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re: Ilridion: Chapter 1! (Half)



                                                        Chapter 1


A glimmering, bright sun rose over the horizon, chasing the shadows that had danced across the fields of the Heartland away.  The grass was wet with dew and the air had the cold, crisp chill that Autumn mornings brought.  Athanon ran hard. His lungs breathing in the chilled oxygen. His legs pumped upon the cobblestone and left resounding taps as the soles of his shoes slammed upon the ground.

“You’ll never win Athanon!” Finrir said, the young boy to his right stated. Indeed, he might be correct. His companion was the same age as himself; seven years old. The two had always been curiously inseparable. Despite having differing fathers and those fathers fighting for different factions; the two were akin to brothers. Possibly even more attached. Presently Athanon strove to pass Finrir but he could not find the burst he needed to win this particular race. Finally they crossed the designated finish line and both immediately laid upon the ground chests heaving. “You..have..gotten….faster.” Finrir stuttered. In between great, long breaths of air he spoke.

“Maybe you have just gotten slower.” Athanon stated, similarly exhausted. They both stood and walked; or stumbled, to the home they shared. Athanon and Finrir needed rest after such a grand race. The two beamed with pride toward one another and entered the large house nestled into the most wondrous city they’d ever seen; Ridion.  It was still under construction, but the eastern quarter had been completed, and that was where the children resided; within Athanon’s home.

“I hope your father has dinner ready, I’m starving!” exclaimed Finrir.  The two enjoyed Athanon’s father’s cooking. They joked that had he not joined the military his life as a culinary chef was assured. The scents accompanying the now visible tendrils of steam made the both of them salivate immediately. In excited tones Finrir kept talking, but his voice grew distant as if Athanon was sinking into himself.

Within a shantytown of tents Athanon stirred groggily awake.  He could hear a soft breeze blow outside of his tent, and could feel its cold though the inside of his tent was hot from the conjoined body heat of himself and that of  his comrades.  His mouth gaped open as he let loose a yawn before rolling off his cot and walking outside, his legs stiff after waking.  The ground was covered under a smooth layer of snow, and yet more snow burdened itself precariously on bare pine branches above their heads.

Athanon inhaled the cold, yet fresh, air a few times. He then re-entered the tent and donned his armor and armaments.  The other legionnaires were doing likewise already, not only in his tent but all throughout the camp.  It was a system, a routine that was hammered into them after years of disciplinary training.  Within fifteen minutes, the camp was dismantled and the legionnaires resumed their march northwest.

The journey had begun mere days before but already Athanon could sense that the legion was slowing. The cold of this winter had robbed many of them of their usual mirth and lightheartedness, to be replaced with a strained happiness that just as quickly sapped them of their warmth as the unnatural frost.  They had departed Ridion amidst a storm and proceeded to traverse the Frost Plains.  The inclement weather had followed them, morphing into a blizzard as the climate became frigid, but eventually left them as they entered the northern highlands.  Despite the adverse weather conditions, the legionnaires had marched in uniform fashion and continued as such.

The only reason they pushed on was to avoid disappointing their fearless, calculating leader, Prilius; a man whose stature betrayed little of his internal fire. He was slightly shorter than Athanon but where Prilius lacked in height he made up for in sheer force. His arms, the men joked, were they any thicker, could be mistaken as trees. Prilius pushed all the men as far as they could go and more still, but he simultaneously inflamed their hearts with pride and motivation. His eyes glowed a brilliant blue. They seemed to stare into your very soul when they sat unblinking in open study of any caught in their gaze. He had earned the nickname ‘The Badger”, for no matter how many enemies he faced nor how large they were, he laughed at their strength until the bitter end. Prilius was known to occasionally wrestle Brutus and he won some of their encounters.  Athanon smiled.

