Metal clanked against metal as Ichoron walked alongside the wagons of King Valen’s royal procession. While the weight of thick plate armor was nothing to a being as strong as him, the interior of his suit could still get uncomfortably hot. Ichoron had removed the helmet from his head, the gauntlets from his forearms, and the greaves from his shins. Yet, sweat still beaded on his skin under the warm spring sun.
Ichoron raised a hand and wiped perspiration off his forehead. McCarthy had commanded that he wear his armor whenever he traveled in order to maintain appearances. Ichoron didn’t care for that explanation. If it were up to him, he wouldn’t be wearing any armor. There was no imminent risk of a fight. Actually, he mused, if it were up to him, he wouldn’t be here at all, acting like some sheepdog herding citizens of Allomoria to army training centers. It was grunt work. A task that should be beneath someone as powerful as him.
McCarthy had said that accompanying the royal procession would be a chance to meet his many admirers and fans across the country – people who’d heard stories about the legendary Ichoron’s feats in battle and who were eager to see him in person, if only for a moment. Ichoron had soon realized that this was not the case. Once the royal messenger announced that soldiers were being drafted into the army, the adoration had turned to shock and hatred towards Ichoron and the rest of the royal procession. An unfair amount of resentment fell on him, as he was the muscle behind King Valen’s decree. Forcibly threatening anyone who challenged the draft or tried to run away.
It hurt his pride on two levels. First, there was the disgust in the eyes of citizens as he separated them from their families. Ichoron didn’t feel bad about pulling men and women from the arms of their parents, spouses, children, or friends, but he didn’t like it when they looked at him as though he were some kind of monster. It conjured up memories of a time he’d rather forget.
The second way that his pride was injured was the knowledge that McCarthy had tricked him. Not that he had a choice in accepting this assignment or not, but he’d believed McCarthy when the man had told him that this trip would be fun – a break from border patrol to enjoy the adoration of the citizens he protected. Ichoron looked at the group of nearly a hundred men and women who dragged their feet behind the last wagon of the procession. They certainly didn’t look like they were in awe of him, not anymore.
From the wagon beside him, there was a noise. The flap over the vehicle was pulled open and the royal messenger, Pellamor, poked her head out.
“Status report on our newly enlisted soldiers?” she said.
Ichoron felt a stab of indignation. He shouldn’t be taking orders from this woman. She might’ve been the acting captain of this travelling company of soldiers, but Ichoron was no normal soldier. She was beneath him. He didn’t let his emotion show, however. Spending the past few years under the command of McCarthy had required that Ichoron learn to control which feelings he displayed.
Ichoron scanned the crowd behind him. They were beginning to look weary. The initial rush of terror and shock that had given them the energy to move was quickly fading. Now, they appeared tired and defeated.
“The group is still moving, but they’re starting to wear out,” he reported to Pellamor.
“Alright. We’ll stop for a rest after a few more miles. We’ve got to keep to our schedule,” she said.
Ichoron nodded absentmindedly as Pellamor quickly tucked her head back into the safety of the covered wagon. Ichoron continued walking alongside Pellamor’s ride. The rest of the regular soldiers marched at the front of the pack or behind the newly enlisted citizens, giving him a wide berth. He’d noticed that the troops in his company had started acting differently around him since he’d returned from his meeting with McCarthy in Doronhine.
He’d run for most of the day down one of the little-used paths through the Elderwood forest in order to reunite with this royal procession. The soldiers had just come to a stop and were preparing to hunker down for the night with the newest batch of enlisted Allomorian citizens. Ichoron had found the three soldiers who’d let Everin escape, and he’d killed them on the spot. He’d chosen to use his sword instead of crushing their skulls with his hands only because it was neater, and cleaning blood off his hands and forearms was a pain.
As expected, there’d been cries of shock and terror as a hundred onlookers witnessed him slaughter three people. Ichoron hadn’t felt the least bit remorseful about ending the soldiers’ lives, but he hadn’t liked the reaction of the other soldiers. He wanted people to admire him, not scream in horror. He’d silently cursed McCarthy as he’d wiped the blood off his blade and sheathed it. When Pellamor had demanded that he explain what he’d just done, Ichoron had simply shrugged.
“Following orders from Doronhine,” he’d said.
That had been enough for her to back down. Nobody challenged orders from King Valen or McCarthy.
Ever since then, people had been afraid to come anywhere near him, professional soldiers and newly enlisted citizens alike. Ichoron wasn’t a naturally sociable person, but the isolation wore on him. He felt a frustration stirring inside him that threatened to turn sour into a rage.
