Rihla

One: Pilot

Queen Moina leaned back on her throne and watched as the healers walked into the throne room. She could tell from their faces that they did not have good news. She looked over at her husband, King Kapur, and he’s face had also taken note of their somber expressions.

“Your majesty,” William said rushing after then. “Your majesty I apologize. They just barged in before I could stop them.”

“It’s alright,” King Kapur said. “They must have an important reason for barging in like this.”

“Your majesty,” William panted. He was a rather large man so it was no surprise that he was out of breath, his face was so flushed it amused Queen Moina. “You are having an audience with Count Ranvir. Having them barge in like is disrespectful to him.”

Queen Moina looked over at the Count. She had completely forgotten he was there with the healers barging in unannounced. She then remembered the reason he was there was because of their daughter. Princess Aya. He wished to marry her.

“That’s quite alright,” Count Ranvir said with a polite smile. “I’m sure these ladies are here on urgent business judging by their faces. I am not offended at all.”

“Speak,” King Kapur said to the healers.

“Thank you your majesty,” the one in the middle bowed. “Apologies to you and your guest for barging in like this.”

“What’s the matter?”

“It’s the plague your majesty,” she said still with her head low. They all had their heads low, none of them came from nobility of any sorts so it was custom for them to look directly at king or anyone with a title. “it has claimed three lives alone this morning.”

Queen Moina gasped.

“Have there been any other reports?” King Kapur asked.

“Eight more cases were reported, your majesty,” she replied.

“How much time do they have left?” Queen Moina asked.

“Until the next full moon my queen,” she answered.

“Something needs to be done,” she said turning to her husband. “How many families need to mourn the loss of their child because we have done nothing?”

* * *

Kilani rolled over and froze when she was met by bright pink eyes. She relaxed once it registered them. Her name was Lola, she was her neighbor’s daughter and she always used to come over to see Kilani.

“Mommy says you’ve been drinking,” Lola said not looking away. Her big eyes were fixed on her.

Kilani grunted and turned away from her as she slowly sat up. Her head started to spin and pound simultaneously, it really wasn’t something she was in the mood for.

“Are you ok?” Lola asked crawling over to her.

“Mmm,” Kilani groaned and could feel some vomit raising up her throat she had to stay still as a way to not encourage it to complete its journey.

Lola looked her over and frowned. “I’ll get you water.” After that Kilani heard little feet scurry away and she lay back on her bed and closed her eyes. She could hear commotion in the kitchen as Lola tried to organize water.

Moments later she heard the same little feet scurry back into the room. She opened her eyes and watched as Lola carefully made her way to her making sure not to spill any water as she went.

“Here you go,” she announced making the pounding in Kilani’s head louder.

She held out her hand for the water and Lola carefully placed the cup in her hand. She raised her body to her elbow and started to drink the water.

“My friend died,” she sadly looking at her feet.

Kilani looked at her and sighed.

The plague had claimed so many children’s lives over the last couple of months. No one knew its origins but it had led to many families losing children. Only children of a certain age were affected by it, a number of the elders felt it was a curse from their enemies.

“I’m sorry,” Kilani said to her.

“The king sent his army is going to help,” she said. “That’s what mommy said.”

She shook her head.

Lola’s smile faded. “They won’t?”

“Everyone knows the royal army is greedy,” she said. “Even if they do somehow manage to find a cure, only the rich will receive it.”

“Oh,” she frowned.

“Sorry kid,” she said.

“You’re in the army,” she said. “Can’t you do anything?”

“It’s not that simple Lola.”

“You’re a warrior,” she said. “I’ve seen your shield and everyone talks about it. You can do something.”

“No I can’t,” Kilani said scratching her head. “Come on kid, your mom should be freaking out by now about where you are.”

Lola pouted.

* * *

Tezerak looked down at his son, Koda. He was pale and was weaker than he had been the previous week. He was still playing with his cousins but he knew by the time the next week came around he would bed ridden like all the children before. It would just be a matter time before he died.

He needed to do something.

“You have this look,” his sister, Alma, said pulling him out of his thoughts. “What are you thinking?”

“I’m going to the capital,” he said.

“Are you crazy?” Alma cried.

