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Book 7, Chapter 41 - Iron Fis

 Dragenmere was situated in the highlands. Of all the Elysian lands, it enjoyed the highest elevation.

It had a unique, bowl-like topography where its borders were raised but the center dipped inward. A dozen mountain ranges spawned rivers which trickled through the territory, creating vast swaths of marshland and forests. This embarrassment of natural riches made Dragenmere a prosperous and beautiful place.

Flatlands stretched across the center of the realm's drum-like expanse. Therein was concentrated eighty percent of its cities and towns. In the very center sat its capital.

Due to its emphasis on strength and its impassable border areas, Dragenmere rarely faced outside threats. However, hidden among the mountains were tribes of mutants. For years a broiling conflict between the Elysian people and these mutants had seethed. Eventually, scattered groups formed and the battles continued as the occasional skirmish - irritating to the Elysans, but not a large threat.

Like every other realm. Dragenmere was lorded over by a number of powerful families. Its Governor was appointed by the family patriarch, a line that - like the Cloude family - stretched all the way back to the Legendary Demonhunters of old. Back before the establishment of the Elysian realms these were not their names. Members of Dragenmere's Drago family and Skycloude's Cloude family were given these new names when they took the reigns of control.

The Drago family had ruled Dragenmere for sixteen generations.

Before his death a decade ago, the realm's Governor selected two representatives from among Dragenmere's sixty most powerful families. The first was his own son, Vahagn Drago .

Both young men had been excellently prepared for the role. Vahagn was the stronger of the two, but he was also more rebellious. Although Peregrine didn't have the same power, he was well known for his piety and self-control. He was also the elder and thus more stable.

In the end it was decided by consensus among the families and the Temple that Peregrine should become Governor. He would take the mantle as the sixteenth representative of their family to hold this illustrious post.

So as to avoid conflicts between factions of the Drago family, Vahagn left the capital following his defeat. He decided to travel and for years went where the winds took him. Eventually he faded from public consciousness.

Two words were enough to describe the new Governor: quite satisfactory. During his reign there were no grand accomplishments, but neither were there any troubles. Perhaps it was the fact that he was so 'mediocre' that he won support ten years ago. Dragenmere's situation was stable, after all. There was no need for someone radical. What's more, Peregrine would be far easier to mold and control, as far as the Temple was concerned.

Anyway, it was also the support from behind the scenes that won Peregrine his post. The truth was that there had been more family elders in support of Vahagn, as his father had been the former Governor. Peregrine, however, had more than just a faction of the family on his side. The realm's High Priest and Commander-General also wanted him installed.

The power structure of Dragenmere was the same as Skycloud. The High Priest represented the Temple while the Commander-General led the armies. Although these men couldn't directly involve themselves in political matters, that didn't mean the power they represented was ignored. High Priest Bastian Nieves had been in power only two years when this selection process began, so he saw it as an opportunity to consolidate his influence. Meanwhile the city's Commander-General, Ludwig Hightower, was not himself a strong man. He didn't even count among the realm's top ten.

Both hoped to keep the realm - and their positions - free from conflict.

So while Vahagn was strong he was also a firebrand. Too young to maintain the stability Dragenmere's elders sought. This uncertainty was what lost him the seat of power.

The High Priest, the Governor and the Commander-General had enjoyed a close friendship ever since they'd saved his life at a young age. To repay this debt, the old Governor complied and supported Peregrine's ascension.

The new Governor's days were not quiet. Troubles were brewing, ever since chaos erupted in Skycloud. The Dragon God, who had not stirred for a hundred years, emerged from the Temple. Along with the other Supremes the horns of war were sounded. Soldiers were needed to fight against the rebellious heathens.

Governor Drago complied. High Priest Bastian and Commander-General Ludwig left for Sky fortress, where they would serve the gods directly.

Recently there had been no word from Sky Fortress, a matter of grave concern for Peregrine. Until recently ships had arrived every day to gather more warriors. Nearly a week had passed now without any communication. What occurred in Sky Fortress was secretive, but surely they would keep the Governor of the realms informed of any major happenings?

Could something have happened? It seemed impossible! Four Supremes and countless soldiers protected their glorious fortress. No matter how strong the enemy, Skycloud was but one realm. The odds were insurmountable.

