Tales of Origin
By Arecus. Conberma
Chapter 3: Friends to Enemies
"Please tell me that's not
the end of the story," Sonic interrupted.
Darren chuckled. "Of course not, boy. But if you want
me to stop, I could just—"
"NO!!" cried the crowd. Apparently they liked this version better.
Again, the older hedgehog chuckled. "It makes a difference when you know the characters in the story, doesn't it? Maybe it is
a good place to pause. We can continue it later."
"Aw, c'mon, Uncle Dar'! You always tease us like this!" Sonic complained.
"That's my job, nephew," Darren declared proudly. "Alright, now where were we? Ah, yes. You all know about the Wrath of Magic War when our kingdom allied with the northerners against the western lands. The final battle was in a valley less than a mile from this very castle and King Posiden joined forces with us to put an end to the fighting once and for all..."
The battle had been raging since noon and Cosium Castle's gates were closed tight to protect its inhabitants and the numerous refugees from all over the countryside. The guards had strict instructions to let no one out without the steward's permission. But Kaze wasn't about to be stopped by a little thing like that. He waited until twilight settled over the kingdom.
(In the bedroom)
In the darkness of his room, he sheathed a blade and put on his best running boots. White wings tipped with blue fanned out from his back as Kaze pushed open the window. But before he could escape, his younger brother caught him by the arm.
"Where are you going, Kaze?" Darren demanded tersely.
"Where do you think
I'm going? I should be out there helping father!" Kaze whispered back, the quiver in his voice all that betrayed his anger at being told to stay behind like a child. Seven years old or not, his trainers said he had the skills of those twice his age.
"Just…be careful," Darren pleaded. After all, Kaze was his only sibling. Then he threw a small crystal bracelet to him.
Kaze stared at it for a moment and realized that it was a gift from their grandmother for Darren. It possessed a protection spell to avoid danger or prevent harm to the wearer.
Darren turned away, saying softly, "Don't lose it, okay?"
The azure hedgehog gave him a genuine grin. "You bet I won't."
An instant later there was a flutter of wings as Kaze went flying toward the battlefield.
On the field, soldiers fought desperately for their homes, families and for their king. Roars and shouts filled the air along with the clash of sword and shield. Bright flashes of magic many warriors could use created a dazzling display that would have been beautiful from a distance if it hadn't meant creatures were dying.
Posiden's most powerful water mages were in the ocean, creating a tide that forced seawater upriver and flooded streams throughout the entire valley. The merhogs could aid the fight but only if their opponents were close enough, so every tactic the Cosiads used was centred around forcing the enemy toward the main river.
Somewhere on the battlefield King Mortesen was alone, surrounded by enemies. He didn't have much strength left to defend himself, and most of his unit had been sent south. The few he had retained were lying dead around him in puddles of their own blood.
One of the soldiers ordered the attack and the warriors charged at their single enemy. Mortesen shut his eyes, waiting for steel to bite his flesh.
Suddenly, a wall of water descended on the dark soldiers with such great force that none of them got up again, their bodies mangled and broken. Mortesen turned with a tired smirk, glad to see King Posiden in the nearby stream that was overflowing with brackish seawater.
"What took you so long?" Mortesen joked, crossing his arms.
"Well, better late than never," Posiden returned the smirk.
"That's true. Thanks for the help, but I think my wife needs your assistance right now on the left flank," Mortesen told his friend. Queen Athena's forces were busy keeping their enemies tightly pinned by the river in a closing pincer maneuver. Posiden was one of the greatest warriors on their side and couldn't afford to waste time on the fringes.
"You sure you are going to be fine alone here?" the King of Atlantis couldn't help asking with slight worry.
"I'll be fine. Those were the last soldiers on this side of the divide. I'm protected enough here that they won't find me again. I just need a little rest and then I'll regroup with the wounded. Now go somewhere you'll be of more use," Mortesen reassured him.
"Very well. Be careful then." With that, the merhog disappeared as he swam back toward the raging battle by the river.
When the King of Cosium collapsed to his knees he was so exhausted that he didn't notice a figure approaching him until it was too late. Mortesen slowly turned his head, saying, "You…?"
"Long live the king..." came a husky voice from the mysterious figure.
Only minutes earlier Kaze had landed, the wings fading back into quills, and was trying to remember the map of the battlefield and where his father's forces were supposed to be.
He tried to ignore the dead bodies splattered with blood, only focusing on finding someone with black fur. His father had to be in this area, if only he knew where he might be now...
Kaze was about to head back towards the main bulk of battle, but a voice just beyond a stretch of trees caught his attention. He was here! Running that direction, he cleared the underbrush and recognized the figure of his father.
A half-choked gasp burst from the king and then he doubled over. There was a flash of pale fur and green scales as someone fled into the darkness, and then a splash from the stream as the figure dove in.
In an instant the young hedgehog was there and pulled him upright—only to cry out in shock as he caught sight of the short spear thrust directly into his father's chest. Blood flowed from the wound that tore both heart and one lung with its wicked, curved tip. King Mortesen's eyes gazed at nothing, filled with incredulity and pain. This sight would replay in Kaze's dreams over and over, crystallized into a nightmare that made him dread sleep for years.
