This is primarily for my friends who have asked me to work on this story. Fall of Paradise is something of a prequel to my trilogy, set hundreds of thousands of years before The Four Stars begins. This story addresses the fall of Erris, once known as a paradise. I am hoping that enough is explained that people will understand the story without needing to read the trilogy and its sequel. Enjoy!
The skies overlooking the ancient city of Afallon were tinged with red as a procession of twelve stately individuals made their way down the broad lanes that ran from the palace grounds to the center of the city beyond.
A great crowd pressed in along the sides of the lanes, their eyes wide and wondering. Everyone knew what was going to happen that day, and it was no surprise that there was such a large crowd. This would be the day that an heir to the throne would be decided.
Afallon was the center of the elvin lands, the region that made up the eastern portion of Erris. Bordered by the dwarf tunnels and uncharted forests to the north and far east, the human realm of Aila to the west, and the glass-like Cefri Ocean to the south, the elves commanded a vast expanse of territory and resources. With the human realm bordered by war-states to the west, they often needed the weapons made by their dwarven allies, and since the elvin lands, called Samoren, lay between the two nations, it facilitated a great amount of trade. The fairies from the island nation of Teleri valued the handiwork of dwarves and elves alike, and so their trade also came through Afallon, making the elvin palace-city one of the greatest cultural centers of their world.
Because the goings-on of the elvin realm affected so much of the rest of the world, the crowd that gathered this day was not composed entirely of permanent residents. Ruddy dwarf faces and keen fairy eyes peeked out between bronzed human bodies and fair elvin figures.
There were, however, more people present this day than there usually would be at such an event. Elvin crowning and heir-naming was a rare phenomenon, as an elvin king or queen could easily reign 8,000 years. No other humanoid race was so long-lived, and few generations had the opportunity to see such events. On top of that, however, was the fact that there was now a division among the elves. About a hundred years earlier, the elvin race had broken up into four different clans: the Elvanor Clan, who were healers; the Silver Clan, who were dedicated to craftsmanship rather than war; the Royal Clan, a pompous group of half-blood elves known for their interest in magic; and the Cealagor, known as the Sting Clan to the other races, who were masters of tracking, camouflage, and warcraft. What had caused this division was anyone’s guess, but there was no doubt that this heir-naming ceremony would be interesting.
Unlike the humans and fairies, who had total monarchies, and the dwarves who had something similar to a republic, the elves had a political system that confused most people. While they generally had a monarchy, where rule was passed from the reigning monarch to the oldest of their children, if three of the twelve royal council members demanded a different heir, there had to be a vote on it. Recently, with the current ruler, King Finbar, only a year away from his ten-thousandth birthday, an age few elves reached, the topic of an heir weighed heavy on everyone’s minds. The current heir was Finbar’s grand-daughter, Princess Aerena, whose father had been Finbar’s eldest son. None of Finbar’s children remained.
Aerena’s father had died while fighting alongside his human allies and best friend in a war with one of the stronger western war-states. Finbar’s daughter had married a member of the Royal Clan and had died in childbirth, something that was unheard of in the elvin race. Some believed that it was a curse she had accepted when marrying into the clan of half-bloods. Finbar’s younger son had ventured into the uncharted forests to the east and had never been heard from again. Now, all that was left of Finbar’s family were his two grandchildren: Aerena, who was the eldest by a year and who was a member of the Cealagor Clan just like her grandfather, and Shah, the son of Finbar’s daughter and a member of the Royal Clan.
It was ironic, really. The Royal Clan had never held power, not even before the elves officially broke up into clans, and in any case they were not fully elves. All the members of the Royal Clan were descended from a man named Furi Bolgan and his followers, mysterious people who claimed to have come up from the sea. No one knew exactly if they were human or some other race, but it didn’t take long for the war-like strangers to mix with the local residents. Somehow or other, they had gotten involved with some of the elvin nobles and so, in theory, they did have a small portion of royal blood in them. However, they had never had an actual claim to the throne. Not until now, that is.
But at last their long-awaited dream was coming to fruition. Shah had a strong claim on the throne. And, what with his charming demeanor and good looks, he already had a fair portion of the council members on his side.
At last the procession arrived at the council circle. Here sat twelve throne-like chairs carved out of pure crystal. They were set up on a dais and positioned in a circle around a roaring fire.
Solemnly, the council members took their seats and the crowds gathered round the dais. In the throne on the northernmost portion of the ring sat King Finbar. His hair was long and pure white and fell gently over his shoulders and down his back. An intricate silver crown rested atop his regal brow. Like all elves, his face was still fair and youthful. The only sign of age in an elf was that their hair became progressively whiter as they got older. But of all the elves, it was said that Finbar was the handsomest of all. His gentle, emerald green eyes looked out on the world with such a deep sense of compassion that it was hard to imagine anyone could hate him. Of course, there were those who did, but it came as no surprise that most of them were from the Royal Clan.
To King Finbar’s immediate right sat Lord Rodan, a member of the Silver Clan and Finbar’s second-in-command. He was on the shorter end of the spectrum of acceptable heights for a pure-blooded elf, but he made up for his stature in wisdom. Though of the craftsman clan, he was well-learned and was still considered one of the top-ranking scholars in the elvin realm, as were many of the other members of the council. And, like King Finbar, he was mild-mannered and gentle.
To Finbar’s left sat Princess Aerena. Because she had gone so long unopposed as heir to the elvin throne, she had been given a position in the royal council. Now, however, with her position of heiress in question, she had no vote for the time being, which worried some of her supporters. Generally, any issues regarding the heir to the throne would be resolved before the heir became a member of the council. This meant that it would require seven votes for an heir to be chosen. Now, however, with Aerena having no right to vote, it would only take six votes to win, and with Shah being so popular, one vote would make a big difference.
