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Chapter II

“May I present Lady Farrah, only daughter of Cory, Malkira’s chosen savior.”

Even the greatest heroes of the Nihilite rebellion suddenly felt over-shadowed as the young lady entered the room. Here was a girl who not only had a famous father, one regarded as a saint by Nihilites all over the world, but also one who had won countless battles. She’d wiped out entire camps of enemy soldiers simply by having peasant girls offer one home-cooked meal to the commanding officer. After so many weeks of eating stale biscuits and meat so dry it was almost leather, the soldiers in that camp mutinied. Farrah’s cunning was legendary.

She entered the room wearing a loose and flowing, black dress, the back of which hung down to the small of her back. There were slits in the sleeves, showing off her smooth shoulders, and sparkling beads held her red hair in braids. As she walked and the light hit her dress just right, the light shone through the dress and revealed the shape of her form beneath. She could feel the lustful eyes tracing the curves of her body, and she loved every bit of it.

Just a few years ago she’d been a nobody: Sirrah Farrah, whom no one would take a second look at. Now she was a prominent leader in the Nihilite Rebellion, the ruler of the city of Ormondsburgh, and a woman whom even the richest and most powerful men wanted to marry. How far she’d come, the girl made fun of for her frizzy red hair and freckles now renowned as the most beautiful woman in Nihilus.

Once she’d arrived at the meeting table, and before she took her seat, she gave a curtsy to the other generals. “A pleasure to meet you all,” she said. Her voice was sweet and fair, but with just a subtle hint of sex lingering in it.

“And it’s a pleasure for us to meet you for the first time, my lady,” said General Caolan. He rose to his feet as she approached and pulled out a chair for her, eager to please.

Farrah gave him a nod and took her seat, making sure to lightly brush her fingertips along the back of his hand before she sat down. Caolan shivered at her gentle caress. “Now,” Farrah began the meeting, “What is our next step, hmm?”

General Val said, “Spies report Grand Duke Sahar is going to petition Queen Mahla for the right to negotiate peace terms with us. Given that Queen Mahla is having enough trouble keeping the throne in Arx she’s likely to accept, and then Sahar will want to meet with one of us. We decided long ago the only terms we will agree to.”

“An independent Nihilus,” said Caolan. “We want Nihilus totally free of Arxian control. Therion’s heir, Prince Elykos, must sit on the throne, as he was meant to.”

“I’ve heard so much about Prince Elykos,” said Farrah. “When do I get to meet him?”

“None of us have actually met him in person,” said Val, “But he has found ways to communicate his will to us all.”

“So never,” Farrah said.

“I’m confident he’ll reveal himself once the war is over,” said Val.

“In any event,” said Lady Quin, one of the elder generals, “we need to decide which of us will meet with Grand Duke Sahar for the peace talks. There is a small chance this whole thing is a trap, so only one of us can meet with him.”

“I think I’d be perfect for this,” said Farrah. “I’m certain I can talk him into accepting our terms, and he won’t risk killing me. He’s seen how much my Father’s sacrifice moved our people. He won’t risk making a martyr of me too.”

“My lady, I’d hate to see you in harm’s way,” said Caolan. He reached out and clasped her fingers with two hands.

Farrah curled her fingers around Caolan’s for a moment. “You’re very sweet, but I won’t be in harm’s way, dear. I will be fine.” Her dark eyes met his gaze a moment, causing him to catch his breath, before she slowly withdrew her hand from his.

Once the meeting was over, Farrah returned to her camp. The seven armies of the Nihilite Rebellion had all gathered around and within the ruins of the old warlock academy of Leti. Farrah and her followers had been granted the portions of the ruins which were the most intact, a show of favor by the other generals.

Heads bowed as Farrah entered her camp. Her army was almost entirely made up of women. She’d found over the years that while men were most useful to her ends, she could never fully trust them. Much of her claim to power was her heritage, yes, but much of it also came from the way she teased and titillated nearly every man she came in contact with. Having too many in her army would have been dangerous, because they’d either start fighting each other over her or attempt to take her by force.

