Balwar Kingdom was one of the greatest kingdoms in the realms of Algosun with walls of hardened stone that surrounded their borders. For centuries no enemy had ever managed to break these walls, until the war between Balwar Kingdom and Chuluan Kingdom happened.
Chuluan Kingdom took pride in their mines of salt and diamonds, but the lands of Balwar Kingdom were filled with precious resources that could be used to advance their kingdom like the Piertho stones used for gunpowder, but King Alistair Castleheart refused to make exchanges with the Kingdom and as a result, war broke loose.
The walls of Balwar Kingdom were impenetrable, but a thirteen-year-old genius scholar of Chuluan Kingdom named Nigam Obi created a device using the Piertho powder in his possession plus the lightning that struck his field every storm. This device was stronger than any bomb ever created in the realms and the force was so strong that it seemed that the walls were made of nothing, but sand as the walls of Balwar Kingdom came crashing down.
With the walls destroyed, Balwar Kingdom had no way to protect its people from the trained soldiers of Chuluan Kingdom. Many villages near the wall were destroyed and the people were slaughtered by the soldiers, even the women and children. Supplies meant for Balwar Kingdom’s troops were taken from the destroyed villages. Fires, blood, and screams filled the air of Balwar Kingdom, which was slowly losing the war and King Alistair Castleheart had no doubt that when the enemy reached the castle him, his beautiful wife, Queen Irina Castleheart; and his children would be slaughtered.
For now, he could only hope that help would come or a miracle would happen to save his Kingdom and his family.
Even though the Kingdom was beginning to fall, Yanira Castleheart, age ten, was able to find peace exploring the market at the base of the castle that seemed untouched by the turmoil of war.
Yanira’s red hair was still cut short revealing her ears. The clothes she wore were not that of a royal, but of a commoner. Green loose pants that were cut just above her ankles; a long sleeved white blouse that dangled from her arms, but was rolled up to her wrist; leather black shoes that fit her small feet; and a black cap that covered the top half of her red hair. The way she dressed resembled that of a boy, but all knew that she was female and that she was the youngest princess by the color of her unique red hair, but they also wondered why she was the only royal that ever ventured out of the castle walls for most royals remained within the castle since the war began, except for the eldest son that led the troops.
Yanira ran down the dusty path of the market with a smile sending dust flying around her feet. Yanira stopped in front of a bread stand with eyes sparkling with excitement. The bread stand had regular loafs of wheat bread, but her focus landed on the sugar bread that was filled with lemon custard and grape jelly. Yanira tipped toed reaching out to the tasty treat. She managed to grab it and looked at the owner with a bright smile.
“Can I please buy this?” asked Yanira. The owner of the stand nodded as he took the payment from Yanira’s other hand. Yanira cheered as she began to munch on the tasty treat with bliss in her face.
As she continued to walk nibbling on the tasty bread, she noticed a few soldiers gathering supplies from a single stand that sold rations. Yanira stopped momentarily to stare at the soldiers she usually saw guarding the castle. She remembered that most of the soldiers left to fight in the war and some male friends in the market had also joined the army. It made her depressed to see them leave, but she told herself that it was to keep the people remaining safe.
With those thoughts, she ran pass the guards, finishing the last of her treat, and into another part of the market. This part of the market sold weapons and most blacksmiths lived in this area. Ignoring the other stands that had smoke escaping from the forging areas, she approached a stand that only had bows and arrows hanging from a pole suspended in front of the stand.
Yanira peeked around the stand toward a black haired boy one year older than her named Pyralis Banhi. He wore a black loose shirt revealing his right shoulder; a brown stained bandage around each of his wrists; black pants held up by a thick rope; and straw sandals on his feet. He was using a rock to sharpen an arrow head with his full focus on it. He was so focused that he didn’t notice Yanira creeping up toward him with a smile on her lips. Just as he was about to press the arrow head to the stone again, Yanira sprung up and wrapped her arms around Pyralis’s shoulder exclaiming, “Pyralis!”
Pyralis stumbled dropping the arrow head and stone to the straw covered ground. Pyralis sighed glancing at Yanira over his shoulder.
“Can’t you ever greet me normally?” asked Pyralis in an exasperated tone. Yanira puffed her cheeks with a pout stating, “When I greet you normally, you don’t look up.” Pyralis chuckled admitting that Yanira had a point. Yanira giggled in reply peeling herself away from Pyralis.
