Raydorn: The Valkyrie & the Frost Chapter 2

“My mother always told me not to pray to the gods, they have better things to do than listen to me complain.”

– Torn, the Thunderer , 1275 A.C.A.

Today, Areniya rides atop her griffin, a beast with the head and wings of an eagle, and the body of a lion. She flies expertly through the sky, soaring above the clouds as easy as she breaths. From flying Areniya has come to be known to all Raydorn as more than just a Stormguard, but as the Valkyrie.

She owes much of her name to her griffin, Himnel, and how they fly through the winds with greater speed and precision than any other. Like right now.

The lone warrior and her griffin fly above the clouds as they make their way home to the city, Raydorn. She had been called back home after being away for so long.

She had been leading a small expedition to find the hidden city Tork, home of the Torkkic clans, a crude group that resides within Raydorn’s borders. While they have had a relatively peaceful relationship with the country’s sovereignty, it has not always been that way.

The Valkyrie’s ability to swiftly scour the land from above proved unfruitful, and now she is being called back for what she anticipates to be a reprimanding for her failure.

For that reason, she takes her sweet time to find enjoyment in flying through the sky.

As she finishes flying over the mountains, she nosedives back through the clouds. Flying is an ability that many wish they had, but as Areniya has come to learn, she enjoys falling too.

The farmlands and suburban towns that surround the city of Raydorn reveal themselves in a lush and green fashion. As she lets go of Himnel and comes into freefall thousands of feet above the ground, she can clearly see the rows and columns of the farms, and the small homes and shops that surrounded her growing up.

As she falls through the sky, still covered in the armor of the Stormguard, she manipulates the wind with mere thought and small movement of her fingers. She turns herself to face the sky and her back to the ground, a carefree act to experience the wind flow through her hair.

Himnel falls beside her, a spirit that’s carefree every moment he can be. Playfully, the beast curls its legs inwards as it pretends to be a ball, spinning into flip after flip. As he does this, Areniya sees and laughs at her mount.

Who knows when I’ll get to do this again, she ponders.

When she finds herself heading too fast towards the ground, she decides that she has had enough, and flies closer to her beast. She clings to its neck, and Himnel knows that his fun is over. He opens his wings and begins to fly straight towards the city, specifically the castle.

As her beast flies, Areniya positions herself back to her saddle and checks to make sure she has not lost any of her supplies, especially her spear. When everything is as it should be, she looks forward towards the golden castle of His and Her Majesty. As the two fly closer the Valkyrie cannot help but be awestruck by the castle that has stood for centuries.

Its sharp tower touches the clouds, and its large base houses an army. Around it lies a wall that opens at the front to welcome the people of the city. The tower of the castle starts out wide and expansive at its base, and slowly decreases in diameter until it reaches its peak, visibly shows how much room the castle contains. It’s astounding how large the castle is, originally meant only for the Kings and Queens.

The army took up residence within the reign of the previous King due to his paranoia and need to be defended. The help were given homes inside the castle under King Tedius, and under him a museum was constructed in the castle to serve as a place of heritage for the common people. The castle was once a symbol of excess, and now is a symbol for Raydorn, assuming you live in the city.

Areniya flies Himnel lower to the ground, barely higher than the wall to fly over the front courtyard, being a bit of a showoff. She surprises the people who work and visit the castle with the sight a griffin rider flying over, and when they realize it is the Valkyrie, the air is electric.

After waving to the people below, she steers her griffin back towards the opposite end of the castle that borders the ocean. The back of the castle houses the wide and expansive landing platform for the griffin riders.

Areniya lands on the platform where griffin handlers are ready to take Himnel’s reins. As she dismounts, she tells them, “Give him extra food and water, it was a long flight from up north.”

“Yes, Valkyrie,” a handler agrees.

She nods her head to the him and retrieves her spear from its holster to sheathe on her back. She takes a moment to look behind her as she often does and sees the Pain off in the distance.

It’s a fort atop a cold rock where the Stormguard train, where she trained at one time. The fort is large even from where she is standing dozens of miles away. It’s hard to miss, especially with the lightning storms that always seem to surround it.

Areniya changes her focus to seeing His and Her Majesty and proceeds inside the castle through the griffin stables. Through the stables she moves to the armory, where Stormguard and normal soldiers alike prepare to patrol.

With roughly several hundred Stormguard in the whole country, and many monsters and bordering countries, there is still a need for an army full of people with nothing but swords. They usually follow a Stormguard in their patrols around the country.

Many in the armory take the moment to nod to her and her stature, and she nods knowingly back as she heads towards the stairs. Thankfully for her, the throne room is on the third floor. For some reason, someone that they should make it easier for people to come air grievances.