Kaze stared without comprehension. This couldn't be happening... It wasn't real... Anyone else could die but not his father!
Some focus returned to the Mortesen's eyes and he saw the the frightened, disbelieving, dear face of his son in front of him. He managed to lift his hand up to touch Kaze's cheek, more blood leaking from his mouth as he whispered, “Ka...ze...”
But his beating heart slowed to a stop and the hand dropped limply to the earth.
Kaze felt an animal cry claw out from the depths of his being. Tears slid down his face and mingled with blood as he clutched his father's lifeless body. How long he remained there, he had no idea. Nothing seemed to matter for the longest time. But at last he simply had no more tears to shed even though he desperately wanted them.
It was then that he finally looked at the weapon responsible for this unspeakable act. Recognition turned the grief in his heart to a blinding, pulsing rage.
The first streaks of dawn colored the eastern sky when Queen Athena approached King Posiden with news that the last remnants of the enemy's army had surrendered. A cry of victory traveled from one end of the valley to the other.
Meanwhile, a young hedgehog slowly made his way toward the queen, not looking at anyone or answering their questions as he passed. But they saw what he carried. A wave of anxious glances and whispers replaced the enthusiasm of the victorious soldiers.
When Queen Athena saw Kaze approaching she rushed over to ask what he was doing there—but the sight of blood drenching his clothes and fur made her halt. Without saying a word he held out the crown of King Mortesen.
A twisted, frozen knot filled her middle as understanding came to her. “Your father... Kaze, what happened?
The prince silently tossed the short spear between her and Posiden. Its abalone head and coral ornamentation was identity enough. She spun to face the merhog, fury and pain etched in every feature.
is how you treat your allies?!”
Posiden was still stunned at the death of his friend, and to be falsely accused of treachery was beyond insulting. “We would never attack Mortesen! Perhaps the boy only found the weapon nearby.”
Kaze's eyes flashed and he drew his sword. “I saw
a merhog stab my father in the heart!”
"How can you explain that?" Athena yelled. “My son does not lie!”
The king of Atlantis stared down at the young hedgehog whose whole body trembled with anger. "This… There has to be an explanation."
At that moment a female merhog pushed her way through the soldiers in the river, calling almost hysterically for her sovereign. He turned to speak with her, but was taken aback when he saw that she hid her face (which is the way merhogs cry since they have no tears).
“My King! Your wife is—” She began to wail, unable to finish.
“Tell me!” he commanded, gripping her shoulders.
“The necklace sent to her by this royal family yesterday was coated in poison,” the merhog managed to say. “The physician told us it was made from rhapsor ivy. Fatal...”
Posiden straightened, a new, deeper grief settling upon him. “Cosium is the only place rhapsor ivy grows.”
Athena's brow creased. “We sent nothing to your wife, Posiden. It's the truth.”
“You do not believe my innocence. Why should I believe yours?” he demanded.
"Because we didn't do it!"
"Well, if you continue deny it—"
"—Then our alliance is over!" blue hedgehog queen finished, fire leaping in her eyes as she drew herself up to her full height and placing one arm protectively around her son.
"From this day forward, we, Atlantis, forsake the alliance with Cosium. Anything that happens to it shall not be started with us, nor shall we come to its defence." He spoke the traditional words with venom.
"From this day forward, we, Cosium, forsake the alliance with Atlantis. Anything that happens to it shall not be started with us, nor shall we come to its defence," Athena repeated.
That night Sapphire sneaked out of her home and swam to the same spot where she always played with Kaze and Darren. She had to get away from the sadness that pressed in on her from all sides back in Atlantis. Her mother...the necklace... There had to be some mistake! Kaze would know the truth. He would find those responsible and bring them to justice.
She and Kaze had spent many nights here on the sand, gazing at the stars trying to make pictures with the tiny freckles of light. But this night the only image she could see up there was her mother, endlessly figured in every conceivable constellation. Sapphire covered her face.
Footfalls interrupted her tearless sobbing and she looked up to see an ebony hedgehog walking toward her. Alone.
"Darren, where is Kaze? Please, I need to talk with him."
The ebony hedgehog handed her a folded letter. "He told me to give you this."
Sapphire carefully opened the letter and held it sideways, staring at the scribbles that made no sense to her eyes. Merhogs have no written language, and only scholars took it upon themselves to learn the alphabet of foreigners.
“What does it say?”
Darren took it back and cleared his throat nervously. “My dear Sapphire, your people have murdered my father. I cannot forget or forgive this offense. I can't bring myself to hate you the way I hate other merhogs, but please understand why I can't see you right now. Maybe not for years. Perhaps when I can bear to look at the sea without feeling this horrible burning in my chest... You are my dearest friend and I care for you deeply, but give me time. Love forever, Kaze.”
Sapphire sadly looked at the hedgehog. "Thank you for reading it to me, Darren. But my father had nothing to do with King Mortesen's death, I'm sure of it."
