In honor of nearly finishing the second draft of the second Enorians book, now tentatively titled A Thistle in the Ruins, which includes quotes from enorian myths, I thought I’d share Vivian’s favorite story: “The Plate and the Blade.”
Long ago, there were two lovers: Kres, an Enosian War Bringer and Solina, a Lorosian Lightbringer. They were both soldiers in the army of Ensori, the dry, hot, desert kingdom. Side by side, they fought in long, grueling battles for their king, and at night they slept in each other’s arms, promising to never leave one another.
For many years, the war waged against the neighboring kingdom of Vrexa. The Veroxian queen of Vrexa, their Enosian king told them, had done him a grave injustice and proclaimed war upon their kingdom. The soldiers weren’t told what the injustice was, and they did not question it, for all believed their king had good reason to partake in the conflict.
What the soldiers, Kres and Solina included, did not know, was that their king lied to them. The queen had done nothing to him. In truth, though he would never tell, he wanted Vrexa for himself. For while his kingdom was nearly a barren wasteland, Vrexa had rich rainforests and fertile farmlands. While food did grow in the desert, it was nowhere near enough to feed all his people, and there was so little water beyond the salty sea that he had to pay for both to be imported from Vrexa and the other neighboring kingdom of Venor. He had long grown tired of having to pay other kingdoms for such vital nourishment, despite having plenty of coin for it. Ensori, after all, made the finest glass in all the world, which he sold to all the other kingdoms at a high price.
And so Kres and Solina continued to fight their king’s battles, not knowing the true reason for the war. They lost many friends along the way and slaughtered many foes. Every night both women prayed they would survive the war, that Enos would watch over them, and before each battle, they uttered the traditional war prayer while slicing their palms and then they grasped hands, blending their blood. For the longest time, it seemed Enos did watch over them.
But then during one battle, a fight that went on for weeks, things went terribly wrong. The Vrexan soldiers were winning, killing many more Ensori soldiers than anyone had expected. Kres and Solina, who tried to stay close during all combat in case the other needed aid, lost sight of one another. As the bodies dropped around her, Solina’s heart grew heavy with despair, afraid Kres was gone. All seemed lost as the Vrexan army overwhelmed her.
But Enos, in his realm, watched the battle unfold, watched his people being destroyed. And while Solina was not one of his War Bringers, he had often heard her prayers and felt her worship. He felt her strength, her will to survive, her desire to win against her enemies, and so he bestowed upon her the Martyr’s Plate, his blessed breast plate that made the wearer invulnerable.
Just as Solina was sure she would perish under the assault of the Vrexans, she felt the black plate appear, replacing her old red one, and though she didn’t understand, she knew it was special in some way. With the indestructability the plate gave her, Solina redoubled her efforts to push back her foe, fighting one soldier at a time, never dying no matter what they did to her, until they finally called for retreat.
The Vrexans didn’t understand what had happened or why this lone woman had managed to slaughter so many of their comrades, but they knew they needed to pull back, and so they left her standing alone in the middle of the battlefield surrounded by the bodies of her fellow soldiers clad in red armor and the blue-covered Vrexans. She searched the dead for the entire next day, desperately praying to find her lover, weeping at the loss of her friends, her fellows, her beloved Kres. She had never felt such guilt before. What had she done, she wondered, to have Enos bestow this blessing, this curse of being the only survivor, upon her?
When the plate vanished again, after she had failed to find Kres, after the Vrexan soldiers had crawled back behind their lines to attend to their wounded and reassess, Solina finally felt her fatigue. She had not slept nor eaten in days, not since before the battle. With the plate she hadn’t needed them. She staggered to the river, throat parched, clothes beneath her armor sticking to her skin from sweat. She walked right into the water, and there, she passed out from sheer exhaustion. The river carried her into Vrexa, depositing her along the banks near a small farm, where she was found and nursed back to health as she mourned.
Meanwhile, Kres wasn’t dead like Solina thought. She had been terribly wounded and knocked unconscious. She’d tumbled down one of the dunes upon which they had been fighting and had vanished from sight. When she woke, she found herself covered in sand, and after dragging herself free and back up to the battlefield, she only saw death.
Thankfully, a scout had flown to the king and fresh soldiers had been instructed to check the bodies and bring the dead back to the castle to be the sent to the Aether. Kres was picked up as the only survivor and returned to the king. He praised her for her unwavering loyalty and her ability to survive.
Before the bodies were sent to the next world, Kres searched the faces for Solina. She felt an odd mixed sense of relief and heartbreak at not finding her beloved. She was grateful Solina hadn’t died but saddened and angered that her lover had abandoned her. For why else had she vanished? They had promised they would never leave one another, and now Solina had broken that promise.
