Fanfic Fanfare!

Fan art, illustrations, poetry, music, photography, and more.

Unread postby CaTigeReptile » Tue May 08, 2007 11:05 am

Hee hee, thank you! That means that now three people besides myself have read it!

Edit: Hey, I have changed the story quite a bit. It was inaccurate in parts. I haven't updated it here, but I will later. Just saying that I know it took place in 203 and not 209, etc.
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Re: Old Wars of Enroth

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri Feb 27, 2009 5:37 pm

Author's Note: Based on the Heroes of Might and Magic Universe, created by New World Computing, then 3DO and now Ubisoft. Credit for the universe in which the game is set, the game and many of the characters go to them, the only thing I own are the made up characters. Italics for this chapter means it goes off into the past, in future chapters it will mean the story has briefly gone back to the present day. Just wanted to see if this would interest anybody


Chapter 1: Remembering Years Back


It was not a pleasant summer’s afternoon in Enroth, what had promised to be a bright day had turned into one of perpetual rain and mud. The clouds made the day seem dark and miserable while anyone forced outside for a minute would be soaked to the skin. The capital took its name from its castle which had, in turn, been named in a fit of ego by its master, Morglin Ironfist. On a good day the King could look out from the highest turret, over the purple roof of the Mages Guild and see everything around him for hundreds of miles. The knights in their jousts near the scenic mountains, the archers returning from their hunts in the forest, blacksmiths preparing tools for their many clients, the markets and taverns as they slowly filled, the little cottages of the peasants and far off, the docks were ships came and went with items to trade.

Today Morglin was sitting by a fire, enjoying the precious heat in his private quarters. Once a stranger to the land, with a small and ragtag army, he was now sole ruler of the continent. His proud moustache was showing hints of grey and his short hair seemed to be getting even shorter of late, his face was still tanned from a warmer climate. His strong body which was more suited to armour then it was a court robe was dressed in a plain tunic and trousers. Here he was now drinking a cup of warm wine with a nasty scar on his left arm a constant reminder of days gone by. The King glanced at the companions in his room, there was his Queen Isolade with long brown hair flowing over her shoulders, the tanned lady had also taken to wearing a simple tunic and trousers, a content smile on her face as she watched the children play. Morcades Lamanda had a yellow cloak wrapped round her body to keep out the cold, blue pearls around the neck as always, her raven black hair kept short, her eyes towards her sleeping husband, the court mage. Teer Estela was the only one still wearing robes, blue with silvery symbols to awe the gullible, he looked tired and pale, his hands gloved in purple, his once blond hair had turned grey long ago and his shaggy beard had reached his waist.

The only noise, other than the crackling of the fire, was the four children whispering, two Ironfists and two Estelas. The eldest was Roland, wearing a light blue shirt, the beginnings of a brown moustache appearing as Roland approached his twentieth birthday, Morglin was delighted that the child had got the kindness of Isolade but feared that he lacked the wit needed to rule securely. The second child was Archibald, black-haired and already developing a thick moustache like his father, wearing a black shirt with gold flames around the shoulders and waist. Archibald was arrogant but cunning, if there was trouble Morglin tended to suspect Archibald was behind it. The two kids of Teer and Morcades were younger then the Princes, the eldest was Arthur, short blond hair, wearing a white shirt with black trousers; it was well known Arthur had eyes on joining the church from where he hoped to do good deeds but for now he was a close companion to Roland, acting as his moral compass. The youngest was the only girl; Teer was devoted to his little Lyonet but Morglin suspected it had made the black-haired child spoilt, she was wearing green and seemed to be hanging onto Archibald’s every word. Morglin was about to leave his chair when he saw a glint in Lyonet’s eye and froze, she only had that glint when trouble was about to happen.

Suddenly the four children moved as one towards the King, bowing and with eyes cast to the floor. It was Archibald who spoke first, his voice carrying the cultured accent of his distant relative Lord Kilburn. “Father, whenever we have asked for you to tell us how you came to rule Enroth, you always tells us our teachers will inform us or that you are too busy. Our tutors will not tell us but the basics and since there is nothing pressing to occupy your time now, why not educate us?” Roland joined in, his deep voice pleading “Worthy father, I am nearly of age and wish to follow your good example but how can I when you keep such a large part of your life hidden from us?”

The King was silent as he glanced at Teer, the wizard was suddenly wide awake and looking amused but soon the wizard found Lyonet on his lap. Using her little princess voice, she batted her eyelashes “Daddy, you promised you would tell us one day but you’re always putting it off with some excuse. Now why not tell me what a hero you are?” Arthur knelt before Teer, his voice serious but uncertain. “You always told us the importance of knowing our past so we can learn from mistakes and victories. We know of the victories of the lords in ages past and their failure to unite the land but you won’t tell us where the Ironfist clan came from other then a long way away.”

The two men turned to their wives, hoping for help but it wasn’t forthcoming, Isolade’s smile becoming mischievous, her voice smooth and gentle. “My husband, it is not right that the kids know so little of their heritage or of us.” Lamanda turned to Teer, her voice solemn and questioning “I am almost as ignorant of your past my dear as the children. You owe me the story as well so why not tell it to everyone, we can share our experiences.” Seeing the King wavering, Teer submitted to the requests, reaching into his robes, his quiet voice carrying a hint of amusement “Your Majesty, we must entrust the land to them one day, if they make the same mistakes we did then ambitious lords may seek to overthrow your successor. Eventually they will find a way to learn what happened, might as well be now when all of us gathered so we don’t miss anything. I have something that should make it easier for them to see and understand our world.”

The King slowly nodded his head, giving into the wishes of the majority while wondering how much Teer had guessed. Morglin’s voice was weary but held a hint of authority, a man clearly used to being obeyed “I need less impudent children but fine, you will get your wish. Well done whoever planned the timing of the question, you forced me into a corner. Teer, perhaps it is best if you start us off.”

The warlock had already begun the preparations, throwing some powder into the fire, his fingers creating a pattern in the air as he muttered to himself. Suddenly there was a bang and the room filled with smoke, when it cleared, they found themselves looking over a dull brown land, small, with a red sun. Teer was pleased with himself, explaining as the image headed towards a large city. “This will use our memories to show what happened. I have vowed never to speak the name of this land so that nobody could seek it out, I have no wish for any of you to seek it out and seek trade or vengeance, there would be no gain but lots of suffering for the people on both sides. Now this land had been ruled by the Ironfist clan for as long as anyone could remember, no other local clan had ever gained control of the hot and dry kingdom we called home. As with any long reigning dynasty, the succession wasn’t always secure and it was not unknown for murder to be used.”

The image swooped down into the city and into a packed jousting field. There was the young Ironfist, dressed in full armour, his red banner including a grey shield with a golden star inset with red jewels swaying in the wind, the then Prince taking on all comers. Some he bested quickly, others put up quite a fight before Ironfists natural skill won the day. “Lord Ironfist was the Heir Apparent to the throne; there were great hopes for him as his might was known throughout the land and only one person ever could hope to best him in a joust. His cousin Ragnar was strong willed, ambitious and a long time rival in tournaments it was often the highlight of a tournament when the Prince and his cousin faced against each other.”

Ragnar appeared in the joust, his brown hair and tanned face in front of a purple banner with a purple shield, two lances across it. Morglin lifted up his visor, his face darker back then, and the contestants bowed as they prepared for the duel ahead. What followed was a joust that was rather too competitive for comfort, again and again they went at each other, landing blows that ringed around the stadium but eventually, the red knight landed a blow that was just powerful enough to knock Ragnar to the floor to huge cheers from the crowd. Dismounting, Ironfist held his arms aloft to acknowledge the cheers as friends came to surround him. Friends the children recognised from court portraits or court visits, the worried looking Ambrose, young Arturius handsome face disfigured by a scar on his left cheek, Dimitri in his red coat wearing the expensive earring and the goatee wearing Sir Gallant. There were many people the children and Isolade did not recognise, but one caught the eye, a red haired woman of enchanting beauty, her emerald green eyes entrapping any male watcher as she congratulated the victor by a rather passionate kiss.

