Nilonia, the mysterious second sentinel. For centuries beyond memory it has distanced itself from magic, preferring its own power. By the leadership of Emperor Nilo the second sentinel became the first to cast off shadow and establish trade among the worlds. His army is devoid of foot soldiers, for only the strong can become an invincible Nirad. By their watchful protection, the Nilonian Empire knows no rival.
Or does it? In a world where unseen enemies move through the night, anything can happen…
But that’s a boring tale. This story is about two of the youngest Nirad to ever gain rank: Rydn the schemer and Jyrnn the watchful. Rydn is the only apprentice of Sir Keisn, the most powerful man in Nilonia except, of course, the Emperor Nilo himself. Jyrnn, on the other hand, is the firstborn son of Taurek, the wealthiest businessman and the other most powerful figure in Nilonia. Sir Keisn and Taurek have clashed on occasions most often, the details of which the Nirad Justyn the neutral has carefully recorded.
So much to say, Sir Rydn and Sir Jyrnn were always going to meet eventually, and now they have. Read on into the depths of secrecy that are Nilo’s Nirad, if you dare.
By Rena Steen
Edited By Alicia Steen
None had known from whence they came.
Every one diverse but still the same.
Serpents of a different form,
One should know they were true fakes.
Their poison sprayed from bite or spit.
No cure was found for those they hit.
Such rage and fury none could stop
Many a person in death did drop.
In darkest hour a leader did rise
To unite the warriors under his guise.
Wielding shadow he defeated the serpents
Then all of Nilonia became his servants.
One by one every serpent was slain
Then all of Nilonia danced and sang.
The worlds united under their banner
Nirad ruled all in orderly manner.
Leaders shall rise, leaders shall fall
One still stands above them all.
They all shall know of His great fame
Though none yet speak His name.
Jyrnn, year of Nilonian Empire 923
Thirteen years of rigorous training. Finally, I am ready for the next step. At least, I hope so. I am never one to listen to rumors; however, if they hold some truth, nothing will prepare me for whatever happenings await me on top of this tower.
Strange how well it is lit. In this ancient fortress, those torches should not be nearly enough to light up the whole hallway at night, yet somehow they do. Wherever there are torches, two Nirad stand like glossy black statues on either side of the curving stairway. No one is breaking into this tower tonight. Thankfully, I am here on summons.
The window shows me a clear, starry night. It figures the instructors would pick this time of day to perform the recruiting ceremony. There is Kiroh, as bright as ever in the night sky. How can a planet without a star be so bright?
Nine windows. That is roughly one hundred thirty-five footlengths if the windows are fifteen footlengths apart. No matter what test or ceremony observance awaits me at the top of the tower, I prefer not to be rejected over lack of perception.
Fifteen footlengths later I am at the top. I only see one Nirad—a decorated, high-ranked Nirad assassin. I have seen this Nirad before. He was there when I registered to take the test to become a Nirad-in-training. That time there had been a two-headed snake pattern on his shoulder having gold gemstones as eyes. This time the pattern is a three-headed snake with black and dark red bloodstones for eyes. That is an outstanding two-rank rise to a position only Nilo himself outranks.
This will be a tough night. I acknowledge his rank with a bow.
“You made it.” Nice to get an acknowledgement at least.
“I plan on making it further,” I answer.
“Do not bet on it.” He circles me, observing with a critical eye. I survey him as well. If dueling him is what will be required of me, I will need all the information I will get. Assuming I survive long enough to use the information. One thing I know for certain—the testing is not nearly done. Not after a remark like that.
“You are expecting trouble,” he points out. Looks like I will have to undergo years of perfection to be able to fool him with my mannerisms.
“The Nirad would not be the best in the known universe if this ceremony were easy,” I respond. The last thing I need to do is to lose my composure to my pounding heart.
“You received your training on perception. You have my acknowledgements. However, perception alone will not help you progress further.” Anticipation rises in my chest.
“Do you know the reason why we called you to this tower?” he asks me. A question? After a declaration about perception? I do not know the reason; however, I have to answer. “It is an ancient tower is it not?” The Nirad continues.
The strange lighting. Kiroh visible from the tower window. An ancient mystery.
“There is more to this tower than its age,” the Nirad circles me as he speaks. “There are tales it was used to fight shadow when shadow was a threat.”
Realization strikes me. Surely he does not mean….
A silver flash outlines his form and eyes against the starlit sky. I crouch and twist in effort to avoid a strike.
The pain explodes in my ribs. As I have been trained, I steal myself against making any sound or movement indicating I have been injured. Nonetheless, there is no way he would not know, for a Nirad is trained to calculate the precision and deadliness of his strikes. My heart slows as ice. I have to force myself to move into my triple-attack combo in order to disguise the fear.
“A clever move; however, it will never down me,” the Nirad hurls toward me in a phantom-like black mist. I attempt a highly skilled block only to find him grabbing the air out of my lungs. “You know none of your moves will phase me.”
I will never be able to beat this Nirad. It takes more than what I am currently able to have to achieve his rank. In order to pass this test, I have to meet a different requirement. This can only mean one thing.
“You know what I require of you,” his distorted voice resonated through the black mist. A clever technique to instill fear into the heart of the victim.
I did not come here to fail.
My lungs are in no condition for speech, let alone breathing. Fine then. I am a Nirad. I came here for nothing else. If he can use that fancy trick, then I can train myself to use it as well.
Suddenly, not feeling a thing, I reach toward the stone. For the first time, I can sense the sheer power residing within it. Terror grips me, but I press through. This is my destiny. This is my fate.
I raise my other hand and focus on accessing the source of the dark mist. Already I can feel the price for doing so sapping my strength. I steel myself against it. This is what it takes to be the best. I am a Nirad. This is my fate. Whatever it takes, I will be one of the best.
Whatever it takes…