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Neutual Demon

Thael+ND's Spectacular 1x2!

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(( Plot synopsis: Thael and I are going to diggy diggy the most magnificent, spectacular, awe-inspiring hole in all of the lands because someone got lost on the way to the kitchen.))

 

...And the lands quaked as the beast rampaged. The earth was scorched to glass in its rage and the mountains trampled into sand in its wrath... The Divine Ones rose from their high thrones, weapons in hand as they descended from their lofty home to stave the impending calamity that the beast wrought...

 

It cursed to the heavens, its breath swirling to create living air. Blood splattered across the land as the battle commenced. Hot and metallic, it cooled and grew to give birth to creatures of stone and ore. From the beasts' tears, full of pain and hate, liquid beings danced to existence. Its fires, furious and deadly, sprung forth sparks of vengeance...

 

The Divine Ones could not quell the beast, no matter-

 

A curse echoed through the silent chamber, escaping the lips of a tall being. He stood before several chunks of stone; pieces of an ancient wall where a language long out of use. The story was incomplete here with irritant gaps in inconvenient places. Nothing it said was anything he didn't know already, but the walls did not match up, meaning somewhere someone with the brain capacity of a toothpick conveniently lost four damned walls. FOUR! How could anyone misplace two-persons high building material with writing all over it?!

 

The being growled, smoke curling out of his nostrils as he rose to full height. He stood at seven feet tall- an impressive feat for a being of his kind. His body itself was large, honed to hard work of beating incompetent fools to death with their arms, or so he says. His skin was a smoky, reddish color, giving him an overall burnt look. Yet many parts of his flesh were a fiery orange- long colored scars littered his exposed torso, giving himself an appearance of cracked earth. The being's hair was coal in color- the previously long mane cut short in a spur of the moment that now weaved and rose in obnoxious, wild positions. Dark horns spurred from his forehead as long as his hand- mostly useless but they were good for show.

 

Blazing orange eyes gazed at the wall he currently stood in front of, the being raising a hand to run his clawed fingers over the words written upon them. The story was nothing he had already heard. Every Djinn knew of the legend of their creation; that a great hellish creature sprung forth to burn the world to ash, and the gods came in and saved the day while parts of the being became known as the four races of Djinn: the Jann, the Shaitan, the Marid, and the Ifrits. But this wall spoke more than what most lore said, or rather, that's what the impression was. It infuriated him that pieces of the story were incomplete. He wasn't interested in it for the gods like so many others, nor did he want to read more about his kind's creation, and he knew all the other tales and stories the past Djinn had pulled out of their twisted heads. No, he wanted to complete this version story because these pieces of wall were a piece to the past, an artifact. There was nothing better than to add something else into the vast collection within the Vaults.

 

Of course, despite his desire to hunt down and throttle the ones responsible for losing the pieces of the wall, he had things of greater importance to get back to. Sure "Grand Overlord Rasul" sounds amazing and all, but being a ruler of all Djinn who liked nothing more than gods and tradition was a pain in the ass, especially if said ruler didn't believe in the gods or particularly liked following the rules. The Djinn, especially the Marids, were sticklers when it came to tradition, and after what seemed like forever with a Marid's wet ass all over the position of top dog in Zulfiqar, Rasul had to butt his way in. That seemed to piss the Marids more than anything- the non-believer heretic thing was an added bonus.

 

Rasul wasn't the country's favorite, he knew, and he had fought to retain his his position more times than should be legal, but when he adopted a kid from one of the old Marid ruling lines because there was no way he was going to get hitched, he'd thought it'd get just a little better. It didn't. The last attempt on kicking him off his high horse had been a couple months since his last little excursion with the ruler of Ulsarus, Alfred. He hadn't been so blind with fury in years- so much was his rage that he didn't remember most of the fight. There was a lot of screaming and blood though, and he ended up with most of the scars now present on his body. His son, Nico, had been absolutely terrified that he would succumb to his injuries. They hadn't been pretty- hell, he nearly lost a lung and his left arm in that fight and he was pretty sure he had been bleeding internally in more than several places. He was right as rain now, apart from the constant ache in his arm.

 

He hadn't told Alfred about the incident. Actually, he hadn't spoken or seen Alfred since their expedition to find some silly headpiece-thing that was important to Alfred's people... or something. Rasul may have a secret love affair with artifacts and historical documents, but it was mostly for his own land, his own people, and anything outside of it or mostly god-based boring stuff he had no room in his head for. In any case, he was sure Alfred was busy doing... preachy lizard-butt stuff.

 

With another irritated huff, Rasul turned his back to the blocks of stone to navigate back towards the exit of the Vaults. The shelves as high as the ceiling full of containers with objects dug up from ruins buried deep in the sands of the desert created a maze of wall to far wall of seemingly identical shelves, yet after spending a century or two squirreling away down there to escape the mountains of paperwork that being an oppressive ruler brings, Rasul knew where he was going.

 

Once the doors to the Vaults were sealed behind him, Rasul was met by a long, blue-haired young man. No horns adorned him, but he made it up with the golden bracers and earrings that complimented his dark, navy-tinted skin. He only came up to about Silas' lower chest in height, but amongst the Marid he was tall for their kind. He wasn't as bulky as the Ifrit was either, more lithe and cat-like in his posture than Rasul could ever pull off. His face was all soft edges, happy rays of sunshine, and the Overlord was a hundred percent certain he would be flocked with those seeking partnership with the young Marid if it wasn't for the small fact that said Marid was Rasul's adopted son, Nico.

 

"Father," he said, falling into step with the much larger Djinn. "I cannot do all your reports, you know."

 

"Why the blazing frack not?" Rasul raised and eyebrow at his son. Although young for a Djinn, Nico had filled in well. The last two advisors had taught him well, despite having their limbs ripped off and their guts spilled across the marble steps of the palace for their treachery later on. Nico did what a ruler should do- paperwork, make sure everything's running smoothy, spoke politely to even the ass-twallops of the court. Rasul was too rough around the edges and too happy to murder people if they disagree with his rulings. Nico could negotiate- Rasul gave ultimatums.

 

Nico's learning on how to rule was in part of Rasul literally letting him do things without him butting his nose in. He assigned one town at first to see how he would do, and added to the number of locations he had to deal with the more severe problems that the local leaders could not fix. He was up to twenty now and doing quite well- so well that Rasul may or may not have been sneaking off to the Vaults more often and neglecting his duties. It had become a bit worse after the last overthrow attempt, not that Rasul would admit to it.

 

"I may be good at dealing with business and some political issues, but you have the nose for sniffing out possible uprisings or scuffles," Nico sighed. "I know we've been a relative peace for almost a year now, but you know that Djinn do not like to remain idle for long."

 

It was practically a record for how long they've gone without a major crisis, now that the bandits of the deserts and mountains had been taken care of. It was too quite for Rasul's liking, and he agreed that there was most likely something brewing in the shadows when he isn't looking. But the paperwork was almost always written in Mariddian, and Rasul could barely read the more common Jindri without his brain from trying to melt down. No, he could only really read the more ancient texts and nothing else. Besides, paper HATED him. It hurt suppressing the fire that ran in his blood long enough to get through fifteen minutes' worth of paperwork. His hands always went numb and cold and he hated the feeling.

 

Rasul made a face. "Fine, fine, whatever. I'll do some blood reports."

 

"Right now, and you will not come out until dinner."

 

"Who's the freaking Overlord here?" Rasul muttered, scowling at Nico's too-bright smile as the Ifrit marched himself through the marble hallways of the palace to head to the dreaded room of paper towers. If he knew there'd be this much garbage tagged along with being Overlord, Rasul would've decided against pulling off the coup that got him here.

Edited by Neutual Demon

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King.

That was what he was.

Over fifty years ago, he had risen Khadul'zun, the original home of the dragons, from the wastes. With the blade of the Zunite and the staff of Khadul, he had brought peace to the land. It was the Crown of Ulsar he now wore - for he had found it with Rasul and his son's help.

