Siege of Yahalam, part one of three.
The City of Yahalam was a marvel of architecture and engineering, it held the title of the most fortified city on the Mundious, maybe even the planet.
For a thousand years, Yahalam remained unbroken and untouched, a symbol of strength and resilience in a world filled with danger. No one dared to claim or siege the city, for they knew of the disciplined and well-trained army and the enormous walls that surrounded it. They feared the consequences of engaging in an improbable siege and so the city remained untouched.
Two nights ago, something changed. Two human armies, led by rival warlords, and an impossible alliance, that’s why no one expected them, decided to lay siege to Yahalam.
As the third night of the siege drew closer Adyen was sent by his mother to get his cousins to their house. Yahalam had four rings of walls, each with its own gate system. The walls and gates were mold of steel and the hardest wood on Mundious, Harbrow, and to this day no other city managed to replicate their creation.
The enormous walls were almost perfectly round, rippling from the Ausurian Palace in the middle. On top, the walls were as wide as the largest roads on Mundious where two Viciks carrying large caravans could easily bypass each other, and as such, they were often the first destination foreigners visited when they came to Yahalam. Standing at top of the outer wall gave visitors a breathtaking view on all four sides. Walls engulfed part of the river on the north side, making an artificial lake inside the city’s outer ring where the port was located. Ausurian Palace was a wonder on its own as it towered over other buildings in the city, its white walls with golden ornamentation shining bright during the day and even brighter at the night with various colors from illumination spells. On the south side, large hills stretched out as far as your eyes could see. The scenery was completed with a large forest on one side and a field decorated with the most beautiful flowers Mundious had to offer on the other side.
Port of Yahalam
Foreigners were rarely allowed inside the first two rings, they were reserved for the natives and nobility of Yahalam. Only the ambassadors of other Kingdoms and Polises were allowed into the central ring, called just Hearth of Yahalam.
Adyen and his family lived in the second-most inner ring, where most of the natives, whose families lived here for centuries, and lesser nobility resided. Adyen’s family was not a nobility but a well-respected family of blacksmiths whose status climbed when his father and uncle rose through the military ranks.
Adyen uncle’s house was a short run away from theirs. He had two nephews and one niece, all younger than him. Adyen was of a strong build, taking after his uncle. He turned fourteen a day before the siege started and was planning to celebrate it with his friends in the upcoming days, but the marching army put a hold on his plans.
The streets of their ring were busy tonight as most of the Yahalam’s citizens were pushed back into the third and second rings, clearing the fourth one only for the military.
Adyen reached his uncle’s house in a few minutes. His nephews and niece waiting for him at the door, his aunt holding them by their shoulders.
“Adyen dear,” His aunt said. “I have to go, can you bring them safely to your house?” She asked.
His aunt was a nurse, now a field medic, with some ability to cast basic healing spells.
“Yes, aunty,” Adyen answered. “Don’t worry, you go and help our brave soldiers, and I will get us to our house in no time.”
She smiled and give him a light kiss on his sweaty forehead. Adyen smiled back and gestured for his nephews and niece to follow him. He had to keep himself from running at the full speed, both because of the crowd on the streets and his nephews’ inability to keep up. He expertly navigated the streets, taking shortcuts where ever he could, climbing a set of boxes left by merchants, ducking under the cart, only looking back if his nephews and niece were following him.
His mother waited for him at the door, a worried look on her face.
“Come kids, let’s get you inside.” She managed to put on a smile, but Adyen knew his mother’s face, he knew she was worried sick for his father and their own safety.
They had dinner and played with each other while his mother distributed leftovers to people that were on the streets.
As the night drew closer battle started raging more. Adyen’s little sister hid in the corner as shouts and roars coming from the outside grew louder. Like yesterday enemies waited for the night to attack with full force. What was worse for little kids, like Adyen’s sister Myra, is that nearby creatures smelled the blood tonight and decided to join the fun. Roars, screeches, and shouts overlapped creating an inhumane symphony that put fear even into the bravest soldiers. Adyen hugged his sister tighter and gestured for his nephews to gather around him.
“Mother,” Adyen called his mom. “Come, tell us a story, it always calms Myra down.”
“I’ll be right there honey,” Celestia said. “Let me just give out the last of the food we have from the dinner.” Celestia intentionally made larger potions for this reason. Adyen nodded and turned towards the kids.
“Who of you knows the legend of how Yahalam came to be?” He asked them and his sister put her tiny hand up. “Want to tell us that story Myra?”
“No,” She said softly. “I love when the mother tells it.” His nephews and niece nodded in agreement.