“Tell that to Kaze,” he replied with a bitterness that surprised her. “He saw the whole thing. And can you be completely
sure King Posiden didn't arrange it? I seriously doubt your father would tell you of any devious plots he had planned.”
The merhog blinked. This wasn't like her friend at all. “I could say the exact same thing about your family, but I don't believe it. I know you are all honorable. Darren, look at me. If we didn't kill each other's parents, then who did
? Don't you want to see them pay for what they've done?”
This new idea changed Darren's expression into something more purposeful. “Of course... We need to find out who really did it. I'll keep my eyes open in Cosium.”
“And I'll do the same in Atlantis.” Sapphire looked back at the sea, the waves appearing just as peaceful as ever, but its eternal, rhythmic song seemed to remind her of the loss both of them had suffered...and now she'd even lost Kaze. "I have to go now. Good-bye."
"Don't say 'good-bye',” Darren said, stepping forward as though suddenly afraid. “We'll see each other again."
"Yes. We'll see each other again…" Sapphire repeated with a weak smile, and a moment later she slid into the water gracefully.
They would be reunited someday. The Atlantean princess was sure of it.
However, over the next few weeks Queen Athena's eyes followed her eldest son with growing anxiety. She saw him glancing toward the seaward windows with less ire and more longing. The last thing in the world she wanted was to see him go crawling back to the merhogs after what they had done.
“Rakar,” she said to her husband's brother several days before he was to be declared Cosium's regent. “Can you help me?”
The hedgehog with fur the color of dark earth bowed regally. “Tell me your troubles, Sister, and I shall do what I can.”
“It's Kaze... You know how he feels about that princess.”
Rakar patted her shoulder comfortingly. “I think I know what you seek. There is a witch who has certain talents I think you'll find quite helpful. Would you like me to call for her?”
“Yes, do so.”
“I shall return within the hour.” He started to turn away, but paused. “Oh, would you bring an item here? Something special to both Kaze and Princess Sapphire.”
The door closed behind him and Athena wonder whether she was doing this for the right reasons, but by the time Rakar returned she had an object in her hands.
The hedgehog he brought wore a moss green cloak with silver-banded trim, indicating her status as a gifted magic-user. “It is a privilege to be summoned to Cosium Castle, my Queen.”
“I have no desire to waste time on formalities,” Athena said shortly. “What can you do to keep my son from seeking out those treacherous sea folk?”
“Rakar's suggestion is the most promising option,” she gestured to the future regent. “Take the memories of their friendship and contain them in a specific item.”
“How does it work?”
“I suppose you could liken it to a whirlpool. The closer one is to the center, the more force he feels. In the same way the closer one is to the memories contained, the more affected he is. You and Posiden will only remember someone your children played with, but the servants will recall hearing about a betrothal. However, Prince Kaze and Princess Sapphire will have no memory whatsoever of each other.”
“What about Darren?” she asked. “He is nearly as close to the merhog as Kaze.”
The witch considered this momentarily. “Very likely he will remember nothing as well.”
This seemed to be the solution to her son's dilemma. He would never have to suffer the pain of loving a girl he would never be permitted to be with. Queen Athena resolutely held out the ocarina she had found in Kaze's room and the witch took it.
As the words of a complicated spell wound their way through the beloved little instrument, memories were stolen from their hosts and gathered inside it.
At that moment Sapphire and Kaze both ceased their activities and looked around, certain they had lost something but unsure what. It was a feeling that would follow them for years.
In an alchemist shop Darren blinked and stared with confusion down at the ledger in front of him, wondering suddenly why he was so intent on tracking down the buyers of every vial of rhapsor oil in the kingdom. Whatever had driven him to begin the search no longer seemed to be of any importance. He closed the book with a shrug and politely thanked the alchemist for his time.
Queen Athena took the ocarina from the witch and told Rakar to give her any payment she wanted, then went for a ride. A short time later she entered the deep wood the locals called the Forbidden Forest, traveling in a straight line. When she had gone some distance, the ocarina dropped from her fingers into a gorge.
“Good riddance,” the blue hedgehog queen muttered, already losing hold of the faint, bitter memories.
Cosium began to change, so slowly at first that no one paid much attention. If Queen Athena had been more attentive she might have realized the rule of her brother-in-law was unjust, but aside from a few audiences a week, she had very little interaction with anyone aside from her family and close servants. The death of her beloved husband had left her almost aimless and she blindly trusted that Rakar could care for the kingdom well enough until Kaze took over.
And without the queen in Atlantis, King Posiden had become more depressed than ever. Her death made the king desperate to safeguard the only remaining member of his family. This resulted in overprotective measures that made Sapphire grow increasingly resentful. When he was not wholly concerned with her welfare, Posiden dedicated himself to political matters.
Despite his flaws, he was a good king and a loving father. Sapphire understood that and respected him for it, but she couldn't help wondering what the surface was like. Her memories of sun and earth were so intimately tied to Kaze that they too had been stripped away.
Nine years flowed past, trickling closer and closer to the day when the fated lovers would gaze into each other's eyes once again...