Once the last of the council members had been seated, Finbar stood. He cleared his throat, as though he would rather not speak, then said, “Friends and citizens, today your three clan representatives will choose for you an heir to my throne, a ruler who, in the near future, will take my place as ruler of the elves. May Ainor’s will be done.”
Ainor. Finbar glanced skyward. The god of the Alliance, a powerful creator-god who everyone loved and trusted. It was said that Ainor was a great artist who, on a magical canvas, had painted the world into existence. Looking around at the beauty of Erris, it was easy to believe. Finbar loved Ainor even more than most, and he hoped with all his heart that he would make the right choice. Somehow, he knew that his vote would be the deciding one.
He had little time to think about Ainor now, however. The old elf drew in a deep breath, then continued, “The first choice is Aerena, presiding heir to my throne.”
Here Aerena stood. She was tall, slender, and beautiful, with dark brown hair and wolf-like, golden eyes. Some said she had this eye color because she had been born in Faerida, capital of Teleri, which was known for its golden-eyed, tiger-like felines called giras, and its noble, talking wolves.
Finbar drew his grand-daughter to his side, then continued, “The second choice is Shah of the Royal Clan.”
Up onto the dais came a youthful elf man. He had inherited the violet eyes of his father but, like his grandfather, he was fair-faced and handsome. His hair was long, shimmering, and jet black.
“They will both be given a chance to address the council. Afterward, the council will discuss the matter and put it to a vote. Aerena, as the current heir, will be given the chance to speak first.”
With that, King Finbar returned to his seat and Shah graciously bowed out of the crowd’s attention, taking his place beside the seat of Lord Tiernan, one of the twelve royal councilmen and Shah’s father.
The crowd pressed forward to hear what Aerena had to say. The young elf woman was strong, but quiet and serious. Her speech addressed many issues. She stressed her passion for her people, making sure to add in the fact that she was the daughter of King Finbar’s eldest son and, like her father, she had a passion for the wellbeing of all members of the Alliance.
Then came Shah’s turn. He was a much more eloquent speaker than Aerena. After flashing a brilliant smile, his violet eyes beaming, he proceeded to urge the council to “choose a good leader,” one that could do more than track, camouflage, and fight. He kept referring to Aerena as his “good cousin,” who was skilled, but lacked the ability to “accommodate” the people, whatever that was supposed to mean.
At last, the two were asked to return to the palace so that the council could discuss the matter and vote. The discussion was rather brief. It was obvious that most of them had already made their choices.
Quickly, eleven servants stepped up onto the dais, each holding a candle and a sheet of paper with Shah and Aerena’s names written on it. One by one the lords and ladies of the royal council dripped hot wax over the name of their chosen candidate and pressed their signet rings into the drippings.
Finbar stared at his paper for a particularly long time. So long, in fact, that the attending servant began to nervously eye the hot wax that rolled down the candlestick’s smooth surface, coming to a stop frighteningly close to his bare fingers.
Then, taking a deep breath, the king took the candle and dripped the wax over his chosen name. He pressed his ring into the colorful puddle. It was done.
The king’s servant allowed the mark to dry a bit, then collected the votes from the other servants. When that was done, he began to read them aloud.
One for Shah, zero for Aerena.
One for Shah, one for Aerena.
Two, three, four, five for Shah. Two, three, four, five for Aerena. Only one more vote to go. There would be no ties this day. One would win. But who? The council members leaned forward, nearly balancing on the edge of their seats.
The servant glanced down at the final piece of paper, then said, “Aerena, six votes.”
“The council has decided,” King Finbar sighed, his voice betraying a sense of relief. “Aerena will remain the heir to the throne.”
“Impossible!” Lord Tiernan exclaimed, bounding to his feet. “I demand a revote!”
“For what reason, Lord Tiernan?” Finbar groaned.
“My son is a far better candidate than Aerena is! There must be someone here who is acting out of prejudice because we’re members of the Royal Clan! I demand a revote! A fair vote this time!”
Several groans emanated from the circle.
“Who else wishes a revote? Stand, if you will.”
The three Royal Clan members stood instantly, but they were the only ones.
“What?” Lord Tiernan growled. “You yellow-bellied snakes! Do you turn against your vote for Shah now? Are you afraid of what the others will think?”
“Well, no,” Lord Nevan, a Silver Clan member, replied, blinking in surprise. “But a vote is a vote, Lord Tiernan. No one is acting out of prejudice. I do not think we would be members of the same council if that were so. And even if they were, how would we know? Simply choosing one candidate over another is not prejudice, but choice, and that is the whole reason for a vote.”
“Whose side are you on?” Lord Treasach, another of the Royal Clan members, snapped.
“My lords, this is quite enough,” King Finbar interjected. “This bickering is nonsensical. I will not have accusations flying around without ample proof that they have some sort of merit to them.”
“Are you accusing us of being stupid?”
“No one said anything of the sort.”
“If you are not accusing us of being stupid and you are not acting on prejudice towards us, you should have no problem with a revote,” Lord Tiernan argued.
“That has nothing to do with a revote. You got five votes for Shah, Tiernan, but the fact of the matter is that the rest of the council is willing to take the results as they are.”
“I am not satisfied!”
“You are not the only member of this council!” King Finbar snapped back. “Now if you cannot conduct yourself properly, I must ask you to leave this council immediately.”
“Fine!” Lord Tiernan hissed, turning to leave. “But mind you, this is not the end. My son will be king someday. You will regret the day you crossed me.”
King Finbar groaned, then sank back down into his seat as the three Royal Clan members left the council ring. All eyes were turned upon the old elf king. He had no doubt that Tiernan would keep his word. But even then, he had no idea how bad things would soon become.