I opened my eyes and found myself embracing the soil. It was damp but smelled pleasant. My fingers felt numb, as numb as my head. I remembered nothing, nor did the dark remind me of anything. My limbs did not dare move but only when I saw the faintest swarm of lights rushing towards me. I raised my hand and tried to state my existence to what existed around me. I could now hear the sound of hooves punishing the ground and them being punished by whips.
The lights were barely a mile away when someone or something pulled me by the collar. I don’t know what or who it was but with my elbow I drilled it into the crowned thereby depleting myself of the last drop of strength I had. It expressed it’s pain though, not freely. It still dragged me into a little burrow, I remember, for now, the moon did not fear the earth and had come out of its clouds of repose.
I was for sure, in a forest with really tall trees but I could not feast my eyes with knowledge of my surroundings for I was drowning in the fatigue of my one attempt to touch the being.
I was again awoken by the sound of the stallions but my eyelids did not show me anything. I felt nothing for quite a while. I could see nothing, do nothing or speak nothing. But I could think now and I myself was torturing my mind asking it for, “Who I am? Where do I belong? Where do I tread?” But it was like talking to a tombstone. I had no control of my limbs and lay as if shut in a room.
Suddenly the sun shone, bringing me back to life. Someone coughed! And I sprang out of the burrow, pulled out a sword from the sheath tied to my waist and flashed it in front of the man’s eyes. The man whose lap my head had taken repose looked into my eyes. The blood in his eyes and his crimson fist moved towards his own sheath, but he could not clasp anything for his sheath was deserted.
I raised my sword to strike, but then, a drop of blood fell from my forehead. And as I watched it fall onto a crumpled daisy I saw the man get onto his knees. He acclaimed,” Sire! We alone live!” My sword missed him by an inch and I thrust it into the soil and fell onto my knees. I looked onto my shoulder, I could not see it for its unpleasant countenance was hidden by a shiny metal covered in blood. I saw on my chest a little emboss of a cross and a maple leaf. My hands showed the same mark. They stung worse however as they had been cut as if I had grabbed a blade.
My feet had one sandal alone. Perhaps, I was not the only one separated from where I belong. Suddenly I collapsed to one side. But before I could thrash my face into the ground, he held me by the shoulders, ”My Lord! Do not lose hope. Frank shall not leave your side till….” I heard nothing more as my body was lifeless again.
I did not realize after what interval but I found myself quite warm and cozy. My ears could distinguish the sound of birds chirping from the gushing of a river. I opened my eyes and all I saw was ‘Frank’ with a sword in his hand at ready apparently guarding the little shelter I lay in. In an attempt to get a hold of myself, I leaned to one side, but, I wreathed in pain. It was unbearable. Frank ran to me. “No my Lord! Not yet! The flesh has not become one with the bone.” I did not know him but the words he used did not please me to make me anxious to know him. I trembled in fear. I could not make up my mind as for what to speak. I asked him, “How old are you?” He looked startled. His rebuking eyes made me change my question, “Who are you?”
He heaved a sigh of despair. As if in that question I fully revealed to him the emptiness of my memory. He answered in that despair, “I, my Lord, am Frank Petrach, the general of the sixth regiment of southern Naomi and as thy excellence has permitted me to say, thy best friend. I saw in his eyes great loyalty and respect but I could not reckon why I deserved it. I asked him again, ”Who am I?” He fell to his knees and to my terror. He cried out, “Father! Why! Why have you forsaken the one who loved you above all? Why!”, as he looked to the sky. He placed his scourged hands on the ground.
My voice grew rough, “Answer me, Frank!”
“You, my Lord, were the only ruler of entire Hyperia. From the hills of Gilbert in the East to the plains of Finland of the west; from this river Danes to the valleys of Naomi.”
“We alone are what remains of Hyperia. Our Lands, with each Hyperion man or beast, has come under the sword of Xylenor’s….”
That name! That wretched name! Like a spell, it made every nerve in my body yell and so did I as if it was something I hated from the deepest of my soul. And as I yelled out that name, voices hit my senses, none pleasant, screams of a woman and a crying baby. I saw a vision of my head under a heavy shoe being pressed onto my face and scarlet blood being splattered over my head. Anna! I yelled out.
I reached back to my senses at the riverside.
“Calm down, my Lord! I know it hurts.”
“Frank! Tell me, who is Anna?”
“I do not know!” he fumbled like never before. “Rest, sire, we need to go away from here before they could know!”
