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Chapter II: ADAM'S VOW

 

                Adam walked the corridors at a fast pace, heading towards his chambers. All the luxury of the palace disgusted him the most now, for it was all vanity and hypocrisy. How could he be a king, if he hadn’t been born to be one? Well, by birthright he had, but not by soul desire. And worst – worst of all – Adam had felt all his life that one day, somehow, his talent with the sword would be greatly needed – much more than his hierarchic obligation – and recently, each day that passed that time seemed closer at hand. He had to do something, but what? He could not disobey his king... Unless he chose self-exile.

                Adam turned one of the many corners of the palace corridors with this thought in mind, and was surprised by a man standing upright in front of him, right in the middle of the passageway.

                It was a tall and muscular man, seemingly in his mid-thirties, wearing a polished red helmet which covered almost all of his head, except for his mouth, from the sides of which two small silver rectilinear wings sprouted. His eyes were covered in a black, bubble-like glass that gave him a peculiar, yet intimidating look. In his chest he wore armor, also red in color, except for the white symbol of the crown. Save for his loincloth, in which belt was a sword in its scabbard, only its golden handle showing, and his leather gray boots, the man had no more clothes.

                “Zodac! You surprised me! Since when do you stand still in the corridors, waiting to scare the creeps out of other people?”

                Zodac, captain of the royal guard, laughed in an enthusiastic tone. “Ever since my prince is being treated as a child after he reached his manhood, and forced to fulfill an obligation that is not his heart desire. Yes Adam, I do already know, but as I see it you still have until tomorrow. So, come with me, we’ll drink a couple of ales and sword fight each other until we drop dead from exhaustion... while you are still free!”

                “I will never understand how did you manage to be chosen for captain of the royal guard.” – Adam replied in a much more cheerful way. These words did take away his stress and concerns for a while. “I’m in... But you’re paying.”

                “I can see you will be a good king, my lord.”

                And laughing, they started walking towards the palace gates.

                Two hours later they were still exercising. Zodac was a sword master, but not as good as Adam. Even half-drunk, the young prince moved gracefully and swiftly as a human tiger, his sword drawing certain lines through the air. He had already disarmed Zodac five times against one when they decided to make a stop and catch their breath. They sat down against a great oak, puffing and laughing.

                “This last one did not count, Zodac my friend. I had five against none of yours, and I wouldn’t lose that one if I hadn’t been distracted by that great falcon.”

                “Oh yes, my prince, but you certainly know that in a serious battle you can’t be distracted by anything at all. You have great skill, true, but no experience in real combat. This was just a game, but I hope you have that thought with you if one day you need to fight for real.”

                “But damn, I didn’t meant to give you a sermon now, Adam!” – Zodac added smiling – “After all, from now on you are a bureaucrat.”

                It was almost evening – time for the royal dinner – and Adam was just getting on his feet when he heard a feminine scream from near the palace gates. The two men quickened, swords in hand, running fast towards the great building.

                They soon met the origin of the screaming: a young woman was lying on the floor, panicked, while six royal guards surrounded a huge, orange furred simian beast. The monster roared, staring his opponents one by one and risking a careful, yet threatening, step forward every now and then.

                “Adora” – Adam screamed, running in his sister’s aid. – “Adora, I’m coming – hang on!”

                The king and queen were at the gates, but still inside the palace, both in extreme distress, especially for the king who seemed more panicked than Adora herself. A councilor and three more guards were with them, and by the sound of it, the rest of the king’s soldiers were drawing near.

                “Too slow.” – Zodac thought – “Curse it, too damned slow.”

                Adam passed the guards and got near the beast, holding his sword with both hands and looking the creature in the eyes. From beneath his fur, his ugly face emerged, somewhat between a man, an ape and a lion, a savage look in his eyes. From his large mouth, fangs that could pierce a man through flesh and bone were revealed.

                His robust arms, disproportionately long for the rest of the body, like those of a monkey, ended on great hands with razor sharp claws, which he obviously used to tear enemies apart. His torso was incredibly huge and mighty, and his short legs completely fitted the rest of his body. The monster wore nothing save for a piece of blue leather around his waist, covering his genitals.

