A short story from the n.., p.1
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       A Short Story from the N'Loron Universe #2, p.1

           Shannon McRoberts
A Short Story from the N'Loron Universe #2
f Destiny: A Short Story from the N’Loron Universe

  Shannon McRoberts

  Blades of Destiny: A Short Story from the N’Loron Universe

  © 2012 Shannon McRoberts

  It had taken me hundreds of years to break the spell Annamara had cast upon me. Being a witch from the Athucia realm it was easy for her to manipulate those weaker than herself, especially those she found here in the Rilicia realm. I certainly did not think I was weaker than her, but I was a man and I had a tendency to think with other body parts first.

  It did not help matters that everything about her was intoxicatingly beautiful. Her heart may have been blacker than coal, but she was as graceful as a desert flower. With the way she moved and carried herself, there was no mistaking that she was not of Rilicia. Women here tend to be very matter-of-fact and plain; everything that Athucia stood against. No wonder just a glance from Annamara caused scores of Rilician men to bow down before her to pledge their allegiance.

  She came here through the N’Loron to conquer our lands. Her home, Athucia, was dying and her people looked to her for help. She had long been established as a wise and ruthless mage. The people of her realm admired her focus, flare, and her ability to kill without guilt. In an unprecedented move of democracy they eventually placed her on the throne of the realm. If Athucians were promoting the long dead idea of democracy, times were definitely becoming hard. Annamara was the High Council’s choice to search for a nearby realm to conquer. War had long plagued Athucia and a growing population caused resources to wane. Once the realm was chosen, she would be augmented by her own mages of court in opening a portal that could be sustained.

  Annamara’s plan was a simple one; eradicate the indigenous species of the other realm and spread her people across both Athucia and Rilicia. Normally travel between the veil that was known as the N’Loron was difficult, if not impossible. Annamara, however, possessed a rare ability to open gateways in the veil shifting her body in and out of it like shadows dancing along the walls. Using this power is how she often won battles against her opponents.

  Unfortunately, conquering Rilicia was not as easy as Annamara had planned. There were many years of chaos and bloody battles where many resources were drained before she was able to establish the upper hand against the Rilician armies. When the war was over she agreed to be crowned Empress of the Realms, a very non-Athucian decision. In exchange for peace, she would spare what was left of the Rilicians. Her people and my people would have to co-exist in some form.

  The night she was crowned Empress of the Realms something in me changed. I remember being on the terrace of the compound overlooking the plains and realizing that something was very different about me. I was no longer under her spell! So, I simply walked away from everything I had fought to create intending to never look back. After leaving, I wandered in and out of towns as a hollow shell of a man. Once Annamara became Empress, I felt like I had no purpose in life. Sometimes I had nightmares about the decisions I had made helping her overthrow my realm. Although her rule was not as bloody as the battles she once waged Annamara was no benevolent ruler. Rilicians and Athucians alike were enslaved to rebuild the two realms in her vision. People from both of the realms became apathetic because they had little of life’s necessities.

  One afternoon I went into the town of Etzlosin to secure some supplies. I had been living in self-imposed exile because I never knew when a price would appear on my head. The trip itself was uneventful, but I could not shake the feeling that I was being followed. I found myself checking over my shoulder with each stop, but all I could catch was the brief flash of a blue robe. Finally the cloaked figure appeared before me stopping me dead in my tracks.

  “Are you the one they call Gahnos?” The robed figure inquired as it glided around me.

  “Depends on who is asking.” I slid my hand in my belt casually to ready the knife I kept hidden there for emergencies.

  Sensing my move the figure extended a blue glowing hand that had hold of my arm before I could block them. At the touch of the figure we were both engulfed in a white light and it felt like the air around us was completely stilled. I looked around and we were no longer in the market place. Then the figure released my arm.

  “Gahnos, the High Council is in need of your aid. We have chosen you to carry out their next task.”

  “I do not answer to the High Council. They will need to look elsewhere for someone to do their dirty work. It is because of them that Annamara rules.”

  The figure let out a sigh as it slowly pulled the robe from its face. To my surprise I stood before what appeared to be Annamara herself. My face must have paled because I caught it give a slight smile at my reaction.

  “I am not Annamara, if that is what you are thinking. I am her twin sister Lanak, but that is where the similarities end. I will not drag this out. The High Council has sent me to provide you with the tools to remove Annamara from the Empress position. They believe that you are the only one that could get close enough to her to stop her.”