Kiva, her trusted hand-maiden, and Mave, her bodyguard, greeted her as she approached. “My lady,” Kiva said as she curtsied to her. Mave bowed her head.

Farrah curtsied in return. “Kiva, Mave.”

“Your bath has been prepared for you,” Kiva said.

“Excellent.” Farrah hurried along to the room where they’d prepared her hot bath. It was one of the few rooms with four walls still standing, and as soon as the three of them were inside Farrah’s entire demeanor changed. “By Prunikos! I’ve got to get out of this damn dress!” Farrah pushed the straps off her shoulders and let the dress hit the ground. Kiva held Farrah’s hand as she climbed into the hot bath. Nothing felt better than washing off all the sticky perfumes and body oils at the end of the day.

“What news, my lady?” Mave asked.

“Damn it, Mave!” Farrah said as she threw a bar of soap at Mave, intentionally missing. “How many times do I have to tell you, in private you call me ‘Farrah.’ Bad enough I have to act all courtly around everyone else, don’t make me pretend around you too.”

“I’m sorry, my la…Farrah.”

Kiva picked up the bar of soap and handed it back to Farrah. “Still, we’d like to know…what news from the meeting?”

“I’m gonna negotiate peace with Grand Duke Sahar. The generals agreed to it.”

“I’m surprised Val didn’t protest,” Kiva said. “He must know that speaking with the Grand Duke, negotiating peace is quite an opportunity.”

“An opportunity to get killed, he thinks,” said Farrah.

“Why do you say that?” asked Mave.

“He knows that whoever negotiates peace will win major brownie points with Elykos and the Nihilite people. They may even get an important job at Elykos’ court. Given Val’s greed I can’t see many reasons he wouldn’t pounce on the opportunity, unless he truly thinks it’s a trap,” said Farrah. “If he lets me do it and it does, as he suspects, turn out to be a trap, he gets me out of the way. He knows the people like me more than they like him. He’s won a few battles, but I am the Savior’s daughter.”

“He wants you dead…if this trap doesn’t work he’s likely to try something else, you know,” Mave said.

“No joke,” said Farrah as she lathered soap on her skin. “A few lieutenants under his own command have already had some…tragic accidents after they became too popular. Or they died in battle after Val sent them to the front lines. He’s a ruthless bastard. If he does that to his own soldiers what do you think he’ll do to me?”

“I won’t let him,” said Mave, her hand resting on the hilt of her sword. “Let him send his assassins, I’ll cut them all down!”

“That’s not enough,” said Farrah. “Don’t get me wrong, now, I know you’ll do everything you can to protect me, but Val’s not a complete idiot. He won’t send assassins. He’ll find some other way to ruin me…Kiva.”

“Yes?”

“If you were trying to destroy me but couldn’t kill me how would you go about doing it?”

“I would never!”

“That’s not the point.” Farrah slipped under the bath water to rinse off the soap suds and emerged again. “If you were going to do it how would you?”

“I suppose…” Kiva thought for a moment. “Either I’d find some way to trick someone else into doing it for me, plausible deniability and all that.”

“Or?”

“Or…I’d try to frame you for something.” Kiva said.

“If you tried to frame me I’d pluck your eyes out.”

“I wouldn’t!”

“You just said you would.”

“We were talking hypothetically!” Kiva shifted uncomfortably.

“I’m messing with you.” Farrah smiled. “Those do seem like the best ways to get rid of someone you can’t simply have murdered. Kiva, send a message to General Caolan. Tell him he’s invited to have dinner with me tomorrow night. Make sure the message is enticing, but non-committal. I want to keep him guessing why I invited him.”

“General Caolan? He’s a handsome young lad…” Kiva said.

“If you say so,” Farrah shrugged.

“Do you intend to…?”

“Sleep with him? Kiva, Kiva, Kiva, how many times do I have to tell you, men become completely useless once you bed them.”

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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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