Hey everyone. This story is finally getting and update. From today until the 31st of this month, a chapter in individual stories will be posted. New story premiers will happen starting tomorrow until the 15th. Come back in a week to see the new chapter for 'The Dark One'. Hope you're enjoying the stories! Happy reading!
Evil is not born. It is made.
This is glaringly true in the early days of Sigyn's life. Despite being different from all around her, and born with dark powers, she resolved to use them for good.
Even though her father had no love for her, and was openly antagonistic towards her, she resolved to be a daughter he could be proud of, learning everything a good child would need, and staying in line.
Despite her people barely knowing she existed, she worked to be a princess worthy of their support, tirelessly studying everything a future ruler would need: politics, war fare, strategy, law, and various other fields.
However, this is after her tenth birthday.
When she was seven, her mother gave birth again, for the last time.
A young boy, the perfect example of a perfect man in their country. Blond, blue eyes, destined to become a strong, powerful warrior king.
And no magic.
Sigyn watched him drift asleep to their mother's tender ministrations, cuddle with teddy bears, and cry at shadows and being alone.
Holding him in her arms, green eyes meeting blue as he smiled mindlessly and played with her hair, Sigyn vowed to keep him this way; innocent, pure, untouched by pain or fear.
And she vowed that she would be the source of all her father's ire, to protect her brother from his vengeful eye and blood stained staff.
The king had numerous anger issues, and was prone to psychotic episodes, especially in his daughter's presence. Many a palace servant became crippled in their efforts to keep the princess from harm.
But we are not talking of her young days.
We are speaking of the moment that changed her life forever, and split her off from the course others planned for her.
The moment that destroyed her.
She was twelve when it happened. Her kingdom of Lodora was well respected for its military might. It may not have been as large or influential as other kingdoms, such as Asgard, but they were decently sized.
Due to their smaller size, they may not have had as many enemies as larger empires, but they did have their enemies.
The Pemica Empire. As large as Lodora, but much more vicious, their Dotekis Dynasty having lasted a hundred generations. Surprising, given their ruthlessness leading to murdering each other, and their cruelness creating many enemies, both within and without their country.
They were rich and powerful from their numerous colonies they had ruthlessly conquered.
And now, Pemica was setting its sights on Lodora.
The king, Regulus Paraben Dotekis XII, amassed all his armies and surrounded Lodora, issuing an ultimatum.
Surrender by the equinox in two weeks, or he would slaughter most of their people and lay waste to them. If they didn't, most of their people would die from the armies and the destruction they wrought, and the aftermath. The entire royal family would die, and everyone loyal to them would follow.
If they did, they would have to pay a tithe of half their output yearly. The king would have been beheaded, as was tradition, the queen taken as a concubine to the king, her son slaughtered, and Sigyn would have been forced to marry one of the king's sons, or face the same fate as her brother.
Sigyn looked at the odds. The army of Pemica was twice their size, and twice as ruthless, fighting without honor. Fighting would decimate the army, removing a large amount of capable men from the population, leaving many families unable to care for themselves.
And without an army, the Pemmicans would be free to destroy as much of the kingdom as possible. Thousands would fall at their sword, thousands more to the flames caused by their destruction, and in the future years, millions might die by sword and famine from the ruthlessness of the Pemmican army and destruction of their lands.
Thousands might already die, if the siege lasts long enough. The few sorcerers strong enough to create a force field to protect the kingdom from invasion would eventually burn themselves out. While they might be able to cycle, eventually the continuous strain would kill them. The field would fall and Lodora would be invaded.
She could not think of her people suffering, of the thought of her brother, only five, not yet old enough to understand the gravity of their situation, being slaughtered just because of the consequence of his birth. Her father may have been almost cruel to her and those she cared for, and her mother may have done nothing to stop him, but she still loved them both, and couldn't bear to see them come to harm.
As for her fate… she had other plans for herself, and none included marriage.