Staying quiet seemed something easier to do at that moment. Frank went back to his post and I closed my eyes. But my mind had not forgiven me. ‘Hyperia? Ruler? Xylenor? Ann? Why is that I now do not wish to know more about myself? I fell asleep. But my mind did not spare me, I saw a dream.
Green fields as far as my vision persisted, daisies adorning them, a pair of hills conspiring to hide the glowing crimson sun between them. I heard a voice call out to me, ”Richard! Richard! I’m here my love.” A beautiful lady! No. Those words do not suffice the glory of her countenance.
Her eyes reflected the skies, although they were as deep as the oceans. Her hair was golden brown, lips ruby red but yet my sight did not astonish me as my ears did! Her voice, something about it made me feel at rest, made me feel contented and calm as if I had nothing to fear nor anything to desire. What a pity! I did not remember who she was. Probably Anna!
Suddenly, it grew dark. I found myself at a fortress, in a room lit merely by flaming torches. I stretched out my arms. Two ladies put on me my armor. It did have the very same cross embossed on it. An old man stood in front of me. He looked old but yet strong. His green eyes shone like emeralds among the ivory of his hair and the golden collar he wore.
He placed his hands on my shoulder and said, “Richard, sometimes we fight for glory and sometimes we fight to sustain it. Today, son, it is the latter. Fear no evil as you tread through the valley of the shadows of death. Fear no sin as you thrust your sword into the chest of your enemy for it is them whose swords have felt the hearts of our beloved. Whether you live or die, whether you achieve what you need or you lose what you don’t, remember, that there lies no pride in taking a life until it is taken in the name and command of our father. Breathe fire on them, crush them and save our people.”
He then dipped his hands in a basin and placed them on my forehead saying, “A thousand shall fall dead beside you!” He placed a sword in my hands as I knelt; “A thousand all around you!” He secured a helmet on my head slowly saying, “But you, shall not be harmed!” I then saw myself run towards a person at battle. Unable to see his face, I was awoken by the sound of the slash of our swords. I sat up in my fright. I saw Frank at the mouth of a cavern dozing and before my eyes, he fell to one side. I rushed to him, now that I felt cured. I mustered up all the courage I had and picking him up I placed him in the cave. He was perfectly unconscious of the world now. As soon as he felt the warmth of the cave he turned to one side and grabbed my hand in his sleep saying, “Mother, where were you? Sing me to sleep.” I felt rather awkward but I realized that he was merely a boy of twenties.
I thought of singing to him but I knew of no song. I tried to sing, however:
“My name is Richard and your name is Frank,
You are a person I’d surely like to thank.”
I felt really proud of myself in these two lines. I could sing! I really could! But one look at Frank’s face crushed my pride. He looked disgusted! He in his sleep said, “Go away, you creature!” I held my anger thinking that not everyone can appreciate. I sat back for a moment and then taking Frank’s sword proceeded to have a fair view of the place I was in. I took a few yards forward and was lost in gazing at the foaming waters of the river when I heard a growl behind my back. It was momentary but it froze my spine. I was certain of some beast having entered the cavern. I turned around, sword at ready. I marched in fear, step after step. I was looking forwards, when my foot hit a rock and I injured myself again. But my feet were numb of the pain as they were drenched in fear. I took a step closer but saw no beast, further and yet no beast. The growling was discontinuous. I was terrified. Then I saw the beast! I then realized the colossal source of the growling was my companion’s pair of caves. Indeed Frank had cannons for nostrils. I frenzied myself of having spent the night in the company of a beast!
I walked along the riverside, lost in thoughts or at least of what I remembered. My mind was blank like a scroll untouched by ink. I knew barely anything of what I was. But that wasn’t what took a toll on my conscience. I had no ambition and no destination. She who called me Richard was now probably dead. I had no one to go to. I reached a waterfall which fell from a height to scare the blood out of any living creature. I thought to myself, ‘Why begin anew? Why? I have lost whatever I had. Not merely their possession but even their memories. I have been left merely visions of my past and yet none of them are pleasant. Why should I live? Is this even called living? I have one friend alone in this world, Frank, but my bond with him has faded away in my mind. The only one I remember is Xylenor, and he has devoured on every blessing I possessed, on every reason for me to breathe. If I live, I shall live my life in vengeance. Is that a life? One in which every breath you take longs to strangle that of another?
