“Dad, can you tell me how Hym was founded?” the little boy said.
“I told you that story last night, and the night before that,” the man said.
“I know, but it’s just that I like it more than the other stories you tell.”
“Well, alright then. Your wish is my command.”
Centuries ago on this very land there were massive forests and sprawling plains. Here a nomadic tribe made their home. The tribe was small, but few could match their hunters. Clever, fast, precise, they never missed a shot of their bow or a swing of their sword. Some even believed that they hunted monsters merely for the fun of it. And the most famous of them was a man by the name of Adoni. One night, Adoni, was hunting in the thick woods along with two others.
“Do you hear that?” Adoni asked the other two. They perked up their heads and looked around.
“Yeah, sounds like trouble,” Geralt said, a hunter slightly older than Adoni. What Adoni had heard was laughing and yelling.
“Let’s go find out who or what it is,” Adoni said. He and the other two followed the sounds. As the sounds grew louder and louder they began to see a light. Adoni sighed. “Just as I figured, bandits.”
Isaac, the youngest of the hunters, shrugged. “Could be worse.”
“Don’t say stuff like that boy,” Geralt said. “That is just asking for trouble.” Adoni gestured for both of them to be quiet as they got closer to the camp. Hiding behind the bushes and trees under the cover of the darkness they peered into it. Adoni counted fifteen or so bandits strewn around the camp. They were all drinking and celebrating.
“Guessing these guys just made a big raid or something. They all look rather cheery,” Adoni said.
“And drunk. This’ll be easy,” Isaac said as he reached for his bow. Adoni grabbed his arm to stop him.
“Don’t, they may be drunk, but the three of us against this many is a risky fight, we have no real reason to attack them to begin with.”
“That’s where I beg to differ Addi,” Geralt said. “Look at what they have over there.” He pointed towards the opposite corner of the camp. There, Adoni saw what he was pointing at. A solid iron cage. It was in the back of a wagon and stood about six feet high but was narrow so it was impossible for a grown man to sit in it. But rather than a soldier or a noble in the cage, there was a young girl, most likely of seven years. She was small enough that she could curl up into a ball and sit on the cage’s floor.
“Why would they have a girl there?” Isaac asked.
“Probably to use as a bargaining chip. She might be the daughter of someone rich or powerful. So they’re going to use her to gain a profit,” Adoni said.
“She doesn’t look wealthy though. She’s dirty, and her clothes look like anyone else’s,” Isaac pointed out.
“Whatever the reason. She is in there is I think we ought to get her out,” Geralt said.
“Ok then, you two create a distraction while I sneak over to the cage and open the lock,” Adoni said.
“Wait, what’s that sound?” Isaac said. The earth and trees started shaking as if a giant was walking by. And that wasn’t far from the truth. The bandits felt it too. A few even fell down. Then as if from the shadows, a massive being appeared before the bandit’s camp. It stood as high as three men on top each other and looked like it was a tree itself. Its humanoid body was made entirely out of dead, twisted trees and branches with a cover of orange and brown leaves on its shoulders. The most notable part about it though was the snow white stag skull it had as a head. Adoni had seen this beast before, but only in books. It was a old and powerful wood spirit. Apparently a few of the bandits had read about them too as they cried out it’s name before running away.
“Leshen!” they all yelled.
The Leshen roared and swung its massive arms sending some of the bandits flying. Adoni and the other hunters quickly avoided the beast.
“What do we do?” Isaac said.
