Cities of Fire II

  • This is a sequel to a VERY old story of mine, that I have been working on since the day I wrote the previous story. Please read Cities of Fire I before beginning this story, as there is no reintroduction, and this story continues a mere number of hours after the ending of the first. After two and a half years of dissatisfied work, I have finally deemed this story ready to post. I present to you, Cities of Fire II.

    Instantia nunquam dormio.
    Jace Harran awoke in the medical wing that had been set up in Cademia. The last thing he had known, he was dead, crushed by a Cashormin soldier’s mace. He sat up slowly, and looked around. A bandage encircled his chest. A magess, trained in the healing arts walked in.

    “I was dead.” Jace’s voice was full of gathering fury. “I was dead, and you brought me back! Why?” He yelled, shaking the magess.

    “You were not dead, you had three broken ribs. I repaired them, they should be fully healed by now.”

    “By the seldane, they had better be.” Jace flung himself out of the cot and ripped off the bandage. He winced as it pulled his flesh, leaving a red stripe around him. He quickly began strapping on his armor.

    The magess stood in shock “You can’t go! There are patrols... no one can leave the city.”

    Jace turned his furious eyes upon her. “I will go. He picked up his sword, and stuck it in his belt. Running out of the building as fast as his condition would allow him to, Jace drew a dagger.

    “Ho!” A Cashormin soldier was coming towards him. “You are carrying a weapon! No weapons are allowed in the city!”

    “Oops.” Jace said nonchalantly, as the dagger found it’s way through the Cashorm’s throat. Jace ran, knowing that other patrols would pass by soon, and find their companion dead. It was not hard for Jace to force his way up to the gatehouse, and crank open the gate which had caused so much trouble. There was no gatekeeper, and the guards were dead. However, instead of leaving immediately, Jace prepared a trap. Any of the guards entering this room, would be met by a blast of fire and a flurry of arrows. In the meantime, Jace climbed out the window and down to the road.

    Jace was just starting to run when he heard the crash of glass, the blaze of a fire igniting and bowstrings snapping. He smiled when there were screams and yells, but kept running. An arrow thudded down, and almost stopped him cold, but it was not a time for failure. Jace had survived one battle, and planned to make the Cytherians victorious in the next, or die trying.

    Jace came to the fields of the river Sitia, where it met the mountains of Land King Hall. He found the remnants of a camp, and only a few bodies lying around. Had the Cashorm armies already swept through so powerfully? How could it be? “WHAT HAPPENED?!?” Jace yelled as loud as he could horrified by the evil that must have taken place. A weak voice came from under a fallen tent near him. “Jace? Jace Harran?” Jace threw back the tent to find on old friend.
    “Dromel, what happened here?”
    “The Cashorms came up on us fast. We weren’t really ready, so we drew back to the other side of the river, preparing there. We knew it would take time, but they swept through and killed stragglers like me. They tried to cross the river with makeshift rafts, but they couldn’t cross. The rafts just sank, and they gave up trying. We have all the boats. Jace- listen to me. You can still help the army. I know Commander Kator pretty well, and so do you. We both know what he’ll do.”
    Jace nodded.
    “Ambush them with archers from all sides. Thanks, Dromel. When you have the strength, get out of here. Go back to my house, they’ll get you a horse, and you can go to Pnyx. Give my family the news of the war, tell them I’m alive, and then get healed up. Good work, buddy.”
    “Thanks, Jace, you too.”

    Jace decided to wait on the other side of the river, and find the archers. Running to the edge of the water, he started to get in, when he noticed suspicious rocks on the bottom. Upon a closer look, he discovered that they weren’t rocks, they were watertight barrels. But water tight barrels wouldn’t sink without weights, so there had to be something in them. Jace squatted, looking again at the water. Then he heard a yell behind him. It was a Cashormin. “NOW!!!” There was a deafening roar as the Cashormin army charged the river. Jace began to think furiously. The army was coming, and they were heading for the river. The ambushing Cytherians would come across the river. He could see their reed breathing tubes. More archers were along the edge of the river. “The rafts just sank, and they gave up trying to cross.” Those barrels were beginning to shake a little bit... how stupid could the Cashormins be? They know they can’t cross the river, so they know they are going to be ambushed, so are they trying to commit suicide?

