The Yrvim Saga
[Written by Lawrence Whitaker]
During the reign of Empress Terhali, her favoured servant, Lord Anryk Yrvim was sent to subdue the fractious tribes of Ilm on the northern continent. Taking with him a retinue of good Melnibonean warriors Lord Anryk set about bringing Imrryr’s rule to those uncultured savages who still dressed in the furs of bears and wolves. Within five short years Yrvim ruled all the lands from the Ilm coast to the Forest of Arreos. These lands, although dedicated to Terhali, were gifted to Lord Yrvim for his loyal service and he became High Lord of the region.
Thus it remained for a thousand years.
When the Dharzi came from the far east, tearing across the world like a scouring wind, High Lord Yrvim’s descendants were prepared. They hade weathered the storm of civil war that brought Terhali’s reign to an end. They had endured internal treachery and the occasional Ilm uprisings to remain in control of their ancient, hard-won territories. But, prepared as they were, they had not counted on the strange beast-magicks of the Dharzi and their spells and incantations turned the native flora and fauna against the natural order. High Lord Mazzarin Yrvim assembled his warriors against the coming horrors and had his sorcerers prepare spells and summonings of their own. These were drawn from The Tome of Jade and Blood, the ancestral grimoire developed by the Yrvim family in centuries long past.
High Lord Yrvim prevailed against the Dharzi but at great personal cost. A thousand died over two days of terrible fighting and Yrvim was forced to cede large swathes of land to the advancing Dharzi host and their terrible vampire wolves. When the fighting was over, the High Lord found he had concentrate too much on repairing and rebuilding the core estates, particularly the family seat, the (once) beautiful Palace of Yr. The lands he had lost stayed lost and the Ilm tribes retook lands lost to them when Lord Anryk began his conquest.
Eight centuries passed. The Ilm grow stronger and more civilized. They built a city of their own, on the coast, and named it Ilmar. High Lord Yrvim and his successors challenged the city and enslaved it for a time, but allowed the Ilmari, as they now called themselves, to retain what they had built. Ships from other, newly civilized lands were coming to Ilmar on a daily basis bringing riches from many parts of the Young Kingdoms. By allowing the Ilmari to retain their city the Yrvim family found it could tax the city revenues in return for peaceful coexistence. So it remained for a further seven hundred years.
But the Ilmari were not content with this relationship. A new force, centred on Bakshaan, a city to the south of Ilmar, was taking hold across the northern continent. Secretive and cunning, these Mereghn were spies, assassins and brokers of secrets and power. They infiltrated the noble houses of the Ilmari and spread dissent. Over several decades, informed by Mereghn knowledge, the nobles of Ilmar sought to challenge what remained of Yrvim dynasty. They had seen how the southern lands, under Earl Aubec’s command, had overthrown their Melnibonean masters and now sought to do the same.
This happened in the rule of High Lord Serec Yrvim, father of Bōdric and Edvund...
Lord Serec had been born in Ilmiora but brought up and schooled in the Imperial Court at Imrryr. He inherited all the cruelty and disdain of true Melniboneans. When he returned to the Palace of Yr it was with a determination to take Ilmar from its human rulers and make it an extension of Melnibone, dedicating it to Empress Sathril. He brought warriors from the dragon isle and also employed mercenary bands, which were now rife across the Young Kingdoms, to fight on his side. He laid siege to Ilmar and demanded the exodus of the noble families who ruled the city. His true-Melnibonean son, Carac, commanded one wing of the Imrryrian forces whilst his bastard half breed son, Bōdric, fought with the mercenaries. A second son, the wily Edvund, studied the Tome of Jade and Blood in the Palace of Yr.
But High Lord Serec had not counted on the guile of the Mereghn, who were the real rulers of the city. Mereghn spies had found their way into the Yrvim family and lay in wait for the precise moment when their grand plan could be unleashed. Whilst Serec and his sons besieged Ilmar, these Mereghn assassins rose up – some thirty of them – and slaughtered the loyal Yrvim household, including the treasured Oi-Yoo Concubines. On hearing this treachery Serec had no option but to return to the Palace of Yr. On his arrival he found the palace in flames and mercenaries in the employ of the Mereghn waiting for him. Surrounded but defiant, Serec, Carac and Bōdric fought for the remains of their home. Edvund, meanwhile, ever suspicious of treachery, had prepared escape routes and now made use of them, evading the Mereghn murderers who were looking for him and, in particular, the Tome of Jade and Blood.
Serec Vyrim spent a day in battle against the Mereghn mercenaries calling upon Mabelrode of Chaos to aid him, but to no avail. His mercenaries either routed or joined the enemy. Carac, his most loved son, fell to an Ilmioran axe. Bōdric, deserted by his comrades, was forced to flee himself. The last that was seen of High Lord Serec Vyrim, cruel and proud lord of Yr and servant of Empress Sathril, was of the man standing over the broken body of Carac, twin longswords in hand, elbow-deep in gore, defending the burning remains of his palace. Bōdric is sure he saw his father weeping; the first time in forty years a tear had ever left those cruel and scheming eyes.
Edvund reached the stables where most of the horses, panicked, had been released to trample through the ranks of combatants – Melnibonean and human – in a bid to escape the flames. Only two horses remained; old, mangy affairs ear-marked for slaughter. There, in the stables, was where his brother, Bōdric, found him.
‘I fear we have lost our home,’ Edvund said drily. ‘Is father still alive?’
‘When last I saw him, he had cleaved a man in twain and beheaded another,’ Bōdric replied. ‘But Carac is dead,’ he spat into the straw and continued to saddle the half-broken mare. ‘I think I laughed when I saw the bastard cut from shoulder to thigh.’
‘Oh, I rather liked Carac,’ Edvund said. ‘Dim, but he had his uses.’
‘Such as?’ Bōdric asked, suddenly wondering if, perhaps, Edvund had been a part of the treachery.
‘Why, dearest brother, he ensured father placed this in my keeping.’ And from a leather satchel slung across his shoulder, Edvund tugged the corner of the family grimoire, the Tome of Jade and Blood. Bōdric recognized it immediately. How could he not? He spat once more.
‘So you got the grimoire. At least our father honoured you with something. He promised me a pony once, and I’m still waiting.’
‘A pony? Oh, I had one of…’ Edvund cut short his words as Bōdric flashed a look of murder in his direction. ‘No matter.’
‘We should ride,’ Bōdric said. ‘The savages will be here soon. They won’t hesitate to kill everyone they can. Even Serec cannot stop them.’
‘But where do we go?’ Edvund asked. His plans had not got this far.
‘As far from here as we can. To the east lies only the remains of the forest, and things the Dharzi created still roam there. West lies the coast. We can, perhaps, seek passage on a ship and head for Jharkor. I hear the Salamir family still rules there and they should give us shelter.’
‘The Salamirs?’ Edvund asked, with not a little suspicion. ‘Are they not considered traitors by Empress Sathril?’
‘So they say,’ Bōdric replied, ‘but I met them once when I campaigned in Jharkor and they were always hospitable.’
‘Jharkor it is, then,’ Edvund said. ‘But, brother…’ Bōdric, swinging himself into the saddle scowled at Edvund.
‘Let’s keep this,’ and he patted the satchel, ‘a secret between us, eh?’ Bōdric shrugged.
‘Its yours. I have no interest in it. All I ever wanted was a fucking pony.’
To Be Continued...