Chapter 10: Threat




      Four days had passed. Sunlight beat down on Sara as she struggled to lift her left leg through the Barren Lands. She was moving slower than the previous days. Valquire placed his hand in front of her and told them that they needed to rest, otherwise Sara would collapse. Chavis, however, said they should keep going. They had not eaten since their boat was destroyed. Sara was persistent, however, and said they had to keep going or everyone would starve.

      Sye asked Sara if she was alright to walk, and she said, “Yes.” Later, however, it was apparent she was not, for she collapsed behind Sye.

      Frantic, Sye screamed for his sister and ran to her side. He moved her body over and shook her, but she didn’t wake up. Chavis pointed toward a small smoke puff in the distance.

      “Someone has to live there.”

      Valquire lifted Sara onto his back as Sye watched with a disturbed eye, but he just breathed harder then turned around. Leaving the others behind him, Sye ran toward the smoke.

      After the stone creature incident, everyone had agreed that taking the path would be a death wish if there were more of them. However, since they had barely left Gaia before their boat was trashed, they had a long walk ahead of them. They survived on various berries and the occasional apple and pear tree along the way, but there was no natural food after entering the Barren Lands. After a few days, they ran out of food, and then, the last 4 have been without any sustenance. The Barren Lands were also slowly transforming into a desert, but this was the only way to move forward safely.

      Sye arrived at a house near the smoke, where a little girl was walking. This girl held her head down and moved forward in a small, sluggish manner. She did not acknowledge Sye’s presence when he arrived.

      “Is there a doctor? My sister is sick.”

      The girl shuffled in a straight path, ignoring him. Sye grabbed the girl’s shoulders and shook her.

      “You must know something? Tell me.”

      The girl was unfazed. Her gaze stared at the ground. She tried walking despite the fact Sye blocked her path. Sye pushed her back, but she kept walking. Sye shoved her out of the way and ran into a house.

      An elderly woman sat in her chair, rocking. The house was bare. Except for a small rug in the middle of the floor, there was no decoration or furniture.

      “I need a bed, please. My sister is dying.”

      The woman stood from her chair and staggered toward their room. Sye followed the woman in, where she placed her hands over the mattress and pulled it closer to the door.

      “I just need a bed. Stop that.”

      The woman dropped the bed, walked back into the living room, then sat in her chair and rocked. Sye stared at her as she rocked, but her eyes never glanced his direction.

      Valquire appeared at the door, holding Sara. Sye snapped out of his trance and told them to follow him into the bedroom. Valquire laid Sara on the bed. Sye returned to the woman and asked if she could get them some water. She left, then minutes later returned with a bucket of water. After putting the water down, the woman returned to her chair.

      Sye brought the bucket in and filled his hands with water, which he then poured onto Sara’s mouth. After five splashes, Sara coughed, appeared startled, then fell asleep.

      “Let her sleep. She has never been pushed this hard before, I assume. With enough rest, food, and water, she will be fine.”

      “Something is wrong,” said Valquire. “This isn’t Gaul.”

      “Gaul is huge, I’ve been there once before. This isn’t it,” said Sye.

      Valquire walked toward the door then turned his face into the room.

      “Watch over her Sye. I’m going to look around.”

      Valquire walked through the town, but there were only twelve cabins. They were poorly constructed, too. Some of the wood stuck out further than it should. Door and window sills were not aligned correctly. Six people were constructing a new cabin, but they moved so slow that it would take many weeks to finish.

      Behind the construction workers, a boy stood with his hands behind his back. Valquire called to the boy, but he did not respond. Valquire assumed he was like the others as he approached him, but the boy responded to Valquire getting close with a roundhouse kick. His leg made no impact, stopped by Valquire’s grasp. Startled, the boy froze.

      “What are you doing?”

      The boy did not respond. He fell to the ground and yelled out.

      “Attack him my slaves.”

      The construction workers dropped the logs and tools they held. One even dropped a hammer of his foot, but did not feel it. The workers approached Valquire like zombies, moving slow, but posing no threat, especially not with one of Valquire’s background.

      Valquire punched the first man in the stomach and knocked him to the ground. He smashed the heads of two of them together, the swung one of the workers into the last one. All this took place in less than twenty seconds.

      The boy of the ground moved away from Valquire, but Valquire was angry. He gripped the boy by the neck.

      “I want answers,” he said, squeezing the boys neck tighter, “now!”

      The boy sprung a needle from his arm and stabbed it into Valuire’s shoulder. Valquire threw the boy to the ground. The boy simply turned and smiled. Valquire clenched his fists to prepare to execute the boy, but then he felt his hand grow numb. He looked at the needle the boy held in his hand.

      “You, bas…..”

      Valquire moved forward one more step, then collapsed in front of the boy’s feet.


      *       *       *      




      Sara awoke hours later, asking for food. They now had apples, carrots, and beets.

      “We made it to Gaul?”

      “Not exactly.”

      Sara saw Chaivs smile as she looked at him, but then she realized Valquire was not present.

      “He’s been missing for hours,” said Chavis. “But until he returns, how about I tell you a few jokes?”

      Chavis told jokes for the next hour. Sye and Sara laughed, but during one particular joke, they did not notice Valquire enter. He didn’t speak a word. He didn’t walk like one who was proud, he walked like one who was hungover, yet still able to move forward in a straight line.

      He grabbed Sara by the neck and held a knife by her throat.

      “Valquire, what are you doing?”

      Sye pulled Valquire’s arm away from Sara, but Valquire’s arm was twice his size, and a contest of strength was already decided before it began . Sye found himself on the floor in pain. Valquire lifted Sara up and dragged her feet along the floor. Chavis staked his staff on the ground and arose from his chair.

      “Valquire, what are you doing?”

      Valquire did not speak, he only continued to drag Sara away. Sye pushed his hands on the floor and rose himself up. His eyes burned. Sye grabbed his sword and followed Valquire outside. Chavis looked at Sye and shook his head. Sye nodded in response and showed three of his fingers to Chavis. He moved one finger down, then quickly dropped the other two, at which point they both charged Valquire from behind. They pushed him off Sara, but he quickly moved between them and pounded their backs. As they fell to the ground, Valquire lifted Sara up again.

      Sye pulled the sword and pointed it at Valquire.

      “If you harm my sister, I’ll kill you.”

      Sye was too enraged to notice the woman from inside the house walk outside. The little girl from earlier, the construction workers, and four other people marched into view. They stopped in front of Sye.

      “Fight me,” said Sye. “Fight me.”

      Valquire tossed Sara to the ground and drew a sword. It was not his sword, but the one Sara had recently acquired. Sye slung his sword through the air, expecting Valquire’s sword to crack and break from his magical sword, but he was met with a metal clang. Sye, bewildered, drew back.

      Valquire swung, but Sye managed to be far enough away. Sye swung overhead to take Valquire’s life.

      Unknown to him, the boy had approached Sara and placed a knife over her throat. Still week from exhaustion, Sara was unable to move and retaliate. Sye noticed this out of the corner of his eye and ran toward the man, avoiding Valquire.

      The boy stuck Sara with the blade. A small tinkle of blood tinkled down her neck.

      “Stop fighting.”

      Valquire lowered his sword.

      “You’re a hypnotist, aren’t you?” stated Chavis.

      “Very perceptive historian, but I suggest you all leave now, and leave me your strong friend.”

      “Leave? Where are we?” Sye checked behind him to make sure Valquire was, indeed, still standing still.

      “This is my town. One by one I’ll make Gaul my own. I’ll have them all under my control.”

      “Fifteen followers,” said Chavis, inspecting one of the hypnotized men who stood frozen, “I can see you will definitely make one of the best rulers of all time.”

      “Leave here,” said the boy. “Sunlight beat down on Sara as she struggled to lift her left leg through the barren lands. She was moving slower than the previous days. Valquire placed his hand in front of her and told them that they needed to rest, otherwise Sara would collapse. Chavis, however, said they should keep going. They had not eaten since their boat was destroyed. Sara was persistent, however, and said they had to keep going or everyone would starve.
Everyone’s mouth salvated. The world seemed ready to drag them down, as they movements converted from pacing to struggle. Sye asked Sara if she was alright to walk, and she said, “Yes.” Later, however, it was apparent she was not. Sara collapsed behind Sye, he face pounding into the sandy plain. Your strong friend and the girl will stay, but if you leave now I’ll not kill you.”

      “I’m not leaving without my sister.”

      Sye stared into the boy’s eyes. Sara tilted her neck back, still trying to escape the blade. Chavis whispered into Valquire’s ear. Valquire moved his head to the left, then the right.

      “What are you doing old man?”

      The boy stuck his arm forward, and Sara took the opportunity to bite his bicep. The boy screamed and dropped the dagger. Sara rolled away as Sye hacked the boys arm off. Blood drained onto the grass.

      “I told you,” said Sye, raisng the sword behind him, “I’m not leaving without my sister.” The sword slashed forward. Blood spat on Sye’s cheek. The boy fell back, blood still dripping from his neck.

      Sara looked at Sye, then held him. She moved his bloody sword from her view. But, no sooner did he try to move Sara that he realized she had passed out. He dropped the sword to the ground, lifted his sister in his arms, and carried her back to the bed.

      Later that night, Sara awoke.

      “What happened?”

      “The people here are sleeping. I will awaken them from their hypnosis in the morning the way I did Valquire; just tell them to stop being hypnotized. It seems the boy was just a beginner, and was not able to teach them to obey only one specific person yet.” Chavis stood up. “But I can see you still need rest. When you are ready, we will finally make it to Gaul.”

      Valquire stood over them. “I’m proud of you Sye, you acted like a true warrior.”

      “I almost killed you.”

      Valquire smirked. It was the first time Sye had seen him smile.

      “If I can survive a duel with Magnard, I doubt my end will be by a kid like you.” Valquire suddenly turned his face away from Sye and held his chin. “Hmm. Once we arrive, Sye, we will stay awhile, for you both need to train, and, we need to plan.”

      Chavis and Valquire left the room, leaving Sye sitting on the bed next to his sister. Sara looked at Sye, but Sye lowered his head.

      “I already know what you’re going to ask me.”

      Sara sat up and covered her knees with her arms.

      “I just want to know how you feel.”

      “I want to say bad. But, the truth is Sara, I killed a man,” Sye turned to face his sister with unwavering eyes. “And I don’t feel guilty at all.”


      *       *       *      




      How is the government run in Odisious? I have…

      Lycious, Atius will be destroyed. As will the rest of the independent countries. I do not see this, but I feel it is inevitable. None have any armies. They thought the civil war ended and that was that, but that is further from the truth.

      Octom was a very large country, covering ¼ of the continent. But, it got too big to run effiecently. Many people who were hired to oversee that the main rules were being followed, relied less and less on those rules. The people hired, called mayors, were to report any rule breakers to the main Octom government in the capital. However, many mayors threatened people into thinking that if they didn’t obey, they would turn them over to the Octom government. Octom had a very large rumor of torturing its rule breakers. No one wanted to be turned into the Octom government, so they obeyed. But, many people secretly planned rebellion. Ten years after magic was banished, the civil war occurred.

      The Government, being in one large central area, could not cope with multiple attacks from everywhere in its country. In the end, thousands of people rejected the rule, and Octom was forced to let it’s people roam their lands and establish their own rule. The people that fled stared their own city and their own system of government, such as Gaia, while others simply lived in towns already constructed by the Octom empire, such as Gaul, and adjusted to a rule of their own creation.

      As spread out as most of the cities were, no one wanted them under one rule, for they saw how hard it was to control such a rule from Octom’s mistakes. Instead, they formed a League which would meet every six months to discuss matters of importance to all of the independent countries.