“I have to do something,” he snapped. “My son is dying and so are other children.”

“You know the capital hates our tribe,” she said. “They will not help us.”

“What will you have me do then?”

Alma glared at him then looked over at her nephew as he played. It wouldn’t be long before he would be too weak to play. All the other children in their little village had been going through the same stages as well. She could understand why her brother was thinking irrationally.

However, she got the feeling that he was most likely going to get results. He was the only one in their tribe that actually had the stones to go to the capital to seek help. She just hoped they would be willing to help.

“Do what you can,” she sighed. “Just don’t get yourself killed.”

* * *

Creed watched her as she got out of bed and he smirked. Looking at her naked body brought back memories of the night they had had. When he met her in the bar he knew he would have a good time but he didn’t think she would be such a freak.

“Why are you smirking?” she asked as she pulled her dress back on.

“Highlights from last night,” he said putting his hands behind his head.

She blushed.

“Don’t be shy,” he said watching her. “I had a great time. I know you did too, which makes me wonder why you’re in such a hurry to leave.”

“I need to get home before my husband.”

That wiped the smirk off his face quick.

“We could always -”

“No,” he said getting out of bed. “As a matter of fact, forget you met me.”

She paused. “I don’t understand; I didn’t think you wanted something serious.”

“I don’t,” he said pulling his trousers on. “I’m just not a fan of married women. Brings about unnecessary drama. Also I’m not a fan of sharing.”

She gapped at him.

“I trust you’ll be gone by the time I get back,” he said.

He entered his bathroom and washed his face. It had been a cold night so he wasn’t surprised that the felt cold. He held his hands over it and warmed it up using his magic then went on to take a bath.

When he was done he pulled his trousers back on and left the bathroom. He stopped in his tracks when he saw he had company. He narrowed his eyes and looked at the two people in his apartment.

He couldn’t help but wonder if they had something to do with the married women he had just kicked out of his hut. He looked at the two of them and he knew if a fight broke out he would be able to get out but only just. They were clearly well trained.

“You Creed?” one of them asked.

“Yeah,” he nodded.

“We need your help.”

* * *

* * * Two Days Later * * *

King Kapur watched as the three of them walked in followed by a guard. They were cuffed but it was obvious to everyone present in the throne room that it would take more than that to restrain them. They remained shackled by choice.

He knew the one in the middle. His daughter had gone to the same school as her until her step father passed then she went to a public school. She joined the army and became a fierce warrior. She had gotten injured during a rescue mission and hadn’t quite been the same ever since. It was rumored she was a drunk. It was disappointing seeing her cuffed before him.

He looked at the man on her left and he knew him as well. Everyone knew him. He was a Legacy after all. Another face he was disappointed to see cuffed. Legacies were extremely rare and as such they were treasured each time one came around.

The one on the right however he didn’t know. She was rather short and her pigtails implied she was young. He couldn’t for the life of him even begin to wonder why the other two had been found to be associating with her.

“Father,” his daughter Aya said bursting into the throne room. Right behind her was her bodyguard Koa. “Father please,” she pleaded. “Please, don’t execute them.”

“Aya,” he said looking at her. He was disappointed with her behavior. “No one spoke of execution.”

She stopped and looked at him and the other council members that were present. “What’s happening?”

“We wanted to find out the same thing,” his wife Queen Moina said.

“What exactly are the three of you up to?” King Kapur asked them.

“Your majesty,” the one in the middle bowed. “We meant no disrespect to you or any of the members of the council we just wanted to help.”

“Help?”

“Yes,” she said keeping her eyes low. “A lot of the less fortunate children are the ones who are suffering the most from this plague. They don’t have the same access to the health care like the more fortunate children. The death rate is higher in our regions because of the neglect.”

“So what exactly is your plan here?” one of the members of the council asked.

“The Orb of Machiritso,” the Legacy answered lazily with a slight bow.

The room fell silent.

“It’s a myth,” Aya said breaking the silence.

The Legacy turned his head and looked her and he gave her a crooked smile. “No your highness,” he said. “Hard to retrieve yes, but it’s not a myth.”

“You seem confident in your source,” Count Ranvir said watching him.

“I have to be.”

“Why is that?”

