When Twins War: Book I by Ryan Peter by Ryan Peter - Read Online

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When Twins War - Ryan Peter

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war.

CHAPTER ONE

Soilabi, the sultan of Iza-Kiêrre, found himself staring, utterly bewildered, at a scimitar pointed at his throat. It glinted in the dusk desert sun, shining gold and silver, as if both the sun and time itself were shocked to see its appearance.

We have been friends since we were but a child! he said, looking at his attacker in the eyes. Our cities have been in a peaceful covenant for generations! It is our calling! What are you doing?

His friend, Ahmatein, seemed to be confused for a moment, but kept his scimitar pointed at him. Soilabi saw Ahmatein’s chancellor, the dark-skinned Sephobwe, emerge. In his hands he held a fiery torch. He nodded to Ahmatein and said, It is time.

Soilabi was shocked and defenseless. It was customary for the sultans to meet alone at the Meadow, without their guards, soldiers, servants, or even chancellors. These were to guard the outside of the Meadow - a wondrous and beautiful garden, magical in nature, deep within the desert of Colone, thriving and verdant even under the desert sun.

In the centre of this Meadow stood the Tree of the Covenant, which represented the deep and ancient promise of peace between the Twin Cities of Iza-Kiêrre and Ben-Kiêrre. The covenant itself had been etched into the tree, carved with an ancient hand, and would serve to bind the Twin Cities together.

He watched with horror as his beloved friend Ahmatein approached Sephobwe and received the torch from his hands.

So this is the Way of the All? Soilabi said. Destruction of our covenant?

Neither Sephobwe or Ahmatein replied, the latter gazing at the torch and turning it slowly in his hands. He had no expression on his face; his square and handsome features gently reflected in the red haze from the fire.

We have carried this flame all the way from Ben-Kiêrre, he said slowly, mesmerised by the flames. It was lit in a great ceremony of Saha. Fifteen flames, the ways and truths, the disciplines of the only way, into one flame.

Soilabi grimaced. I do not know this ceremony. It is new to our lands.

Of course you do not know it, my friend, said Ahmatein. We have adorned our halls with the paintings; paintings of our past long gone. The ceremony is conducted when we are to find a new way to practice the true Fifteen Disciplines. In this ceremony our artists prophetically painted this moment together, on a great and beautiful canvas. It took many days and weeks to paint it, and then finally it became clear to us.

Sephobwe came closer and Soilabi spat at his feet.

"This is your great teaching? Which you have brought from Kelagot? It must be true, then — the Moncoin has returned to your lands. Kelagot was once a great kingdom."

Sephobwe said nothing, keeping his composure absolutely still.

The Tree of the Covenant is of a darker evil, my friend, said Ahmatein. Its evil has permeated our lands for generations, and it is calling its dark evil to come and strike us when we least expect it.

He looked up.

Right now, he said, it is calling to the heavens — calling for that evil to come. History was written by the races of old, but that does not mean the races of old were pure and good. He looked at Soilabi now, his face fierce and determined. No, this time is over, my friend. We burn our passions here in the flame, the same flame that we once shared together, when fire represented the covenant between us. The darkest evil of all worlds shall begin to perish at our hands today, and we shall begin to finally taste true freedom.

Rage and sadness, both at once, was all Soilabi felt at that moment. As Ahmatein moved towards the tree Soilabi raced forward to entreat him to stop this madness, but this time it was Sephobwe who drew his scimitar, his piercing blue eyes looking intently at Soilabi.

Come no step closer, exalted sultan, he said, for this is right and true for all virtue. If you should love your friend, your people, and life itself, you should leave him to do what he must. We do not expect you to understand, for you have been blinded by this evil that stands here today.

Sephobwe drew only a little closer, speaking softly. If you would ask us and submit to the teaching, as we have offered before, you would then understand. As it is now, we must do this whether there is understanding or not. For a great evil lies dormant but ready to strike, and we must strike first.

You are mad! Soilabi shouted. This tree protects us from the Moncoin — our covenant ensures that when he returns we will be ready! To break this covenant will hasten his return and leave us defenseless!

The Moncoin will no longer desire this land, Ahmatein replied. For we will not have anything for him to desire. For we will not have the abundance he seeks here because we do not desire for abundance. Do you not understand? This tree, this covenant, is a darker evil and separates us from the divine that lies within. This divine the Moncoin cannot stand against. Indeed, he may become one with it, and then we have defeated him at last. For even he is part of All.

Soilabi stared at him, astonished.

We must let the great teaching of truth permeate all of Lexedore! Ahmatein said. For kings and queens and lords and nobles all fight with each other over their own passions. Ah, but if they could only find the freedom I have, we would finally be Truth itself! This tree's evil lies in its deception, its covering of the Truth.

This is madness, Soilabi said.

There is much you should learn, said Sephobwe, impassive, as always. He positioned himself more strongly between the two rulers. We do not expect you to understand. But you shall. It is here where your beloved friend finds true wealth. You are invited to partake of this virtue, if you wish.

Soilabi ignored him and pleaded to Ahmatein. "Please, my friend! My friend! Do not do this! We must talk of this. It is right for us to decide what is right together!"