      However, in their new-found happiness, most of the defecting countries have ignored Octom, but the next generation wants to succeed where it’s fathers had failed. They train to unite Octom into the largest country in the world once again, and they will succeed unless help is sought elsewhere. No real army exists in any of the 23 independent countries. Even a combination of all their forces would be destroyed in less than an hour.

      Don’t you see any hope?

      I have seen neither hope nor death. I cannot stand watching without interpreting. I see neither of these, but all evidence of what I see points to Octom wining control, but, it that is true, why have I not seen into Octom at all?

      I thought I was the one with all the questions.

      Sometimes, Lycious, I wish you were.

Return To “Chapter 9: Traveler”                         Continue To “Chapter 11: Praise”

Chapter 9: Traveler




          Sara nudged Sye with her elbow. Sye awakened with a loud scream. His heart raced as he calmed his breathing. His head swayed from side to side.

          “A nightmare?”

          Sye nodded.

          “It was about mom.” Sye turned to Sara with painful eyes. “What if we are meant to fail.”

          “Don’t ever say that Sye, we have to win.”

          “How can I live up to this expectation of being some hero?” of being some hero?” Sye stared at the wall, paralyzed in movement. “I can’t do anything.”

          Sara dropped her head into Sye’s lap.

          “Don’t say that Sye, please.”

          Valquire, awake, walked over to them.

          “You refuse to accept the way things are Sye, that is a very, dangerous, flaw. Your mother is dead, and you must move on.”

          “Move on?” Sye yelled. “You speak of it so coldly. What about the people in Gaia that lost their relatives to you. Are they just moving on?”

          Valquire walked away from Sye, choosing not to answer. He went into the forest as Chavis opened his eyes.

          “Sye,” he said. “You both have been tossed into something that is hard to comprehend, and you both are finding it hard to deal with. I expect as much, but Valquire has lost his patience over the years, please forgive him.”

          Chavis rolled over and retuned to sleep. His sleep was short lived, and he found Valquire shaking him as if he were already asleep.

          “Wake up. Something is watching us.”

          From the tree above a large man dropped onto Valquire and crushed him body beneath his feet. Valquire could be heard moaning in pain. As the man stood up, it was apparent that this was not a man at all. All the features; ear, eye, eyebrows, fingernails, were there, but they were molded and carved into a granite stone. This body was covered in chips, dents, and the decay of the weather, where rain had eroded small areas of his body over the years.

          Despite this, Sye jumped for the stone man’s feet and shoved him to the ground. Chavis rose only to feel stone hands grab him from behind, while a 3rd stone being, carved to look exactly like the others, punched Sye into the ground, allowing all three creatures to rise above their captured party.

          “Run, Sara. Get out of here.” Sara was almost too scared to run, but she saw Valquire on the ground, Chavis choking, and Sye lifted into the air by an unnatural hand.

“Run!”

          Hearing her brother a second time, she ran.

          One of the statues spoke. It’s mouth moved in unison with the words as if it were a living creature. The voice was monotone, as was every stone creature that spoke.

          “She is of no consequence. Only the object matters.”

          One of the statues left. Shortly, Sye and Chavis heard wood breaking, but they knew the wood was not from a tree.

          Sye slid out of the statues hands and shoved the creature out of the way. He ran toward the boat, but it was in pieces, and all the items were gone. Sye stared at the boat, but this left him open for a stone creature to approach. His forehead collided with stone, then dirt.

          Sara ran faster than she ever had before, trying to escape the creatures, but after awhile, she lost her breath. She panted and dropped her hands onto her knees. She looked back. The forest was quiet. No stone creatures. No Sye. Sara quickly turned away and ran out of the forest. Once she arrived into the plains, she fell down and cried.

          “I couldn’t do…anything.”

          Hours passed. Sarah shuffled along the road until she saw a carriage. Yet, the carriage was five miles away. With no mountains in this region, up to 30 miles were available from a distance. Sara sat in the middle of the road, and waited. The wagon’s driver slowed down and stopped just barely in front of her. The carriage rider was surprised to see her.

          “What are you doing?”

          “I need your help, my brother, he’s…he’s been captured, by some things.”

          “Calm down girl. Who could be around here?”

          The driver yelled into the tube that flowed into the stagecoach.

          “Master, we have a situation.”

          Inside the tinted windows, Sara could see nothing, but she could hear the voice.
“Who is it?”

          “Please, I need your help. These stone men, they have my brother. Help me please.”

          The man inside the stagecoach did not respond.

          “How can you not help? They could be dead any moment.”

          “I’m sorry, I cannot help you. I cannot interfere.”

          “What? I don’t understand.”

          “You cannot understand. I cannot be seen yet.”

          “Are you disfigured? I don’t care. Give me a sword, explosions, anything.” Sara pulled on the stagecoach door. “I will not leave my brother to die.” She pulled and pulled until the door snapped off.

          Inside, the man stood from his booth and yelled out. “You have no idea the damage you could cause.” Hidden behind a drape, the carriage owner calmed his voice and glanced at Sara. “Do not enter, and I will help you.”

          Sara looked within the stagecoach, waiting.

          A hand emerged from the cloth, holding a sword.

          “This sword is very dangerous, Sara. It can cut through anything. Very capable with creatures made of stone, which you say you saw.”

          “But, I know this sword.”

          Sara studied the hilt and the blade. It was an exact copy of the sword Sye possessed.

          “How did you get this?”

          “You can stand here and ask me questions all day, or you can save your brother.”

          Sara gripped the sword. She ran from the stagecoach and ran toward the forest without hesitation. But, she then remembered she had never told the man her name. Sara gazed toward the stagecoach, looked at the sword, then ran off toward the forest.

          Sara quietly walked through the forest, barely touching the grass and mud beneath her feet. Birds chirped. Sara had wished they would stop so she could listen to any cries for help. She looked for footprints, but she had never tracked anything before. Then, in a small mud pile, she saw the shape of a foot without toes and traveled the direction it pointed.

          Deeper in the forest, Sye, Chavis, and Valquire had their hands tied, and those tied hands hung from a tree. Valquire slowly woke up, and the stone men immediately interrogated all of them.

          “Now that all our awake, you will answer us,” the monotone voice said.

          “I saw your magic in Gaia. We know you have magic items.” The stone creature pointed to another tree where the items were stashed. “We need only one. A book. Have you any magic books in your possession?”

          “No,” said Sye, “only what was in that boat.

          “What magic book?” asked Valquire. “Why have you a need for it?”

          Sara had arrived at the scene. She grabbed a large rock and threw it up in the air. The rock fell right down in front of her.

          “Check it out,” one ordered.

          One of the stone creatures left. Sara hid behind a tree, listening. The foot of the stone man ripped through briar patches and moved closer. Sara closed her eyes as the rustling of grass approached closer and closer. She gripped the sword, then heard the grass move next to her feet. She swung the sword out at the creature and split it in two from the stomach. The fingers still moved, as did the rest of the creature; somehow still functioning. She screamed and hacked uncontrollably at the pieces again and again. Off went the shoulder, the arm, the leg, the knee. She whacked away, over and over, until the stone creature lay in pieces. None of the pieces moved ever again.

          Sara sweat. Her breathing was rapid and fast. All she could do was listen to the other creatures demand answers from her friends and wonder what the noise from the forest was. She ran at the other two creatures in rage, screaming. The first creature turned, and brought it’s arm to protect the blade, but the blade sliced the arm off.

          The creature then lost it’s legs and fell to the ground. As Sara turned to the other creature, it had already fled. She ran after it, forgetting the reason she was here. Sye tried to call her back, but all she saw was another enemy to attack.

          “Sara, help us.”

          The other stone creature, though footless, was moving toward the tree where her friends were tied. Sara sliced the rest of it to pieces. Sara’s body moved up and down with her fast breathing. Her eyes were wide and focused as she held the sword other the stone creature, her body arched over the debris.

          “Sara.”

          Sara’s face turned back into the one Sye remembered. She cut the branch everyone hung on, then untied their ropes.

          “Sara, that was incredible.”

          Sara looked at the pieces of the stone creatures and wrapped herself around Sye.

          “Oh god, Sye. What is they were human? What is they had been human?”

          Sara leaned on Sye’s chest, lowering her eyes.

          “But you didn’t Sara, they weren’t human.” Sye tipped his sister’s head up. “You did the right thing.”

          “I didn’t want them to hurt you.”

          Valquire approached her and placed his arm of her shoulder.

          “I’ll make sure you never harm anything human.”

          Valquire interrupts them. “If you wish to not be able to harm them, you will need to learn power and control, how to fight and disarm.

          “These creatures, I have seen them before,” said Chavis. Sara moved out from Sye’s body as they all guided their eyes to Chavis.


*           *           *




          Magnard II removed the helmet from Sara and laughed at her. In the same room he had tortured Sye, he now held Sara.

          “Your morality is quite touching dear. I never expected one so young to take on three of them, but you outdid yourself. Yet I wonder.”

          Magnard II unchained Sara’s arms and placed a dagger on her lap.

          “Go ahead girl. All you have to do is stab me and you will be free.”

          Sara didn’t even look at the dagger. Her head screamed out in pain. There was no hesitation. As soon as it dropped in her lap, she grabbed the dagger and stabbed Magnard II. His body stopped; he was surprised by the attack. Magnard II, unfazed, could only laugh.

          “I, had not expected. But then, I don’t know the girl you are now.”

          Magnard II grabbed Sara’s hand and pulled the dagger from his chest. There was no evidence of blood, a hole, or even a scratch. Magnard II pushed Sara into the chair and chained her left arm, while her right shoved his face and attempted to rip it off. Magnard II grabbed the other arm and tied it down. He then pushed the button as the door behind the chair opened. The chair moved into the door, dragging Sara, who yelled in anger as she struggled to break the chain, chains which dug deep into her skin.

Return To “Chapter 8: Hatred”                         Continue To “Chapter 10: Threat”

Chapter 8: Hatred






      “Oof”

      Sye found himself poked with Valquire’s staff. Everyone else was already up.

      “Wake up; there are screams.”

      Sye opened the door outside, but could only see a few trees.

      “Are these trees coming to get me?”

      “Don’t be foolish, look over there.”

      In line with Valquire’s finger, nothing stood where a house once was. Another house or two was also gone, with only crumbled dust covering the square shaped dead grass. A man stood in front of his house, more curious than disturbed at the moment.

      “What happened here?”

      “I, I have no idea,” said the man, grabbing Sye’s shirt. “My house is gone. It’s gone, and I don’t know how it happened.”

      The man stumbled into the ground. Chavis suddenly dropped his jaw. “Sye, we must leave now. I know what happened.” In the woods behind Sye a clashing of hundreds of small metal sounds mixed with the chirping of crickets approached. “Sye, run.”

      Sye turned into the direction of the sounds. Before he could react, thousands of small metal objects rushed out of the forest and into the air. Sye stumbled over into the ground, barely avoiding them. When the creatures arrived at the top of the sky, they flew to the nearest house and consumed it. They started with the roof as a brown fog covered the small metal creatures and the house. As the dust settled, no house was visible, nor were the people within. Then, they spotted Sye getting up from the ground.

      The croaking screech they created echoed across Gaia. The creatures flew down on Sye, but they found themselves colliding with a large white barrier. Sye felt the white bubble around him as the small creatures continually rammed the barrier and fell down, screeching. These creatures had the metal body of a mouse, yet contained sharp multilayer teeth, along with two layers of wings that were as thin as a dragonflies, yet somehow they still flew. Sye spotted the white arrow on the ground. He checked himself, but realized he didn’t have his sword, but how could he use it inside the barrier?

      The metal creatures flew higher, continually crashing into the bubble as one large ramming force, only to be deflected again. Many fall to the ground and never get up. A few more of the townspeople emerged from their homes and witnessed the event.

      After more of the metal creatures fell, the rest of the large hive squealed and retreated into the forest. Once the last one vanished, Sye pulled up the arrow. He ran to his sister, who ran to him, and they grabbed each other.

