Tales of the Great Beasts: Rise of the Reptile King

You can’t really write “Last time on Spirit Animals” when you start recapping a prequel anthology. So … you want to learn how the first global war began? Read more after the cut.

About the Author:
Nick Eliopulos is a mod on the official Spirit Animals forums, and he hasn’t written much other than this story and The Book of Shane. I’ll give him credit, though: this is one of the better stories in the anthology.

Feliandor, boy king of Stetriol, peered into the shadows, pondering his next move. The ocean was at his back. Before him, a dark forest, and his destiny.

You folks remember Rollan’s Trippy Flashback Sequence from Against the Tide? Then you’ll remember Feliandor, his little vial of Bile, and his fateful encounter on the black sand beaches of Nightshade Island.

Feliandor’s father had been a good king, and Feliandor wanted to be a good king too. It was for that reason and that reason alone that he held court. Once a week, the doors to the throne room were opened to any citizen who desired an audience with the king. It was a tradition his father had started years before, and one that had made him immensely popular. “We live in a great tower,” he’d once told his son, “but the distance between a king and his subjects should never be greater than a single voice can travel.”

But let’s go back to the beginning, when Feliandor offered wise counsel to those who asked it. I know, it seems odd that the people of Stetriol are asking a 13-year-old boy for advice, but at least Fel has Salen (his adviser) and Jorick (the captain of the guard) to help him out.

Today Fel has to deal with two blacksmiths with a business dispute. The older blacksmith is losing customers to his former apprentice, who uses a different smithing technique and sells his wares at lower prices. Salen advises holding a meeting with the merchants’ guild, while Jorick jokes about fusing the two blacksmiths together. Fel’s like, “Screw that, I’m just going to commission both smiths to forge arms and armor for the guards.” Which is a decent solution, but Salen points out that it’s short-term at best.

Unfortunately, that’s the last issue Fel has to deal with today, so Fel decides to get a status update on the Stetriolian arbor project so the court won’t focus on him. Xana, head of the project, presents disappointing news: only thirty percent of the trees survived, and they won’t last long in the Stetriolian environment.

Suddenly, a ragged madman appears! This is Lord Griswald, national hero and last survivor of a royal expedition to the Stetriolian interior. And he has a gift for Fel: a bag full of snakes. Because that’s all that’s there beyond the Red Mountains that border the Stetriolian interior: snakes, dust, and more snakes.

Fel orders Griswald to be imprisoned indefinitely for his antics.

That night, Feliandor was restless. Little wonder, after the day he’d had.

Fel walks through the castle at night, stopping to view a portrait of his presumably-deceased parents and reflecting on how Stetriol has nowhere to go but down now that he’s in charge. Unfortunately, he has the misfortune of living in arid, overpopulated not!Australia, where nothing can live in the not!Outback despite the efforts of his ambitious public works projects.

Suddenly, Fel sees a rodent he recognizes from the disastrous public audience. It had defended the court from Griswald’s snakes, and now it’s beckoning Fel to follow it. Fel recruits some nearby guards for backup and ventures forth. The rodent leads Fel outside, where a Niloan woman waits.

The woman has a tempting offer: she will give Fel a vial of Bile, free of charge. Now Fel has the power to force spirit animal bonds, just like she did! And if Fel likes the Bile’s effects, then he can free the bird in his quarters (also provided free of charge) so he can arrange a meeting with the Niloan’s Mysterious Benefactor. But he has to do it in five days, or else the Mysterious Benefactor will consider different potential patrons.

The woman then leaves, leaving a scroll in her wake.

When Salen stormed into Feliandor’s room at dawn, Jorick at his heel, the king was still dressed, having not slept at all.

Everyone’s pissed the next morning. Salen is angry over Fel’s evening rendezvous, and Fel is angry that his advisers have hidden what the people really think about him. Turns out that the scroll the Niloan woman left behind was a political cartoon criticizing Fel’s arbor project. Fel orders the cartoonist’s arrest.

Late that night, Fel found himself once again before the portrait of his parents. He tried to imagine their faces distorted by a petty cartoonist’s hand. He couldn’t picture it, couldn’t find the flaws that the artist would need to exploit.

Fel has spent all day thinking about the little vial of Bile, and what it can do. During his nightly rounds of the palace, he asks a guard a series of questions about the things he’s willing to do to protect Fel. The poor guard is conflicted over whether he should stop Fel from imbibing the Bile or not. Luckily, Jorick steps in and offers to try the Bile himself. He claims that he’ll do it because he can’t ask his men to do something he wouldn’t do first himself, but it mostly seems that he’s doing it out of guilt for not protecting Fel’s parents.