He'd had children of his own, yes. His eldest had gone to Khadul'zun to represent his country as one of the three leaders of the land. As the Ulsarian leader, since he was part of the new generation of Del Vrin.

When the Del Vrin clan had been massacred, only one had been left - and that beautiful, radiant woman stood by the king's side now.

Her name was Mellena, and his was Alfred. Together, they had ruled over this country for 600 years, and they would continue to lead over it until the day they perished - and dragonkin lived a long time.

Since those fifty years, more people had come to Ulsarus, bringing their share of work and gifts to the growing citadel of Skymor. But still, at the very peak, overlooking his whole, glorious city, was Alfred, in his throne room.

He rubbed his chin slightly as he pondered this.

600 years ago, he'd been barely a boy of roughly 400 years. During the clan wars over Ulsarus, he'd become a warlord, and led his people on a quest to settle. And he did. With the help of a dying clan's daughter, he'd bound together a group of various Dragonkin - Calsun, Galmor, and Grentul - and brought them under one flag.

"Are you pondering it again?"

Alfred turned.

The Spirit of Ulsar himself sat to his right, human, and powerful. Strange that he'd become the god of this race, but he had created them as their hero. Ever since Alfred had put on the Crown, he'd been able to see Ulsar himself.

"Indeed. How I've been able to do it is a mystery."

"Not so." Ulsar responded, moving from where he was sitting. "You have done well in my name. I was worried that giving these people this gift would ruin you all. And at first - it did... but then, with your help, these people became united. I have watched from my place in the heavens, and I am pleased. Know that, Alfred."

"I do, and it is an honor." Alfred bowed slightly.

Ulsar smiled, turning to the window.

"Yes, I think I'll be content watching these people for many millenia to come. Continue your work, Alfred." Ulsar said softly, turning back to the king as he began to fade away. "And if you require my guidance, I will always come when called."

"I thank you, True King Ulsar." Alfred responded as the spirit faded. As soon as he said that, Mellena's face was on his own. She moved back.

"I came to check on you, dearest." Mellena whispered as she moved away, smiling. "Did you see him again?"

"Of course, my love." Alfred nodded, turning to the window. "Any news from the other countries?"

"Not as such, as always. It's very comforting to know we may finally be able to rest for another 600 years, right?"

"Hehe.. I suppose." Alfred grabbed the cup from Mellena's hand and took a drink, staring out into the country thoughtfully. "Though I feel like something is still amiss."

"Don't say that.." Mellena sighed. "Every time you go running off after one of these adventures, you always think it's best to leave me behind."

"You shouldn't have to busy yourself with my excursions. And if you're worried about me dying-"

"It's not that, it's that I want to experience it with you. And you keep forgetting that." Mellena huffed, crossing her arms playfully.

"Well then, would you like to join me on a small flight?"

"Where are you heading?" Mellena asked, watching as Alfred stood to his feet.

"I'm not sure yet. I'm first heading to the library. They say they've discovered some giant, stone tablets that look interesting."

"I see... Well then, shall we?" Mellena took his hand in hers as they headed for the great, circular stage outside the door of the spire where they could begin their flight. It was where messengers landed each day bringing letters to the king. The guards nodded as they passed, sending one of their own to go and tell Alfred's next child to take care of things while he was gone.

The two took to the skies, not knowing that the stones they were about to look at...

were about to be one of the greatest discoveries imaginable.

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Paperwork was tedious. It was also a good way to consider about chopping his hands off just so he didn't have to do them. Rasul scowled at the mountain of work he still needed to complete, sitting mockingly before him on the marble desk. Trying to avoid actually reading them he had sorted them out from the Mariddian and the Jindri, but that only took about half an hour and he had a couple of hours left before his son would let him off. He was Overlord, he didn't need to follow what his son ordered him to do, but he had been neglecting his duties and if Nico worried about trouble brewing... it was best not to worry him too much.

 

Still, paperwork was evil. He had to stop five times already just so he could rub the warm of the fire in his blood back into his hands, having to quell the heat so he could handle the papers without setting them ablaze. Although that didn't stop him from purposely burning some reports- they had been quite meaningless.

 

He had gone through all the papers written in Jindri, all nicely stacked and ready to be returned to owner or into filing. Rasul could feel the pain stabbing between his eyes as he squinted at the Mariddian reports, sliding the translation glass over the scribbles. The guy who was his advisor three advisors ago gave the small, half sphere glass once he had found out he couldn't read the Marids' stupid fish-language. That had dug up some questions a bit too personal for the Ifrit's liking, since almost anyone who lived in a town or city of reasonable importance or had a high Marid population had education in reading at least basic Mariddian, and everyone learned Jindri. Rasul had fell spectacularly short on both fronts by not being able to read either when he got into power. That Marid advisor practically had to tie him down just so he could get lessons in both languages. He had gotten the grasp on Jindri over the years, but Mariddian was still scribbles and swirls and fish tails to him.

 

Of course, the most important stuff had to be written in fish-speak, and it took him forever to slide the small glass over the words and watch the dark splotches twist and churn into Jindri so he could squint at it some more. Most of the reports were how trade was going, how one member of the court was mad at the other for spilling wine all over their clothes (Rasul had torched that one. Really, some people...), and questions about loans to help build some new things. Other reports were about the number of ships, trading or not, the production of their mines and other industries. A few were about explorations in the desert, unearthing the ruins and scouring them for artifacts to be brought back. Magical artifacts were especially dangerous since very few Djinn were well-tuned with the ability aside from their element. Long ago the Djinn were notorious for their skill in magic, but there had been too many wars, natural disasters, and idiots that trampled through the country, leaving the art almost extinct apart from the artifacts, scrolls, and buildings that still retain what they've been enchanted with. There were some magic users left- Rasul included- but like he, it was a very hush-hush business. It was possible to self-teach the use of magic, but that resulted in a lot of patience and trial-and-error, and with the death rate being so high, few Djinn managed it.

 

Back to reports- there was a group of thieves in Heiltra that the authorities had yet to catch. Rasul penned a small note to send some extra hands over there to deal with the matter. It was the last report he was going to do- he already did too many, his head hurt, he was hungry, and he wanted to do something more productive than make his eyes bleed from reading Mariddian.

 

Tossing the pen across the room Rasul rose from his seat behind the desk, wincing as his back popped in several places and his hands prickled irritably as the heat returned to his hands. Rubbing them to help spread the fire a little more quickly, the Ifrit stomped away from the annoying room full of paperwork and down towards the smell of food.

 

"There's an hour left before dinner," Nico said with a exasperated smile as Rasul found his way to the dinning hall.

 

"Shut it. I'd like to see you cut off circulation your hands every time you had to write something," Rasul growled, kicking a chair away from the table so he could sit in it. Putting his feet up onto the table, the Ifrit rocked back onto the chair's hind legs, still trying to massage feeling back into his hands. "It was all boring too. Some freaking moron wanted to complain about some other thimble-brained airhead who decided to hit on his wife. Really, that isn't something to bring to the Overlord to take care of."

 

Nico snorted from behind his glass he'd been drinking from. The sound made Rasul's lips curl upward, exposing sharp teeth. "Think that's hilarious, do you? You can take care of the rest of the pile, then."

 

"Did you do more than three sheets?"

 

Rasul huffed indignantly. "If you must know, I did all the Jindri reports and about a third of the Mariddian ones, and now I'm pretty sure my brain's going to melt through my eye sockets."

 

Nico smiled fondly at his father, shaking his head at the Ifrit's descriptions. "I'll take care of the rest. Try not to stay up too late with your artifacts."

 

"And you better not spend too long with bird-brain. It might be infectious."