Yanira folded her arms behind her leaning toward Pyralis with expectation in her eyes asking, “Is my order ready?” Pyralis nodded and approached a cabinet in the corner of his stand. He opened the cabinet and pulled out a bow lined with silver feathers, a quiver with the same colored feathers, but with traces of gold; and within the quiver were ten arrows with limestone arrowheads sharpened to perfection. Pyralis held the bow and quiver to Yanira saying, “You’re lucky I had extra time to make this.” Yanira clapped in delight taking the bow and arrow filled quiver from Pyralis.
“This is perfect,” stated Yanira running her fingers along the bow and arrows.
Pyralis smiled placing his hands to his hip.
“I should hope so. You found some pretty unique ingredients for this weapon. Where’d you find them anyway?” asked Pyralis. Yanira smiled brightly at Pyralis as she placed the bow in the quiver and stated, “I found them near the Chestnut tree.”
“The one from the royal garden, right?” asked Pyralis. Yanira nodded placing the strap of the quiver over her shoulder.
Pyralis placed a hand to his chin stating, “It’s kind of funny that good things always happen to you when you visit the Chestnut Tree.” Yanira nodded with a smile.
“There was this one time I hoped to find an ingredient to help make a special sword for my big brother and then there was this Pulado stone at the base of the chestnut tree.”
“The strongest stone that could be made into metal and be forged into a strong sword. It would never break,” noted Pyralis
Yanira nodded and added, “I just wish it and then it is around the tree.” Yanira suddenly looked saddened adding, “Too bad my wish for the war to end hasn’t come true yet.”
Pyralis smiled placing his hand on Yanira’s shoulder saying, “We’ll survive this war and it will end in our favor, so have faith in your wish.” Yanira nodded with a bright smile.
Yanira adjusted the strap of the quiver on her shoulder and then stated, “I want to test this out before the day ends.” Pyralis nodded saying, “Just be careful.” Yanira nodded.
Yanira pressed her lips lightly against Pyralis’s cheek making him freeze. She pulled away with a smile saying, “Let’s play again sometime.” With that she walked off not noticing Pyralis’s face turning redder as he pressed his right hand to his kissed cheek.
Yanira ran back to the castle sliding pass the guards who failed to notice her and entered the empty training grounds of the castle. These training grounds were used for the soldiers to get stronger, but since the war started the training ground had remained empty for years. It was one of the places that Yanira could let herself loose, in this case, a place where she could practice her archery skills.
Yanira secured five practice dummies on the surrounding poles and then went to the center of the ground. She drew her bow and five arrows and took a few deep breathes as she focused on the practice dummies. She loaded her bow with the arrows and began to fire at each dummy within seconds of each other. Each arrow impaled a dummy, sending strips of straw flying out. When the last arrow connected to the remaining dummy, Yanira cheered placing her bow back in the quiver.
Yanira yanked the arrows from the dummies and placed the arrows back in the quiver.
“Pyralis’s weaponry knowledge is just as good as his father’s,” stated Yanira happily.
Yanira was about to get ready to practice more of her archery skills, but paused when she heard an elderly woman call her name. Yanira glanced over her shoulder and saw an older woman wearing a red robe with gold lining running toward her.
This woman was named Lucina Shree, age fifty-five. She was the priestess of Balwar Kingdom, who made predictions for the Royal family and on rare occasions would tell the fortunes of the people of Balwar Kingdom. Her predictions were very accurate since the war began like how she predicted that the walls would fall to the enemy. King Alistair trusted her words. He trusted her words so much that when she claimed that Yanira had the qualifications to be her successor, he allowed Yanira to be trained under her.
Yanira stood still as Lucina finally reached her panting. She glared at Yanira saying, “I told you so many times not to wander off from your room, until I come to claim you.” Yanira puffed her cheeks crossing her arms.
“But you take so long and I can’t stay cooped up in my room till night fall,” stated Yanira. Lucina sighed placing a wrinkled hand to her forehead.
“I would appreciate it if you would just at least read the books I gave you, while you wait,” stated Lucina. Yanira smiled placing her hands on her hips proudly.
“I already read them all from the deviation of the constellations to the history books of all the Kingdoms within Algosun. I even read about the other dimensions that might exist around Algosun.”