My heart beats are punishing my chest with pain? How am I to endure this? Why should I endure this? Shouldn’t I calm them and let them be at peace? Why am I hurting myself? My existence is of benefit to no one isn’t it? Who does even realize it? I have been blanked by this world so why shouldn’t I be numbed by it? The pain not of wound but hurt has reached it’s precipice. Shouldn’t I free myself now? Don’t I deserve it? My sword too lies pale in crimson stains. I may have taken lives of innocent people. I have been at war. I do not deserve to breathe in this marvelous world.”
I took one look at the bottom of the waterfall and I knew what I had to do. I took off my armour and lay it beside my sword and sheath. I realized Frank would probably need them. I was now in my shirt alone vulnerable to the chilling breeze and the cold mists that rose from the fall. I walked to the cliff. I said, “Be free my soul! You have served my body enough!” I closed my eyes and felt my last gust of breeze. I lifted one foot and placed it forward till it felt no ground. This was the end…
But someone held my hand and pulled me back throwing the two of us onto the ground. Frank rose and he slapped me. “What were you doing?”
“Leave me alone! Go away, you devil! Let me die in peace.”
“Die? Peace? How have you become such a coward? Cursed are those who once called you valiant.”
“I remember not anything.”
“I pity you my liege, but are you doing justice to the army who laid down their lives for you?
Are you doing justice to your ancestors who believed in you?
Are you doing justice to your people whom you swore to protect?”
“But you say only their corpses remain.”
“My Lord, Hyperia is not where our flag sores high.
Hyperia is everywhere where men can live with joy.
Where the people can shut their eyes without fear,
Where justice finds each man equally dear.
Where a laborer is not forsaken his wages,
And the folklore sings the glory of ages.
Where people of different blood stay united as one,
Where our Father declares each day that goodness has won!”
“Frank, why do want me to live even after you realize that all that is Hyperion has been reduced to dust? Was the war insufficient in your eyes?”
“My Lord, Wars are never for good. But my Lord it is written that you alone can restore Hyperia to it’s former glory again.”
I chuckled lying on the ground, “Ha…your scriptures say that the two of us shall raise a kingdom? Haven’t you heard of despair son?”
“My Lord your army did not let you pass away believing in the same? Why then do you mock their blood? Why do you give up hope? I haven’t my Lord. And your highness King Richard-the valiant I believe you can’t! Rise, my Lord! Rise for the blood of Queen Anna! Rise for the blood of your son Prince Harry! Rise for the blood of your Father! Rise for the blood of your army! Rise for Hyperia!”
The words of Frank reminded me of the old man. I felt a battle cry rise in my head. I knew it was far from impossible. But I would have loved to die trying. It was meaningless to die. I had no right to die. My life was not my own. I realized that my people had gifted my life to me. I had no blood in me that wasn’t made of the blood of my people. I needed to do them justice, to rise from my misery and bring back glory to Hyperia. I knew not my path, but, my destination was crystal clear. My heartbeats raced faster than horses. I was perhaps born for that very reason. I rose picked up my sword and wore my armour.
I took my sword, thrust it into the ground and got on my knees in reverence to the sun. I held the blade with my palms of fear and despair and let them flow away with the blood. I looked up to the heavens and spoke, “Almighty one! I barely know who you are. But Lord since I do not know myself anymore it does me justice. I find myself indebted to this world for giving me a new life. I shall not let it all go in vain. The fear that crawls in my skin shall be slit each time it shall stop me for acquiring the needs of the people. Stand by me and guard me with a ready sword. Shield me from the evil even as I step over them to bring my people glory. Be my father and keep me close to your bosom, for I only have the cold of the blade and the warmth of blood.
Lead my sword through the hearts of the beasts who have brought destruction to my people. Let me crush their skulls. I know it is not right for one man to take the life of another. My lord but it appears that you have learned to live with that ethic forgotten and so shall I. But pray, master, let not the blood of an innocent stain the battlefield or my sword. Let me be just. Let me choose my friends wisely. Teach me to know my friends from my foes. Stand by them as you stand by me.
Lord, clasp my soul in the palm of your hands. Let not my sword be driven by bloodlust. Let my fights be governed morality even in disgrace of bloodshed. Unleash your wrath on those who defy us and keep us safe from treachery. I am Lord however mortal. If under the wish of the heavens shall a spear finding it’s resting place beside by my heart, send another soldier to conquer the soil of Hyperia for its ancestors once again.