“Stick to the plan you distract, and I’ll get the girl.” Adoni said. He made a break towards the cage while the remaining bandits charged the Leshen. When Adoni got to the cage, he drew his sword and attempted to break the lock off with it. The girl noticed Adoni and started talking to him in a language he had never heard of before. He swung at the lock again in hopes of it breaking. Once again it failed, only this time his actions were noticed. The Leshen turned to face Adoni and the cage. Isaac shot an arrow towards the Leshen’s head, but it missed. The Leshen acted as if it didn’t even happen. It just stared at Adoni and the girl with its empty eye sockets. Geralt charged the monster with his blade striking it’s the leg. The Leshen let out a roar. In the distance, Adoni heard the howl of wolves answering its call, and they were getting closer. Adoni had to hurry it up before the wolves got to him. The Leshen swung at Adoni. He barely moved in time to avoid the tree trunk of an arm, but the cage didn’t. The top half of the cage was completely ripped off. Before the Leshen could attack again, Adoni reached into the cage and grabbed the girl.
“Run! I got the girl!” Adoni yelled. He then dashed into the darkness of the forest. But the Leshen gave chase, and it wasn’t alone. The wolves had now arrived at the Leshen’s side and were about to get him. The girl then said something that sounded like ‘look out,’ Suddenly, a rock went hurtling past him and made contact with one of the wolves knocking them down. Then a few more rocks went by him hitting more wolves. Adoni didn’t know where the rocks were coming from, but he was too busy running to care. It didn’t help that he could sense that the Leshen was getting mad now. Not only had they gone into his territory, but they were now attacking the animals he lived with and protected. Adoni was running out of breath and knew he’d have to stop and face them soon. Then he came upon a large clearing with a enormous tree in the center.
“Probably our Leshen’s little hideout,” Adoni said to himself. He stopped and turned to see the wolves slowly coming out from the trees behind him ready to attack. Then the Leshen walked into the clearing. Its eyes were now had a bright blue flame in them, the Leshen was furious now. Adoni knew he was going to be in for the fight of his life. He put down the girl and drew his sword.
“Get out of here kid. I don’t want you hurt,” Adoni said. The girl shook her head. She then looked at the wolves and lifted her hand up. Out of nowhere, rocks of assorted sizes rose from the ground and into the air. She then pointed at the wolves and all of the rocks went flying towards them. Each rock hit their mark, right in the wolves’ heads. Each one of them fell to the ground.
“Wait! You’re the one who threw the rocks back there?!” Adoni said. The girl stared blankly at him. “Eh, doesn’t matter. Let’s just survive this first. Then we’ll talk.” The Leshen roared and plunged its arms into the ground. Then large tree roots burst from the ground, ready to skewer Adoni. Both he and the girl moved in time to dodge the deadly roots. Adoni ran towards the Leshen and reached for his belt. There he grabbed a small ball and threw it at the Leshen. When it made impact on its leg, it bust out in flames. The beast cried out as its body started to catch fire. It slammed its fist down near Adoni. Had he been any more to the left, he’d be dead. Adoni jumped away from the Leshen to gain some distance. The monster roared louder than ever and charged at Adoni. Adoni held his ground and prepared to swing his sword. Before the Leshen could hit him, he moved out of the way and swung at the burning leg. The weakened leg came clean off, making the Leshen fall to the ground. Adoni then jumped onto its back and stabbed it. The Leshen cried out in pain but not it was quickly silenced as Adoni then sliced the stag’s skull off the body. Now there was silence. Adoni stepped off the monster’s body as massive tree roots grew from the ground around it mummifying the body. Suddenly a murder of crows came screeching out of the Leshen’s neck and flew into the woods. Adoni, regaining his breath, turned around to see the girl standing behind him. Isaac and Geralt came running out of the woods. Both breathing heavily.
“You alright?” Isaac asked.
“Yeah, just fine. Killed the Leshen, for now at least. Wasn’t able to perform a proper ceremony to get rid of the spirit itself. Only killed its body,” Adoni said.
“Sorry, we couldn’t help you. We got caught up with a pack of the beast’s wolves,” Geralt said.
“Hold on, I got a question,” Isaac asked. “What in the Immortals was that thing?!”
