Sins of Humanity
A chilling breeze tickled Jane's skin, further enhancing the uneasiness in her heart as she followed Tylia across the vast plains of crou lands. Ever since they left the valley, the queen's expression had been frozen a stern glare. “I wonder what she's going to show me” she thought as she found herself forced to hasten her pace to keep up with the queen's far larger strides. Jane's eyes suddenly widened as an idea crept into her head. “Could it be the portal home?”
After passing over several hills littered with snow covered trees, Tylia came to a sudden halt. “There it is” she muttered to herself.
Curious, Jane peered past the crou queen. Her eyes were quickly drawn to the one thing that stood out, a single mountain sitting in the center of a vast, almost flat field. It reached fairly high into the sky, nearly beating Bhaldural in terms of sheer size.
“See that?” Tylia asked while pointing to the same mountain. “That is Dainus Mountain. You can't tell from here, but there is actually a city hidden within.”
“A dwarven city?” Jane asked.
Tylia seemed a little impressed. “Yes” she said. “That mountain served as the capital city of the Dain empire since before I was even born.” The queen turned her gaze back towards the wide plains she and Jane had just crossed. “In fact, the dwarves of Dain used to control most of the land we just passed over.”
Now it was Jane's turn to be impressed. Despite her and the queen's enormous sizes, it had taken them a full thirty minutes to reach Dainus Mountain. “That's a lot of land...” she mumbled before realizing something. “Wait... Used to control?”
Tylia nodded slowly. “Tell me Jane” she said. “While you were in Decura, did you ever hear the story of how humans came to our world?”
“I heard a little about something called 'the Grand Conveyance' a few times” Jane answered, making sure to leave out her visit to Etin city and learning more about Kip. “I didn't hear too many details about the actual event itself. People mostly mentioned things that happened afterwards.”
“That makes sense” Tylia said as she crossed her arms. “Well then, allow someone who was alive at the time to elaborate for you.” After quickly making sure no animals were scurrying below her enormous body, Tylia slowly sat down. “Please, sit. This may take awhile. And please pay attention. I won't be telling you this story again.”
After giving the queen a quick nod and also checking for animals, Jane sat down on the cold grass.
“I believe it was five hundred years ago when it happened” Tylia explained. “I wasn't there, but some nor'rey were and they say a large tear opened up in the sky. A few moments later, thousands upon thousands of humans slowly fell from the crack in reality, floating down to the ground like they were being placed there by an unseen force.” Tylia crossed her arms. “It's one of the greatest mysteries of this world... Anyway, trouble started barely a month after the humans arrived. Duros, the emperor of the Dain empire, led his entire army to attack the humans.”
“Why?” Jane asked.
“I don't know the exact reason, but I'm sure it had something to do with the human's queen” Tylia explained, clenching her teeth tight after mentioning the human ruler. “She truly was a fiend... A monster who could control fire itself.”
Jane's eyes widened as a sinister grinning face flashed in her mind. “Hazel...” she thought. “But how? Has she really been around that long?”
Tylia let out a sigh in an attempt to calm herself. “Thanks to that monster and her knight, the humans defeated the dwarven army and slaughtered most of them” she growled. “Most would stop there to negotiate a surrender, but those humans followed the dwarves back to their land and raided every town they had.” Tylia turned her gaze toward the lone mountain. “Within a week, Dainus Mountain was under siege and the undermanned city barely lasted a day.”
The queen fell silent for a moment, causing Jane to speak up. “Then what happened?” she asked, her mind already conjuring the correct answer.
The queen's glare narrowed. “The humans massacred the dwarves” she answered, a lone tear falling from her cheek. “Not a single one was spared from their wrath. Had we crou known what was going on, maybe we could have done something...”
Jane's sad gaze fell to her lap. “I wouldn't put it past that woman to destroy an entire empire for defying her...” she thought, struggling to contain her anger.