This time it was Morglin that spoke as the image paused at a banquet, a sad edge to his voice as he remembered elements of the past. “I was young and foolish; I believed the throne was to be mine by right! I spent my time jousting, drinking and fooling around with my friends and my fiancée Ewine. Her connections to some of the most important families in the kingdom made her a political catch but I was entranced by her, she laughed at my jokes, seeing the jealousy in other people’s eyes always cheered me up, she was beautiful and she was as a mistress to me. Ragnar had used the jousts to win fame and regard, we both did but while I frittered it away on drink and Ewine, Ragnar cultivated the support of the local barons and the head of the important organisations in the city for his uncle. For my wasteful youth and childish infatuation, I lost the crown, to avoid such losses is why I try to steer both of you away from such vices my dear Ronald and my dear Archibald.”

Isolade was glaring with undisguised anger at Ewine though Morglin was unsure if it was anger over Ewine’s former hold on him or Isolade’s protective instincts making her angry for hurting her husband. She wasn’t the only one angry at Morglin’s former lover; Lyonet seemed rather displeased at the attention her friends were showing the other lady. Morglin shut his eyes, he knew what they were about to see, for awhile his dreams had been haunted by the events, even now he could still see everything clearly in his mind, hear everything as it had sounded back then.

xxxxxxx

It had been an excellent few days of hunting and now he was heading home, tonight he would be in Ewine’s arms; tomorrow he would see his father the King. The road was quiet and he had got used to the sounds of the hooves behind him from his courtiers horses, so he was surprised when he heard the sound of someone galloping at full speed from his left. Reigning in his horse, Morglin waited to see who was in such a rush, in a few seconds he saw a familiar face. Lord Haart, blond hair reaching behind his shoulders, his noble face showing signs of concern, his red cloak wrapped around his grey shirt, Haart’s piercing blue eyes settling quickly Morglin, panting out the news.

“Your majesty, the King has been killed in a coup by your uncle. The guards managed to kill the usurper but were defeated by Ragnar. The throne has passed onto your cousin and the capital is under his complete control.”

Morglin was shocked, his father was far from young but the death hurt, the King had been indulgent of his son and had been a hands on father, Morglin was already beginning to miss him. Part of him wanted to cry, another wanted to rage against the usurpation but he suppressed his feelings, he had to ensure his own survival. He knew Haart could be trusted, the man had served his father loyally and his dedication to the Imperial Family was well known. “Haart, who in the capital remains loyal to me or to the memory of my father?”

Haart shook his head “There are Barons who will rise up if you ask but Ragnar has quickly eliminated those in the capital who could be trusted. My lord should not despair, Ragnar will wish to be seen as a merciful king who will accept the loyalty of any, if you act in the right way you can stay alive and await events. Or you may gamble that enough Barons will support you in time but I fear what forces we could raise ourselves would not last long enough to gain reinforcements.” Morglin was silent for a few moments before tilting his head back. “Inform my friends of the news and urge them to go home for the night. We will see tomorrow who will stand by me Haart in my time of trouble, to those that are as loyal as you, they I will always cherish but I will need you to guide me.”

As Haart bowed and left to follow his instructions, Morglin shook his head and blinked away tears that threatened to overwhelm him. He could not afford to cry now, he had to appear strong for the next few days, when he had more time to himself away from those who could overhear, only then he could cry. Spurring on his brown warhorse, Maisie, he watched as some of his friends chose interesting detours to their homes rather than be seen entering the city with him. Once he reached the gates of the capital, with the sun already going down, only Haart remained with him. At the gates a group of Ragnar’s personal guards were waiting. At the head of the welcoming party was the court wizard, old Guthbert, his once red robes now changed to green but his long beard and portly figure were still the same. Ironfist didn’t like the smirk in the old magic users face though the bow and tone were humble enough. “Prince Ironfist, his Majesty has been awaiting your return anxiously, he had feared you might have run into trouble. It is late and you should rest in the palace so you will be fresh for your audience tomorrow. Lord Haart, you best return home, if the Prince wishes then come to the Palace tomorrow.”

Ironfist could recognise an order well enough and he suspected Guthbert was enjoying his moment in the sun. The Mages had never been an important factor in court and being a court wizard was something of a joke, the Prince suspected Ragnar had promised to make it into a position of influence. He was silent as he was escorted home, noting the little changes, the flags, the colours of the guards uniforms, a few posters showing the new King’s face and a general stillness in the usually bustling streets. Without a word, he dismounted on reaching the stables and followed the wizard to his old room. As soon as Ironfist was inside, he heard the door be closed and locked behind him, leaving the prince in a room that was emptier then it had been a week ago. Someone had left his night clothes out, some wine and some bread for him so he got changed and began to eat; certainly his room had been stripped off its valuables. A sign of hi sfuture fate or just pillaging from former servants? No point wondering, there was nothing he could do now but sleep till the morning.

He had a good deep sleep and felt refreshed when he woke, till he opened his eyes and saw the room; he thought it had been a horrible dream. As soon as he got out of bed, a servant silently came in and put down another small meal then his court robes that signalled him as a royal prince, red as always. One had prepared himself, taking good care to ensure his moustache was neat and tidy, Ironfirst knocked on the door, ready to face whatever his dear cousin had in store for him.


Please read and review, idea's are most welcome.
“You, are a rebellious son who abandoned his father. You are a cruel brigand who murdered his lord. How can Heaven and Earth put up with you for long? And unless you die soon, how can you face the sight of men?”
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Re: Fanfic Fanfare!

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri Feb 27, 2009 5:39 pm

OC: and the second chapter

Exile

Ironfist opened his eyes to bring himself briefly back into the present, taking a few precious moments before returning to the past. Isolade looked concerned, he had never told her too much of what had happened or how much it had affected him. Teer’s face was a mask, hiding his feelings on a time he well remembered. Lamanda was only mildly interested, waiting for her husband to make his appearance in the story. The children seemed to be trying to connect the Ironfist they knew from the one they were seeing, indeed it was hard for Ironfist himself to reconcile the two. Shutting his eyes, Enroth’s King turned back to the past.

It was a quick walk, accompanied by two discreet guards, into the crowded audience chamber, many former courtiers wearing a green token in favour of their new master. As he approached the crowd opened and to the sides he saw some of his friends had changed their loyalties but the likes of Arturius had not let him down, giving him a reassuring smile. Ironfist was unable to smile back but felt his nerves easing with each friendly smile he saw, stopping in front of the dais where the throne sat. To his left came Haart, arms crossed as the crowd seemed to take a step back, leaving the two of them alone as they waited silently for Ragnar to enter. They had to wait only a few moments before a procession made their way into the chambers, the new King walking proudly in front of his subjects with Ewine and Guthbert just behind him till he reached the dais where the King advanced to the seat and looking down.

Ironfist had caught a disgusted glimpse at Guthbert’s new banner, a green winged serpent, but now his eyes were cast to the ground. All around him, people were silently getting to their knees and kowtowing to the King but Ironfist refused to go that far, he may not be Heir but he was still a Prince of the blood! He did what was due to a King from a Prince, bowing from the waist, a small act of resistance but one he knew Ragnar could not object to in public. There was some irritation in Ragnar’s deep booming voice but the former rival was outwardly friendly.

“Look up my dear cousin, I am so glad to see you again Morglin. My condolences with your father, I know he meant a lot to you but he was a weak ruler and change was needed! My uncle threw a coup for you but with you out of the city, the populace clambered for me to take the throne instead, I protested but they pushed me into a coronation that same day. I hope you understand and will not hold it against me.”

The tone was friendly as the words but Ironfist knew the green eyes were watching for any expression revealing his true feelings. Keeping his face a careful mask, his own eyes still lowered though his back was straightened, Ironfist responded carefully “Thank you for your kind consideration Majesty and the loss of my father hurts me deeply but I know it was for the good of the kingdom. I am not as strong, for I know you held back out of loyalty and consideration for my pride, or as wise as you, I am ill-suited to anything more than a simple jouster. I merely ask that your Majesty will believe me as your loyal servant, that my heart and mind all wish to be of service.”