  I laughed because the whole thing just sounded ludicrous. “So, the good council no longer approves of Annamara’s ways? Why does that not surprise me? And what weapon could be strong enough for me to wield against Annamara? In case you and your council have not noticed I am a mere mortal. Besides, I have not been in contact with her for the last few years.”

  Lanak waved her hands and called forth two great blades. One appeared to be made of fire and the other some kind of purple energy I had never seen before. “These are the Blades of Destiny. They are the only weapons that can stop Annamara. One blade will take her powers away and the other will take her life away. You will be charged with using them against her and saving both of our realms.”

  “Why would the council ask this of me? Why could not one of your own do this task? Why, since you have the blades, can you not do this yourself?”

  “Annamara is not easily fooled. The council chose you because we believe she is blinded by the love she has for you. This is why she has not set a bounty on your head. She is of course outraged that you left her, but she secretly longs for you to return. This provides us with the perfect opportunity.”

  “What if I do not want to do this?”

  “Then the world will continue to suffer as will you. Your soul will continue to feel heavy and lifeless until you correct the reign of terror that has been Empress Annamara.”

  “And what will happen if I do this? Who will take over? Will not the gates through the N’Loron collapse?”

  Lanak looked at me with cold, calculating eyes. The same eyes I saw Annamara have when she was focused on a task. “I am charged with taking her place. Thanks to your realm’s technology, we now have the ability to keep the gates of the veil active even without Annamara. We intend to help the realms recover.”

  Something in her eyes told me not to trust her, but I took the blades nonetheless. It was not like the Athucians to want peace. I knew that I did not have all of the pieces of the story and I needed time to put the mystery together. But I had a feeling Lanak was not going to leave me alone until I accepted this mission. I would figure out further what was going on when I spoke to Annamara.

  When I arrived at the palace, I was quickly ushered into a room where Annamara appeared to be waiting for me. She was as stunning as always in her royal robes, but she had a sad look upon her face when she turned around. “So, they have found an assassin I see. I always knew this day would come. My weakness for you was obvious to the council. I take it they gave you the Blades of Destiny?”

  I was taken ab
ack by her bluntness. “How do you know all of this, Annamara? What is going on? Why did the High Council order your assassination?”

  The entire time I was talking, she was closing the distance between us. Before I knew what was happening she was there in my arms. Her touch sent shockwaves through my body. I could not stop myself from leaning down to kiss her. She pulled away from me leaving us both breathless, but she finally spoke.

  “Quite simply I have angered the council. Naming me Empress was not what the High Council had in mind. They looked up to me and wanted my help, but they also were afraid of me. Now, they are looking for any excuse to kill me because they fear I will annihilate them. It seems my sister, Lanak, has found a way to open portals with her powers, albeit she has to augment herself with technology from your realm. If they no longer need me for my special skills then they would be able to dispose of me. The council acts out of fear and self-preservation, which is the first principal of Athucian morality.”

  “I should have known. It sounded too odd of a plan for the Athucian Council. Lanak told me it was for the better of both realms. They have no desire in helping our realm, do they?”

  A moment passed as I stared into Annamara’s eyes. I saw the glimmer of fear in them when the room exploded in light signaling that Lanak had arrived.

  “I see you have not yet completed your task, Gahnos. What are you waiting for? She is not going to extinguish her own life. That goes against every Athucian teaching.”

  I knew what I had to do as I grasped the blades in my hands. I spun quickly to strike. Only, it was not Annamara I drove the first blade in to, rather it was Lanak. She screamed as my betrayal cut through her neck. Annamara ran to my side and clung to me like a child.

  “After all I have done, you would choose to let me live?”

  “I simply chose the lesser of two evils. Your time here has changed you for the better. I think that is the real reason that the council really wanted you destroyed. You are not a perfect ruler, but you have the capacity for love and fear. These are not emotions a witch from Athucia normally has and I very seriously doubt you had these feelings before you came here. Someone like you with all of the power you command can definitely be a problem from the High Council. You have more than just a task, you have a purpose. If you have purpose then you will no longer be willing to do the council’s bidding blindly. It took me being away from you for all these years to realize that you have changed.”

  I had found purpose in my life again. I would use the Blades of Destiny to help Annamara become a better ruler. I would protect her from the High Council and its mercenaries that were sure to come after her. I would use the weapon they gave me to further her empire. I knew I would do it at any cost because regardless of the words spoken in the past, we loved one another and if you have the capacity to love you have the capacity to change for the better.

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