A few minutes later his mother came, doing her best to hide a worried look on her face. They gathered around the table, Myra sitting on Adyen’s lap.
“Which story do you want to hear?” Celestia asked.
“The one about knight Usaris and how this city was built.” His younger nephew said and Myra nodded in agreement, snuggling a little further into her brother’s embrace.
“Fine, fine,” Celestina said and began telling the story.
“Thousands of years ago a human expedition arrived at the Mundious led by the legendary knight Usaris. He brought with him almost a thousand people, most of them warriors but on the suggestion of his wife he brought some scribes to record their journey, some engineers to examine and learn from the structures they came along, and some farmers and hunters to research this continent’s plants and animals. His main goal was to find the First Dragon, a legendary creature whose wisdom was beyond the imagination of humans. Usaris believed that the First Dragon knew the most powerful spells that were lost in history and wanted to use them to help his people regain power on their land and grow and prosper with those new spells and advantages that they brought.“
“He wanted the spell of the Inferno?” Adyen’s nephew asked.
“Yes, among the other things, but Usaris’s wife as wise as she was, convinced him to ask for different kinds of spells, ones that don’t bring destruction,” Celestia said in a calm voice.
“How could that help him destroy his enemies?” the curious nephew asked.
“Well, she instructed him to ask for spells that could grant his people unlimited and the tastiest food this world has ever seen. Spells that would allow crops to grow as big as the tallest buildings. Spells that would allow them to heal even the sickest, the ones that everyone gave up on. She believed that with that in their hands, other people would join them, and there would be no need for war.” Celestia continued.
“She was smart,” Myra said in her tiny voice.
“Yes she was, but the men were men and they engaged in a war against local tribes that lived on Mundious. Knight Usaris had better equipment and few simple mages at his disposal but the tribes knew the terrain and had more people. So they pushed him here, as they knew that is where this continent’s most dangerous creatures resided. But Usaris was a master tactician and recognized what the tribes were doing and sent a word into his homeland asking for all the soldiers they could spare. They fought valiantly before the backup arrived and were pushed up to the river Yah, here where we live today!”
“What happened, next aunty?” Adyen’s niece asked while others were listening carefully.
The kids knew the legend of Knight Usaris and how Yalaham was built by the hearth, everyone in the city did, but Celestia told was a great storyteller and it kept their minds from the raging battle outside.
“Their fighting attracted all the creatures and monsters to this region and soon their fight was turned more against the monsters than each other. As it was evident they were trapped there, Usaris ordered his engineers to start building a small stronghold. With whatever materials they could gather they started lifting walls around their position, using the river as a natural defense on one side.” Celestia said pointing towards the Yahalam port.
“Which walls are those?” Adyen’s younger nephew asked. “Are those the walls around the inner circle?”
“No,” Celestia chucked slowly, “All of these walls were built later, remnants of those first walls can be found in port, they are marked in cobblestone with different colors,” She was interrupted by the loud knock on the door. Celestia went to check and was greeted by Anilla and her kids.
Anilla lived in the fourth circle as her family had only recently been accepted into Yahalam and was forced to seek shelter inside the city by the order of the army’s generals.
“I am sorry to bother you, Celestia,” Anilla said her head slightly bowed. “But the kids are too scared to be outside or in the tents tonight, can you please hide them inside for tonight at least.”
“Of course,” Celestia said with a smile of reassurance. Her husband Adokyn often told her she was too kind, too welcoming, that the world outside the Yalaham’s walls would eat her alive. But she always dismissed comments like these, the world needed kindness and someone had to start giving it first. “You can come in as well,” Celestia added.
“Ohh, thank you, thank you so much,” Anilla said relief washing over her face. “I can not, I have to help around, they are giving us tasks, and I need to prove myself to the city.” She said and Celestia nodded.
Only with the door open did Celestia notice how chilling the sound was outside, so she decided to organize a few of the neighbors to move as many kids as possible away from the street and the noise. Some of them were reluctant at first, but seeing more and more people joining Celestia’s cause they all gave in eventually.
Adyen kept his sister and siblings busy until his mother returned. Their house was big, so they housed over ten kids, some of their mothers joining them inside to help Celestia watch over them.
“Come, gather here,” Adyen said. “My mother is telling us a story about Knight Usaris.” Some of the kids were visibly frightened so Adyen helped them to the table with the biggest smile he could find.
As night took over the city, it became increasingly colder, so Adyen fired up heating machinus. Their house had most of the available technology in Yahalam, at least ones that improved their day-to-day life. Yahalam’s citizens were not big inventors, but the city and its huge market located in the fourth ring were the reason many of the enchanter’s guilds sought to house and set shops here at least seasonally.
