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Prophecy of the Equinox: Part Three


by laurelinden

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Frowning, Astrovia gazed across the plains. Sapphire’s form made its way slowly, painfully, across the sky. He was carrying something in his arms, it seemed, and was quite late returning from the scouting trip. Astrovia wondered if he was hurt.

    When his friend was within calling distance, Astrovia cried, “What is it?”

    Sapphire picked up speed as he approached, stopping before Astrovia. Gently he set down what he’d been carrying, and Astrovia’s eyes widened in surprise as he saw that it was a young faerie Draik armed with a sword, wearing a strange white jewel around her neck. “I think she’s hurt,” Sapphire remarked. “I found her unconscious in a field on my rounds.”

    Astrovia’s frown deepened. Almost all of the faerie and blue Draiks for miles were part of their group, and certainly none of the outsiders were armed. Perhaps she was a traveler. “Disarm her and take her to the center. Keep someone guarding her until she wakes and explains herself.”

    Sapphire nodded his understanding, picked up his charge, and went.

    ***

    When she heard the footsteps fade, Aloren opened her eyes. All night she’s traveled, and as she’d fought sleep she’d gotten the idea. Why should she come to them when they could bring her right into their midst? And now she was well rested to top it all. General Velor would have been proud.

    Feigning a sudden wakening, Aloren stretched weakly. She heard a shuffling sound as someone leapt up behind her. “She’s awakened! Sapph, come back.”

    The footsteps which had been leading away returned, and Aloren sat up, coming eye to eye with a young blue Draik male. She put a bewildered expression on her face. “Where am I?”

    He peered at her intently, as if trying to see past her confused front and into her real interior. She knew he could not; Velor has trained her well. “Did you intentionally wander into within the borders of our land?” he asked.

    This is too easy, she thought, smug with herself. Infusing a delightfully distressed tone into her voice, she replied, “Borders? Oh, I apologize! I am a lone traveler, and had no idea that I was trespassing. Please forgive me?”

    Her apparent earnest seemed to lower his guard. “You picked a poor time to travel,” he said in a slightly warmer voice. “War is at hand, you know.”

    Aloren allowed her eyes to widen in mock surprise. “War? In these lands? How awful! Perhaps I could be of aid?”

    Sapphire looked reassuringly thoughtful at the suggestion. He didn’t seem to suspect her any longer. “I will ask my fellows, of course,” he told her. “But I think that we can use any able body we can get at this point. The enemy is rumored to have a powerful force among them,” he continued, lowering his voice confidentially. “Frankly, it seems the prophecies are against us. But we will not give up without a fight.”

    Aloren could scarcely keep from laughing out loud at the sheer irony of it all. Here was a high-up from her enemy’s army, warning her about herself! She managed to keep her voice steady as she replied, “Do not put any faith into prophecies. The future can change.” Or not, she thought to herself gleefully.

    Sapphire nodded, giving her a half-smile. “I’ll go ask Astrovia about your request,” he said, and left.

    ***

    Astrovia frowned as Sapphire told him what the prisoner had said. “She wants to fight for us?” he repeated. “A complete stranger who knows nothing of our family, and she wants to risk her life for our war?”

    His friend shrugged. “I know it seems strange, but she is a faerie Draik, after all. Maybe she feels some sort of kinship with us. Whatever the reason, I don’t think we should turn down a free chance at help. Fyora knows we need any help which makes itself available to us.”

    Maybe he’s right, reflected Astrovia. His sister would be leading the Forces against them tomorrow, on the Equinox. The possibility of an extra fighter on their side would be unwise to ignore. “I’m assuming she can use that sword which we found on her?” he asked.

     “Well, let’s ask her,” suggested Sapphire. “She’s right over there.”

    Astrovia followed his friend back to where the stranger rested. She was running her hand along the chain of her necklace, eyes distant, smiling to herself. “Excuse me,” he said.

    When her eyes flashed to him, Astrovia felt a sudden surge of emotion flare within him. Alarmed, the Draik sought to identify it. It wasn’t fear, no; nor caution, but a strong and powerful, pulsing intuition that there was something about this creature which he should recognize. But nothing came to mind. He had surely never before seen her in his life, or recalled the strange necklace or black-painted blade.

    Her clear blue eyes were fixed on him, and Astrovia had a strange feeling that she knew something he didn’t. There was a slight glimmer of malice in them which she was seeking to hide with forced-casual curiosity. “Yes?” she asked, in a voice slightly too sharp.