      “Thank you, Sara.”

      Sara had shed a tear from her left eye. Sarah immediately pushed Sye away. “You idiot. I’m not going to lose you too.”

      The group of townspeople that had gathered stood in silence, until one spoke up; the owner from the hotel they had stayed.

      “Did you see that? They must have brought those creatures here.”

      Sye and Sara widened their eyes and looked at Valquire.

      “Damn,” shouted Valquire. Valquire looked at Chavis, and they both nodded. They walked slowly to Sye and Sara. The hotel owner continued to point at them.

      “That white thing, I saw that girl use it.”

      “Are you insane,” shouted Sye, “they attacked us.”

      His words were not heard, and the voices of the villagers echoed their fears.

      “Hans was in that house.”

      “You killed them.”

      “You brought it here.”

      One man picked up a rock and threw it at the group, but it could not reach them. Others began to throw rocks as well. The eyes behind the townspeople were not normal. They had suddenly lost themselves.

      “Sye, Sara,” said Valquire, “Run.”

      Sye and Sara ran toward the gate, then heard a loud rumbling. They turned behind to find Valquire using his staff. The vibration from the shake toppled some of the people as they fell back onto others. Valquire and Chavis caught up to them, as all ran as fast as they could to their boat. The clouds darkened, and the rain came.

      Valquire shoved the tree stumps from the boat while Sye brushed aside various branches. Valquire quickly tapped the oar to the ground, but the villagers had caught up to them.

      “There they are.”

      “Kill the abomination.”

      With everyone in the boat, it started to move forward, but that was the problem, it had only started to move.

      “There isn’t enough time.”

      Valquire removed the holding from his staff and placed it onto the ground. The staff dragged along the ground, creating a large vibration. The villagers were only five feet from the boat, until a large cracking of the earth split the land. The crack extended outward as a few people fell into the hole.

      The boat built up enough speed to get away, but Sye had seen the people fall. As the boat left the forest, Sye let go his rage and tackled Valquire out of the boat. Chavis stopped the boat before it moved even faster.

      “What have you done?”

      Sye attempted to punch Valquire, but Valquire caught Sye’s punch.

      “I saved all our lives.”

      “But you killed them. They hadn’t done anything.”

      Sye felt the rain drenching his clothes and sticking to his body. Valquire stood up.

      “They would have killed us Sye. They would not have listened to any explanation.”

      “How can any of that be justified?”

      “We no longer live for our own survival alone.”

      Lightening flashed behind Valquire. Sara and Chavis remained in the boat. Sye walked past Valquire without a reply and arrived in the boat next to his sister.

      “It’s wrong, Sye, because I wanted them dead, too.” Lightning flashed as Valquire tapped the oar to the ground. The boat sped forward through the rain as the thunder crackled.


      *       *       *




      Lycious, I see the enemy.

      The one who captured Sye?

      Yes. Magnard’s life is where I should begin. He lived in luxury, the son of a wealthy man, but, the more wealth his father gave him, the more he was never satisfied. Magnard studied magic as a boy until Deric found him one day and tempered with magical skills.

      Deric is considered the most evil wizard in all of history. Near the end, Magnard disagreed with Deric’s methods, stating that they should rule mankind, not destroy it. Magnard left Deric to fight the chosen heroes fifty years ago. He then fled to Voltare and had a tower constructed. He killed everyone in Voltare and surrounded it in a mysterious fog. No one has traveled to Voltare in years, and the superstitions that one person on the planet can still use magic frightens everyone who hears it. Who could stop such a man, if he were the only one with such power?

      Can he use magic?

      That is what I must find out. It contradicts the spell if he does, and could signal the undoing of the spell itself. But, he might just be using rumors to spread his power.

      If Magnard is so powerful, why has he not acted in 50 years.

      A good question. Most people think he is dead. I see a man in Barda, claiming to be the son of Magnard. He claims that all rights to Voltare are his since his father is dead, regardless of how it came to be his father’s country. Nicholas Barda rules Barda, and was amassing a small army to travel into Voltare and burn the tower to the ground, but Magnard II said he had no legal right, and that he would seek alliances with other countries if he invaded. Nicholas knew that everyone in Voltare was either dead or living in Barda, and with increased security on his country to protect it from outside invasion, the assignment to destroy Magnard’s tower was abandoned. Nothing had come from Voltare in almost fifty years, it was not a high priority threat. And so, four years ago, Magnard II entered Voltare and claimed his father’s tower.

      Four years?

      I saw the date on Magnard’s will. Magnard II signed it four years ago. He went to Barda because he knew they were planning an attack, and deceived them by saying he was collaborating with Barda’s enemies. But now, I see Magnard II wearing a helmet. Sye is chained, as a helmet extracts more information from him.


      *       *       *




      “So you witnessed that thief Valquire kill for the first time. What a pity. But how is it you knew to come here eventually. There was no indication of my name on this stone, and yet you assume I have answers.”

      Sye gathered all his strength to ask with a stern expression. “Don’t you?”

      “You have been deceived if you believed anyone can force a comet. Not even when magic existed was that possible. Magic can only extend its power across this planet. Only when it was banished did it flee.”

      Sye coughed. His head felt as if his brain was boiling.

      “Why are you doing this?”

      “Because, Sye. I will soon become a god, but I must know if somewhere on the rock or in your travels you discovered a way to defeat me.”

      Magnard pushed a button on the wall. The stone door behind folded to the left.

      “Time to interview your lovely sister.”

      Magnard II cracked a smile, as Sye screamed. “I’ll kill you.” Sye’s chair flung backwards along a track into the hole and the door slammed.


      *       *       *




      He mentioned Valquire killing the townspeople. He is seeing what you do.

      Not quite. He is limited to what they have seen; whereas I can see across many people and times. Yet, this Magnard disturbs me. I have seen no indication of Magnard except that of 50 years ago. What happened to father and son between those 50 years?

Return To “Chapter 7: Gathering”                    Continue To “Chapter 9: Traveler”

Chapter 7: Gathering




      Sara and Sye chattered their teeth as the boat traveled fast through a path at a speed they had never experienced. Sye sheltered Sara in a blanket as the bitter winds blew by. Sye called out to Valquire, to ask them when they would stop, but they were traveling too fast for any audible voice to reach his ear. Valquire stood tall at the front of the boat, his hand on the oar, watching the road ahead.

      Sye awoke later to find the boat had stopped. He rubbed his shoulders to try and warm up his body. If Valquire felt the cold as much as they did, he did not show it. Valquire told Sye to gather the large blanket in the back of the boat and cover it. The blanket wrapped over the boat, and they staked the edge so it wouldn’t blow away. Sara, still half-asleep, watched them before sitting down and falling asleep again.

      “Sara,” nudged Sye. “Wake up, there’s a town up ahead.”

      Valquire, however, was not done hiding the boat. Removing the plastic barrier from his staff, he struck a tree until it vibrated and cracked, falling to the ground. After performing the same feat on more trees, Valquire placed the trunks and branches around the boat until none of it was visable.

      “You must always take every precaution.”

      Arriving at the entrance of Gaia, Sye noticed the differences from Atius immediately. It was not a large city, but a town of small houses. No building appeared more than two stories high except for the hotels. There were a few business at the entrance, such as hotels, a grocery, and a trading post for fur and liquor. The majority of businesses were hotels, as Gaia was never a place to visit, but a stopping point. A major independent country was in ever compass direction from Gaia, and so travelers were frequent. Gaia was one of the few independent countries without a ruler, as the economy of the city relied on visitors; the ones in power were those that owned the hotels.

      Valquire entered the first hotel he saw, which was also the one that looked the cheapest. Inside, the owner was sitting behind a counter, reading. He didn’t realize he had visitors until Valquire spoke.

      “We need a room.”

      The owner was so startled by Valquire that he fell back off his chair and landed on the ground with a thud. He quickly stood up and pretended the whole incident didn’t happen.

      “How many nights?”

      “Just one.”

      “Oh no,” said Sye. “We don’t have any money. All of our money was lost in the fire.”

      “Don’t worry,” Valquire said, turning to them both and reassuring them with a bag from inside his pocket, “Clandestine gave me enough for our journey.”

      “Clandestine? You know the King? What are you doing here?”

      “We are looking for Chavis. And we are here on official business. You need not know more than that.”

      The owner looked away from Valquire, doing his best to avoid his gaze.

      “Chavis has a room upstairs. He told me to send up anyone who asked for him. Room E2”

      “We have lucked out,” said Valquire, “the search is done.”

      Valquire marched up the stairs, but as they rose higher, Sye was troubled by Valquire.

      “Did you have to intimidate him like that? He was just curious.”

      “Best to stop him before he starts asking too many questions.”

      Not speaking of anything else, Valquire went to room E2 and opened the door.

      Leaning against a dresser was a walking stick. The dresser had a book and a spyglass upon it. A large red bag on the bed was unzipped. A man stood looking out the window, then turned around to greet them.

      “Valquire.”

      “Chavis, old friend.” Valquire and Chavis shook hands then leaned in and pat each other on the back. It was the first time Sye had seen Valquire so open and informal. “It’s been too long.” Valquire’s stance was less apprehensive and hard.

      “Quite right. So these are the chosen ones?”

      Sye glared at Chavis. “Please don’t say that.”

      “Come with me.”

      Chavis led the others to the entrance of the town, where a small, wooden gate was. Chavis climbed the pillar on the left of the gate, and pointed toward the forest.

      “You see Sye, the rock is not what you believe. It does not predict the future. Instead, think of it as an advanced mathematical formula. It can search out every one on the land it is attached to, and predict the right combination of people to stop a certain situation. It is not a 100% this-will-definitely-happen spell. It’s a prediction of the right amount of variables upon a given situation.”

      “I don’t understand what you’re talking about,” said Sara.

      “Chavis jumped off the fence and landed on the ground, his feet bent. Valquire smiled and shook his head.

      “Still the same old Chavis. Almost forty five years old and you still act like you have the body of a twenty year old.”

      “Yes, whereas you have changed the most. How has the rule of Atius gone. I’ve heard nothing but great things of your and King Clandestine’s rule.” Valquire tiled his head down to avoid Chavis. He did not speak. “It’s the fire isn’t it?”

      “I did not tell you that in the letter.”

      “No, I saw it with my own eyes.”

      Chavis placed his hand on Valquire’s shoulder. “I’m sorry. I can’t imagine how it must feel to create a kingdom, only to watch it end so suddenly.”

      “Atius is not at an end, it will be rebuilt. But it might be rebuilt only to be destroyed again.”

      Looking up the path ahead, a stagecoach approached the gate.

      “We had better return to the room. Don’t want any ears to catch our conversation.”

      Back in Chavis’ room, Sye sat down and leaned on the wall. Sara sat on the bed, while Valquire stood. Chavis took a chair, turned it backwards, and sat on it the opposite direction.

      “Quests. Adventure. Magic. All this ended long ago. It should have. I don’t see how comets could be the enemy. Usually it’s someone powerful. I think it’s the war that breads northwest in Octom, but that is my theory.”

      “Do you know anything about the names on this list?”

      Sye pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket, but Valquire quickly snatched it from his hand. Sye, surprised, slouched his eyes.

      “This isn’t important at the moment.”

      Chavis looked at Valquire; he knew his friend well enough to know when he was lying.

      “What are you trying to hide from me?”

      “I can’t hide it from you. It will come shortly, but for right now, I don’t want you to read this list. You might have get a false sense of hope.”

      Chavis stood up and paced over to the bed. “I trust your judgment, Valquire, but the names on that list, I don’t think we should seek them out. If this spell works how it should, they should come to us.”

      “Why us?” asked Sye. “Out of everyone in this world, why us?”

      “I already told you, it must see potential in you two, and the two of us.

      “But Valquire isn’t on the list.”