Lucina stared in silence and then smiled saying, “You are very intelligent young lady, but I must ask why, even though you read the books, you still like to wander off into the market and learn archery.”
“It’s fun to mingle and archery is also fun. I know my father and mother don’t like me doing it since I am supposed to be a lady, but that’s who I am,” stated Yanira proudly. Lucina chuckled, but suddenly plucked Yanira’s hat off her head revealing the shortness of her red hair.
“You are a young lady, so why do you cut your hair to this length, even though I told you multiple times not to cut it?” asked Lucina. Yanira gulped running her hand through her short red hair.
“Well I like it short and it is easier to clean,” stated Yanira. Lucina frowned stuffing the hat in her sleeve.
“I’ll let it pass, but at least try to let it grow for a woman’s hair is her life,” stated Lucina making Yanira giggle.
Lucina brushed the dirt off of Yanira’s clothes and stated, “You’ll need to change into your robe before we go into your dance lesson.” Yanira nodded and ran pass Lucina toward the inside of the castle walls.
Lucina watched Yanira’s retreating back and sighed looking up at the darkening sky.
“I hope this student of mine will continue my work on the right path.”
Yanira ran down the hall of the castle toward her chambers, but slid to a stop when she saw Xema, age twenty, leaving her room wearing a pink gold lining dress with an excited look. Yanira approached Xema and asked, “Hear something good, big sister?” Xema nodded looking at her younger sister.
“Shuyu is coming to the castle this night to have an audience with father,” stated Xema excitedly. Yanira tilted her head.
“Shuyu?” muttered Yanira. She went into deep thought and then smiled saying, “I remember him. He visited six years ago and if I remember right he is king of Azseldo Kingdom now.” Xema nodded clutching her hands to her chest in bliss.
“He’s such a wise king and I hope that father will think of marrying me to Shuyu,” stated Xema. Yanira puffed her cheeks crossing her arms.
“But that would mean that you would leave Balwar Kingdom,” stated Yanira with a pout. Xema giggled and patted Yanira’s head.
“I would need to eventually be married off to another kingdom since Zuriel will be king of Balwar, but I won’t forget my dear little sister,” stated Xema. Yanira giggled wrapping her arms around Xema’s waist. Xema giggled prying Yanira off her saying, “Come on now Yanira, you’re getting my dress dirty.”
Yanira smiled at Xema saying, “When I become a priestess I will bless your marriage.” Xema nodded saying, “I look forward to it.” Yanira nodded and then ran off saying, “I better hurry before Lucina gets angry again.” Xema nodded and then walked in the opposite direction filled with excitement.
Meanwhile, Zuriel Castleheart, age twenty-three, was having an audience with his father, Alistair, in the throne room, which was getting prepared for the arrival of the king of Azseldo Kingdom. Zuriel had a look of concern as he spoke.
“I know this looks bad father, but getting help from a Kingdom not aligned with us is just insane,” stated Zuriel.
“I know it is, but you informed me that our troops are now down to a hundred. I can’t afford more men to perish in this war and I especially don’t want to lose you to the enemy,” stated Alistair clenching his hands to the throne.
“I know that, but what if this alliance with Azseldo Kingdom goes against us. We will lose everything.”
Alistair showed a small smile rising from his throne and glanced toward the balcony window that looked out pass the castle walls.
“It is true that the previous king of Azseldo Kingdom refused the alliance six years ago, but there is a new king now and if I remember right, he was quite close to Xema during those youthful days. Maybe that friendship will make him feel obligated to help us.”
Zuriel took a deep breath in and then said, “Xema was the one close to him, but he didn’t seem interested from what I remember.” Alistair chuckled.
“That may be true, but he might be interested now. People do change after all.”
Zuriel sighed clenching his fist.
“This is starting to sound like a matchmaking session.”
Alistair chuckled saying, “That may be so, but you must understand that I am at the point where I am willing to do anything to protect my kingdom and especially my family.”
Zuriel was silent and then bowed down to the waist saying, “I understand father. I will return to my troops for now, so send a messenger if the alliance is successful.” Alistair nodded and then approached Zuriel. He placed his hands on Zuriel’s shoulders making him look him in the eye.
“We will survive this war, my son,” whispered Alistair. Zuriel nodded and then separated from his father walking calmly to the exit of the throne room.