She studied every angle. There was no chance for a sneak attack, they were surrounded. A frontal attack was suicide, and would destroy everything. They couldn't call for help, the army would intercept the message, and who would care about them enough to help? Accepting the terms of surrender meant death for many, and for many more, a fate worse than death. Outlasting them was also out.
What could anyone do, much less her, to save the kingdom?
For eight days and nights, she sat in contemplation, studying every action the army had ever made, and figuring out what would happen with every scenario she could think of.
Six days left, the army hadn't budged, and people were starting to panic. The king was doing nothing. The army had no instructions, and disorder was starting to spread.
All seemed lost, and hope was all but gone.
Sigyn herself was out of ideas, and rapidly become desolate and depressed, considering taking her family and hiding them in the mountains to protect them.
She looked bleakly out the window. The gloomy day matched her mood. At least the clouds hid the force field protecting them, rapidly deteriorating due to the ever present army.
A bolt of light shot up from the tower in the center of the city. Another magician must have taken up the stand and renewed the field.
All that power, and being reduced to glorified walls.
Her eyes narrowed. Not all sorcerers may have had the power to protect Lodora, but there were many who had great powers. Powers to bring great storms, but reduced to controlling the weather to grow crops. The power to create or destroy mountains, reduced to miners and builders. Great forest druids who could create a giant forest together, dedicated to preserving the forests, keeping the magical beasts and peoples safe from the men of the city.
So much power, reduced to almost nothing, because the king was afraid. Because he was jealous. If someone else was in charge, someone who would allow them to fight for what they believed in, what could they accomplish?
What would happen if she could convince them to fight with her?
Alone, they might have the power to force them away, and to assert Lodora's dominance, protecting them from attack for maybe hundreds of years.
If she could get control of the army, and convince all the sorcerers of Lodora to fight with her, they might be able to stop Pemica from hurting anyone ever again.
They could depose its king, and take over the empire, putting them on the map. People would respect them, and admire them for their might. People would come to them for treaties of alliance. Smaller kingdoms would come to them, offering to join them in return for protection.
But she had no power over the army. Most of them didn't even know she existed, and many had a stigma against magic users. It was the exact same story for the sorcerers.
She had exactly six days to get both groups on her side and lead them into battle for the country. But first, she had to get both groups together on their own, and make her case.
Luckily for her, it was tradition among all magic users and magical people to meet in the clearing in the middle of The Silver Oak Woods five days before the equinox.
She made her decision. She had a plan, and she knew exactly how to accomplish it.
Step one: find the sorcerers, and make her case for an alliance.
Five days until the equinox.
Signy woke before anyone else in the palace and snuck to the stables, quietly saddling a horse and riding it out.
She rode across the empty cobblestone streets, the hoof beats of the galloping horse echoing unnatural. It was unnervingly bright, the light of the force field protecting them brighter than the stars. But you could still see the faintest shadows of the looming ships overhead.
She passed through the open gates of the city and into the countryside. They passed farm after farm, and numerous fields of crops still growing.
Eventually, the horse trotted to a stop, too nervous to continue.
They were at the border of The Silver Oak woods. Wind blew through the leaves, making a rustling sound, almost as if whispering to each other of the stranger before them hours before dawn. The trees grew so close to each other it was almost a wall.
And it was a wall. The druids could control the trees, and the dryads that inhabited them helped, making the forest so thick, nothing could get in without permission, and everything within had protection.
Sigyn nudged the horse forward to just before the trees. She took a deep breath, cleared her throat, and then raised her arms to the forest.
"Great spirits of the forest! Dryads of the mighty trees! Druids of the Silver Oak Woods! I come before you with a request!"
The winds stopped, and the trees went silent, as if listening to her. Sigyn took this as a sign to continue.
"My name is Sigyn Hall, crown princess of Lodora. Magic runs through my veins, as it runs through yours! Our country is under attack, as you doubtless know. My father, the king, is ignoring the threat, and will let the kingdom be destroyed. I request an audience before you at the Spring Equinox meeting at dawn. I have a plan to protect everyone, including you, from the Pemmican army, and to fix relations between us all, stopping the army from hurting you and making you hide your people in this magnificent forest."