      “I’m only helping you get far enough until you can handle yourself.”

      Chavis stepped into his bed.

      “Now, I’ve had a long journey, and now I’m a part of the quests I’ve often told as one in my profession does. But, we only travel south, that’s it? So let’s go directly south until we hit something. Discussion ended. I’m going to sleep. You will find your rooms on the same floor; E1 and E3.”

      Chavis pulled the blanket over him as Sye and Sara stood up and wondered what to do. Valquire escorted them out.

      The next day, Valquire led Chavis to the hidden boat.

      “This can outrun anything?”

      Valquire nodded then punched a tree with his fist.

      “I had no idea you had such supernatural strength,” he said laughing.

      “I don’t,” said Valquire, lifting up his glove and displaying the spiral symbol.

      “Amazing, you have an enchanted item.”

      Chavis removed the glove from Valquire’s hand. Valquire did not respond, as Chavis’ reaction to artifacts like this were nothing new to him.

      “Where did you get these, King Clandestine’s hidden vault?”

      Sye sat up. “How do you know about that?

      “Valquire and I are, very old friends.”

      “You carry more of these items, amazing.” Chavis had regressed to a child, finding every magical item more intriguing than the next.

      “You really enjoy these don’t you,” asked Sye.

      “Come now Sye,” said Valquire. “He is a historian, haven’t you guessed his specialization.”

      Sye smiled, as it was hard to keep a straight face as Chavis inspected every item as if he had never seen one before. He threw Sara’s ball and caught it on the return. Valquire showed him how to break a tree with his staff.

      Sara approached Sye while Chavis told Valquire the exact reason the magic from each object still existed.

      “This guy is a historian?”

      I know, I usually expect them to be more serious.”

      “We have these things, Sye, as weapons, but he treats them like toys.”

      “I’ve never seen someone so fascinated with magic. Most people in town, if I asked them if they ever remembered what it was like when magic existed, they would tell me it was a ‘bad time for all’ or something absurd like that.”

      “I wonder what it would be like if magic did exist, how different life would be.”

      “For us, Sara, it does still exist.”

Return To “Chapter 6: Doubt”                         Continue To “Chapter 8: Hatred”

Chapter 6: Doubt




          Sye traced his fingers down the golden edge of the mirror. The rest of the guest room he and Sara were assignment was bigger than anything they had ever seen. A large cabinet and dresser sat against the wall, both painted red. A painting on the wall depicted Atius soldiers rushing head first into battle. Thousands of enemy soldiers piled further up a mountain in the background. The expression on the Atius soldiers displayed determination against an army so massive that defeat was enviable, because during the time of the war, everyone in Atius thought it would be their last battle.

          Sye faced the bed where Sara lied, unable to sleep. Sitting down, he spoke knowing full well she wasn’t asleep either.

          “Still up?”

          Sara brushed herself out of the sheets and leaned back on the headboard. “Yes.”

          “I still don’t know if I even understand what’s going on.”

          Placing his head on the pillow, Sye exhaled loud and deep. A hand touched his shoulder, and he turned to find his sister staring at him.

          “No matter what happens, we have to do this together.”

          “How can I protect you Sara?” Sye’s eyes shake as they fill up with water. “I couldn’t even help mother.” His flowed onto the bed sheet as Sye covered his face with his hand. Sara removed his hand and wiped his tears.

          “Don’t blame yourself, Sye. She’s gone. Now, we have to decide what we’re going to do without her.”

          *           *           *          




          King Clandestine stood in his study. He looked above the fireplace, a portrait of his father.

          “Well, father, you certainly didn’t like the way I played with magical ‘toys’. Evil creations you called them. Still, I know what they need. The ‘toys’ I enjoyed so long ago, are needed for an even bigger purpose. You would never approve, nor would you have of the way I’ve collected them over the years, but perhaps this is why I have collected them, so they could be used for a purpose.

          “I wonder how you would have handled this. You would have said that if the world lived or died, it would be because of humanity, without the use of magic, but I disagree. If it can help, then we must use every resource at our disposal.”

          King Clandestine exited the study and ran into his aids. The King led him through a large double door. Inside, the room was a half circle, with rows of chairs forming upward. Many people waited passionately in their chairs, while others talked among themselves. One large marble podium stood at the front. King Clandestine pointed from the front row and counted until he reached 23, the number of independent countries. He commanded Valquire to close the door.

          After the King had told them everything he knew about the coming war and the comet, he and Valquire remained outside while the others discussed. Every council meeting was discussed without the host King, and the host King’s aid. Valquire stared at King Clandestine with a heavy growl.

          “They don’t understand anything. Most don’t even believe the comet.”

          “What do you recommend?”

          “What I did to secure their vote. Bribe, threaten their families.”

          “Valquire? You didn’t.”

          Valquire moved his whole body as his cloak swirled over the ground. He pulled his arm in a fist toward himself. For the first time in months, King Clandestine heard his friend raise his voice against him.

          “They are stupid. Internal wars when an outside one looms. If you watch the way they listen, they ignore those from countries they disagree with. They desecrate the reason our countries exist. We are independent because we caused a civil war against Octom. I won’t have war due to internal bickering and prejudice.”

          King Clandestine gazed away from Valquire.

          “This is why you are my aid.”

          “And why I am not the King.”

          Suddenly, screams rang throughout the chamber. Valquire pulled open the door, but he saw nothing but death. Every King’s aid was murdered, most fallen over their desks. Only four had a chance to run toward the door.

          King Clandestine gasped. Valquire studied the back of the closet body to him, a clear stab right into the heart from behind.
“Whoever did this was a professional.”

          King Clandestine stood dumfounded; he realized that everything he had tried to accomplish had been ruined. “Valquire, I can’t even begin to explain how terrifying, how tearinly bad this situation is. How will we explain this to the other countries? Not only will they think us involved in some conspiracy, but they will be less likely to listen to our talk about the coming comet, and to join us in the war.”

          Valquire kneeled down and placed his fingers into the blood which trinkled out from one of the victims. “This should not have happened.” Valquire wiped the blood onto the victim’s shirt. “If only I had been here, then I could have killed that assassin.”

          *           *           *          




          Sye and Sara sat in their room. Sye put down a book she was reading, bored, her mind wondering. “We didn’t see the King at all yesterday.”

          “They did have an important meeting.”

          Sye pounded his hand onto the desk. “Don’t be stupid Sara, you know the meeting had to be war related. What’s the reason any King would gather people from other countries?”

          “Are we to be warriors?”

          Sye lowered his breathing and relaxed his muscles.

          “I don’t know what we are.”

          “I don’t ever want to kill.”

          Sye turned toward Sara, his eyes caught in her innocent frown. She had given much thought to this in the past few days..

          “And what if you have to? What if someone leaves you no other choice than to die?”

          Sara angled her eyebrows. “Then I will die.”

          A loud knock echoed through the room. The door opened, and Valquire emerged. Valquire led them through the castle, but as they passed each room, Sye noticed most of the rooms empty.

          “Where are all the guests?”

          Valquire grunted. “Follow me.”

          King Clandestine’s room was located on the far western edge. Silk decorated each wall. The only item out of place was the bookshelf that had been pulled away from the wall. Behind where the bookshelf used to be a crank emerged from the wall. King Clandestine pulled the crank and a small section of the wall rotated down into the ground.

          “Follow me.”

          Sye and Sara looked at each other, then followed the king down a spiral staircase. The staircase ended on the first floor of the building, yet had no windows to verify this to anyone walking down the stairs, where another handle extended from the wall. The King rotated the handle then told them to wait five minutes.

          “Your journey will be hard, especially when it’s hard to know exactly what it is you are doing. That is why I am making sure you are well prepared.”

          Sye pointed his finger at the King.

          “What makes you think we will do what this rock says?”

          “You must help,” said Valquire, coming down the staircase, “for no one will help us. The guests you just asked about were all murdered. This will cause internal strife throughout the region, leading to no aid, for wars, for comets, for understanding that stone. You are our only option.”

          Sara pulled Sye’s hand back.

          “There must be a reason for all of this Sye. It chose us.”

          “Then it was fate then, that caused everyone in town to die.” Sye’s head fell toward the ground. “Our mother.”

          “Everything happens for a reason Sye.”

          Sye returned Valquire’s glare with astern gaze. “That’s how you want to deal with it, fine. But I don’t believe something can predict what will save the world.”

          “You should ask my friend Chavis what he thinks of that,” interrupted Valquire. “He has an interesting view on predictions.”

          “I don’t want to tell you you have to do this,” said King Clandestine, “but tell me, who else?” Sye didn’t answer. “Well, the lights should be powered up by now.” The King lead them many feet underground, as the walls became older and dustier. The stairs turned from metal into wood. Eventually, after a long trek downward, they arrived at the bottom; a large three story chamber.

          Shelves on the left, right, and center walls held hundreds of carefully arranged items. Below each item was a small piece of paper.

          “Every one of these items has some sort of magical power. Below you will find a description of its abilities. Chose two items, and chose them carefully.” Sye and Sara inspected a small gold coin.

          “Chose yourself, Valquire. You will need to protect them.”

          “I already know what I want.”

          Valquire eyed a giant metallic disc, but instead moved toward a large staff shaped like a question mark, and pulled it forth. Valquire moved to a large staff shaped like a question mark, and pulled it forth.

          With King Clandestine and Valquire gone, Sye moved toward a helmet.

          “Put this on to control the dead (inactive). Why would the word inactive be on this writing.”

          Sara, at almost the same time, said, “Hey, Sye, it’s on a few others, too.”

          Sara spotted a small metal ball and read the inscription. She then flung the ball at the wall. Sye watched, puzzled, until the ball bounced off the wall and returned at her with the same speed with which she had throw in. He quickly leapt into her and knocked her to the ground. Sye regained his posture as the metal ball floated before them.

          “Don’t worry, Sye, the least it can do is knock me unconscious.” Sara extended her hand over the ball and grasped it within her palm. “I know one thing I want now.”

          Sye grabbed a red lion statue, but was interrupted before he had time to read.

          “Are you always going to be coming to my rescue?”

          Sye placed the statue down, but was quickly startled when he noticed the sword on the end. Reading the description, Sye held the blade. Next to the sword lay an axe, claw, shuriken, darts, a strange circular, metallic disc the size of one human laying down, a few empty slots where it look as if weapons use to be, and a quiver of arrows.

          “Sara, you might want to look at this.”

          *           *           *




          Sara and Sye approached the king. A rock was stationed next to the King’s chair, and Sye was the first to ask.

          “This rock looks out of place.”

          “Valquire.”

          Valquire wore a different pair of gloves over his hands. On them were the symbol of a red spiral. He kneeled down near the rock and slammed his fist into it. The rock shattered and Valquire’s fist entered the entire rock, leaving a small dent on the floor as well.

“Each of you have a unique item you will need to learn how to use.” Valquire grabbed his staff from behind the King’s chair and showed it to Sye and Sara. The earthly staff was seven feet tall. Three points protruded from the top. A small flat piece of plastic covered the bottom of the staff. “When Valquire removes the staff from it’s holding, and presses it to the floor, it will create earthquake like disasters, though it is self contained to the area you are in. The size and force of the earthquake depends on how long the staff touches anything that is not plastic.

          “Now Sye, show me what you wish to take with you.”

          Sye glanced back toward his sister, then back to the King. Sye held his arm aloft to show the King his armband. A snake encircled a white gem. “I’m sorry Sye, but only one of those arm band’s powers will work. You press the gem, and the heat from your fingers changes the color to blue. You should then fly. There is just one problem. Magic was banished from all people and the earth. Since this actually makes your body fly, it cannot, for that would be making your body magical. However, press the button again, it turns black, then you will be invisible. Try it.”

          Sye pushed his finger to the gem as it changed to blue. Nothing happened. He pressed it again, and it quickly turned black before Sye faded from Sara, Valquire, and King Clandestine’s eyes.