“Well what kind of a man would I be if I doubted myself?” he asked and winked at Aya.

“Do you know where it is?” Aya asked before anyone got a chance to comment on his rudeness.

“Bhazir,” he answered.

“You really think the three of you will be able to make it to Bhazir?” Queen Moina asked. “How exactly do you expect to get into the gates? How exactly will you get the orb if you do manage to get into the gates?”

“With all due respect,” the warrior said with her head low. “We cannot disclose our plan to you. This is a sensitive mission and as of now we don’t trust anyone considering how dangerous this journey will be.

“The only reason we are here is out of respect to the throne. Our journey is urgent, hundreds of lives are depending on us, we cannot waste any more time with your protocols. This is all we have to say on the matter, we have wasted enough time as it is.”

“How dare you,” King Kapur hissed. “I can have you all beheaded for disrespecting your queen in such a manner.”

“If you behead us, all those children will die and more will get infected and will eventually die then you won’t have much of a kingdom to nurse your ego,” the Legacy said looking directly in his eye. “Is it really worth it?”

“I will -”

“Father no,” Aya said before he could finish their sentence. “Killing them would be a fatal mistake to our kingdom.”

He held his tongue.

“Very well,” he said grinding his teeth. “You may go on your mission. However, the throne will not help you on your mission after your insolence.”

The one with the pigtails snorted.

“How many of you are there?” Count Ranvir asked.

“As of now, just the three of us your grace,” the warrior said with her head low.

“Make that four,” the guard that had escorted them in bowed.

“Very well then,” Count Ranvir said getting up. “I would like to have a word with you four.”

* * *

Koah walked into the room and wasn’t surprised to find Princess Aya packing. Ever since she had been her bodyguard she had learned to read her facial expressions and she knew she wanted nothing more than to join the four who had decided to go to Bhazir to get the Orb of Machiritso.

Growing up she had heard many stories about the Orb. She couldn’t remember the particulars at that moment but she it was very powerful and she knew for a fact it that if it was indeed real, then all the children who had the plague would be cured for sure.

“I can hear you,” Princess Aya said.

Koah Snapped out of her thoughts and looked at her. “I’m sorry your majesty,” she said.

“Don’t be,” she said. “I trust you’re packed.”

“Yes your majesty.”

“Good,” she said closing up her bag. “We need to hurry or we will miss them. I know where they plan to depart from.”

* * *

Sorcha laid out the map for the four them. It was early in the morning and she would honestly rather be sleeping but she couldn’t afford to be selfish especially in a room full of people that were about to go on such a selfless journey.

Over the last couple of months, a plague had swept through their kingdom but this plague was different. This one only affected children of a particular age. Although every child had the risk of falling victim to it, only children that came from wealthy homes had a higher chance of surviving it.

They got the best care naturally since their parents could afford it. They never fully recovered but chances of them dying were extremely low as they had special care to help live with the plague. Children who came from less fortunate homes however, were dead in weeks.

Only a handful of healers would volunteer to help the less fortunate but their attempts were all in vain. The longest any of them had survived was a month but that was because of donations the wealthy would make, most of the donations never made it to the children because of corruption.

There had been cases were some of the volunteers were selling the treatments the wealthy or the compassionate had donated to the less fortunate and keeping the profits to themselves. Not only that, they would charge insane sums for the treatments knowing how desperate they were.

It was appalling.

“Our best option would be by foot,” Kilani said studying the map. Sorcha knew her, she was a warrior, one of the few female warriors the army had ever seen. She had been discharged about three years ago because she had gotten injured during a battle their kingdom had faced.

“That would take us days,” Creed said. Sorcha knew him too. He was a Legacy, a rare but powerful breed of Castor. His reputation as a playboy overshined just how truly gifted he really was. She wondered if this journey, if successful, would change the way people saw him.

“If we use any kind of magic, Bhazir would take it as a threat. Kill first and ask questions later,” she said looking at him.

“Going by foot is dangerous, you have no idea what sort of creatures and evil that lurks these paths.”

“Then stay,” she said simply.

Creed did a double take. “Stay?” he asked. “You remember you need me to find the orb right?”

