A story of adventure and mystery as Lia tries to discover the cure for the princess’ ailment.
Chapter 1 – The Beginning
It was late summer in the year 874 of the New Calendar of Orinda and we were on another journey in Feyris, the central kingdom in our world. The lands of New Orinda were split up into several kingdoms and states (depending on the ruling system). I am from Aelisonia, which in the early ages was the Land of Kings when Orinda was united, was where kings were born and raised. The current ruler of Aelisonia is called Cadfael. His family had for generations come from Aelisonia’s mountain city of Slievenamon. To the south lays Fanarion which borders the sea. Fanarion’s capital Midonia was where the kings would live and rule when they reached their age of responsibility. Cragash is where the gorlags live — a gorlag is a gruesome creature that is bulbous, strong, and very irritable — and it is a dreadfully desolate and unwelcoming land, full of harsh terrain and mountains. There are a few places hospitable for life and they are the gorlag cities of Droch and Colgach.
In the old days, when Orinda was one, the gorlag keep and surrounding areas near to Feyris were used as a place for those exiled or imprisoned by the king of Orinda. No one would want to be stranded on the cursed ground of Cragash. Now, the gorlags have taken rule and put any humans they find or kidnap to death or bond them in slavery and the keep was taken over as well.
Kyrie is a fair land to the north and is now one of the most advanced locations in Orinda. They gave up their kingdom to have a state system which is ruled by the people dwelling within at the very beginning of the separation. I am not sure of the details as I have never had a need to go there and I haven’t encountered any inhabitants other than my parents but they came to Aelisonia long before I was born and rarely discussed their old home. Years later, after the kingdoms were all dissident, those remaining in Feyris were outraged at the lack of technical advancement compared to Kyrie and broke off after a civil war to become Chalos, which turned into a matriarchal society. The land of Chalos lies nestled between Cragash and Fanarion and is only accessible through a barely traveled road.
The rest of my questing party was made up of about a dozen men scattered from all over Orinda, some from Slievenamon and Dhuibhenae in Aelisonia, or the nearby Lermeri mountain fortress city in Fanarion. Some even came from the cities of Parnath and Azanti in Chalos. Of course in this new age, there might be from time to time a couple of rebellious women who join up — those who think sewing and being a housewife a bit ridiculous (like I do). They do have a tendency to fall in love with one of the men and then run off to start their own adventures together. I actually don’t mind as there is too much hate in the world and it could use all the love it can get.
Some might think it unusual for a woman, even one as young as I, to lead such a group, but I’d always grown up hearing from my father fabulous tales of adventurers and men who defeated monsters and came back to their kingdoms with finished quests. They gained land, fortune, status, and most importantly — the love of the country.
When I was young, my childhood friend Siegfried and I explored our world of Aelisonia together dreaming of such a similar life, and through all our wandering, we slowly developed the group we are now. My parents must have somehow known when I was born I wasn’t going to be a village dweller, for my name, Lia, means independence. It is quite ironic I have been lead here as Feyris shared the same fate as I. They (the villages of the time which were ruled by clan chiefs) were the first to break off to become separate from the whole of Old Orinda but through that they became the central trading location and expanded their network of roads and added villages when Feyris turned into a kingdom. They proved independence can sometimes lead to success and respect.
My latest adventure was quite possibly the longest and most challenging. My party heard a peculiar tale about a young princess who ate so much that there was nothing left for the rest of the kingdom to eat. This might seem silly and nonsensical, but in this strange world I live in, it’s not surprising. What is even stranger is she never gained any weight, not even an ounce. She grew normally of course — she wasn’t stick thin — but she retained the same figure. We heard about this and decided to see if this tale was truly real or just rumor. In the kingdom of Feyris, such an ailment would mean devastation and would destroy any trade possibilities for the present and future.
We had just finished getting through the King’s Pass, a widely traveled road when Feyris wasn’t so impoverished, leading from Dhuibhenae in Aelisonia directly into the city and castle of Feyris. I have always wondered why they called the kingdom and this city the same name but I assume it has something to do with the fact all royals have the same last name of Feyris. The pass could have been beautiful to journey through as it was typically lined with trees, arching over travelers. Presently, it seemed a tougher trek as weeds had grown up and branches littered the area. The King of Feyris typically had trade routes staffed by nomads who didn’t mind cleaning up the path as they were allowed to live anywhere within a meeley of its sides. They were very meticulous at making sure there were no loose pebbles or branches. I could only imagine how the other roads were as I continued my approach to Feyris Castle which was a sight
I journeyed up to Feyris Castle with my men behind me and approached the bridge which was easily dwarfed by the two great towers at either end and was connected by a gatehouse. This bridge is one never to be traveled over lightly, however. The Feyris Castle Bridge, dubbed the “Humble Bridge” by its inhabitants, is steeped in myth and mystery. The massive stone structure supports travelers over a great chasm. Once you arrive at the middle of the bridge, it is said you mustn’t think about yourself or what you are trying to achieve, or the bridge will disappear altogether and everyone on it will fall thousands of feet to their deaths on the rocky spires below. Truth be told, it has kept out a lot of riff-raff and I’ve heard it helped the people of Feyris in their early days of independence as other Orindan people disputed their decisions and the lands were split into clan territories.