          “You see Sye, this does not make your body invisible. It refracts the light around your body so that people think you are not there. This way you are able to use it. Now, press it again, and you should fly and be invisible, but you already know what I’m going to say to that.”

          Sye reappeared before them.

          “Sye you should have seen it, you were invisible.”

          “Strange. I didn’t feel any different.”

          “This is amazing, show us what the other item you chose.” Sara pulled the sword from Sye’s back and laid it before the King. Sara’s eyes brightened. “Tell us what it does.”

          Sye smiled at Sara’s playfulness, it was the first time he had seen her smile since their mother died.

          “I already know what it does Sara, it’s unbreakable, and can cut through anything.”

          “What do my arrows do?”

          Sara pulled the quiver of arrows off her back and held them before Clandestine.

          “The red arrow will create flame when it is hit with force. The blue, a huge amount of water explodes from it. The white one creates a protective bubble around the area it hits.” King Clandestine looked around Sara. “I don’t see your other weapon.”

          “It’s right here.”

          Sara reached into her pocket and brought forth a large steel marble.

          “Simply throw it, and it will hit whatever it is you threw it at and then return exactly to the last place it was touched.”

          Sara’s face suddenly lost it’s glow.

          “And this will never kill anyone, correct?”

          “Er, yes,” said King Clandestine, raising only one of his eyebrows.

          “Is that a problem?” shouted Sye.

          “You must be prepared to do anything,” said Valquire.

          Sye raised his voice. “How do you even know we will kill anyone; we haven’t even agreed to do anything. Words on a rock. It sounds ridicules. Everyone is dead, the town is gone, and you just want us to abandon it.”

          Sara placed her hand on Sye’s shoulder. It calmed him down and he stopped his sentence.

          “I,” said Sara, intensively gazing at Sye, “am going.”

          Sye looked up at the King, then back to Sara. “Are you sure?”

          Sara gazed directly into Sye’s eyes. Her face displayed a stren, unyielding conviction.

          Sye knelt in front of his sword. “Then I,” he said, grabbing the handle, “am going with you.”

          “Then it has been decided,” said Valquire. “We will travel south to Gaia, where my friend Chavis is waiting. With his knowledge, he might be able to help us. Then, we travel south, until we can’t anymore.”

          King Clandestine rose from his chair and approached the brother and sister.

          “What you do now, you do for more than just us.”

          King Clandestine escorted them to the front of the castle to the pillars that hold the gate. Moving a piece of the stone from the pillar, Clandestine pulled the wall down, hiding a small closet inside the castle’s front gate. Then, Clandestine pulled a wooden boat from inside the pillar and placed it at their feet.

          “This is faster than any horse. But, be sure you hide it before going into a city. Valquire, one last word.”

          Valquire and King Clandestine walked in between the gate and tulips which decorated the outside of the castle. Sara held the white arrow in front of her face. She turned the white-painted wood around, to examine it from other angles.

          “These are so cool. I can’t believe so many people are afraid of this. There’s so much you can do.”

          Sye sat on the ground and leaned against the pillar, looking at the strange boat that will somehow travel on land. Sara took a seat in the boat, staring at her brother as he gazed up at the sky. Minutes later, Valquire returned.

          “Time to go.”

          “Now?”

          Sye entered the boat as Valquire tapped both oars on the ground. The boat levitated an inch into the air, but was not apparent to anyone in the boat. King Clandestine wished them luck, and to send reports to him should they discover anything important.

          The boat moved slowly, so slow that Sye could still run to the castle entrance and back and the boat would not be far away. But, then the boat gained speed and the castle quickly faded from view.

          “I can’t believe we left already.”

          Sara leaned onto Sye. “I know, but what do we really have to look forward to back there?”

          The countryside they had always known vanished, and they found themselves speeding though unknown plains, roads, and forests, heading ever faster to a future they could not predict.

          *           *           *          




          You have not yet told me to quit writing Otovan. You just pace and pace.

          I’m sorry, but it would appear I am not the only one watching them.

          I thought there was only one of us at a time.

          There is, but King Clandestine does not know all the loopholes in the current state of magic. Someone is watching Sye with his own mind. A helmet is placed over his head. Sye is in a dungeon, chained to a chair. This helmet is one of a pair. The one who wears the other can read someone else’s mind. You see, Lycious, there is much of the human brain that no one knows about. It is possible for someone to read another’s mind, , hypnotize; none of these are magical effects, yet they cannot be explained.

          Someone is extracting information from Sye, in a time close to the one I have already witnessed. There is someone in the room with him.

          It disturbs me, Otovan. Why would Sye be captured, and where is his sister?

          I do not see her. Sye screams, Lycious, for the extraction of information from his brain creates pain all over the body, especially, when it is forced.

          Who could be doing this?

          Hopefully, he will be revealed to me.

Return To “Chapter 5: Questions”                   Continue To “Chapter 7: Gathering”

Chapter 5: Questions




      Otovan, is a comet really going to destroy our world? It just sounds so ludicrous.

      As I have said before, we must find that out while you write.

      Comets are rare. Since the telescope, we have only found about four or five, but this one is actually coming toward us. Could it be guided by some sort of magical object, as all magic was not vanquished, correct?

      Therein you are correct. Objects that were blessed with magic still hold it within them.

      And you know that was not the question I asked. What is it you see Otovan? Is this happening now? Has it already happened? Or perhaps, has it not yet happened.

      I have no control over my powers. What I chose to see is not up to me, most of the time.

      Most of the time?

      When I have a question about what I see, sometimes what I see later attempts to answer that, as you just saw. When King Clandestine told them the story of the comet, I was able to see what the King was telling them by asking myself what happened before. Yet, my seeing only occurs because it needs you to write. You have no parents Lycious, and I know why.

      Please don’t tell me I am a demon of some sort.

      No. You were created, differently, but you are still human. There is always one person on this planet who is to be contacted to write when a disaster is seen, seen by someone like me. Like you, I am only the latest in a line that strings back thousands of years. My ancestors paired with your ancestors. Even though you were created.

      Created? What do you even mean? Have you ever seen my parents in your visions?

      You were created from these past chroniclers of history, that is all the books tell me. The chronicler will always be an orphan, with the knowledge of words passed down through the centuries.

      That might explain why I’m such a genius. Wait. How many times has a disaster occured? If what you say is true, why are there only 3 such recordings in history? Where are the countless others that should exist?

      I hold copies of every one, while one is always spread throughout history, but no one ever appears to take good care of them. I own 12 books, thus, that is how many times your world has come close to death.

      And no one knows of this?

      I cannot be certain, but it seems most of the world is blissfully ignorant of the first 10. Ironic for a world that prides itself of history. From what I have read, they date back very much further in time; most disasters are 500 to 1,000 years apart. The fact that it is only 50 years after the previous disaster causes me to pause.

      The war that Atius is preparing for is similar to my town, though they at least have an army and allies, while my people refuse to accept anything, walking every day like mindless zombies. It disgusts me. Why can’t I help Sye and Sara, too? Even if this is the past or the present, there must be something I can do.

      I know you want to help, but that is not possible. They are a continent away. And it is still unknown to me what time this occurs in. My visions jump from different times quite frequently, so it is hard for me to keep any coherent timeline straight. Are they the past, am I witnessing the now, or it has this yet to be, a possible future which might be averted? It would drive most people mad. You will be able to help me differentiate the time I see. You cannot help Lycious, until we know everything we can. This world needs a chronicle; history must be recorded.

Return To “Chapter 4: Chosen”                         Continue To “Chapter 6: Doubt”

Chapter 4: Chosen




      Sye and Sara arrived at the castle and dismounted their horses. Sye remembered visiting the castle when he was younger. The King opens the castle every few months to show the youth how the he runs the city.

      The metal gate opened as Valquire approached, but the front doors of the castle were open. They were always open as a sign for the people that their king would always listen. A few times the doors had rusted shut in that position, and it took a few days before anyone realized it.

      The Whaley’s followed Valquire through the hallway. The halls were decorated with paintings of people who had contributed to the history of the town such as: Clandestine’s father, Joseph Blackwater (the local astronomer), and Vaqluire. Sye’s head twisted toward Valquire’s image even as his body went forward. This painting had a heroic quality to Valquire’s position, yet Sye wondered if Valquire ever appeared in that pose in daily life.

      Sye leaned into his sister. “Why do you think the King needs to see us?”

      “I know as much as you.”

      Sara looked away and followed Valquire into the King’s lounge where Clandestine waited. Soft couches filled the edge of the room, while a fireplace cackled in the middle of the wall. Gold ornaments decorated the two tables in the center.

      King Clandestine sat slouched in his chair, his eyes fixated deep in thought. His hand held his forehead as he turned to the visitors. He regained his composure and stood tall, regaining the sturdy figure and authoritative voice that made him king.

      “Valquire, please close the doors.”

      Valquire closed the doors then turned to Sara and Sye, who were still unsure of what to ask. King Clandestine guided them to the couch where he moved a chair in front of them for himself and Valquire.

      “What I am about to tell you must be kept secret.”

      “I don’t understand.”

      “I don’t think I should start with the answer. You need to hear how this whole thing happened to understand it at all.”

      Sye and Sara’s eyes drifted aside King Clandestine toward the fireplace. As they focused on the fire, they imagined they heard their mother scream for help as her flesh burned under oppressing wood. Clandestine noticed their eyes ignoring him then looked at the fireplace.

      “Our mother died in the fire,” said Sara, holding her own hands and gripping them tighter.

      He rose, grabbed a bucket of water, and quenched the fire. “I’m sorry. Even more sorry for what I am to ask of you, but we have no other choice.


      *       *       *




      Lycious. We must step out of time for the moment. It would be much more convenient to describe the events leading to the King’s decision. I can tell you the stories rather than hearing an edited one from the King.

      I have many questions, but I will wait for now.

      I will tell you what I see.


      *      *       *




      Joseph Blackwater built a telescope with his own hands. This three story structure sat upon the widest building in Atius, and was the first landmark visible for approaching travelers. The silver telescope was built on a circular frame that could rotate to view any angle of the stars. The chair was built upon the rotating platform underneath the viewing lens and turned with the telescope. Joseph pumped the peddles with his feet and rotated the telescope clockwise. Various knobs and gears next to the lens adjusted the depth, zoom, and focus.

      Joseph’s wife had died a year prior, and since then he retreated to the stars more and more. Every time his telescope moved, people knew he was studying the stars, yet they rarely saw him in town, and he frequently forgot to bathe and eat.

      One night, Joseph discovered an unusual light in the sky, one that he checked from his maps to find had never been there before. It wasn’t until two months later, when he checked that star again, the he felt it had increased in size. He drew a quick sketch of the stars near it, then ran downstairs and studied his star charts that layered the walls. He furiously pulled out a protractor and compass and drew many angles upon a blank sheet of paper. He tracked this light for one month, comparing it to the stars it was near. Six times a day he recorded the intervals between the flickers of light on this object. When three months of data had been collected, he began his formulas. His writing turned more and more illegible as he hurried toward the answer, until he arrived at a conclusion. Hands shoved the papers off the table.

      King Clandestine resided in his study early in the morning. Tapestries decorated each wall. The first tapestry was a large man with a small beard and sideburns. He wore a long cape and his eyes stared down at the onlooker as if he was looking down at them. The tapestry directly across from the door was a map of Odisius.

      Odisius was mostly oval shaped, with most of it’s length to the left and right, however, it had a giant hole in the southern center, which was a gulf that connected to the ocean. Mountains decorated most of the west and north, while a desert covered some of the south eastern part.

      The third tapestry was a giant red ‘A’ curled up in elaborate calligraphic style with black outline and purple background.

      Clandestine opened the letter, leaned back in his chair, and read a letter he had read many times over already.

