Chapter Three – The Drramin Luar
The Temple of Jenh in Jzienfiarm, Onsira’s capital city, had been commissioned by King
Loracaz Antraius I as one of his first decrees. The people had been more than happy to come together to gather the white and green marble and the gold and copper that went into building it, and it was cared for with such reverence that it seemed to shine just as bright as it had on the day of its completion.
The temple was steadfast in its refusal to hang Z’Lé’s imperial banner, and kept the old leaf-shaped on on its walls. Whatever Arialla had done to convince her emperor to leave the temple be, it had been highly effective; he rarely so much as commented on the banner. Loracaz sometimes worried that the temple was the only place where Arialla could be herself.
Liriel pulled her prince’s attention to the windows of the carriage. Outside, the Onsiran people lined the streets, seeming to not care the least bit about the snow and slush as they cheered for Loracaz. There were knights standing watch among the people, ensuring that they made room for the carriages and saluting them as they passed by.
“There are so many of them,” Loracaz breathed as he sat back and waited for the carriage to come to stop just outside the temple doors.
Liriel gave him an endearing smile and caressed his hands. “You always knew that,” she reminded him.
“Yes,” he replied with a nod, the affirmation sticking in his throat.”It’s just… seeing them all in one place at once…”
The carriage came to a stop, and the driver climbed down from his seat and came around to open the door. “The Temple of Jenh, Your Highness,” he said and he gave a sweeping bow and gestured towards the temple.
Yanve stepped out first, smiling to the citizens outside; he could tell how eager they were to see their new prince.
Liriel kissed Loracaz’s cheek. “Here we are, my love,” she said before standing up to pass through the door.
Outside, the midwinter sun was bright, and the sky was clearer than it had been for days. Liriel gave the citizens a small wave, and they greeted her in return. She knew many of them from temple gathering and eighth-day mass and gatherings, and she knew how much they loved the prince.
The crowd grew quiet as they watched for him to emerge. Liriel stepped close to the doorway and gazed up into it just as Loracaz appeared. He took her hand, and the other he raised up high.
“Hail to you all,” Prince Loracaz declared, “and thanks to you all. I am honored to have you greet me like this today.”
The crowd cheered as Prince Loracaz descended the steps, and he went on waving to them all. He and Liriel followed Yanve into the temple, where It was much more quiet. The citizens had all been asked to remain outside, so that only those devoted to Jenh and her temple were allowed within. Shiirul and his apprentice were allowed entry only because of their gift. A few minutes later Empress Arialla arrived with Z’Lé and Zarrek, and the doors to the temple were closed tightly.
The main hall, where the people usually gathered every eighth day to hear Yanve and Liriel share the word of Jenh and her elements, was instead populated by the priests, priestesses, and elemental mages who served the temple. They did not let the prince’s arrival disturb them from their prayers or meditation.
Once Loracaz and his family all stood around the altar, Yanve and Liriel joined hands and spoke the incantation that would let goddess Jenh know that the prince had come. Loracaz looked up to find a light glowed behind the curtains and tapestries that adorned the back wall of that main room. He walk over and pulled aside the heavy cloth, revealing a long hallway extending behind it.
“I remember this,” Loracaz breathed, meeting Liriel’s eyes. “When I was very young, I would try to play during gatherings, and I found this hallway. But this gate was locked back then.”
“It is almost always locked,” she agreed, gazing up at the nine-foot-tall copper gate. “Do you know what lies down this hall?”
Loracaz looked intrigued, but shook his head.
“Your mother has been there,” Yanve told them, “first on the day she was made princess, and then again when she took the rites with your father. Let us go, then, Loracaz; it is your time now.”
They let Yanve lead them down the long hallway, which grew brighter the further they went on. When they got to the end of the hall, they found themselves before a pair of thick stone doors that looked as though whoever had carved them had intended for them to be impossible to move.
Liriel Laid her hands on an orb set into one of the doors, Yanve on the other, and Loracaz reached out for the crevice between them, where the light seemed keen on escaping. The doors swung open even before his fingers could touch them, and the light became so bright that it blinded them all. Loracaz felt himself being pulled forward, and by the time the light subsided, he found himself shut in a chamber with only Liriel and Shiirul.
“Loracaz,” he thought he heard a voice whisper. It was matronly and calm and wise, as though it had known the world for eons.
The prince turned his gaze to the statue in the middle of the room. It was made of pure crystal and shone with an inner light that fluctuated from one color to the next, and it stood just over two meters tall. It was carved into the likeness of the goddess, and seemed to emanate love, trust, and affection.
Loracaz looked to Liriel. “That cannot be her,”
“It isn’t,” she agreed. “It is only a depiction of her, but she knows it, and she can channel herself into it,”
“But what about…”
Liriel shook her head. “If it is just us, Jenh must have a reason for it.”