The palace menagerie was a marvel. Feliandor had heard of such gardens in other places that were little better than dungeons, with bars that ran from floor to ceiling and concrete floors scattered with hay. Not so here. Great care had been taken to re-create the natural environment of each animal. The downside to this was that the animals could hide from view, spending hours at a time hidden in a tree or behind a rock formation. But as a child, with endless hours of free time stretched before him, Feliandor had known great patience. If he waited long enough and remained still and quiet, the animals always revealed themselves to him.

Fel takes Jorick down to the royal menagerie to pick out a spirit animal. Jorick chooses a cassowary (specifically, a southern cassowary). He downs the Bile and releases the cassowary from its enclosure … and the cassowary promptly attacks Fel! Luckily, Jorick manages to recall the cassowary into the dormant state before shit really hits the fan. Jorick is shocked that he learned Recall / Summon Spirit Animal so quickly.

Fel’s response: “Well, duh. That’s cause your spirit animal’s your slave!”

Feliandor watched as Jorick went through a series of exercises. Mere hours after drinking the Bile, he was already demonstrating the benefits of his bond with the bird. He was faster, stronger; the grace of his movements was breathtaking. His sparring technique had always been impressive, but now he took on a dozen of his best men without missing a beat.

Status Update:
JORICK learns ENHANCED AGILITY!
JORICK learns ENHANCED STRENGTH!
JORICK learns SPECIALTY: DUAL-WIELD DAGGERS!

Fel is very pleased. If the Bile can improve Jorick this much, imagine what it can do to all of Stetriol!

There’s just one problem: Salen took the bird that the Niloan woman left in Fel’s quarters.

Feliandor hurried through the twisting hallways of the castle, Jorick and a dozen other guards at his heels.

Jorick and his cassowary run ahead to Fel’s room. Once Fel arrives, he’s witness to a gruesome scene: Salen, stabbed in the gut by the cassowary. Jorick claims that something possessed him and caused the cassowary to attack Salen.

Salen gives Fel some sage advice — basically, seeking power may be his downfall. Don’t worry, these aren’t Famous Last Words. Salen will survive this attack. Unfortunately, Fel imprisons him for treason.

Two days later, Feliandor stood upon the beach — not the beach of his native Stetriol, not the beach of his joyful childhood, but a small, misty key in the nearby Hundred Isles. The emissary had called it Nightshade Island.

Fel and Jorick arrive at Nightshade Island, ready to meet the Mysterious Benefactor. Jorick — who, to you readers, is obviously possessed — tells Fel that he has to enter the island’s forest alone. Within, he meets Kovo the Godlike Ape, who offers to provide solutions to Fel’s problems — namely, the Bile. Granted, Fel’s major issues are that he lives in not!Australia, and that the people are dissatisfied with him as king since he’s obviously not as good as his father, two problems that don’t seem like they can be solved with a potion that forces spirit animal bonds.

But Kovo has a solution for all of Fel’s problems: conquer the world! Take more land for people and crops! Use Stetriol’s natural resources (see my notes below) to arm the citizens and focus their energies on war! And the Bile will totally help. Kovo is kind enough to provide Fel with a free sample and his choice of almost any animal in creation.

Fel drinks the Bile … and bonds with a saltwater crocodile. According to Kovo, Fel summoned the crocodile instead of selecting it, an unprecedented occurrence. It doesn’t matter if Fel consciously chose the animal or not, though: he now has the perfect spirit animal for taking over the world!

And then Gerathon suddenly shows up and tells Fel that she and Kovo have great plans in store for him….

——————–

Stuff I Forgot to Mention Above:
Xana immediately made me think of Code Lyoko. I think the reference is coincidental.

The throne of Stetriol sounds awesome: it’s a massive combination of animal body parts all melded together. Remember this for The Book of Shane.

Fel’s parents — primarily his mother — spearheaded public health and literacy projects during their reign.

The Niloan woman was present during the public audience. She tried to arrange a legit meeting with Fel, but Salen refused her request. Her spirit animal, a mongoose, is named Vox.

The Amayan government was recently founded at the time this story takes place. Their major export is iron.

Stetriol’s major export is iron; they used to be the sole supplier before Amaya was founded.

Fel’s parents were killed sometime before this story takes place. The cause of their deaths is never mentioned.

Thylacines still exist in Stetriol. Does that mean that other animals that are extinct in real life are still extant on Erdas? I’d love to see someone with a great auk or a dodo spirit animal. Or — even better — a woolly mammoth!

Fel has a fear of cassowaries.

The main cause of Fel’s inferiority complex: His people sing a song about how “the good king fell.” Naturally, Fel initially misheard the song as “The good King Fel.”

Title Drop!

“Arise, Feliandor,” Kovo said for the second time. “Arise, my Reptile King.”

——————–

Next time: “Yin and Yu,” in which a girl asks a Godlike Panda for a cure for the flu.

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