoided Shiv throughout this time always confining herself to her chambers or the dungeon room, always bringing out new golden bracelets with the insignia of Esen for new recruits into the queen’s kingdom.

Shiv unstrapped his body armor and rubbed the sweat of his toned abdomen. The maid-servant looked at the ground, fearing she would gawk at Shiv’s chiseled body.

Shiv handed the damp cloth to the maid-servant and she bowed her head before turning and leaving.

“Shiv!” Nigel slapped Shiv’s back.

Shiv smiled. “That was a good session Nigel.”

“It sure was.” Nigel gave Shiv a large platter filled to the brim with various foods of the region, cured meats, unusual shaped fruits, vegetables and some lentil soup. Nigel tore a piece of bread from his plate before speaking. “In no time you will be ready for the war.”

“The war?”

Nigel poured some wine into two chalices. “The war is coming soon.”

Shiv stopped to think about what Hanuman had told him. The war between the God’s and the half-bloods. In the months that had passed by Shiv noticed many new faces. He imagined they came from the same realm as he did. A woman could conjure up creatures from fallen strands of her hair, a blind man could stun someone if he looked into their eyes. They all had powers of the God’s, they were half-bloods. Shiv however did not show any kind of power. “Why am I here?”

Nigel stopped from tearing the flesh off a large drumstick and looked at Shiv. “To fight with us in the war.”

“I am only human, there is no reason for me to be in this war.”

“You are more than human Shivie boy!” Nigel washed his mouth with some wine. “By now you must know about the God’s and the half-bloods?”

Shiv nodded his head. “The God’s are immensely powerful and the half-bloods are weaker.”

Nigel picked up a purple fruit and squeezed the juice in his mouth. “What the God’s have is control of a large power.”

“Like Hanuman?”

Nigel scowled. “Yes, that hermit can control all plant life.”

Shiv thought of Hanuman for a second, he hadn’t seen his good friend since he started training with Nigel. In fact it had been a long time since he had seen anyone else or stepped outside of the castle.

Nigel continued. “The difference is that while the half-blood’s may have a lesser power as compared to the God’s we have more powers to use.”

“More powers?” Shiv raised his brow.

“Take Esen for example. She has power over the wind, that is the power that she inherited from her mother, but she also has the power of her voice. That power is unique to her.”

“So every half-blood have two abilities?”

“Two maybe more.”

“I don’t have any ability”

“Oh you do Shivie boy you do.”

Shiv frowned. Ever since he was dragged into this kingdom that was all that everyone talked about. Everyone said that he had powers, and even Esen ensured that Nigel and the four-foot tall guards were always around him to protect him. He did not see it however, in his mind he was just a regular human who was at the bottom of the heap in this realm.

“You can see my movements can’t you?”

Shiv looked up at Nigel.

“Ever since the first sparring session, you knew what I was going to do, you could spot an opening and your body moved as if it had a mind of it’s own.”

“Everyone can do that.”

“Not if they are up against someone who is ten times faster and stronger than them. Whenever you come up against me it seems as if we are evenly matched but in reality you are nowhere to my strength or speed.”

“But that is only one ability.” Shiv still did not believe Nigel but he felt happy that somehow he was accepted and he belonged. Where he came from the only person who accepted him, who felt comfortable with him was Hanuman.

“It will come in time Shiv.”

Shiv smiled and ate his lunch. It was a heavy lunch and he would have to work hard with Nigel to burn it off in their afternoon sparring session. When he had finished the maid-servant came in and took the plates away. Now that Shiv had transferred every morsel of food into his stomach he noticed that the plates were golden and they shimmered as the light from the never-setting sun shone into the arena.

Shiv watched as the maid-servant walked away toward the exit. Her scant clothing revealed a sensually curvy figure and Shiv remembered the first time he was in the throne room. Then he noticed that everyone was scantily clad but they did not shiver at the cold wind that blew over them. He thought for a moment and he does not feel that same chill.

“Nigel.”

Nigel laid on the ground with eyes closed. “Yes Shiv?”

“Why isn’t it cold?”

“What?”

“When I first came here I remember freezing even with all of my clothes on.”

“And now you feel comfortable?”

Shiv pondered over what Nigel said. Comfortable. He did not want to admit that he was comfortable. In fact he was very much comfortable, not only content but exceedingly happy. For the first time in his life he was living like a king. He stayed in a large palace, people moving around and serving him, all the food he can eat. His life was definitely more comfortable. “Yes.”

“You have to thank Esen for that.”

“No, you have to thank my father for that.” Zakhira appeared from the tunnel entrance.

“Excuse me?” Shiv asked.

Zakhira pointed at the golden bracelets on Shiv’s wrist. “Those bracelets on your wrists.”

“These?” Shiv rubbed the wavy lines engraved on his bracelet.

“They are keeping you protected from the chill of Esen’s wind.”

“Esen keeps us protected.” Nigel scoffed. “Why are you here anyway? Aren’t you supposed to be with the queen?”

“She sent me here.”

“For what?”

“For him.” Zakhira looked at Shiv. “Come with me.”

“What were?”

“I did not come here to entertain your questions human.”

