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Standing outside of the magnificent blackened edifice, the icy chill of death approach would have been a warmer sight. Minions of all races, stepped in and out of its shadow with a heightened awareness as a hound might to an enraged master. Blood red fluid poured from great statues standing watchful on the high walls, and a sickening stench of fumes caused even greater unease. To complete the ensemble of death, the ground in every direction was blighted, long ago being stripped of any life.
As with the minions walking about, the two figures that strode up the great steps were just as uneasy, the smaller of the two perhaps just a smidgen more. As if beckoning to their demise, the great steel doors opened with no hesitation as the two made their way into the antechamber. The two stepped across the thresh hold, and twitched slightly as their tight hoods were thrown from their heads like a great wind had arisen in the desolate place.
The taller of the two was clearly an elf of some sort, though far from as magnificent as many would think. Scars lined his face, cutting deep lines across his pitch black eyes and running to the top of his scalp, where his dark mane began. The other was a unique mix.
Standing at around six foot which was nearly a foot less than the elf next to him; the Faren walked just behind, twitching and trembling with each step. His demon features were few, only his eyes truly identifying his true nature, as they shone blood red. His other features were that of any other human, a light sandy brown hair, a proportional nose, and a quivering mouth. As he stared up, he only trembled more as he felt even more insignificant. The roof itself seemed to go on for miles as black smoke swirled about the top end of pillars.
“Get control of yourself disciple. Or he’ll kill you out of amusement.” The elf stated as they turned a corner and a large black stone throne sat in the midst of a pool of red blood.
“Ye- yes my lord.” The Faren forced himself to stop trembling, but his eyes began to twitch.
As they neared the throne, a portal emerged from nothing, lighting the room in a great fiery glow. Two pillars of fire, enshrouded in shadow that stretched from ten feet, began to emit laughter. A monstrous form took shape as the laughter died.
The demon was several feet taller than the elf, and highly honed muscles gave the two figures great pause, as did the great two handed sword that the demon held in one hand. His teeth were filed down into points, and ash seemed to cascade down from his head and limbs.
Without question the two went to their knees and placed their heads against the increasingly hot ground.
“I have been waiting for you two. Are the preparations in place?”
“Yes my lord Arn’ek. The elf replied. “Though some minor variables, everything is going according to plan.”
“Yet you have bad news concerning those variables.” Arn’ek took a step closer to the two, noting how the Faren reacted to the increased heat.
“It is regrettable. The young human, whom I trained and corrupted in the first war, Nathan Destrie, has been seen in proximity to our areas. I doubt he will be able to do much, he is no wizard and wouldn’t dare returning there.” The elf dared to raise his head a little. “I believe he plans on entering the Confederacy of Helnara in an attempt to end the starting war.”
“I want no assumptions when it comes to the troublesome bastard. He is the reason it has taken so long to even reach their world.”
“I doubt that even he knows what he did. Even if he did though, he is no magi, and thus could never hope to dream in reversing the catastrophe that is now in place. Only Zeltai holds the power to do that, and he is the Dark Lord that enabled us to return.”
“That you think Monessa lacks the power to do so only confirms how confident you are, or how arrogant you are.” Arn’ek replied and the Elf’s head hit the floor once more.
“Monessa is but a budding magic user in this great playing field. She will be eliminated long before she has the chance to correct our work.” The elf replied with utmost confidence.
“You truly are the greatest Dark Lord I have ever trained. I trust that you know what must be done, and that of your apprentice quivering beside you?” Arn’ek laughed as the Faren tried to steady.
“I do my lord. Your gateway shall be opened quite soon, and your revenge shall take place swiftly. Carthimus is already in place as is Zeltai, and the portal has been erected for the army.” The elf replied in his calmest voice.
“Put some fellow Dark Lords busy in creating lesser portals. Place a few demons with them, and make sure that their portals are traceable. That should keep our Nathan Destrie busy chasing ghosts while we take what is rightfully ours.”
“Yes my lord.” Though he doubted the need.