The revolving staircase is in the middle of the castle. It leads to the ground floor, the same level as the entrance. Past the door to the first floor she can hear people excitedly exploring the castle’s museum entrance. It’s full of decorative pieces of the country’s history, and after them stand the statues of the gods. As she walks up the stairs, she remembers leading her class up them years before.

Once she makes her way to the third floor and exits, she enters a large and grand hallway.

Hemel almighty, mortals make a lot of staircases and doorways. How convenient it will be if they create elevators.

On a more appealing note, to her right is the outer rim, the top floor of the wall that surrounds the castle. It’s a spot with a beautiful view of the city, with the Helicore Mountains as a backdrop. To her left is the staircase that leads to the throne room.

All around Areniya are servants of the castle and government traveling between the many offices on this floor. They’re so busy, they couldn’t care less about this era’s closest thing to a celebrity.

Unlike in the armory, when she is recognized few have the time to pay her any mind. Despite the busy people around her, Areniya’s shoulders sit a little loose.

As she makes her way to the throne room’s door, she seeks to first speak to the two Stormguard standing at the entrance. From them she asks, “What are the King and Queen doing now?”

The Stormguard tells her, “They are passing sentences on some criminal cases today.”

Strange, but alright.

“Couldn’t marshals and judges do that?” Areniya asks with a heavy sigh and a slump of her shoulders. This is what she’s going to walk into.

It’s not unheard of for their Majesties to pass sentences, but only on rulings that judges themselves could not decide, or when it pertains to nobles and matters of security.

She is informed, “Nobles have called for these two to be judged so I would enter quietly, Valkyrie.” She nods her head in understanding.

Areniya moves to the door, and as slowly and quietly as possible she slips in to catch the tail end of one criminal sentencing.

King Tedius, looking as if only days have passed in six years, passes his final judgment on a matter.

In front of many other nobles and advisors seated on both sides of his throne room, he declares, “Your negligence has cost Lord Bosnis much with the destruction of his crops.” Areniya recognizes the name Bosnis as being one of the lower houses under House Lockley. “By your employment contract you were supposed to always complete your duties without fail, and failure to do so should force you into indentured servitude for twice the duration, including repayment for the lost crops.” With that punishment stated, the King cannot help but loosen in his conviction and help the poor farmhand by pointing out, “But, Lord Bosnis has failed to pay the agreed upon weekly payments as he swore in the employment contract. He has for much longer made the contract null and void and will claim nothing from you.”

The Lord Bosnis in question, the Earl of Gramine, stands beside the poor farmhand in decorated clothing as he grows furious. “My King, you cannot possibly compare measly payments to that of a day’s worth of wheat!”

“Maybe not to you,” Queen Derilla adds from beside her husband, “but to this farmhand those measly payments can make all the difference in the world, and you failed to pay him. If he hadn’t broken the employment contract, you would be the one on trial.” The threat makes the Earl of Gramine nearly gulp and look towards the King.

“Still could be,” King Tedius supports his wife, causing visible ire in the Lord.

Before Lord Bosnis can say another word, the King dismisses him. In a rage he turns his back to the King and Queen, and mutters quite loudly, “Damn pauper Queen.”

Many other nobles whisper to themselves after the Earl so blatantly insults the Queen, and they wait to see the King’s response. The King scowls, but when the Queen smirks and scoffs, he knows his wife enjoys how she gets under the Earl’s skin, and with a personality like his, who wouldn’t?

As the Earl walks towards the door, not waiting until the day is done which is formality, he walks past the other possible criminal waiting for his turn.

The Earl storms past Areniya and upon doing so reveals her presence.  

Queen Derilla smiles upon catching sight of the Valkyrie, and invites her loudly, “The Valkyrie is here, please, come stand beside the Forsworn.” With that, she gestures to Scarus, His and Her Majesty’s personal guard, who rarely leaves their side.

Areniya bows her head and obeys, walking across the throne room to the whispers and looks of all the nobles and advisors. Nothing new for anyone who derives attention, crows need to watch out for hawks.

She walks up the stairs to the throne, doing her best to seem neither robotic or casual. It’s harder than she cares to admit. 

Scarus smiles through his thick beard as she stands beside him, with his bald head and one eye creating a rather entertaining look. Having spent as much time with him as she has, she still looks to his left eye with its scar.

Scarus tells her quietly, “I would pay attention to this next person,” and so Areniya does.

King Tedius gestures for the next defendant to come forward and questions, “Lord Varlock, why have you brought Endor Lodan before me?”

“Endor Lodan?” Areniya repeats. She’s thankful that everyone else is as surprised as her. She recognizes the last name, as does all of court.

Lord Varlock is a stout man who’s less of a Baron and more like a small business owner. He owns a large plot of land and a large inn that houses many in times of need. While the square footage of his property just barely warrants him the title of lord the King and Queen call him by such a name all the same. Why even have titles? Just call people by their name at that point.

