Authors: Mike Simmons
Lord Reinhold interrupted her. “We used it.”
Felinda looked around at the others confused. “I’m sorry?" She apparently did not understand what he said.
“We used it. Lieutenant General Galadin Bloodbark shot it from his bow just four days ago.”
Byron Copron slammed the bottom of his hand on the table with a bang. Everyone at the table jumped, except Cedric Reinhold. “What did you say? He shot the arrow? By whose order?”
Lord Reinhold locked eyes with Bryon.
“I ordered him to use the arrow." His eyes were in righteous defiance to those around him. “He shot the arrow at my command." Byron opened his mouth to speak in anger again, but Cedric’s voice burst out in a scornful yell.
“I am Lord of this land, and everything in it! Do not question me! I do not have the luxury of only being concerned with certain aspects of this kingdom! I am responsible for every person, and everything, within this kingdom! If I fail, people die! If I do not make the right decisions, people die. I would trade a hundred arrows for the lives of my people. Gold holds no value if there isn't anyone alive to use it. We had to use the arrow to stop the Avatar of War from wiping our names from the history books. If we had not, he would have crushed our forces. We used it, and now the Avatar lays locked down in the dungeon, and our people are safe.”
Silence swept those at the table. A few heads dropped, regretting having thought, or said, the things they did. Cedric eyed his council members, waiting to see if anyone wished to speak. All was quiet, so he continued.
“Byron, how are things in the world of the arcane?”
Byron’s job consisted of the interpretation of prophecy, and the cataloging and studying of all things magical. His office held a library’s worth of books and manuals. Books of all shapes and sizes sat opened and marked across tables, chairs, and the floor. Although it seemed chaotic and looked a disaster, Byron knew every book and its location.
“Well, I suppose I can disregard any information of the lightning arrow that was found,” he said sarcastically. “Besides that, my students have found a few pages of prophecy that we may be able to link to this war with Aurora." He shuffled through a small notebook in front of him and stopped on a page marked with a piece of ribbon.
“This is an actual page from a lesser Visionary, Gablin Glasseye, in his writings of his day dreams. A copy of this book was sent out to Greylin for interpretation, but we have not heard from our agent there in nearly two weeks." He cleared his throat as he read was what written on its face.
Blackened clouds haunt my visions. I see them when I walk down the street, and when I try to sleep. My dreams are becoming more and more real. The vale of reality is becoming harder to see through. I do not know anymore when I dream or when I am awake. What I see now, I write in the hopes that it will evade me after I attempt to rid my mind of it. He who was born under the Red Star will see blood. The blood of innocents will stain his heart. Tears for the dead will fall into broken grounds. The sanctity of his world will be compromised if a stand is not made. The slayer of man can only falter under the shadow of the Red Star. Unbreakable Will, a shield to weigh with trust, the only defense. As the world revels, a friend turned will release the God amongst men, and blood will flow free of reluctant foes. All hopes rest upon the one who can break him, he who bears the Star of Destiny, the Star of Red Hope.”
Byron put the book down, and looked up at Cedric.
“What does that mean, Byron? I am not a reader of riddles, please, educate me,” Cedric said.
“Well, from our calculations, and from the text, pre and post this writing, we presume that the ‘slayer of man’ could be Aurora.”
Lord Reinhold broke in, “Could be?”
With an irritated chuckle, Byron responded. “Yes,
. Prophecy is prophecy because it is written as people of Vision see it. It is not a road map to the future. It is what could be, and may be, and what is possible. It is left to people like us to try to interpret and understand what blurred and confusing images these Gifted see. Sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we do not. We do the best we can with what is written down. We use the context of the words, and how they are written, and try to apply these writings to events past and present.”
Lord Reinhold nodded in understanding. “All right, continue, please.”
“A few of the prophecies mention this red star, or he who bears a red star, or he who was born under the red star. We are unsure who this could be, or what exactly this means. The red star could signify something like a tattoo, or it may be related to something astrological. We have tried to connect these writings with you, Sire, but have been unsuccessful. We have checked our records of the stars with the time of your birth, against historical events, and along with significant situations of your life and have not been able to connect any of these prophecies. Unless you have insight of something we do not know concerning a red star, we could assume that you are not the one referred to in this prophecy, My Lord. And this prophecy says that the slayer of man can only falter under the shadow of the red star.”
“So what are you telling me Byron, is that I cannot defeat Aurora from destroying our lands, and killing our people? Are you trying to tell me that because of a writing in some book that was written in the Age of Creation, over a thousand years ago, that I will not be able to defeat a crazed and psychotic woman who wishes to rid Venifera completely of men? I find that difficult to chew, and will not rest the fate of my people on some prediction.”
Byron seemed offended. “Sir, these writings are not something to be taken lightly.”
Charlotte became angry. “Just because you are not gifted and do not understand the ways of the magic, does not mean you can disregard its importance! The gift uses these people like a telescope into the future; they can actually see the layout of time and events that will come to pass. Time to a seer is irrelevant, it does not matter if they wrote their visions down a thousand years ago, or yesterday, the outcome will still be the same. Not anyone can write in the books of prophecy. The ones who can are put through a vast regime of training and are usually tested from a young age. They are tested on everything from mental stability to accuracy of future prediction. Most people with the gift of vision never make it to that point, or are not able to summon enough magical energy to control their gift with the needed precision or mastery to actually be able to see a thousand years into the future. Have faith that we of the magic world take pride in those we deem worthy of the title Seer. Under no circumstance should you neglect to take heed the writings of a true visionary.”