The pair took their leave in all the confidence they could muster. Although Arn’ek had already walked through his fiery portal, neither was going to chance speaking in his domain. Even if they did dare, they had nowhere near the time for such mundane distractions; they had a world to decimate.
What are we as a whole? Long have I pondered the living? Is a demon living? Do they feel compassion, love, and loyalty? I know the answer to all is yes, though everyone else seems to think differently. What is the difference between a demon and an angel? Opinion is the only true answer, though we all seem to think our opinion is an undeniable fact.
I am truly human, but I am labeled a demon for what I have become. In the horrors of my own abduction and training, I was abandoned by the light. When I was born, it was foretold that I would have become a great battle mage, an embodiment of righteous light. By the time I was ten, I was nothing but shadows and one to spit at if passing by.
Is darkness evil, and light good?
If darkness is evil, than I am evil, though with every fiber of my being I would prove such a statement wrong. I am defined by my actions, not by the sight of others. Unfortunately my actions have granted me nothing. I am ostracized by my kingdom and my fellows. Only my family accepts me for my choice and my right. Is it acceptable however, to drag my family’s reputation with me?
No. I love my family. I would die for all of them. But the path I now walk, will be one I do alone. I stand in the shadows, surrounded by enemies. Surrounded by chance. I shall remember the greatest influential words ever spoken to me by one whom I miss sorely.
In the end, take one last breath. In the end, stand on your feet. In the end, grab a weapon and harness your rage. In the end, show the gods themselves, they have one left to fear.
A set of springs set off in unison, creating a light sound heard throughout the desolate area. The three cloaked figures all stood at ready, at least in reach of pulling out weapons. The great stone slab was already beginning to rise, emitting a musk warm air into the night. As soon as the slab was over half way up, one of the cloaked figures ducked into the temple and seemed to meld with the shadows.
Waiting for the slab to fully rise, the two remaining figures removed their hoods and gave each other a knowing look. Both were humans, and both were rather filthy, more so than the normal grime accumulating from travel. One had longer hair, reaching his collar, while the other kept his as mere stubble. They smiled knowingly at each other, showing their browning teeth, and ducked inside.
“What was this place ezackley?” Asked the longer haired man who walked slightly ahead.
“A temple of some sorts. The young boy said that it was some great place of power once.” Replied the other who glanced over his shoulder as the slab began to descend. “Why we risking our lives for this Trom?”
“Treasures gatta be in here; Utrin. Imagine how rich we will be?” Replied Trom, full of enthusiasm.
“What bout’ the boy. Won’t he want a share, especially since he is the one who found da place?” Asked Utrin. He brought out a torch and muttered a word under his breath, igniting the torch and quickening his step.
“He said that he didn’t want any of the treasure. Just some dagger.” Replied Trom, who now also held a torch in his hand.
The two continued on in silence as they slowly descended into the corridors. Neither made a mention of their third companion, and neither seemed to care that they were now deep into the bowels of an unknown area, only treasure occupied their minds. That occupation only magnified as they stepped into a larger chamber, filled with gold. The third figure still cloaked and standing a foot off of the first pile of gold.
“Sorry we ever doubted you lad. Ya had it right all along.” Said Trom, lighting two braziers just inside the room, granting visibility over a score of mounds.
“Stay here for the moment, and don’t touch anything.” The third figure calmly stated. Without waiting for a reply, the third took off, following a small path clear of gold.
As the passing moments turned into a minute, Utrin steadily walked toward a large pile of gold, emeralds, rubies, and other valuables of great fortune. Trom a mere step behind spoke up first. “What does he care if we begin to load up our packs? I say let’s start that way after he gets whatever he is after, we can get out of here.”
“I agree.” Utrin quietly muttered, moving his hand just a hair above the brilliant gold pieces, caressing it as a lover might to another.
A soft glow began to shed light throughout the room, emanating from the gold pieces, beckoning their hands. A brief shout came from a ways off, but neither human paid it any heed as they swiftly brought out magical packs and each moving to a mound of their own. Grins spread across their face, only showed their ignorance as another shout came, nearer.
