5 comments

Fantasy Fiction Inspirational

Scars

Axus Stormbringer, Prince of Illionian Merkander, Champion of the Arenas on the Coast of Jormungand, Royal Bard of the Kingdom of Cthohr, Defender of the Tower of the Continuum, and Champion of Necra sat flexing the scarred ruins of his sword hand. It had been nearly a season since the Battle of Everfrost but he was still nursing the injury.

His forefinger traced the angry red scars along the dark skin on the back of his hand. He winced remembering the searing pain as the blade of his sword was liquified in his grip. He had been so sure of himself. He had stalked the elf into a corner.

“I AM AXUS!” He bellowed, lifted his shortsword, and brought the blade down.

The magic pendant around the elf’s neck had come alive, blazing like a star hanging around its neck. Its eyes met his, there was a smile there which its broken jaw could not execute. It caught the blade and it began to bubble and boil. The river of molten steel ran down over the elf’s hand with no effect, but when that river flowed over his own it set him to screaming as the metal seared into his flesh and began to solidify upon its surface.

He winced again, the memory bringing back the pain. The thick and puckered tissue strangled the muscle and made it impossible for him to use either sword or quill. It had been so long since he himself felt the good that magic could do. It seemed profoundly unfair that it was determined to so relentlessly bring him to ruin.

The Gray Haven was a place for all travelers and the Goddess of Change welcomed all who would enter her abode. She remembered now the first time she had heard the call of Prince Axus, the youngest born son of an Illionian Warlord. He had no place in the succession, no love for the military, no desire for politics and an insatiable yearning for adventure which made him the absolute epitome of failure in his noble father’s eyes.

Thus it was, that on his fifteenth name day he was to be sent to Bassus Minor where he would enter into the service of his mother’s brother. The night before, atop the battlements of Merkander’s sturdy keep, the young prince looked out over the steam shrouded waters of the boiling sea and prayed aloud to the heavens that one among the gods might help him.

She noted the gray at his temples and on either side of his chin, tracing smoky tracks from the corners of his mouth in his dark and bristly beard. He wore it in the style of the Cthohrs and not that of his native Illion. On anyone else it would have looked out of place. But he was known the world over for his love of the sea and for those who sailed them.

There were lines deep set into his face and she was always surprised that the scars of many battles did not make him appear vicious or unseemly. His disarming nature and ready smile paired with his undeniable good looks had always endeared him to the inhabitants of any room in which he found himself. He had sung his songs for praetors and paupers. He had filled Citizen’s Hall on Kamoranth but seemed to blossom in places like this one. Small, smokey, and intimate was where Axus had always felt most at home.

None of that mattered now.

“What is it you would have of me?” She had asked the young man on the misty starless night.

He didn’t bow when she appeared to him. He was startled.

“You’re not Terra.” He accused her with a curious arch of his eyebrow. It had only made sense that he would assume that the Earth Goddess would come at the call of one of her chosen people. “Which one are you? I don’t mean to be rude, but you’re not one of ours. I am Axus!” He introduced himself.

“I am present everywhere and in everything.” She had explained. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Axus.”

She had come to him as the Maiden at the beginning and so her youth and beauty drew him to her. She leaned in close so that he could feel the warmth of the cosmos as their power coursed through her, those magic currents which coalesced deep within the great and terrible Yawn and now reached out to him offering him another path.

“I am Change.” She had said simply. “The Tribes of the Lion called me Ceda, long before they united and formed the nation of Illion.”

She remembered his smile, it was the first time she had seen it. All at once cocksure and desperate. He was so small compared to the behemoth he would become, forged in battle, raised up by Chance, and devoured over and over by fate.

“I’ve heard you are called Necra.” He turned to look out over the sea once more, leaning his elbows upon the strong sandstone blocks. Then he eyed her cautiously from the side with that loveable grin. “You are death.” he said.

He was not afraid and that was when she decided to help him.

“I am, but not today.” She smiled and joined him looking out over the sea. “We are at the beginning of things. So I am Ceda here and now. You will meet Necra one day. But not today.”

“If I were to help you, rescue you from your fate, what would I get in return?” She asked, her own sideways smile answering his.

“I’m rich!” He said quickly.

“I’m a goddess. What need have I for money?” She countered.

“I am strong! I will fight for you!” He offered.

“All living things fight for Change.” She chided him.

