Amir, the crowned prince of Ertval, walked up and down the rows of metallic humanoids. “So, these are supposed to be soldiers? They’re made up of springs and gears. There’s nothing driving them. You can make them mechanically swing a sword, but that’s not a soldier.”
“Yes, my prince. Taika was supposed to try some of her magic on them, but the king has ordered her to help with the girl who’s been frozen in ice for a month.” The bronze-skinned mechanic backed away a step. “You said to keep the project a secret so you can present the army to him as a gift. She said in order to keep it a secret she didn’t want to give a reason to get out of it.”
Sighing Amir nodded. “Very well. Keep your men working, Zdenko. If they can find a non-magical solution that would be better.”
– – –
The prince walked back to the main floor of his castle. His general was waiting there for him.
“My lord, Grigori’s men have returned from Nezkidar. There are stories of creatures the size of small mountains that suck the life from the earth and of six legged creatures called the venerii. The venerii fight the other creatures, I think they’re called erdaz, and lose many warriors whenever they do. Here’s a sketch of both creatures.”
The erdaz appeared to have no skin and were covered in muscle. The notes said they were usually six-legged, but not always. The venerii were more interesting to Amir. They too were six-legged, but they could bend their bodies upward to use their front limbs as arms. They reminded him of the salamanders that lived deep in caves.
“Huh the venerii, whats the singular anyway?”
“Uh, I think it’s vener.”
“So, a vener closely resembles a salamander.”
The general stared blankly at the prince. “M’lord?”
Amir shrugged. “I guess you’ve never seen or heard of them. The ones that live in the deep of caves. Apparently before my father’s time they used to send hunting parties to kill them. The survivors were praised highly, but only a few ever returned.”
“Oh, those salamanders. Sorry m’lord. The common salamander is what came to mind when you said that. Apologies.”
“Yes, well, do they sound like that to you?”
The general nodded. “Now you mention it they do, though they seem more agreeable than the salamanders.”
“Agreed.” Amir walked towards his throne-room. “Do you know how the preparations are going for tomorrow?”
“Sorry, m’lord. I’ll fetch your steward and send him your way.” The general jogged off down a hallway.
“I’m heading to the throne-room,” Amir added. He continued down the corridor, shaking his head. The general had a good head for war, but not much else.
– – –
Amir left his castle to join his father, the king, in his procession. He was the crowned prince after all. He skirted the nearby town, not wishing to cause a commotion before his father traveled through town.
“Who goes there?” One of Amir’s bodyguards halted their movement.
A figure stepped from behind a lone, frozen tree. “It’s only us, Doran.”
In another voice he responded to himself. “Don’t speak for the both of us!”
“Shush. We’re speaking to the crowned prince.”
Chuckling Amir waved at Doran. “Ah, nice to see the two of you again…just the two, right?”
“Yes, m’lord. Just two.”
Again the man answered himself. “You’re too respectful to him!”
“He gave us food when we were starving. Show him at least some respect.”
“I’d love to sit here on my horse talking to you, but I need to meet up with my father. Fare thee well.” Amir motioned to his bodyguards to continue riding.
“Fare thee well, m’lord.”
– – –
After Amir had met up with his father’s procession they returned to the prince’s castle. The ceremony involved the king, Rajendra, the king’s advisor, Emyr, the king’s scholar, Irfan, and the king’s witch, Taika, holding the five pieces of the gem of Nevre. Legends told of when the gem was broken into pieces it was to prevent the strong magics from infecting the world. Rajendra had taken it upon himself to gather the stones together in order to combat strange magics that had begun to crop up on Nevre. The frozen girl being the most recent of these events there were many cropping up in the distant lands of Aliaz and Zentar as well.
The king placed his section of the gem on a table made especially for this event. “My son, place your stone next to mine.”
Amir stepped forward and placed his stone clockwise from his father’s and stepped back again. “My father’s advisor, place your stone next to mine.”
Emyr stepped forward and placed his stone next to Amir’s. He stared at them for a moment before stepping back. “Irfan, chief scholar of the king, place your stone next to mine.”
The chief scholar stepped forward and placed his stone next to Irfan’s. Then he pulled out a sketchbook and swiftly roughed out the scene. He stepped back. “Taika, the king’s chief magic user, step forward and place the last stone, releasing magic back into this land.”
The whole company watched in silence as Taika stepped forward and placed the last piece of the gem in its slot. Everyone waited and silence filled the room. After a minute Taika broke the silence, “is that it? I thought there would be a flash or-”
An explosion rocked the castle. When the dust settled nearly three-quarters of the people who had been in the room were gone.
The first thing Amir did was run to the basement to check on Zdenko. With an explosion of this size, his chief mechanic and friend could have been crushed under rubble.