The Storm King (Ch. 1 - 27)
Leon and his father, Artorias, are the last remaining scions of a once powerful and illustrious family of lightning mages. After barely surviving an attack that destroyed their home fifteen years ago, they now live in the dangerous Northern Vales, a desolate wilderness far away from civilization. But those who want them dead are strong, patient, and relentless, and it is only a matter of time before they find the two they seek...
I intend to post a new chapter every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. If you enjoy this story and want to see what comes next, consider visiting my website, wardenreading.com, which will be 4 chapters ahead of everywhere else I happen to post. It is also now available on RoyalRoadl.com.
If you happen to see a mistake or something I missed, do let me know. This is the first long term story I've ever tried writing, so there are bound to be mistakes. And don't be shy about telling me your opinion, either! I'm very open to feedback. And with that, I'll leave you to it, and I hope you enjoy The Storm King.
Chapter 1: The Forest of Black and White
In the plane of Aeterna lies a multitude of Kingdoms and Empires. In the center of the plane is an immense continent, more than twenty thousand miles in all directions. It is surrounded by an even larger ocean, extending more than twenty thousand miles further.
In the center of the continent lies the most powerful and prosperous empires, where mages have a command of magic that borders on the divine. As one gets closer to the edge of the continent, however, the nations are less prosperous, less populated, and less advanced. In the far north lies an isolated kingdom, known as the Bull Kingdom.
This kingdom is flanked on its northern and eastern border by nigh-impassable mountain ranges, in the south by a wide gulf, and in the west by the Endless Ocean. But even further north, deep in the Frozen Mountain Range, lies a number of comparably temperate vales inhabited by tribes of people who scoff at the southern lords and their knights. They are a hardy people, fearless and territorial, and theirs is a violent and typically short life.
But as ready as The Bull King’s soldiers are for battle, as eager as those northern warriors are to spill the blood of their enemies, there are places in those Northern Vales that even they refuse to enter.
One of those places is the Forest of Black and White, which takes up the entirety of one of the smaller vales. No tribe lives there, and few even dare to live near the mountain passes that lead to it. It is a place of horror, of terrifying bedtime stories told to the children of the tribes. If they are not brave against their enemies and true to their friends, the wraiths and evil gods of the forest would come to take them in the night.
The vale is one hundred miles east-west and seventy miles north-south, and the Forest of Black and White has covered almost the entire place. The forest got its name from the trees of dark bark and brilliant green leaves, and the trees of pale white bark and deep, twilight blue leaves that are most commonly seen within it.
Many strange and otherworldly beings call the forest home, from the vicious beasts of flesh and blood, to the spirits of ice, earth, and wind. But perhaps the strangest beings that live in this forest are two men, a father-son pair, who built their home deep within the forest, in a large clearing of purple grass.
The father was tall, well-built, and looked roughly in his mid-twenties, though he was at least a decade older than that. He had black hair, warm brown eyes, sharp features, and a straight nose. The son was a youth of sixteen, slightly shorter than his father, and with a skinnier build. His features took after his father for the most part, except for his bright golden eyes.
The son, Leon, was dressed in a loose-fitting shirt made of dark green woven grass, a specialty of the nearest tribe, with brown leather pants and boots. He had a hunting bow slung across his shoulder, a quiver full of arrows on his back, and knife at his leather belt. His father, Artorias, was largely dressed the same, except for a light brown fur coat and a longsword at his hip.
Artorias watched Leon as he tracked the beast they were hunting, an enormous stag large enough to feed them for several weeks. If Leon wasn't careful, this beast would have no trouble goring him with its horns, or crushing his chest with a single kick. Luckily, his father was there, keeping an eye on him. Without Artorias, Leon would’ve long been killed by the beasts of the forest.
Artorias was a powerful mage, able to project magic outside of his body and use it to detect everything within half a mile of him. By virtue of his strength alone, Artorias had no trouble finding the stag, but this was a learning opportunity for his son. He wanted his son to learn how to hunt, how to survive in the wild, but most of all, Leon needed to learn how to kill.
Theirs is a chaotic world, and to survive among the mages and warriors one needs a strong killing intent. In fact, this was one of the reasons Artorias had the two of them live out in the wild, to hone Leon’s killing intent, so that he would never falter in the face of his enemies.
This was not the first time Artorias had Leon take the lead on a hunt, and each time Leon would have less trouble finding his prey, and less hesitation killing it. But for all his skill and natural talent, Leon had never brought down anything larger than a wind wolf, let alone the other more terrifying and bizarre monsters that live in the forest.
“We’re getting closer. I’d say it came through here maybe ten minutes ago, can’t be more than a quarter mile away.”, whispered Leon. He wasn’t saying this for Artorias’ benefit, he knew his father could probably see the stag with his magic senses. No, this was so his father knew what Leon thought, and to justify his actions.
Leon didn’t wait for Artorias to respond. He just continued onwards, following the tracks. Artorias allowed a small smile to appear on his face, his son was correct, the stag wasn’t very far.
As they got closer, Leon slowed down somewhat. He began to regulate his breathing, allowing his heart to calm down. He unslung his bow and drew an arrow from his quiver. This was the largest creature he had ever hunted, and if he missed and it attacked him, there would be little he would be able to do to stop it.
