It was over. It was all over.
From this day forth, the Yao tribe was no more, unable to defend against the white people's armies.
Its 500 years of history, its plans to unite the tribes and recreate the great desert empire of old.
It was all over.
The smell of smoke filled the air while the stone streets were littered with dark skinned bodies.
In the central plaza, the last survivors from this once great tribe were gathered like cattle, surrounded by soldiers donning full-plate armor and wielding different weapons - mostly some type of sword.
Longswords, greatswords, rapiers, estocs... The northern kingdoms viewed the sword as the noblest of weapons, view that was reflected in their armies, while maces, pole weapons, and bows assumed secondary roles.
The southern tribes, on the other hand, didn't really have a general preference for it, with each tribe having their own weapon of choice. This was just one of the reasons that the southern tribes were viewed as barbarians by their northern neighbors.
A few meters from the group of captives, a dark-skinned giant of a man was forced on his knees by one soldier on either side so he could be interrogated.
Jelani was a strong, tall man — even for southern standards. He did justice to his name, which meant 'Mighty'.
In the middle of his chest, the Yao tribe's symbol carved directly on the skin through a painful process of scarification. The same symbol, three concentric circles, could also be seen on his forehead.
The Adinkrahene - as it was called in their old tongue - symbolized greatness, and its placements were not chosen at random.
The Chief of the Yao tribe must lead by example, both as Warrior and Spellcaster, therefore the markings; the one in the chest represents greatness of body, while the one on the forehead represents greatness of mind.
This notion extended to beyond cultivation. As a leader, the Chief must be without equal in battle, but also as a strategist.
Unfortunately, this once great Chief had been defeated along with his tribe. His right arm no longer attached to his shoulder, while the left one was bending the wrong way.
But even though he could no longer lift a weapon, it didn't mean he wasn't dangerous, something one of the soldiers found out the hard way when Jelani bit off his nose.
Not taking any more risks, the soldiers collared him and tied up his legs with a chain, both made of triotium to prevent him from casting spells. They would've broken off his teeth too if they didn't need him to talk.
"Perhaps I'm talking too fast for your primitive mind to comprehend, so I'll do it a bit slower and with fewer words. How. Does. It. Open?"
"..." Jelani kept his silence. But even defeated, he kept his firm gaze on the man who invaded his lands and killed his people.
A young man, seemingly in his late twenties tried in vain to obtain some answers from Jelani.
He had deep blue eyes along with jet black hair that stopped a few inches short of his shoulders and a clean face.
He donned a lustrous full plate armor, the kind that never once had to be tested against a weapon. And why would it? The young man was too important to be personally fighting in a war, which would be known just by gazing at the coat of arms on his breastplate.
Blue lilies on a black background, Lisbleus' coat of arms, one of the four northern kingdoms.
Although the north had tens of kingdoms, only four of them really mattered.
Silberwalder with its vast mines, Portos, and their dauntless explorers, Gwynland with their strong armies and Lisbleus with their fertile lands.
And this man was the second most important person in the whole kingdom of Lisbleus.
Duke of Margandy, the Crown Prince Louis.
"Damm it, they are too stupid to understand." Louis spoke in irritation while pressing a hand against his forehead.
"Forget it then." He shifted his gaze to the side, towards his assistant. "Gauthier."
"Yes, your Royal Highness?" The man immediately answered.
"Send him to the torturer and see if he spills out anything. If not, then just kill him and we'll find out by ourselves how to open the inner area."
Having received his order, the man left with the soldiers, who dragged Jelani along, and was quickly replaced by another assistant. Louis was a Duke and heir to the throne. Someone of this importance must always have assistants close by to receive his orders.
"These savages, some of them are quite stronger than the average, even back in the north." Louis said while looking at the group of survivors. "They must've been using the secret realm, am I right?"
"Yes, your Royal Highness. Apparently, the savage's leader used the secret realm as a training ground for his tribe. Every one of them has visited it at least once."
"Hmph, looks like even these animals are capable of rational thought. Whatever, let's go. I wish to see what this secret realm looks like."
"Certainly, and what should we do with them?" Asked the assistant while signaling towards the group of captives.
"It will be impossible to hide this discovery for too long, and then the other Monarchs will want a piece of the cake..." He pondered for a few moments before making his decision.
"If we can't hide it, then we'll go the other way and divulge it. Make it seem as we want to help the four kingdoms grow."
"Hear my orders. Round the best ones, send one to each of the biggest houses from the other 3 kingdoms and let them see for themselves the effects of the secret realm. If it could make these savages so strong, imagine what it would do to enlightened ones such as ourselves."
"Yes, your Royal Highness."
The soldiers received their orders and quickly started selecting the best of the captives to be sent to the noble houses. Besides cultivation strength, they also took into account their age.
All of the survivors were then shackled up with triotium, with the selected ones thrown into wagons while the others would have to walk.
But regardless if they had been selected or not, they would all be forcefully taken from their birthplaces to serve as slaves in a land they didn't know.
Among the ones selected was a deeply worried young woman in her early twenties. Her once full head of hair had been completely shaved off, while on her face was a massive sword cut.
She got it the day before. It started at the left side of the forehead, passed between the eyebrows and reached all the way to the right side of the jaw.
It would heal on its own before she reached the north, but the scar would remain.
But it wasn't that what she was worried about.
Her father was Jelani, the strongest Chief the tribe has ever had.
As one of his children, she was also very talented in cultivation, maybe even being possible to enter the core area of the secret realm in the future and find out what it held.
But now, this would never happen. She and her siblings would probably never be able to come back while her father would be tortured to death.
Jelani was very strong, it would take him a long time to die.
She had to force herself not to cry.
She had to be strong.
She had to survive. Only by surviving could there be any hope.
Pressing her arm against her body, she was able to feel the lump around her biceps. This was the reason she needed to have hope.
Before the final battle, she met with her father.
Jelani knew they wouldn't be able to win. The invaders were too strong. Therefore, he had to make sure the tribe's most important possession was kept safe.
After losing the battle, he would either die or fall in their hands to be interrogated. Either way, that was his end.
He could only hope that they wouldn't really care to check for the members of his family. In the end, that's exactly what happened.
She kept replaying it in her mind.
A few hours before the final battle.
Jelani put down the razor.
"It's done." He said with a tinge of tiredness in his voice. Only in front of his daughter would he show any sign of weakness.
"Ok." The woman said lightly before reaching for a hand mirror.
She used to be really proud of her hair. Ever since becoming an adult she never trimmed it, not even once. But she had to cut it off now, make it harder for her to be identified.
"Did you hide the key?" Her father asked.
She answered by raising the left arm and showing the lump on it. The key was small, only slightly bigger than a coin. It could be hidden inside her own body.
"Good… That's good." Jelani spoke, finally taking a seat by his daughter's side. He had been going back and forth for days, barely having time to even sleep. But it would all be over soon.
"..." The woman didn't speak and simply gazed at her own reflection, while her father simply enjoyed the silence. It had been a long time since he last heard it.
But he knew he couldn't stay here forever. They still had one more thing to do.
"Are you ready?" He asked while standing back up.
"...Yes." She put the mirror to the side and also stood up. "Do it."
Jelani drew his shortsword but didn't strike right away.
"I'm very proud of you Dene. And I'm sorry."
With that, he raised his weapon and slashed down.
Dene didn't cry, nor did she scream.
She had to be strong.
Finally back! Better late than never, huh?
Although I haven't been writing, I was constantly thinking about the story and decided to retcon a few minor things.
I will post it on an auxiliary chapter later.
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