The Fall of Light - Chapter 1 - YA Action Fantasy Novel
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The Crystal Companions Saga - Book 1
The Fall of Light
Chapter One - History Lessons (3775)
Prince Alesson Scorch gazed out of the classroom window and surveyed the cold city of Scorvain, the city he was destined to rule one day. It was late wintertime and snowy clouds were rolling turbulently over the city. Scorvain was nestled back against the base of a sheer white cliff face that rose up menacingly behind it.
The rock face climbed upwards and its top jutted forward over the city like a hood, which protected the city from the elements. It also hid most of the sky from the citizens below, but luckily, the city faced the deep red sun, which cast its faint crimson light across the landscape. From the very top of the cliff, it was possible to see the edge of the planets multi-coloured rings in the distance once the sun had set.
Scorvain’s outer wall seemed to emerge straight out of the cliff face and run around the city in a rough semi-circle. The walls were made out of huge grey stone blocks that were constantly being battered by the strong winds, which aged the rock and made the city look ancient.
There was only a single entrance into Scorvain, through the great gate in the centre of the massive barricade. The gate was made out of a huge block of stone; the slab of rock was on runners, so that it could be shifted forward and backwards to seal the cities entrance. On the front of the stone gate was a chiselled image of a man in sleek armour, he was carrying a round shield with the image of a rearing horse on it. Around the man’s armoured head was a crown with beams of light shooting out in every direction from a jewel that was surmounted upon it.
Within the outer walls were the homes of the citizens of Scorvain, the houses were characterless boxes, but they were also part of the cities defences. The dwellings were huddled together in rows and they acted as additional barriers within the cities walls. Beyond the civilian houses was the cities inner wall, rising higher than the outer wall, which made the city look like two great steps climbing up the cliff face. At different points along the wall were turrets where soldiers kept watch above the city streets below
Poking up above the inner wall was four of the five great towers of Scorvain. Each tower faced towards a different region of Pentatha, while the fifth tower was situated at the top of the cliff so it could watch over the Anectar Ice Fields. Each tower was topped with a great chunk of crystal, which seemed to glow no matter what time of day it was. Therefore, during the night the city was bathed in varying shades of red, green, grey and purple and above it all on the top tower was the glowing blue beacon that guided travellers home.
Between the four lower towers was the great domed roof of the palace, it was made out of a steel girder frame and covered in glass of all colours. When the light shone down inside the palace, it gave its inhabitants the feeling that they were living inside a rainbow. The palace was said to have been built shortly after humanity came to Clanesta and used building techniques that had long since been forgotten, the same could be said for the great sliding stone gate at the entrance to the city.
Inside the palace, in the eastern wing, Prince Alesson sat staring out of the window towards the southeastern tower. Alesson was fourteen years old and he was carefully listening to his morning lecture. He was sat twiddling his charcoal writing stick round his long thick fingers and nodding his head to show he was paying attention. However, he nodded his head a bit too vigorously and a few strands of his coarse black hair fell across his pale green eyes. Alesson reached up to push the wayward hair back into place and accidently drew a line over his face, which started at bridge of his sharp nose and went across the right side of his short forehead.
When Alesson realised what he had done, he quickly licked his hand with his tongue, which he had stuck out through his thin lips and began to rub his head to try and remove the offending line. Using the glass in the window to see his reflection, he saw that the line was gone. Then he sharply looked around with his eagle eyes to see if the other occupants in the room had noticed his folly. Deltain the Sage, still had his head in the book he was reading aloud and his sister Linta looked like she was still avidly paying attention, but a small smirk tugged at the corner of her mouth to show that she had seen it all.
Embarrassed, Alesson looked down. He was wearing a soft blue velvet tunic with fur around the cuffs and collar to keep him warm on this chill winters day. The tunic was quite tight and did not fit properly across his broad shoulders and upper arms. His eyes fell on the silver belt buckle around his waist, it was shaped like an eagles head, and it had pale green stones set into the buckle where the eagle’s eyes were. It had been a gift from his father for his fourteenth birthday some ten days ago. His father had said that he almost got a wolf buckle that looked just like Frostbite, but had decided on the eagle instead because it so reminded him of Alesson’s eyes, not just the colour, but the shape and the idea that there was a keen intelligence hidden therein.