You will taste freedom, were Ahmatein's final words, his eyes reflecting his resolve. Then, he seemed confused again, but for only a few seconds, after which a dull and emotionless expression returned and he approached the Tree of the Covenant, fixing his eyes on it. The Tree was only about as tall as two men, and as thick as two standing side by side. Its flourishing leaves moved slightly in a gentle breeze, a butterfly fleeing in terror as the flame approached.

He touched the leaves with the torch and instantly they ignited, a flurry of fire raging in a matter of seconds. Soilabi's screams and pleas continued to go unnoticed as Ahmatein gazed at the ancient covenant, their friendship and love, blistering towards its end and becoming as nothing before him.

Soilabi eventually gave up the pleas and fell on his knees weeping.

Indifferent, Ahmatein mounted his white horse nearby and didn’t look back, ignoring his friend’s sobs. Both he and Sephobwe left, with Soilabi to suffer in his grief alone.

The sun set and the cold night came, but Soilabi still wailed and wept, lying on his face in the dust. His people could do nothing to help him, and could do nothing to stop the burning. They all watched in horror as the great covenant of over a thousand years between the Twin Cities of Ben-Kiêrre and Iza-Kiêrre had come to utter desolation. It was before light the next morning when Soilabi finally rose and galloped to Ben-Kiêrre to make amends with Ahmatein, wondering if he had done something to offend him. He finally arrived at Ben-Kiêrre by nightfall, but not even a messenger came to receive him.

Soilabi wept outside the city gates, pleading loudly to Ahmatein – if he could hear him - to forgive him for any wrong he had done. He remained there, wretched and broken for many more hours, silently weeping. Finally his soldiers lifted him up and brought him back to his kingdom and his city of Iza-Kiêrre; and he entered it with great sadness in his heart.

CHAPTER TWO

Far away from the Twin Cities stood the Monument, the city of the Outlanders, inherited from the ancient Genicoins who disappeared thousands of years ago. The Monument was the most ancient and powerful centre of learning and influence in all of Lexedore. Here was the Great Library, kept for generation after generation with books and scrolls and manuscripts that dated back for centuries, even to the great war with the Moncoin.

Tarkanyon the Outlander sat down and placed his hands into the sleeves of his black cloak while observing Luillan, the Keeper of the Great Library and one of his greatest friends. His long, bleached white braids fell over the back of his chair as he observed Luillan closely, who was clearly ignoring him, studying some large book on his desk.

Tarkanyon cleared his throat.

They are sending you to Iza-Kiêrre, I hear? Luillan said, turning another page but not looking up. No doubt this is why you are asking these questions.

I haven’t even asked questions yet, Tarkanyon said. But, yes, that is why I am here.

Not even to visit an old friend? Luillan asked, lifting an eyebrow.

Friend? I don’t observe a friend down here.

Luillan ignored him, turning a page in his book and pointing his finger at a line, seemingly with more important thoughts on his mind.

The only friends you have seem to be your history books, Tarkanyon said.

Luillan's left eyebrow lifted again and he turned another page. Finally, he took his glasses off but continued to look at the book. They appear to have a good deal of manners at least, he said. Sometimes I cannot believe we’re even from the same Order.

He sat back in his chair, placing his hands behind his head, after brushing aside his long, white braids. He was suppressing a smile.

After some silence he let off a laugh. Let us then talk. I think I understand and know your questions already.

Perhaps. Tarkanyon said. So what is it you are studying?

Exactly what you will be asking. A complex history of the Sultans of Iza-Kiêrre and Ben-Kiêrre.

He moved the book away.

"Sounds fascinating, Tarkanyon replied. I so love complex history."

Yes it is, Luillan answered.

What of recent events, first? Tell me what you know, Tarkanyon said.

You’re more acquainted with recent politics, Luillan replied. He was always more interested in history than current affairs. After all, this is why they are sending you. But I will tell you what I think.

Tell me, my friend.

Stuffing a book marker in his book, Luillan closed it and stood up. He stared at a painting on the wall behind him for a while. Tarkanyon looked at the book and shook his head at the sheer size of it. Afterwards, he looked up and saw Luillan was still staring at the painting.

It was a rather large painting of the Library, with a shadowed man dressed in a dark coat standing by Luillan’s age-old desk, arms folded and looking at the artist. Tarkanyon never understood why the library had a painting of itself hung up next to the bookshelves, or who the robed man was, but he knew to ask Luillan better questions than that. Besides, he asked him once and received a history lesson that at once made his head spin. He wasn't in the mood for that – ever – again. He also noticed, before, that the painting looked slightly different in parts to what the library looked like now. The staircase seemed more colourful than it was now and the room also seemed bigger. But he was never patient enough to ask Luillan why.

Luillan, for his part, was muttering. Perhaps history must move to the present... Yes, history must move to the present. He turned around. There is, of course, a prophecy about the Moncoin.

Which one this time? Most of the prophecies are used to scare the children. And many stories are used as an excuse to do some rather interesting politics.

"Exactly, said Luillan loudly, as if he suddenly found the answer. Someone is trying to make a prophecy come true. We should expect it from the Twin Cities. They are, after all, steeped in the legends as the very people who saved the South from the Moncoin."