I thank thee O Great One, for listening to the prayers of a soldier humbled before you. I shall now embark myself on a journey of a destination that lies in the hearts of the dead! I oath to fight till my last breath for I am, THE CHOSEN ONE!
We walked on, we couldn’t risk being scavenged by Xylenor’s men. They had probably already realized that my corpse was missing. I felt like a piece of an incomplete puzzle, knowing what I had to do, knowing what I could do but indifferent to what I was a part of. Frank was my only link to the world. A part of me wished to bombard him with questions and another wanted to shut myself to blindly believe all that I heard solely in fear of knowing enough to turn myself into a cold rock.
We walked deep into the forest. Each time I crumbled the leaves of autumn my heart shivered a pulse. Frank though seemed strong and walked forward however petrified at every sound he heard from the bushes. Just then we both froze. We heard the neigh of a horse and heard some huge body drag itself on the soil. Frank drew out his sword and pushed me behind him.
“Who goes there?”, yelled he but to no reply.
He rose his sword to drive it into the bush from where the sound came but something he beheld made him stop.
“Impossible”, said he and dropped his sword. I peeked into the foliage and saw a white horse bleeding but yet alive.
“We should help it, Frank!”
“Of course sire we have to help Phoenix”
“you know him?”
“And you did too. It’s your horse”
‘What am I to do with a wounded horse?’ I thought. I wanted to leave it alone. But I took one look into its eyes. In the blue, I saw myself running. Running alongside him not for long as he took over me and picked up a baby crying on the battlefield. I saw him run into the woods. I knew it was my son he had saved.
“Help him. We shall camp here for the night. His wound is healing already. He should be able to walk with us tomorrow.”
We gathered firewood and water. Frank hunted a rabbit but did a rather terrible job of cooking it. I ate to live that day, nothing else. As I lay on the green I looked up into the sky searching not for constellations but for answers. Amidst the ruckus Frank made I smiled at the similarity between my soul and the night sky. Phoenix lay close to me. He served as a comfortable pillow for me. His fur was like velvet and his mane like the clouds of May. I found myself temporarily relieved from the unrest of which I had been apart since I could remember anything.
Next morning I woke up and found my head dizzy. Everything felt weird as if I was drunk. I could see trees beneath my feet, and grass above my head. I heard laughter and saw feet all around me. Within minutes I felt the strain of having been suspended upside down.
Bandits! A whole army of them beheld my eyes. And the only person I found in my fashion was Frank. Apparently the bandits had been more merciful to me for his countenance was that of a husband who had walked in the door engulfed in the fragrance of a woman other than the one waiting for him baton in hand.
“Looksie lads! Another weasel has sprung back to life. And who may you be you poor little creature?” said a filthy looking bandit whose beard reminded me of a grizzly.
“Rich..Richard”, I mumbled.
“Rich? You nasty fella you must be the brokest of people we’ve given a hangin’ and ya call yourself rich?” laughed the bear as the whole clan rolled with laughter.
“It’s Richard you idiot! Get rid of the beehive in your ears!” said I in frustration as the clan went bonkers.
“You sure do talk a lot for a weasel! I think it’s time to shut ye up!” said he as he drew out my sword.
He raised his sword but apparently to chop my legs. I shrieked a bit but suddenly we heard a ruffle in the bushes. The bear stopped and looked towards the bushes yelling “Who goes there? Come out or I shall have ye for breakfast!”
Out of nowhere, A ferocious beast ran in and knocked the bear down and also me and frank who were hanging. I fell on my back while Frank on his face but we were free I picked up my sword n stood up straight and instantly found myself in a biased duel with four men who had their blades at ready. Frank as yet lay face down in the soil giving a rather occasional mumble. One bandit ran towards me like a boar sword held high but I ducked and drove my elbow into his back as he passed by me. He went and fell face on Franks back. Frank instantly woke up and smacked his face, “How dare you wake me up before sunset?” Two of them charged into me one sword high and another held it low. I was doomed but suddenly I fell flat on the ground and I hit my sword on both their nice side by side. Both shrieked with pain. However, stood up grabbed both their necks picked them up and threw them down like dough. The last one was huge, Goliath himself! I had no sword. I took one look into his eye as if staring into the sight of death and at just the pace things were happening that day phoenix knocked down Goliath and I had my sword back! Frank was back on his feet and took no time in gathering all their swords n stuffing them into the bag Phoenix carried. One sword in hand he spoke,
“Up! All of you!”