It was open submission before every senior member of the kingdom and it clearly pleased Ragnar, the King held out his hand, the Prince now had to seal it by kissing the signet ring that had once belonged to his father. Approaching the dais, Morglin got to his knees and crawled up the stairs till he could lean down, kissing the ring, a sign of favour from the king and a final sign of submission from the vassal. As Ironfist returned to his place in front of the court, Ragnar spoke again feigning respect for his predecessor. “After my coronation, some of my courtiers sought favour by recommending that the late King be buried in a pauper’s grave! They forget that I am an Ironfist and that he was my Uncle, as such I have buried him on the hill to the south of the city as his will requested. Those same people then insisted that my Morglin would not come but seek to cause trouble have misjudged my cousin dearly. Now he is here, I can reveal what I have kept hidden all week.”

With a flourish, Ragnar pulled Ewine onto his lap and gave her a kiss that drew frowns on more than a few faces, unused to such behaviour. Morglin, for a few seconds was one of them and he suspected Ragnar noticed it before Morglin could gather his composure. Ragnar’s declaration was triumphant but also a challenge to those who would suggest another lady. “I have proposed to Ewine and she has consented to be our Queen, mother to all my subjects. Is there anyone that perhaps objects to the marriage?”

A challenge to all in the court, to object would be to signal opposition to Ragnar himself. Morglin knew all eyes were on him. Forcing a smile, the Prince managed to fake some joy, enough at least to be partly convincing. “Let me have the honour of being to first to congratulate the happy couple and wish them both a fruitful marriage. I have long known Lady Ewine and I have known his Majesty, twice blessed by such illustrious company and I have no doubts that they will be happy together.”

Ragnar nodded, pleased as the rest of the court began competing to give the best praise and wishes for the company. Morglin tried to catch Ewine’s eyes but she was looking at her fiancée from his lap and at whoever was praising her. As things were getting crowded around the dais, Morglin stepped away and walked carefully backwards to where he knew Haart to be. His most experienced supporter was carefully keeping an eye out on those few still loyal to Morglin, ensuring they did not get too close and form a group before the King. The two of them kept silent as they waited until Haart noticed something odd to the left, tapping Morglin’s shoulder so the Prince saw it too.

Below a black banner, with yellow lightening from four corners meeting in the centre stood three wizards, dressed in green, yellow and blue, trimmed with gold and silver signs, their beards white, their hair disappearing. There was one wearing plain white who looked rather younger than his fellows. The young one’s blond hair was hanging just above his blue eyes, the small beard failing to hide his scowl, something that may have had something to do with the tight grip kept on his shoulders. Morglin glanced at Haart who could only shake his head, both were puzzled by the image. A young wizard in trouble with the law or rather in trouble with his own leaders? The mages would normally deal with troublemakers within their towers; they were a law unto themselves. Perhaps this one was a troublemaker they planned to hand over to distract Ragnar from peering too closely at what the other wizards thought?

Eventually even Ragnar was bored with all the praise and with one raise of his hand, all was silent again, the courtiers awaiting his next words. Heaving himself up, the usurper fixed his gaze on Morglin. “When I was a Prince, I spent most of my days living near Varnal Hills, guarding the borders of the kingdom as my family has long done. Now I am King, I must be at the capital but I cannot leave the borders untended for who knows what might happen if the outsiders sensed weakness? I know Morglin Ironfist to be strong in arms, valiant in battle, with all the talents fit for the heavy duty. Cousin will you, your descendants and your retainers keep the borders secure?”

A fine speech and perhaps one that would have been true decades back but the threats from outside were nonexistent now and the area was prosperous. The problem for Morglin was that the local Barons and officials had long been loyal to Ragnar’s clan; it would now serve as a gilded cage for Ragnar’s main rival. Morglin hesitated, trying to find a way out but then Haart whispered to him “Ask to allow you to stay with Lord Kilburn, he is a good friend of mine and he would not be hostile to our cause.” Stepping forward, the new viceroy made his bow “I am unfit for such an important task but how could I refuse such an honour? Will his Majesty permit me to stay with Lord Kilburn, his reputation as a knight is well known and I could use his experience with the tribes to guide me.”

Ragnar seemed puzzled by the request but as Guthbert leant in and whispered to the King, the ruler smiled. “Very well cousin, I shall grant your request and give you a gift to help you. There was once a time when being court wizard was an honour, the wisdom of those who knew magic was sought after by Kings and Princes. Stories of our glorious past not only tell of great feats of valour but wise advisors and of great magic, in recent years wizards have not got the respect they deserve. Guthbert will be leading the way into returning the wizards to their rightful place. The Barons should look to listen to their wizards while the wizards must leave their towers to serve the kingdom!”

While the King was wittering on, the white robed wizard was brought forcibly to stand besides Morglin, bowing to the Prince. “Now cousin, I wish for you to take a wizard for your retinue as an example for the Barons. My own wizard has handpicked this man just for you, Teer Estela was one of the most talented students, now he has become a fully fledged wizard, I hope he will be useful to you. Now, I wish to go hunting, this court is over!”

The guards stepped forward, hands on swords, cutting off any potential protests or pleas as Ragnar with his fiancée and wizard behind him, left the court. The wizards put their arms on Teer to take him away while guards approached the Prince to act as an “escort.” Haart left Morglin’s side and approached the friends who were hanging around hesitantly, shooing them out of the room before they got in trouble. Graciously Morglin accepted the escort and followed the guard captain as they went from room to room in the castle, they had done a thorough job in sorting out what was his and preparing it for the journey that they had clearly known was coming. Only a few times Morglin claimed something that was his, usually treasured mementos’ from his father rather than anything valuable. All this took awhile as the guards and servants were thorough, ensuring that Morglin even checked the dungeons before they escorted him outside the city. No parade, no chance to say further goodbyes, just out by a private gate, where his horse Maisie waited to be mounted then onwards towards his father’s tomb.

When they arrived at the hill, Morglin saw a couple of wagons, loaded with his riches protected by the soldiers of Haart with Dimitri sitting on the lead wagon. Ragnar’s guards carefully handed over the few mementos collected and then departed, they had done their duty and now the Prince had to care for himself. Glancing up, Morglin saw from the red sun that the morning had gone already and it was already afternoon, he would not have long to mourn his father. Looking back down, he saw Haart had dismounted and was holding the reigns of his horse and of Maisie, acting as the groom. “My lord, I thought it would be best for your friends to settle their estates and make their own way to Varnal. Dimitri will take my men and your treasury to your new home so all will be ready for your arrival and without a large escort you would not arouse concern. I will come with you my lord to give what advice I can and to give you some aid if scoundrels seek you harm.”

Morglin heard all of this but made no reply other than a nod to Dimitri, he was glad for Haart’s presence but his mind was elsewhere. As the wagons rumbled away, the two of them climbed the hill, feeling the gentle breeze take away some of the heat that was beginning to build up, yet by the time they had clambered to the top, both men were sweating heavily. The tomb of the Late King was a cairn, an honour given to the richest of men, most were simply buried in a pit and forgotten but as long as the stones stood, his father would be remembered. Haart stayed at a discreet distance so Morglin could be alone for a few precious moments.

Kneeling down, he let the tears flow, stored up since he heard the news, anger building up inside at being robbed, he thought of all the times his father had been there when he was a child and his father was a warm cuddly face in soft robes always picking him up when he fell, telling him what a brave boy he was. There was always time for a bedtime story or a little game, no matter what pressing matters there were. As he got older, his needs had changed but his father had always adapted, being the gentle guide through the treacherous matter of love, a shoulder to cry on, someone he could talk about anything with. Yet as he grew older, they had grown apart, the King could only see a few of the jousts that he liked to be in and now he bitterly regretted being apart so often. Revenge would not change that regret, it was one he would always have to live with but perhaps it would please his father’s spirit. Wiping his tears away, he let his wishes known to the Heavens and to Haart. “My father was a good man undeserving of his cruel fate, I will write to the local lords tonight and march on the capital with their forces! When I have crushed Ragnar, I will offer his head and that of my wretched uncle to my father, take Ewine as my bride and become the rightful ruler!”