In the midst of his anxiety, news broke that struck the Governor like a lightning bolt. Phoenix Igna, who had been lost in the rebel lands for weeks, had returned. With her was a heathen from Skycloud.

This troublesome tramp! Gone when she should return and back when she should have vanished. Phoenix was the Governor's biggest headache. She was leader of the Demonhunter Corps and the realm's strongest warrior - with an ego and temper to match. Her personal friendship with Vahagn Drago was also a matter of concern for she had never approved of Peregrine's appointment. The two had been at odds ever since.

When Skycloud opened the Boundary Portal the first time, Peregrine's decision was instant. He sent Phoenix to the front with the secret hope that she would never return. When news came back that the situation in Skycloud had deteriorated, Peregrine was far from upset.

But now she was back? And with a foreign heretic! What was the meaning of this?

Despite his loathing Governor Drago was not without a shred of cleverness. He did not react immediately, but gathered some followers and left to see what the irritating woman was up to. A decision would be made once he learned more.

**

Phoenix strong down the red carpet with long strides. Two others followed; a beautiful woman with long white robes and black hair, and a man in tattered black clothing.

Selene looked through the pages of information in her hands as they walked. They were reports on matters in Dragenmere, detailing various families and the state of their forces. In addition she had profiles for most of the realm's notable folk.

All very useful information, to be sure. Cloudhawk had brought her and Phoenix back here with one goal in mind - to bring Dragenmere to heel by any means necessary. The task had to be completed as soon as possible, which meant even methods he wouldn't typically permit were on the table. But the final object was to have this land become a friend of Skycloud, not an enemy.

It could not be said that Phoenix was pleased with Selene's appointment. "Cloudhawk doesn't trust anyone, does he," she grumbled.

Selene replied in her typical, tepid tone. "Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures. I am here to help you."

Phoenix wiped her hand across her mouth as though trying to wipe away the scowl. She said nothing. Not long ago this woman had been the God King's chosen Avatar. The fact that she broke its control was a potent display of her will. The woman was incredible, there was no denying it. Even Phoenix wouldn't look down on her.

Without another word, she led her two guests toward the heart of the city. They were met with a group of anxious bodyguards and a herald. The spokesman stepped forward and addressed the Master Demonhunter with a stiff bow. "Commander Igna. Allow me to welcome you ba-"

"Shut the fuck up."

All it took was a glare and this pitiful welcoming party scrambled out of her way. Phoenix strode forward and threw the doors open, stepping inside.

"Master Phoenix Igna, Commander of the Demonhunter Corps, has arrived!"

As the three pushed into the Governor's mansion, hasty cries arose from the Herald. There was no solemnity or formality in the call, but rather like a vendor calling after a disgruntled customer.

The main hall was a grand and imposing place. It was designed to represent the strength and dignity of their realm. Peregrine Drago sat at the head of a long table flanked by five other family representatives and a number of military officials. They all seemed to be absorbed in whatever business they'd been discussing when the sound of the doors bursting open caused them to raise their heads.

Footsteps followed. Measured, even strides. Although there were only three of them the visitors invaded the hall like an army. Immediately the room was filled with a weighty and overbearing air that made the elders hold their breath.

If only the High Priest and Commander-General were here! I can't control this crazy bitch alone! Peregrine's lips tightened.

Selene looked them over with a blank expression. Her black, piercing eyes roamed across every face just as every eye was drawn to her. Without question she was no denizen of Dragenmere. Her presence also marked her as a strong and important person. They could see it in her eyes. Black pools, filled with power. Cutting as a knife.

Governor Drago cleared his throat to dispel the uncomfortable silence. "Commander Igna. You've been gone so long, we were worried for your safety. It is joyous news that you return. Word has reached us that you have important information concerning the survival of the Elysian realms? I have called a meeting of the great families and our military leadership. Perhaps you can share with us what you've learned."

Her response ignored the topic. Instead she began with other news. "Sky Fortress has been destroyed by the leader of Skycloud's rebels, Cloudhawk."

"What?!"

Shock painted the faces of the elders. Several shot to their feet.

"The Dragon God, Lightning God, Light God and War God have all been defeated."

"Phoenix, do you know what you're saying? Is there any evidence to support these wild claims?"

"I'm here to tell you that Dragenmere sits between the chopping block and the headman's ax. Our whole species faces destruction. See for yourselves."