Lord Varlock tries to seem as formal as finds himself out of his element, the patches on his trousers matching the ones on his cape. He rights his collar before needlessly announcing, “I found this man drinking all the liquor I had and asking for money in exchange for parlor tricks, my King. Normally I would deal with such hooligans myself, give them the ole one-two or force them to work it off, but some Stormguard who were keeping a room for, um, other reasons… they recognized him.” The King and Queen snicker to themselves when hearing about the Stormguard, prompting the Lord’s cheeks to turn red. He continues to say, “Since he’s so important, I thought I should bring him to court.”

With a humorous grin, King Tedius inquires of how Lord Varlock overcame Endor. “I appreciate your caution, my lord, but one thing bothers me. Endor is a protector of Raydorn’s own powerful warlock…” While the rest of court grows alarmed, Areniya included, the King seems to stumble over his words on purpose, which ires the court. “It seems strange to me, no offense, that a successful business owner such as yourself would be so willing to dirty, um, how should I put it?” he asks with a gesture to the throne room.

Scarus, slightly annoyed with how his beloved liege pokes fun at a serious matter, blurts out, “How did you bushwhack him?”

Queen Derilla and Areniya hold back from laughing over Scarus’s diction, which is understandably different. King Tedius does no such thing as he laughs out loud without a care for the others in the throne room.

Bushwhack? That’s fantastic, a much better word than what I was going to use,” King Tedius jokes. He tries to keep from insulting Varlock by expressing that, “I meant no insult, my lord, but it is humorous that anyone outside of the Stormguard takes down the warlock’s own guard.”

Varlock grins proudly over how impressive everyone thinks he is, until Endor opens his mouth to admit, “He got me drunk my liege, and spoke as if there was a young belle to bed, then instead of a bedroom like I thought, he threw me into a carriage and ran me here.” Now Varlock grows red and bares his teeth.

Before Varlock can spew out hateful words, Queen Derilla clasps her hands together as she announces, “Thank you, Lord Varlock. It was very important that we know that Endor wasn’t living up to his duties. You will be compensated greatly for your wine and your helpfulness.”

In an manner most ominous, she stands up from her throne to order all in the court, “This is so important that this situation is no longer a matter to be viewed by spectators. Everyone is now asked to leave the throne room, now.” When many nobles make no move to leave the Queen reminds everyone how she is the more serious monarch.

She holds her fingers out as if she is going to snap, while Scarus does the same thing. “Do I need to repeat myself?” At the same time the Queen and Scarus snap their fingers and  Scarus creates a swift and powerful gust of wind that blows up all the dresses and hats in the room, except the Queen’s of course.

With the Queen’s demonstration of power, everyone begins to move. As the throne room grows vacate, Scarus and Areniya stay by King Tedius’s side as Queen Derilla slowly walks down the steps towards Endor. Endor keeps his head down, too filled with shame to look the Queen in her eye.

She brings her hand to his chin and lifts his face to look at her. She sees he does not want to speak, and groans, “Oh dear, it’s bad new isn’t?”

“Why did you leave the Tower?” King Tedius demands to know, getting them all back on track.

The acolyte grinds his teeth and dips his head again. He looks up with a face of pain to admit that, “My brother, he has… abandoned his post. While I was retrieving supplies, I found the Tower empty, save for a note. It said, ‘Why would I want to live in this Tower? Being stuck up in this pit is not only isolating and lonely, it’s boring. I’ll see you in the next life, love and spite Mariik.’” How many times he must have read it to memorize it, he needs a new hobby.

Scarus reminds the acolyte, “He sworn an oath as the warlock to watch over and protect the Tower, just as his predecessors before him. If the Tower needed repairs, or if a dark force were to attack it, it could mean-”

“Allowing all the monsters of the Ragnar to venture out at will,” the King interrupts. He quickly runs down that, “The tree light in the Ragnar will cease and people will be in danger. Sorry, it’s just that we all know the risks, Scarus.” To keep the situation from seeming too dire, the King explains that, “The Tower has worked perfectly fine without fault for decades, and no dark force has ever come to harm it. Want to know why? Because the Tower shines away dark forces, that’s kind of its job. There’s no need to panic.”

Queen Derilla turns her back to the acolyte as she coldly tells her husband, “Clouds,” using his nickname, “guarding it was his job, he sworn an oath, and oaths you should keep.”

“Come now,” the King offers, “you can’t possibly blame him for wanting to explore. I’ve been cooped up in this palace for years and unlike me, he’s only ever allowed to leave when we need him. Last time I checked we don’t need him in times of peace.”

