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Prologue

“With shackles cast off shall the painted army march west, growing at every junction. The moon shall rise and join in sickness, but disease will be purged. A child shall lead them. A child who is old. Malice from the setting sun will consume those who ask, and sell their hatchlings. When the disease is purged the moon shall wane, only to wax again with the painted army. The fortress and the gap will play a game of hiding paradise. The egg found within the fortress will hatch in another world. The vessel shall confront doubt. The wolf will confront a man weighed down by his shell. When the moon is full the wolf will howl and the blue shall shatter like glass, replaced by the daemon-script. For this end we have long watched. For this end we have long waited. Dancing violets and blackness shall conquer the idol's foolishness.”

            Did knowing Deidra's latest prophecy truly give any sort of advantage? Given what incomprehensible garbage it all seemed to be Erelah could hardly see the value in it. Still, since her God had revealed it to her she knew it had to be important. Perhaps this was one thing she was not meant to understand.

            Erelah had been marching through the mountains of Arx for weeks now, bringing with her the last of the Agalmite priests stationed in Nihilus. They'd had such a close call. Only a few minutes before the ambush would have been sprung did Erelah pull them out of that Nihilite general's clutches. The Arxian presence in Nihilus was almost no more. All the better. They could focus on fixing their own homeland.

            There, amongst the pine trees, Erelah spotted a single tent, big enough for four people to sleep in. That was her destination. She pointed to it and motioned for the priests to follow, and they walked with her until they were only a few yards from the tent now.

            “Don't move!” came a woman's voice from the trees nearby. Erelah looked up to see a woman in her mid-thirties with dark hair sitting astride a tree branch. She had a bow trained on Erelah and the bowstring drawn back.

            “At ease, paladin,” said Erelah. “Hast thou already forgotten the Court of Accusations so much that thou canst threaten a child?”

            “You look like a child. That doesn't mean you are one,” said the dark-haired woman. “I can see your white eyes and white hair. Frankly, that would make anyone suspicious. Are you a demon? Or the avatar of some goddess of the West?”

            “Nay, I am neither,” said the little girl. “My name is Erelah, and God has sent me to thy aid.”

            “Sent you? Our aid? We're doing just fine on our own,” said the dark-haired woman.

            “Is it truly so? Should one who was born to be Queen of Arx truly be forced to hide in a tent in the mountains? Then the world has gone upside-down! Murderers and thieves are to be rewarded with crowns while the good of spirit become fugitives.”

            “You're not making a good case for why I should not shoot you.”

            “I am accompanied by a troop of priests of thy faith.”

            “You are accompanied by people dressed as priests of my faith,” said the woman. “I recognize their Nihilite features. Do you take me for a fool?”

            “Nay, I take thee for a protective mother hen,” said Erelah. “Thou art Sarahi, mother of the rightful Queen of Arx, Aryn, and paladin of Caelum.”

            “Why do you talk that way?”

            “I come from a time long past. I'm surprised thou didst not deduce as much by my name and appearance. Know you not the name 'Erelah?' Have thy lessons of the scriptures been a waste?”

            “Wait...you're claiming to be THE Erelah? The prophet from long ago?”

            “Verily.”

            “The prophet who first taught us the Law?”

            “Verily. The same.”

            “Prove it! If you're a profit show me some miracles.”

            “Signs and wonders are needed to gain thy faith? So it shall be.” Erelah pointed her left hand at the base of the tree Sarahi sat in. The ground at the base turned from solid, packed dirt to loose sand instantly, and the tree sank until Sarahi was nearly eye-level with the child. “But a truly powerful geomancer can also do this, yes? So thou wilst need more proof. Thou hast verily not told anyone this save your husband, Professor Zebedee, your daughter, and her personal guard, but thou recently faced the Accuser in the Court of Accusations. There he accused thee of not just the sin which cost thee thy power, but also of vengeance. Yes, the invasion of Nihilus; he said this was thy vengeance and not justice, true? Furthermore, did he not accuse thee of being the cause of the harm that had befallen thy loved ones?”

            “Yes...yes he did. Thank you for bringing that up.” The memory was still fresh in Aryn's mind, and she shuddered.

            “Take heart, for he also told thee that thou art worthy when thou showedest humility.”

            “You can't have known that unless you spoke to him,” said Sarahi.

            Erelah merely nodded. “Fetch thy husband, and thy daughter. I must speak with both of them about what comes next.”

            “What comes next?” Sarahi repeated.

            “Thou shalt not remain here in the mountains in hiding forever. God has plans to restore thy daughter to what is rightfully hers. It will take much work, so we had best begin with haste.”

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About the author

Nicholas S. Casale

Bio: Nicholas S. Casale, or "Nico" as his friends call him, was born on Vandenberg Airforce Base in California. When he was eleven years old, he moved to Colorado with his family for his father's new job.

He went to Lewis-Palmer Middle School, where teacher Mrs. Susan Doyle got him interested in history by expressing to him that it was not about facts to memorize, but about stories to be told. During this time, English teacher Mr. Todd Mucci also taught him how to write, and he began work on his first piece of historical fiction.

Though his family was fairly secular, he attended a youth group at the Little Log Church in Palmer Lake, Colorado.

In college, he majored in history, and studied various mythologies and religions throughout the world. After college, he became certified as a paralegal and worked at Wal-Mart for the next three years while he tried to find a job with a law firm.

After landing his first paralegal job, he still felt something was missing in his life, and struggled with bouts of depression and loneliness. That was, until he started attending a Messianic Jewish Synagogue in Colorado Springs, where he met the Hebrew class teacher who would one day become his wife.

He is now happily married to Jenifer E. Casale, who wrote "The Whispered War" with him and is currently working on a feminine counterpart to the famous "Hero's Journey" theory devised by Joseph Campbell.

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