 

"Her name's Yaitel, Father, not bird-brain," Nico sighed, his smile slipping from his face. The topic of the Roc had always been a rather touchy one between the young Marid and Rasul. The egg had been found a few years back, and Rasul had spent almost all his spare time taking care of it. Yet when it hatched, the Roc had something against the Ifrit and would not let him near, while it let Nico and even Alfred approach. Rasul had been reasonably upset over the fact, and still was even after all these years since he still couldn't get close to the now very large bird. Yaitel let Nico crawl all over her, but wouldn't let Rasul within twenty feet of her without throwing a hissy fit. So far Rasul was the only one who could get such a reaction from the overly affectionate, friendly creature, and despite Nico doing his best to convince the bird otherwise, Yaitel simply refused to let the Ifrit approach her.

 

Rasul grunted but didn't say anything else against the Roc. The pair sat in silence, Nico returning to the book he had been reading while the Ifrit entertained himself by trying to stick a spoon to his nose as the two waited for food to arrive.

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Alfred looked at the skies, his wings outstretched, as he gracefully flew amongst the clouds with his gorgeous wife beside him. No problems. No worries. Just the air below his wings and the ground underneath him wishing it could join him in the sky.

As he soared, he felt nothing but ecstasy. But, the journey was short-lived - they both landed in front of the city's largest library - Acudoma - and let their wings go back upon their sides, closing them gently.

"Ah! My lord!" an elderly-looking dragonkin said as he began to walk over to the pair. Alfred knew not exactly how old this one - Grelan - was, but he was certainly older than 10,000 years. Yet, to most humans, he'd only be middle aged. He stepped towards them both and bowed.

"Grelan!" Alfred said, embracing the man happily and stepping back. "I have heard that you have something interesting?"

"Yes! It's definitely Mariddian in nature." the man said, nodding.

Alfred stopped suddenly, confused.

"Mariddian? Then shouldn't it belong to the Djinn?"

"...Well.. sir, that's what I though too... until I saw Dragonkin writing on it as well, and a few other races - one of which I believe M'rellia leads?"

Alfred blinked, concerned. Just what could these stone tablets have been made for?

 

----

 

Upon entering the massive library, Alfred was always slightly awestruck by what the dragonkin had built over 600 years. It had been constantly repaired, rebuilt, renovated, and improved upon every so often, and now its size was half of Alfred's grand citadel - which was saying a lot. Books upon books, artifacts, and great skeletons of ancient beasts decorated the place. It would have been more of a museum than a library by mortal standards. But, to the dragonkin, it was a place of quiet research that allowed them to discuss the artifacts without being bothered. In fact, one of Alfred's own laws that he decreed was that crimes against the library and research were to be punished by high order. Of course, this law had never been broken after the first 100 years, when people were still slightly tense against one another. However, that crime had resulted in the loss of a ring belonging to Ulsar which had taken 250 years to reclaim.

As he stepped among the scholars busying themselves with translations and writing, he gave them each a nod - some of them returning it, others too engrossed to notice, but he understood.

"Here we are, your highness." Grelan said, moving two of the scholars aside so he could point at the great stones standing before them. "There are four of them, though one of them was broken into two pieces so we originally thought there were five. They look incomplete, and sadly, one of the languages is alien to us. We were hoping-"

"This one? That's Re'Neri." Alfred said, turning. "It's one of the two tongues used for religious ceremonies."

"Re'Neri? Why would a dead race be on such modern tablets?" Grelan adjusted his glasses, confused. "The Re'Neri have been gone for thousands of years.. they died out when I was only reaching my first millenia..."

"Yes, but their language is used among cultists of dark gods, Grelan." Alfred looked troubled, looking over the tablets with a bit of worry. "Re'Neri tongue celebrates the dark god himself, if you recall - hence why they died out. You there, scholar-"

"Hmm?" the young, female dragonkin turned, frowning.

"What destroyed the Re'Neri?" he asked. It was said as though Alfred knew but wished to see who else knew.

"War?" she replied, confused.

"No. What about you?" he turned to another one.

"Famine? Disease?"

"No." Alfred sighed. After a while, he finally gave up and turned to Grelan.

"They died from a mass suicide in the name of their god, pledging their souls eternally to him, knowing all the secrets of their race would die with them. Almost everything they possessed was burned individually. Before anyone could stop them, on the night of the First Blood Dawn, they each placed knives underneath their hearts and stabbed upward, ending their lives. They were discovered by a group of archaeologists years later, and their bodies had been preserved by some unknown power."

Some of the scholars were horrified. Others nodded, fascinated. Mellena grabbed Alfred's shirt, her face unreadable.

"Honey, sometimes you know things that worry me." she admitted.

"It's because I do research so that I can speak of it to others. Kings should know as much as possible, as much as they can learn, in order to rule efficiently, correct?" he smiled, turning back to Grelan. "Do you need me to translate it?"

"If you would. Sadly, I didn't take the time to learn Re'Neri. After their extinction, we all assumed anything found would never contain anything by them again."

"It wouldn't have to be written by them, Grelan.. just someone who had learned their tongue like I had." Alfred leaned down, reading.

"And so did he, our gracious, terrible lord, chained by the gods and held in thrall, become placed within the bubbling and churning ground. Ghanda himself placed the final seal, forcing our beloved lord down below the earth, never to be seen again... the name of that land would become the name of the beast himself... Z...."

Alfred stopped, concerned. As he stood to his feet, he coughed a moment and turned to Mellena, his face determined.

"We have to tell Rasul about this discovery. Immediately." Alfred said as he began to walk away. Grelan ran to catch up with him, concerned.

"What did you read, my lord?! What happened?!" Grelan asked, frantic.

"Zulfiqar. The name of the beast was Zulfiqar." Alfred responded as he took back to the skies after a long pause, Mellena following suit.

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Nico let out a heavy sigh, his heart troubled. "I'm worried about him," the young Marid said, running his fingers through soft, dark feathers. Yaitel crooned, shifting her large body to look at the Marid as he tended to smoothing out her feathers. "Ever since that incident he's been more withdrawn, despite what he says. He's spending more time down in the Vaults, neglecting his duties as ruler. I noticed how he's favoring his left side.. the one that almost got torn off at the shoulder," he clarified to the Roc as she tilted her head in confusion. "I've always suspected he hated being an Overlord, but why did he kill the last one to take his place if he hates ruling so much?"

 

The Roc blinked at him and clicked her beak, making Nico smiled exasperatedly at her. "I know you don't like him," he said, stroking her beak. "But he is my Father, despite being two different races and from two different bloodlines. He has his quirks, but he's been good to me." He chuckled at a sudden thought. "Everyone must've panicked for my safety when he adopted me. A head-chopping-happy Ifrit taking in a Marid? They'd probably thought he'd kill me by accident within a few hours." The Roc fluffed her feathers up in agreement, and Nico stuck his tongue out at her.

 

His smile faded though as he sighed, dropping his hand to stroke Yaitel's feathers again. "He's been giving me more duties. He always hated paperwork, but he's letting me do more things without his input. It wouldn't surprise me if he goes down into his Vaults one day and refuse to come out, leaving me with the throne. That sounds like something he'd so just to break the tradition of...well..." Just thinking about the tradition of changing of rulers made Nico sick to his stomach. The one desiring for the throne, no matter if the son, the daughter, the wife, or something within the Court, had to kill the current ruler. The throne always changed hands in terms of bloodshed. But Nico couldn't bear thinking of killing his Father, and he knew the Ifrit would never defend his throne from the Marid.

 

A beak preening his hair made Nico jolt from his depressing thoughts to look up at the Roc. Once she had gotten his attention she bumped him in the chest with her large beak, a grumble in her throat.

 

"Alright, alright," Nico couldn't help but laugh, patting the bird's feathers. "Let's go on a flight. Want to go over the sea this time? The wind's going to be calm and the skies clear according to the Jann."