    Jace stood, now trapped between the two armies. He faced the brave Cytherians and yelled as loud as he could “GET AWAY FROM THE RIVER! NOW!!!” The Cytherians looked stunned. “CAPTAIN JACE HARRAN ORDERS YOU TO GET AWAY FROM THE RIVER!!” At that command, the soldiers responded, running from the river. Moments later, the river exploded. Two hundred barrels, with slow fuse bombs in them had exploded. If the ambush had gone on, every Cytherian soldier would have been blown to pieces. Jace was now alone and stuck between a blazing, oil covered river, and the entire Cashormin army. There was no way he could cross the river, there was no way he could run. Jace drew his sword, and faced the enemy. They did not pause. Jace could see the hate in their eyes, and the grins on their faces as they planned to destroy him. Jace swung at the first one as hard as he could, and killed the Cashormin soldier. He heard a yell from over the river. “Get down!” Jace dropped to his knees, and hundreds of arrows flew through the flames, and lodged themselves in Cashormin soldiers, still ablaze. Those who weren’t hit by volley after volley of the arrows soon caught on fire and burned to death. The Cashormin army was forced to retreat.

    The Cytherians had managed to survive behind their fire shield, and the survivors, including Jace, sat around a fire in their camp. Everyone wanted to hear the story of the battle at Cademia, and to mourn the dead. After most of the soldiers had gone off to their tents to rest, Jace met with the other commanders to discuss the Cashormin attacks and strategy.

    Jace was commended for his bravery, and efforts at Cademia, and was given the honor of joining the strategy session with all of Cythera’s Generals. Though Cademia had born the brunt of the Cashormin attacks, Catamarca, Kosha, and New Maayti had all been under attack, at one point or another, and in addition to these cities, Land King Hall, Odemia, Pnyx, as well as Freia, the city built in the ruins of the ruffian encampment, all had garrisons. All of the troops had been brought to the Cytherian encampment via specified nexus, as soon as Cademia was overrun.

    Now, all the Generals from all the cities were here, and Jace was with them, deciding how to defend Cythera from the Cashormin attack. The debate lasted hours deep into the night, when the idea struck Jace like a gift from some supernatural being, wiser than time itself. The nation of Cythera was not just under attack, the land itself was under attack, so why not have the land defend itself? Why not ask the Seldane for help?

    “I’ve got it.” Jace said, standing up. He immediately drew the gazes of all the Generals, whose respect he had earned, but not their trust. “I will go, and rally the Seldane to fight for us. To fight for our land, and to save it from the terrible ravaging fire of the Cashorms.” The group broke into murmurs, unsure of this idea. It sounded good, and it might work, but not in time. It was not fast enough.

    As the discussion quieted, one Commander asked, “And while you do this, what do we do? We have an army, greater in size than our own, waiting, across a river, that is no longer than thirty feet wide, with more soldiers already on their way, ready to take our land! We do not have time to summon the great earth spirits to defend us! We have to fight! Prayer is no battle plan.”

    “I am honored by your esteemed company,” Jace replied, “For you are all better soldiers than I.” He paused, looking at the worn faces of the men around him. “You are the men who should be commanding our armies, not I. I serve under Commander Kator, and with your leave, Sir, I will go and seek the Seldane. You men can do what you feel is right.”

    The Generals were taken aback by Jace’s clear impudence, but Commander Kator simply nodded. “You are a better man than I, Jace. Go in peace, and return with war.” Jace nodded, and without a glance back, he took off running.

    Jace ran through the night, covered in sweat, with his muscles burning in pain as he ran for Land King Hall. Dodging trees and bushes when he could, and taking their beatings when he had to, Jace refused to let anything stop him. Hours later, and with fourteen miles behind him, Jace reached Land King Hall, utterly spent.

    Not allowing himself to fall, Jace threw open the gates and continued running. Though normally, there were many ceremonial guards, lining the halls and surrounding the doors of Land King Hall, there were now only two that Jace could see, at the front door. The rest were all at the battlefield, preparing to meet their fate. If the Cashormin army were to make it this far, it would only take an instant to capture the Capitol. They moved to bar Jace, who simply flashed his Captain’s Insignia, and moved onward.