“I do need you,” she nodded. “What I don’t need is a coward, if you’re so scared of going on foot, you should stay. I don’t have time to hold anybody’s hand.”

He glared at her.

“Ok kids,” Ranvir mused at the two of them. “Calm down, you’ve barely started your journey and you’re already hurting each other’s egos. That’s not a good start.”

Sorcha looked at the Count. She had worked for him for the past four years and he was an interesting man. She had always thought he was a selfish evil man but she quickly learned that that wasn’t entirely true. He was selfish, yes, very selfish but he wasn’t evil. He just loved attention, but he liked the attention that made him look like a saint.

She knew it was the reason why he had decided to help fund the four of them on their journey. The fact the crown had turned their back on them made it even sweeter for him. By the time they left on their journey, the entire kingdom would know that he had funded their entire trip and would make him look a saint. It was quite genius to be honest.

Creed was about to say something but they heard the door open. The six of them looked over at the entrance and their jaws dropped when they saw who it was.

Princess Aya.

“Good,” she said panting. “I was worried we had missed you.”

“What are you doing here?” Kilani asked straightening up.

“I’m coming with you.”

“You’re joking right?” Creed asked. “Don’t get me wrong, you’ll be a sight for sore eyes but it’s going to be really dangerous, especially since we are going by foot.”

“What are we?” Pigmae asked looking at him. She was a tiny little thing but she was a menace. Sorcha recognized her from the wanted posters around town. She wasn’t sure why Kilani had brought her on board but she had to have her reasons. “Chopped liver?”

“Not at all,” Creed smiled at her.

“Princess,” Ranvir said bowing. “This is a dangerous journey. I cannot have you go on this journey.”

“I trust Kilani,” Princess Aya said. “She’s lead many armies to war and all of them have been victorious.”

“I had armies,” Kilani said looking at her. “Men and women who were trained in combat. You would be a liability; I can’t take you.”

“You’re taking them.”

“They can take care of themselves.”

“I will protect the princess,” a woman in the back said.

They all fell silent because they knew exactly who she was. Everyone in all the kingdoms knew who Koah was. She came from a kingdom, Lyasian, that practically bred assassins. She came from a tribe that was skilled with swords and her father was chief of that particular tribe. Koah had been hired by King Kapur to protect his one and only daughter, it wasn’t uncommon for Kings to do that. It’s how Lyasian made their money.

“Very well then,” Kilani said. “It will be interesting working with you.”

Koah bowed. “And I with you.”

“We should head out soon,” Sorcha said looking outside.

“Pardon?” Pigmae asked looking at her. “You’re coming too?”

Sorcha nodded. “Don’t worry,” she said looking at Kilani. “I am more than capable of taking care of myself.”

“You better be,” Kilani said. “I’m no fan of bringing back dead bodies.”

“Well,” Creed said. “I think it’s only fair we all introduce ourselves to each other since we’re going to be stuck with each other over the next couple of days.”

They all looked at him.

“Ok, I’ll start. My name is Creed, I’m a Castor, a Legacy. My Legacy is protection.”

“Pigmae,” she said with a slight smile. “I’m a thief as you probably all know.”

“Sorcha,” she said. “I’m a Jia.”

Princess Aya frowned.

“What sort of Jia are you?” the guard asked. Sorcha had forgotten he was even though he hadn’t said one word. There was something about him that she found unsettling. She wasn’t sure if it was the tone in his base, it sounded very unnatural or the way he looked around at everyone. Whatever it was, she knew he was hiding something.

“Kinetic,” she answered.

He nodded. “Tezerak,” he said. “I’m a soldier.”

“Hey,” Pigmae smiled at Kilani. “You two have something in common.”

The next thing that happened took everyone by surprise. Koah had her sword held up against Tezerak’s neck.

“You dare lie in front of your princess?” she hissed.

“Koah,” Princess Aya said. “Please lower your sword.”

“What are you?”

Tezerak didn’t answer.

“Koah,” Princess Aya pleaded. “Lower your sword please.”

“What the hell just happened?” Creed asked looking at Koah. She had been behind the Princess then a second later she was holding her sword against his neck.

Sorcha screamed when she saw it.

It was like a red snake. A long red snake with a spiked head standing at attention with its head facing Koah’s eye. It looked like it’s nose was spiked and sharp and the very tip was only inches away from Koah’s eye.

Princess Aya also screamed when she saw it too. Pigmae on the other hand jumped back.

“What do you want?” Kilani asked looking at the soldier.

He said nothing. If anything the snake just moved closer to Koah.

“Koah, stand down,” Kilani said. “Look to your right.”

Koah glanced to her right and jerked back when she saw the snake. She moved away from him completely and stood protectively in front of the Princess.

“I thought you were a myth,” Kilani said looking Tezerak. “What are you doing so far away from home?”

“Same thing as you,” he said. “Trying to not feel useless.”

She looked him over and nodded. “Having someone like you could come in handy.”

The others all turned to look at her surprised.

“Kilani,” Pigmae said looking at her. “Are you feeling ok?”

“I’m just fine,” she said turning to roll up the map Sorcha had laid out earlier. “We should get going. We’ve wasted enough time as it is and that’s something we’ve never had on our side.”

“She’s right,” Ranvir said. “I’ll show you to your horses.”

“Kilani,” Sorcha said looking at her. “What is he?”

“A Lor,” she answered.

They all fell silent and looked at Tezerak.

* * *

Pigmae looked around her and couldn’t believe what was happening. If anyone had told her that she would go on an expedition with Princess Aya, her assassin of a bodyguard Koah, a Castor Creed who just happened to be a Legacy, Tezerak a Lor, and be led by Kilani, the greatest warrior of all time, she would have laughed in their face.

She had to admit was impressed that Princess Aya had left behind the palace to join their journey. She thought she was like every other royal the world had to offer who felt entitled to everything yet here she was walking on foot with the rest of them. Yes, she did have a body guard but in all honesty it was probably for the better since none of them were willing to protect her and Koah was paid to do just that.

Koah was another legend in her own right. Coming from a kingdom that basically bred assassins and hired them out was enough to get anyone’s attention. From what she had seen, Koah seemed to come from a village that specialized in swords as their choice of weapons. Pigmae had met someone from their kingdom before but he came from a village that specialized in archery. He was cute from what she remembered.

Pigmae had met Kilani on a number of occasions before each time she got arrested for stealing. They ran into each other so often it was no surprise the two of them developed a friendship. She had bailed her out a number of times and in return, Pigmae would make sure she got home safe from when she got home drunk.

She then looked at the Lor. All her life she just thought they were myths or legends, she didn’t think they were real and yet here there one was in the flesh. From what she knew about them, they were shape shifters. They could turn into anything and anyone and could imitate their voice or sound right down to the tea as well as their mannerisms. Their natural appearance was red skin with a long tail that had a stinger on the end of it.

She wouldn’t have believed he was a Lor if she hadn’t seen his tail earlier that morning. He had been holding his stinger only inches away from Koah’s eye and they had all thought it was a snake he was controlling. From what she remembered about a Lor’s stingers, the venom from their stingers was deadly and there was no cure.

“Ask him out already,” Creed said pulling her out of her thoughts.

She turned to look at him. “What?”

“The Lor,” he said. “You keep looking at him, ask him out already.”

She pulled a face. “No way.”

He chuckled. “I’ll be honest. I didn’t think they existed.”

“Yeah,” she said digging into one of her pockets for rock candy. A number of people had woken up early to see them off on their journey. A few blessed them while others gifted them. One of the gifts she got from an old woman was rock candy. “Neither did I.”

“So what’s your story?” Creed asked her.

“I’m a thief,” she answered simply looking at the rock candy she had in her hand. It looked like grape flavor. Her favorite. “Used to run into Kilani a lot we ended up becoming friends.”

“Yeah but there must be a reason you agreed to come on this mission,” he said. “Let’s face it, we all know it’s dangerous.”

“Why did you agree to come?” she asked him.

“To help the kids that are less fortunate.”

She raised an eye brow at him. “Well that’s cute.”

He chuckled.

“Come on,” she said. “Be honest why did you agree to come?”

“Coz I know the women I’m going to get if we’re successful,” he smirked.

Pigmae rolled her eyes and walked on ahead of him.

He laughed. “Oh come on, I thought we were getting to know each other.”

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