Turning around, he saw Haart as expected but he also saw his new wizard, dressed in simple black, patting a rather fat little white pony. The wizard’s face was rather amused and when Morglin reached for his sword, Teer held up his hands in mock surrender, his voice quiet but revealing some concern. “My lord, rightful King you may be but Ragnar has been careful to appease most of the Barons around the capital, if you seek their aid then few will support you. Ragnar has installed his men in all the key positions, what small army we could raise would be easily crushed before allies from further afield could arrive. If you wish to die then sacrifice yourself here rather than kill all those loyal to you or your father.” While he talked, Teer looked like he had swallowed something unpleasant, pulling his face in disgust.

Morglin had never seen Haart angry before but the knight now had his hand near his sword, placing himself behind Teer, clearly wishing to make sure the mage could not escape. “Fine words warlock but have you no feeling for family or honour? A usurper sits on the throne and you would see nothing done?” Suddenly Haart’s sword pressed against Teer’s back “Or perhaps you would tell Ragnar of the plans and seek your master Guthbert’s esteem?”

Teer bitter laugh at the idea of seeking Guthbert’s favour was stopped by a sudden coughing fit, the wizard clutching his stomach, gasping out his complaints. “Blasted mute potion, not being able to talk is bad enough but the after-effects are even worse.” Straightening up slightly, Teer tried to regain his composure “If I had a choice, I would be in the tower trying to get myself on some nice little experiment or debating with another wizard so no, I am no loyalist of the royal clan. I would not have sought Ragnar’s defeat, nor that of your Majesty’s but circumstances have changed for myself, now I am in your service and your fortunes affect my own. If you are defeated then I face death or disgrace, Guthbert will ensure that, if you are victorious then I share in the glory and would return to the tower as its Master. Betraying Lord Ironfist would bring me a few weeks glory but soon a knife in the back as Guthbert would ensure Ragnar would not trust this little traitor, you can see it is in my best interests to see Lord Ironfist restored to the throne.”

Morglin indicated with his hand for Haart to put away his sword. “As a pledge of loyalty, it isn’t very gratifying but I at least know where you stand. Tell me Teer, what would you have me do?” The Prince’s tone was authoritative but wary; he expected an answer and Teer, bowing, gave him one. “Play a long term game, I think Ragnar hopes you will revolt quickly so giving him a chance to destroy you now. Instead wait for the unity in the court to fracture as it must, your own loyalists will be looking to revolt certainly but there will be other factions to use. Ragnar murdered your father but rumour already spreads that Ragnar’s father survived the usurpation only to be betrayed by his own son, old servants of that side of the family will be unsettled by the accusations. Then there were will be those who have lost out in the new regime or those, and there will be many, who have not got what they feel to be a fair reward for their help. With your Majesty alive, if far away, they have a readymade replacement for Ragnar, the usurper will find himself fighting revolts and dealing with plots against him, who is to say we cannot manipulate such events?”

Morglin considered the proposal but could find one major flaw, one he only voiced when all three men were mounted. “That is all very well but when the court splits apart, I will be in the land of Ragnar’s loyalists, unable to raise an army without being crushed.” It was Haart that replied this time “We can muster a formidable force if given enough time, your allies are making their own way to join us near Varnal with what money they can raise, persuade Lord Kilburn to lend his resources to our cause and we will have a decent army. Without Ragnar keeping a close eye, his loyal lords will fall out amongst themselves, some will turn to us and when the time comes, we can add their forces to our own.”

This pleased the former Crown Prince and he felt his spirits rising, he could wait for revenge, he would use Varnal as his base. He would have to see what resources he had, be wary of Teer’s loyalty and begin setting up a way of having contacts within the capital, then the other regions of his kingdom but first the journey “Well gentlemen, I will take your advice and wait upon events but we have a long journey ahead of us, each one full of traps. As we ride to Varnal, we must keep our heads amidst the taunts, do not respond or we fail before we start. Onward!”
“You, are a rebellious son who abandoned his father. You are a cruel brigand who murdered his lord. How can Heaven and Earth put up with you for long? And unless you die soon, how can you face the sight of men?”
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Re: Fanfic Fanfare!

Unread postby MhiHayoli » Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:36 am

Oh, that's a nice Topic idea! I'm not so good with english and could use some pointers for my stories. :?

I'm trying to write a novel Fan Fiction for "Dynasty Warriors" with some "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" history elements. I want to sort them into four books, like avatar. Water, Fire, Wind and Earth. I also add different endings for each main book story. I even planned on making polls for some chapters so that the readers can decide which direction will the story wander too :)

It's better they post their comments here. That would make reading easier for all XD

Here I will post the chapters :)
>> http://the-scholars.com/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=22264&p=567386#p567386 <<

And here I will place the link to the polls for "The reader decided story parts"
Zhang Jiao's dead >> http://the-scholars.com/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=22342 <<
"I do not speak to change minds. I do not trust in the sweetening lies you speak with false dignity. I care nothing for your worldly treasures and pity you all for you need them to feel value in life."
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Re: Fanfic Fanfare!

Unread postby FoxWithWings » Thu Nov 13, 2014 6:13 am

It was a disaster, this fool's errand at Hu Lao Gate.

She could only watch as Lu Bu moved on Gongsun Zan, looking terribly fierce in his black armor. His halberd was red with blood, some of it had spattered onto his black scales. The man from the north gave way quickly, but Lu Bu would catch him, mounted as he was on his mountain of a horse.

Then there was a roar, and a man in green was upon the man in black, swinging a serpent blade close to his head. It was Zhang Fei, the man who she had met outside of Peixing all those years before. She felt her jaw drop as Fei matched Lu Bu blow for blow, not yielding a single inch.

But Lu Bu was not withdrawing either. There was another dash of green, and there was Guan Yu! The man with the magnificent beard, and the frighteningly large sword. Shivers ran down her spine as she regarded what surely was a battle between gods. Lu Bu refused, still, to give in. His ferocious counters were met each time with sharp steel, and a few of Guan Yu's hammering blows nearly got past his defense.

Yet another rider broke away from the general press of combat. This one garbed in green like the other two. She recognized him quickly. Liu Bei, the man who had paid her such courtesy at Peixing. He set upon Lu Bu furiously, his sword flashing like gold in a pan.

At last, this was too much for the greatest warrior in China, and he turned tail and ran back to the shelter of the gate. The Allied Forces roared, and seemed to leap forward, finding heart in the success born from their apparent tragedy.

-Excerpt from my incomplete fan fiction: "A New Dynasty"
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Fan-fiction: Zhao Yun--Thank You

Unread postby Virginie » Mon Aug 06, 2018 11:49 am

Disclaimers:
-> There are HISTORICAL INACCURACIES
-> This is the first time I've written such a long story EVER. (Mainly because I'm a huge fan of Zhao Yun :oops: ) Apologizes if it becomes boring, tedious, annoying, etc.
-> My O.C.: Zhao Qing (趙凊) :D
(The reason I post my fanfiction here is because I can't do that in Kongming's Archives.)



"When in the world is he ever coming?!"

This was perhaps the hundredth time Zhang Fei murmured to himself. If one's temper grew worse over the day, Zhang Fei's temper was more than halfway to his worst. He wondered if Zhao Yun's strength followed a similar pattern.

Squinting his eyes for perhaps the hundredth time as well, Zhang Fei tried hard to dig for a human trace from the endless dirt road lying ahead of him. Luckily, his effort didn't fail him this time. Starting as a dot and gradually getting bigger was a red-and-white figure. According to Zhang Fei's shining, eager eyes, ninety-five percent of it was red.

Now who is THAT?!

"Yide, help me!"

There came the first words Zhang Fei have heard in the past few hours.

It is him! That’s Zilong! He is finally back!

Ears filled with horse shoes clicking and heart with delight, Zhang Fei throw the torturing impatience aside and greeted his friend enthusiastically.