The trees murmured among themselves in the wind, as if discussing her request. Sigyn remained silent as the trees rustled. Eventually, they went silent again. Nothing happened for a couple minutes. She started to lose hope, and was about to turn around, when the trees started creaking.
Two trees at the edge, slowly moved apart, making an opening just large enough for a horse with a rider to pass through. Sigyn beamed, almost whooping with relief.
She composed herself quickly, "Thank you for granting me this boon Great Ones!"
She nudged the horse forward, and after some hesitation, it set forward at a brisk trot.
They passed beneath dark swaying branches. Leaves and twigs crunched with every step the horse took. No roots tripped them, and trees and bushes seemed to inch out of their way, allowing them easy passage.
The sky started to lighten. Sigyn had always loved the dawn, relishing in the new beginning it gave with its light and warmth. But today, she took no joy in it. She had a mission of grave importance. If she failed, or messed up, insulting the ones whose help she needed the most, Lodora was done for.
And every rotation of the sun hammered home the fact that time was slipping away. With every passing hour, Lodora inched closer to destruction, her people doomed to death.
Unless Sigyn could make her plan work. All the people of Lodora needed her: the families whose men fought, the farmers whose land was in the path of destruction, the countless women and girls who could be raped or murdered by the army, the peoples of the forest, and her little brother. So young and innocent, unaware of the threat literally over their heads. Unknowing that if his big sister failed, it would be his head, and countless others.
Signy made an oath every day during the siege to protect everyone in her kingdom, from her father, to the tiniest babe, to the ones who had futures ahead of them, and ones who had not even come into this world at all. She was determined to protect them all, even if no-one knew it was her.
She COULD NOT fail. If she did, all was lost. But she would be at the front of the fighting either way, fighting for the country and people she loved and cherished, vowing with every breath she took to protect them, down to her final heart beat if it meant that.
She reached the edge of the clearing and paused.
All the people had gathered around, the leaders of each group on a large flat rock formation in the center, overlooking all the other.
She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and slowly nudged her horse to walk forward.
The crowd parted for her, thousands of eyes watching her. Judging her. Questioning her motives. Some were angry at the audacity and nerve she had for coming before them after everything her father had done to them. Most were confused, wondering who she was.
But the eyes that unnerved her the most was of the leaders: cold, harsh, unfeeling. Ready to rip into her in a second if she gave them the chance and reason. Most held her in contempt; just a human girl, not even of age, claiming she had a plan to stop an army so large that even the king couldn't do anything.
She reached the bottom of the formation and dismounted. She looked up for permission to come up. Most just watched her, but the dryad queen, and the chief druid both nodded at her.
Sigyn took a deep breath for not the first or last time and rose up the steep, jagged stairs. She reached the top, and met the eyes of the leaders. They summoned thrones for themselves, and sat to watch and listen.
She bowed to them, "Thank you for the chance to speak to you all. I understand you have no love for me, or my people, and most of you would love to see my father's head on a spike."
The elf king nodded, "We give you this chance because you show more respect than all your country and family combined. If you had no magic in you, you would not be here."
She kept her head down, "I understand your majesty. I will try to keep my speech short, so as to not waste your time and patience."
The leaders nodded, not on her side, but willing to listen to her, for the moment. She straightened and looked over everyone. All eyes were on her.
She cleared her throat, "People of The Silver Oak Woods! As you can clearly see for yourselves, the armies of Pemica are besieging the entire realm of Lodora. King Regulus has issued an ultimatum: surrender by the equinox, or he will slaughter many of the people, and raze much of the land to the ground."
The head sorcerer, clearly tired from his stint at the beginning of holding the field up to protect the lands, spoke up, "We know this already. And we know the king does nothing. Your people hate us, and have hunted our kind before we retreated to these woods. We are already doing more than we should by providing them with a shield."
