Chapter 10 Prince Nashrin Nirza
Prince Nashrin Nirza loved to travel incognito. A long time ago when he was still a boy he had fallen of his horse while out on a ride. The stupid animal had left him battered and unconscious in a ditch while it returned home in a panic. He had been found by a charcoal burner who had no idea who it was he had found there lying in his forest. He carried the kid into his little hovel treating the wounds of the young prince and feeding him. The prince had wanted to tell the man who he had just saved, but he noticed how differently he was treated by this humble man. In the castle everyone lived in constant terror from the wrath of his tempestuous father with no one willing to risk his ire. But here was this man who could not have been further in station than young Nashrin, who treated him in a strange but pleasant way. It took the prince some time to discover that he was treated with true kindness. An event that would shape his personality for ever.
The charcoal burner only discovered who his guest was on the next day when soldiers sent out by Nashrin's father had arrived at his hut to ask him whether he had seen the lost prince. The poor man nearly a heart attack. While he had seen that the child he had found was from a nobler stock than him he had assumed that it was the son of a merchant or something like that. Not the heir apparent. That very moment the kindness was gone replaced by the same form of subdued fear that people of power so often confused for respect.
The prince saw this as a challenge. For one he tried his best to befriend the charcoal maker who could hardly refuse the presence of the prince whose life he had saved. Especially as he had been awarded the exclusive right to use the bounties of the forest in which he ranged as he saw fit. It took years until the man started to relax again around the prince, but it was good practice. Nashrin learned that the common people lived lives that he could not have imagined before. There were so many things that he had taken for granted. There were amounts of poverty that were simply beyond his understanding until he was confronted with them and even them he found hard to grasp.
He knew he had to do something. One day when his father was no more, he would become the next ruler of this modest realm and when that time came it was his responsibility no his duty to improve the lot of his subjects. He also knew now that no one would ever tell him the truth about anything important because they'd be to afraid of his or his fathers wrath, later he also learned that those closest to him would often try to twist the truth to their own advantage. So one of the things he put an enormous amount of effort in was the development-of his shell-art so that in time he could shift his appearance.
The main problem with that was the Shifters Tell. Everyone who changed his form to hide his true identity would always have eyes of two different colours. No one knew why this was so but it was an irreversible truth of nature. For a while he experimented with coloured glasses that would hide the colour of his eyes in subtle ways. But the Shifters Tell would bleed through, changing the colour of his hair on one side of his head or make him speak with two voices at once. No matter what he tried the Tell always knew. He never stopped working on the shell-art mastering it to a impressive degree while still relatively young but he never found a solution to this particular problem.
When it was time for him to seek a proper education he fought with tooth and nail to be sent to the academy of the Order of Reason. A plan his father was opposed against at first, seeing the Order as a bunch of meddling zealots who did not respect other countries borders nor their cultures. But in the end Nashrin succeeded in convincing his father, telling him that as his son he would hardly fall for their rather obvious propaganda but would instead return with a handful of their secrets which in turn would make the realm stronger. His father saw the wisdom in that as he was easily motivated by greed.
Of course the main factor which allowed young Nashrin to withstand the propaganda of the Order of Reason was that he had been a long time convert. There was nothing stronger than fact to back up an opinion. He also had witnessed first hand how the general populace that had hardly an education to speak off was kept entangled in a network of dangerous superstitions. However what he had told his father was not wrong either. With the techniques of the Order, their vast libraries and their practical knowledge Nashrin would return to reform his nation for the better. He would free his people from the shackles of ignorance turning the realm into a nation exemplifying the virtues of progress.
He was well into the third year of his four years of studies at the academy of the Order, having distinguished himself as one of the best students to have ever passed its doors, surpassing even the reborn members of the Order themselves when disaster struck. Two neighbouring kingdoms had banded together, pooled their resources to bolster their military with mercenary troops as well as wizards for hire and had attacked his home. When the messenger arrived he told Nashrin that his father had fallen in battle and that the enemy forces had taken his body with them.
As he rushed back to his home as fast as he could he knew that what ever happened he would not be able to finish his education at the Order for he would either die in battle like his father or he'd be needed to reconstruct his realm from the ruins of war.
When he arrived at his castle the enemy forces were only a few days away from the capital. So far they had crashed their way through the unprepared nation and now that they had taken its regent they would not stop until their flags were flying from the ancestral Nirza castle. Nashrin commanded all the troops to retreat concentrating all his power in the capital. They would need every bit of what little military power was left.
They watched in terror as a tide of enemy soldier sloshed over the horizon soon flowing around the city walls of the capital in an angry tide. Nashrin did not know what to do. They were hopelessly outnumbered. While the attackers had to many people to feed for any prolonged time, there were to many of them. The walls would not hold for ever. The elite mercenaries were not stopped by the walls and their protective runes and neither were the war mages. He did not even have to worry about his people dying of hunger. The assault would not last a week and they would all be dead.
The situation changed the next day. A little group of people road towards the the main gate and demanded to talk to the Prince. Nashrin expected that they would dictate to him his terms of surrender. Something he did not plan to accept until he had walked all the way from his palace to the main city gate. On his way there he had seen the faces of the citizens. Their mortal fear, their sorrow. When he had climbed the wall to talk to the emissary through the shimmering curtain of the protective field protecting them from arrows and invaders running up the wall he had changed his mind. He would have mocked the emissary and fought until the bitter end, but he knew by now that he would have done so out of his own pride and in doing so he would doom his people.
But the emissary did not come to offer peace. He came to gloat. "Nashrin Nirza." he said "Your days are numbered and so are those of all men, women and children in this pitiful realm of yours. Well apart from those that are found suitable to become slaves, although having seen your women and children here I do not think that there will many who might qualify for that honour. Prepare yourselves to find your painful way into your next incarnation for tomorrow when the sun sets your city walls will be breached as if they were nothing but a cobweb in the path of a giant and all of you will be slaughtered. The sewers would overflow with your blood and everyone within the city will know utter despair because all this ruin will be brought about by your own Prince."
The Prince was raging internally but he kept himself under control. "Never in this life or any other will I willingly allow for anyone of my subjects to come to harm." he spat. He wanted to continue but he was interrupted by the emissaries laughter.
"Not by you, you silly boy. But by the prince himself. By your father." he said with a smile in his voice.
How was Nashrin supposed to answer to such a preposterous claim. While he was still thinking about a proper response a tremor shook the earth, the air was filled by a deafening thunder.
The emissary made cast a hand-seal to amplify his voice over the noise. "What you witness now is the birth of a new war-machine made possible through the use of forbidden scrolls found in a forgotten sanctuary of Shar Nizlaal. It is an unstoppable juggernaut powered by nothing else but your fathers burning soul."