 

With a click of affirmative, Nico happy climbed up on the great bird's back. She couldn't fit in the Observatory anymore and instead had taken to perching on the roofs of the palace. She still had many years of growth left to do, but she was already large enough to carry a young whale. Once securely securely on the Roc's back, Nico patted her to let her know. The creature stretched her massive wings and took to the darkening evening skies, over the city and towards the calm waves of the sea.

 

Nico loved flying. The wind blew all his worries away and the scenery from the heights always fascinated him. The skies were painted with color as the sun set, and he knew the stars would soon come out. Perhaps there would be a meteor shower tonight- that'd be amazing to watch from the Roc's back.

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Alfred flew across the skies, faster than usual and definitely with more might. Mellena had been forced to ride upon his back.

Even though the Del Vrin were far superior to the other races in terms of magic and dragon power, their strength was low, and they were frail. She hadn't been able to keep up with him at this speed of flight. He probably could have broken the sound barrier if he wasn't holding her aloft.

Soon, Zulfiqar was in sight... and...

"Nico?" Alfred said, slowing slightly. Sure enough, a large, familiar bird shape carrying an even more familiar shape came into view. Alfred frowned, wondering if they - too - had also found something troubling.

"Nico!" Alfred yelled out, over the roar of the wind in his ears. "Nico! Go back and get your father!"

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Nico saw something in the corner of his eye barreling towards them in the air. Yaitel didn't seem too worried about it, so it wasn't a threat, but what-

 

He sat up straight as a familiar voice yelled out to him. "Alfred?" His lips curled into a wide smile and urged the Roc towards the other ruler despite his words. As he got closer to him, the young Marid saw that Alfred was not alone. "Mellena!" he said, first happy, then his face fell. "What are you doing carrying her all this distance?! Climb onto Yaitel and rest awhile before you collapse!" He couldn't believe Alfred had carried his wife all the way here from Ulsarus. That was quite a travel even on Yaitel! "What are you two doing here? What has happened that you travel with such haste?" Panic jumped into Nico's throat, and he had to count to ten to calm himself down. What terrible thing has happened that a powerful man such as Alfred had to come to see his father?

 

"It'd be best if you come with me back to the palace. My father's been in a mood and he will most likely not leave his research unless you pull him out in person." Alfred seemed to be the only one who could get the Ifrit Overlord's head from his ass when he was in one of his moods. Rasul trusted Alfred in a strange way- so much so that he would abandon his work and go on crazy adventures with the man with a lot of grumbling and arguing, but without any true struggle against going. Besides, Nico was still grounded from going into the Vaults because he had accidentally knocked over two shelves full of stuff when an artifact he carelessly picked up reacted badly. His father had blown a gasket, and Nico was sure the man would physically throw him out if he stepped one foot into the doorway.

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Alfred nodded graciously, alighting atop Yaitel after placing Mellena upon the bird first. She was not nearly as exhausted as he as he collapsed upon the bird, coughing.

"I actually have two things to discuss.." he coughed. "One of them more important than the other - but I found out why the glorious bird doesn't like Rasul... but we'll talk about that later... It's.. not as important as Rasul's lineage... and what's going on."

Alfred coughed, passing out upon the bird's massive back. Mellena immediately placed his head upon her lap, sighing.

"He always does this." she turned to Nico, frowning. "This creature has become enormous since I saw it last. What on earth have you been feeding it?"

Of course, this was small talk - meant to distract from the true problem.

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Nico waited until Alfred landed on Yaitel before he patted the large Roc, directing it to go home. He turned around to face the two new passengers, frowning in concern as Alfred all but flopped down onto the feathered back, clearly exhausted from his trip. His brows furrowed at the man's words, worry gnawing at his insides until Alfred mention his father's lineage. His brows shot up from their previous expression, outright gaping at the man. "But he never talks about his family or where he came from!" No matter how many times Nico had badgered the man, or how much any of the advisors of generals or anyone else harassed him for answers, Rasul had never said a peep about his family. When he took to the throne, many had questioned for a family name, but the Ifrit had kept his lips sealed. If Alfred was bringing concern over Rasul's lineage...that might be a very bad thing.

 

Mellena distracted Nico, asking what he had been feeding the Roc. A grin formed from his frown. "Sharks," he said, quite happily too. "Sometimes Yaitel here picks up a baby whale or a sea serpent, but she has taken a liking to shark. There isn't many land animals large enough to feed her anymore, but she has adapted to fish for her prey."

 

They arrived to the palace quickly, as Nico did not travel that far out from the coast. Yaitel landed on the roof, close to a tower for the three of them to climb onto and take the stairs down. "Thanks Yaitel!" the young Marid said cheerfully, patting the Roc before climbing onto the marble tower floor. He waited for the two to join him before he started his way down the stairs. "It's been awhile since the last time I heard from either of your two," he said, deciding to continue the small talk. "Father doesn't talk much, so he must've been neglecting to keep in touch as well. He's been neglecting a lot of things as of late." His lips pressed into a thin frown as the worry for his father returned tenfold. "I'm glad you're here... perhaps you can help get him out of this moody rut he's in."

 

He lead the two down to the doors of the Vaults before he stopped, turning to smile sheepishly. "This is as far as I can go. I, er, have been forbidden to go in there for awhile. This may be important, but Father would take me over his knee for disobeying him nevertheless of the circumstances."

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Mellena kissed Alfred softly, patting him.

"Wake up. We need to get moving. We can sleep here tonight, but don't you need to say something important, dear?" she asked, helping him to his feet.

"Yes. Yes. Very...." Alfred said. He leaned upon her as the two of them followed Nico through the twisting and turning hallways that led them to the legendary vault Rasul treasured so much.

Alfred had been one of the only outsiders ever allowed into Rasul's vault of artifacts. At first, it's because the monarch hadn't been able to read Mariddian or anything else Djinn naturally wrote. But Alfred didn't insult or pester the monarch about it. He merely came in when Rasul called him in to "verify" some writing the Marids were translating.

The Marids had admittedly lied to him about SEVERAL forecasts and artifact translations, pocketing coin for false information. Alfred had no idea what had happened to those individuals but Rasul had seemed quite irate when he'd been informed of this. He trusted Alfred's translation more than he trusted theirs.. one reason Alfred had always felt poorly for the Ifrit.

He had a reason for being strong and hiding his emotions. Ifrit, for one thing, could burn down cities if they allowed their anger to truly show. But also because the Marid would use that against him.

But the Marid were dirty, dirty liars. Alfred had never told Rasul... but now he felt it was time to inform him of the truth behind his lineage.

As soon as Alfred entered the vault, he stumbled into it, placing his hands on the desk Rasul used for "translations" - which in reality, he sometimes slept on, as far as Alfred knew, and also used for eating when he didn't feel like dealing with royal dinners... which was often.

"Rasul... I have finally found the proof of it. After so long.." he looked over, suddenly noticing the wall with the missing holes.

"Yes. YES! This is perfect! Mellena, dear..." he turned to her, grasping her shoulders calmly and then kissing her as hard as he could. "THIS IS BEAUTIFUL! Hurry! Hurry back and tell them to bring the stones here - where they belong!"

His exhaustion was immediately gone, replaced with excitement as he brushed aside - slowly - Rasul's writing implements and various current translation progresses, placing a stone on the place where they had been.

"Rasul! Rasul! Here it is! Your claim to the kingdom! The truth behind everything! I have finally found it, after 30 years of searching through so much!" he grabbed the Djinn's shoulder's now, completely forgetting Rasul's hatred of touch. " YOU ARE THE RIGHTFUL RULER OF ZULFIQAR, AND SO ARE ANY OF YOUR CHILDREN. YOU WERE ALWAYS SUPPOSED TO BE KING! YOU SHOULD NEVER HAVE HAD TO KILL ANYONE!"

He was completely giddy now, jumping up and down like a child as he gestured to the wall.