                He started at Adam, who immediately reacted, with a quick move of his sword, opening a wound in the creature’s left arm. However, the beast did not even seem to feel the strike, and fast as a lightning, he disarmed the prince with one hand and knocked him away with a blow from the other.

                Adam fell several feet away, stunned from the impact of the tremendous attack, to see the creature walking at him, a deadly look in his eyes. Luckily, the rest of the royal guard arrived at that right moment, positioning themselves between the prince and the beast, while others took advantage of the monster’s distraction to rescue Adora.

                Obviously in disadvantage, the simian man beheld his opponents, more than thirty now, and realized he had lost his chance because of the young man’s intervention. He quickly turned around, and only with a boost from his legs, jumped greatly through the air, landing first on two of the guards’ heads, then using the resulting thrust to jump even higher, while the hit men fell heavily on the ground overwhelmed by his great weight, and grabbing a branch from a nearby tree, he disappeared quickly, swinging skillfully through the vegetation.

                “What... what in the gods’ names was that abomination?” – The king asked, finally coming out of his panic.

                Adam rose on his feet, pretending not to hear his father, and went to Adora’s side. “My sister, my dear sister, are you well? Did that monster harm you?”

                “No, my brother, he caused me no more than terror and fear. But yet, you look wounded. Let me look at your face.”

                Indeed, Adam had a large bruise on his left cheek, a red mark already turning purple now, where the monster had hit him.

                The king ran to his descendants, with a worried expression – “My sons, are you two well?”

                Adam started at his father, his heart still beating fast, and obviously angry – “Yes, my king, we are, but we might not have been. Do you understand now that even peaceful men need to know how to defend themselves? Do you believe now that I sense a great danger will come soon, a danger that only warriors can face? Can you see it now?”

                The king stood speechless. He looked at Adam nervously, then turned to Adora. Her heart was obviously with her brother. She had always understood her brother’s perspective, and not because she wished the throne for herself. Adora would give the throne away not to see her beloved brother wounded or dead in combat. Yet, she knew how he felt, how much it was important to him, how it was his destiny as it was hers to rule over Eternos. She could never ask him to give up on the meaning of his life. Yet, the beautiful young princess did not say a word.

                It was the queen who finally spoke. “Adam, you might be right in your precognition. Still, it is not the prince’s place to fight, less even horrors as this. You have a heritage, a duty you must not forget. If danger shall come, you must coordinate the reign’s defense, not risk yourself and your kingdom with foolish heroic actions. You will be much more useful here than in a battlefield.”

                “Mother, you do not underst...”

                “Enough!” – The king said aloud – “I am the king and you will not defy my word. This conversation has already gone too far, specially if we consider that we are not alone.” Hearing this, the royal guards, except for Zodac, immediately looked somewhere else. “We have talked before on this subject. Decisions have been taken. Now let the royal healer look at that bruise and present yourself at the dinner chamber.”

                Adora took her brother by the arm – “Come, Adam, I’ll go with you.”

                “B-but...” – he started.

                “Not now.” – Adora interrupted – “It is not the moment.”

                As they walked alone through the palace corridors, she continued: “You should have not defied our father like that, brother. Specially not in front of all the royal guard. Now he will force you to accept his command no matter what, you know? He might even forbid you of continuing your sword training.”

                “He cannot go so far. Because if he does, he will lose the future king and the son as well. Even he can perceive that. He will not go so far.”

                Adam then stopped, and turned his sister face to face with him – “This was only a sign. This monster was but a small part of what’s yet to come. I feel it, Adora, it travels through my blood, is incrusted in my bones. He will return, with others, some of which more terrible than him.”

                Adora gasped.

                “The time will come. And I know my duty is to face those dangers, for somehow, I will have the power to defy them. I will follow what our father determines for now, but when that day is close at hand, the warrior in me will return to the surface and the prince shall be buried deep. I swear it, my sister.”

                “Adam, I...”

                “So it is my vow, to me, to you, and to your future kingdom. Die I will if I must, but you and your people shall not fall in the claws of the evil that’s to come. So it is my word, and sworn by my honor, so it is my sacred vow.”

                Adora said no more words, and anguished, hugged her brother as strong as she could, a tear falling from her eye.

 

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