As he breathed, magic within the air was drawn into his lungs. From there it entered his bloodstream, and upon entering his heart it fused with his blood to form mana. This mana would then enter his muscles, and saturate them with magical power, making him stronger and faster than normal.
When he finished preparing himself, Leon took the last few steps to crest a hill, and saw the stag. It was only about 100 meters away, easily in range of his bow. He took aim, nocked the arrow he’d drawn, channeled his magic through his palms and into the enchantment of his bow, then drew the bowstring. He held it near his check for a single heartbeat, and released.
The arrow crossed those hundred meters in the blink of an eye, but the stag still noticed and had time to look over in confusion before the arrow sank deep into its body, penetrating its heart, and killing it instantly.
Leon drew another arrow, preparing to let loose another shot, and watched the stag. After several moments, he began moving towards his kill.
“Good kill, boy. No hesitation.” Artorias said with pride.
“Thanks.” Said Leon, with a big smile on his face.
“Now come on, we have to get this thing home soon as we can. Wraiths tend to be drawn towards death, and we don’t want to be caught out here when night rolls around.” Artorias allowed Leon only a small moment to savor his accomplishment before getting back to what needed to be done.
The two found a large tree branch, fallen from a huge white tree. Leon cleared off the leaves and smaller twigs while Artorias tied the stag’s hooves around it. They lifted it up, and after a few seconds of adjustment, began the trek back home.
Leon had a little trouble, as the stag was quite large and he was only a first-tier mage, but Artorias was far more powerful and able to pick up the slack with ease.
The two made good time, not stopping even for a moment to rest or to admire the brilliantly colored flowers and leaves seen in this forest.
After about several hours of walking, the trees and foliage began to thin out. They approached the clearing where they had built a fort, their home for more than a decade. However, the sun had nearly disappeared in the west, and creatures were beginning to stir in the darkening woods.
The hair on the back of Leon’s neck began to rise, and he felt the eyes of awakened beasts and other nocturnal beings.
“Damn, we need to hurry.” Leon said, nervously looking around into the darkened forest.
Artorias, too, was looking into the forest, but he saw much more than just the trees and the dark. He saw the things stalking them among the trees, the black shadows and the cold blue eyes.
“No, stop. Put down the stag.” Artorias and Leon slowly put down the stag, as per the older man’s instructions. “Good, now stay low, and stay put. Concentrate your mana in your legs, and should anything happen, just make your way back home. Don’t stop for me, or for the beast.” Artorias looked at his son, who nodded in response.
Leon watched his father move off into the darkness, drawing his sword. It was a rather unremarkable weapon, a leather handle, round iron pommel, and a straight guard. Though the blade looked to be made of good steel, it seemed to be of a quality that any city blacksmith in the southern kingdom could make with little effort.
But no ordinary blacksmith could make this plain-looking sword.
Despite how ordinary the materials were that made up this weapon, in Artorias’ hand it appeared to be something out of legend, sparking with lightning and rumbling with the sound of thunder.
It was with this sword in hand that Artorias went out into the dark forest.
Leon couldn’t tell what all was happening in the dark, but he heard the terrible screeching of banshees and the cracking sound of an ice wraith freezing the ground it was walking on. Every scream from the banshees sent his blood into turmoil, and his mana began to boil. But Leon stayed still, with the utmost confidence in his father.
His confidence was rewarded when he saw Artorias’ sword, with flashes of lightning piercing through the dark of the trees. He felt the wind from every swing, and the cold seeping off the wraith.
Soon, the noises ceased, and Artorias returned. No words were spoken between the two. This was a normal thing, a hazard Artorias accepted when he decided to come here. This was something that Leon had always known, and he didn’t find this sort of thing too remarkable.
They silently picked the stag back up, and continued onwards.
Leon still felt the attention of beings in the woods, but after Artorias’ show of force, they backed off, though never quite leaving completely.
It wasn’t until Leon and Artorias reached the clearing of purple grass that they were finally left alone.
In the center of the clearing were four thick wooden walls, fifteen feet high and warded to keep the creatures of the night from approaching. This could be considered the only safe place in the entire vale once the sun went down. The entrance into this fort was a small depression leading to a tunnel about 30 feet away from the walls. Leon descended the familiar dirt ramp, placed his hand on a runic circle etched onto the front of the deceptively flimsy looking door, and after a brief flash of light, the door opened.
Upon entering, Leon looked down the underground stone passageway, and began to relax from the long hunting trip. He started to walk down the ramp, and paused only for Artorias to close the door behind them. As the door closed, there was a moment where hundreds of runes carved into circular glyphs on the door lit up, only to just as quickly darken again, confirming that the door had been locked and the wards had been raised.
The stones that made up this passageway were simply, yet expertly carved. Each stone brick was cut exactly like the others, and even a mage as weak as Leon could feel the magic flowing through them.
There was another, larger door in the tunnel, and more heavily warded as well. It, too, lit up with magical energy as Leon pushed it open, and when Artorias closed it.
When Leon climbed the ramp on the other side leading up and into the fort, he sighed.
“It’s good to be home.”