When Zuriel was out sight, Alistair crossed him arms and glanced at the navy blue draped tables that represented the color of Azseldo Kingdom. He ran a hand on the table with a serious look in his eyes.
“This alliance must happen.”
On the other hand, Yanira was in the shrine temple of the castle grounds wearing a pink robe with silver lining and chestnut petal white designs. In her right hand was a steel fan with the design of lotus flowers on the fabric. An orchid hair pin made of gold and lined with clear colored beads like dewdrops was pinned to her short red hair. Light pink lipstick rested on her lips and her small feet remained bare. A small beaded necklace made with oak and feathers said to come from a deceased dragon draped around her neck and on her wrists were silver cuffs painted with gold sparrows representing the symbol of Balwar Kingdom. This attire was her uniform as a priestess in training.
Within the shrine with her was Lucina wearing just her red robe and a steel fan with no designs in her left hand. Lucina approached Yanira and then adjusted the robe on her shoulders.
“I see that you still have problems dressing into your robe,” stated Lucina. Yanira puffed her cheeks in a pout.
“I haven’t grown into it yet,” stated Yanira making Lucina chuckle and pat Yanira’s small head.
“Well you will grow into it, but for now, deal with it,” stated Lucina. Yanira groaned.
Lucina transferred her steel fan to her right hand and faced Yanira saying, “Now follow my movements exactly.” Yanira nodded holding her steel fan like Lucina.
The wind entered the temple through the doors as Yanira and Lucina began to dance. Lucina stepped forward with her right foot pushing her left hand back and unfolded the steel fan in her right hand and swung the fan like a blade cutting through the passing wind and then lifted her left foot making a small spin to the right before lowering her left foot and crouching down like a tiger to the ground and then springing up tossing the open fan lightly into the air and catching it with her left. She sliced through the air again taking three turns to the left. She then lifted her right leg above her head aligning the fan with her leg and then twisted the fan downward before releasing it and catching it with her right hand. She lowered her leg tossing the fan up again and catching it once again with her right. She knelt on the ground touching the fan’s edge to the ground and then leapt up taking three spins in the air making the wind circulate around her form. She then landed back on the ground and knelt to her left knee covering the bottom half of her face with the fan and placed her other hand to her chest. She then bowed her head touching her forehead to the edge of the fan as the wind calmed down.
Lucina glanced at Yanira after the dance and noticed the wind still settling around Yanira, who still had her forehead to the edge of the fan as she kneeled on the ground.
When the wind finally settled, Lucina smiled as she stood up folding her steel fan and stated, “Your movements were perfect, Yanira.” Yanira nodded closing her fan and stood up.
“That was just the Irmazu dance though,” stated Yanira. Lucina chuckled saying, “But you have mastered the other dances as well and now with the Irmazu Dance mastered, I believe we can get to spell casting next.”
Yanira nodded proud that she had mastered all the ceremonial dances of the priestess.
Lucina headed to an altar that held scrolls filled with spells of the priestess, but stopped when the door to the temple burst open revealing a messenger of the king. Lucina folded her hands before her staring at the messenger and asked, “Is there something you need?” The messenger nodded bowing before Lucina.
“My Lady Lucina, His majesty the king has ordered you to dance before the king of Azseldo for tonight’s negotiation as a form of peace.”
Lucina frowned stating, “I would refuse, but I have a feeling that his majesty would be quite persistent, so I will obey. Let him know that I will be ready for this negotiation of peace.” The messenger nodded and ran out of the temple.
Lucina sighed and turned to Yanira saying, “Our lesson will have to wait for another day.” Yanira nodded and was about to walk off, but paused when Lucina added, “I expect your dance to be perfect for tonight, Yanira.” Yanira burst into a bright smile and nodded excitedly.
That night, the throne room of Balwar Kingdom’s royal castle was abuzz with nobles sitting at the tables with a small number of soldiers at their backs for protection. The table of navy blue had empty seats, while Alistair, his queen, Irina, sat on their thrones. On the right of the king, in a smaller throne, sat Xema in pink dazzling dress with jewels and her long brown hair let loose showing more of her beauty. The tables were covered with luscious food like the roast Ruby Boar only found in the woods of Balwar Kingdom and the fresh fruits picked from the Malagoey trees that sparkled in the light of the throne room. The wine made from ripened Miragun was aged perfectly making it a perfect for this gathering.