“Unfortunately, we didn't even have a clue it was happening” Tylia continued. “We crou stuck to our own lands and almost never meddled with the smaller races. In return, neither the dwarves or nor'rey never came near us.”
“But you live so close” Jane noted. “Kaizori Refuge isn't that far away from here for a crou.”
“Kaizori Refuge wasn't built back then” the queen explained, her tone becoming more weighed down. “In fact, crou lands are actually far to the north. We didn't move here until after our few encounters with the humans.”
Jane glanced over to the former dwarven city, a chill running down her spine when she pictured the carnage that must have taken place inside. “What did you do after you found out?” she asked.
“Back then we crou were ruled by my brother, Tyrul” the queen answered, cracking a little smile. “He was a kind and gentle person, always willing to see the good in everyone.” Tylia's smile disappeared. “Even when there wasn't any there to begin with. Anyway... One day, twenty years after the humans conquered the Dain empire, one of us wandered nearby and spotted this new species. Curious as to who this new race was and where they came from, my brother set up a meeting with their ruler. I insisted on going with him, but Tyrul ordered I stay behind. After all, one crou is intimidating enough to the smaller races.”
Jane remembered the many times people had scream that she was about to 'eat their children' whenever they saw her in her various, gigantic sizes and sighed. “True...” she grumbled.
Tylia turned her gaze upward to the clear skies above. “We believed in our king and let him go to meet the human queen alone” she said, her voice beginning to quiver slightly. “And... And we never spoke again...”
“Oh...” was all Jane could mutter, understanding fully what Tylia meant.
After taking a deep breath through her nose, Tylia continued. “When we found his body, it was covered in many burns and hundreds of cuts” she said, her fingers digging into her legs. “He'd slowly bled to death... Somehow, those humans had murdered him... All he wanted to do was talk... And they murdered him... Those damn insects killed him...” Ful energy crackled wildly from the queen's horns and her fingers punctured her flesh, causing blood to drip from her legs. Tylia's expression twisted into a monstrous, dead-eyed scowl.
Some of the queen's ful snapped near Jane, forcing her to shuffle backwards. “Damn...” was all she could think as she stared at Tylia, her heart racing with fear as the ground beneath her began to shake.
“Oh sorry!” Tylia gasped, quickly dissipating her ful energy when she realized the damage she was doing to her surroundings. “I'm sorry Jane. I didn't mean to scare you like that. Every time I think of those little monsters I... I just...”
Jane started to wave her hands. “Don't worry about it Tylia” she assured. “It's clearly a painful memory. You don't have to say anymore.”
Tylia slowly shook her head. “No... No I said I was going to explain this all to you and I will” she said, pausing for a moment to recompose herself. “So... After that, our entire marched on Dainus Mountain, which had now become the human capital. I wanted to smash the entire mountain down with that entire accursed race inside, but I knew my brother would never forgive me for doing that. So to honor the memory of our deceased king, we allowed the humans to leave Nubila with the threat of death should they dare return. It worked as no human has ever come back here.”
“Let's continue to keep David a secret” Nice chuckled nervously as a single drop of sweat ran down the side of Jane's head.
“A funeral for my dear brother was held later that same day and I was declared the new ruler of my people” Tylia continued. “I'd always dreamed of being made queen ever since I was a little girl... But not like that. Not at the cost of own brother...”
Both Jane and the queen fell silent once again. It took Jane a full minute to work up the courage to speak. “What ever became of the tear in the sky?” she asked.
“No matter what we tried, we couldn't get it to close” Tylia replied. “Now it just sits there, a wound on our world that I fear will never heal. Fortunately, it's now hidden away where nobody will have to look upon it ever again.”
Jane was awfully tempted to ask where exactly the portal was hidden. “Best if I don't push the issue just yet” she thought, a feeling of relief washing over her. “Still, at least I know it's here somewhere. That's good to hear...”
“For a long time, we thought that would be the end of it” Tylia said. “The humans were gone and we built a small town in their former territory to keep an eye on things. However about two hundred years later, we were visited by a group of strangers who traveled from a continent far to the south, Decura. They were odd creatures, I believe they were called mirian...”