He himself had never once thought to engage Brutus.  The thick warrior was only matched in his physical bulk by boulders. At his full stature, Brutus, towered over normal men. His form resembled the trees of Salador; thickened by years of growth. He was a man to reckon with and one many never thought to bother. His arms were swollen from the constant training of his former life.  He always carried a small warhammer into battle instead of a gladius, as the weapon complemented his strength more than the shorter weapon.  Only Prilius had ever stood in the sparring pit - toe-to-toe - with Brutus.

Despite Prilius’ reputation, however, his rank of maior only allowed him temporary command of a legion; he was not a general.  Maiors were the experienced veterans, who oftentimes were tasked with training prospective commanders and generals to connect with the men. They were taught to show compassion yet demand discipline from his legionnaires.

Athanon was a praevictae, a lieutenant.  In actuality, there were two categories of lieutenant, the praevictae and the praevocti, the former being those seeking to pursue generalship and the latter for those who were not.  Athanon’s rank of praevictae notified all others of his desire to attain the rank of general.

A general was expected to be the product of both mind and body, however. Neither lending themselves to the detrimentality of the other, thusly Athanon’s body was well muscled but not bulked to an extreme. The cords and sinews in his body could dance and push even under insurmountable duress but he still could not even closely resemble the monstrosity of Prilius or Brutus. Where Athanon lacked the sheer muscular strength that those two legionnaires boasted, his mind was honed to a degree that few could match.  

His eyes were a deep cool brown, arguably black, as was his hair; the latter being of a close cut so his helmet did not cause pain on his scalp. His body was pitted and scarred but despite it all his gruff persona was pleasing to the eye, especially to women in Ridion. Athanon smiled just a bit, his grin showing his thoughts more deeply than any other facial feature could, and he knew the men noticed it. They were all professionals in their craft; every single one had earned his place in the codex of the legion. From the most advanced martial prowess to the ultimate display of swordsmanship, all of them possessed a talent that pushed them to a degree of awe that many of Ridion could scarcely believe.  

Those very legionnaires surveyed the land they travelled through with practiced eyes. The stillness of this particular night was as staggering as the distance they had traversed in these few, short days. Athanon knew the men deserved a rest but they had yet a negligible amount to go until they reached the town in question: Varsholm;  a quaint place situated neatly in the forest. Varsholm constituted the Empire’s largest foresting town and the most powerful northern city in Ilridion, with enough dense woodland to supply the hafts, shafts and beams to support the military and civilian needs in Ilridion. Without this town, the might of the Empire would be severely hobbled which was the reason why Athanon and the Moonlight Legion had been deployed to protect this important location.

Athanon remembered what it was like in the capital, Ridion, which was situated further south in the Heartland. The warmth of the valley seemed to congregate there and it kept the entire city snowless, with never-ending spires and buildings of white and gray.  The city was the jewel of the Empire. Athanon could not wait until he could lay eyes upon its beautiful walls again. His grandfather, Valanthyl,  had designed and built those walls with the help of the Construction Corp; the military engineers of the Silver Legion, when Athanon, himself, was still unborn.

He snapped back to reality to realize the same thing he had noticed earlier. The tramp and stamp of the iron-clad feet upon the tundra-like soil was monotonous and Athanon saw more than a few men stagnating from exhaustion. The legionnaires had marched for two days with periodic and quite limited respite. The consequences of their rigors were beginning to overcome them.  He parted his lips and began to sing the creed of the Silver Legion:

        In the dark of night

        Our swords shine bright

        In the light of day

        No enemy shall stay

        In the way of our Legion

        We are a mountain region

        Of swords and knives

        Pointed at the sky

        For when we go to war

        Our enemies are no more

The men who were faltering from fatigue suddenly felt new strength resurge within their bodies.  The greatest benediction of the Silver Legion was the camaraderie it instilled in the hearts of its soldiers, and this was reflected in their sudden burst of morale.   Athanon began the song anew and all of the men joined with gusto, whilst Athanon sang one line; the whole legion would sing the other:

        In the dark of night


        In the light of day


        In the way of our Legion


        Of swords and knives


        For when we go to war


With the last syllable the men joined into boisterous laughter and were renewed with their pace, the vigor of pride coursing through their veins. Brutus, chief among them, clapping Athanon’s shoulder in mirth and rejuvenated excitement. Not much could alter the massive man’s good humor. Prilius, nodded towards Athanon, acknowledging his actions.