"Yes, and I thank you and your people for helping us the way you are." Sigyn said, bowing to him, "I fear my father believes that we can outlast them, thinking that eventually they will get bored and leave."
The elf king eyed her, "Why is that a problem?"
"With all due respect to the brave sorcerers who are providing the field, just creating it to protect the kingdom is tiring them, burning them up to almost the point of death. Not many of their people have the strength to create a field that large for longer than a day. And this is without the army attacking the field."
He narrowed his eyes, "What is your point?"
"Come the equinox, if my father hasn't agreed to the terms, Pemica will attack. All of the sorcerers working together wouldn't be able to hold a shield against an army that large attacking the shield. They WOULD die."
The head sorcerer looked like he was contemplating the problem, while the elf king waved his hand dismissively, "So a few sorcerers die. The rest of them will be fine, as will the rest of us. The people of the kingdom will get exactly what they deserve in that case."
Sigyn nodded, "Yes, most of you would be fine. In the beginning. And yes, the ones who deserve such a punishment would get it. But many of the people who would die have not caused you or your people any harm. And eventually, Pemica will turns its eyes to you, looking to wipe everyone here out."
The crowd gasped, murmurs flying everywhere, some shouting out in alarm, several mothers crying and holding their babes to their chests while husbands attempted to comfort them.
"I can tell you exactly how Lodora will end. Pemica will attack the field, and the sorcerers will all rush to help the shield. They may last a day, or just a couple hours, depending on the intensity of the attack. Every person in the realm outside of this forest will rush to the capital to be protected. The army will mass together and get ready to march. The mages will burn up from exhaustion of holding the shield, and will die, crumbling to dust as the shield falls. The Pemmican army will land and march en masse for the capital, burning everything they find on the way to the ground."
Sigyn looked around. The crowd was looking at her in horror as she talked. Most of the leaders were now looking a little worried. The elf king and the head of the naiads were looking cool as ice as she told her tale of fear.
"Our army will be at the wall, trying to protect the innocent. I will stand with them, at the front of the line. I could not say for sure if the king would join, but I will stand and fight for my people to the last breath I have. I will die when the Pemmican army arrives at the wall. So will the rest of the soldiers, overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of Pemica. The city walls might hold for a couple hours, but they will break through. They will wreak chaos and destruction on everyone. The city will be packed, making it easier for them to kill. Many will die. They will storm the palace, and the few guards who stayed behind to protect the royal family will not even have a chance."
Sigyn paused to breathe, starting to get overwhelmed by fear as she realized that everything she was describing was going to happen if her plan failed. She bowed her head, took a deep breath, and looked up again.
"Every worker in the castle that tries to protect my mother, the queen, or my little brother, will be cut down, having no fighting skills. They won't have enough time to evacuate them out of the castle, if they could even get past the walls before getting caught. If my father remains, he will be beheaded, which I know you think is a fitting end for him. My little brother…" she paused to take a shaky breath, tears starting to fall, "will soon follow. He's only five. He doesn't even know what happening."
Her voice started shaking more and more as she continued, "If they don't kill my mother, the king will keep her as a concubine, and rape her as often as he pleases. His men will do the same to any female who remains after their storm. All the men will be killed to prevent them from fighting back. The little boys will be taken from their mothers and indoctrined into their army. The farmlands will be gone, as well as the crops. No one could tend to them anyways. There will be famine for years, and many more will die. But before that, they'll set their sights on this forest."
The dryad queen turned a pale green as she fearfully whispered, "What will happen to us?"
"They will burn the trees."
Her statement was greeted with screams of horror from the dryads in the crowd. Many others looked even more fearful, as if guessing what would happen next. Even the elf king was starting to look worried.