As Alesson thought about Frostbite, he quickly drew an excited image of him and the white wolf battling in the training grounds in his mind. Alesson cast the image out to his friend who would be resting in the courtyard below. The image he got back was of himself and many books, “Yes” he thought to himself, “I should be studying, not day dreaming.”
Lifting his head up, Alesson tried to concentrate on Deltain’s lecture, the old man was reciting the first part of the Legend of Karna and Kax, a story that he had heard many times over. In fact, he could never get away from it, it was the story of his ultimate grandfather, who had long ago brought peace to the world and created literally everything.
Deltain was just finishing the description of how the world came into existence and Alesson’s mind began to wander. How did anyone know how Clanesta came to be, the story goes that humans did not appear on the world until long after it was formed. Which raised another question, how did humanity come into existence on this planet, did it just spring up, out of the dirt? How could they have built such magnificent buildings like Scorvain’s grand palace all those years ago, when today humans struggled to put together crude wooden shacks?
As Alesson contemplated these new questions, his eyes strayed round the room that had become their classroom. They were in an antechamber, which was attached to the great Scorvain Archives. The ceiling was high and through the archway behind Alesson, yellow-green light was streaming in from the glass-domed roof above the archives. The walls were covered in charts and scenes of various aspects of the world. Some of the charts were completely incomprehensible, while others were easily identifiable.
One chart beyond Deltain’s head was a map of the northern continent, it was not entirely accurate, because at its centre was a depiction of Scorvain city that was much larger than it should be and the rest of the continent was drawn in a circle around it. Pentatha was not circular, if anything is was more like a very squashed oval, with great mountain ranges to the west and peninsulas in the south that stuck out into the raging seas around it.
Another image off to Alesson’s right depicted an exact replica of the carving that was on the great entry gate to the city, but this one was in colour. The man was supposed to be Karna in his jet-black armour. The silver crown that was wrapped around the fiercely sharp helmet looked bright and shiny, but not as shiny as the brilliant white crystal that was mounted at the front of the crown. This crystal was called the Etherium and it was still mounted in the king’s crown, which was locked away in the vault behind the throne room and only brought out for special occasions.
As he looked at the image of Karna, Alesson’s eyes were drawn to the picture of the horse on Karna’s shield. It was obviously supposed to be Kax, Karna’s shock stallion and great companion. The horse was mainly a deep violet colour darkening to deep blue around the bunched muscles on its legs and its mane appeared to be made out of lightning. Kax was up on her hind legs and a bright bolt of energy was being emitted from her mouth.
Alesson noticed that Deltain was just getting to the good bit of the story, where Karna was fighting the two great steel gorillas. The prince managed to tune back into the lecture and listened intently to the sage’s masterful storytelling. Alesson also noticed out of the corner of his eye that his sister was leaning forward keenly in the chair to his left.
Linta was Alesson’s twin sister, they were non-identical twins, she had long red hair that was straight on the top and fell down over her petite shoulders in bunches of ringlets. Whereas Alesson’s appearance was quite angular and sharp, Linta’s face was soft and round. She had a high forehead and a small button nose, her lips were plump and when she smiled, dimples appeared on her cheeks.
Linta’s eyes were her best feature; they were a much more vivid emerald colour compared to her brothers pale jade green. People would say that you could see the princess’ entire life in her eyes and just when you thought you knew everything, a new layer would seem to appear deep beneath the surface, like a hidden secret. Then below that, another layer would appear and eventually you would sink into her eyes and be powerless to resist her charms.
She was an expert at analysing people’s emotions and using them to overcome obstacles. She used charm and wit, and if that failed, she unleashed her fluttering eyelashes and dimples to get whatever she wanted; it was widely known that she was loved by all and people would fall over themselves to do her simplest whim. This meant that she was also quite spoilt and in rare moments, Alesson had seen her erupt into violent temper tantrums when she did not get her own way.
Alesson on the other hand was blunt and to the point in his dealings with others. He used facts to persuade people to do his bidding and failing that brute force and intimidation. Alesson was big and muscular, and Linta was small and slight, it was almost as if the two of them had been bred purposely to fulfil their roles, Alesson, the warrior Prince and Linta, the diplomatic lovable Princess.
