clashing of swords began to fade as more and more men fell victim to the army
of Asgoth. Outnumbered and outmatched, Asgoth had taken the peaceful city of
Zithel by surprise. Human blood now painted the once beautiful infirmary
gardens, vineyards, and cemetery orchards. Even the manmade fountain, where the
people would cast in gemstones—a different stone for a different wish—now
contained the heads of Zithelian fighters. The decapitated heads turned the
water crimson as they bobbled within the pool.
Adeleric and his wife remained trapped in the upper chamber of the tower,
having no choice but to witness their people slaughtered. Heavy footsteps from
outside of the chamber door neared as the enemy stormed up the stairway.
stay behind me!” Adeleric said, stepping in front of her quickly. “Don’t resist
them. We may have a chance.”
sure it’s not our guards?” she asked.
sighed. “…They’re all dead.”
what could have only been a dozen fists smashing against the door caused Rosa
calm,” Adeleric urged. “Let them come.”
was breeched and in rushed a horde of lizard-like men, each of them double the
height of a common man. They looked around the chamber, seeing no other besides
Adeleric and Rosa.
have me,” Adeleric said.
Rosa begged, clenching his arm.”
her hand and squeezed it, trying to reassure her. “You killed my army yet
spared our young boys and girls. Spare my wife as well. Let her go and take me.
Whatever it is you want of me.”
the lizardmen snarled, showing its teeth that dripped with a discolored saliva.
It spoke in its own tongue to the others, and they separated. Six lined up
against the left wall, the others against the right.
Around the corner and
into the doorway stepped a woman. In one hand she held a staff, the other a decapitated
head, swinging it back and forth by its matted and bloody hair. She stood at
the entrance, smiling.
cringed, recognizing the corpse’s face, one of the fallen guardsmen.
“This one especially wanted me to
spare you,” the woman said. “His tone was desperate, unlike your other
guardsmen. So, I ended his life painlessly.” She released the head. Striking
the floor with a loud thump, it rolled off to the side.
morning sun shined through the chamber window brighter now, illuminating the
woman who had yet to move from the entrance. Adeleric got a better look at her.
She was not dressed for battle, no protection except maybe her leather
boots. She wore a long flowing purple dress
with a thigh high split. Because of the split, and the way she was standing,
her right black boot was exposed and dripping with blood; likely from the decapitated
head she had carried. Slowly, she began to walk toward Adeleric and his wife.
a working fountain outside,” she said. “Beautifully carved from stone, with an
abundant number of gems sitting at the bottom of the pool. I do love gems.”
do you want?” Adeleric said, clenching a fist.
home is the highest point of this mountain. The only source of water flows at
the base of this mountain, the Azriel River. So, I ask, where are you receiving
your water source?”
has always flowed here, coming from within, spouting upward. We utilize it for
drinking and ornamental purposes.”
doesn’t flow upwards, you fool. Not unless affected by another source. You have
no such source. No higher elevations, no way to channel it. Unless of course it
is by magic. Perhaps this phenomenon is due to Arabeth’s crystal—his water
“I am not
aware of any such crystal.”
grinned from ear to ear. “I am, and one of the four resides within this mountain.”
crystals of power from the first age, lost at the end of the second.”
repeat, I… know…nothing!”
abruptly, now standing an arm’s length from him. Her icy breath and violet gaze
caused him to shudder. “Are you lying?”
not. Do whatever you want with me. Just let my wife go, please.”
turned to Rosa who had been squeezing Adeleric’s hand. She leaned in closer to
her, staring into her fearful eyes.
turned away, cringing.
She ran a
finger across Rosa’s cheek, her long black nail scraping the skin. She stroked
her hair, sifting her fingers through the strawberry blonde locks. “So beautiful,
you are, dearest Rosa.” Her eyes fixed on Rosa’s jewelry; earrings made
from amethyst and spinel necklaces of blue, red, and citrine. “Your husband must feel blessed, to have been given such a
woman of splendor. Surely, your deities have been good to you. I too am
somewhat of a deity, a goddess. Queen Talvenya is my name—”
compare yourself to my Rosa!” Adeleric shouted.
like a shockwave passed through the room, slightly heating the air, and
splitting a section of the wall. The lizardmen kept still. Adeleric noticed
sweat dripping from their scaly brows, as if they were afraid.
jewelry, dearest Rosa, give it to me,” Talvenya commanded.
for his wife, Adeleric stepped in between the two.
Casting a glare, Talvenya reached
for his left shoulder. Gripping the cap, a cracking of bone brought a smile to
her face, and a scream out of Adeleric’s mouth. Next, she forced him to his
knees, pushing down on the fractured shoulder.
stop hurting him!” Rosa begged, quickly removing her earrings and necklaces.
She placed the jewelry into Talvenya’s hand. “Keep them. They’re yours.”
love gemstones,” she said, smiling delightfully. She put the necklaces on and
then the earrings. “Each one tells a story, just like the four crystals of
power you claim to know nothing about.”
Please, leave my Rosa alone,” Adeleric begged.
awfully fond of your Rosa. It’s quite precious.”
up together—share everything together.”
“And that makes her special?”
I am the one you must deal with. I am the Lord of this land.”
