“Is it not beautiful?” Erelah asked.
Erelah and Sarahi stood at the top of a hill, overlooking the ever-growing camp that was Aryn’s army. Knights had left the lords they swore to serve to join this army. Countless commoners were now zealots, warriors of the faith ready to cut down anyone Erelah declared evil. Paladins from Caelum Academy had made the journey to join Erelah’s army. Even former priests, priestesses, monks, and nuns were now trading in their prayer books for swords.
“I suppose,” Sarahi said. Beautiful wasn’t the first word that came to mind. Necessary. Hopeful. Sad, maybe. Really, while she was glad so many were ready to stand behind her daughter she couldn’t bring herself to truly celebrate it. As the late King Hadar said, no one wins a war. The moment war becomes necessary all sides have already lost.
“To the four tallest mountains in Arx I have already sent scouts,” said Erelah. “When the time is nigh they shall sound their horns. This will be the signal to re-take Arx. I have a task for thee as well.”
“I’m ready to serve,” said Sarahi.
“Go thee to the March of Muri. Thou and thy husband both. Meet with thy sister, Nerissa, and tell her of our plan. Thou shalt stay with her until thou hearest the horns sounding.”
“I can’t do that!” Sarahi said. “I want to stay with my little girl! It was hard enough watching her leave yesterday to meet with the Queen of Shadia, now you want me to leave her for…who knows how long?”
“Thy daughter swore to do as I say because she understands that only by obeying me wilt thou see victory,” said Erelah.
“I am less convinced,” said Sarahi. “You performed a few miracles, but that proves nothing. For all I know you’re a witch from Nihilus. That would make sense. Perhaps you’re a witch from Nihilus and that’s why you don’t want me near my daughter, so I can’t protect her.”
“Verily, thou hast already done so much evil in thy attempts to protect her. Need thou disobey me and add more to that list?”
Sarahi caught her breath at Erelah’s words and her face burned red.
“How well didst that fair last time, Sarahi?” Erelah said. “Didst thou prevent the thing thou feared? Did instructing her to execute Mahla stop the civil war?”
“I’ve already faced the Court of Accusations, damn you! You know that!” Sarahi said as tears welled up in her eyes. “If the Accuser found me innocent who are you to find me guilty?”
“I do not find thee guilty, I merely remind thee of the lessons thou hast learned already,” said Erelah. “Thou art righteous, Sarahi. Change that not.”
Sarahi sighed in defeat. “Fine. You’ll protect Aryn for me, right?”
“Aryn is instrumental in a number of divine plans.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“She shall be safe.”
“Swear to me you’ll protect her.”
“To swear an oath would imply that some of my words are more truthful than others,” said Erelah. “An oath is unnecessary.”
“Swear to me!” Sarahi said.
“If it will put thy heart at peace. I swear Aryn will be safe.”
Sarahi found Milo teaching some of the newcomers how to swing a sword. He’d said before, “We had the numbers. Why did we still lose the war? I’ll tell you why: experience. Even one-million frightened lambs stand no chance against one-hundred hungry wolves.” Milo was convinced that if he and the other paladins had enough time to train the commoners and priests who’d joined their army they might actually have a chance at winning this time.
Before Sarahi could reach her husband, though, a young knight from one of the Arxian noble houses approached first. She stood a head shorter than Milo and had boyishly short hair. Her shoulders were broad, and over her armor she wore a tabard with her family crest.
“Yes, Dame Batya?” Milo said as she drew near.
“SIR Batya,” the young knight corrected him.
“Sir Batya. Sorry,” said Milo. She’d been insisting on being called by that title since she first arrived. Milo still wasn’t used to it. “What can I do for you?”
“They know how to swing a sword,” said Batya.
“Swinging a sword’s not really as difficult as most people like to think it is. If you really want this lot to succeed stop worrying about teaching them swordplay and teach them tactics, how to fight as a unit.”
“I’m not sure how to teach that,” said Milo.
“You’ve fought in battles before,” said Batya.
“Yes…but there’s a difference between knowing how to do something and knowing how to teach it.”
“Oh for the love of…stand aside, sirrah! Let me take over.”
“By all means, sir,” said Milo. He gave Batya a bow and stepped aside. “Sarahi.” Milo pulled his wife into a tight hug and gave her a kiss. “What's new? You spoke to Erelah?”
“Aye.” Sarahi wrapped her arms around her husband’s waist. “The prophet has a mission for us. We’re supposed to go to Muri.”
“To speak to your sister, hmm?” Milo said.
“Sounds good to me. Once Aryn returns we’ll set out.”
Sarahi shook her head. “We can wait for Aryn to return, but only so that we can say goodbye.”
“She won’t be coming with us, beloved. Erelah has commanded that we go to Muri, but Aryn is to stay.”
“How are we supposed to protect her if we’re not with her?” Milo asked.
“We’re not with her now. She went to meet with Haldis, the Queen of Shadia, and we trusted Shamira to protect her,” Sarahi said.
“And even that I wasn’t too happy about. That’s our little girl! We can’t leave her alone!”
“I made Erelah promise me she’d keep her safe,” said Sarahi. “If the prophet swears Aryn will be safe then I believe her.”
Milo sighed and shook his head. “The prophet commanded us to go to Muri?”
“Yes. She insisted that this was the best way we could help.”
“Do you believe she really is the prophet Erelah come back from the dead?” Milo asked. Sarahi hesitated and looked away. “Sarahi, dear. Look at me. Do you believe she really is the prophet from long ago?”
“She knows things…things I don’t think she could know otherwise.”
Milo waited to see if Sarahi would explain more about what she meant, but she merely stared off into space. When he was sure that was the end of what she had to say on the matter he said. “Well, then, we should get our things together. It’s a long way to Muri from here.”
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- Colorado Springs, CO
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.