Prophecy of the Equinox: Part Three
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,
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
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
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,
To be continued...