“Pellamor,” he called out.
The royal messenger’s head reappeared from within the wagon.
“I’m going to go for a run. Scout out the area ahead of the procession.”
“Okay. Don’t stray too far,” she said.
Ichoron nodded in agreement, but he already knew that he wasn’t going to listen to her. What was she going to do to him if he did go too far? The only people whose orders Ichoron followed were King Valen and McCarthy. King Valen was the only person who could truly inflict punishment on a being as powerful as him.
It had been months since the last time King Valen had punished Ichoron. The memory was still sharp in his mind – encroaching darkness, a barrage of bitter memories making their way to the surface, and a feeling that nothing would ever be right in his world again. Ichoron shook his head and tried to return his focus to his surroundings. No point in dwelling on King Valen stealing away his happiness right now, no matter how emotionally scarring it was.
He took off at a run. His feet churned underneath him so quickly they were almost a blur. He raced past the marching soldiers ahead of him, spooking the horses pulling wagons at the front of the procession. His shiny alumin armor clanked at the joints where plates of metal came in contact with each other, but it didn’t bother him. The armor felt like nothing. The alumin suit was lighter than the iron plate armor he wore for real combat, but it was still over fifty pounds. To Ichoron, it might as well have been an extra shirt.
Wind whistled past him, blowing his blond curls off his forehead as he ran. Ichoron channeled his energy into his muscles and he felt them swell with power, sustaining the massive output of force needed to carry him at such a breakneck pace. He wasn’t sure where the energy came from, but he was always aware of it’s presence. A reservoir of power resting in the corner of his mind. He speculated that it was somehow connected to his emotions, because he always felt better after exerting his power, as if it used his negative emotions as fuel for his muscles.
This was why Ichoron had wanted to run. He vented his frustrations through the power that flowed into his muscles. By the time the royal procession out of sight behind him, he already felt as though he’d cooled off a bit. Ichoron came to a stop and surveyed his surroundings. Still in the middle of nowhere, he thought glumly.
Ichoron spent most of his time in southern Allomoria; however, it was always in the towns along the southern border. He and the other two angels would extinguish any scuffles at the border with Meronne that got too heated. Now, he was stuck in no-man’s-land: the open plains, sparsely populated with small villages, that stretched between the Meronne border and the Elderwood forest. Ichoron hadn’t spent this much time here since that fateful journey with McCarthy. He still recalled every detail of the two weeks that changed his life as if they’d just happened.
Ichoron had been a very sick child. Some healers claimed he’d been cursed by a vengeful spirit, others said he was simply unlucky. His bones were frail. By the time he was twelve years old, he’d broken dozens of them. He’d grown up in the outskirts of Doronhine, which meant that he’d had access to skilled healers, but there was only so much they could do. Sometimes his bones would heal correctly, other times they wouldn’t.
By the time he was a teenager, Ichoron was crippled by poorly healed and damaged bones. He was scrawny and thin. Being bedridden his entire childhood meant that his muscles had never truly developed. When he went outside, his physical deformities scared the other children away. His parents would never say it to his face, but they all knew it – he would never be a functional member of society. It was only a matter of time before he wasted away from some bone snapping in the wrong place and puncturing an major vein or artery. Ichoron’s life was a life with no meaning.
That is, until McCarthy Loxborne had shown up at his front door. The man had explained that he was a scientist under King Valen. He’d claimed to possess knowledge of a cure for Ichoron’s malady. His parents, eager for a cure and eager to rid themselves of the responsibility of taking care of Ichoron, earnestly gave McCarthy custody of their son.
The next morning, the strange scientist had loaded Ichoron onto a wagon, and they’d spent the next week travelling south through the Elderwood forest. Despite Ichoron’s questioning, the man had refused to say where they were going or what kind of “cure” he offered.
After a week of travel, they’d arrived in a small thicket of trees surrounded by the empty plains of southern Allomoria. Waiting for them at the entrance of the forest was none other than Saphine, the second of King Valen’s angels. McCarthy had commanded her to bring him to the pool of water in the ruins, and she’d done just that. She’d guided him down the eerie path, fought off a pack of rabid, wolf-like monsters with her supernatural abilities, and shown him the stone pool in the middle of the ruined building.
She’d pushed him into the water and let him nearly drown before pulling him out. Ichoron’s frame was fragile and light, so she’d carried him back to McCarthy, still drenched and threatening to vomit from the sickness that hung in the air around the ruins. McCarthy had looked him over, run his tests, and declared, “another failure. Maybe next time.”