“I will do everything!” He bellowed out across those roiling waves. “I will fight dragons and slay demons! I will do battle with men and dwarves and elves! They will sing songs of Axus and I will spread your word!”

“What if no one sees fit to sing these songs?” She asked.

“Then I shall sing them myself!” He boasted, laughing raucously in a battle cry to freedom.

“Done.” She said.

“Done?” He asked, blinking, balking for the first time.

“You will leave here by sunrise or our deal is off.” She directed. “You will come to me at Lar Sekk. There you will find the adventure you seek but I require songs. So, write them young prince and sing them and never stop as they are your payment for this gift.”

He left Merkander in one of the swift moving, brass bottomed boats of the Moltentide Dwarves. He sailed north to Gar Manor and from there traveled the caravan routes. Upon those dusty roads he practiced his craft and when he had learned many lessons the road might teach him, things Changed.

All these years later he sits beside her broken. She reaches out her hand, placing it around the scarred remains of his own. They sit there quietly for some time, watching as the flames dance in the large circular fireplace at the Gray Haven’s heart.

“What do I do now?” His voice was thick with emotion and he choked on it at the end. “I cannot fight.” He lamented, shifting the hand she now held. “I cannot write.” The first of his tears fell and landed upon her wrist. “I am nothing.”

“Wrong.” The Goddess of Change said. “Do you not see who sits here beside you?”

“It is you, Goddess.” He said with a sniffle, cuffing away the tear hanging upon the tip of his nose. “You have always been with me, since the day we met.”

He turned to look at her and started. Ceda was gone, and in her place was Matri. He recognized the Mother and was relieved to see it was not the Crone. All mortals called her Necra now because they all feared the end. He struggled, trying to make sense of it.

“What does this mean?” He asked with that same sideways smile he had given her all those years ago.

“It took a very long time, Axus Stormbringer.” She said, releasing his hand with a sigh of relief. “But you have finally sung your way through the beginning. It’s time for a Change. The middle awaits.”

She gestured with her hand to the fire’s smoky tendrils surging to join the swirling gray sea collected in the rafters. They began to churn and funneled down to her and in an instant there was a long black staff within her grasp. Once it had formed she hefted it, balancing it gently in both hands.

Its black, wooden shaft gleamed in the dancing firelight. She studied it. A deep and building pressure seemed to fill the Gray Haven and its fire dimmed. Blazing upon the shaft were seared the magic symbols of her faith, dancing furiously until her work was complete.

“A traveler needs something upon which to lean.” She smiled and handed it to him.

“You do me honor, Goddess.” He accepted it gratefully.

She rose, placed a gentle hand upon his shoulder so that she was sure he could feel the weight of the moment, and then was gone.

He ran his hands over the staff. He traced the magic sigils set into its strong and sturdy shaft just as he had traced his own angry scars. These markings had granted the staff immeasurable power. Perhaps his own would provide the same?

Axus Stormbringer rose, carefully lifted his small satchel. Slinging the strap over his head and across his chest he set it upon his hip just so. He smiled and waved to the bartender, gripping the staff in his good hand.

“Where are you off to, Axus?” The barkeep yelled from his post.

“I think I’ll wander for a bit.” He plunged through the door, out into the swirling gray mists, and was gone.

May 07, 2023 11:31

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

5 comments

Mike Rush
17:11 May 14, 2023

John, What a tale! I'll admit up front, this is not my genre. I don't write this or read it either. But when I happen to have a piece in front of me, I always look for a few important things. Has the author made this believable in the context of the world in which it takes place? Do the characters bear human traits like a sense of justice, selflessness, and a heart for the underdog? Are the relationships believeable? I found all those questions answered in this piece. I thought it so interesting that Axus second name is Stormbringer. It re...

Reply

John Werner
17:43 May 14, 2023

Mike, thank you so much for your kind words. I'm glad you found it relatable. That is always my number one goal. And, when one is dealing with the gods one must always mind one's manners. And if you enjoyed Axus's story, there is a link to Everfrost in the comments.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Mary Bendickson
16:41 May 07, 2023

Adventuresome tale. See it has more to it.

Reply

John Werner
18:43 May 07, 2023

It does indeed! Thank you for reading!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
John Werner
11:55 May 07, 2023

If you would care to learn more about the adventures of Axus Stormbringer please follow the link below! Thank you! https://www.amazon.com/Legacy-Chaos-Everfrost-John-Werner/dp/1505263980

Reply

Show 0 replies