You, of course, believe that the Moncoin is real, Tarkanyon said.

"You know my feelings on that. Yes, he was real, which is different. And perhaps the tales aren’t all correct. He may have been more, well, man than the books make us believe. Most of history seems to be more poetry and metaphor than history. But poetry and metaphor can often explain things a great deal better than simple language. Especially those sort of things which cannot be explained."

Such as the Bird of Fire?

Yes, that one, Luillan said. You obviously did do some studying of your own?

Occasionally. When I'm in the mood for a headache. The Bird of Fire is a favourite children’s story. I just guessed.

Luillan smiled. This was true. Children liked the story. He remembered liking it himself. Of course, those children eventually become adults, and then they disbelieve the story or just believe it in a new way. The Meadow is real, he said. It got there, somehow.

A bird of fire, after destroying the Moncoin’s forces in the South and sending him back through the Great Passing by the Twin Cities, decided to die in the desert and out of it sprung a garden? Tarkanyon said. Yes, I suppose that’s how it happened.

Or it created the Meadow and went back to wherever it came from, Luillan said. Whatever the case, the Meadow is real and it flourishes in the middle of a desert, with a tree that we know has the words of a covenant etched on it by some or other ancient hand.

The Genicoins, most thought. It probably was.

But Tarkanyon, Luillan continued. I believe the Bird of Fire is the right trail. But I don’t know why. This appears to be the only reason why anyone would want to control the Twins. We know the history books say that the cities were used as weapons against the Moncoin – instruments of justice, as the writings put it. I have always thought that this was related to the Bird of Fire legend somehow.

Tarkanyon frowned. I’m not going to exactly get to the Twin Cities and solve a mystery that generations of people haven’t been able to.

Luillan laughed. Why not?

So you believe someone is wanting to control the Twin Cities? Sephobwe, no doubt.

Who else? He came from nowhere with some foreign philosophy that Ahmatein seems to be enamored with. We have dealt with him these eighteen years he has been Chancellor and Teacher of Ben-Kiêrre. I met him only once, briefly, when he came to visit us. He has only come three times even though we’ve invited him more than that, and never within the two years since he and Ahmatein burned down the Tree of the Covenant.

The Twin Cities are powerful and rich, said Tarkanyon. But the power they possess lies in their political position with regards to the legends. Their armies aren’t powerful enough to gain Sephobwe more power and gold than he already has. And he would never have won Iza-Kiêrre over by burning the Tree. Flat out war with the Twins will only weaken both of them.

They are going to war? Luillan said.

Ahmatein has openly stated now that this is what he wants.

It doesn’t make much sense, yes, said Luillan. Unless…

Unless?

It’s what I’m trying to say to you. Unless Sephobwe or Ahmatein know something of the Bird of Fire which makes the Twins more powerful than we know.

How powerful could it possibly be, whatever it represents? Tarkanyon asked.

Powerful enough to drive the Moncoin from the South, Luillan replied. The key has to do with Sephobwe’s teaching, I think. But we’ve no idea what it really is. We cannot get into Ben-Kiêrre’s schools and we’ve never been allowed to borrow any of the scrolls and teachings they have there. We only know fragments. We do know that Sephobwe claims to be from Kelagot, but we have no contact with the Kingdoms on the other side of the Great Passing.

Tarkanyon nodded. You want me to find out more about the teaching when I arrive at the Twin Cities.

Yes, Luillan said. That is my advice. It's a very mystical teaching. It has much to do with discipline and passion, or the discipline of passion, and being embraced by The All. I am unsure what this means exactly. But that’s the best way to understand Ahmatein and bring peace to the Twins, as you are charged to do.

Very well, Tarkanyon replied. We will be sailing to Restom from here and then we will travel on horseback through Foré.

Send word, Tarkanyon, Luillan said. Every detail you can find out, send word.

Tarkanyon placed his hands on his friend's shoulder's with a friendly grin. Very well, my friend, I will send word. Thank you for your help. Be well!

The stairs from the library corkscrewed up. Every few steps a small flame insignia had been carved into the stone and in the centre of the insignia was a small hole, which Luillan had once said held a precious stone in the days of the Genicoins - a different stone for each level of the Monument, to represent what that floor was meant for. The insignia of the flame belonged to the Genicoins, a race of beings that lived thousands of years ago and – according to legend – brought their magic and knowledge, known as the Wealth, with them. It was them that taught man how to fight and how to build.

But they also brought their war with the Moncoin with them — a twisted and evil Genicoin who lusted for more knowledge and more power than was thought to even be possible. He created the Riches, a bent form of the Wealth that enabled him to transcend even his own form. But most of what was known about the Genicoins and the Moncoin was shrouded in mystery and legend, and Tarkanyon preferred to take a pragmatic view.

But he was still an Outlander, who kept the peace in all of Lexedore and who were known as the Seekers of the Wealth. It was said that this was their charge from the Genicoins, but Tarkanyon believed it was simply their way. Peace and diplomacy was the only way to keep a great war like the one with the Moncoin from happening again. In Tarkanyon’s mind, the