It wasn’t until Ichoron and McCarthy were halfway back to Doronhine that the transformation took effect. There was a flash of light, followed by a brief loss of consciousness. When Ichoron awoke, he felt different, but he couldn’t explain how when McCarthy pressed him. He felt strong and confident – feelings that he couldn’t recognize because he’d never truly felt them before. Over the next few days of travel, Ichoron grew in strength. His improperly healed bones somehow corrected themselves. His deformities disappeared. He began to sense an energy within himself, connected to his sadness, his shame, and his lack of purpose. It swelled with power when he thought about the misery and hopelessness from all those years of his childhood. He’d pumped that energy into his muscles. They’d eagerly responded to the power, stretching and bulging as the emotional energy fed them.
When they came across a fallen tree that blocked their path, Ichoron had leapt from the wagon and pushed the massive tree trunk aside, a feat that would’ve required three normal men to complete. That was when McCarthy confirmed that his experiment had worked. He welcomed Ichoron as the third angel and brought him to Valen’s castle where he began his service as a weapon of the king.
Ichoron didn’t love being an angel. He hated the fact that he was essentially McCarthy’s slave, and he didn’t like the ever-growing list of people he’d killed. But he did appreciate the fame that his abilities gave him. For a young man who’d been shunned and viewed with disgust his entire childhood, the admiration of all of Allomoria was intoxicating. He knew it might’ve been prideful, but he lived for the cheers and wide eyes that greeted him as he paraded through towns and cities.
Now, that image was being tarnished as McCarthy put him on this brutal assignment. Citizens viewed him as the monster that carted their loved ones off to forced servitude or as the wild card who could kill his fellow soldiers in cold blood with no repercussions. Ichoron prickled. He didn’t like how McCarthy was ruining the only part of being an angel that he enjoyed.
Ichoron was distracted from his thoughts by a cloud passing over the sun. As the landscape momentarily darkened, he looked up and realized that he’d been lost in thought. The sun had dipped further towards the horizon. Grudgingly, he turned and resumed his sprint, running back to the royal procession.
When Ichoron returned, he saw two figures walking at the front of the procession. The soldiers gave them a wide berth as they led the company. He recognized the figures as soon as he laid eyes on them. One woman with flowing white robes, the other with a sleek yellow jacket and spiky, dark hair. Kyzella and Saphine, the first and second angels.
Ichoron came to a stop in front of his comrades.
“Good to see you again, little Icky. I was worried you were having too much fun without us,” Saphine greeted him.
“Is something wrong? What brings you here?” He asked her.
“Kyzella got in trouble.” Saphine’s voice was singsong, playfully taunting the other angel. “She was sent to collect your runaway, Everin, but she messed up, and he got away,” she explained.
Ichoron looked at Kyzella. Her cheeks were tinged red. He might’ve been regarded as the most arrogant of the three angels, but Kyzella had an ego as well.
“He’s harder to catch than I thought,” she said, defensively. “His abilities have already started to manifest, and he’s learning how to use them.”
Ichoron smirked as he put the pieces together.
“So, you need my help?” He asked.
“No,” Kyzella snapped. “I could catch him by myself, but McCarthy instructed us three to work together to bring him in.”
“Which basically means she needs our help,” Saphine said.
Kyzella smacked her on the back of the head, but she only grinned devilishly. Ichoron might’ve been the youngest of the angels, but Saphine was the kid of the group. He wasn’t sure if her immaturity was an innate part of her personality or a defense mechanism against the trauma that she’d been through before becoming an angel.
“Let me grab my pack. I’ll be ready to go in just a moment.”
Ichoron raced off to one of the wagons to grab his things. His steps were light, even without the use of his power. He was glad for the opportunity to be out of this place. He’d wanted an escape, and it had presented itself.
Ichoron returned with the rest of his armor on and a small bag full of food and water.
“Let’s go,” he said.
He extended a hand to Saphine, and she climbed onto his back. She didn’t have an ability that gave her enhanced mobility, so it was up to him and Kyzella to give her a ride whenever they travelled. Once Saphine was situated on his shoulders, Kyzella summoned her wings. With a flash of light, they blossomed into existence across her shoulders. She gave a strong flap and took to the skies, flying north towards the Elderwood Forest. Ichoron channeled his power into his muscles, fueling them with renewed energy. Saphine gripped his armor tightly, and he took off at a sprint, following Kyzella.
Next chapter: https://sorrowandlove.home.blog/chapter-24-everin/