     “King Clandestine, the Octom army is operational, and has indeed been building its numbers in secret. The latest recordings list over 40,000 troops. They have every intention of moving upon us. Their army is growing at an alarming rate as they convert the youth into believing that it is their destiny to reclaim the land the last generation lost. The only way anyone stands a chance is for all the independent cities to form a cohesive army. It might not be much, but it’s the only chance we have. I will continue to monitor the army movements and keep you posted. May Atius prevail for its second generation.”

      King Clandestine was interrupted by his reading when a guard entered his study. Clandestine moved his hands outward then toward himself.

      “What could possibly be happening this early in the morning?”

      “There is a man insisting he see you. Valquire has already stated that you see him with haste, sir.”

      “Very well, bring him in.”

      Joseph stumbled into the study, dropping two papers. He laid all his papers on the table. King Clandestine chuckled.

      “Mr. Blackwater, how are the stars? Charted them all yet?”

      Clandestine backed away slightly upon smelling the sweat and odor of unbathed skin. Joseph spread the papers more evenly.

      “The stars, they’re all right, except for one. One falling star, and it’s coming right for us.”

      King Clandestine stood up and stared directly at Joseph.

      “You can’t be serious.”

      Joseph pounded his fist on the table then pulled his hand to his head and clenched his hair.

      “I’ve reworked every equation I know, and the answer’s the same. The falling star hits us.”

      A voice echoed through the study.

      “It’s true.”

      The King’s eyes rolled upwards and his head titled to the left.

      “You can come out Valquire.”

      From behind the map tapestry a hand lifted the silk above his head, and Valquire entered. His long hair brushed through the tapestry. Joseph stared into his green eyes and almost jumped back.

      “Valquire, tell him what I told you.”

      Valquire approached the King.

      “I listened to his story before the sun rose and told him to wait one hour. He sounded so sure of himself that I went to his house and checked for myself; it’s true.”

      Valquire had learned everything about the stars from Joseph, so Joseph didn’t even give it a second thought that Valquire had gone into his house while he was gone. It was hard to hear a knocking from the roof, so Valquire often had to barge in to get his attention.

      “Since I know you understand the stars as well as Joseph, I must assume you are right.” King Clandestine fell into his chair and looked at the paper and equations he could not comprehend. “So, does this mean our world is near extinction?”

      “That’s what I don’t know. I can’t tell the size of the thing yet. It could be the size of this castle, or twice the size of our planet. All we know is it’s coming, in 7 years, best case scenario. Worst case—3 years. In a year or so I should be able to find out all this with more study and get a more accurate projection.”

      “Every King’s aid will be here soon. This should be brought up there.”

      Joseph glared at the King.

      “Why, why have I not herd of this meeting”

      Valquire walked around the room and kept his eyes on Joseph.

      “You will forget you heard that, and everything else we say.”

      “As I was saying,” said the King as he stared at Valquire, “this meeting will be in six days. After we have concluded, I will bring this up. Copy these notes and equations of yours. They must have other scientists that can help.”

      Valquire lifted the tapestry up then let it fall again.

      “Awfully hopeful against a ball of fire.”

      “Well Valquire, some of us don’t always try to see things exactly as they are.”

      Joseph picked up his papers and ran toward the door before realizing he hadn’t said goodbye.

      “I’ll copy them as soon as I can, six days, six days.”

      Joseph ran out as the King spoke to himself.

      “He’s changed a lot since…”

      “I’m sorry to do this to you Clandestine, but it appears everything we couldn’t possibly need is happening all at once.”

      “Valquire?” Clandestine raised his eyebrow as he rose from his chair. “You’re always more direct than this.”

      “The Stone.”

      “The Stone?” Clandestine eyes widened. He fell back into the chair again, stared at the ground, and shook his head. “As if a war wasn’t enough.”

      They day after the fire had decimated their home, Valquire and King Clandestine arrived at a forest. They cut ropes and shoved a cloth away from a large stone. Many names were etched, but the top two listed were “Sye Whaley, Sara Whaley.”


      *       *       *




      “Magic?” said Sye, startled. “But that’s not possible. Mom said that vanished ages ago.”

      “Almost fifty years ago to be precise, but magic does indeed still exist, for I have a large collection of magical artifacts. Let me start at the beginning.

      “You know the story, every one does. Fifty years ago, the evil wizard Deric did not want to conquer the world,” Clandestine’s eyebrows narrowed, “he wanted to destroy it. He conquered half of the southern continent before his wild schemes were defeated by six chosen men and women. Their final battle caused the worldwide earthquake that cracked the world and left many people deadly afraid of magic. I mean, wouldn’t you if it almost killed everyone you knew?

      “It is also the reason behind the control of immigration between the continents, though Trenton does not have the capacity to enforce immigration anymore, but I’m too off topic.

      Magic was too powerful a force to keep on this world, no one wanted it around anymore, and anyone who could use it, was resented. Deric’s magic nearly imploded the planet. What if magic was used this way again? What if someone else wanted to wield power this way? No one was going to let that happen. The world’s most powerful sorcerers were called to cast one last spell, the eradication of magic from mankind and the earth itself.

      “But, they must not have clearly stated the specifics of such a world wide spell, for they failed to realize the consequences. You see, Sye and Sara, items enchanted with magic could still work, not being of the earth, or of man, and one of those items is that unbreakable stone that chose the six heroes all those years ago; the same stone now has your names etched within.”

      “I…I don’t understand,” said Sara. “How can we do anything?”

      “I don’t think you are all as weak as you believe. Sara: 1st place in the Independent cities of Odisius archery contest. Sye: winner of the sword fighting competition from the same event. You both already have remarkable skills, and I feel you might need them.”

      “Um,” whispered Sara,” I, uh, what would we be using these skills for?”

      “That is the only problem; we don’t know. All the stone gives is one direction; South. Though it’s odd, considering tales of the great telescopes The Region of the Path has created to the east.”

      Valquire moved closer to the children.

      “There is something else I want to comment on. The comet pulsates. What if it is responsible for the earthquakes, the fires? They might be connected. The comet might be the start of immense disasters across the world.”

      Sye clenched his fists.

      “You must be joking.”

      King Clandestine stood up quickly and ignored Sye’s words. “You two will not be the only ones going on this trip. The stone has also given other names, yet only one is know to us. The names go as follows.” Valquire opened and read aloud a piece of paper. “Sye Whaley, Sara Whaley, Chavis, Kife, Glenn Truart, Nicholas Barda.”

      “Chavis is an old friend of mine, and always sends me a list of his future locations, as he travels quite often. He has been dispatched with a letter to wait for you in Gaia.”

      “We have many guest rooms waiting for you.” Valquire opened a door and called for a guard. “Also, hold onto this paper, it might do well to remember these names. Escort them to the guest chambers.”

      Before they left, King Clandestine placed his hands on their shoulders.

      “One more thing. You might notice that many people have arrived. These are the King’s aid from the other independent cities to discuss a very important matter. I will tell them of the comet, and the stone, but please refrain from mentioning anything until tomorrow’s meeting.”

      Sye and Sara left with frowns of their face, following the guard. Clandestine sighed. “Valquire, do you think it’s right to do this to children; we don’t know what could happen.”

      “True, but probability is in our favor.”

      Valquire placed his arm around the King’s shoulder. “You must have faith in this plan.”

      “Yes,” King Clandestine said, lowering his head, doubts still on his mind. “Joesph. Did he survive the fire?”

      Valquire turned away from the King.

      “I’m sorry, sir. He did not.”

Return To “Chapter 3: Memories”                   Continue To “Chapter 5: Questions”

Chapter 3: Memories




      The heat cooked the Atius refugees in their tents. Everyone had come out to escape the sun only to have the sun’s rays heat their bodies. The day after the fire, the last thing people wanted to think about was anything remotely similar. Most of the Atius citizens shuffled apathetically from place to place with no real purpose.

      Inside his tent, Sye pulled a red cotton shirt over his head, then placed his feet through frayed shorts. Sye stared at the holes for awhile before hearing a yell outside his tent.

      “Haven’t you changed yet?

      Sye turned toward the shadow.

      “Almost.”

      He removed the beaten shorts and reached for the official shorts of the Atius castle guards. These had been delivered, along with all extra clothing that could be found at the castle. Sye slid the black and red shorts to his waist then yanked the belt off and threw it at the tent wall. The tent had a protrusion grow then dissipate, as the belt fell onto his sleeping bag.

      Sye unzipped the tent and walked outside where Sara waited. He gave a quick stare, then turned away without saying a word. The Atius wall stood before them, the only surviving structure of their city. Atius had a wall built around itself for defense. Now it was a defense for its own people, for they didn’t have to look at the wasteland their home had become.

      Sye once tried to climb the wall when he was a child. He got halfway up, too, until he found no place for his left foot. Squirming for footing, then accidentally letting go, Sye plummeted to the Earth. His head felt like he had been used as a battering ram, and his shoulder was hurt. He went home where his mother said he had dislocated his shoulder. She told him to think of what he wanted more than anything, and as Sye thought, his bone cracked back into place. Sye screamed.

      “How could you do that?”

      Sye’s mother glared at her boy, who continued to rub his shoulder.

      “Did you ever think that you wouldn’t fall?” Sye didn’t know how to answer. “You should always consider what could happen, even if you don’t like it.”

      Sye stretched his arm forward.

      “I just wanted to reach the top.”

      “Why?”

      Sye’s eyes moved about as he spoke. “I don’t, I just wanted to do it.”

      “Look for a purpose in what you do Sye, otherwise….”

      A horn blew Sye out of his thoughts, and he saw the lone horse galloping from the castle. Sara, too, heard the blast, then went back to gazing at the tent wall. She had also put the guard shorts on, but she held a shirt from a cleaner at the castle.

      “You really should wear one,” her mother used to nag her about.

      “But I don’t want to,” said Sara, only a few months prior.

      Her mother held for her a grey bra and placed it over her daughter’s breasts, even though she already had a shirt on.

      “They will hold you up, unless you want to look very ridiculous once you get older.” Her mother tossed the bra onto her bed. “There are some things one just has to do.”

      “But, why do I have to wear it? It’s not like it’s hurting anyone.”

      “Sara, you can’t be a tomboy forever.”

      “Sara.” Sye’s voice repeated through the tent. “Sara.” Sara jerked and held the shirt over her breast even though she knew Sye wouldn’t enter. “Everyone is gathering. It looks important.”

      “I’ll be right out.”

      Sara took the bra from the cleaning woman’s outfit and shoved it in her pocket.

      Within the mass of people gathered, most were waiting in line for food which came from the northern farm fields. Large crates sat behind the tables where guards handed a specific amount of food for each person. Everyone was told that Valquire would speak after they finished their meals.

      After 30 minutes, Sye arrived at the table, where he handed the guard his dinner plate from the previous night. The guard cleaned the plate, then gave him carrots, potatoes, and bread. Sara received the same. As they sat a bit away from the crowding mass, Sye saw Valquire walking though the crowd. As tall as he was, it was impossible to blend in. Everyone in Atius knew of Valquire’s desire for Peace, and even though he wasn’t the most charismatic person, he was trusted. When an earthquake hit three years ago, Valquire helped rescue citizens and set up immediate responses. He always told the people that any problem could be taken before him or the king. He set up many events as well for the city such as festivals and plays. Sye got the honor of practicing with him after he won the Sword Fighting Championship. Sye always wondered what it would be like to train under him.

      All of Atius knew Valquire’s story. He lost all his friends and regiment to a former Wizard named Magnard, then was later betrayed by his own king in Barda. He eventually wound up here at the north and joined Clandestine and his followers as they fled following Great Exodus, and helped King Clandestine make the city what it had become. But, his experiences before had left him bitter, and everyone knew it was wise to avoid questions of his past, as interested as most people were about it.