    He found his way to the throne room, where he knelt before Alaric, and saw a third guard. This was all Cythera had to spare for their King? Nearly collapsing, Jace took a breath. It was all the time he could spare. “Alaric, Land King. I ask a favor of you, on behalf of our armies, in this dark time.” Alaric paused. Jace said nothing, but grew impatient. Did he not know that soldiers were already dying for him, while he stalled such a simple request?

    “What is it, Captain Jace Harran?” Jace was taken aback that Alaric knew his name at an instant. He did not stop to question why.

    “I do not know if you are aware, but our soldiers are on the brink of battle with the Cashormin army. They are not enough, however. They are a drop of water in the ocean of the Cashormin army that will ravage this land.” Alaric interrupted.

    “The battle began seven hours ago. It is currently underway. The Cashormins have fallen back a great distance, but are preparing an ambush for our soldiers, who after a short rest, are in close pursuit. Our commanders will expect the Cashormins to do what they would do, continue their retreat. They will not, however. The whole tactic is a farce and a trap.” Here he paused, and thought. “Captain Harran, I am connected with this land. I can feel its movements, and what happens upon it. I know much more than you suspect. I have heard of you, and your deeds at Cademia. You are an honorable man. You are one to be trusted, yet you trust not. You assume that I am a distant king, far beyond my people, little better than the tyrants before me. Why do you assume that I am ignorant?”

    “Forgive me, Land King.”

    “I do not ask for an apology. I asked why you assumed that I am innocent.”

    Jace sighed “Land King, I respect you, and still, I apologize. But the battle is raging, and as you have said, there is a trap. I need help now, so that I can save our people.”

    “No, Captain Harran.”

    Jace was stunned. His jaw dropped, and he rose to his feet, furious. “How can you do this to us? How can you abandon your people? Why not surrender and spare lives, then? Why not just leave your people to death and darkness, and let us suffer under the hands of an empire that only wants us to die and move away from their war?”

    “I appreciate your passion. And you will get the help you need. But I have learned from my ancestors, that the earth will wait until the time is right, to act. Trust in our commanders, and trust in the earth do act when ready. You need to trust people, Captain Harran.”

    Jace sighed again, and nodded. “Very well.”

    “Now, what is your request?”

    Jace was alert, but calmer. “I wish to find the Seldane, and use their power to save our people, and our land, from being ravaged by the Cashormin army.”

    Alaric thought for a time, not moving. Jace was patient, but still slightly upset, waiting for Alaric to act. “That is a worthy plan. Magpie will lead you to the tunnel.”

    “Thank you,” Jace replied.

    “Remember, Captain Harran. The earth will not act, until it is ready. You must trust in its judgment.” Jace nodded, and, silently, Magpie began to walk away.

    After a time of walking in a dark cave, from the back of Land King Hall, they found themselves between four pillars of stone. “Here?” Jace asked, and Magpie nodded. Jace began to climb into the tunnel when Magpie stopped him.

    “Remember what you said to the Land King. There will come a time when you must make a choice. Advise yourself.” Jace nodded in thanks to the fool, who seemed far too wise to be a fool, and climbed down the tunnel.

    Jace found himself in another cave, darker still, but lit, in patches. He walked onwards, until he came to cluster of rough stone buildings. With great effort, he pulled open one of the large, solid doors, and was met with a Seldane. He said something unintelligible, and touched Jace’s forehead. The Seldane spoke again, with a voice like the rumble of rocks in an earthquake, solid like a mountain, and deep like a chasm.

    “What do you want, human soul?”

    Jace was stunned, but he managed to say, “The land is in great danger. We cannot defend ourselves, and we need your help to save us.”

    “What would you have me do?” The Seldane asked, stoically.

    “Whatever is necessary,” Jace replied. “Please, save our people.”

    “The Seldane last went to war millennia before people graced our land.” His brow furrowed. “Yet, the land must be preserved. We will aid you.”

    Jace nodded his thanks. The Seldane motioned that Jace should follow, and led him to a portal in the ground. “This will bring you to where we need you.” He said. “Listen for us.” Jace stepped onto the portal, and was suddenly miles away.

    Below him, he could see the battle. It was not far. Five miles at most. The ambush had been sprung. The Cytherians were surrounded by the Cashormins. He heard a voice in his head, clearly Seldane. “Wait here. Wait for us to act.”

    “Act now!” Jace replied, “Destroy them before they destroy more!”