“A Leshen, a powerful forest spirit,” Geralt said. “They’re extremely territorial. They don’t care about you until you step on their land. Once you do, you’re as good as dead. It forms a physical body from parts of the forest it patrols. Only way to properly get rid of it is to destroy the body and perform a ceremony to remove the spirit itself. Don’t you remember anything Master Xavier taught you?”
“Yes, but so much of it was boring enough to be put to sleep,” Isaac said.
“Even so, that information can save your life,” Adoni said. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
Adoni, Isaac, Geralt, and the girl headed back into the woods and towards the tribe’s camp.
“So you learn anything about the girl?” Geralt asked.
“Well from what I can tell, I think she is a myth,” Adoni said.
“You want go into more detail than that?” Isaac asked.
“Whenever she spoke to me, she spoke some strange language I’ve never heard before. Also she knows how to fight well. She saved me from the wolves that chased us.”
“So? She could be from Mancore then?” Isaac said.
“No, I’m sure she isn’t from Mancore,” Adoni said. “I believe she is an Architect.” Both stopped dead in their tracks.
“As in the Architects who supposedly built the world and modern civilization as we know it? The ones who can bend the earth to their will?”
“Who else could he be talking about, boy?” Geralt said. “So Addi, what do you plan to do with her? She can’t understand us, and from your understanding, she is of a non-existent race. That is if they even existed to begin with.”
“Under...stand. Ho-home. Immortals!” The girl said to the three hunters.
“Wait you do know what we’re saying?” Isaac said. The girl nodded.
“Home. Immortals.”She then made a motion with her arms swooping up as if something was growing from the ground. The three of them looked at her in confusion.
“Let’s get back to camp. We can figure it out then. Maybe someone there can make a better guess than we can,” Adoni said. They all continued to head towards the camp. Isaac tried to communicate more with the girl, but he made no progress. When they arrived at the camp, the moon was high in the sky amongst the stars. Most of the tribe had gone to bed in their tents, but a few of the more elder members were talking around the center fire. They all turned to see Adoni and the others approach.
“Adoni, where were you? We were beginning to worry we had lost all of you to the forest,” Elderman Kain said.
“Sorry, but we got into some trouble. Turns out there is a Leshen in those woods. A rather young one by how weak it was, but a threat nonetheless,” Adoni said.
“My, my, we’ll have to tread more carefully when we venture in there then. Might I ask where you found your new friend? She seems rather strange,” Elderman Abel said.
“We saved her from a bandit camp. To be honest, I don’t think we wouldn’t have done it was it not for the Leshen crashing the party,” Geralt said. The oldest leader stepped forward and looked at each of the hunters.
“So then tell me. Which one of you killed it?”
“I killed it Master Xavier, but I wasn’t able to destroy the spirit. Only kill the body,” Adoni said.
“It’s fine Adoni. To perform the ceremony takes time to prepare. What matters is that it won’t be attacking anytime soon. It will be a while until it can make a proper body again,” Master Xavier said. “But back to the topic of the girl. Who is she anyway?”
“We don’t really know. She speaks a language none of us have heard before and only a few words we understand,” Isaac said. “Adoni believes she could be an Architect.”
“What makes you think something as crazy as that?” Elderman Abel asked.
“Because I saw her move rocks as big as our fists to her will right before my eyes,” Adoni said.
“This is ridiculous! Why would you claim that this mere child is part of some children’s stories?” Elderman Kain said.
“Because they are more than that Kain. They are very real, and I know just where they are,” Xavier said. Everyone stood in shook.
“Wh-what do you mean Master?” Geralt asked. Xavier looked to the girl and started talking in the strange language Adoni had heard earlier. The girl nodded, and then she started talking too. After the girl talked for a while, Xavier nodded and smiled.
“I have always been impressed by the talents of the three of you, but your kindness is something I truly am proud of. You had no reason to really save her, and yet even when a great monster attacked, you fought to protect, not just yourself, but this child too.”
“Thank you, Master, but how do you know her language?” Adoni asked.
“I’ll explain it all tomorrow as we travel, for now sleep. You all need it.”
