“Once upon a time, we lived on the beautiful planet Earth. We were a strong people, full of knowledge and remarkable deeds. We built structures that reached far into the sky and deep into the earth. We colonized the moon and other planets in our system. We were the greatest of the known species. But as a people, we lost everything: our morals, our respect for life, our dignity. We polluted the air of beautiful Earth so badly that a mask was needed to live on the planet. We enslaved any alien populations we encountered, and wars took so many lives- oh so many lives.
Only a few people recognized the dangerous life we were living. One of them was a young man named Drinian. He worked with one of the spaceship companies on Earth and could see that the way of life that the humans were leading could only lead to destruction. Using his knowledge of the space transports and the inheritance his grandfather had left him, Drinian built a spaceship in secret. He recruited only those who shared his fear for humanity and, in a few years, left with two hundred men, women, and children to find a livable planet far away from Earth. They were wise enough to bring resources with them such as domestic animals and plants for food. They packed enough rations for a ten-year journey.
They were just nearing the end of their rations when they found a planet with a breathable atmosphere and a livable climate. However, there were already three other sentient species on the same planet: the Zarbox, the Arbisks, and the Seeps. These species had been at war with each other for many long years, but none was able to gain an advantage because each had abilities the others did not have.
When the humans came, they used their technology to swiftly end the war. The Zarbox, Arbisks, and Seeps surrendered to the humans and submitted to any treaty the humans decided upon. In order to create the treaty, the humans argued for twelve days until Drinian came up with a solution that was fair to all species.
The Zarbox were miners and were given the mountainous lands to the southwest. They were about a foot taller than most humans and covered with straw-like fur that protected them from many mining-related injuries. Their faces were wide and their eyes beady black. Their noses were dog-like, jutting out from their faces. They were quick tempered but fiercely loyal, bull-headed but concerned for the common good. The Zarbox chose a government in which elected officials made all the decisions. These individuals were elected for life and followed the lead of the “Elder.” The Zarbox’s livelihood came from their mines. They dug mainly in the mountains, but also anywhere resources and jewels were abundant. The vibrantly colorful jewels were used for a wide assortment of tasks such as heating and lighting, but a few granted the selected Zarbox supernatural strength or skill for as long as the jewel’s power let them. Science cannot explain this phenomenon.
The Arbisks were creatures of the air and thus were given the forested lands to the east. These creatures were reptilian in nature with strong leathery wings that could propel them far past the tops of the trees, and their large chests allowed for lungs that could efficiently strip the air they inhaled of all the oxygen. Their tails were forked at the end to help the Arbisks come to a sudden stop on tree branches by wrapping around them and pulling the Arbisks to a halt. They were free creatures and remained united by a loose confederacy.
The Seeps were creatures unlike anything on Earth. They were given the marshes to the north because they were amphibious in nature, but their intelligence far surpassed even that of the humans. Their government consisted of a king who oversaw the whole of the Seep nation. They built a kingdom half in the water and half on land. Their green coloring camouflaged them within the marshes and algae. Instead of noses, their gills absorbed oxygen from either the air or the water. They had blubber around their entire bodies to keep them warm in the water and allowed them to move on land for up to a month by retaining water. They could swim in freshwater or in salt water. They were the most adaptable and intelligent of the three species, but their weak physical build prevented them from overcoming the planet.
The humans took the land in the middle. This land consisted of a little of each of the different environments: fields for farming, mountains, trees and forests, and lakes and rivers for water. The weather was also mild: warm but not hot in one season, and cool but not freezing with some snow in the other. Just one sun provided light during the day, but two moons lit up the night sky. While the castles and the factories continued to use and make technology, most of the outlying villages and farms chose to forgo most technology in order to more easily resist the temptation of what led to the collapse of Earth.
Since the treaty was fair to all the species, the Zarbox, the Arbisks and the Seeps found no reason to protest and agreed to the conditions listed. Together they set rules in place to provide for trade and travel among the different nations and to keep any one species from gaining an advantage. The four species lived in relative peace for almost three hundred years. Of course, there were some minor battles brought about by rogue groups, but these were small and insignificant in retrospect.