Their hands were clutched onto the gold when realization overcame their stupor. “It’s enchanted!” Trom screamed out just before a sickening crunching sound filled the room. Trom screamed in pain as the gold began to eat away at his hands as an acid might metal. Utrin began to chant under his breath, calling on any incantation he knew.
“Your souls belong to the damned. Welcome to death.”
Both humans screamed in pain as the gold continued to envelope them. The unknown voice began to cackle over their screams, but one last plea resounded over the mounds and deeper into the temple. “Nathan!”
Nathan had been through worse, and he recalled each of those times as he made his way back to the gold mounds. Stepping into the now red hued room, Nathan removed his hood and placed his hands on the hilts of his twin swords strapped on his belt.
His short brown hair was matted down by sweat, dirt covered parts of his face, and a disarming smile crept from a frown. The smile was not for the two screams that had abruptly stopped, for Nathan did not delude himself on the thought of saving them; they were already dead. His smile was for his damned luck.
Moving his feet just as quick as his mind, Nathan rushed and put his back to a wall while he brought out a sword into his right hand. Red runes gleamed in a language few understood, and the blade seemed sharp enough to cut through stone. “I kind of liked the cackling. Suited this dead place well!” Nathan yelled out into the room.
“Ah another soul to join my ranks. However, should I be alarmed that you were the first one to not die by the gold’s lure?” The voice echoed off of the walls, or it came from the walls.
“Always be alarmed.” Nathan replied without yelling.
Jumping to the side and caving his left leg to bring him into a side roll, Nathan heard the brief clang as steel hit the wall. Continuing with the momentum, Nathan brought himself to his feet with ease, and rushed down into a deeper hallway, long out of reach from any light, where he himself became the darkness.
“What a clever trick. It would seem the rumors when I was still living are true of the infamous Nathan Destrie. Perhaps you are demon kind.”
Nathan caught everything he needed from the seemingly taunting uninformative statement. He was facing a lich, not just any lich, but a Harin lich. The Harin were a mystical group of humanoids, tentacles swayed from their chin instead of hair, their eyes were as orange as the sun, and they were extremely corruptible. They were also one of the few races that wanted to study Nathan rather than kill him.
Nathan was part of the darkness, rendered completely invisible, even to the lich that was clearly looking for him, but looking the wrong way. Nathan was now behind the glowing lich. He was ethereal, more substantial than a ghost, but less than a living thing, and it was in that zone where a lich worked rule over the dead. The lich made his way down the hallway, looking into the dark for the very human that was mere steps behind him.
Although as part of the shadow, Nathan made no sound, he still executed the many moves he learned as a young boy across the sea. Death was an art, by the end of the night, the lich or Nathan would be the better artist.
Nathan briefly heard the sound, and made much more out of it than another might have. The lich was beginning to coo the souls to life, granting life to hundreds perished without pause. The sound of the waking dead was louder than the rasping voice of the lich. “Your lord has raised you for a task. There is an intruder. Find him, and kill him!”
“That will be hard to do for the time being without your continued guidance.” Nathan whispered into where the ear of the lich would have been.
In a fluid motion, Nathan materialized from the shadow wielding both of his twin swords. In a swirling blue, Nathan decapitated, severed the torso from limbs, and gave a hard kick, sending the pieces apart. Without waiting, for he knew he had mere minutes before the lich recreated himself, Nathan took to the shadows and began to recall his first venture forth.
Before the screams of Utrin and Trom, he had made it down into a large labyrinth of passages, discerning the area where he needed to be. Every lich was the same, they had a phylactery, and they had a plethora of thralls. The thralls were in disarray without the call of their master, and the phylactery was a vulnerable life force that enabled immortality and the control of the dead. Hearing the guttural sounds of the dead, this lich had another life force fueling the phylactery.
Nathan abandoned the shadows and brought himself into a large circular room, the base of an inner tower. Glancing up, a Dark green glow seemed to swirl up to the ceiling, many stories above than Nathan thought possible. Not giving the sight another thought, he began to run up the large stone stairs two at a time, which only turned into three when the dead began to swarm into the room below.