The next day Xavier and the three hunters prepared for the journey. They mounted their horses and left the camp with the girl.
“So where are we going anyway?” Adoni asked Xavier.
“To our guest’s home, the Tree of Immortals,” Xavier said.
“Wow, how did we not think of that,” Isaac said overhearing the conversation. The tribe set out in the direction of the tree.
“So did you find out anything from the girl?” Adoni asked.
“Her name is Hym. A rather peculiar name, even for an Architect. She says she is the granddaughter of someone by the name of Amon.”
“That name supposed to mean something to us?”
“I’m not sure. During my stay with the Architects I don’t remember meeting an Amon, but I am an old man now so my memory is fading as fast as a sunset.”
“Hey Master, in every story I’ve heard the Architects were able to move boulders and even mountains. Yet all I’ve seen this girl do is move rocks far smaller than that, also why didn’t she break out of the cage herself if she had the power? What’s up with that?” Isaac asked.
“To answer both of your questions, Architects develop their powers as they age. The fact that she can manipulate the earth as well as you have told me tells me she is powerful for her age. No telling what she’ll do when she is older, and as for her not breaking out. I’ll pose you a question. What would you have done if you were her age and in her situation?” Xavier said.
“Cry and wail hiding in the corner hoping you’d come to save me,” Isaac said. Adoni snorted.
“So while we’re talking about Architects. Care to share with us the story of this stay you had with them?” Geralt said.
“I suppose so. You are my best students. I taught you everything except that which has to do with my past. Back in my youth I was hunting alone and encountered a pack of wolves. They tore me up badly. I thought I was going to die, until a stranger came across my bleeding body. He and a few other people picked me up and took me to a cave under a large tree. They then took me under the tree. There, I saw a large city with an entire culture. I had been taken in by Architects. And I was under the Tree of Immortals. There, they taught me the secrets of hunting, those of which I’ve passed to you, and how to speak their language. Once I was healed, their chief swore me to secrecy to never reveal their hiding place as they didn’t want humans to find them.”
“Speaking of the tree. Looks like we are here,” Geralt said.
“By the Immortals, it’s massive. I’ve never been this close to it before,” Isaac said.
“It’s the home of the Immortals for a reason my friend,” Adoni said.
“And the Architects too apparently,” added Geralt. The tree was indeed incredible. It stood alone in an empty plain and grew all the way up to the sky. The trunk would take almost an hour to walk all the way around. Adoni noticed Hym became excited, recognizing the tree. She started calling out to it, thinking someone would hear her.
“So how do we get the Architects to come out and say hi?” Adoni said.
“First, we need to find the entrance, which means we’ll have to circle the base until we see it,” Xavier said.
“That’ll take awhile. Don’t you think our guest can find it herself? I mean it’s where she lives after all,” Geralt said. The party stopped, and Xavier asked Hym if she knew where to find the entrance to her home. Hym responded, but Xavier had a puzzled look on his face as she talked. He got up and shook his head.
“She says that the entire base is the entrance. Only way to get in or out is by moving a lot of earth, and Hym is too young to pull it off.”
“So there is nothing we can really do?” Geralt said, “Well, that’s just grand.”
Suddenly, rocks rose from the ground. Rocks larger than any Hym had shown to be able to lift. A voice boomed out of the tree.
“Who are you? Why do you approach the Tree of Immortals?”
“We are travelers. We have come to return this girl to you. We found her with bandits, and we freed her,” Adoni said.
“Why would this concern us?” the voice said.
“Because she is one of yours, Solomon. Assuming that that is you. She led us here, and here we are,” Xavier said. The voice did not respond. Insead, the rocks lowered back into the ground.
“Wait, what just happened?” Isaac said.