Alesson looked over at Linta, she was leaning forward in her chair, listening intently and absently nibbling on a lock of her hair that had come loose. He noticed how similar her looks were to their mother and in thinking that he felt the pang of loss in his chest.
Their mother Judentha had died when they were both very young, poisoned with a very rare toxin that had made her very sick. All the doctors in the land had come to try to treat her, but eventually they had to admit defeat and declare her incurable. There were still lots of pictures of Queen Judentha throughout the palace and the city still seemed to be in a state of mourning even though she had been dead now for eight years.
Some nights Alesson would catch his father staring with teary eyes at the pictures of his wife and the look of total loss on his face would drive his son back to his room. There he would see images in his mind of his dark haired pale-skinned mother and even though she was smiling, he would be overwhelmed with grief and cry himself to sleep.
Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Alesson looked back to his teacher who was becoming quite animated as he read the story of Karna and Kax. Deltain was emphasizing each strike and parry by waving his arms around, almost as if he believed he was there, fighting the steel gorillas.
Lord Deltain Varga was a tall thin man, he had long grey hair and a short well-kept beard, his face was thin and covered with wrinkles that spoke of a great age. Alesson had never known how old the scholar was and had never had the courage to ask him. His eyes were deep set and were a blue-grey colour; between his eyes was his long hooked nose, which looked like it had been in every book in the archives. Deltain was wearing a long hooded robe that was pale grey with blue stitching along the arms and down the sides. The stitching made various patterns of concentric circles overlapping each other with smaller triangles and squares dotted all over it.
Deltain was known to have a strong addiction to wine and on many occasions, the twins had caught him sipping at a wineskin while he thought they were not looking. As well as being the twins teacher and mentor, he was also the Kings most trusted advisor and oldest friend.
Alesson had heard stories about the King and Deltain getting up to all sorts of mischief when they were younger. His favourite story was when the pair had snuck out of the city early one summer morning in search of adventure. They came across an apple orchard that specialised in brewing cider. Deltain had climbed up one of the apple trees, picked an apple and threw it down to the young King. Then as he grabbed a second apple for himself, he slipped and fell out of the tree, right on top of the King. As the pair disentangled themselves and checked for bumps and bruises, they heard peals of laughter coming from nearby. Looking around they saw a young girl sat on a fence watching them. She dropped down from the fence and approached the embarrassed duo who had been caught red handed. She put her finger to her lips and whispered to the boys to stay there. The girl then disappeared into the orchard, only to return a few minutes later with a small keg of cider, which they all dipped into and drank heartily. In the end, the pair returned to the palace thoroughly drunk, they were punished severely and confined to their rooms for weeks.
The girl at the orchard was Judentha and as well as being a quite amusing story, it was the story of how Alesson’s parents had met some twenty years ago. Unfortunately for the twins, this meant that Deltain knew every trick in the book about how to escape the palace and get away for a few hours, which meant the twins did not have nearly as much freedom as their parents had. This did not bother Alesson much because the thing he loved to do most of all was train with Frostbite in the palace battlegrounds. Linta on the other hand felt as if she was trapped and all she wanted to do was escape the palace confines.
Thinking about the outside world, Alesson inadvertently looked back out the window, it had started to snow and Alesson thought he could see pictures in the swirling powder. As the snowflakes chased each other in the strong gusts of wind, it reminded him of his last training session where he had ended up chasing a much faster opponent, he had won in the end but it was a very sloppy victory and he had promised to try harder.
Suddenly a small piece of crumpled paper bounced onto the desk by Alesson’s right hand, he jumped a little as the sudden movement brought him out of his musings. He quickly grabbed the paper and hid it away from Deltain, who seemed to be completely oblivious to what was going on. Alesson straightened out the piece of paper, which said simply in big letters “Pay Attention!”
Angered slightly by his sister’s bossiness, he turned the paper over and scrawled one word in even bigger letters. “Why?” Checking that Deltain was concentrating intently on his story, he quickly screwed up the paper into a small ball and threw it onto his sister’s desk. She quickly slipped it away into her hands and unravelled it to read. Linta wrote quite a bit more on the paper and tossed it back to him, it read, “Because it’s your heritage” and a picture of a face with its tongue sticking out was next to it.