The humans divided their land into four kingdoms, one at each of the borders and one centralized kingdom with the High King to maintain unity. For three hundred years the humans assisted in keeping peace between the species and prospered as they gave hope for the human race once more.
It was a marvelous accomplishment for the human race, and I hope we will continue to maintain peace among humans and the other species during my reign as High King.”
The High King Nernon gazed lovingly at his now sleeping son as he finished his story. “And one day you will take my place as the High King. I pray that you will be fair and kind just as your namesake was when he established our place on this planet.”
He let his hand rest on the young boy’s shoulder. Prince Drinian had fallen asleep long ago, but the king couldn’t bring himself to leave his side. His young son, only seven years old, was growing up quickly and the king was reminded more and more of his late wife. The two had been thrilled when the queen had been found to be pregnant and had immediately begun looking into names for their unborn child. The night of the young prince’s birth, the King and Queen announced that the prince would be named after the first High King Drinian, the greatest of them all, in the hopes that one day, the young prince would grow into a wise King to carry on the Legend’s legacy.
Prince Drinian had fallen asleep far before the end of his father’s story but the parts of it he had heard intrigued him. Thus, the next day found the boy in the castle library where he spent hours trying to pick apart his nation’s history. Most of the books he picked out were far beyond his abilities and he gave up reading them. There were a few, however, that with enough concentration (and looking up words on his dash, a computer like device worn on the forearm), he could figure out some folk tales revealing what he had missed the night before. He read many stories about the deeds of the kings of the past and imagined what it would be like to be king someday.
At midday, he put his latest book down and rubbed his eyes tiredly, his young mind only able to handle so much information. He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. In his mind, he pictured himself as a young man with shining armor and a gleaming sword negotiating with the Arbisks. In his imagined world, the Arbisks had been stealing the human’s crops and it was Drinian’s duty as king to settle the issue before both sides came to blows. “No, you can’t take their crops,” he would say. “Stealing is wrong. How about we trade instead? We will give you crops and you will give us candy.” No, that was too childish. Try that again. “We will give you crops and you will give us fish.” Yes, fish was much better. He smiled to himself.
Nearby, a handful of soldiers were chatting quietly before they had to report to their superior officer in an hour’s time. They saw the young prince smile and could only guess at what he was thinking about. But even as they were amused by the boy, they admired him. The prince, though young, was kind and thoughtful. He would bring the soldiers on duty drinks of water and would sit with them on the battlements during the long boring hours of keeping watch. Even his sword skills were impressive at his young age; he was a natural with any weapon he was given. The soldiers looked forward to when the prince would become king. They would gladly serve him with all they had.
The doors to the library slammed open and everyone in the room turned to look toward it. The intruder was a Zarboxi, fully armed with a battle axe in each hand and a gleaming purple jewel set in his breastplate. He burst into the room and two other Zarbox followed him.
After their initial shock, the soldiers moved across the room to stand between the prince and the Zarbox. Even without weapons or armor, the men were willing to fight to keep their prince safe. But they were no match for the Zarbox. One by one the men fell, some never to rise again. The lead Zarboxi sheathed one of his axes to pick up the screaming boy. Followed closely by his men, he dashed up the stairs to an upper room of the castle. The room they chose was empty, with a balcony overlooking the outer wall. The three Zarbox vaulted over the edge and onto the battlements below.
Three soldiers charged them with spears, but they were forced to pull up short when the Zarboxi swung the prince toward them. The soldiers slowly continued to advance toward the creatures, determined to find a way to free the prince. The lead Zarboxi backed up toward the edge of the wall and looked behind him. Twenty feet down, no moat. An easy jump for a mountain dweller wearing a powerful jewel. The Zarboxi sprang down to land heavily on the ground below and immediately began running. Behind him, he heard his companions land as well, a little more clumsily than him, but they quickly got up and continued after him.