    Glancing at Sapphire, Astrovia saw that his friend hadn’t noticed anything strange. He was smiling at the stranger with confident warmth; he had always been friendly. Astrovia addressed the young Draik. “I was wondering if you have any skill with that blade of yours. If you are untrained, then you would probably do more damage than good, as well as risk your life unnecessarily.”

    Surprisingly, the faerie Draik smiled, but it wasn’t the same kind of smile as Sapphire’s. “I assure you, I am quite trained,” she said, with the same studied casualness.

    Though he still felt uneasy, Astrovia had no logical reason for it. He knew it would be wrong to refuse help when it came so willingly. Sighing, he said to Sapphire, “Arm her. We shall prepare for battle by dawn.”

    Out of the corner of his eye, the blue Draik saw the newcomer’s smile widen, almost into a smirk, but he didn’t understand why.

    ***

    The entire group gathered around Astrovia, looking nervous. Only the stranger sat alone, watching silently on the hill.

     “My family,” he said, and allowed his voice to carry across the breeze to them, speaking with tones of comfort and reassurance. “On the morrow is our test. It has long been foretold that the Equinox will be the day of our trial, our group against the Draik Forces, and only through tomorrow’s battle shall the victor emerge. We will have one more mock-battle before the dusk, so give it everything which you can muster.”

    Pleased at the determination on their faces, Astrovia took to the air. A different group became the “enemy” this time, so that one by one each Draik could have experience fighting for both sides: learning both how to defend and how to attack. Each skill would be equally important tomorrow.

    With an instant’s eye contact with Sapphire, he and his friend agreed upon a maneuver. Sapphire took two of the leading males swiftly to one side, and Astrovia took his to the other. With precision born only of close kinship and many years’ practice, the six expertly lead their followers in a series of darts and loops that had their enemy surrounded in minutes.

    From her perch on the hill, the stranger smiled.

    ***

    The fools, thought Aloren, blade in hand. Its dark surface shone dully in the moonlight, still glistening with poison, and she carried also cloth and cord. I have come into their ranks, and they have armed me against them in their greed to have me join them. Her only disappointment was that it had been so easy; all of her years of training had prepared her for far more.

    She recalled General Velor’s command. She was to get rid of their leaders, then contact him through the jewel. Now that she had seen them train, she knew well enough who the crucial members were.

    Blade drawn, she crept silently through the mass of black grasses, and the darkness that was blinding to them was comfortable and clear to her nocturnal eyes. It was amusing how the few that were awake, the sentries, stifled yawns and stumbled in the feeble starlight. And she didn’t even have to get past them.

    I don’t even have to kill all six, she realized. Only Astrovia and Sapphire were threatening; the former was the group’s leader, the latter his closest friend. Without the two of them, the battle formation would be decapitated, and the group leaderless and mired in their distress.

    The two were sleeping near each other, their slow-breathing bodies were dark forms on the hill. Aloren was silent as she approached them. She gazed down at them only a moment before raising her blade.

    It fell with deadly force into Sapphire’s wing, spreading its poison. He woke with a terrified gasp, but she was ready. Before he could utter a sound she gagged his mouth with a cloth and bound his limbs with cord. She could have killed him outright, but it was much more amusing to have the poison take him slowly during the night, with the rest of the group unable to see him until morning’s light revealed her deed.

    She turned to Astrovia, and found him staring at her.

    Taken aback for only a moment, Aloren quickly raised her blade. “Utter a sound,” she hissed, “and I will kill your friend right now.” He doesn’t know the blade is poisoned and Sapphire is dying already.

    Astrovia got slowly to his feet, holding out his hands in a submissive gesture. “Don’t hurt him,” he said softly. “I won’t make noise.”

    Aloren could see, however, that his eyes were darting from the tied-up form of his friend to the sentries yards away. He was trying to come up with a plan that would draw her a safe distance from Sapphire before alerting the sentries to her treachery.

    So obvious, she thought with disdain, and lunged forward, plunging the tip of the sword into his foot.

    Unlike Sapphire before him, Astrovia did not open his mouth to howl in pain. Aloren sprang forward anyway, and prepared to bind his mouth.

    The clouds stirred, revealing a bright and luminous moon, and she could see Astrovia’s eyes widen, and a strange and eerie look of certainty cross his face. As she lifted the cloth to his mouth, he whispered, “Aloren.”

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Prophecy of the Equinox: Part One
» Prophecy of the Equinox: Part Two
» Prophecy of the Equinox: Part Four



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