“Mirian sailed all the way here?” Jane asked, sounding quite surprised. It had taken the ship she was on a whole month to get here and a lot of the time it felt like the waves were going to smash the vessel to pieces.
Tylia nodded. “They nearly died from the cold several times” she said. “Clearly they were desperate to speak with us so I gave them an audience. What they had to say made me tremble with rage.” Tylia grit her teeth. “Apparently, those damn humans had sailed there and were conquering every kingdom around them.”
“That sounds like the war Albert mentioned” Jane thought. “It ended in an uneasy truce, leaving a large chunk of Decura uncontrolled. The Lordless Lands...”
“The mirian pleaded with me to help them” Tylia said, sounding more and more enraged with each sentence she spoke. “They begged for the crou to liberate them from the race of fiends that had control over their kingdom. I wasn't going to let those little monsters wipe out another empire, so I ordered the destruction of the human's capital city. I really wanted to crush their entire race under my heel, but that would only lower me to their pathetic level.” Ful energy briefly crackled across the queen's horns. “I gathered up all but the very old and very young of my kin, who stayed behind under Gundar's protection. Together, all fifty of us swam across the large gap in between both continents.”
“That's a difficult swim” Jane noted, making sure not to mention she'd rode here on a human ship.
“Indeed it is” Tylia agreed. “I'm impressed you were able to do it yourself.”
“I almost drowned many times” Jane assured.
Tylia's gaze suddenly fell to her lap. “It might have been better for my people if one of us had almost drowned. Then we might have turned around and things may have gone much better for us.”
“It didn't end well did it?” is what Jane wanted to ask, but wisely chose to wait for Tylia to finish her tale.
“We eventually reached a city sitting on the shore of Decura by sunset” Tylia continued. “It was enormous, at least for the little races. It's walls stretched up so high they even reached my waist. Many of my kin actually seemed impressed with those tiny devil's work. Not me though. I knew nothing good could come from a city of those monsters. I gave the order and we all rose from the sea, our gargantuan bodies casting shadows of death over the defenseless city.” Tylia clenched her fists as the ful around her horns started to snap louder. “Or rather, what we thought was a defenseless city...”
Jane's mind immediately pictured those huge ballista she saw lined across Etin city's walls. 'Giant's Banes' is what Kiera called them.
Tylia's teeth started to make a low grinding sound. “Before we even knew it, spears far too large for humans to use were shot straight towards us” she growled, her clenched fists beginning to bleed. “Along with so many arrows they blackened the sky. While those human-sized arrows failed to do much, those massive spears pierced through our bodies faster than the claws of a fully grown Uryall... Within seconds most of my kin were dead... It all happened so fast... It was like those little fiends knew we were coming. We tried to fight back, a few of us even managed to smash down a large section of the human's wall. Unfortunately, even with our bravery, size and ful, we were quickly cut down by those monster's weapons.” Tylia put one hand over her torn cheek and exposed teeth, tears rolling down her cheeks. “I only survived because the man I loved, Jaie's father, pushed me out of the way just in time to avoid a fatal blow.”
“I... I'm sorry...” was all Jane could bring herself to say.
“At that moment I had two choices” Tylia sobbed. “Either stay and die with my kin or try swimming back to Nubila. Of course, I chose the latter... I can still feel the sting of the ocean's water on my wound. No matter how much time passes, it never goes away... But worse than that... Worse than that... The sight of my people, all laying dead in the ocean... That haunts me to this day...” Tylia punched the ground with enough force to cause every bird within ten miles to fly away. “I failed them... I led my people into a deathtrap... I got Jaie's father killed... I got Angess and Crysta's parents killed... I got Umimoo's parents killed... I got Bale's older brother killed... It's my fault they all died...” Tylia threw her hands over her face and burst into hysterical crying. “I'm so sorry everyone... Please forgive me...”