"Zilong, cross the bridge! I'll handle the enemies!"

Nodding a thank you, Zhao Yun galloped past him, over the bridge, and into the woods.

For a split second, Zhang Fei's heart felt like piercing by a needle. He saw the blood-stained cloak and armor, shining a dull red color in the afternoon sun. He noticed, too, the exhausted face covered with mud, blood, and sweat. All these happened in the blink of an eye, but Zhang Fei wouldn't forget it for a long, long time.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Zhao Yun sighed internally after finally arrived in the relatively friendly territory. Inhaling deeply, he smelled blood, dirt and sweat, not surprisingly. However, the movements brought tearing pain to his chest, and it became worse as the chest received pressure from the clothes in the process of expanding. Not wincing a bit, he calmly and slowly exhaled while looking down at the dusty bundle with a light but benevolent smile.

"Just a few more minutes, Young Master, and we will meet your father for sure."

After whispering this silently, Zhao Yun rested his tired body on his horse and forced himself to focus on the road supposed to take him to his loving master, Liu Bei.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Liu Bei's mind was in complete shambles. Within less than a day, his once huge procession was diminished into a few tens of topsy-turvy people--wounded soldiers without armor, children crying for parents, elderly people with their helpless gaze, and, most importantly, his wife who is alone. This meant his other wife and his only son were lost in the battlefield. What could he do, anyway? A lot of his subordinates were missing, too. How could he expect a lady carrying a several-month-old baby to survive the massacre? Would his missing men survive? What was he going to do after this? What if he and everyone else around him got killed before help arrive? When was Kongming arriving? Would he ever arrive? Was Mi Fang right about Zilong after all? What...... Thousands of questions drove Liu Bei’s head to the verge of exploding. Struggling to calm himself down, he leaned against the tree trunk and dozed off restlessly.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

A most pitiful and filthy crowd appeared before Zhao Yun's barely opened eyes. He shook his head violently to wake himself up. As it grew larger and larger, he could clearly distinguish the scattered, resting people among the trees. The afternoon sun spilled a layer of golden dust on the clothes already covered with dirt. He could see his master napping under a tree with a few of his men beside him. Thank God, he thought, my master was not hurt. Tears gathered in his eyes when he realized he was finally reunited with the man who was the very reason he risked his life for.

As Zhao Yun came close to the crowd, he attempted to dismount. However, his legs weighted a thousand pounds and his waist was as stiff as stone. With difficulty, which he tried very hard not to show, and suppressing a groan, he managed to get off his horse. Leaning on his spear and breathing heavily, his vision wavered for a moment, but he managed to steady it quickly enough for nobody to notice.

He saw his master's weary face and the tears inside the eyes. He heard the voice, shattered by sobs, calling his name. Zhao Yun could hold back his tears no more. Weeping, he fell to his knees, head touching the ground. All of a sudden, the remorse of not being able to protect the carriage, the anxiety of not being able to find the ladies, the pain of watching Lady Mi jump into the well, the nervousness of not knowing if he and Young Master could make it alive, and the joy of finally seeing his master, were suddenly unleashed. Bitter as well as happy tears streamed down his cheeks. Just then, he felt hands getting into contact with his arms and dragging him up. Lifting his head, Zhao Yun looked directly into Liu Bei's eyes through the mist.

Words at the tip of his throat choked him: he hated to tell his master the tragic events. However, he knew he must deliver the news. Nevertheless, those words filled him with shame. Still out of breath, Zhao Yun, with a turbulent mind, uttered,

"Zhao Yun’s faults deserve him more than ten thousand deaths! Lady Mi was severely wounded and refused to mount the horse, thus ending her life in the well. I carried Young Master and broke through enemy lines. A while ago, he was crying in my arms, but now he is silent. I am afraid he is no more..."

In haste, Zhao Yun reached for the bundle and untied it from his chest. Looking inside, he saw the sweet, tranquil face of a sleeping baby. His heart was overflowed with joy.

"Fortunately, Young Master is unharmed.”

His master’s bloodline was saved! Smiling, Zhao Yun handed the baby to Liu Bei with both hands.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The warrior in front of him was literally covered with blood. The once-sparkling eyes were red with fatigue and filled with tears. The handsome cheek was bruised, the hair that was always tied into a neat bun lay scattered over his forehead, and the well-curved lips were torn and cracked with lack of water. He was drawing heavy, labored breath one after another. Filling Liu Bei’s nose was the odor of blood mixed with sweat and metal.

Liu Bei’s heart broke into pieces. The long battle and the irreparable losses of his men destroyed his usual composed self. Eyes overflowing with tears, he took the baby in his hands. His only son was asleep peacefully, fully ignoring the chaotic world, not even the man who saved him from hell. Liu Bei’s emotions were beyond description. Here it was, safe and sound, with almost the cost of the life of the bravest and most faithful general!

From the beginning, Liu Bei knew Zhao Yun would never betray him. Although the latter talked little and kept most of his feelings to himself, Liu Bei was able to see the burning ardor in his eyes--the desire of protecting his master to the end of his life, the promise to give his life whenever necessary, and the devotion to helping a man build a prosperous nation. In his anguish hours, however, Liu Bei questioned this man’s loyalty. He doubted his intention when the latter headed north and calculated the probability of him surrendering to Cao Cao. When he saw Zhao Yun’s battle-worn figure trotting towards him, imagine the feeling! Liu Bei never felt more guilt ridden.

And now his son was brought to him, unscathed.

“Because of you, worthless child, I almost lose my most precious general!”

Liu Bei yelled these words at Adou; fresh tears streamed down his cheeks once again. His hand trembled under the bundle and his lips trembled with rage as well. Turning his head, he did the least expected motion: hurling his son to the ground.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Zhao Yun was shocked. It was as if thunder rang on top of his head and lightning struck him directly through the body. He didn’t anticipate Liu Bei’s extreme reaction AT ALL. Actually, he didn’t even guess how his master would react, not only because he was worn out both physically and mentally, but also because the only thing in his mind was to accomplish successfully what he was assigned or what he believed was the best for his master.

Zhao Yun was touched. He never expected his master to value him such. All he wanted to do was to bring Adou to his father alive and preserve the Liu family bloodline. And now his master put his importance over that of the Young Master.

Thanks to his martial arts training, Zhao Yun responded with extraordinary speed even in exhaustion. He caught Adou midair, before the baby touched the ground. Nevertheless, the baby woke from his dream with a startle and cried aloud.

With the wailing baby in his arms, Zhao Yun’s heart throbbed. Warm tears escaped his eyes, wetting his armor and clothes. He bowed to the ground, sobbing violently.

“Zhao Yun cannot pay your Excellency’s kindness, EVER!”

A pair of strong hands helped him up again and he looked into Liu Bei’s eyes the second time. Liu Bei took over the baby and gave it to Lady Sun, who accepted without a word. Then, holding Zhao Yun by both arms, the middle aged man managed a few words before ushering his beloved general to rest under a tree.

“Zilong, you've worked hard…”

Zhao Yun nodded slightly by these words. A powerful wave of lightheadedness attacking him from every side.

No, he screamed internally, Master and the men are not completely safe yet; Cao Cao’s troops can be here any moment. I must not fall!

Struggling to look strong, he was walked to a tree by Liu Bei. Sitting down with a gentle sigh, he heard his master ordering others to take good care of him. Zhao Yun reminded himself not to let down his guard.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The general leaned against the tree and looked terribly tired and quite pale. His face, no, his whole body, was a mess. Blood, dried and fresh, was everywhere. Sweat covered his head as the now-scarlet silver helmet was taken off. It seemed he had washed his hair, just more carelessly than usual. He told the men not to take off his armor and don’t worry about him too much. He asked for water, however, and someone donated a canteen. The general pulled out a piece of cloth from his belt and, wetting it using a few drops of water, wiped his face absentmindedly. He drank the remaining water at once and let out a sigh.

“General, are you alright?”