“He is more powerful than a human.” Nigel sat up and bent his knees.

“Really? Where are his powers then? Is gorging on food for three people one of his powers? I think you already have that covered Nigel.” Zakhira smiled.

Shiv noticed the smile of Zakhira, two deep dimples sat on her cheeks and her teeth were pearly white with one of the lower front tooth slanted to its side. This was the first time that he saw Zakhira smile and he wanted to tell her that she should smile more often because she looked beautiful when she smiled. Shiv hesitated, maybe it was because of his shyness but the truth of the matter was he was scared of Zakhira. Nigel had once told him: ‘To be the queen’s right hand means that you would need to have powers that need to be watched over, there is a reason why the queen does not lose sight of her.’

“He can match me on the battlefield, that is more than enough.”

Zakhira covered her mouth controlling her laughter. “Any one can match you on the battlefield.”

“I want to see you try.”

“Don’t test me nomad.”

“Zakhira lead the way.” Shiv stood up and tugged on Zakhira’s arm.

“Don’t touch me!”

“Isn’t the queen waiting?” Shiv smirked.

Nigel fell on the ground and closed his eyes.

Zakhira looked at Nigel as he snored himself to sleep. “What?!? How can he do that?”

“He had a heavy lunch.” Shiv release his grip on Zakhira’s wrist. It was the first time that he had felt Zakhira’s skin and it was very smooth just like silk. Strangely enough it was very cold as well, like he was touching ice.

Shiv followed Zakhira and watched her sensually move toward the exit. As he walked through the dark tunnel lined up with flaming torches he wondered why the queen had summoned him, more importantly why did she send Zakhira.

Zakhira on the other hand had a different thought.  She wondered why Esen decided to bring a human who resembled Ryuu into their realm. He would serve no purpose and would only restart the war which had been dormant all this time. More importantly this human would only end up dead before the war would even start.

Meanwhile  a lanky figure floated in from the cracked ceiling and into the throne room.

“Hanuman! What are you doint here?”

“It’s so nice to see you again queen.” Hanuman hopped off his staff and bowed before Esen.

“Nice to see you still have manners.” Esen stepped from her throne and walked toward Hanuman. “What do you want?”

“What are you planning Esen?”

“What are you talking about?” Esen’s voice became chalky as it always did when Hanuman came around.

Hanuman paced around Esen. “I see a lot more half-bloods here, more than normal.”

“I am trying to reunite my kind, there should be no reason why we all should be separated.”

Hanuman’s staff followed him as he slowed his pace. “You are not planning to restart the war are you?”

“The wheels of war already started turning, there is no stopping it.”

“What have you done?”

“Nothing that wouldn’t have come. I just made it faster.”

“Is that why you brought Shiv?”

“He will lead us to victory.”

“Has he found his powers yet?”

“Nigel is working on that.”

“He does not know how to use his abilities?”

“He will in time.”

“He will die!” Hanuman’s staff slammed on the jewel-encrusted marble. “I cannot stand idly knowing you will lead my son to his death!”

Esen approached Hanuman and touched his tree-like face. “I would never let anything happen to our son my love.”

Child of Esen

Shiv stood in the middle of a large coliseum, the stands that surrounded the oval ground was empty but Shiv marveled at how high they reached. Rows of seats spanned like layered steps toward the sky.

“Get ready.” Nigel stepped onto the dusty ground from a shallow tunnel a hundred meters from Shiv. He wore full battle armor and wielded a large battle-ax.

“Ready for what?”

“Your training!” Nigel’s voice boomed like thunder and turned Shiv’s knees into jelly.

“Training?”

“Grab a weapon.” Nigel struck the blunt tip of his battle-ax on the ground. “Take any weapon.” He pointed at a boxed section on Shiv’s far left.

Shiv walked to the chalked ground and looked at the different weapons. There were swords of all shapes, crescent, straight, narrow, foiled, daggers, staffs with hooked blades. None of which Shiv knew how to use. He ran his fingers at the sharp blades and wondered what Nigel had in store for him. He noticed a particular piece at the end of the row of weapons. It was a pair of gauntlets. The gloves were tipped with two inch spikes and smaller rivets at the back. There was a guard of armor that extended to the forearm and ended with a long crescent blade at the elbows. Shiv thought that he was very good with his fists, often times winning numerous drunken brawls in his village. He didn’t know if Nigel was going to kill him but maybe he had a chance with this.

Nigel scoffed. “That is it?” He picked up the battle-ax and swung it over his shoulder. “You are going to fight me with a pair of gloves?”

“I’m good with my fists.” Shiv slipped on the first gauntlet. He tried to focus himself. He took a couple of deep breath’s and picked up the second gauntlet. Shiv looked at Nigel, it looked like the large man was bored. He really is large!

“No armor?” Nigel’s voice jumped a pitch higher than his normal tone. “You are very gutsy aren’t you?”

Shiv looked at the armor’s stacked on his right. They all looked large and very clunky. He thought that his only chance against Nigel was being nimble, his size would be to his advantage. If he wore any armor then he would lose that advantage.

Without any hesitation Nigel took a step forward and screamed. He threw his arm back indicating he was going to strike.