As he continued his way up the stairs, Nathan reached into a pocket and pulled forth a small flask of yellow liquid. Uncorking the vial, he tipped it as he ran, creating a short trail. With his first idea in place, Nathan searched the walls for his next, and quickly found it. On the short reprieve of stairs was a thick rope tied in a knot to a post. Running past, Nathan cut the rope with his sword and did not even seem to slow as a great chandelier swiftly dropped down, the thick chains keeping it from crashing to the ground.
The lich was clearly now back into the game, for he was among the throng of dead racing up the stairs, screaming orders as well as yelling incantations. Nathan only sighed when he peered over the rail, as one incantation became apparent. A dozen dead slaves began to mold together, creating a large abomination. “You’re going to need something bigger than that!” Nathan taunted as he began his pace again.
Coming to the top of the stairs, Nathan only quickened his pace and shouldered through a wooden door alight with the dark green glow. Knowing he only had seconds, Nathan made a quick summarization of what stood before him. An orb, emanating the same dark glow green, stood on a tiered pedestal, and it was being fed by a revolving jeweled dagger. Nathan immediately recognized the dagger as the thing he had been looking for, and already knew what he had to do.
Clenching his jaw, Nathan grasped the dagger with both hands and felt the immediate assault. Images of past wars, of past deeds, of the very masters the dagger had wielded flooded into his mind, urging his mind to break, and grant the dagger rule. The effects were nothing compared to what Nathan assaulted with. Calling on the memories of his past, he created a blockade of rage, of suffering, of darkness. He screamed in his head over and over. I am the master! I am the master. The Dark Lords no longer hold power of this object!
Losing patients as the dagger continued to fight back against his urging of superiority, Nathan went to his second plan. Pulling out a magical pack of his own, he quickly placed it over the dagger and held the hilt, for the pack was a dead zone. Within the pack, the dagger was a lump of cold steel.
Turning to the much dimmer orb, Nathan brought out a dagger from his boot. A red jewel was set in the center, and it was only three inches long. Muttering to it, the dagger began to become ethereal itself. Hearing the very loud stamp of feet, Nathan plunged the dagger into the orb and felt the great shock as energy began to course into the dagger. A clear result was the lessening sound of dead ascending the stairs. Counting to three, Nathan removed the dagger and began to run out.
He was barely ahead as he came to the stairs once more. Mere ten steps down, the lich came with a host of undead, only slowed by the dead piled on the stairs from the daggers effect. He paused only slightly as any human would at such a drastic sight. Nathan leaped atop the railing and jumped toward the chain. Catching, but feeling the blunt hit of the chain against the right side of his cheek, Nathan let himself slide down the chain, creating bruises on his legs and arms.
Standing on the chandelier, well aware of the creaking sound it made from above, Nathan brought out another flask, this one alight with a fire. Glancing up, the lich and his host of undead had reversed direction and were now speeding their way down. Nathan uncorked the flask and felt the immediate heat as the flame began to enlarge. Knowing well what would happen, Nathan quickly threw the flask of fire toward where now a distinctive line of hardened foam split the stairs.
Grabbing a hook that was attached to thread around his belt, Nathan latched it onto the chandelier and rolled himself off the side. An explosion, one that had been used many times but never so effective, spread immediately. From the explosion, came the living elemental in an even grander display. Spitting fire as the elemental cackled, the great being even gave the lich a slight pause.
Knowing that the elemental would keep the mass of undead and the lich on the stairs, Nathan took care as he descended the length of his rope and dropped the remaining five feet; springing into a roll to absorb the fall. Above, the lich was beginning to gain on the elemental, having brought forth no necromantic spells, but instead those few basic from when he was an enchanter.
Noting the now stale mate between the lich and the elemental, Nathan brought forth the dagger he had stabbed the orb with, and took advantage of the distraction. He had only killed a lich once before, and that was by sheer luck, when the very same fire elemental had been an uncontrolled foe and the lich’s ignorance of its spells mixed with his own caused a backfire. For although he had never truly tested the saying, a lich can only be killed by their own hand, he was not about to test anything else. The magical dagger held part of the lich, and so Nathan figured the lich would indeed be dying by his own hand.