Years passed, and during that time Solina stayed in Vrexa, learning the truth of the king’s reason for war. It angered her that he had lied to them all not only about the reason for their fighting but also for their lack of necessities. She had believed all her life her family’s hardships were due to the other kingdoms not sharing their crops and water, but in truth it had been the king’s unwillingness to pay for the things his people so desperately needed. She saw no reason to return to her former kingdom with Kres being gone, and so after she healed, she joined the army of Vrexa to fight against the man who had lied to her, starved her family, and all but taken her lover from her.
As time went by, Kres heard stories of a new Vrexan soldier matching Solina’s appearance, and so she believed that not only had her beloved abandoned her but also betrayed her by defecting to the enemy’s side.
The war did not end. Both women continued to fight, though they never saw one another, and so Solina continued to believe Kres to be dead, and Kres continued to be angry.
After one particularly bloody battle, while on patrol as her fellow soldiers patched each other up, Kres stumbled upon the other most sacred item of Enos. The Burning Blade sat wedged beneath two rocks, no bigger than a dagger, its blade black as obsidian. She grabbed the hilt with her gloved hand and wrenched it free. It didn’t look like much to her, though she understood it was not a normal dagger, for no other weapon she had ever seen had a blade like this. She strapped it to her belt and thought nothing else of it for the rest of the night.
It wasn’t until she grasped the hilt with her bare hand the next day that she realized what it had to be. She had heard tale of such a blessed item. The moment her flesh touched the cold metal, it grew warm, and the blade erupted into flames. Flames that leapt onto her hand and crawled up her arm. She nearly dropped the weapon, which was now the length of a sword, but the flames weren’t hot. They engulfed her entire body, which also grew, and soon she towered, nearly double her original height, her body alight with fire.
During the next battle, Kres tore through the soldiers with ease, using the Burning Blade to morph herself into the flaming beast. She used it each time she fought after that, wreaking havoc on the armies of Vrexa.
Upon hearing about this fire monster destroying her new people, Solina offered herself up to fight it one-on-one as a thank you to the Vrexans for saving her and showing her the truth. They tried to stop her, but she insisted, for if the beast was allowed to live, she knew it would destroy not only the armies but possibly even Vrexa itself.
The night before she was set to meet the flaming titan, Solina prayed to Enos to protect her, and Enos heard. He saw her bravery and willingness to put her life on the line for her new people, and knowing the fight would not be fair otherwise, he bestowed upon her the Martyr’s Plate once again.
Solina met the fire beast, who she did not know was Kres, on the battlefield, and the two began their fight, Solina flitting around the ten-foot-tall titan. Neither woman could die, for the Burning Blade, too, protected the wielder from perishing. And so they battled for months, for years, while around them the war continued. They never stopped to sleep or rest, Solina determined to save her new people, Kres determined to slaughter the woman who betrayed her.
One day, Solina managed to knock off the fire titan’s helm and realized, even through the change and the flames, who it was she had been fighting this entire time. She would’ve recognized her beloved anywhere. She froze, letting Kres’s flaming sword smash into her breast plate. Heat licked her face, but the plate neither crumpled, nor was she harmed.
“Kres, my love,” she called. “It’s me.”
Kres glowered at her, still angry for Solina’s betrayal even after all these years.
“Stop this foolishness!”
“I will never stop,” Kres bellowed, striking at Solina, but Solina only brought her sword up to block her.
Every time Solina tried to speak, Kres would swing or stab or strike at her, and Solina would do nothing more than step or fly aside or block the blade and try again. This went on for days, and finally Solina shouted at her, “Kres, please stop. I love you.”
Kres faltered, though her eyes blazed with fire and anger. “If you loved me, you never would have abandoned me.”
“I didn’t abandon you, my love.”
“You did.” Kres lunged at her, flaming blade singing through the air. “You left me and betrayed me to join the Vrexans.”
Solina blocked her and flew aside. “I thought you were dead, gone. If I’d known I would have searched for you until I found you.”
This made Kres stop, and she listened as Solina explained what had befallen her and the truth she had learned from the people of Vrexa. Kres felt so very foolish for having assumed the worst. They talked for many hours, trying to understand each other’s feelings and decisions.
“I am so sorry, my darling,” Kres said, dropping the sword into the sand, where it flickered out and shrank down to the dagger she’d originally found. “I should have known better. I should never have mistrusted you or questioned your love.” When she embraced Solina, she had shrunk back to her normal state.
“I promised you I would never leave you, and so I never will,” Solina said and kissed her beloved for the first time in so many years.
The plate and the blade vanished when their lips touched, Enos whisking them back to his realm, for the two women, having talked out their problems, no longer needed the items. And there he held them until the next enorian needed them. Together the women vanished, leaving their armor and weapons and the war behind, slipping into Venor to live out their days in peace.
What I wrote this week
Enorians Book 2 – Draft 2 Chapters Sixty-Five through Seventy-One
What I read this week
Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo