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.
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?” 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.”