As the sun began its own journey to steal away some sleep, Prilius called for a halt to rest, seemingly capitalizing on the momentary burst of morale amongst the legionnaires. They had made good time and would be able to reach Varsholm within the hour, provided they rested while they could.  Prilius had Athanon order some small fires to be built to stave off the cloying bite of winter and order yet more men to hunt for small game to fill their aching bellies. The remainder of the men stayed near the fire, their armor lending them an ominous gleam of red and orange tinted with charcoal. Steam rose from their bare heads and arms creating a constant cloud of vapor that mingled together in a beautiful dance above their heads. Athanon noticed this display, how the steam ascended and rolled so perfectly that it seemed to personify the brotherhood of the legion; how in this legion one was a number that personified their bond. A fierce winter wind tore through the mass of soldiers, swirling drifts of snow into the air and smothering the fires momentarily wielding unseen force.  The fires remained alit.  A form moved to stand between the spectacle and Athanon smiled.

“Athanon.” A deep voice boomed, a gentle skip in the name.

“Brutus, my friend, how are you?” Athanon moved to clasp the man’s arm in friendship.

“I am fine but not as fine as you, that song kept us going. Instead of being a Lieutenant they should have made you a minstrel.” His ensuing laughter was infectious and many nearby joined him in his jubilee.

“Maybe I should have been. Then again, they knew you needed some prodding, lest you spend your time laughing with our enemies.” Athanon chuckled to himself and Brutus used the retort as reason to continue his cacophony of happiness.

“I would, at that. You never know where a good joke might come from. Aside from that, Ruksee has been asking about when she is going to see Uncle Athanon.” Athanon thought on the question. Ruksee was Brutus’ daughter and only child, at six years old she was up to Athanon’s waist.  Brutus and his wife, Myraena, were good parents though, and very well settled in Ridion.  Ruksee’s future was a promising one.

“When next we enter the walls of Ridion I promise I shall accompany you to dinner.”

“Excellent! Myraena will be pleased to see you again.” Brutus responded gleefully.

Athanon nodded in agreement.  “I sometimes forget how much time I spent with her in my childhood, when she played in the villa with Finrir and I.”

“That is because she is not your wife.  I’m obliged to remember,” chortled Brutus.

“Away from those walls you need not test your memory with added strain.”

“And when we reach those walls we shall be sure to have a feast the likes of which you haven’t seen! Most assuredly like the one we will have shortly.” Brutus gestured behind Athanon.  

The hunters returned, bearing the bounties of their labor in the woods. The cheers of congratulations echoed upon the pine trees and shook snow from some of the lower boughs. The hunters rested while those with culinary expertise began the arduous process of creating a meal. While they worked others participated in bouts of strength: wrestling, swordplay and Applecore were common. Athanon’s personal favorite was the last one. Two men would comprise of a team, where one would stand with his back to a tree with three apples balanced perfectly on his head.  His partner, who had to be one of the best archers or dagger wielders of the legion, would proceed to attempt to impale the apples into the bark of the tree. If one could cut an apple in half completely, they automatically were declared winner, otherwise the men with the least split apple or a missed apple entirely were the losers and were assigned sentry duty at last watch which was close to twilight. The men protected their faces from harm with their shields, which was more than a bit stressful, as they could not see the approaching missile.