Nathan stepped once more into the shadows, completely disappearing into the entranceway, and holding the dagger poised to strike. Knowing all too well, that the elemental had reached its limit, for it had very little liquid as substance, Nathan readied as he heard the victorious cackle of the lich and the returned heat next to his leg.
The lich was no longer accompanied by a host of undead, but just the large abomination that wore several burn marks across its disfigured decrepit body. Nathan realized that the lich would not so willingly walk into the shadows, for he had begun to brighten the room with floating globes of fire. Only one road remained open to him.
Stepping out into the light, Nathan brought forth both of his swords and whispered the incantation of the Glyph, igniting the swords in a glowing red. Waiting only a second to give his enemies pause, Nathan lunged forward and went into a roll. The lich moved toward the staircase once more, while the abomination howled and charged. Into whirling swords.
Rage filled Nathan’s heart as he caught the abomination between his deadly swords. Bringing them in and out, to back in; Nathan did not relent on his assault. Glancing to the lich told him everything he needed to know. Quick stepping to the left and crossing his swords into an X stopped the full momentum of the abomination as it sought to throw a blind punch. Flame engulfed the abomination’s back, for in the span of the second, the lich could not retract his spell.
“You fool; your wounds will not harm the abomination!” The lich cackled as the abomination took a step back and a brief green tinge engulfed its wounds.
When the tinge dissipated, the wounds remained.
“What? How-“The lich, even as mere ghostly matter, showed confusion.
“Let’s just say I am that damn good.” Nathan held his swords aloft and the Glyph on each ignited once more.
Basking in their stupidity and confusion, Nathan rolled just behind the abomination and struck with hatred. The swords sank deep into the thick knees, only the bone stopped the swords from going completely through. Unable to hold itself upright, the abomination fell to the ground, barely staying up an inch by its spread arms. Not hesitating, for Nathan was already ready, the neck of the abomination was squarely set between his crossed swords, quick work of his wrists and the twist of his body, sent the abomination’s head rolling toward the hallway.
Moving with his twist, Nathan dropped as the deadly swing of an ax grazed his hair. Standing almost immediately, Nathan brought forth not his magical swords, but the concealed magical dagger. The dagger was already spinning as the lich conjured another magical weapon. Yet as quickly as it had come, so too did the conjured weapon dissipated, for the magical dagger had hit true.
Walking calmly to the diminishing lich, Nathan brought forth his magical swords once more. As he stared, Nathan recalled the first time he had seen the death of a lich. These two had no similarities, for the other had been like a dimming light, eventually just being enveloped by the surroundings. This lich seemed to be self consuming into the dagger. The hilt, although clearly seen, only a part of it remained outside of the lich. Nathan brought his foot down on the still visible hilt.
With a jolt, the lich seemed almost human for a brief time. That time passed, as the dagger fully consumed the lich, igniting the remnants in blue flame. “There will be far worse enemies than me; boy. You will die, and meet me in the afterlife where your soul will be tortured eternally!” The lich screamed with its dying breath.
The empty threat was one Nathan had heard many times before, and just like before, the threat gave him no pause. The magical dagger felt as if it were a feather, for the lich essence no longer resided within its magical barrier, and with that emptiness, it began to warm in Nathan’s hand. Glancing briefly at the carnage, Nathan gave only a sigh as he took to the shadows and made his way out of the temple.
As Nathan stepped back out into the night, only one thought echoed in his head. What’s my next move?
Hot summer air and the riveting lecture was all that the class had as they sat in wooden chairs at wooden desks. Out of respect, the students kept their heads from resting on the desks, out of respect, they showed attentiveness to ever syllable the instructor spoke. However, one student showed a lack of respect, for his head was nestled in his arm and he muttered under his breath. With his brown blonde hair kept short, and his plain clothes, he could only be one person.
“John Destrie! Would you mind picking your head up and paying attention? Or would you rather instruct the class on the following potential enemies and tactics?” The instructor asked. She was far from human, as were half or more of the students. She had golden eyes and dark green hair on her oval pale face.