"This wall proves it! My translations were all accurate! Those censorkip.gif***-... I mean, those devious Marid! They tricked you! I wanted to be sure. I didn't want to tell you before I was absolutely sure of your claim to the throne..." he turned to Nico, apologetic. "THAT DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE LIKE THEM, my boy! You are as good as Rasul to lead these people! But this means an entire restructuring of the governmental system! Zulfiqar was never meant to be led this way!"

He held out both of his hands. Mellena, knowing her husband, bowed and began to take her leave to send a message to the kingdom telling them to bring the tablets back.

"Rasul... my friend.. we have much to discuss..." Alfred said, exhausted again. "You have... NO idea."

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Rasul had been examining a strange crystal the size of his fist when the doors to the Vaults banged open- nearly causing him to drop the crystal onto the floor. He turned, irritated, his mouth open to say something particularly nasty when Alfred of all people slapped his hands to the desk in front of him. He gaped at Alfred like a fish on land as the preacher lizard-face began to say something, but that was before he noticed the chunks of wall sitting innocently nearby. Alfred flipped his theoretical lid at the sight of the walls, turning on his heel to get some mouth action with Mellena, ranting about bringing stones back or something.

 

Rasul rose from his seat, still trying to wrap his head around what the blazing hell was going on before the crazed dragon-butt turned to face him once more, clamping a hand down on the Ifrit's shoulders. The large Djinn immediately tensed up, his face going from confused to defensively irritated as he narrowed his eyes at Alfred, who hadn't seem to notice anything wrong at all. Fuu- his left shoulder reminded him that it didn't like being touched either. He suppressed the wince and pushed the pain aside in favor of glaring at Alfred, who was going on and on about... him being the true ruler? What?

Most of the words were lost to Rasul, too busy watching Alfred lose his marbles as he jumped around. Damn it was like when bird-brain was first starting to hatch all over again. The dragon-like man had positively lost it that day too. But this was a new world record, as Rasul understood absolutely nothing of what the other monarch was going on about.

 

Rasul glanced over Alfred's shoulder to Nico, who lurked outside the open doors. He smiled and shrugged sheepishly, looking just as confused as he felt. There was something about Marids and tricking and Alfred actually cursing (another world record!), and Alfred turning to apologize to Nico who just smiled in confusion as Alfred turned back around to face the Ifrit again. It seemed after spouting for about ten minutes he finally ran out of air.

 

"Well, that's freaking great. You can repeat all that in the short, condensed version without the arm flapping and the rambling." Rasul growled darkly. "Also do NOT touch me." He sat back down in his chair, beckoning Nico into the room since he might as well stay for the discussion as well. He propped his feet up onto the desk (mindful of the crystal) as Nico happily bounded into the room.

"Now, explain your crazy ass to me one more time, and what's the idea of bringing hunks of rock here?"

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Alfred paused a moment to collect himself.

"This stone-" he pointed at the rock, then pointed at the wall. "Is the fragment of a group of tablets we recovered from the sands between my kingdom and yours - in what used to be Zunite territory. However, as per our agreement, we were checking to see which kingdom they belonged to... and I discovered a translation you'll be VERY interested in."

He pointed at a certain part, grinning. The language looked like triangles with small marks in them.

"This... is Ifritian, each symbol representing a flame with a shape in it. It's a dead tongue. Ifrits stopped recording history when they were overthrown by the Mariddian. This is the last known text from before that time... from someone I think you'll be very interested in."

He pulled a scroll from his bag, showing Rasul a picture of... Himself.

In every facet, the Djinn was Rasul. He even had Rasul's eyes of anger. Sure, he had scars in different places, and it looked like it'd been taken from a rock carving, but it was surely Rasul.

"This is your ancestor. All of the information I've found makes it certain. The last Ifrit king of Zulfiqar before the Marid took over... when a great apocalypse happened in their favor and allowed them to condemn fire and fire djinn as a result. The Ifrit ruled over a kingdom called Al'benier, or Great Joining. It was where all four elementals could live in peace. Look here-" he pointed at another part of the stone, placing the scroll near it. "-this part here says that the kingdom fell because a great beast, 1000 years ago, came and caused chaos among the ruins of this land. Because of it, the Marid - power-hungry and god-loving, according to your ancestor - led a rebellion during the fall and took power, erasing all records of the Ifrit rulers - your rightful throne stolen by a bunch of lies."

He slammed his fist on the table in fury. For once, Alfred was visibly angry, his entire facade of pleasant and formality gone.

"I treated them like guests in my kingdom. The Marid have freely been given nobility and rank they don't deserve because of these lies. A thousand years they've oppressed the Ifrit when they were the true threat all along. No longer, Rasul. We have the proof we need to completely change the monarchy and make them silence their tongues once and for all. And with the Dragonkin backing the honesty of this information for you, who would say it was a lie?"

He smiled slightly.

"After all this time, I can truly give you the peace of mind you've wanted for years, dear friend. You are the true king, and always have been. You should have been given the crown from a young age, and the Marid are abusing you because they honestly believe they have god-given right to rule. But they're wrong. Water is pensive, patient. It does not grow kingdoms. It doesn't help worlds by itself. Fire causes change. Fire takes action. But Fire needs Water, Wind, and Earth. That's right, Rasul. The original kingdom had four kings, one of each, but your kingdom of fire was the largest, and the most wealthy - hence why the Marid wanted it.

I'm not saying it's right that your ancestors hoarded this wealth but it's also not right that the Marid take control in such a manner. They should be like you and your son - peacefully existing, with a bond between each other, supporting one another. For god's sakes, they should be pleased you adopted a Marid rather than using to fuel their godforsaken lies and propaganda. To be honest, Rasul.." he leaned closer, his eyes grave. "The Marid need to be taught a lesson. But I"m not supporting violence. I'm supporting opening their eyes and making them put their feet in their mouths. The Wind and Earth djinn have no idea this happened. They just accepted new leaders. But you finally have in your hands the power to make this all right, and regain your kingdom... but that's where... the problem comes in."

He pondered a moment, sighing.

"Your kingdom was built upon a giant, destructive fire god... and it's still alive... and it's still under us... and according to the tablet, it's going to wake back up soon... in about three months." Alfred sighed.

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Alfred seemed to have gathered his fleeting sanity again as he spoke more calmly than before. Rasul's fiery eyes followed after his finger to look at the stone blocks. Ah, so that's where other missing chunks went. They hadn't been lost, merely in a different country entirely. How the hell did that happen?

He blinked as the man pointed to a certain part of the wall, to the ancient writing that the Ifrit could understand. His brows rose to his hairline when lizard-face said that it was Ifritian. Okay, so apparently his kind had a writing system at one point. That was news to him. It made sort of sense, though, as to why the ancient scratches were the only things that Rasul could read without wanting to cleave his head in two.

Rasul continued to stare at Alfred, finally considering that the man finally lost himself to his madness when he pulled out a scroll with a picture of an Ifrit looking way too similiar to himself. Even tied it with a bow saying that the picture was his ancestor, and not only that, his "ancestor" was the last Ifrit king.

Alfred continued on, giving a more twisted version of how the Marids were full of deceitful crap and a sort of newer, weirder version of the old Djinn creation tale.

Lizard-face even became angry at the thought of the Marids stealing the Ifrit's supposed right to the throne. It was strange seeing Alfred in righteous fury for Rasul's sake. He swore he was hinting at the use of violence against the Marids (although he rebuked that later, much to Rasul's disappointment). He continued to go on and on, claiming that the Ifrit had all right to rule and there apparently were four kingdoms before the Marids became asstwallops. Oh, and the beast thing the gods supposedly destroyed was actually buried under the dirt beneath their feet.

"So let me get this straight," Rasul stated, pinching the bridge of his nose to help quell the headache that was beating against his skull. "You have the four or five missing hunks of compressed dirt that I've been trying to figure out where the hell went. The ancient writing on the wall, of which is the only damn thing I can read without wanting to claw my eyes out, is actually MY language to begin with. The Marids in the past were slippery frackpoles who supposedly stole the throne from Ifrit rule when they claim they saved us because of some bull reason. My heritage, of which I know absolutely nothing about, is apparently some king butt-wipe before the Marids toasted his ass, and I'm supposed to be sitting here with this title all along but wasn't because of technical reasons?"