However, all these men trusted the others without any outward sign of reservation. They were all brothers, more bonded than any family and with more memories than elders of any land they had seen. The crucible they were forged in resounded in their swords and shook in their shields. These were warriors of the Silver Legion.  Specifically, they were a part of the Moonlight Spear legion, a special branch of the Silver Legion based off of the first legionnaires sent into battle in defense of Vol, composed of exemplary warriors from all over Ilridion.  Despite their advanced training, though, they were a rather ceremonial legion, constituting a mere three hundred soldiers whereas a traditional legion was manned by a thousand.  The Moonlight legion was typically dispatched on missions on a smaller level of importance, for situations that did not warrant sending one thousand legionaries.

Athanon, now having been shook from his thought, found that the cooks had created a stew with the meat. All the soldiers hurriedly retrieved their bowls and utensils from their packs and awaited the order to continue their long awaited course of action. When the men were all prepared to eat Prilius raised his hand, halting the activity of the legion.  He looked over at Athanon expectantly, his eyes prompting the young Lieutenant to action.  Sensing his cue, Athanon spoke,

“Brothers, I am glad to say the time to end the pain in our bellies is nigh. After this interlude we shall continue the course to Varsholm and will save those men and women from the degradation of whatever enemy plagues them. Pray our ancestors shall see us through this time of battle and will deliver us into victory.” His words rehearsed and well-remembered rang with the bite of finality. Athanon brooked no argument from his troops, unless he allowed it; as his mentor constantly reiterated: knowledge could be found everywhere. He continued his small speech, though even he was hungry at this point. “Now I command you all,” he paused here to build the suspense of the succulent meal that would, no doubt, be quickly devoured, “fill your hearts and with that, your stomachs.”

A few thunderous chuckles sounded and soon was replaced by the sound of mastication. They dug into their food with the excitement of a man whose first meal was before him. They ate what the hunters had brought in one fell swoop. Athanon smiled to himself inwardly, for even during meals the Legion never disappointed in their efficiency.

“There you boys are,” observed Aranthyl as the boys trudged into the villa.  Athanon’s father sat at his study, the mahogany desk covered in sprawling papers and letters.  

“We just had a race!” exclaimed Athanon, running up to the side of his father’s chair, looking up at him with wide eyes.  Aranthyl looked down at him, smiled, and resumed reading.

Finrir swelled his chest up with pride.  “And I was victorious once more!”

Aranthyl put down the parchment he had been reading and began to read another.  “Do not be so proud in success.  It breeds arrogance and expectancy of future success, and that can lead to failure,” he lectured, his eyes still scanning the writing.

Though he remained silent, Finrir’s face clearly displayed disappointment with Aranthyl’s response.  An awkward silence hung in the room until Athanon perked up.

“Finrir, let’s go to the Forum.  Maybe they have new wooden swords!” he said.  The excitement in his voice was palpable.

His ward-brother nodded in equal excitement, and the two rushed out of the study, leaving Athanon’s father to continue his work.  Athanon remember looking back and seeing his father’s jaw set as they left.


The moon glinted off the fresh snow as stars twinkled in the dark night sky. The frost of the previous day had not dissipated but this was home to many, even in the harsh climate. This was Varsholm. The smell of pine was in the air and the wind brought a cold chill.  The only sound to be heard was  the occasional rustling of bushes when the breeze picked up.  Winter always seemed to be gifted with the ability to lay down a tranquil silence and harmony with the auditory world. This state of peace was only disturbed with the footfalls of three hundred armored boots as they soldiered on through the frozen air. Swords still sheathed and shields occasionally bouncing off of greaves were an indication that the legion had found no trouble along the way and thusly were at ease. Prilius’ hand shot into the air in a closed fist to signal a silent ceasing of movement. The town was in sight, small lanterns illuminated the path ahead and cast shadows across the doorways of the country-folk.  The cobbled streets were deserted, and the wooden houses’ windows were all dark as the townspeople slept.  

