A fateful meeting between two princes one day leads to the destruction of an entire kingdom. Do you wish to learn how this came about? Lend me your attention for a few spare moments and I shall tel...
by Ariss Tenoh
Screams of Pain.
Cries of War.
"Most Holy One..."
Groans of the Near-dying.
Wails of the Yet-living.
Death. Destruction. Chaos.
Yet, all of it did not touch the figure kneeling before the marble statue of the Goddess.
Thundering sound of steps rushing towards their hiding place.
A frightened gasp issued from one of the people gathered in the hall.
"Holy One, they're coming. You must flee, you cannot allow yourself to be taken." An increasingly worried tone could be discerned from the words.
"No," the word was uttered softly.
"It was foreordained. What comes comes, so the Goddess teaches. The waters of Destiny have surged over their banks, we will allow ourselves to be taken with its flow if we wish survival," the same soft voice continued speaking as though reciting from an ancient text.
At this decree, all those in the hall grew silent and awaited the coming of their fate.
Soon, too soon perhaps, the noise came to an abrupt halt before their gates.
The ornate wooden gates were thrown open so violently they nearly came off their hinges as they hit the adjoining walls. The sound of their opening echoed throughout the hall, the very walls seemed to come alive with the vibrations of the sound travelling through them.
Harsh breathing came next from the party that now stood in front of the gates.
"Who are you lot?" A strong, distinctly masculine voice roared in demand.
The occupants of the hall rose from their kneeling places on the white marble floor and stood in silence. Their faces were blank and expressionless as they stared at their future captors.
With the rising of all the others in the hall, a lone figure could be seen still kneeling before the Goddess's statue where the circle was in place.
"You there. Rise and answer my question," the same male voice barked.
Slowly, in infinite grace, the figure rose to its feet. Its deep blue robes shimmered in ripples till the figure finally stood erect and turned to face the speaker.
The faint chime of jewellery wafted in the air, it ceased only when the figure was still.
Much to the chagrin of the man standing at the gates, the figure's face was obscured by a veil that framed its face and hid its eyes. The veil itself was adorned with small, white tear-shaped diamonds along its hem.
"I am the Ayalaa, the Priestess of Shiva, and these are her disciples," the figure paused, "And whom may I ask are you?"
"Show your face," the man ordered.
The figure made a slight gesture with one finger.
The man and his party tensed.
Two men in bright blue robes stepped nearer and reverently grasped the edges of the veil, not wanting to sully it with their touch. Careful not to touch the figure itself, they drew the silk veil backwards and allowed it to fall behind the figure.
The man gasped.
A stunning beauty stood before him.
Pale white skin glowed in the candlelight of the hall, rich dark brown hair fell around its face, round silver earrings dangled teasingly from delicate ears, slender body wrapped in volumes of deep deep blue silk that was woven with silver strands.
And those eyes... The man thought with a bit of awe.
Eyes rimmed in kohl gazed at him. Blue, grey, and every colour in between, swirled in them.
"But you're a man," he said a bit surprised. It was the first coherent thought, which his befuddled mind could think of.
The Priestess's lips moved a little upwards. "Indeed, all attendants of Shiva are male."
That statement brought him sharply back to the situation at hand. Of course, he should have known. His party of soldiers had stormed Shiva's Temple, the people here would be her priests.
Or priestesses, whatever.
The boys in white robes were initiates; the older men in blue would be accepted and practicing disciples.
The only person in the hall wearing dark blue robes would have to be the lead priest.
Priestess. An annoying part of his mind reminded him.
He noticed that this person was also the only one with so much silver jewellery decorating his body. From earrings, to bangles, to rings, and one ankle bracelet. And only his robes had sleeves, long sleeves that were slitted in a diamond shape at three intervals along his arms until the sleeves ended in a triangle shape across the back of his hands to be held by a silver ring at his middle finger.
"Would you just look at them. A bunch of simpering ladies," spat a man with a black mark like a flame on the left side of his face.
Instantly, his comment provoked a hostile reaction in the people congregated in the hall.
The men and boys moved to surround their priestess, and others moved towards the soldiers.
"I wouldn't try that if I were you," he warned them.
But the men had already stopped at one raised hand from their priestess.
"Dincht, if you had any memory in that empty head of yours then you'd remember that Shiva's priests are skilled warriors and trained assassins," he muttered in a low voice to his second in command.
Dincht looked at his commander with a sheepish grin on his face.
A few moments of silence passed as each side regarded the other in suspicion and wariness.
"What do you seek here at Shiva's Temple?"
The man straightened and addressed what he supposed was his equal here.
"I am prince Seifer Almasy. We are searching for the Estharian crown prince," the tall blonde man called Seifer demanded of the man in dark blue.
His name elicited angry hisses and low curses from the disciples of Shiva in the hall.
The shorter man Dincht became angry and shouted, "Estharia has fallen to us, and its King is dead. Now tell us where the prince is."
Gasps of horror and disbelief came from all around.
The disciples of Shiva and people of Estharia all looked at their priestess with varying degrees of worry, fear, and concern.
But the man in dark blue showed no reaction, merely stepped forward.
"I am Squall of Estharia," he proclaimed whilst eying the prince of the Almass Kingdom.
Protests rose and died quickly from the people at the calm demeanor of their prince.
Though he somewhat expected it, Seifer was still surprised. This beautiful, seemingly fragile man before him couldn't be the feared warrior known throughout the lands as Squall The Lionheart.
The Estharians called his people barbarians, and he was beginning to feel like one at the moment. Dressed in battered leather battle-gear and splashed liberally with blood as he was, compared to his refined and elegantly, if femininely, dressed counterpart.
"Get him," his second in command ordered.
The soldiers moved to capture the Estharian prince.
"No, he's mine," Seifer said. His lips curled into a smirk.
He moved forward until he stood in front of the Estharian.
Jade eyes held storm-touched ones. Neither showed any emotion.
The blond man pulled his glove off his hand by his teeth and offered his sword hand to the other.
"Squall The Lionheart, it's a pleasure and an honour to meet you."
A flicker of apprehension and astonishment flashed across blue-grey eyes.
Squall stared at the hand and its unspoken offer of friendship.
Silence reigned supreme in the hall.
Doubt and a sense of foreboding began to creep into Seifer's mind. He would hate to kill this man who presented such an interesting challenge to him, but he knew he would if he was forced.
A pale hand slipped into his own. A soft hand that belied the death it brought upon countless enemies, somehow it showed no traces of the extensive sword training Seifer knew the other practiced.
"Likewise, Almasy." Squall gave him a small smile.
The smile made the hall so bright that Seifer was certain it outshone the large overhanging chandelier in the way it was able to kindle a flame within his closely-guarded heart.
Seifer smiled in return.
The tall marble statue of Shiva seemed to smile as well..........
......... Centuries later, scholars and historians would come to mark the fateful meeting on that day as the starting point of the collapse of the Almass Kingdom.