She turns to Shiirul, who still held onto the sky-blade that we had forged for the prince. It was glowing with a golden-green light all its own, and it seemed brighter the closer he moved towards the crystal statue.
“So that is why she called you in here,” Liriel said. When she saw Shiirul’s expression, she explained, “Jenh has a very special purpose intended for that sword.”
“I should hardly be surprised,” Shiirul admitted. “I could hardly take my mind away from our beloved goddess when I worked on this blade.”
Liriel smiled warmly and led him closer to the statue. He held out the sword, and it floated up out of his hands as though lifted by the light of Zeah. The light sent out tendrils, some green, other yellow, and they wove in patterns around Loracaz. The prince could not take his eyes off of the sword and the statue that stood just right behind it.
What he saw next, he was sure that the others could not. The crystalline statue of Jenh reached towards him, cupping his cheeks in her hands. She gazed into his eyes, letting her love surround him as she spoke.
“My dear champion,” she began, her voice like he whispering wind, “I have kept my promises to Lorata.”
“Jenh…” the prince whispered, uncertain what to say to her.
“Look after your mother,” she urged him. “Guide your father and your brother in the right direction.”
“My father? Why–“
Out in the hallway, Emperor Z’Lé showed no hesitation in sharing his distaste for not being allowed into the chamber with his son.
“What are they doing in there?” he snarled and Yanve.
The high priest seemed unmoved. “It is the will of Jenh that he commune with her first.”
“Then why the blacksmith?” Z’Lé demanded.
Yanve glanced over at Zarrek. “Please, Your Imperial Majesty,” he replied, keeping his voice calm, “I must remind you that your son is watching. He looks to you for grace and nobility.”
Z’Lé narrowed his eyes at the priest and turned away, muttering under his breath. He stared down at the golden-green light that seeped out from under the doors, wishing that he had the strength to throw them open, but known that no mortal creature could.
“Loracaz,” a voice called. When he did not reply, it called again, more insistently. “Loracaz!”
Loracaz turned to see the blacksmith holding his sword out towards him. Helixes of yellow and green were twisting around it, and Shiirul seemed eager for him to take it. Loracaz accepted the sword with a thankful nod.
“The first incarnation broke his spear when he shattered the crystal, you know,” Shiirul told him. “Everyone acts like spears are the most important weapons in Onsira, but they forget that nothing was left of his but splinters.”
“How do you know something like that?” Loracaz asked him.
“Jenh told me herself,” Shiirul replied. When he saw the prince’s dumbfounded look, he explained, “She came to me while I was forging this sword, your highness. As reluctant as I am to speak out openly against your father, sire, the sky-blade was not as much his idea as he would have you believe.”
“Oh…” Loracaz said before letting Shiirul go on. “He came to me demanding a long-sword, just like what he wields. When I reminded him that a spear would be more traditional– or at least a glaive– he threatened my life. If I did not forge a sword to present to you, he would punish me himself.”
Loracaz shared Liriel’s worried look. “He has been so quick to threats and violence,” he sighed.
“I was trying to figure out how to honor you and keep my head when Jenh came to me,” Shiirul said. “The sky-blade was never a blade used by your ancestor, but she believes that he would have admired it.”
“I could not imagine a more beautiful sword, Shiirul,” Liriel assure him Then She turned to look up at Jenh. “It is an honor to have you come to us like this.”
The goddess looked more worried than endeared. “Sweet priestess, I guided your blacksmith in creating his life’s greatest work because the evil seeking to overtake Lorata has grown more insistent and more devious.” She took Liriel’s hand and laid something in it, closing her fingers around it as she whispered into her ear.
“Of course,” Liriel replied, her eyes sparking as they began to well up.
“Let love guide you, always,” Jenh added. Then she glanced over at the doors. “You know the right direction to let it take you in. Help others find that path; keep them in the light of love, far from the shadows.”
“Jenh…” Loracaz said, “is there something that you know? We are at your mercy; can you tell us anything?”
“I do not know all,” the goddess told them, “and I must not speak as though I understand all she lies within the hearts and minds of mortals. Time has taught me that the path that you take–no matter whether elf or faerie or dragon– can change at any moment.”
Before Loracaz could respond, Jenh gripped his sword in her hands. It glowed brilliantly, and then the light seemed to absorb into the sword. “This is the Dramin Luar. I led Shiirul to forge it so that you could protect Lorata from evil. Take good care of it.”
Words from the ancient dialect raced through his mind. He had studied the legends well enough to have a basic idea of what she meant by Drramin Luar, but the way she used the words seemed so much older than what he was used to.
“A protector?” he asked her. “Is that right? Protector of the elemental world?”
Jenh gave him a motherly smile, but did not say anything else about the sword. “Go forward from this chamber, my dear champion. Let my elementals share their magic with you, and use it guard Onsira.”