Rasul scowled. "This is the most twisted, impossible thing I have ever heard. I mean, I don't even LIKE ruling, but you're sitting here saying I'm supposed to be here anyway? My people live in the desert like animals, barely able to function without wanting to tear someone's limbs off or set houses on fire, but you have the gall to sit here and tell me we were supposed to be some great, wealthy kingdom like the other damned Djinn?!"

The Ifrit had risen from his chair, going to pace back and forth like a caged beast, his eyes almost crackling with inner fire. "Our mythology claims that our people were born from parts of the beast that the gods supposedly defeated, and you go and poke holes into that too." He growled something under his breath, smoke curling from his lips. "I don't know what sort of cracked-up story you're going to pull out of your scaly ass, but it will not work to appease those...those idiots out there." He gestured wildly towards the open doors of the Valults. "Even if I had all right to rule, I am the most temperamental, illogical heretic that has no purpose sitting on the throne. Even if I do shove their information into their faces, and your scaly asses backing me up, those dense fracktwats will not believe a word of it. The Ifrit hate me because I am too calm and collected; the Marids hate me because I am both a heretic and too ill-tempered for their liking. The Jann barely tolerate me because they feel that I am too violent and bloothirsty and will not change my ways, and the Shaitan? I have no honor, stealing my way into the throne and assassinating the last Overlord. I am a traitor, a murderer, a thief, a scoundrel. I am an illiterate beast who should be doing nothing but crawling on my belly in the sands outside with all the others of my kind! And you come in here and say I have all right to rule? It may be true, but no one will believe you. 'It's all a trick!' they'll say. 'It's just something that damned Ifrit put him up to'. And they'll be back again and again, trying to sink a dagger into my heart!"

The Ifrit turned on his heel, his eyes blazing as he glared at Alfred. "I have no idea what you're trying to pull here, but I want no part of it! I don't care if there's some homicidal beast from the past that's going to try and kill us all. Well, I'd say, let this kingdom burn!" Too angry to deal with Alfred a second longer, the Ifrit stormed out of the Vaults, disappearing from sight.

 

Nico had pressed himself to the wall when his father began to get angry, staring gobsmacked at the place where the Ifrit had been. "W-what just happened?" he asked hesitantly, his eyes turning from the spot to look at Alfred. "Did he just... just condemn his kingdom...?"

 

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Alfred sighed.

"No. He's being himself again. He'll rethink over the information and he'll return shortly because now he's interested, Nico."

He turned to Nico, grinning.

"You father does this frequently - but only in the vault. However, usually, when he figures something out, he gets angry at the information, leaves, and then returns because now it's intriguing - but he'd never admit that. So, we wait. In the meantime, I'm going to gather my evidence together to make it easier for him to read over."

He piled it together, frowning. Certainly, Rasul had a point. He'd never been like the others of his kind - for good reason. His lineage was special.

But the Marid had lied. The destructive god they were born from was not their true source of birth. There was another, bigger mythology behind that - if the Ifrit even cared to know. But the god all the Marid harped on - Zulf - was not the true source of their birth.

They were trying to erase any sign of the kingdom from before 1000 years ago, replacing it with a new mythology, kingdom, and ruling system. It was a maddening feat that they would continue to accomplish unless Alfred told Rasul the truth.

But for people to be trying to assassinate Rasul... Alfred grimaced. 9/10 of them were probably hired by the Marid. He'd noticed - with some displeasure on his own behalf - that when he'd placed hands on Rasul, the man had been in pain. Those assassination attempts were getting worse, weren't they?

No longer. He heard a noise at the door and turned to see what had happened.

Mellena strode softly back into the Vault, stopping to stand in front of him and bowing slightly.

"I have sent a message back to Skymor about the slabs. They say it will take a day for them to bring them here." Mellena informed him, kindly.

Thank you, dearest. Surely, with those slabs back in place, the full mythology will be revealed, and I can finally prove to Rasul - and all of those against him - that he is the true king."

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Nico frowned at Alfred, but took his word for it. Nico did not go to the Vaults very often when he was allowed, since between schooling and his share of ruling he had little time to explore the wonders of the artifacts around them. If he was in the Vaults, he was conducting his own research on objects his father let him examine, and the Ifrit was typically on the other end of the expansive room. Nico had heard his father grumble and huff and storm out of the Vaults in a mood, but he had never seen anything quite like what he did just moments ago. The young Marid had been worried that Rasul was going to assault Alfred, but now he felt guilty for ever thinking so. Despite his harsh language and anger, Rasul would never lay a hand on someone he liked and trusted, especially Alfred.

Nico let Alfred collect his information, sitting on the smooth surface of the desk his father had abandoned. He lifted the soft amethyst colored crystal up to examine, running his fingers over the angled edges thoughtlessly. Mellena returned to tell Alfred that she had sent a message. The man seemed certain that the Ifrit was meant to lead. Nico had no problem with his father being an Ifrit and ruling. When he did do his job, he did a very good job of it. He was strict and often times brutal in dealing out punishment, but he pushed for rebuilding, redesigning, building up infrastructure and business, growing the trade routes with other kingdoms, anything to help make his kingdom prosper and his people have work. But Nico suspected that Rasul was not happy here. His emotions apart from anger were well tethered from view, but the young Marid had been on the last adventure his father went on with Alfred. The Ifrit was more relaxed during that time than he ever was in the palace outside the Vaults. Gods, he seemed happier sneaking out into the streets than he ever was dealing with the court or struggling with the paperwork.

"Had he told you?" Nico decided to ask, lifting his eyes from the crystal. "About the incident some months ago?" He sighed, a sad smile playing on his lips. "Who am I kidding? Of course he didn't." He opened his mouth to continue, to tell Alfred exactly what happened, but he spotted the Ifrit coming back into the Vaults and decided against it.

 

Rasul had calmed down, although still irritated when he returned to the Vaults. Damn his curiosity and Alfred's ability to make anything mysteriously intriguing. "What's this about some monster under the dirt?" he grumbled, folding his arms over his chest and avoiding to look at Alfred by glaring at the shelf directly over the dragon-man's shoulder. He didn't mention about his so-called ancestor and lost heritage, but Alfred would probably talk about it anyway so there was no need to make it look like he was curious about that too. It wasn't everyday someone waltzed in and claimed an Ifrit had all right to rule due to his lineage, no matter how much Rasul didn't like it.

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Alfred threw up his hand for a bit of flair as he began, grinning.

"1000 years ago, in short, Rasul, the Djinn fought a great creature you've come to calling your god - Zulfiqar. However, who said that god was a god at all? Why.. wasn't it the Marid who constructed temples to it, saying it was the source of your creation? When in reality, it was what had ruined your glorious kingdom to begin with."

He pointed at the wall, outlining the missing shapes.

"When all of this is together, the proof will finally be here. But for now, take solace in knowing that should anyone try to assassinate you while I'm present..."

He outstretched his claws from his fingers in one swift motion, Mellena following suit.

"They will be declaring war upon Skymor and Ulsarus as well. I have decided. You are now under the protection of not just those loyal to you, but now I can finally say with utter conviction that everyone in my kingdom would follow you now. I couldn't before. My kingdom is neutral. If we were to wage war, it would shatter the world again like it did with our dead country. But I can no longer stand idly by knowing that those devious, wretched Marid, Jann, and Shaitan who are not loyal to your regime are soiling your name when in reality they are the damned ones."

He used his claw to trace the writing in the stone.

"But I digress. As for the beast, that is something quite important indeed. According to the stones, the seal which holds him in thrall will shatter within three months - exactly. Because that's the thousandth anniversary of when he was sealed."