Alistair sat on his throne with anticipation in his face as his wife held his left hand tenderly. The door to the throne room soon opened making all silent. Through the doors entered King Shuyu of Azseldo Kingdom with his trusted retainers, Raul Zia and Kaysan Liam, behind him.
Raul Zia, age twenty-two, was a trusted retainer of Shuyu since they were teenagers. Raul entered the academy of Azseldo Kingdom at a young age and excelled in the arts and knowledge of the kingdom. He entered the palace only to serve Shuyu when he would take the throne. He had short white hair with traces of red and brown eyes that matched the clothes he wore.
Kaysan Liam, age twenty-two, was also a trusted retainer, with knowledge almost as great as Raul’s, but unlike Raul, he never entered an academy and gained his position in the palace by proving his worth to the previous king by defeating the previous king’s scholars through wits and defeating the captains of the guards through strength alone. He chose to serve Shuyu when the previous king surrendered the throne. He had long black hair, brown eyes, and wore emerald green clothes meant for a retainer of the palace.
Besides the retainers, there were no signs of soldiers entering with Shuyu. Alistair rose from his seat asking, “Is it only you three, your majesty?” Shuyu nodded adjusting his sword on his side.
“My retainers are good enough protection for me within your kingdom, King Alistair,” stated Shuyu. Alistair nodded and held his hand to the table of navy blue.
“Please have a seat,” stated Alistair. Shuyu chuckled saying, “I rather make this visit quick, my king, so please tell me what you want from me?” Alistair clenched his hand in nervousness as did his queen, while Xema seemed to be on cloud nine as she looked at Shuyu with sparkling eyes and reddened cheeks.
“I need your help to win this war against Chuluan Kingdom.”
“That is correct. I won’t hide it. We are losing this war and if the enemy reaches this castle then my kingdom and my family will be lost,” stated Alistair, his voice beginning to shake. The nobles and Irina were silent with seriousness in their faces.
Shuyu noticed the seriousness surrounding the room and sighed glancing at the king.
“Are you asking me to make an alliance with your kingdom, so you can use my troops to defeat the enemy?”
Alistair nodded and stated, “I will do anything to save my kingdom and family.” Shuyu smirked crossing his arms.
“You know my father refused the alliance during his reign, so why would I feel obligated to make the alliance now?”
Alistair bowed down surprising all in the room.
“Please make the alliance and save us all. I will do anything and I mean anything.”
Shuyu chuckled saying, “I only came to be polite, but I have a thought.”
Alistair raised his head with a puzzled look.
“Let me marry your daughter and the alliance will happen and I will save this Kingdom from destruction.”
Alistair smiled brightly, while Irina and Xema had wide eyes and reddened cheeks. Alistair shot up saying, “It will be done.”
Shuyu nodded saying, “Then I agree with this alliance.” The throne room was then filled with applause and cheers.
Shuyu glanced at Raul and said, “Please present the agreement I gave you to the king.” Raul nodded and walked pass Shuyu to Alistair. He unrolled the parchment in his hand and held it to Alistair with a feather pen saying, “Please sign your majesty.” Alistair took the pen and signed right away without reading what was on the parchment. Raul closed the parchment and returned to Shuyu’s side.
Shuyu nodded and then glanced at the food on the navy blue table.
“Since we have an alliance, now I feel obliged to feast with you,” stated Shuyu. Alistair nodded with a smile as Shuyu, Raul, and Kaysan headed to the navy blue table. Shuyu sat at the head of the table taking a glass of the wine to his lips as Raul filled his plate with delectable food and Kaysan tore off a leg from the roasted Ruby Boar.
Alistair held his glass up filled with wine and announced, “To the alliance.”
“To the alliance!” all echoed.
Xema looked at Alistair with bright eyes and asked, “Is this really happening?” Alistair nodded and smiled at Xema saying, “It is thanks to you for this alliance.” Xema smiled with bliss in her face at the thought of marrying Shuyu.
Shuyu, on the other hand, took a bite of a fruit as Kaysan leaned toward his ear and asked, “Is it really wise to make an alliance with this kingdom?”
“I don’t mind as long as I get to marry her.”
Kaysan sighed asking, “Is she really that great?” Shuyu nodded taking another sip from his glass.