Zhao Qing, a very lucky soldier who survived the battle of Chang Ban with only minor wounds, was Zhao Yun’s close friend and trusted comrade. They first met in Gongsun Zan’s army, when Zhao Yun was a lieutenant colonel of cavalry and Zhao Qing a new recruit. By some miracle, he happened to serve under the young officer’s flag. The two men, all in their late teens and sharing the same last name, Zhao, quickly became good friends.

Zhao Yun and Zhao Qing were separated when the former left Gongsun Zan. The latter left the army shortly after and searched tirelessly for the man he considered a brother. Eventually, he found the place named Gu Cheng and met Zhao Yun there. After they reunited, it was agreed that Zhao Qing would serve as Zhao Yun’s close assistant, which delighted them both. Since then, a silver figure was accompanied by a brown one. However, since Zhao Yun preferred doing things solitarily, Zhao Qing did not get the job of a servant. More often, he was assigned a small troop. In the eve of the battle of Chang Ban, Zhao Qing, as usual, rode closely by Zhao Yun’s side. A few minutes after the massive assault, he was thrown off his horse. He remembered Zhao Yun told him something like “always play defense, attack only when necessary”, so the only injury he received was some cuts on his forearms from protecting his head. Now, naturally, he was to help the general get more comfortable.

As he tended to the tired warrior, he pondered in his mind how exhausted Zhao Yun could possibly be and why. Surely he never saw the general since yesterday afternoon, but obviously not everyone could stay together in such chaos. From the amount of blood on the general’s body, Zhao Qing imagined how he had fought over the past hours. The general must have been through a lot, more than I can imagine, concluded the young soldier in the end.

“I’m fine.”

It was a hoarse, weak voice Zhao Qing rarely heard of. The general seemed to notice the slightly knitted brows and worried gaze. He straightened himself against the tree. Zhao Qing decided to prepare a hearty bath for him when they reached whatever place they were going to.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Ha, they retreated! Thought Zhang Fei gleefully, I bet they’ll never come back.

After frightening off Cao Cao’s army, Zhang Fei, full of pride and excitement, order the bridge to be destroyed. He then collected his troops and headed back to Liu Bei. Done with his share of quibble, he went behind the trees to get a little rest as the other men prepared to leave--or to flee from Cao Cao until they have no road in front of them?

He saw Zhao Yun sitting upright against a tree, eyes half closed as if taking a nap. Not dare to disturb him, Zhang Fei ordered the men around to get ready for the journey. Just as he was talking, Zhao Yun opened his eyes, noticed Zhang Fei, and struggled to get up. Zhao Qing sprang up to help him. Seeing how labored it was for his “fourth brother” to even stand up, Zhang Fei felt a pang of guilt. He desperately wanted to say sorry for what he previously assumed Zhao Yun of committing. But he only managed to lay a hand on the man’s shoulder, murmur a low “let’s go”, and watch him fetch his horse and spear.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The sky was rotating above his head and the ground wiggling below his feet. Every move brought intense discomfort to every single bone he had. His mouth was still very dry despite the mouthfuls of water, and it tasted obnoxious--dirt, sweat, even a bit metallic… … Zhao Yun knew that was NOT good. Not willing to admit it, however, he put on his helmet, mounted his horse, and was ready, as well as he could, for whatever facing him ahead. He made sure the men were ready, too.

Liu Bei, Zhang Fei, and some other men such as Mi Zhu organized the broken little party and headed toward the road, hoping Zhuge Liang and Guan Yu would join them. Zhao Yun volunteered to take up the rear guard, as he noticed there was no one there, and Liu Bei agreed. He knew his state was beyond “very tired”, but the duty before him was greater than anything else. Zhao Yun squeezed out, for the unknown-th time, the little energy left in him, and started the painful journey.

He had no idea how much time had passed, considering his constant effort of keeping his mind clear, but suddenly to his ears came distance shouts and battle whoops. Cao Cao’s army was after them! He turned on his fighting mode instinctively. He heard Liu Bei shouting orders and his name being called with the duty of facing the enemy. Zhao Yun allowed no hesitation. He grabbed his spear tight and turned his horse around.

Just then, a troop of fresh soldiers emerged from the woods. The leader had a long, thick beard hanging until the waist, almond eyes, and eyebrows like resting silkworms.

“Cao Cao, I’ve been waiting for you for quite a while!”

Zhao Yun watched in relief as Cao Cao’s army retreated in fear with the commander in chief yelling “a trap by Kongming again!”, and was thankful that his master and the men were unharmed. Cold sweat covered his body and the painful dizziness returned. Fighting them off as bravely as he dealt with the enemy, Zhao Yun tried not to show any signs of his discomforts--even that had became increasingly difficult. He knew it was certainly not the best time to let the already-ground-low morale get lower. They needed it, the soldiers to fight off any aggressor and the civilians to keep them from giving up. Zhao Yun told himself to always keep this in mind as the procession dragged their way forward.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The wind blew gracefully and the sun spilled a splendid gradient on the ripples. Zhuge Liang waved his feather fan casually along with the damp breeze, the edge of his clothes flapping gently. His facial expression remained calm throughout the voyage from Jiang Xia, but his inner organs were filled with all sorts of tastes. He felt bitter about being attacked so brutally, sour after seeing so many people losing their lives but himself unable to help, spicy when recognizing the reality of everything, salty when thinking about the uncertainty of his master’s arrival, and sweet for being able to help to the best of his ability. Anyway, he was confident that things would not simply end here. There was still a long journey to go--a journey of a great dynasty.

His heart leaped with excitement as the battleships got nearer to the shore and the weary men’s figures became clear. He heard the drum rolling and horns blasting under the command of the Young Lord, Liu Qi. He quietly observed the men got shocked. Grinning from ear to ear, Kongming yelled, waving his fan, completely out of character.

“Master, everybody, Kongming is here to welcome you! Please get on the ships!”

He enjoyed the cheers he received from the crowd. As the ships hauled to a stop, Liu Bei and all of his men, soldiers and civilians alike, scrambled on board. Zhuge Liang received them accordingly.

He noticed Zhao Yun’s unusually white face as the latter smiled and nodded his greetings.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Kongming has arrived, what else is there to worry? On the deck, Zhao Yun stood behind Zhang Fei, trying to pay attention to the conversation between Liu Bei, Zhuge Liang, and Liu Qi. He knew the danger was over. No armies would be chasing them, no troops trying to slaughter everyone in sight, and no worries for not accomplishing his duty. Pain, blood loss, extreme fatigue, hunger, thirst, and sleep deprivation finally struck him hard. His vision clouded, fading in and out. He struggled, once again, to stay awake. However, this time, his strength gave in to the darkness.

He felt his body falling backwards. Hands came into contact and catching him before he hit the ground. He felt being lowered tenderly onto the wooden deck with a warm cushion supporting his head. He heard voices calling his name, begging him to hold on. But he knew he could hold on no more. The world dissolved into nothing.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The person in Guan Yu’s arms went limp. The helmet was removed and armor loosened as the medic was summoned. His friend was warm--a bit too warm. The eyes were shut as if sealed; the pallid lips, stained with dried blood, were closed tightly as well. Guan Yu thought the face was made of white wax. He despairingly searched for signs that indicated Zhao Yun was not in a serious situation but was in vain. The man’s chest rose and fell so feebly that Guan Yu feared for the worse. However, his body temperature was strangely high.

The medic arrived shortly, looked at the fainted general, and felt under his nose. Guan Yu’s heart twitched. As he took Zhao Yun’s pulse, the medic was surrounded by anxious, inquiring looks, not particularly from Liu Bei but from Guan Yu as well.

After joining the party, the two brothers exchanged information. Guan Yu learned that Lady Mi died and Adou would too if there wasn’t Zhao Yun. While sighing over the tragic fate, he was moved by the unwavering loyalty and courage in what his “fourth brother” had accomplished. He turned around, wanting to give Zilong a wholehearted praise and a friendly slap on the shoulder, but looked into a terribly pale face instead. Concerned, he asked if he was alright. The answer was a yes, but Guan Yu, who had a meticulous heart, knew there was more than that. Nevertheless, he did not say a word about this when they met Zhuge Liang.