“Watch your step; we are nearing the Bridge,” I called out as we came to its entrance towers. “Be careful to not fall into the pits of your mind where selfish thoughts will hinder you.”
“Yes milady,” the group behind me said. Any other time a magical bridge such as this would have been laughed at in thought — especially by Siegfried — but I wasn’t about to take any chances and neither was he.
I had heard the bridge was a great deterrent to armies and enemies when Feyris was just under clan rule; even for would-be assassins (though some had managed to get through, if they ever came with additional men, the bridge was most always certain to let them meet the bottom of the chasm). Assassins, unlike armies, worked best individually and they were well trained in their level of thinking against magical things of this kind and interrogation. Most had the knowledge of the bridge their employers had given them. It had been so long since the age of the clans, so most had forgotten about the reason why the bridge was made. It is why it has long since fallen into only legend. I don’t think anyone had really ever tried to “make” it fall away, even with all the problems in Feyris.
I would think people were more inclined to kill off the princess to save the country than the king. I had heard about the kindness of Feyris, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. We walked up the mossy cobblestone steps of the bridge and crossed the bridge with no trouble; thankfully it did not give way, reminding me of the party’s obedience to me and more importantly at this time, their will to live. After crossing, the gatehouse brooded above us. Two windows above seemed to form eyes and the gate itself was a frowning mouth. The castle stretched over us, blocking our view of the solis which had been formerly bathing us in its rich, welcoming light. We walked up to the massive wooden castle wall door which was just past the end of the bridge and I pounded it with my fist. I wasn’t surprised Feyris, meaning rock, was the name given to the rulers as this castle was massive. At least every fifty feet there was a large embrasure for archers threaded by a parapet, complete with an alure for guardsman to walk on, and battlements. I could see a center building for where the king lived just peeping out from my view. I noticed several balconies on the keep. It was highly unusual to have it so open for the public, but I suppose the Humble Bridge was not something taken lightly. The door had a circular aperture which creaked open.
“Who comes to the city of Feyris?” An elderly man with a deep-set voice stuck his head out of the rectangular peep-hole in the door of the gate house and addressed us. His graying hair dribbled down the hole like a waterfall.
“We seek the deliverance of the fated princess, the Lady From Day,” I said with slight hesitance. I looked up to the gatekeeper, and the aged man lifted his bushy gray brow in a look of surprise and interest. “I’m Lia of Dhuibhenae in Aelisonia if it pleases those who need to know.” I smiled as the keeper nodded.
“We have heard of you. Wait here,” he instructed, and removing his head from the hole, he sought our admittance from within the castle. I gave a worrisome gaze to
“Apparently the princess’ ailment isn’t too urgent if we have to wait,” my companion Siegfried remarked. Siegfried was my dearest friend, unfailingly loyal, and always able to provide some means of sarcasm and entertainment. If anything were to happen to me, he would take over command. He and I grew up in the same town of Dhuibhenae which was almost directly west of Feyris castle, and we both wanted the same thing: adventure. We were mischievous children, and always getting into trouble. One time we scared my neighbor’s cow from five meeleys away into the middle of town. Luckily the owner wasn’t in town for market as he usually is, or he would’ve had our hides. Sig and I went from town to town as we reached the age of independence, steadily picking up more people who wanted the same lifestyle as us on our travels — the ability to wander freely and take things as they come, one day at a time. When we heard of the princess’ predicament, we knew we had to come.
“You are most welcome here. Please, enter in,” the gatekeeper said upon returning. The great oaken door howled with age as it opened and we cautiously walked into the walled castle courtyard. Daily life seemed to stop as we entered. Outside the castle, before we sought admittance, we could hear children playing and privy water being tossed from buildings surrounding the castle shops. We could even hear the faint clang of metal, probably from sword masters teaching squires or the local smith. It was obvious most of the castle had heard about us, I could see all stare in our direction with gaunt faces in wonder and anticipation for a cure for the king’s young daughter.
The town sounds diminished as people stopped what they were doing to observe. I still could hear a clang or two from a chapel bell that helped overcome the silence.
After entering the door, we could take in full view the castle grounds. From our vantage point I could see a line of shops to the right, with homes and other buildings behind them. Near the back I could see stables and what looked like a kitchen. I would assume it was a kitchen by the scents wafting our way and every so often, a few servants would scuttle out with their arms laden with plates of various food and pitchers of beverages. The right side of the castle was blocked from view by a line of trees. I presumed that was where the sounds of weapons clanging had come from as I could sometimes catch a glimpse of metal shining through.
We slowly proceeded to the two great doors of the keep. When we finally entered the keep, with the courtyard and the shocked villagers behind us, the vaulted ceilings of the great hall greeted us solemnly as if they too knew of the pain of the kingdom. The rich tapestries on the wall seemed to send us their somber air as well. Everyone in this place seemed to be so distressed. They were probably starving since the princess’ appetite threw the kingdom into a land of famine. We were granted an audience with King Birchell, the gatekeeper told me. I decided to do my best to convince him we could help his daughter Daschl. I could only hope for the best. We had been told I would see the king tomorrow morn. I wondered what he would say. I hoped I could help. I hoped there would be food, because I was starving. Daily rations only last for