“No Master Khaeron. I truly mean no disrespect either. I just already know all of this, so I find no reason to pay attention. John replied, raising his head up and matching her golden eyes with brilliant blue.
“Then by all means, teach us.” Khaeron walked to her desk and sat in her unnaturally big plush chair.
“Ok.” John stood up and walked to the front of the class with utmost confidence. When he turned he showed the customary smile and spoke with assurance. “These enemies, ranging from Haetrons and Varerins to hell hounds, are pretty basic. Haetrons are incredibly large, ranging around twenty feet tall, and most are proportionally bulky. Their weapon of choice is their own body. Take out their knees first, they are incredibly easy to out maneuver and almost always fall down. The rest is simple enough.”
“Varerins, well, hope you don’t fight them. If you do though, try to keep your back to a wall and them at range. They may be midgets with emancipated bodies, but their minds rival that of Dark Lords.”
“If you run into a hell hound. I suggest sticking with a direct approach. You won’t be able to outrun them; they’re hounds after all. Their claws are razor sharp, teeth even worse, but if you keep on your feet you hold a chance. When they breathe flame, counter with water. And always watch your back, hounds rarely travel alone, and normally their accomplice is quite the deadly magister.”
John began walking back to his desk while every eye in the room followed him. When he finally reached his desk, which felt like a millennia, he turned to meet the teacher’s gaze once more. “Anything else?” John asked with a disarming smile.
The teacher was far from disarmed. Her fists clenched so hard, dents were evident on the wooden desk. Trying to regain some composure, she stood and took a breath.
“You knew all of that how?” Khaeron asked, her face going into a frown.
“Brothers dragging me to the depths of disaster and back again. Although when I was with Nathan against the Varerin; I must admit, he did most of the work.” John replied, taking his seat.
“I want no talk of Nathan in this classroom. He is an abomination of darkness no better than what he fights. Perhaps you should tell us how to defeat him?” Khaeron replied quickly.
John clenched his jaw and his eyes became less than warming. “Nathan is the only reason you are alive. While you cried in a corner of a cell, he did what needed to be done to get everyone out.”
“Nathan was a monstrosity as soon as he became afflicted with the demon taint. You were barely a toddler when I saw you precious brother kill in that damned school. By the way class. If you ever face Nathan Destrie in combat, just call on the light. That will send the coward running.” Khaeron heatedly yelled.
“If any of you faced Nathan Destrie, you’d be dead.” John replied, barely keeping his voice in check.
“Is that why Champion General Kildur defeated him in Kabrin?” Khaeron said with a smile.
“Kildur had fifteen clerics and Zeltai with him on that rock. The Mystics themselves admitted it was far from a fair fight, and they have no morals.” John said with a smile.
“You strive to be just like him don’t you?” Khaeron said with animosity.
“No. I doubt I will ever have the courage to do what he does. I am not that independent.”John replied calmly.
“Independent? He was ostracized from us. Banished. Only your family accepts him for what he is. He is not independent by choice.”
“What about-” John stopped abruptly, regaining all of his composure. “Master Khaeron. I am going to leave, and I don’t see myself returning after the festival, for I see no need in learning what I already know. Best of days to you.” Without another word or waiting for Khaeron to voice a single word, John gathered his belongings and rushed out of the door.
The warm air was rather relaxing as he paced through the school grounds and later the training grounds. In the midst of spring, everything bloomed, and the fair city of Habris was an even greater relaxation as soon as John’s blue eyes hit the radiant city. Far from equal to Bal’kar, or Capital City Braethrin, but in the glowing sun light, the city was magnificent. From afar, John could see the market square bustling with activity, as the daily merchants sought buyers, and the buyers sought fair priced goods.
The walk was not as far as it had seemed, for John had already descended the hill and now the training school lay far behind him, and the open; always open, gates welcomed him into the throng of city life.
The buildings, even in the poorest sections of the city, were well structured and maintained. Looming just beyond the now visible square, John could see the Guard garrison, where three hundred men stayed ready at all times, whether to stop a thief, or a raid, did not matter. It was to the garrison, that John made a direct approach.
“Thomas. Garrick.” John nodded to each of the guards standing at the doors. “Is Anth in there?”
“Indeed.” Replied Thomas, the shorter and fatter of the two. “He has taken up command for the day, Marshal was sent south.”
“Thanks.” John nodded to both once more and strode into the garrison.
The garrison was fashionably simple. Shields and swords adorned sections of the walls and small tables were set for the basic need of any person. Small hallways broke off into several directions, which John knew led to dormitories, the armory, and kitchen. However wooden stairs wove their way up the wall into the command room and the towers set along the garrison. Nodding to a few other guards whom he had met before, John made his way up the stairs.
The doors into the command room were wide open, and the torches lining the stone walls illuminated the room completely. Inside, at a large table strewn with orders, maps, and letters, John smiled at his brother. Like all Destrie men, they had the same blonde brownish hair, blue eyes, and when seen, the same smile. Despite being four years apart, the brothers could almost be triplets with the right cover.
“Working hard as usual.” John said, announcing himself to his still oblivious brother.
His eyes raised momentarily before setting back down onto his work. “Always. There is a lot to be done before the celebrations begin.”
“Hard to believe ten years ago, demons marched through this world.” John stated.
“Hard to believe that ten years ago, my brother was five and I was twelve.”
John nodded and walked to the desk, grabbing one of the wooden chairs and setting down gazing at the maps.
“When are we leaving?” John asked.
“Tomorrow, they want to celebrate your fifteenth birthday before the city becomes hell with the anniversary.”
John smiled, knowing well of what his brother spoke. During the anniversary celebrations, people became crazy, whether from booze or whatever the preferred substance was, did not matter, for the end result was always the same. Melissa, John’s younger sister, and Sydney, his older; both experienced that craziness first hand last year, when people had re-enacted the demon war. Yet this year would be much worse, for Sydney planned on competing in the mage trials held within the capital city.
“Any idea what they got me for my birthday?”
“Wouldn’t tell ya if I did.” Anthony replied, finally taking his eyes off the work.
“So unusual for you. So which one of you got me the customary weapon for any Destrie of fifteen years?” John said, bringing out his smile.
“Dad and mom, but that is not a real surprise. It is their one true joy.”
“You hear from Nathan? Is he coming or not?” John asked, knowing above all else Anthony would know the whereabouts of their brother.
“I have not heard a peep from him since Faerth. Though he has never missed your birthday or anyone else’s without cause, I really couldn’t say.” Anthony replied.
John merely nodded, not wishing to pursue the subject any further. “How about Monessa and Janette?” He asked.
“Not sure. The royal family is always busy, so don’t expect much from Janette.” Anthony said, raising his eyebrows.
John only blushed in reply. “It’s not like that. We’re just friends. Royal isn’t allowed to...” He paused briefly. “Mingle with those of less stature.”
“Maybe one day you’ll believe that’ll stop you.” Anthony said with a smile.
“That or mom will.” Quickly replied John, setting the two for a brief laugh. “When we leaving here?”He finished.
“Now if you want to. This paper work is for the Marshal, I’ve done everything I am able to.” Anthony answered, standing up and stretching to the ceiling.
“Alright. It will be nice to get back in the routine, I miss it terribly.”
Anthony nodded in reply. “It will be interesting, I have not seen Aimee in three months, and the baby is soon to be due.”
“Nephew.” Replied John with a smile. “I’m calling it now, it won’t be a girl.”
The two brothers made their way out of the barracks, nodding to a couple and insuring everything was in order. The city was in a bigger ruckus than before, for merchants had begun their calling for celebration mead and specialty food. On more than one occasion, the two brothers had to turn away merchants wishing their coin, and when they finally reached the top of the stairs to their rented rooms, they sighed with relief.
“See ya in the morning. I will be returning to the garrison to check up on Ben, I don’t want to leave him hanging on his first night as patrol leader.” Anthony said as he pushed his key into the lock.