“I believe we got their attention,” Adoni said. The earth in front of them began to shake. The earth in front of the tree gave away to a hole. From the hole two, men appeared. Both looked somewhat old, both with greying hair and one with a long braided beard. One looked rather stern, and the other looked anxious. Both looked sturdy and rough like the rock they were said to control, and stood taller than Adoni with his arms straight up in the air.
“Xavier is that really you? It continues to amaze me how quickly humans age,” the stern one said.
“Is it true? You have my granddaughter?” the anxious one asked.
“Yes, we do have her,” Adoni said. Hym then peeked out from behind Adoni to look at the two men.
“Amon?” she said. She then started smiling from ear to ear. “Amon!” she said again. She then ran to the anxious man who Adoni assumed to be Amon.
“So Solomon, what is your gift?” Xavier said to the stern man.
“What gift?” Solomon said.
“I know you and your culture. It is traditional for Architects to give or do something in return for an act of kindness.”
“Solomon, don’t be rude to these kind men. He returned Hym, my heir, to us. We no longer have to fear of having someone succeed us as one of the leaders. We must give them something back,” Amon said.
“I suppose so. What do you desire in return, Xavier?” Solomon said.
“I didn’t save the child. It was Adoni. He should chose what he wants.” Everyone looked to Adoni. It didn’t take him long to think about. He had had it rolling around in his mind for a long time.
“I want a kingdom for our people. One with stone walls impossible to break and a city like no other.”
“You’re insane. It’ll take years to do,” Solomon said.
“You asked what he wanted, and you got it,” Geralt said.
“Yes, and we’re willing to help with it however we can,” Isaac said.
“Well then, looks like this old Architect is going to be busy for awhile. I’ll go and inform the others down under,” Amon said. He then disappeared back into the hole with Hym. Before they completely disappeared, Hym waved bye to them. Solomon made a deep sigh.
“So be it. Go back and gather your tribe. Meet us here again tomorrow, and we’ll make the plans to build.” Solomon then too vanished into the hole and then sealed it up. The four men mounted their horses again and returned back to the camp. Adoni told the tribe of what was to happen and suddenly it was the only thing the people could talk about, as if it was all that mattered to them anymore.
The next day, Adoni set out with Amon to find the most desireable location to build. They found it in an open plain not far from the Tree of Immortals. There, they started building. Solomon was right. It did indeed take years to build it. Even with all available Architects and humans, it was hard work. But in that time, it got other people’s attention. Refugees, other tribes, and lone wanderers. All came to see that was going on. Each were promised a home in the city if they swore allegiance to Adoni’s tribe. Soon, they had enough people to properly run a kingdom. By the time it was done Adon,i had started finding grey in his hair. Sadly, Xavier didn’t live long enough to witness the final product of the project. The walls to the kingdom were large and thick. Adoni was sure that even the war-crazed kingdom of Mancore’s armies couldn’t get through it. On the inside, it was a sprawling city scape and a castle in the middle.
“Well Addi, old friend, we spent all these years building it. Now it is time you gave this fine kingdom a name? Remember, this is a name that will be remembered long after we’re gone. So make it something good” Geralt said once it was finished.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while Geralt, and out of all the names I liked Hym the best. I think it suits it perfectly,” Adoni said.
“The kingdom of Hym. I like the ring of it.”
“So King Adoni of Hym. Care to walk with me so you may take your throne?”
“I’d be honored Geralt old friend.” And so the two men talked into the city together.
“Dad, is that really how Hym and King Adoni rose to power?” The boy asked.
“I’m not really sure my son. It was a very long time ago, and the older a point in history becomes,the harder it is to tell its story,” the father said. Quietly, a large man clad in beaten and decorated armor opened the door.
“My king. We need to speak.”
“In a moment Simon. Let me tuck my son into bed first.” The father turned back to his son. “Good night, Cyrus.” The father kissed his son on the forehead and got up to join the knight. Together, the two walked out of the boy’s room.
“I can’t wait to be king. I’ll be just like Adoni. Or maybe even better,” the boy said to himself as he began to drift to sleep.