Tylia wept for a whole minute, her sorrow-filled crying echoing across the entire continent. It only ceased when she felt somebody gently embrace her. “Don't be so hard on yourself” Jane whispered gently. “You were just trying to help the people of Decura. You couldn't have known the humans would be ready for your attack.”
Despite being a little surprised by Jane's hug, it only took a few seconds for the still weeping Tylia to return the favor with one of her own. Unlike her previous hugs, this one was much softer, leaving Jane's spine unharmed.
“You're doing the right thing by caring for the others Tylia” Jane said, causing Tylia to nod. “I'm sure none of them blame you for what happened. The fact that you're taking it upon yourself to care for your people is very admirable and impressive.”
It took Tylia another three minutes to properly calm herself. “T-thanks Jane” she sobbed while wiping away her remaining tears. “Sorry I dragged you all the way out here for such a sad story.”
“Don't be” Jane said as she and the queen stood. “I'm the one who should be sorry for forcing you to tell it.” Jane reached up and put her hand on Tylia's left shoulder. “I know it might not be much but... If you ever need anything, please don't hesitate to ask. It's the least I can do after you've let me stay here.”
A smile finally returned to Tylia's face. “I bet it's easy for you to make a lot of friends” she chuckled.
Now it was Jane's turn to smile as she pictured the many friends she'd had in Decura. “You might be right” she giggled.
“Actually, would it be alright if I asked you for something right now?” Tylia asked. “Something that never fails to put me in a good mood.”
“Of course” Jane said. “Ask away.”
“Okay...” Tylia muttered while shyly backing away from Jane. “Well if you don't mind. I'd like you to fight me. Nothing brings a smile to my face like a good tussle.”
“Oh... Uh...” Jane muttered, a little stunned at the request. “Are you sure?”
Tylia nodded happily. “It would really make my day” she assured. “Gundar is too busy guarding the gate, which leaves my options for a worthy foe rather limited. Which is why I'd like you to take a shot at me.” Noticing Jane's worried expression, Tylia gave her smaller friend's head a gentle pat. “Don't worry. We won't be fighting to the death and I'd never expect you to face me alone.” Tylia glanced back. “Which is why you'll be teaming up with her.”
Curious, Jane looked past Tylia and immediately spotted Jaie glaring back at her. “Oh great...” she thought. “The one who hates me...”
“That is why you came here isn't it Jaie?” Tylia asked with a cheeky smile on her face. “You're always so eager to challenge me.”
“You're not serious are you?” Jaie growled. “You expect me to team up with the runt? She can't keep up with us mother. She's nowhere near our level.”
“She did tie with you” Tylia noted.
Jaie grit her teeth. “Only because I didn't use my ful” she growled. “Had I, I would have won in seconds.”
“That just proves she's your equal in terms of fighting prowess” Tylia explained, much to her daughter's irritation. “Meaning that if you both took me one together, you may actually have a chance at winning for once. Come on, it'll be fun.” Tylia clasped her hands together, her eyes quickly widening to a surprisingly adorable degree. “Please Jaie, do it for me.”
Jaie rolled her eyes. “Fine, fine...” she sighed. “I'll work with the runt this once. Maybe she'll actually impress me for once.”
Tylia's smile grew even wider and she quickly seized Jane. “Then let's start right now!” she cheered. In a second, the queen's blissful smile twisted into a crazed and terrifying grin.
“H-hey wait-” was all Jane had time to say before the queen tossed her at Jaie.
Taken completely by surprise, Jaie could do nothing but watch as the hornless crou's forehead collided with hers, knocking both her and Jane to the ground. “Are you kidding me?!?” Jaie snapped, clutching her aching head as she rolled across the ground. “Again?!?”
“Oww...” Jane groaned as she lay still, her head in just as much pain as the princess'. “How can someone have such a hard head?”
Tylia scratched the side of her head. “I'm sorry, were you two not ready yet?” she asked, an innocent smile plastered on her face.
TO BE CONTINUED....