He turned to Rasul, grinning slightly.

"But now the choice is up to you. If you inform your people of it, they'll call you crazy, won't they? Even I won't be able to convince them... according to you. So, for the first time Rasul, I'm going to play by your crazy rules for once in this endeavor. What say we dig up this creature and prove to them it isn't a god at all? According to the texts, your ancestors could speak to the beast - which was why they were placed alongside it and condemned. Which means, Rasul, you can speak to it as well.."

He crossed his arms, in a reflection of Rasul, and smiled.

"What say we dig up a god?"

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Alfred visibly perked up, Rasul noted with hidden amusement. The man began his dramatics once more, beginning with the god that supposedly created the Djinn- Zulfiqar. Yet the creature had destroyed the kingdom instead, or so Alfred claimed. He promised that the missing walls would clarify any doubts of it. Rasul knew the walls were missing chinks, and the story did seem to say more than what the Marids claimed, so he would leave Alfred with the benefit of a doubt until the evidence was shown. It wasn't like he really cared much about what was a god and what wasn't- he didn't believe in them anyway so it made no difference to him.

Then the dragon-butt-faced-preacher stood right before the Ifrit and staked his claim of defense to him. Rasul stared at the man with an unreadable expression as Alfred stated that he would go to war to those who tried to defy Rasul any further than they already had. That...that stupid idiot. Did he know just how serious his exclamation was? If Rasul didn't know better, he would've certainly argued the man to back down from his promise. Sadly, Alfred wasn't one to back down when it came to righting a wrong or had a strong well of religious fervor, and Rasul couldn't keep his cool long enough to give him a decent argument without wanting to bash the smug lizard's face in.

Then Alfred redirected back to the beast in the dirt thing, saying that whatever bits of wall he had claimed that the creature had been imprisoned, not killed from the sounds of it, and that its bindings were to snap sometime very soon. But then he wanted to help Rasul in... dig up this pseudo-god?

"You know, they'd probably execute you for heresy for saying that," Rasul said, his lips quirking. "But I don't believe in gods anyway, so it's no heartfelt loss on my part if we uncover an idiot-eating beast instead of a blessed god whom the Marids worship. Hell, it'd be hilarious to see their faces."

"I'll cover for you if you're leaving the city, father," Nico said, smiling at the Ifrit and Alfred, glad to see him slowly going back into a better mood than he has been all week. "Just make sure he eats three times a day and gets some proper sleep, Alfred. You should know that he'll work until he crashes."

"Do not," Rasul huffed, making a face at Nico.

"Really? When's the last time you've slept?"

Rasul opened his mouth to answer, then hesitated. He scowled at Nico's smirk and turned to glare at a nearby shelf instead as he sulked. "I'm just not tired," he grumbled under his breath. "I got better things to do than sleep."

"How about you and our guests here get some sleep right now? It is rather late," Nico pressed, removing himself from the desk he had been sitting on and smiled at Alfred and Mellena. "You are welcome to stay as long as you like, if you have no pressing matters to attend to. I can show you to your rooms- and maybe lock my father in Alfred's so he can 'preach him to death', if I remember correctly."

Rasul growled something that sounded like "traitor", now positively skulking, the tips of his ears reddening slightly. Nico basked in the enjoyment of teasing his father.

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"Let them call me a heretic." Alfred shrugged. "I've been standing idly by for too long, allowing these deceitful beings to carry on about their business. I've researched, recorded, and repaired thousands of artifacts, and not always in that order. For years, I've allowed the other affairs of kingdoms to continue as they were. Yours is not the only one with false claims to power. Those will also fall under my protection, should I deem it suitable. My nation is one of peace, but that doesn't mean I won't allow justice to be meted out where it belongs."

He turned to Mellena, frowning.

"Yes, I believe a good sleep would be great, after the flight. Thank you greatly. And as for 'preaching-to-death', I believe by now your father would have expired if that was his weakness. I know I can draw explanations out.. but I also hate to leave anything unsaid. One little piece of information forgotten can lead to war. I've learned that."

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Rasul had nothing to say about being under Alfred's protection. Sure he didn't like it too much, but Alfred wasn't going to back down on this one. At least he had someone watching the Ifrits' back. So the Djinn merely nodded at the dragon-idiot's words in silent, but reluctant acceptance.

He made a face at what Alfred said to Nico, the Marid grinning at the other ruler. The moron knew how to blow air everywhere at every chance he got. With all his preaching, Rasul was certain that even the Jann could ride the wind coming from his mouth. It was worse when it was something the Ifrit had to know and constantly zoned out partway through the explanation, leaving Alfred with no choice but to start from the beginning all over again, but only with a slightly shorter version.

Wanting to get everyone to bed so they could get some decent rest, Nico beckoned to Alfred and his wife to follow him as he lead them out of the Vaults and towards the rooms. Rasul slipped off sometime after the doors to the Vaults shut behind them, and Nico knew he was most definitely not going to his room to sleep, but he had guests to attend to first before he went to round up his unruly father.

"These are your rooms," he said, pushing a door open to one of the many guest rooms the palace had to offer. They were a bit extravagant, or that's what his father claimed, with polished sapphire walls and large windows and everything decked out in gold or other precious metals and stones. Then again, Rasul slept on the floor if he slept in his room at all, avoiding the monstrous bed that was a permanent fixture in the room entirely, so the Ifrit wasn't a completely reliable source of opinion. "I can send a servant up in the morning with breakfast or you can join us in the dinning hall if you wish. If there's anything you need or any questions I'll only be up the stairs there." He gestured towards the large marble stairs at the end of the hallway.

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"Oh, and thank you, of course..." Alfred muttered softly, his eyes already enthralled. Mellena turned to look at Nico and properly thank him, bowing kindly as was the manner of Del Vrin dragonkin females - nobility.

Alfred, however, was currently awestruck by the beauty of the room - and the noted extravagance. Gold, gems, and other precious materials lined the walls and floor, with blankets spread out - no, TAPESTRIES - among the walls in the small amounts of free space.

The free space in between the bookshelves. Had they set up this room specifically for him? He stepped towards one of the shelves slowly, still trying to wrap his head around the beauty of the room as he grabbed a book carefully from it and look at the title.

"Legacy of the Fallen King?!.... A... a mint copy of this?! WITH THE ORIGINAL MARK...?!" Alfred almost squealed in a whisper, his voice going extremely high pitched with shock. Even Mellena seemed affected, her eyes wide as she ran to confirm what he was saying. She was the first to turn back to Nico, her face both curious and apologetic - curious about this and apologetic for her husband's behavior.

Mellena seldom spoke when she was in other kingdoms. Although Alfred had ensured her that such formalities were unnecessary when dealing with other races, Mellena had been raised as a Del Vrin noble woman. Quiet, proper, and dignified were all words to describe them, and Mellena had done her best to meet the standards of her ancestors and honor them in her movements.

Alfred, however, had no such constraints. He was currently shaking with anxiety as he began to pick up other books, reading their titles with a voice of utter awe and shock.

"The Tide of Everfalling Leaves..." he continued, lifting up another. "Blade's Edge... Shining Moonlit Symphony... THESE ARE ALL MINT CONDITION BOOKS FROM DEAD KINGDOMS, PRICELESS RELICS!!"

His voice rang out throughout the room, his body giddy with excitement now. There was absolutely no way he could sleep tonight, not with these pieces of lore beckoning his eyes. Mellena sighed, knowing this would be the case. She worried about his mental health and felt a bit like Nico whenever he got in this mood.

"Dear.." she whispered, patting him. "You can read them tomorrow, you know."