      As Sye and Sara ate, Sye asked Sara if she was ready to work the farmlands tomorrow.

      “I don’t know much about hard labor. But I know we have to do it.”

      The farmland was only one mile north of the city, and where much of the town worked. Now there were many acres in need of tending, and some that would spoil from not having enough people to harvest all the food.

      The horn sounded again, and Valquire walked away from the crowd, then turned to face them all.

      “Fellow citizens, we have arrived at a dark time for our city. Already King Clandestine has dispatched men to other cities to ask for any aid they can spare. But here, now, we must all work together to create a new city. A few constructionists have survived, and I have sent the ones from the castle as well. I want you to learn from them, how to build, for all of us will need to work together.” Valquire exhaled very deeply, as if putting much thought into his next sentence.

      “I also need Sye and Sara Whaley. It is important they see me immediately.”

      Sye and Sara, still sitting on the ground away from the crowd, looked at each other in astonishment. The crowd was silent. As Valquire attempted to speak again, a man shouted. “Hey, I think that’s them over there.”

      Sye and Sara stood up and walked toward Valquire. The crowd stared at Valquire as if they were all invited to the conversation, but Valquire slowly turned his head and gave such an unnerving gaze that the crowd dissipated. Valquire waited for the crowd to move further away before turning to two guards.

      “Stils, Geisha, your horses.”

      Two of the guards that had been handing out rations obeyed. Valquire looked at the two siblings.

      “Get on. The king and I must speak with you.”

      “I don’t understand,” said Sye.

      “Ride. Your answers will follow.”

      Sye and Sara mounted a horse and followed Valquire toward the castle.

      Far away, along the southern mountain, stood a middle aged man with a black beard that had recently started to grey. His dark red outfit covered his body, and his purple belt held the Historian Seal. In his hand, the historian held a large eyeglass which could enlarge images 10 times their normal size. He looked below where Atius once was and placed his eyeglass down as soon as he saw the burnt city.

      Elsewhere, a stagecoach traveled from the north into the former Atius city and witnessed the remains. A driver on top of the stagecoach halted the horses inside the city. From inside his stagecoach the man could see outside, but no one could see him. After surveying the ashes, he commanded the coach to travel the path south. He soon arrived at the tents. Many people followed the stagecoach with their eyes, expecting.

      The driver spoke into a tube next to him which connected to the coach inside. “Do you think we should stop?”

      “No,” said the voice. “There is nothing we can do here.” The horses trotted down the path and sniffed loudly. The stagecoach was closer to the crowd than to Sye, Sara, and Valquire, but they were so isolated from everyone that they were easy to spot. The driver heard his master command him to stop, then overheard him talking to himself.

      “So, Sye, this is where it all began.”

Return To “Chapter 2: Storyteller”                     Continue To “Chapter 4: Chosen”

Chapter 2: Storyteller




      Rain poured as it had for the last three days, thick droplets flung through sporadic winds. Each drop pelted the cabin of Lycious. No walls were exposed in his cabin; all were covered by bookshelves. Lycious owned many untranslatable historical texts, as the languages had been forgotten. Each foreign copy pressed against a translated copy that Lycious himself had translated.

      Lycious emerged from his bedroom and dazedly made his way to the living room. A writing easel sat in the corner, whereas the opposite corner held a large metallic box. Next to that box was a shelf and dresser, which in turn were next to a sink. In the middle of the room was a square table. Yet, none of these are yet visible, as the dark day outside blocked the sun. Lycious reached for the bookshelf to his left, then felt along the edge until he arrived at the metal box. A gear protruded from the box which Lycious griped and struggled to turn toward him. A giant bulb encased in glass hung from the ceiling; it slowly illuminated. By the time it finished charging to its highest luminosity, Lycious was halfway finished with his breakfast; a bowl of oatmeal.
Lycious studied his window as the rain smacked and dripped. He then got up, grabbed a wooden shaker, and sprinkled cinnamon over the oatmeal.

      *       *       *




      I can’t take this anymore. How do you know everything I do?

      Do you think I could have told you about Sye and Sara’s troubles without being able to look into your own?

      It’s just, disturbing. Are you always watching me?

      Lycious, please. Allow me to finish.

      *       *       *




      Lycious finished his oatmeal without any interruptions, but as he rose from the table a hand tapped upon his door. Lycious had not received visitors for years. He still held the spoon when he quickly arose, but before he could answer the door, it swung open on its own. Yet, Lycious remembered having locked it last night. Before him stood a man wearing a grey cloak, who removed his hood.

      “Lycious, I need you.”

      Lycious’ eyes fixated on the stranger as he strutted across the room. The man left no puddles on the floor.

      “A scribe, Lyscious, are you not a scribe, a translator of texts?”

      Lycious chuckled.

      “Everyone knows I’m famous around here.”

      The man turned and stared into Lycious eyes.

      “I need you to write. I will need you for a year.”

      “What would I be translating for you?”

      “Oh no,” said the man, inspecting Lyscious’ easel, “You will not be translating, but writing down everything I have to say.”

      “Your life history, I assume?”

      The man bent over the easel and smiled.

      “A much more important history, I assure you. And you will be paid any sum you wish.”

      The man stared out the window as the rain beat down. Each drop could be heard on the roof as Lycious stood with his mouth half open. The cloaked man turned to Lycious as he adjusted himself.

      “Have you ever heard of the major historical texts? The ones that read more like a story than a history book.”

      Lycious laughed. He found it hard to stop, but spoke anyway.

      “Those fake histories? Someone just wanted history to be more exciting so they applied some storytelling.”

      The cloaked man sighed, folding his eyebrows. “Did they?” He then opened the door as the wind blew water onto the carpet floor.

      “I need you orphan.”

      Lycious bent the top of the spoon with his thumb.

      “How do you?”

      The man walked into the rain and called back.

      “In one week I will return. I expect you to have an empty book waiting for me.”

      The man walked further into the plains until he vanished into the forest.

      *       *      *




      The next day the rain stopped. Lycious walked along the dirt road into town. A horse was tied to the fence at the entrance. Down the street a woman left her house and poured out a bucket of water. Children kicked rubber balls back and forth at each other, while another younger child ran into mud puddles. As Lycious walked closer to the center of town, he passed small wooden cabins and the occasional brick house. The paint on all the homes had faded, and had not been repainted. Their town, Levit, was on the edge of the occupied territories upon which Tauras was slowly laying claim. Levit didn’t have an army, so it was a subject no one talked about, but was visible in their inaction.

      Lycious saw the owner of the horse in the center gathering area. Three rows of wooden benches were arranged in a half hexagon shape. All of the benches were full. Kids sat up front on the lawn while a wall of people stood in the back behind the benches. Some people carried on conversations while the man on stage placed his straw hat on the chair next to him. The wooden floorboards on which he stood were worn from the rain. No one had replaced the planks in over a decade. Many homes had windows missing, doorknobs gone, unclean floors, rank smells; the general apathy towards the approaching army left the city in a continual state of deterioration.

      The man’s outfit gave him away. A dark red robe with a purple hem covered him. His purple belt had the Historian Seal on his buckle. The buckles image showcased a man holding a book in his left hand toward the sky with light shooting upward. The figure’s right hand held the letter O. Below the figure heads gathered. The clouds left a space in which sunlight shown directly on the figure. Behind the figure open plains and mountains were in the background. The symbol of the historian had been used for over 300 years.

      This particular historian told the story of Tauras’ formation 150 years ago. Lycious stood and listened much longer than he expected.

      “It was then the Monarch’s second hand man, Jaquel, found a book. Within the book, he found words which could help him claim the crown.”

      A man from the audience yelled.

      “Why don’t you tell everyone about the evil this book really is? They need to know.”

      Some of the children stood up and focused on the voice.

      “My son isn’t going to hear how good that stuff is, you hear me?”

      Another voice echoed through the crowd.

      “It nearly killed us, why mention it?”

      The historian stomped his foot. The damaged floorboard almost gave way.

      “Now listen here. This is what happened, so that is how I tell it. Would you rather I lie?” His face was angrier now. Everyone knew the fate of a historian who attempted to change history to their liking; death. How you interpret it is your choice,” he pointed his hand toward the back row, “you listen.”

      The man who interrupted the tale lowered his head. In the last fifty years, Historians still held their authority and were greatly respected. They were the only people allowed to cross continental borders (providing they had the credentials). The learning of history was both a required education as well as a form of entertainment.

      Lycious walked past the stage to the book store, a small, one-room building. Inside, books crammed in just enough places to provide a snug walking space. Gusto ran over to Lycious and almost tripped over a stack of books on the floor. He squished Lycious in his gigantic arms, almost breaking Lycious’ shoulder. Gusto was much larger than most people, and perhaps the strongest in the village.

      “Lycious, I have a copy of some texts from the Augasias Era. The dictator of Barda sent copies everywhere, and is even offering land in his home country as a prize.”

      Lycious looked up with a smile. This is what he enjoyed, translating ancient texts which no one could decipher. He didn’t need to know the language beforehand. He only had to read and study the unknown language for a few days before he produced an alphabet.

      *      *       *




      It is odd. Though, perhaps I am just smarter than everyone else.

      Didn’t I tell you no interruptions yet?

      I’ve never met or heard of anyone else who can decipher texts like I do. It’s why I’ve made so much money.

      Yet you live in a shack and never use your wealth.

      I made this ‘shack’ with my own hands. It’s my home.

      Listen, Lycious, I need to get to a certain point before I’ll allow you to ask questions.

      I’ll wait, for now. I do have a whole year.

      *       *       *




      Lycious’ voice lowered along with his head.

      “Anyday I’d love to, but right now I need a blank book.”

      Gusto lifted books from a corner and handed him a blue animal-skinned cover.

      “Actually, I was looking for something more, elaborate, big, expensive.”

      Gusto stood on the counter and searched through a shelf behind him.

      “Writing something important? Your diary perhaps?”

      Lycious grunted.

      “You always try to convince me to do that.”

      Gusto lifted one section of books off the shelf to reach the layer behind them.

      “But have you considered it? You know, a few historians are starting to mention you.” Gusto lifted his hand into the air and spoke deeper. “‘As translated by Lycious Holman.’”

      Gusto moved the second layer of books to reveal a third tucked behind.

      “Aha. Here they are. I have leather and other various animal skins such as lion and bear, metal, even gold.”

      “Let me see the metal one.”

      Gusto handed down to Lycious a book with a metal binding and cover. The design on the sides of the cover were three lines, which lopped in each corner, while the center pattern crossed itself and gave the impression of an eye.

      “I’ll take this one.”

      “You sure you don’t want one made from human skin?”

      Lycious’ eyebrow raised.

      “I’m not even going to ask.”

      Gusto leapt down behind the counter and pulled out a wooden box. Inside were many silver coins of varies sizes, and a few gold pieces with faces on them.

      “Lets see, that one is very expense. Say, 1,000 logs.”

      “I only have about six hundred on me.”

      “Don’t worry, pay half, and the rest later. You’re my best customer, I can give certain liberties.”

      Lycious dropped five round gold pieces into Gusto’s hands. As Lycious left, he heard Gusto yell, “And I want first reading of your diary,” of which Lycious could only roll his eyes.

      Exactly one week later, it rained again, and a familiar knock resonated within Lycious’ cabin. He had returned. He looked at the metal book on the table.

      “I see you are ready.”

      The cloaked man placed his hand on the book and studied the pattern. Lycious closed the door so the man would hear the slam.

      “I think its time you gave me some answers. I’ve been waiting a week.”

      “Just a week?” the man smiled. “Patience.”

      “Patience? You tell me things you shouldn’t know about me then walk off. Forgive me if I’m a little pissed off you aren’t telling me why.”

      The man exhaled deeply.

      “Very well.” He walked around the entirety of the room before continuing. “Lycious, I can see. Not just what’s in front of my eyes, but events happening elsewhere in the world. Events which I see for a reason.”

