The kingdom of Etruria
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The kingdom of Etruria was a happy and prosperous one, and it always had been full of joy. And why shouldn’t it be? The land was fertile, the earth was rich with minerals and the forests were lush. Consequently, there was a constant influx of trade in and out of the City, and everyone involved made profits. The City centre was something words cannot describe, with elegant buildings with amazingly intricate architecture,and lavish green patches of land scattered throughout. The Royal Palace was another matter. The palace, regal in its beauty exuded wealth.
The grating on the windows was silver, there were statues of former Kings made in gold on one of the several overhangs, there were azure blue pools for the Princes to swim in, there were stables, and a shooting range for the Princes to practice archery. One of the main reasons for Etruria’s success was its invulnerable army. They, under the first King, had transformed Etruria from a small province into a wide, expansive kingdom. The kingdom consisted of the City in its centre, to the east were the plains of Steppe and to the west was a large mountain range named Flynan Slopes.
Everyday the army trained in the courtyards of the city, tirelessly and went to sleep in the barracks. Every year, this army spent a hundred days in the plains, exhausting themselves, and weeding out the weakest of themselves. These days were called The Hundred. In the year 101, there were rumours had sprung up amongst the local people that a fearsome lion that roamed the Steppe had mated with an equally predatory female tiger. The result was disastrous, which produced a gigantic hybrid called the liger. The word was that it had impregnable skin, razor-sharp claws and hard-as-diamond teeth.
However, it was the army, almost arrogant in their superiority that decided to not even heed this warning. Thus, the army packed up and made the long journey to the plains. A boy named Ailig was new to the army, and this was his first Hundred. He journeyed with the rest of his battlement to the far regions of the plain. They had got what was possibly the worst role in the Hundred- guard duty. Their objective was to prevent any enemies from invading Etruria. For the first few days, all of them were on edge and bravely stood guard over their kingdom.
However, over the next few weeks, they all became laid-back, and the commander himself began to delay training so his men could sleep in. On around the fiftieth day, after a particularly late night, some of the men had passed out near the smoulders of the campfire, and some had passed out in their tents. Ailig had fallen asleep, but his tent had collapsed upon him. Somehow, he slept through the night. That night, the liger now even larger,appeared to emerge from the shadows, and stalked towards the camp. It was silent, and over as soon as it began.
The men, in their sleepy haze, failed to even realise what was going on. The liger was the ultimate predator, lopping off the heads of the soldiers with its claws, and biting and snapping their necks using its teeth. Only one man survived- Ailig. This was due to the fact that his tent had collapsed upon him. Once he woke up and dislodged the tent, he was flabbergasted and horrified to see the ground littered with the broken bodies of his comrades, their stumps of limbs gushing blood, some of which left fresh stains in the soil and the most peculiar of all- a giant pair of claw marks in the soil.
Instinctively, Ailig knew that this was the liger and realised that it was going towards the City, and how much trouble it would cause if it did because the City had no army to protect itself. Determined to prove himself, he journeyed all the way back to the City on foot, and by the time he reached there he was starving and parched, but he managed to gasp out a warning to whatever guards were left in the city, who immediately assumed their positions.
It was that very night, while resting in the infirmary that Ailig heard the screaming, which chilled him to his very bones. However, due to the journey he undertook, he was too weak to even move. All that he could do was pray that the beast, the terrible liger wouldn’t get to him. The next morning, after waking up, what he saw was even grimmer than he expected- the entire City centre, save the palace, was in ruins.