Guan Yu felt extremely responsible. He should have told Kongming, or at least his brother, how unwell Zilong looked. None of these would have happened! He made a silent promise to look after his unconscious brother to the best of his ability when he and Yide carefully lifted him up and headed for the cabin.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

How in the world could this happen!?

Zhuge Liang scolded himself harshly.

How can I ever NOT notice his poor condition?!

Since they became acquainted, Kongming was aware of how a quiet, reserved person Zhao Yun happened to be. When Guan Yu and Zhang Fei were sneering disdainfully and skeptical of their new strategist’s abilities, Zhao Yun never said a word. He was the white and silver shadow of the meeting room. The clear answers to Kongming's orders reminded people of his existence. Kongming couldn’t think of a time when he uttered an unnecessary word or made a superfluous move. Everyone who talked to him was received by a calm, gentle voice that was supposed to belong to a scholar. The dark, shining eyes were always looking slightly downwards, with the deepness of an undisturbed lake under the moonlight. The bushy eyebrows were lowered modestly; the delicate lips were closed; and the expression on the fair face was tranquil. But his posture was erect and he stood with the imposing manner of a towering pine tree tasted thousands of spring dews and winter blizzards, indestructible and silently blending into its surroundings.

In times of battle, however, the graceful, tender general was nowhere to be found. Taking his place was an intimidating warrior, whose eyes glistened with chilling, threatening beams and expressions revealing unfaltering valor. Hands that rested contently by his sides became the terrifying power source of the lethal spear. It slashed and struck like a silver, fearsome dragon from the sky, soaring valiantly and with perfect ease among the enemies. The mouth called out order after order to ensure the safety of his troops and to keep them well-organized.

Kongming was also surprised at how warmhearted and caring the general was. To the soldiers he always gave them soothing words of encouragement. He charged in the forefront of his troops at every battle. The wounded received consolations while soundless tears were shed for the dead. Zhuge Liang had to question his believe of "you become emotionally numb before, during, and after combat."

As usual, Zilong didn’t utter a word after giving out orders and watching the somewhat organized troops went on board. He didn’t need to talk, since the Master explained everything, so he stayed silently by their sides. Busying himself with the matter in discussion with Master and Lord Liu Qi, Kongming naturally ignored the general. Of course he knew Zhao Yun looked pale and tired and covered with blood, but he didn’t put much thought on that. It’s perfectly normal for generals to be worn out and dirty after a battle, he thought. What he didn’t know was what Zilong had experienced. It was a story only the warrior could tell.

And now the imposing general was unconscious and carried away with great care. His sweat-soaked head was supported by Guan Yu’s left arm. The other arm was under his upper back. Zhang Fei was holding the waist and legs and the ashen hands were now dangling loosely by his side.

The strategist followed Yunchang and Yide, along with Liu Bei, Liu Qi, and the surgeon, to the tiny cabin. Intended for the night guards, it had no other than one bed in the middle of it. Towel and water basin were fetched and the surgeon approached the general. Kongming began to tremble inwardly.

The surgeon bowed low.

Gravely, they turned and exited the cabin, leaving Zhao Yun in the hands of the medic and two helpers.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

**** Flashback ****

It was a fresh, cool morning. The rain that had continued for the entire yesterday finally grew bored and stopped itself. A timid sun peeked from the thin clouds on the horizon, painting a brilliant light yellow on everything within its touch. There was still dampness in the air, and Liu Bei strolled lightly between the orderly rows of tents. A large, white flag with two red characters “公孫”on it flew with pride among smaller flags of the same color with the word “趙” standing out remarkably. A few soldiers were already up to prepare breakfast and look after the horses. Most part of the camp was quiet. Although he wasn’t very into books, Liu Bei had a fine memory. Breathing in the refreshingly moist air, he couldn’t help recollecting the events several days earlier.

Screams and clangs of metals were ahead of him. He rode near the muddy chaos and saw a rather familiar scene.

A general on his horse was fending off the approaching enemy soldiers with his spear. Clearly, the tightly formed circle around him and his outnumbered cavalries were closing in with rapid rate. Liu Bei expected the general to be stabbed and killed in five minutes.

He decided to help.

But the situation turned out to be different than what he had thought.

The circle loosened itself! The innermost layer collapsed and other layers backed down several steps.

It looked like the general wasn't someone ordinary. Liu Bei decided to help anyway. After all, he identified the general’s color as part of his friend’s army. “Friends need to help each other,” was one of his principles. So he charged into the mess.

It was an intense combat. His two brothers fought bravely and so did the general.

Casualties were counted and troops were reorganized. To his delight, Liu Bei finally met his friend.

Gongsun Zan introduced the general to the three brothers.

Liu Bei saw him as a piece of cloud--silver armor, helmet, and weapon, white cloak and horse.

The general bowed and said his greetings in a gentle but firm voice.

“My name is Zhao Yun, courtesy Zilong, native of Changshan. It is a pleasure to meet you.”

“I am Liu Bei, or Xuande. This is my second brother, Guan Yu, courtesy Yunchang, and third brother, Zhang Fei, courtesy Yide. We are glad to meet you as well.”

Liu Bei was even more shocked when the general lifted his head and stand face to face with him.

He was only a little more than a boy!

Liu Bei wondered why didn’t he notice this amazing fact before. Maybe he focused too much on the battle. And maybe he couldn’t see his face clearly, as it was decorated with mud speckles.

It was just unbelievable! A person so young and delicate was already leading his troops against massive enemy forces?! He had thick eyebrows, but not as sharp as Yunchang’s. The big, spirited eyes were dark as ink but shining with intense energy.

But it turned out that Zhao Yun was less than a general; he was only a lieutenant colonel.

That didn’t matter. Liu Bei was already feeling very fond of the boy.

It seemed that the young officer associated with Liu Bei and his brothers quite comfortably. On their way back to the headquarters, they chatted warmly with each other, riding side by side.

“You did really well today!”

“Thank you, sir. Your reinforcement was very crucial.”

“We were just giving you a hand. Your martial art skills are outstanding!"

“I am flattered, sir.”

“Don’t say that! If my brother said you are, you really are!”

“If you don’t mind, I am curious--how old are you?”

“I turned nineteen last month, sir.”

“What?!! You’re so young!”

“Yeah, how did you do this? It must be hard at first, right?”

“Um, yes, sir. I joined the army last year.”

“Wow! That’s awesome!”

“Thank you, sir.”

He talked little and in a quiet, polite tone, unlike Yide.

Gongsun Zan was a kind person indeed. He must have noticed the friendship between Liu Bei and Zhao Yun before assigning Liu Bei to camp next to Zhao Yun’s cavalry company.

During dinner time the four men sat together in a circle. Between battles, there would be no fancy dinner in colossal tent.

The conversation went on. Liu Bei knew that Zhao Yun was chosen as the captain of the local militia in Changshan. He and his little army joined Yuan Shao’s force later but he eventually left. After saving Gongsun Zan’s life from Yan Liang and Wen Chou, he was formally recruited by the commander-in-chief.

Liu Bei also learned that Zhao Yun initially studied martial arts for a better health. He was not born with a strong body, just like his older brother. After promising their dying parents to take good care of the child, his brother searched relentlessly for ways to improve Zhao Yun’s health. The delicate boy ended up calling their neighbor, the crazy old man with white beard, teacher. But the old man wasn’t crazy. After several hardworking years, not only Zhao Yun’s health improved but he also acquired fierce martial art skills and decent literary understandings--although Zhao Yun didn’t say it that way.

Just then, Liu Bei reached the tent where the cavalry officer was supposed to be staying in.

“Zilong?” No one answered.

Parting the flaps with one hand, he looked inside. He didn’t really expect to find Zhao Yun sleeping, as last morning he was caught practicing martial arts before ANYONE was up--except Liu Bei, who went to the bathroom.

On the farther side of the tent, the slender young man was facing away from the entrance, reading a book. He was so absorbed by it that he didn’t even notice Liu Bei calling him. Not wanting to disturb the deeply-concentrated reader, Liu Bei exited the tent quiet as a mouse.

