The Three Kings
by Slawomir Rapala
part 6 of 9
Reimbursed by the Vikings and with the help of the Izmattic Isles which assisted her in every way possible, Lyons quickly rose to her feet. New villages, towns, and cities were built in place of those that were destroyed, even more beautiful than before. Hvoxx was rebuilt as well and enlarged greatly, seeing how it was now to be the Capital of a great Northern Kingdom.
In the place where the Jewel had once stood, a small castle was erected from brick and stone, small in comparison to the palace that stood there before, but large enough for Iskald’s needs. Aezubah opposed to the building of such a small stronghold, hoping to have another Jewel erected, perhaps one that was even grander than Vahan’s, but Iskald would not have it. He was used to the simple life of a soldier, and he was not about to trade it for satin pillows and useless ornaments.
“The gold is needed elsewhere,” he said and then he gave it to the poor. Aezubah shrugged but said nothing more. On the one hand, he admired Iskald for his simplicity and generosity, something for which all of the Lyonese loved him, but on the other hand, he did not understand him at all.
The aged warrior had grown used to great luxuries and expenses, to having all that he desired, as it was when Vahan had been the ruler of Lyons, and so it was not easy for him to comply with the new order of things. But he never voiced these opinions loudly and only grumbled quietly to himself when going to sleep in his new, simple apartments.
Less than a year had passed since the Vikings had been forced to retreat North and already the Lyonese Kingdom was standing proud and tall, glorious and powerful. The Southern lands looked on with dread as this new Northern power rose from the ashes and grew rapidly, enlarging, expanding and reaching new heights day after day, growing more powerful with each passing moment.
And now not only in the icy castles of Arynos and Othar, but also on the burning steppes of Estrata, Burrodha, Nekrya, and others, one name was repeated quietly and with dread: Iskald of Lyons. The young Northern King was spoken of all around the world and in these stories he turned into a living legend, a being of mythical and divine proportions.
People spoke of him coming down from the sky on a winged stallion, an animal black as night, eyes burning and red, surrounded with fire and lightning, glorious in his power. No one could oppose his strength, no one could withstand the speed and the might of his arm, no one could match him on the battlefield.
And he stood before the barbaric, bloodthirsty bands of Wolves, and then led them into war, spreading fear among the Vikings. Iskald rode first, hurling lightning bolts at his opponents, towering over them like a great rock, while his army followed his step, biting into the Viking throats, feasting on their blood and leaving their corpses pale and dry.
People feared him.
And soon, while the Lyonese Kingdom continued to grow and to expand, this fear slowly started to turn into hatred that was fueled by the mention of another blood-drenched name: Aezubah. Many already failed to remember that was it not for the heroism of those two men, the Vikings would have flooded the South and would have turned it into a ghost land, filled with rotting bodies, death, and carnage.
People always feared and hated that which they could not understand, however. And they could not understand how a small, thus far little known Estate, could have suddenly find enough strength and might to break the powerful Northern Order and then, overnight almost, how this tiny Estate was forged into a powerful Kingdom.
There was dark magic involved, people said. Soon Iskald of Lyons was painted as an evil wizard while his hordes of Wolves were thought of as superhuman blood-thirsty beasts, filled with hatred for mankind, unstoppable in their ferociousness, as evil and twisted as their leader. Aided by dark magic, they were to cross the ocean and to feast on the Southerners, drink their blood, and lay their lands in ruins. The intense hatred continued to grow with each passing day.
Not all Southerners were of course so quick to believe in the nonsense that the less literate masses spread. The educated aristocrats, politicians, and rulers did not for a moment let their imaginations run so wild, and they judged the situation much more soberly. There were, nevertheless, many people even among the elites who were either politically or even personally opposed to the growing power of Lyons and would have liked to see it halted.
The Tha-kians, for instance, sent agitators to all corners of the South in an attempt to rouse the common people against the Lyonese, trying to portray them in the most negative light. They had more reason than any other Kingdom to fear the growing power of Lyons.
Not once and not twice did they organize raids and invaded the Lyonese shores to capture slaves and kill everyone they could get their hands on. It was not all that long ago that they had murdered the beloved and revered Duke of Lyons, Vahan.
The Tha-kians realized that the vicious and unprovoked act was by no mean forgotten nor forgiven by the Northerners, and although the Lyonese had already found some retribution years ago when Aezubah sacked Dilli and killed the Tha-kian King, the Southern savages nevertheless expected more vengeful acts to follow now that Lyons had transformed into a powerful Kingdom.
And the threat of Vahan’s son, now the ruler of Lyons, avenging the torment sustained at Tha-kian hands and whips, was now another source of their constant worries.
The Nekryan Royal Court in the meantime was in a state of great distress. Everyone still well remembered the young foreigner who had so unexpectedly made his name in the Nekryan army as the Captain of the Royal Guards. Many people knew him personally and liked him very much. His disappearance was a mystery to them because he never gave any inclination that he would be leaving one day. No one knew what had happened to him and now years had passed since he had gone.
And just as suddenly as he had left their lives, he came back into them again, but this time as King of a growing Northern power, a hero and a living legend, a mythical warrior revered in the North and feared in the South. Many of the Nekryans were left feeling uncertain as to what to think about him
Two dominating views emerged on the Court as a result. There were those who believed that Iskald, having experienced such success in the North, would now without a doubt push his forces South, flooding their Kingdoms with thousands of Lyonese and enslaved Vikings.
These people, many of who disliked the young Northerner when he was still in Nekrya, appealed to Diovinius to gather his army and march against the Lyonese, their sworn enemies, before they were given a chance to grow in power.
On the other hand, however, there were those who knew Iskald much better and they believed that he would never plan such a treacherous attack on the Southern Realms and especially on Nekrya, which had been his second home for quite some time.
These people believed that the Nekryan Court should initiate peace talks with their ageless rivals and enemies, viewing the crowning of Iskald as a chance to end the long antagonism that persisted between the two Kingdoms.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2008 by Slawomir Rapala