Caught completely by surprise by the attack, it took a few minutes for the High King’s men to follow the Zarbox. They readied five Kornans, jumping onto the scaly creatures and grabbing the back of their necks. Transports able to navigate the densely forested grounds outside the castle took a little longer to prepare. The High King himself joined the chase, having been pulled from a meeting with his counselors over an amendment to the treaty with the Seeps.
The Zarbox headed on foot to an abandoned tower that had been used during the initial war by the humans. A few weeks earlier, they had prepared the tower for their purposes. They had filled in some of the gaping holes in its walls and made it ready to hold off the human soldiers until their reinforcements could arrive.
The lead Zarboxi raced up the stairs to the top of the tower to a room that was once used as a holding cell. Along with the customary windowless, one-door room, the stairs curved to the left to give the more common right-handed defender an advantage in an attack. The entrance to the room was fitted with lasers that could only be deactivated from the outside of the room. The lasers incinerated anything organic that touched it.
The Zarboxi ran into the room and threw the screaming, kicking boy to the ground then turned the lasers on. He strode back down the stairs without a second glance. Drinian lay there stunned for a moment, then reached up to his head. When he pulled his hand away, there was blood on it. He panicked, wanting nothing more than to run away, but there was nowhere to go. The lasers would incinerate him if he touched them, and with no windows, he couldn’t climb down the outside of the tower. He fought to calm down. His dad would be there any minute. He staggered as he rose to his feet, a wave of dizziness overwhelming him before he shook it off in favor of waiting for his father.
High King Nernon raced up the stairs. He had slipped past the Zarbox on the ground floor while his men engaged the creatures. He turned the corner and saw Drinian sitting by the wall.
“I’m coming son!”
He reached for the switch to the doors but before he could turn the lasers off, he was forced to duck, hearing the whistle of the axe as it just missed his head.
“Father!” Drinian cried out in fear. The Zarboxi swung his axe in a vicious swing toward his father, the purple jewel glinting off the blade. The creature must have left his companions to defend the stairs as he chased after the king.
The king was one of the most skilled warriors in the kingdom but even he was no match for the Zarboxi. Or rather, the jewel in the Zarboxi’s breastplate. With each blow, the jewel glowed brighter and the Zarboxi moved more quickly. The king struggled to parry the blows, barely able to keep up.
Swing, dodge, parry. The king was forced to defend himself more and more as the Zarboxi swung faster and faster. The axe was coming from above. No wait! But it was too late. The Zarboxi’s feint fooled the king long enough for the Zarboxi to thrust the end of the handle into the king’s side, cracking two of the king’s ribs. Nernon dropped his sword from the force of the blow and fell to his knees in pain. Drinian screamed.
Nernon caught himself with a hand and grabbed the handle to keep it from striking him again. He looked up at the Zarboxi, rage and determination in his eyes. The king was not going to let his son be taken by these creatures.
The Zarboxi grabbed his axe away from the king to strike the final blow. It came whistling down and slammed into the stone floor, barely missing the king who had lunged to the side and grabbed his sword up. Nernon thrust at the Zarboxi’s side. The creature, still off balance from the failed attack, moved out of the way at the last moment then snatched a knife from his belt and swiped at the king, opening a shallow wound just above the king’s left eye. Nernon reeled back from the blow then caught himself.
Metal clanging upon the stone floor echoed from the prince’s cell. Both warriors froze and turned. The prince was nowhere to be seen but his crown rolled lazily by the lasers where it had fallen. The two warriors stood frozen, the same thought running through their minds. Had the prince had fallen into the lasers?
The Zarboxi howled in rage as Nernon dropped to his knees, stunned. His son, his only son, was gone.
Outside, the howls of the Zarboxi echoed in the night as a man in black carried a precious bundle away from the tower into the darkness.
In the days after, the king recovered from his injuries, but he always bore the scar over his eye and a shadow over his heart.