The heating machinus was a simple one, instead of burning wood for heat, the enchanters used their runic magic on the machinus to allow it to convert something which was secret to everyone outside the guild, into heat. The rune was printed at the back of the machinus and had a limited amount of uses. It was much cheaper than wood, heated the house better, distributing heat to other smaller heating machinus located all over the house instead of warming just a small corner of the house as wooden macinus’s, and it was much cleaner, which Celeastia loved.
“Where did we stop?” Celestia asked as he approached the table.
“When they started building their walls,” the Adyen niece said.
“Ahh, yes,” Celestia said with a smile. “The walls helped them fend off most of the creatures and tribes, and helped them get some rest after months of fighting. Soon after, the tribes started seeking shelter inside, tired of constant attacks from the monsters in the open. Usaris was reluctant at first but soon accepted them under one condition. They had to build another set of walls around the first one, as he didn’t trust them enough to share his stronghold with them.” Celestia continued as all kids looked at her slowly forgetting about the terrible sounds that came from the outside.
“Are those the walls we have today then?” Adyen’s niece said once again.
“No,” Celestia chuckled once again. “But they are the inspiration for our city,” the niece nodded and Celestia continued. “Knight Usaris’s plan worked, with another set of walls around them, they could get all the rest needed to easily defeat the now scattering tribes and monsters. As time passed more and more tribes joined his side, and one of the tribe leaders, Naymagi the fallen, could not take it anymore so he did the unthinkable and sought help from one of the Thirteen Archdemons, Xorthrizeth.”
“Archdemons don’t exist, they are made up to scare us children,” One of the kids a few years younger than Adyen said.
“Oh, they were real,” Celestia said. “They predate our whole world, my dear child, they were just imprisoned for eternity a long time ago.”
“How did Naymagi then find one?” The kid asked.
“The legend says he searched relentlessly for tombs in the desert of Sabulo for clues, and before giving up completely he was able to find everything he needed to reach the subjects of Xorthrizeth who helped him reach the Archdemon himself for all the riches Naymagi gave them in return,” Celestia said and the kid nodded.
“What happened next,” Adyen’s nephew asked.
“Consumed by anger and desperation of his loss to Knight Usaris and other tribes joining the foreigner, Naymagu sought help from Xorthrizeth, he wanted means to defeat Usaris no matter the cost.” Celestia continued. “The archdemon listened to the tribe leader’s plea and granted his request. He promised to give him the power to defeat Knight Usaris and his army, but there was a catch, there was always a catch when dealing with forces of pure evil. The tribe leader, blinded by his desire for revenge, agreed to the Archdemon’s terms. The archdemon granted him the power to raise an army of the undead. Naymagi set out to do just that, he rose the army of everyone who died in the time they fought Knigth Usaris, everyone from both sides, including the creatures and monsters they killed.” Celestia made a short pause, watching the kid’s faces. The story was not for kids, but they were all mesmerized by it and forgot everything that was going on outside, so she continued.
“Naymagi marched his army of the undead towards Usaris’s stronghold, determined to defeat him and reclaim what he saw as his land. But the price of the archdemon’s power was steep indeed. The tribe leader was no longer the man he once was. He was consumed by the demon’s power, corrupted to his very core. He had lost all of his humanity and was now nothing more than a puppet of the Archdemon, controlled by its will.” Celestia said mimicking a puppet on a string with her hands.
“The battles were fierce and brutal. The army of the dead fought with a ferocity that was unmatched, and Usaris saw no way out and decided for one final march, all or nothing battle to capture and kill Naymagi in hopes that the Archdemons magic would dwindle with the death of the tribe’s leader.” Celestia continued. “Usaris’s warriors and tribes that joined them fought valiantly but they were no match for the undead army and soon found themselves surrounded by the enemies. Usaris saw no way out, and even as a man of no particular faith prayed to whatever entity listened for help. He was not a man without sin, he killed, destroyed, and did everything to ensure his people’s bright future, but the undead, the undead were another level of wrong.”
The next part of the story often varied depending on who told it. Celestia heard this ending from her great-grandmother and decided to continue telling it that way. Her great-grandmother was adamant that was a true historically correct version. Celestia was not sure of it but felt it was the version that gave the best hope for everyone listening to it. Heroes winning gave people faith and gave her predecessors a sense of importance. No one actually knew if this story was even remotely true, but they tended to believe it, people of Yahalam were egoistic in eyes of others. They felt they were better than anyone else and others often hated them for that.