Talvenya pursed her lips. “Lord of
what land, this pathetic little mountain top I so easily dominated?” She
stepped closer to Rosa.
with me, I beg of you!”
dear Adeleric, you’ve already stated your ignorance of the crystals,” Talvenya
mocked. She slid her hand down Rosa’s chest, pressing her fingers against her
left breast and tearing the clothing with her nail.
quivered, keeping her head aside, avoiding Talvenya’s stare.
Rosa…” She smiled. “I’m going to kill her.”
rushed at her. Talvenya smacked him across the cheek and he fell to the floor,
smashing his face against the granite tile.
wiping the blood trickling from his nose. “Queen Talvenya, goddess,
deity—whoever you are, don’t do this. I beg of you…”
him, Talvenya placed a finger under Rosa’s chin, and lifted to see her face,
smiling at those terrified eyes and cascading tears.
anything you command,” Adeleric pleaded. “I’ll search the mountain for you,
will not stop until that crystal is in my hands—for you. Only, don’t
harm my Rosa.”
She grinned. “Tell your husband to
get down on his knees.”
knees?” Adeleric asked, before receiving another blow to the face from
Talvenya’s open palm. This time, he cried out in pain as his body hit the floor
once again, face-down. His cheeks were black and blue, swelled and bleeding,
and his chest throbbed because of the hard tile he had crashed onto. For a
moment, he could not breathe.
hurting him!” Rosa shouted.
grabbed her by the throat and lifted her off her feet.
could hear Rosa gasping for air as her little legs wiggled back and forth.
Quickly, he stood. “I’ll do whatever you say, just put her down.”
released her, and Rosa almost toppled over.
rushed over, stretching an arm around her waist to keep his wife steady.
“While you are standing so close
to her Adeleric, you should kiss your wife goodbye,” Talvenya said coldly. “It
shall be the last time you taste those blush-red lips of hers.”
Adeleric wanted to fight her. He
wanted to reach for his sword and separate Talvenya’s head from her body, see
if such a cold-hearted creature drew blood. But he knew he would have no
chance, especially with several lizardmen gathered around. So, he complied with
Talvenya’s suggestion, only he tried imagining the idea as his own. He would
kiss her goodbye, passionately, believing he would see her again someday in
another world, another realm, where hate and brutality ceased to exist.
Reaching for her, he pressed his lips against hers wetting them, messaging them,
and inserting his tongue to taste her sweetness.
were full of tears and overwhelming passion.
wiped the tears as their gazes continued to lock. Then, slowly, he pulled back.
“Do not be afraid, my love. No matter what happens, we will always be together.
That I promise you.”
touching,” Talvenya commented in a voice cold as ice accompanied by impish
laughter. “Now, I command once more, dear Rosa. Tell your husband to get down
on his knees.”
the words aloud!”
looked to Talvenya, a submissive gaze accompanied by a sigh of sorrow, then
faced her husband once again. “…Adeleric, get down on your knees.”
obeyed but tried imagining the command only came from his Rosa—not inspired by
this so-called deity queen.
you love him.”
you,” Rosa cried, “…with all my heart.”
all my heart, I love you,” Adeleric pled.
extend your hand,” Talvenya commanded.
Lord of Zithel, take your wife’s hand.”
passed her a glare, and then looked to Rosa. Tears were still cascading down
her cheeks. “Do not be afraid, Rosa,” he said, firmly gripping her palm.
heart—shall always belong to you,” she answered, lightly rubbing her thumb over
his palm, letting him know she was aware of his warm touch, aware he was there
by her side, no matter what fate awaited her.
shall carry you in my heart, always and forever.” Adeleric closed his eyes and
leaned over to kiss her palm. The warm sensation of her skin disappeared
suddenly, replaced by what felt like cold stone. He noticed the same feeling on
Rosa’s hand. Opening his eyes, he fell back at what he saw. Rosa, from head to
toe had become stone, like someone had carved a figure of her—immaculately.
to look at Talvenya. She was holding her staff high, pointing it at Rosa. She
cast the spell.
sat speechless, his eyes still, never blinking. A difficult thing to accept;
one moment he held Rosa’s hand, speaking with her, the next, she is a figure of
stone. He squeezed her hand, perhaps to see if the hard element was real, and
when the reality of it finally sank into his heart, he fell to tears.
tapped the statue’s forehead with her finger. It fell back, cracking to pieces
as it struck the floor. The severed head rolled toward Adeleric and bumped into
his knee, stopping. He looked down on it, the face positioned upward, as if it
returned the gaze. A smile sang on her cheeks—the last emotion his Rosa felt,
happiness while Adeleric had been holding her hand. Teardrops spilled onto the
face as he began to weep bitterly. He meant to pick up the head, perhaps to
keep it to remember Rosa’s smile, but even that was taken away from him. A
black leather boot stomped onto the head of stone, crumbling the face to
pieces, grinding it to bits under the sole.
up to see Talvenya, standing above him, smiling like a demon with a gaze of
the point of this…? Why did you—you do this?” he asked.
enemies are mere insects in my path. I do as I like.”
cannot be the reason…”
stared at him a moment, her face going expressionless. “Why should she
have what was taken away from me? Why should you not feel what I have
know you not!” he shouted.
kill me—kill me too!”
I promise to.”