    All he received in reply was, “Patience.”

    Jace watched for hours. Long, painful hours, as the Cytherian army attempting to retreat. More and more were dying by the minute, and yet, the Seldane would not respond, the Seldane would not act. There was nothing that Jace could do. He watched as men got slaughtered by the ruthless Cashorms, and pleaded for the Seldane to act.

    Jace was about to leave, and attack, ignoring everything the Seldane had said, when the voice returned to his head. “Are you ready?”

    Jace halted. “Yes.” At that moment, the Cytherian army broke free, running for safety. They passed through a small village... Jace’s village. The Cashormin army regrouped, preparing to follow.

    The Seldane voice spoke again. “Now is the time for your choice. Do we destroy the invading army?”

    Jace thought. Patience. This choice was too easy, it was not what Magpie had foretold it to be... then it clicked. The Cashormin army was preparing to enter his village. To destroy them, would also destroy his family, his friends, people he had grown up with, and people he cared about. To leave them alive, would kill the army that was Cythera’s last hope of survival.

    He then remembered what he had told Alaric. “How can you abandon your people?” Jace could not abandon the entire people of Cythera to save his village. He fell to his knees, and with a pain in his heart greater than all the pain in the world, and all the water in the sea, he said “Do it.”

    There was an instant of hesitation, as two giant hands of stone sprung up out of the earth, enclosing the Cashormin army and Jace’s village, and pulling them down to the heart of the island.

    It was done.

    The Cytherian soldiers began to cheer, saved by Captain Jace Harran, an epic and heroic soldier.

    On the hilltop, Jace felt his dagger enter his gut, and died screaming against the darkness in his soul.

    This post has been edited by Mr. Somebody : 13 January 2007 - 10:15 PM

  • Whoa, really good read, was this the end?

  • Yes it was. From the beginning, I wanted it to end with him screaming, in inconsolable anguish. It was just a problem of getting there.

    (edit)Oh, and, of course, thank you! Where are my manners?(/edit)

    This post has been edited by Mr. Somebody : 13 January 2007 - 10:41 PM

  • Your Welcome. Oh, nice way to end the chronicle.


  • Nice job, Mr. Somebody, a good continuation to a very good story (and to a good storyline). :) It's good to see that Jace did what he had to do, even though it had a terrible price.

    This post has been edited by Selax : 13 January 2007 - 11:37 PM

  • Thanks!

  • Nice to see you back!

    Interesting premise, but you left one major plothole - there's no reason given that explains why the Seldane had to strike precisely at that spot, so when they do, it seems as if they're just being spiteful and vindictive. You really needed to explain exactly why they couldn't strike sooner, and spare the village. Not easy, I know; I can't think of any good reason, myself.

  • Wow! I don't know what to say!

  • @cache22_bot, on Jan 13 2007, 08:55 PM, said in Cities of Fire II:

    Nice to see you back!

    Interesting premise, but you left one major plothole - there's no reason given that explains why the Seldane had to strike precisely at that spot, so when they do, it seems as if they're just being spiteful and vindictive. You really needed to explain exactly why they couldn't strike sooner, and spare the village. Not easy, I know; I can't think of any good reason, myself.

    Funny thing is, I actually had a reason worked into there. I guess I couldn't make it clear enough. It was that they were acting on a large scale, and had to wait until there was enough distance between the Cytherians and the Cashormins to strike, and it just happened to be in the village. I tried to make that clear by not having them strike when the Cytherians were surrounded by the Cashormins, but I should have made that clearer. Thanks for the advice!

    Also, thanks to CrazyChick!

  • Not too clear, no, and why couldn't the Seldane have just dropped the land in a ring around the Cytherans?

  • @cache22_bot, on Jan 15 2007, 12:40 AM, said in Cities of Fire II:

    Not too clear, no, and why couldn't the Seldane have just dropped the land in a ring around the Cytherans?

    You make a fair point, that I could justify, but it would take some work. I'll work on editing the story over the next week or so, and I'll see if I can fix your duly noted problem. Thanks for the help!

  • @mr--somebody_bot, on Jan 16 2007, 05:54 AM, said in Cities of Fire II:

    I'll work on editing the story over the next week or so, and I'll see if I can fix your duly noted problem.

    Ah, good. Let us know when it's done! :)

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