Characters: Rader Rahn, Asyria Janarae
It was when he saw the ocean for the first time did the tiny kingdom really capture him. He had seen bodies of water before, he had seen the ocean on his travels, but never quite like this. The water was the bluest that he had ever seen in any place and the forests were thick and green. There had been faerie and fae flitting about in the trees on his way to the shore and he had left offerings at the forest temple that he had stumbled across in his effort to reach the ocean.
It bothered him little that he was a bit lost. It was a new place, but the denizens of the country seemed friendly and more willing to help the further he traveled away from the mountains. He had seen the palace with the city surrounding it in the distance and had thought it was as good a place as any. And it was near the ocean, so much the better.
He spent several days down by the shore, catching and eating what he could, taking his time to reach the glittering white city. He had come across one of the local fishermen now and again, asking about jobs. All had directed him toward the city.
When he arrived, the sights and smells of the place overwhelmed him. The name of the kingdom was Aearion and he was in its capital city: Tadorar Toria. He spent his first few days there wandering about, taking everything he possibly could in. It was after his first week there that someone had directed him to look for employment with the army. The man ruefully wondered if it was because of the sword he carried about with him. While he had hoped to be taken on working in a weapons shop as a smithy – he had forged the sword he was carrying himself – he wasn’t surprised at being turned away. Most wanted young apprentices and he knew that he was well past the age to be one. He knew how to be a soldier, though, and it would be something familiar with steady work.
He was accepted, much to his relief. His money purse was lighter than it had been and his clothes were looking worse for the wear. The training he was put through almost made him laugh, but he refrained. It wasn’t that the training to be a soldier was a joke – far from it – but it amused him that no matter where he went in L’Main, nearly every country had something similar for what would be expected of a soldier and what the life of one entailed.
He was stationed just on the outskirts of the city itself, dealing mostly with villagers and travelers that came to the city. It was here that he learned more of the culture of Aearion, of the royal family and its decent from an ancient Seren queen. He learned of the legend that had founded the tiny kingdom and how it had grown. The man learned all that he could of his new home, and the more he learned of Aearion, the more he wanted to stay.
Eventually, he earned enough money to buy himself a house. It wasn’t very large, but it was enough. There was a room for him to sleep in, a hearth and a cauldron for him to cook his food, a table to eat at, and a chair. The man figured there would be time enough for him to buy things to put into his home.
As the years passed, his home had become filled and was respectable for a man his age and he was almost indistinguishable from every other Aearion male there. He had even bought himself the traditional male Aearion clothes, both the formal and the one used for ritual combat. The one thing that had set him apart where the tribal tattoos that he had gained from his country of origin: Symterra. He was mistaken for an elf more than once, but he didn’t mind. Seren he may be, but he knew that many were more familiar with the elves than they were with his species.
When the opportunity arose for the man to become part of the elite guard of the Aearion royal family, he nearly leapt at the chance. It was ritual combat held in the arena that had been built. Those that had won the chance to become part of the elite guard would join the king and queen on their next crusade. The details mattered little to him. He only wanted to prove his worth to the home that he had adopted as his own.
It was a process of elimination. Each warrior or soldier faced off against one another until only one was left standing and declared the victor. Then, that warrior would go on to the next round. Only the last few remaining could become part of the elite guard. The man had no doubt that he would be among those few.
The day was long and grueling, with a break at the height of day. Foreign dignitaries had come, as well as rulers from neighboring kingdoms. As the day wore on, the man had won all of his bouts and by the end of the tournament, he was one of the last few remaining. But just when he thought that he would be able prove how much he loved Aearion, his chance at becoming an elite guard was taken from him.
“Your name, warrior?” the king called down, having asked each one of them by turn.
“Your loyal subject Rader Rahn,” the man said, with a bow.
“But you are not from here,” the queen said. It was more of a statement of fact than a question.
Rader felt his chance begin to slip away from him. “No, your majesty, I am not, but I have come to love Aearion as if it were the place of my birth.”
“You are still an outsider, Rader Rahn. How can we be sure that you are truly loyal to us?” the king questioned.
“I am part of your army, your majesties. I would defend Aearion with my life if need be. I wish only to prove-“
“Enough.” The queen looked down upon him and Rader knew that he would have no chance. He would either be banished or he would remain a soldier of Aearion until the end of his days. But a woman had come to stand beside the queen. She stood with the same regal bearing as the rulers of Aearion.
“If Aearion does not want such a splendid warrior, Gerryn would gladly accept him.” The woman looked directly at the man. She did not smile, she did not gesture to him. Nothing gave away what she was truly feeling, but she remained where she was.
Rader was torn. This woman had given him an offer when the king and queen of Aearion had turned him away. He could continue to live in the kingdom, or he could travel with this woman to Gerryn and start anew. Did he really want to be loyal to those did not think him worthy? He saluted the woman with his sword and she nodded. He watched as the woman turned away, but not before he saw a brief look pass between her and the rulers of Aearion.
He packed his things when he returned home, almost selling what he didn’t need when a cart pulled up to his house. He could see the woman on her horse with an armoured entourage. The woman dismounted and approached. The soldier next to him hissed for him to bow and Rader did so with a strong amount of confusion. Who was this woman?
“Rise,” she commanded. Waiting for Rader to straighten, she moved past him to look within his dwelling, causing the man to grow embarrassed and fidget. What would this great lady think of the things that her new soldier collected? Turning back to him, she offered him a small smile. “You have many interesting things, Rader Rahn,” she said, which only the man could reply to with was a nod and a hasty bow. “Pack your things. My men will help. Aearion may be willing to let someone such as yourself slip through their fingers – someone so loyal and steadfast — but I welcome all. I will not betray you or turn my back on you for your loyalty and devotion to Gerryn. I know you love this place, Rader Rahn, but I hope that you will come to love Gerryn just as much.”
“Thank you,” Rader murmured with a bow, “but may I at least know your name, my lady? Who is it that I will swear fealty to?” He realized, belatedly, that perhaps he should have spent more time thinking about her offer, of everything that he was giving up by following her. It was too late now to regret the decision.
“Asyria Janarae, Queen of Gerryn. You, Rader Rahn, will be part of my personal guard.”