“I understand what you are saying, Charlotte. But are there not countless pages of predicted events in books scattered across Venifera? Is it possible that there are scores of writings that could tie us to a prophecy that we are not even aware of?”
“Yes, we only have a fraction of the known writings of prophecy. We are even aware of events that are linked to other prophecies in named books that we do not have.”
“I’m not saying I disregard prophecy, or saying that its writings are to be ignored. If prophecies are open to interpretation, and are never black and white, and if we are only able to judge a partial portion of what is written, I will not commit myself to failure because one prophecy implies that a man born under the red star will be the only one who can defeat Aurora. None of that information is solid. I will fight for what I believe in, and what is right, with every breath I have, and I will use every resource available to me to defeat someone who wishes to kill innocent people, even if I have to die trying.”
Charlotte and Byron glanced at each other, and back at Lord Reinhold.
“Fair enough, and well said, Sire.” Byron said.
“Now, please, keep on top of the writings Byron, you are the best at what you do, that is why you are sitting here at this table, with me. I meant you no ill will; I just have to look at all sides of the puzzle. Tens of thousands of people are depending on every decision that I make. Is there anything else that your students have deciphered that may help us now, Byron?”
“Nothing yet sir, although we are certain that a number of predicted events are of this age, and of this year. We are still working on more details, Sire, you will hear of any discoveries the instant we understand them.”
“Thank you, Byron, you are a noble man. The people of Karpathos are lucky to have you working for them." Byron gave a small nod of acceptance. “Janga, what is status of our forces? Where exactly are we sitting in this chess game of death?”
Janga Blackhand sat with intimidating posture. He was twice as thick as any other at the table, even Cedric, and his masculine chiseled facial features made him look like a pit attack dog. The black shadow of a beard painted his jawline, evidence he had not shaven in a few days. The mighty plate spaulder that provided him armored protection during battle, still hung chained over his right shoulder. The thick spike that protruded from its center made his appearance seem even more primal. He wore a hefty plate breast piece, and looked as if he had just stepped from the battlefield.
“As you know, we have forfeited our grip on Darrow’s Hold. The town now lies in ruin. Aurora’s Flame Legion leveled the place. As far as we know, no one survived. Strategically, I think that may have been a good choice. Darrow’s Hold sits on the tip of the Tusk Mountain range, and is continually under attack. We had to have constant protection there because it is a cross route for Aurora to reach us. The use of our forces could be better spent. Now on a different note, we have received word from Oakridge that a group of Aurora’s Blade Maidens have sacked the town guard, and are using Oakridge as a waypoint to Tormain’s Ravine. They have been relentlessly attacking our troops at the peak of the ravine, not only from Oakridge, but also as expected, from north of Jellindor as well. We have suffered complete loss of control of the ravine, Sire. Aurora has the advantage of the pass now.”
A look of concern streaked across Cedric’s face. “How many Maidens are in Oakridge?”
“Approximately sixty, sir.”
“Sixty Maidens and they sacked the entire town guard? You have got to be kidding me! What kind of training are we setting for these guards? How are the townsfolk supposed to feel safe when sixty fighters can topple an entire town guard?" Cedric’s anger escalated.
“Blade Maidens train from pre-womanhood, Sire. That is all they do. There is no way under a non-military rule that we could compete with that sort of regime. And also, they have a Gifted with them, sir, a very powerful illusionist.”
Reinhold’s tried to put everything together. He accepted Janga’s answer, and moved in thought of something else.
“If they took control of the ravine, then why would they bother wasting their energy to destroy Darrow’s Hold? The Hold was nothing but a trader’s town. They couldn’t have gained any battle advantage by destroying it. Could Darrow’s Hold just have been a diversion, to keep our eyes focused away from the ravine?”
“I do not think so, sir. Our scout’s last information said that the women headed north after Darrow’s Hold. I wish I knew more, but we have not heard from our scouts since their last message. I fear they may have been found. I already have two more scouts on their trail, but it will be a few days before they will intercept the moving legion.”
With his elbows on the table, Cedric raised his hands to rest underneath his chin.
“All right, I need to know where those women are going. We cannot afford to be surprised by that many elementalists. Make that your first priority, General. Madagrack has finished training the Ice Lancers, Janga. I am sure you will be quite amazed at how efficient and effective they can be, even though you are not fond of magic users. They have the finest training of tactics, subtlety, assassination, and combat. Eighteen stand ready to serve you. I have a lot of hope resting on the Ice Lancers. Speak to Madagrack as soon as we close council, and have them retake Oakridge; one Gifted cannot compete with the likes of eighteen. Set station there. Kill any that attempt to leave the ravine. Aurora may have the peak, but none shall live to pass through it.”
The mighty man nodded his head. “We also suffered losses at Footman’s Hill, and we haven’t heard anything from our infantry on the border just north of there. I can make a safe assumption that they are dead. Aurora seems to be pushing north with more effort than usual. I think we need to take a stand against her, Sire. We cannot leave her to bleed into our lands.”
“We have fresh supplies in Daladin Bay. Rally our men from Meridian and Calisto to Churon, under the command of Major General Burockus. I will have the supplies shipped down to Churon immediately. With the combined forces, we will be sitting at twenty thousand strong. Charlotte, how many elementalists do we have enlisted in the Home Guard?”