Nigel’s stomp shook the ground and Shiv found himself on his knee. He looked up and was surprised when Nigel swung the large battle-ax in a quick slash. Shiv crossed his arms and the loud clunking of metal against metal echoed in the empty coliseum. He’s quick!

“Come on Shivie boy!” Nigel jumped back and pulled out a large shield from his back.

Shiv looked at Nigel once more. The shield covered Nigel’s chest and legs until his knees. Shin-guards protected his lower legs and armored boots his feet. There wasn’t any open space on his whole body except for his head. Nigel’s head was covered thoroughly by his read hair which made his eyes tiny and beady. Shiv thought that if Nigel wore a helmet he would have no visibility.

Nigel roared. “Come on!” Running out of patience he leaped into the air and swung his battle-ax.

Shiv saw an opening, behind the shield was a leather vest riveted into an ‘X’. Nigel opened up his guard slightly in mid-air and all Shiv had to do was wait. He relaxed his arms and tightened his fist. Nigel was coming in closer. The moment had to be perfect, just before Nigel would strike his guard would be completely exposed.  Now!

Nigel pulled his shield down and released the grip as it reached his feet. The impact of Shiv’s gauntlet on the shield provided Nigel with a springboard and he somersaulted onto the ground. The smile on his face expressed his delight at a good battle. “You surprise me human.”

One of the two inch spikes on Shiv’s right gauntlet cracked and Nigel’s shield wobbled on the ground. He could not understand how Nigel could move so fast with all of that heavy armor. He knew he would have a hard time carrying the clunky protection let alone move in it so quickly. Shiv thought that his best defense was a good offense. He needed to take the battle to Nigel. Shiv sprinted toward the large behemoth, the dollar buckle on his belt spun around quickly and he landed a straight punch into the leather armor of Nigel surprising him with his quick strike.

“Ooof!” Nigel took a step back and smile. “You really surprise me.” He laughed boisterously.

Shiv looked up at Nigel and then at his gut. The leather armor was unscathed, but he saw something strange a slight green glow. It looked like ripples on a lake after a stone skipped across it. “What?!” He pulled back his fist and looked up at Nigel. Before he could say anything the large backhand slapped across his face and Shiv slid across the coliseum ground on his chest, palms faced down . “Unhh..”

Nigel walked slowly toward Shiv and extended his arm. “Never leave your guard down Shiv…never.”

Shiv pulled himself up and touched the swollen purple spot on his cheek. “Ow!” He could not believe that there was not a single mark on Nigel, it was impossible. He hit him full on. “How? I hit you! How did you?”

Nigel dropped his battle-ax and smirked. He raised his arm and showed a golden bracelet on his arm. “This protects me.”

“What is that?”

“It is a gift from Esen.”

“The queen?”

“Yes the queen.”

Nigel had it on both arms and he thought for a moment. He remembered that everyone in the eternal city had the same bracelet. Shiv looked at the bracelet closer. There were four wavy lines engraved on the bracelet, the same wavy lines that was on the hair clip that Esen gave to him before he met Nigel.

“Anyone who wears this bracelet is protected in the Eternal City.”

“No one can get hurt?”

“Not by ordinary attacks, but it has a limitation.”

“Limitation?”

“It can only protect from weak attacks, it cannot protect from enchanted weapons or powers of God’s and half-bloods.”

“So it protects you all the time?”

“As long as the queen is alive, yes.”

“Which reminds me.”

“Zakhira you can show yourself now.”

Zakhira stepped in from the shadow at the coliseum entrance. “How did you know I was watching?”

“You smell like your father.” Nigel laughed. “You need to take a bath!”

“Hmph!” Zakhira walked slowly onto the coliseum ground toward Nigel. “The queen told me to give this to …”

Shiv stood up and circled Nigel’s large frame wondering who this new woman who he never met was.

“Ry…ry…ryuu!” Zakhira ran frantically toward Shiv and buried her head in his chest breaking into tears.

Shiv looked puzzled. The woman whom Nigel called Zakhira sobbed and he didn’t know what to do. He looked at Nigel but all the giant did was scratch his head.

“Zakhira!” Nigel screamed.

“Ryuu…where? When? Why have you left me all this time?!” Zakhira rubbed her eyes and looked up at Shiv.

“Ryuu?” Zakhira cupped Shiv’s face in her hands and looked into his eyes. “You look different.” Zakhira couldn’t understand what it was. She looked at the young man, the features were exactly identical. Except for his eyes. The eyes of the man she was looking at was different…it was a different color, more importantly it was a different soul. “Who is he?”

Shiv pulled Zakhira’s hands away from his face. “I um…”

” Nigel placed his large hand on Zakhira’s shoulder making sure not to crease her beautiful green satin shawl. “Did you bring it?”

“Ye…yes…” Zakhira pulled a pair of golden bracelets from under her shawl and hesitantly clasped them on Shiv’s wrists. “Father just made them.”

“Good that looks like a perfect fit.”

“So now I am protected?”

“Esen watches over you now Shiv.”

“Shiv?” Zakhira turned to Nigel. “Nigel who is this boy?”

“He is a child of Esen now.”