“When it seemed like all hope was lost, a strange and wondrous sight appeared on the horizon. Riders of Aurorium appeared out of nowhere, the creatures they rode, from horses to Viciks shimmered with magical energy. They were led by a powerful mage, who rode at the forefront of their group. In their hands, they held enchanted weapons and wands that blinded anyone who looked directly at them.” Celestia said.
“That’s not how it happened,” The same boy that interrupted the story earlier said. “Knight Usaris was granted holy power from the god of Aurorioum himself and easily drove away the enemy forces.”
“Maybe…” Adyen said. “But my mother tells it a bit differently, listen to it, maybe you find it more believable,” Adyen said with a smile.
The kids completely forgot about the siege, the screams, screeches, and shouts coming outside the walls. But Celestia noticed they grew louder and somehow closer but she continued anyway, telling the story helped her not think about her husband on the front lines.
“Naymagi the fallen, who was leading the army of the dead, sneered at the sight of the riders. He thought that they would be no match for the power he had been given. But he was wrong. With a roar of power, the mage at the front of the Aurorium riders used spells and enchanted weapons given by the Aurorium itself that dismantled the undead in an instant. The tribe leader was pushed back, his undead army was being slowly killed one by one. He was no match for the combined might of the riders and Usaris’ army.” Celestia continued and the kids nodded.
“After the battle was won, Usaris was approached by the mage. It is said she was amongst the most beautiful women to ever live on the planet. Her dark hair perfectly blended with her blue coat decorated with golden and white embroidery. Her name was Costelliana. She told him that the riders of Aurorium had been formed to ensure that no evil like the Archdemon’s power would ever arise again. She said that they are always looking for brave and fierce warriors and offered Usaris the chance to join their ranks, to help them in their mission to protect the realm from all evil, not just Archdemons.“ Celestia said.
“Did he join them, aunty?” Adyen’s little niece asked. “What about his family?”
“Well dear,” Celestia said. “Usaris, who had seen the horrors of what could happen when people sought power from dark sources, agreed to the mage’s offer. He knew he would be separated from his family who was still in their homeland, but he had to do this, he somehow knew it was his true calling. So he joined the riders of Aurorium, and to ensure his family and people’s long-lasting peace.” Celestia continued. “But before they left they stayed and helped rebuild the fallen stronghold. With help of the raider of Aurorium and their magic, the first ring of Yahalam was made and the foundation of the Asurian palace was set. It is said that the mage’s division of riders gave them secrets on how to meld Steel and Harbrow together and that’s why no one other managed to replicate it to this day. It is also believed that the mages enchanted the walls against the undead army if they ever returned, the enchantment would push them away.” Celestia made a short pause, her story coming to an end.
“And so, Yahalam was founded and left by Knigth Usaris in peace, and the people he brought with himself and the local tribes were able to build it further. From then on until now, two days ago, Yahalam knew only of peace.“
“Will raider of Aurorium come to help us now?“ Little Myra asked and Adyen hugged her tighter.
“We do not need them now dear,” Celeastia said. “We have the strongest walls and the bravest soldiers on the planet, they will protect us from any threat that dares to try and harm us.” Celestia finished the story. “Can you kids play now while I check on some things?” She asked and the kids nodded.
Celestia was worried about the ever louder growing sounds coming from the outside so she went to check. The sight outside was not an easy one for a city of peace and prosperity as its citizens huddled together inside the city walls, as the sounds of battle raged outside. The inhumane shouts and roars of the attackers and monsters echoed through the streets, causing fear to grip the people’s hearts. From her vantage point within the second circle, Celestia could not see what was going outside, but she saw huge fires that raged outside on the Yahalam fields, their crops, and silos burned by the attacking armies.
Moments later river of people streamed into the streets, soldiers following them and shouting orders to open the inner gates as well, the third ring was being cleared of civilians as well. Something was completely off and a feeling of dread overcame Celestia.
Moundious – One of the Eight continents spreading located mostly in the northern hemisphere of the world.
Harbrow – Wood as strong as steel, growing only on one remote island, that made its richest purely by importing this wood to the rest of the planet.
Machinus – One name for most of the machinery, gadgets, instruments, and other technological and medical inventions on the planet.
Viciks – Large creatures mostly used for carrying heavy caravans as they are friendly, easy to train, and demand almost no food and water to survive. They thrive in all weather conditions and as such are almost all across the planet.
Sabulo – Large desert on the south of Moundious.
Archdemons – Creatures of pure evil often mention in myths and legends whenever evil appears, they are somewhere near.
Aurorium – One of the thirteen moons orbiting the planet, source of mostly enchanter magic.