Loracaz nodded, then looked to Liriel for reassurance. When he turned to look back up at the goddess, her statue was nothing more than glowing crystal, and there was nothing else to show that it had been anything more.
The doors to the chamber were beginning to open, as slow as the rising moon, and before there was enough of an opening for Z’Lé to get a good look at any of them, Shiirul took Loracaz’s arm in his callused and leaned in close. The words that he whispered to him made the prince’s heart pound, and he swallowed hard even as the blacksmith swore him to secrecy.
The emperor made certain that he was the first one through the door. He gave Loracaz a stern look as he approached the statue of Jenh, then glanced around the chamber, He did not seem to notice the way Liriel clung to her prince.
“Whatever she said to you,” Z’Lé told his son, “use it to bring glory to Onsira.”
Loracaz nodded. “Of course.”
After only a few minutes more of idle conversing, Yanve insisted that it was time for him and Liriel to guide Loracaz through the temple to pay homage to each of the elementals. Z’Lé seemed less frustrated that he was not allowed to join them, especially once Shiirul excused himself and left the temple with his apprentice. Zarrek followed his parents back to the main hall, while Liriel opened a door at the back of the chamber to lead her prince through.
Some of Lorata’s oldest legends tell of how, after the world was formed, Jenh birthed her elementals in order to give it life. Tezanth was the first, for his power over stone, metal, and crystal laid the foundation for the earth, and he was the first elemental for Loracaz to commune with that day. Gaining the earth Zeah made him feel more solid, as though he had never before understood what it meant to be sturdy and grounded.
Tezanth’s consort was Neemie, elemental of plants and everything that grows green and lush. Communing with her taught Loracaz just how alive his world really was. It was everywhere, every separate living thing trying to find its niche, a place to live in harmony.
According to the legends, Jenh brought Myrri into the world next, so that her gentle waters could nourish Neemie’s plants. Her rivers and lakes and rains grew and swelled until Jenh gave her Yaz’Zei as a consort, He settled her waters into all the low places of Lorata, filling them until the Blueshade Ocean blanketed the planet. With their Zeahs, Loracaz could feel the ever-moving ebb and flow of life.
Errarrak was the next elemental in the legends. His wind Zeah was the element that Loracaz has been born with, and he spent several minutes in prayer thanking the elemental. Wind was also the Zeah possessed by Jenh’s champion, Loracaz I, and it was considered an honor to wield its magic. It was written that in the north and the highlands, the will brought a chill that could turn water into ice and frost, and Jenh brought forth Taas to be its guardian. She also created Veniishu, elemental of fire, to keep balance.
By then, Jenh had wanted to create something magnificent, so she had birthed Fah’Iira, and instructed her fill the earth, air, and water with every kind of animal she could imagine. Jenh herself created the jzyk’hé, the small furry creatures that dug deep into the ground and ran like the wind up the trees. Like her, they loved crystals, and whatever seeds they did not eat, they planted in the fertile soil.
When Jenh brought forth the lightning elemental, Klintiv, Shé of the shadows and Shrré of illusion soon followed. Legends suggested that they were twin elementals, but there had never been proof. All Loracaz knew was that the lightning felt like far too much power to try to wield, and he was relieved that he would not have to commune with shadow and illusion. So long as Métius had possession of their medallions, Loracaz could not possess their Zeah.
Jenh had worried that her creations fear the lightning shadows, and that Shrré’s illusions might lead them astray, so her final elemental was Intehverr, who taught wisdom to all living things. She sparked in them the longing to know, to understand, to think, She was keeper and caretaker of knowledge, and Loracaz had long loved her for inspiring the kingdom’s libraries and ancient writings.
Arialla waited in the main hall while her visited each elemental, happy to know that each one would infuse him with power. Z’Lé knelt beside her as she prayed, uncomfortably close. She had tried to distance herself from him, but he only moved closer, and all that she could do was focus on her prayers. She could feel the beam of light that shone down on her from a stained glass skylight high above, and was glad for its warmth.
Even Zarrek was absorbed in thought by the time light once again flooded the hallway beyond the altar. High priest Yanve stepped out of the light, followed by Liriel, arm-in-arm with her prince. Empress Arialla leapt to her feet and closed the distance between herself and her son. Loracaz returned the embrace, and saw from over her shoulder that his father approached them.
“So Jenh gave you her every element,” he noted once they separated. “She does not do that for every Onsiran ruler.”
“Not all of them desire it,” Loracaz replied.
Z’Lé gave his son a wry smile. “It will serve you well learn to use that blade.” He laid both his hands on Loracaz’s shoulders and met his with a serious gaze. “Use it to make me proud one day. For now, there is a festival outside, waiting to celebrate you.”