"Without the protection of the wall, the dryads won't be the only ones to fall. The druids, satyrs and centaurs will go to fight and drive them back. They'll be crippled by the smoke. You may have magic, but losing the forest will weaken it, and you may be able to fight for a while, but eventually, you will be overrun and killed. One by one. The next to go will be the elves, deciding to fight as a last resort to protect the ones who are left. Again, you will be able to fight for a while. Maybe a whole month. But eventually, you will run out of supplies, and you will die within your walls. Meanwhile, the rivers will be black and red with soot and blood, clogged by fallen trees and bodies. The naiads will fall."
All the leaders stared at her in fear.
"Some may escape to the mountains, but without food or water, and no weapons, you will either starve to death, or the army will follow you. That is what will happen should no actions be made in the next four days."
Sigyn stood silent as cries of worry and fear rippled across the crowd. Her voice was sore, her eyes red as she watched the leaders confer among themselves. She had managed to get to them.
The elf king looked to her, "You say if. I take it you have a plan?"
She nodded, "Yes. You all have immense power. The Pemmicans aren't expecting us to attack. They know the army is too small, and they expect you to leave us to our fate."
The druid chief met her eyes, "What would you have us do?"
"I will take the army and lead them to march on the Pemmicans, distracting them. The shield will drop, and they will land to march on us. They will be in one single area, no longer surrounding us. Instead, you can surround them."
The dryad queen nodded, "A trap. While they focus on the army, thinking they will win, our armies surround them from the sides and from behind. They cannot fight on four fronts."
Sigyn nodded, "exactly. We will instead bring them to their knees, and they will be the ones surrendering."
The naiad chief raised her hand, "Three questions. One, how do you expect to get the army under your control? Two, how do you expect them to work with us? Three, besides continuing to live, what do we get out of it?"
"They will follow the orders of the royal family. That is how I get them to listen to me, and work with you. What you get out of it is a repeal of the laws that repress you. I WILL get you into the court. You WILL have say. You will be able to go wherever you wish in the kingdom with prosecution, and if you help protect the people, they will respect you and honor you for helping them, even after all they have done. And the colonies of Pemica have been eradicated of magic. You can travel to those lands when we win and return them to the glory they once had."
Sigyn knew she had the agreement of the masses. She could hear their excited whispers of the prospects of winning. The druid and sorcerer chiefs looked pleased at the idea of spreading magic back into the universe, and the nature spirits looked glad for no prosecution.
The elf king narrowed his eyes, "That's a lot of lofty promises. And you seem so sure we would win. How can you promise any of this?"
Sigyn met his eyes, "The army is capable, and your armies are too. If we worked together, we would beat them. Pemica would become a colony of Lodora, and their colonies would become our, allowing you to travel there and fix the mess they made. As for my other promises…" Sigyn straightened her back, "I'm the crown princess. The nobles will not be able to fight me on the laws. I can get the leaders of the army to help me enforce the new rules and grant you protection. I can get you the support of the people. My father will be unable to stop me."
The elf king considered this, then nodded. He looked to the other leaders, who whispered among themselves, then nodded.
They stood, thrones disappearing, and faced her.
The druid chief spoke, "We are in agreement. If you can get the agreement of the army and the populace, and remove the laws, we will fight with you the day before the equinox to protect the innocent, our people, and Lodora."
The crowd cheered as Sigyn bowed again, promising to get it done with speed. She stepped down the stairs, trying not to fall, and mounted her horse.
They galloped away through the forest and countryside. Sigyn could barely keep her eyes open, and struggled to stay on her horse.
Many people working in the fields waved to her as she passed, and she waved back. Passing through the gates of the city, the crowd parted easily for her.
She stabled, fed and cleaned her horse, the trudged up to her room. No one had noticed she was gone yet. Good. Her plan was going to work.
She sat at her desk and got a piece of paper to begin writing orders for the army and the people. Her eyes were watering. Her head spun, and the room shifted in and out of view. Her eyes shut as she passed out, head hitting the desk, exhaustion finally taking its toll after many sleepless nights, and the stress of what was to come.
She had to hurry.
Time was running out.