As the King pleads the absent warlock’s case, he finds very little sympathy from the Honorguard and their Queen. The King on the other hand, being raised a prince in this very castle, can imagine why the warlock is missing. “I can understand his feelings, would allowing him to venture really be so terrible?”

“Where he can be killed?” Derilla questions her husband. “Where he can be kidnapped? Let’s not even begin to wonder what would happen if such a thing got out. Dear Valhall, if people hear about this, they’ll be terrified. People are skittish, they overreact when they hear things, they know nothing about.”

Endor is quick to point out, “If you didn’t want anyone to know, why didn’t you threaten anyone before you kicked them out?”

Have more faith in your Queen, sir, Areniya thinks to herself.

As the Queen moves back to her throne, she reminds him, “Outside of the fact that its implied, believe it or not, the nobles desire peace in their lands as much as we do. They’ve learned how to keep secrets, the nest of vipers that they are.” Then as if exhausted she sits in her throne.

King Tedius, now distressed as he strokes his wife’s hand, inquires to Endor, “Do you know if Mariik has anyway to teleport to the Tower if it’s in distress? If he could, this wouldn’t be as much of an issue.”

Endor scratches his chin with his shackles still on. He tries to think of what his brother could possess. He admits to the best of his knowledge, “No, but he may well be very close. I have seen spells and the tools for such a thing. It’s all he talks about, he said he only needed one ingredient to make a transistor stone, and then he’d be able to go and from the Tower at will. Whether to check in, or escape, or-”

This time Areniya interrupts him with a wave of her hand, the man can’t receive an ounce of respect.

“What is it that he needs?” she asks him.

Endor answers her, “A simple stone I think, he may be looking for it.

“Then why don’t we help him get it?” King Tedius offers. When he sees the hesitant look on Endor’s face, his own narrows. He questions, “Where is this stone, Endor?”

The acolyte tilts his head, not eager to say its location out loud. Slowly and embarrassingly, he informs them, “Mariik complained about it being deep within the ruins of a temple of Rudaro… in the Ragnar.” Everyone takes their turn to groan.

Scarus, understandably rants that, “Are you kidding? The ruins of the God of Darkness? Why not bring all the dark beasts to him, saves them the time.” Truly, there is someone to state the obvious, it’s not as if everyone was thinking the same thing.

Endor eyes grow wide at the Forsworn. “I thought you were from Krone?” the acolyte says.

“That may be so, I know that there is a little truth behind every story and every myth,” Scarus says. Rudaro is the god opposite to the All-Mother Almulan, which means he is important to Raydorn’s culture, and hence Scarus thought that he deserved to be studied.

Also, he’s the God of Darkness, that alone should send even the biggest idiot into a panic.

“Agree to disagree, as my brother would say,” Endor replies in a meek tone, trying to display a sense that he’s not in actual trouble.

Queen Derilla, with a voice her King must listen to, tells him, “No one is going to the Ragnar. Especially when we don’t know where Mariik is! We don’t have enough people who we can trust to send with him when we do find him, even less than enough to make sure he returns to the Tower.”

Tedius responds by letting his hand fall into his arm chair, and arching his brow at her. She nearly rolls her eyes before leaning on her armchair to tell her husband, “First, we must find Mariik and decide later if we will give him a chance for such an expedition, can we agree on that?” King Tedius nods his head.

The Valkyrie, surprised by this, warns the Queen, “Be careful, give the ungrateful a spoon of rice, and he’ll ask for a pound. If he abandons such an honorable post, why would you reward him?”

King Tedius bemoans, “Fantastic, I can already see where this is going, I think we need to use some empathy in this throne room, I know it didn’t leave with the aristocrats.”

“I’m sorry, but there are those who uphold their duty and those who do not,” Areniya states. The Queen makes a knowing glance to her husband, indicating her belief in the Valkyrie’s words. Scarus smirks, proud of his young pupil.

Areniya then adds, “Also, based on his letter, he sounds like a real ass.”

“You have no idea,” Endor agrees.

The King mumbles, “I find being rude is more fun sometimes,” prompting himself to smile and the Queen to smirk.

“Regardless,” the King says with a wave of his hand,” it’s time we properly welcomed home the Valkyrie, you were away for a while.”

With that, the attention turns to Areniya. She takes the moment to clarify, “Why is that? I didn’t find Tork, but I understand if that displeases you.”

Queen Derilla sighs and explains that, “Such a task was wasteful of your time. Raydorn has been searching for the Torkkic clans for generations. We finally figured we’d stop wasting our time.”

“Then why call me home instead of sending me somewhere else?” Areniya asks.

“Outside of your great need for a vacation?” Derilla retorts, catching Areniya off guard.

“Because we like your company,” King Tedius says.

With an expression of surprise, Areniya mumbles, “Oh.”

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