"Melleeeeennaaa..." Alfred actually whined, showing her one of the titles in protest. "Do you know how long I've searched for copies of most of these!? This entire room is worth a thousand times a king's ransom to certain collectors - myself included! Mellena, I would spend half of our treasury just to claim a fraction of these precious pieces of literature. The amount of knowledge we could achieve from just seven of these books... JUST SEVEN! But the entire shelf? Three of these are used to translate 20 different languages on their own! And this one in the corner! This... THIS BEAUTIFUL BOOK HERE - Rose-Strewn Battlefields and Dances in Graves?! This is about the fall of the Kanarach Empire, nearly 2000 years ago! Written by.... by the gods is this the original work!? IS THIS THE DAMN MANUSCRIPT!? Gah! I feel unworthy to even place my hands upon the COVER, let alone flip these pages! Jin'kari the Prophet was a glorious man who deserves far more respect than he's gotten over the years. AND IS THIS THE SEQUEL!? IT IS! By the GODS! BY THE GODS! HOW DID RASUL NEVER SHOW ME-... Oh."

He suddenly felt very ashamed, lowering his arms to his sides sheepishly. He replaced the books in his shelves and sighed.

"He didn't show me because this would have happened.... I've known him for so many years and he never showed me something like this because I would have lost my mind. But a GUEST room... with THIS MANY BOOKS! I can only... only SHUDDER to think of what he has in his! Nico, one of these books could teach your father how to read not only the Djinn tongues, but several from the outlying tribes as well! WITH JUST TWO OF THEM.." he grabbed the two in question with respect to them and hurried over to Nico's side. "With just these two, your father could have already learned every language your country has ever written in, the outlying clans, and some Dragonkin. The man who wrote this was a Djinn immigrant to Ulsarus. He taught me most of the Djinn tongue I learned when I first came here. I knew him personally, yes. His name was Antoine Das Vantul, of the Grentul."

His face was obviously filled with reverence and excitement but it was also clear he was holding back most of it for the boy's sake.

 

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Nico smiled as the two dragonkin seemed to like the room, Alfred already staring in awe with the etravigant place. The young Marid bowed his head in return to Mellena's bow, not sure if he was supposed to but it was messaged recieved, right?

Alfred was practically drooling at the sight of the bookshelves, his voice nearly squeaking in shock at the one book he'd found. Mellena even went to investigage her husband's findings as Nico stood back and watched them with silent amusement. All of the books in this room were original copies or first editions, and all dated back a thousand years or more. With his reaction to just these books, Nico couldn't help but feel glad that Rasul made him swear up and down that he wouldn't show or mention the library to Alfred. The palace was massive, the hallways maze-like, and with hundreds of rooms abound, it would just take too long for Aflred to explore everything. So far with the few visits that the Ulsarus ruler made to the place, he had yet to find the library. Although, his father did mention that he made the servants lock the room off when Alfred came, so that may have helped.

Nico bit back a laugh as Alfred whined to his wife, wanting to stay up and read rather than sleep. He was fawning over a manuscript that Nico had seen Rasul put into the room when he required it. The man seemed to cool off a tad at the thought that his father would've kept these books away from Alfred just for this very reason. Nico couldn't help but smile at how right Alfred nailed it. Rasul had grumbled at one point that Alfred may end up never going back home if he ever found all the books hoarded away in the many rooms, not just in the library.

Alfred came over to Nico, two books in hand, saying that his father could've learned more languages than he could shake a stick at. The name of the author wasn't familiar to Nico, but he smiled anyway.

"My father doesn't have any books in his room," he said with a sad smile. "In fact, the only thing in his room is a bed, and that's because it's stuck in the floor. I had to ask one of the servants who's been around since he first started to rule and she said the room was filled with books, artifacts, jewels, furniture, but he came in and just hauled everything out and spread it out into the other rooms or simply tossed it out the window. He doesn't even use the bed- he sleeps on the floor if he sleeps in his room at all." He shook his head at the thought.

"He had the shelves comissioned for all the guest rooms and has been filling them up with books he's found in the Vaults or found in the ruins around. All the previous books that had been collected from previous rulers before him are, er, in storage, so any books you find in any of the other rooms have only been added since my father began. Except this room. These books, from what Wasaihi told me, are books my father personally found. She said the second day of his rule he disappeared for a few hours to return with several crates and put them in here before requesting for shelves."

Nico walked over to one of the far shelves. Kneeling to the floor, he plucked the first book in the line on the bottom shelf with care and rose up to show them. It was a medium-sized tome, the leather cover cracked and worn and the pages crinkled in the corners from use, but the book itself was well taken care for despite its age. The cover held no title nor author.

"Wasaihi said he used to carry this around with him at all times for about a year before he stuck it on the shelf," he said, smiling softly as he traced his fingers over the cover. "He won't even mention the book, and ignores any questions about it. I cannot read it, but from the diagrams and symbols, I suspect it's a magic book, which is another topic my father doesn't talk about." Rasul didn't talk about a lot of things, but the Marid did not hold it against the man. He just wasn't one to share things, especially since in his position any information could be potenially dangerous in the wrong hands. But Alfred was not a wrong hand; he was a friend, or close to one in Rasul's definition of such. Nico held the book out to the man, smiling at him. "You know how father is." And that could explain everything about the Ifrit.

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"He... threw them out... the window?" Alfred's entire face fell as he thought of numerous, expensive, highly sought after books being thrown carelessly from the top of the castle walls. He even reached out his hands in a mock attempt to grab them, afraid.

"Priceless literature..." he muttered, appalled. "But in any case... Magical tome? What kind of magical tome?"

Alfred walked slowly to the Marid's side, confused. He leaned down to look at the book in Nico's hand with a bit of confusion.

"But these are Ifritian.... he could have read a bit of this.." Alfred mused, confused. "May I take a look at it?"

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Nico couldn't help but laugh. "No! Not the books. The furniture, on the other hand..." He couldn't see his father tossing books out of the window so carelessly. The man, despite his lack in reading abilities, seemed just as passionate about them as Alfred was. Instead of wanting to require the knowledge inside, he simply hoarded them.

"I do not know what kind of magical tome it is," Nico said when the rule approached to examine the book in his hands. Ah, so it was in Ifritian. No wonder he couldn't read it. He nodded and handed the book over when Alfred asked to look at it more closely, setting the book gently in his hands. "Please be careful with the pages, they're extremely fragile from use unlike many of these other books."

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Alfred took the book gently, flipping through it with deliberation. His eyes skimmed over the pages, translating quite quickly as he continued to peruse the text.

"....Nico, I'm going to need a night to read over this information. Just... visit us in the morning. I think you'll like what I may discover, if what I've read so far is any inclination." he promised, gesturing to the bed. "But for now, Mellena and I must rest. Thank you for your hospitality. We shall see you by the morning."

His hurried nature was quite unlike him but it was clear something in the book had piqued his interest and he was in a rush to get to read it in peace.

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Nico blinked at Alfred as the man skimmed through the pages of the old tome, saying he needed to read through the information. "I will come by before breakfast to discuss your findings," he said. "Have a good night, Alfred, Mellena." He nodded to each as he addressed them before he turned and left them to their devices, shutting the door quietly with a click. He wasn't going to bother finding his father- the man was probably squirreled away back in the Vaults again. Shaking his head at the thought, Nico went up the stairs to his own room to put in some hours of rest for what seemed to be a long day ahead of them.

 

The next morning came early for Nico, rising at his usual hour. He checked on the kitchens first to make sure they knew to cook for more than just he and his father before going to search for the Ifrit. Turned out that Rasul had, in fact, went to his rooms and got some sleep, but he had already been awake for several hours when the young Marid found him in the Vaults working on another project.

After leaving his father to his work, Nico then spoke to the servants so they could tidy the room Alfred and Mellena were using after they left for breakfast. If they stayed for a second night it would be rude to leave them sleeping in an unmade bed.

By the time Nico was done hunting people down, it was about time that he went to check up on the two guests. He made his way to the hallway and stood before the large ornate door, rapping his knuckles against it gently, loud enough for them to hear but not enough to disturb them if they were in fact still sleeping.

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