Chapter 2 – Vatares

by Jordan

Taeron Vekoryath, Thane of the West, had been bedridden with illness for days, his health steadily decreasing as the time of his death approached. The elder of his twin sons, Vatares, had already taken up the responsibilities of Thane in his father’s place, and understood that it would not be long until he held his father’s position not only in practicality, but in title as well.

Vatares did not intend to be the Thane his father was, however, and it was on the morning of the fifth day since Taeron’s illness struck him that the twins set out to assess the state of the old throne room. Though it hadn’t been used since before Shadowgate Castle’s restoration generations ago, Vatares meant to have it reinstated.

I’ll convert the new throne room into a grand hall for feasts, it was always better suited for frivolity than command. Taeron had it built on the top floor of the Black Tower, which his father, Kaelar Vekoryath had built before him. It was a long hall, the square stone pillars thematic of the outer portion of the castle lining the perimeter, and massive gold-tinged windows casting radiant light down upon the intricately carved sandstone throne.

The old throne room had a hall just as large, leading to a spacious circular room carved by Nyslor The Conqueror, from the vastest of Shadowgate’s caverns, at the heart of the subterranean portion of the castle. In its center stood a cylindrical dais, marking the very spot where the Shadowbane named himself Dragon of Satarya nearly a century ago. Some twenty years later, Sasemos led Satarya’s refugees from the caverns beneath The Dragons’ Teeth Mountains, and found Dal’aman, still standing after the Zalkriel invasion and the Godswrath Storm. For that, the Shadowbane named The All Seeing Tower as Satarya’s new Capitol, leaving Sandro Vekoryath command over Shadowgate. Sandro had a black throne carved from the stone of Shadowgate’s own quarries and had it placed atop the dais, where it stood now as it had for decades.

When the ceremony is done, and I am Thane, I will sit upon the true Throne of the West, not my father’s glorified chair. Vatares thought as he and his brother descended torches in hand, through centuries old tunnels and caverns, into the heart of the old castle.

“Are you certain we should do this without an escort?” asked Kreythas as they spiraled down and down through one of the stone stairwells, the darkness parting before them and seemingly regrouping behind them.

“Shadows have not breeched Shadowgate’s defenses in decades, we have nothing to fear,” replied Vatares. “besides, what Shadow would dare enter the Dragonhome of the Shadowbane?”

“Former Dragonhome.” Kreythas corrected. “Why would father never allow us to see it if not because there was some danger in doing so?”

“What do you fear, Kreythas? We are the blood of House Vekoryath, it is our place.”

“You know as well as I that all Dragonhomes retain some of their creator’s Magic, even after they die.” Kreythas stopped and put a hand on his twin’s shoulder. “Blood of House Vekoryath or not, we are but mortals, and Magic is the stuff of Dragons.”

“Soon you and I both shall wield the Magic of Dragons. I did not intend to tell you this, but when I am Thane, I mean to give you Blood Talon.” Vatares could clearly see that his brother was taken aback.

“You honor me greatly, Vatares.” His brother began. “But what use is a Dragonforged blade without an enemy to slay with it?”

“I can think of several uses,”

“We live in a time of peace, brother. Let us hope it remains that way.”

The rest of the descent they made in silence, following the ancient corridors of the old castle to the throne room that haunted Vatares’s dreams.

“The Dragonhome,” He heard his brother mutter in awe as they passed beneath an intricate arch and into the round stone chamber, the flames of their torches casting huge, shifting shadows.

Circling around the central dais, Vatares paused and held his torch close to examine the faces of each of the three statues that faced the throne. To the north stood the first Varken Khalterian, a fierce man, broad shouldered, and long nosed. He wore the customary silken robe of the north, tied at the waist with a wide sash. In both hands he held a copy of his blade, Dragonblood, as if he were receiving it for the first time. To the west stood Kaelos Shadeslayer, the First Thane of Satarya, and Lord of Shadowgate. He had the high cheekbones and long fingers of House Vekoryath, and wore a stone likeness of the armor that Sasemos forged as a gift to go with his title. In his left hand he held the helm he’d always worn into battle, a black mane cascading down the back of it. The right hand he rested on the pommel of a copy of his sword, Blood Talon. To the south stood Darak Garethyan, a thick man with a full beard and a bald head. His brow seemed heavy upon his face, but there was intelligence in his eyes. He wore Ardrean plate armor, a cape billowing behind him, and a copy of his sword, Enforcer, sheathed at his hip.

When they had looked upon each of the faces of the first thanes, they walked away from the throne and down the long hallway east. Far at the end stood one more statue, a miniature sandstone likeness of Dal’aman, Satarya’s Capitol. Far newer than the others, it had been carved and placed there after the Godswrath Storm ended, and the refugees left the shadows of The Dragon’s Teeth Mountains. Four castles remained standing after the Storm, and Dal’aman was the only one that wasn’t at least partially inside of a mountain, and for that Sasemos named it Satarya’s new Capitol. The All Seeing Tower, Vatares thought as he brushed his fingers over the smooth surface of the sandstone.

“Sasemos created that structure with his Magic, more like than not.” Kreythas said warily.

“Yes, as a gift to our grandfather’s grandfather. I can do no harm by simply touching it.”

Holding the torch nearer the base of the tower, Vatares realized the gate was of a different color than the rest of the stone. Where most of the building was the color of sand, the gate was grey like the stone of Shadowgate. With a finger he brushed, then pushed the miniature Gates of Dal’aman, and to his surprise, they opened.

Instantly, all was dark. The torches went out. He realized as he heard Kreythas draw his sword, but before he thought to reach for his flint and steel, symbols began to appear around the base of the tower, emitting dull red light. In old Sataryan, they read: Heir to the First Thane here lays the heart of your Destiny.

The twins watched in silent wonder as the sandstone tower collapsed into a pile of sand, revealing what looked to be the top of a rounded gem the size of a man’s head. In the dim light of the glowing symbols, Vatares reached forward, unhesitating, and plunged his hands into the sand, grasping hold of the object and pulling it forth. It was not as heavy as he had imagined it would be, and he could feel warmth within it. In the dim light of the runes, the stone seemed black.

“Light your torch.” He told his brother as he caressed its smooth surface.

Kreythas did as he was told, sheathing his sword and striking flint on steel until his torch caught flame. Both men’s breath caught as they saw how truly beautiful the stone was. Not quite perfectly round, it was a reflective ebon with swirls and flecks of purple patterned all around it. Turning it in his hands, a foreign voice spoke faintly into Vatares’s mind: Rylea. Kreythas reached out to touch it, but withdrew his hand as soon as he felt its heat.

Vatares could feel his brother’s eyes on him, but he could also feel another presence, a much stronger one. Some part of him knew they were both being watched, evaluated.

“What is it?” Kreythas asked, realizing the look of triumph in his brother’s eyes.

“It is Rylea,” Vatares answered, unable to remove his eyes from the stone.

“Rylea? I do not know that name.” Kreythas reached out once more, gingerly tracing the purple lines on the stone with one finger.

“Learn it well, brother, for someday you may lead her armies into war.”