      “And you want me to record your ‘visions?’”

      The man tilted his head.

      “Correct.”

      “You’re lucky you didn’t say this to anyone in town.”

      “Because you witnessed last week the prejudice people still hold against magic.”

      “How do you know this?”

      “Sit down, Lycious, and write everything that we say.”

      *       *       *




      And that’s where I started.

      You needn’t make such a blatant statement. You are amusing, Lycious, and your comments might prove insightful, if not entertaining for future readers. I’m not allowed to have my judgment interfere, but you are under no such oath.

      You say you witness events. My life can hardly be regarded as such.

      You are again, correct.

      Then what do I write? Mr…?

      Otovon.

      Do you belong to some secret society or something?

      Why come to that conclusion?

      I give up. I only want to know what I’m writing about.

      Very well. You are recording the end, Lycious, the end of your world.

Return To “Chapter 1: Brimstone”                  Continue To “Chapter 3: Memories”

Chapter 1: Brimstone




      Sweat poured from Sye’s forehead as burnt wood filled his lungs. He sprung from his bed as his eyes opened to opaque, black clouds swirled above, created from the light of flame dancing upon the wooden ceiling. He diverted his gaze toward the window to find his house was not the only one ablaze. Screams rung out across Atius; burning bodies, panic, death. His window was also a leap out of his room. Sye stared out into the burning city before him, then backed away from the window.

      He jumped over his bed and forced his hand onto the door handle before quickly pulling it back. He flicked the doorknob with his finger, gripped it tight, then flung the door open.

      The living room was in flames. Looking from the walkway above, Sye witnessed the last moments of his home. The table below was scattered with bits of wood falling from the ceiling. Couches burned as flame glided through the air with particles of wool. From the burning ceiling, ash fluttered. The fire scattered and consumed another beam in the ceiling, while above the front door the flames pecked away at the side of a beam, popping, hissing, cackling.

      Sye should have had one direction available to him; left across the wooden walkway past his sister Sara’s room, then down the stairs. However, a large beam blocked his path, ablaze and creeping across the floor, while flaming debris had nearly consumed the stairs, trapping Sara from any escape into the floor below. Spurred flame rose higher and lashed toward Sye to pull him into their warm embrace.

      Below, Sye’s mother opened a door and noticed the destruction. They both sigh in relief as they find the other unharmed, but then jerk their eyes to Sara’s door, which has yet to be opened. The fire hissed from the stairs.

      Sye’s mother climbed onto the table as sparks singed her hair. With a leap forward she grabbed the balcony and grappled above the railing. She lifted herself onto the floor without a breath, then slammed her fists onto Sara’s door. However, no voice replied.

      Sye jumped off the walkway, but as he landed the ground greeted his ankle. Sye muttered a small cry of frustration and tumbled over into the table. With a hand over his bleeding forehead, Sye called out to his mother, but she was determined to break down that door. With a slight limp, Sye wobbled to the front door, ignoring the hot nails which embed themselves in his hair.

      Above the front door was a sword with a swirled handle. The bottom base of the hilt had a red ‘V’ underneath, which stood for the name on the plaque, “Victor Whaley.” Sye pulled open the door but failed to notice a beam lose its left holding, and so the beam swung back and forth directly above his head. Through the door more burning homes came into view: an entire city screaming in an orange and red panic. Joseph’s telescope in the horizon shined like a pharos with the intense heat melting its metallic body.

      Sye tore the framed picture off the wall and smashed it against the wall. The glass scattered across the floor along with the sword. He pulled the sword, then almost tumbled backwards; a large piece of glass embedded itself in his foot. He ripped the glass out, teeth clenched.

      Sye approached his mother as best as he could with his right ankle burned, his left foot dragging blood across the floor. The beam blocking Sye’s path had stretched across the whole landing and now feasted on his door. Sye lifted the sword up to his mother, who gripped the handle tight before swinging the sword against Sara’s door. The sword assaulted the door whack after whack as splinters flew. A large piece of the door sprang forth and protruded upward. Sye’s mother forced herself through the hole where her daughter lay unconscious under a beam, which luckily, was not ablaze. The beam had strong hands lift it upward and toss it out the window. Sara was safely carried out as the flames above frantically sought out consumption.

      Sye’s mother lowered Sara down to Sye, who held his younger sibling and ran to the front door. The ceiling cringed as boards fell and grinded into each other. Fire stretched across the table as he passed, it’s weight slanting as its legs were eaten away.

      Sye’s mother slid under the railing, turned around, grabbed the walkway floorboard, then let go and fell to the ground. As Sye neared the front door he twisted his ankle and fell, dropping Sara, unaware of the pillar swinging above him. His muscles tightened as he forced her up, but no later did he succeed that his body was knocked outside. He landed on top of Sara, colliding his head on her shoulder. Rolling over, Sye faced the front entrance, expecting his mother behind him, but the entrance has covered with debris. Sye immediately ran forward, but his hands burned as he touched the wood. He fell back screaming.

      Sye punched the ground with his fist. He gazed at the doorway, waiting for his mother to lift the beams out of the way and step into the open, but minutes passed without this dream coming to fruition. His eyes remained on entrance, waiting, watching, until he heard a cackling sound nearby. The leaves upon the tree which Sara lay caught fire, and was slowly working their way to the bark. Sye scooped Sara up then turned one last time to the front door, before quickly looking down at the ground, shuffling away from his home.

      The smell of burnt wood and flesh filled the nostrils. Sye coughed as he placed Sara in a large field that belonged to a neighbor. There were no trees or structures for 30 yards. He stood watch over Sara all night as the flames annihilated every building around them.

      Five hours later, Sara awoke to find her brother standing far away. She wiped her eyes then saw the remains of her city. She ran to Sye, who stood over the entrance of their house, but Sara had yet to realize this. The only remnants of their home were a few sections left of the wall, but none rose more than two feet. Sara panted behind him. Sye moved his foot forward before pulling it back out. He could have stepped on the remains of his mother. He saw an lump under the debris then turned and clutched Sara as tears fell.

      “What’s going on?” Sarah looked at the inside and gasped. “Where’s mom?”

      Sye moved his head forward with painful eyes. Sara backed away.

      “No.”

      She flailed her arms about. “How could she be gone?” She swung at Sye’s chest multiple time. “She can’t be gone.” She clutched Sye’s shoulders as his shirt collected both their tears.

      Then, a horn echoed. They looked toward the sound, but they could only see the 60 foot wall that surrounded their whole city. Both know the sound from childhood emergency drills. In any emergency, one followed the sound of the horn. Sye looked over at his house, but the sun bounced off something in the ash. Brushing the ash away revealed the father’s sword. The blade was unscathed, but the handle was charred. Sye lay the sword in front of his home.

      “We’ll be back for you.”

      In a daze they followed the horn to Atius’ entrance; the only exit in their entire city. Following past that they went to an area far above a hill, from which one could see Atius Castle. Atius Castle was built into a small hill, with it’s towers able to see in every direction. The horn came again, and led them to a large field covered with tents. Guards handed out tents and clothes while cooks stirred pots of soup over a fire. The tents spread far across the plains. A man dressed in a red outfit noticed them approach.

      “Bring food and water. We have more survivors.”

      Sye and Sara were brought to an empty tent. The red man handed them bread and jugs of water before disappearing just as fast to help others. Sye and Sara heard voices from the other tents, but they looked at each other with weak eyes. They ate their food then fell asleep.


     *      *      *




      King Clandestine signed the last of his letters. Clandestine was well loved by his people, and he made frequent visits into town to shop with those he ruled to find out about their daily life. What most people felt afraid to say to a normal King, people had no trouble saying to him. His rule was built on listening to his people, and transferring their ideas into laws. He was so loved that Atius citizens arrived in front of the castle on Clandestine’s 40th birthday to sing him a song of celebration.

      King Clandestine folded the letters and placed them inside envelopes. He sealed them with wax then exited the castle. Behind him was Castle Atius, consisting of only three floors. The left and right towers had a dome shape, and two more towers were built onto the hilltop itself so that nothing was out of sight. The Castle was in no way original or different, being comprised of mortar and stone, but the extra towers on the top of the mountain gave everyone a sense of protection; that someone was watching out for them all the time.

      King Clandestine approached four guards, handing each a letter. Each guard wore red outfits. The letter ‘A’ was predominate on the shoulders and belt within a black circle. The people considered their town the first true paradis after they escaped, and so it was named with the first letter in the alphabet.. The rest of the uniform split into an A shape from the neck down. The guards rose to their horses, then rode south. The King supplied much of what he stored in the castle; food, meals, tents—to his people for the current disaster. Most of the guards remained at the castle, as many guests had arrived for an important meeting on the war effort that Clandestine had kept from his people, but Clandestine knew something much more dangerous than a war was coming for them. Valquire, the King’s advisor and second-in-command, appeared from behind. At more than six feet tall he was very imposing. Each step he made displayed his confidence and assurance. His black cloak moved with him as his long hair blew along with the breeze.

      “Atius is gone. Some of the guests wonder if they are safe.”
Clandestine looked toward the tents below.

      “When this meeting is over, they will move here, inside the castle.”
Valquire removed his gloves and placed them inside his pocket.

      “We can’t fit that many.”

      “I won’t have them living in those tents for the next few months.”

      Valquire tapped his fingers against the wall of the castle. “We forgot about the stone.”

      Clandestine saddled up a nearby horse then climbed aboard. “I believe it now more than ever. Take me there.”

      Valquire led the King through the plains until they reached the forest. After a two mile journey, they arrived. A cloth draped over the twelve foot stone prevented anyone from gazing upon it. The stone stretched twelve feet wide as well, which led to more than 40 different ropes securing the cloth. The ropes were tied to trees and into the ground across the cloth.

      “A little secure isn’t it?”

      “We don’t know what it will say.”

      Valquire calmly put on his gloves, pulled out his sword, cut the ropes, then pulled back the cloth.


     *      *      *




      Sara and Sye were surrounded by the new cemetery. People hastily dug graves and covered them just as fast. Most of the dead had no family to bury them. Some bodies were horribly scarred, the skin melted beyond identification. A few people finish what the fire started, burning their loved ones to ash.

      Below them a body was covered in a sleeping bag. They had gotten a few guards to retrieve their mother from the debris and cover her up so they wouldn’t have to see her body. Sye shoved a shovel into the ground. After uplifting dirt, Sara placed her hands over his.

      “I want to help bury her, too.”

      Sye handed Sara the shovel and they took turns building the grave. When the hole was finished, they looked at the bag, then each other. They approached the bag slowly. Cautiously, they pulled her body down the slope they had dug. Sye threw a patch of dirt into the grave, but Sara grabbed his hand. She looked down at her mother, then let go of Sye. Sara paced as Sye continued covering their mother. After they had finished locking their mother into the earth, Sye fell to his knees.

      “She saved our lives, Sara,” he said, wiping his eyes. “She pushed us to safety.”

      Sara clung to her brother.

      “Thank you mom.”

      Sara touched the ground and moved her palm across. It was as if she was remembering the way her mother once held, brushed, and bathed her. She pushed her hand into the ground. Sye gently held Sara’s hand and pulled it up.

      “She’s gone, Sara.”

      Sye lifted their father’s sword and staked it into the ground.

      “This is all we have of dad,” said Sye. “At least a part of him will be with you.”

      “I want her back.”

      “I do, too.”

      Birds chirped. Pollen blew through the wind. Deer ran through the field. The sun floated behind the hills.

      “Goodbye, mom. We’ll miss you.”

      “And,” Sara said, her head facing the grave, streaks of water on her chin, “we love you.”

      As the siblings strode toward their tent, their arms stretched around the other’s shoulder, clinging tight to the other.

Return To “Author’s Message”                        Continue To “Chapter 2: Storyteller”