Phoenix wasn't going to waste time explaining. She pulled forth a crystal orb and placed it on the table. An instant later blinding light swallowed the room. It receded after a few minutes, revealing a sea of incredulous and sober faces. This was too much to believe!

Phoenix collected the crystal. "Let me get straight to the point. We need to put an immediate stop to all hostile actions against Skycloud and join them."

"Absolutely not!" Peregrine's anger flared. "I see what's happened. You have turned your back on the gods! Do you realize what grave sins you've committed here?!"

Phoenix did not raise her voice, but the chill in it was palpable. "The gods are a cleaver and to them we've nothing but slabs of meet. Why stay loyal?"

"And we're supposed to believe you, why? Because of this nonsense you come back? There is nothing convincing in those lies!" Peregrine was a loyal follower of the gods. It was not in his nature to rise up against them. It didn't matter if what the crystal showed them was true. He would never rebel. To do so was suicide!

"Those blasphemers have corrupted you as well! Did you honestly believe your ploy would have us follow you into the depths of sin?" The Governor had never liked Phoenix. Now here she was, presenting evidence against herself - enough to have her put away and out of his hair. "Guards! Grab this heathen! We will have the High Priest deal with her."

"I'm not here to debate. I'm here to make sure our realm makes the right decision." Phoenix made no attempt to defend herself, she knew it would come to this. She looked over the others before her eyes finally fixed on Peregrine Drago. "You were never the right man for this post. Give up the position of Governor to Vahagn - the man who should have had it from the beginning."

Silence. Her words hung over everyone like an iron curtain. Had she lost her mind? She spoke treason to a man who'd held the post of Governor for over a decade! Yet she spoke as casually as though she was chastising a waiter for poor service.

Selene's right eye flickered with silver light. She knew what was coming next, though she had not anticipated it. A sword from behind. From one of the Governor's commanders.

The man's sword was only half drawn when Selene moved. She cut off his arm before the deed could be done. She could be ruthless when needed so did not hesitate to lash out at their target. With a single hack, Governor Drago's body was cut in two. Her cleave left a gash across the hall thirty meters long.

Fast... so fast! Her eye made it impossible for anyone to get the drop on Selene Cloude.

Shock and alarm painted every face. They knew they couldn't stand against these women.

"You..." The speed and brazenness of the act defied response.

Phoenix stepped forward. "I forget introductions. This is Selene Cloude, deputy leader of the Green Alliance. And this is the seventeenth Governor of Dragenmere - Vahagn Drago."

At last the man wrapped in tattered cloth and silence dropped his hood. The weathered face of a middle-aged man was revealed. The impetuous facade they remembered from years ago had been replaced with somber dignity. His presence was ten times more formidable than it had once been.

This man had appeared only rarely among the people in the last decade. Most had forgotten that he existed. Yes, it was Vahagn Drago. One of the realm's most capable fighters.

Phoenix knew Peregrine enough to know his cooperation was unlikely. Vahagn was different. He was the only one who would carry the banner of rebellion here in Dragenmere. If they installed him on the Governor's seat, then their mission was all but accomplished.

1. In Chinese his name is 'Dragon Breaker of the Sky.' Drago is obvious. Vahagn is Armenia for 'breaker, victory' which is the intent of 'breaker of the sky', so that's what I went with.[ref], and a genius from a family offshoot, Peregrine Drago [ref] 'Dragon that Soars Through Emptiness.' Peregrine is an old English name that means 'traveler,'

2. This one I went in a different direction. If you translate his name directly it means 'Priest of Clinging Silks', but that's impossible to find a proper name for. However, the characters together can be considered instead an attempt as transliteration. - 'Ni Ba Si' - sounded like the surname 'Nieves' to me. Nieves has holy connotations (a title for the Virgin Mary in Spanish) so it fits. Bastian fits the transliteration scheme ('Ba Si'), and is short for Sebastian, which means venerable or revered - appropriate for a high priest.

3. Mix of meaning and transliteration here. , 'Tai Li Ta'' means 'grand favorable tower'. The last name is obvious, but the last two character, 'Li Ta', led me to Ludo, a Greenlandic version of Ludo, which is a short French form of the name Ludovicus, a latinized version of Ludwig - which means 'famous in battle', fitting well with his role as Commander-General and hitting the 'grand' portion of his name. Is your head spinning yet? Now, with my luck, both of these characters will die in this chapter after taking me an hour to figure out their names.

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