This boy will certainly accomplish great deeds.

**** End flashback ****

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

It took more than thirty minutes for the door to open; they didn’t reach Jiang Xia yet. The medic emerged from the dark room and bowed again.

“How is he? Is he out of danger?” Kongming voiced everyone’s thoughts.

“I tried my best, sir, but he is not entirely yet.”

“May we see him?”

“Uh, definitely, sir. But, with respect, he had yet come to his senses.”

With these words, the medic let the troubled people into the little cabin. There he was, on the bed, covered by a thin blanket in the middle of the room. White as paper was his face, wiped clean; the arid lips were slightly parted and absent of the normal red; long hair lay loose on the pillow. The room smelled of dry wood, herbal medicine, and...blood.

Liu Bei burst into tears and rushed to the general’s side. Clasping the limp hand into his, the tender-hearted leader uttered Zhao Yun’s name over and over, words shattered by sobs. How he wished his general could open his eyes and smile at him, like those mornings when the camp was so crowded that they had to sleep together in one bed. How he wished the hands could squeeze his own, like that afternoon when he was leaving Gongsun Zan’s base. But all these were in vain. The general was as motionless as if he was dead. But Liu Bei was sure he was not: the hand was feverish.

Infection.

Tears galloped down like waterfalls.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The fist was clutched and eyes bulged. Zhang Fei didn’t really like his brother unleashing his emotions in front of everyone, but he felt like doing the same.

Intolerable!!!

He just couldn’t allow his comrade to be in that state. From all he could remember, Zilong remained a figure flourished with vitality. Never in his life had he seen him lying there so helplessly. Not even when he was ill back then; he remembered the unfaltering determination between the bushy eyebrows contorted in anguish. Now, the once steadfast facial features were totally drained of life.

Zhang Fei fought the urge to shake Zhao Yun’s consciousness back from whatever place it might be. Wondering what his red-faced brother might do, he looked at Guan Yu’s direction. In the growing darkness, he thought he had caught a sparkling drop falling...

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

“Is he seriously injured? Are there any broken bones?” Once again, Kongming voiced the concerned of the small crowd. He had to suppress the lump in his throat, though.

“Pretty bad, sir, but no broken bones...” Replied the medic frankly. He paused. The strategist encouraged him to continue.

“General Zhao had lost a large quantity of blood and suffered several deep cuts, but they didn’t get cleaned fast enough… The worse part for him is the fatigue. I had never seen a person with that little amount of energy left in him.”

The crease between Kongming’s brows deepened. “When will he wake up?” The voice was a bit shaky.

“It depends on the general’s own strength and will. I have done all I can. I apologize, sir.”

Night closed in unnoticed. A sudden gush of wind rushed by, and there came a cry of a night owl.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The general’s temperature kept on rising. His breath was like the steam from a dry pot! I had to re-wet his towel every TEN minutes! Why is he so pale? And why is he not stirring, at all?? Is he going to live through this? Please, general, do!

Zhao Qing sat on a chair beside Zhao Yun’s bed, face in his hands. Everything was quiet, except for the labored breath coming from the wounded man.

A huge rock seemed to strike him when he received the distressing news. After begging on his knees, he was permitted to stay with the general when they reached Jiang Xia. He knew they needed help with the troops and civilians out there, but the general was more important than anything else. Vividly, he remembered losing his parents one by one, then his sister, and then his younger brother. Zhao Yun, his unofficial adopted brother, brought him back from the deep well of traumatic memories. Life for him would end too if it ended for the general.

It’s an hour past midnight.

He straightened himself and tried Zhao Yun’s temperature for perhaps the hundredth time. As hot as ever. He soaked a piece of cloth in the basin and proceeded to wipe the general’s hands and feet--this was the twentieth time he did so--as ordered by the doctor. The badge-covered body sent piercing daggers into his heart every time he looked at it.

Zhao Qing sank into his chair once again after everything was done. The polished wooden surface felt hard as stone. Suddenly, without warning, the unconscious general began to gasp for air, his mouth half opened. Panic-stricken, the timid caretaker froze in place. Slowly, the head tiled backwards and white substances oozed from the lips. Coming to his senses, Zhao Qing raced for the doctor.

Three minutes later, the doctor arrived in great haste. Without hesitating, he grabbed his bag, torn out the needles, and placed them on several parts of the burning body. Zhao Yun went limp again.

The doctor offered to stay in the room for the rest of the night. Zhao Qing finally dozed off by four o’clock; it had been an awfully hard day for him.

He woke with a start next morning. Dawn had came not long before and cast its first light on the face in bed; no doctor was in sight. Zhao Qing rushed to his general. He was in the exact same position as last night, the towel still on his forehead. But his color seemed different. Fears for the worse attacked him.

Imagine the relief when he discovered the balanced heaving of the chest! How tears of joy wet his clothes when he discovered the fever was breaking! The hand no longer felt iron-hot but mildly warm. Just then, someone knocked the door.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

He felt somebody gently stroking his hand. He wanted to open his eyes, but not before a sweet drowsiness embraced him.

Zhao Yun didn’t know how much time had passed before awareness kicked in again. He tried to move, and giant waves of pain ambushed him. Inhaling and exhaling slowly to alleviate them, he wondered what had happened. The last thing in his memories was falling backwards. He opened his eyes.

Yunchang was sitting by his side. A smile formed on the tan-colored face.

Slightly turning his head, Zilong scanned the room. Directly in front of his bed were two opened windows with rays of sunlight coming through them. A desk was at the end of the wall. What an elegant little room. The last place he had been was less than one thousandth time as cozy.

“Where am I?” The hoarseness surprised him.

“We are at Jiang Xia now, Zilong. You have slept for three days.” There was a unique tenderness in that voice.

“Is everyone alright? How is Master doing?”

“He is fine, don’t worry.” Yunchang came to an abrupt stop. From his bed, Zilong saw the outline of his eyes turning red. “You scared us death……”

Zhao Yun's heart jerked; he was touched by the care and love they must have given him. He struggled to get up, only to be held down with two strong hands by the shoulders.

“You are still too weak.”

“Sorry.”

Indeed, he was very weak--he had to catch his breath after those few movements.

“Sleep some more.”

“Alright.” He closed his eyes obediently. Despite the dull pains from his body, Zhao Yun soon drifted off into a peaceful recuperating sleep.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

It was already in the afternoon when Zhao Yun woke up again. Liu Bei and Kongming were sitting beside his bed.

“Good afternoon, Zilong. How are you feeling?” Asked the strategist.

Smiling, Zhao Yun told him he was feeling okay.

“Do you want some water?”

“Yes, please.”

“Don’t sit up.”

“Zilong, you really did a wonderful job…” Kongming told him after the satisfying drink. With Zhao Yun in this condition, the strategist was suddenly deprived of his usual eloquence.

“I will do my best to fulfill your compliment, sir.”

Someone knocked at the door. A soldier entered and informed them that there was a matter requiring Kongming to attend to immdiately. The latter left after apologizing.

Holding the hand in his, Liu Bei was speechless. He remembered doing the same on the ship, when the general was in a feverish coma; he remembered turning back and, without a second thought, demanding Zhao Yun to face the enemy; he remembered seeing the red figure galloping towards him; he remembered sighing in relief when he noticed Zhao Yun fighting beside him among the vast enemy troops; he remembered ordering the silver shadow to protect his family; moreover, he remembered the hard works Zhao Yun had done for him from the moment they reunited at the mountain, the sweat and blood he shed for the cause they all believed in, and the youth he sacrificed for staying by his side regardless of any misfortunes.

Yet what did he do for him? How did he repay him? How COULD he repay him after all? By just crying like a baby?

Liu Bei’s lips trembled. In his mind was the word he have never told Zhao Yun, a faithful friend who was willing to give his life at any moment for the man he called Master.

“Thank you, Zilong.”

Warm tears and a squeeze of his hand worth more than any replies.
-V. Zhang
I consider myself not good at everything. Apologizes.
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