“Alright sounds good. I’m not brave enough to face the goings on out there, so don’t worry about me running off like Melissa and Sydney.” John replied with the faintest laugh. The door to his room already partly ajar while Anthony’s was already open.
A girl had passed by just when the young boy had come down the stairs. If one had been keenly watching the man at the furthest table, they would have seen his eyes glow red briefly. They would have run in fear if they had gleaned the truth.
As the brothers exchanged a few words, the man fished from his pocket two gold coins and threw them on the table, more than compensation for the unsatisfying meal. Watching their every breath, the man gauged the brothers. Therefore, when the brothers stepped outside, the man moved to follow.
Upon stepping outside, the man almost sneered as the air hit him. Looking to the corners and alleys set in-between the buildings, the man nodded, calling his accomplices to follow the brothers.
“And so the war shall begin again.” Whispered the man.
Her thick brown hair seemed to glow as the sun came through the open window. The young women sat in a plush chair with a brilliantly comb, stroking her hair slowly and with care, all the while never blinking in the mirror. Slight freckles dotted her cheeks, only enhancing her light blue eyes and the overall radiant beauty few matched throughout the kingdom.
Her older sister, for it could have been no other, watched from the doorway, a knowing smile glued on her face as she began to lean. The two sisters were four years apart, and that did only heighten their bond. So when the older finally came to speak, she knew she was hitting home.
“I hope you don’t plan on sneaking out in that flower red dress.” The older said, her smile becoming playful.
The younger sister jumped out of her seat and turned. “For a second there I thought you were mum. Why do you have to come in unannounced all the time Monessa.” Her sister wore a look of mistrust. “And I wasn’t thinking about sneaking out.” She quickly added, trying to convince herself.
“If you weren’t trying to sneak out, then I am terribly sorry for giving you the idea.” Monessa replied, stepping fully into the room and gently pushing the door closed. “Janette.” She added with a smile. The two sisters had always used the others full name when they were lying.
“The dress would throw dad and mum off, might give me a head start.” Janette retorted, moving to take her seat on the chair once more.
“Or, and most likely. They’ll put a full contingent of guards on your heel.” Monessa quickly replied, moving to sit in another chair and throwing her legs over the armrest.
“That’s where you come in. You’ll cover for me. Who knows why, you’re eighteen and I’m fourteen; but for whatever reason, they think you are more responsible than I am. You’re coming with me.” Janette said as if the matter was settled.
“Maybe I have plans for the celebrations. Maybe I am going to spend the night with Kildur.” Monessa said, grabbing one of her sisters books and quickly began to scan through it.
“Please. We both respect Kildur, and we both know that Dad wants you to marry him. However we both know that is never going to happen because you can’t stand him. As I recall, you said he tried too hard.”
“Teleporting huh?” Monessa asked, completely ignoring her sister’s last comment. “You have barely made apprentice and you are going to try what took me two years to master?” Monessa asked, raising her eyebrows.
“Nope. I am going to assist you, you are the one teleporting.” Janette replied.
“I’m not going with you. You can go play the eye candy game with John some other time.”
“If you weren’t coming with me; you would have never made the dress comment. You also would not have already packed and prepared the necessary spells.” Janette laughed as her sister looked up completely off guard.
“I told you to stay out of my room.” Monessa said seriously.
“I told you to not come into mine unannounced. Besides, this is the Castle, the very capital building of this Kingdom, and I am a princess here. There is no where I can’t go.”
“Unannounced.” Added Monessa.
“Just make sure you don’t wear the red flowered dress too. You can wear the blue one, Nathan likes that more.” Janette replied to her astonished sister’s face. “You brought John into it, claws are on the table.”
Monessa recovered quickly. “Nathan won’t likely be there. At least that is what Sydney guessed in her letter. Therefore, I’ll wear a green one.” She finished, throwing the book down on the table and leaping to her feet. “Mom and dad already know we are leaving to Habris. We are leaving tonight to beat John and Anthony home, so you better fix that awful looking hair.” Monessa laughed as Janette sent several sparks of energy toward her dash from the room.
“Love you too sis.” Called Janette just as the door began to close once more.