As Alesson read those words, he heard Deltain’s voice saying the exact same sentence in his head. In fact, it was probably the old sage’s most favourite phrase and he said it constantly. Thinking about it, he knew that at some point after Deltain had finished reading the story, he would fit that phrase into his lecture somehow.
Focusing back on the story, Alesson knew that the older man was coming to the end of the tale. Deltain was reciting the bit about Karna and Kax going off to be adventurers and discovering the great crystal guardians in each realm. Karna had then convinced them to end their conflicts with each other and create the Etherium that was supposedly the key to peace.
Deltain then recited the last sentence of the story, “So guard well the crystal, may no harm come to it, for if the crystal is destroyed then only dark days shall follow.” He said in his strong well-educated accent. Raising his head from the book, he addressed the twins. “So pupils, why is this story important?
“Because it’s our heritage,” they said in unison.
“Correct,” Deltain said “But it’s more than just that, it’s the key to everything. It is the reason why this palace was build; it is the reason why the Etherium is locked away in the vault. When humanity was born on this planet, it could not survive against the beasts of this world, until Karna, your great, great, many times over grandfather, taught the guardians and the beasts all about compassion, love and kindness. In return, they created the Etherium, a great symbol of peace and when the two of you are older, it will be your responsibility to guard it with your lives. For if the Etherium is destroyed or taken from the Scorch bloodline, man and beast will be at war again and we will not survive for long.”
Alesson knew all this; it was a story he had been told repeatedly since he was young and maybe even before he was born into the world. He was feeling argumentative and restless today so he asked in his boyish high voice “How will the guardians know if the crystal is destroyed or lost?”
Deltain rubbed his bearded chin thoughtfully before answering. “The Etherium was made from parts of all the guardians, it was said that when Karna confronted each of the great crystals, they would gain a soul and an understanding of emotions. They gave Karna a part of their soul, a small crystal that seemed to pulse in his hand like a human heart, and when he had confronted all the guardians, they fused the parts together to form the Etherium. If the Etherium is destroyed, then the crystals will lose part of their souls and they will know it.”
“So you’re saying they’re connected to the Etherium in much the same way that I’m connected to Frostbite?” Alesson replied, as he said the word “connected” his voice broke a bit.
“Yes.” Deltain said “But in a slightly different way, you and Frostbite are two separate beings, the crystals and their souls are one, even though they are separated.”
Linta then spoke up too. “There’s another question that’s been bugging me,” she said in her bright vibrant voice. “The story says right at the start that all life came from the crystals, the trees, the plants and all the animals. So how come there are so many creatures here that don’t return to crystal when they die?”
Deltain looked at her thoughtfully. “That is a good question my child, according to my research, it would appear that when humanity first arrived on this world, they brought with them new breeds of animals and plants that they needed to survive. Which makes sense really, because we can’t eat crystal, can we?”
“No, I guess not,” she replied.
“I’d been thinking about that too.” Alesson chimed in. “The story almost seems to say that humanity just appeared on Clanesta one day. How did we get here and how did we know back then how to build these incredible structures?”
“My, you two are inquisitive today.” The old sage said as he scratched his beard again. “It seems that over the years lots of information and techniques have been lost with the passage of time. I know other scholars who have dedicated their lives to searching for the original settlement at the head of the Thunder plains, to try to discover our history without much success. Most scholars seem to think that humanity came from the great southern continent that is now a barren land, I myself think we might have come from much further away.”
“Like where?” Linta asked, the young princess seemed thoroughly intrigued now.
Deltain looked at her, then raised his arms to point at the ceiling and said in a low whisper “From the stars.” The twins stared at Deltain, disbelief in their eyes, as they wondered if humans could have once known how to fly?
“You’ve both done well this morning and you’ve both asked some good questions. Maybe I should let you pass notes and draw on your own faces more often,” Deltain said with a smirk and Alesson felt his cheeks start to glow red. “Now I believe you two should be off to get some lunch before you start your combat training”