“Athanon, come close.” Whispered Prilius, his voice deep and commanding but with a hint of softness. Athanon moved to his Captain’s side, a question dancing between his lips. Prilius gestured to the town, a clear indication that he expected Athanon to understand whatever was troubling him. Athanon studied the scene with a practiced eye, searching in vain to discover what his mentor expected of him. Prilius sighed in mock disapproval, “The snow, Athanon, what does the snow tell you.” The Lieutenant refocused upon this new bit of information. The snow seemed serene, a perfect blanket of white powder that exhibited no external sign of duress. Maybe that was the clue. With a new blanket of snow having fallen the previous day the legion would have no idea whether the enemy was using a ranged form of attack or fighting in close quarters. This also told them that they could not underestimate the enemy’s numbers and thus would have to decide their course at a moment’s notice.   

“The snow is new, it doesn’t tell us much information regarding the enemy’s attack stratagem or the size of their force,” replied Athanon.  Prilius’ eyes lit up with pride.

“Yes, Lieutenant. We will have to use caution when dealing with this particular group.” Prilius still seemed in deep thought so Athanon decided to move closer to the troops and signal them to form up in three lines behind their leaders. The silence of the troops’ movements was further quieted by the snow. Soon they were properly in position and the order to move forward was signaled. The three columns of silver death crept slowly towards the pitiful wall of the town. The wall itself was a mere mockery of what existed at Ridion, barely ten feet tall and small enough that a man could exist on both sides at once, it was a wonder Varsholm hadn’t fallen sooner.  The walls were composed of stone set about in stout dimensions, with thatch propped over the causeway by strong wooden beams to protect sentries from the elements.  Two such sentries stood upon the wall above the small gate, immobile as the legionnaires approached.  Athanon shook his head, these people may have been his countrymen but none of them were possessed of the same skill in war as he and his own war brothers.  Then again, he thought, perhaps proficiency in war and killing was not something worth being proud about.   

They quietly entered the town, the dark of the night giving the legion silhouettes instead of physical forms. Again Prilius’ hand shot up and they stopped as one, the discipline in their training afforded them no hesitation in following a direct order. Athanon wondered at the halt in their advance but quickly he saw what Prilius had; a lone man stood outside the largest house in Varsholm. He seemed at ease but the subtle displacement of his hips suggested weight on his right side which could be implication of a sword. Prilius stood and laughed loud enough for the man to hear, then spoke.

“You old dog, I had thought you long dead by now.” Prilius’ complete shift in demeanor threw the legion in a small bout of disarray until Athanon quelled it.  “You were the one who sent the request for help?”

The stranger responded in kind, “I could not fall before I had a chance to see you run through at the point of sword.” He laughed heartily as well, obviously these two knew one another.

“At ease, men, there is no trouble currently.” Prilius ordered. They all stood and acknowledged the man whom Prilius seemed so comfortable with. The man’s eyes seemed to widen at the size of the force that had seemed to materialize from the very snow around him.

“Ancestors protect me, is that who I think it is?” The man regarded the warriors in a sense of awe that they were used to, but this seemed to stem further than they all imagined.

“We are the Moonlight legion, currently commanded by Proximo I’Prilius responding to the distress call you had sent to Ridion.” Athanon spoke in a formal manner that urged the need for privacy.

“Of course.  Your men can make camp within the city walls. We are glad to have been deemed worthy to have the most adept warriors defend our homes.” The man’s voice was diplomatic but seemed to ring with an air of matter-of-factness, as if Varsholm indeed was worth the lives of hundreds.  Which, inarguably it was.  The duty of the legionnaires demanded that the protection of the imperial citizenry be their utmost priority.

Athanon and Prilius followed the man inside the large hall. They were at once greeted with warmth and laughter. They continued further into the building; the room itself was huge, with a high domed ceiling and a chandelier hanging in the center, tapestries of men hunting wolves, bears and other large carnivorous beasts decorated the walls. Tables of all shapes and sizes were interspersed along the tavern floor, each table with patrons sitting at them. Some were drinking, some ate and still some just sat glowering at Athanon and Prilius, as if their presence was unwelcome. (Chapter 1 continued on another post.)


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