Alistair suddenly clapped his hands getting everyone’s attention. Alistair stood up and stated, “Since this alliance was successful I want to grant all of you the sight of the priestess’ ceremonial dance.”
All the nobles applauded, while Shuyu raised an eyebrow in question.
The lights in the room dimmed and then the lights lit up only the center of the throne room. Lucina, dressed in her ceremonial red robe, stepped into the light; and then to everyone’s surprise, Yanira, wearing her pink robe, stepped into the light as well. Both were holding steel fans in their right hands. They both stepped forward with their right foot and at the same time the wind entered through the balcony window and began to surround their forms.
All gasped in amazement, while Shuyu, Raul, and Kaysan jumped from their seats with wide eyes.
Yanira and Lucina began to do Irmazu Dance in sync making the wind move along with them. Lucina’s white hair danced in the wind as did the short strands of Yanira’s hair. Their movements were graceful and yet strong.
Shuyu couldn’t tear his eyes away from them even as the wind blew in his face. The wind began to spin as Yanira and Lucina spun in the air with their fans and then landed on their left knee with their left hand on their chests and the fan covering the bottom half of their faces.
Shuyu stared at Yanira’s golden eyes before they were covered by the steel fan.
The wind settled around Yanira and Lucina at the end of the dance.
The lights filled the room once again and all applauded in awe. Shuyu smiled and clapped the loudest out of all of them.
Yanira and Lucina stood up and then bowed.
Alistair looked at Lucina and stated, “I didn’t expect you to bring Yanira here.”
Lucina smiled stating, “I wanted you to see how much your daughter has improved.” Alistair nodded saying, “You are a marvelous teacher priestess.” Lucina nodded.
Lucina placed a hand to Yanira’s back saying, “Yanira and I must rest now since the dance is done.” Alistair nodded and watched Lucina usher Yanira toward the door.
Yanira glanced back at Alistair, Xema, and Irina and smiled saying, “Good night, father, mother, big sister.” They all wished her good night, but then Yanira met eyes with Shuyu, who hadn’t tore his eyes away from her. Yanira smiled at him saying, “Good night, Shuyu.”
Shuyu smiled with a tint of red in his cheeks and said, “Good night.”
The doors closed behind Yanira and Lucina and then the room was once again filled with the voices of the nobles.
Raul glanced at Shuyu and stated, “That young girl priestess was very talented for her age.” Shuyu nodded. Kaysan also looked at Shuyu adding, “Did I hear right that she’s the daughter of King Alistair?” Shuyu nodded again.
“I guess she decided to be a priestess since she wouldn’t gain the throne of Balwar Kingdom,” stated Shuyu. Raul and Kaysan stared at Shuyu and added, “Did you meet her before?” Shuyu nodded with a smile and stated, “Don’t ask too many questions and enjoy the meal. We set off tomorrow to get the troops ready.” Raul and Kaysan nodded and then continued their meal.
On the other hand, Yanira was walking down the hall rubbing her eyes and yawning. Lucina smiled at Yanira saying, “You should head to bed. I’ll retrieve you in your room tomorrow for your lessons.” Yanira nodded and then asked, “Can you lend the scrolls of spells to me tomorrow as well for me to read?” Lucina nodded and then pushed Yanira forward saying, “Now get to bed.” Yanira nodded and then wobbled off, while Lucina headed in a different direction of the castle.
Yanira stumbled into her room and flopped onto her large bed tossing off the jewels she wore. She didn’t bother changing out of her robe as she crawled under the covers and snuggled against her pillow. In a matter of moments, she had fallen asleep wondering what spells she would learn.
Meanwhile, Shuyu left the chamber he was assigned for the night after the banquet and headed to the garden of the castle. He entered the maze turning many corners until he reached the chestnut tree that never withered. He stared up at the pink and white leaves of the tree and placed his right hand on the trunk.
“You granted me the precious stone and since then all my wishes for my kingdom has come true. Now I hope to get another one of my desires. Grant me this wish.”
Shuyu removed his hand from the chestnut tree and then walked away back into the maze.
Unknown to him, the chestnut tree gave off a shimmer as a being clad in white and long white hair and golden eyes sat on one of the tree’s branches. He glared at Shuyu’s retreating back and sneered before vanishing from the tree.