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Miguela was back outside room seven, waiting for Caecilia to join her. Miguela could have entered ahead of her colleague, but she did not feel comfortable being in the room alone. After a few moments, Caecilia appeared from around the corner. She walked briskly, and once she was within speaking distance, she smiled and said, “Good morning, Scryer Miguela.”

 

Caecilia was smiling, but her voice and demeanor lacked the usual excitement, and Miguela thought she knew why. The reality of their work had finally sunk in. “Good morning, Scryer Caecilia. You look nice today,” Miguela said, trying to lighten the mood.

 

Caecilia wore a dark-green dress that went up to her neck and had a small oval in the front to reveal her cleavage. As usual, she wore her brown hair up in twin buns above her ears. “Thank you,” Caecilia said, her face splitting into a genuine smile. Miguela’s own mood lightened a bit as she observed the other woman. A simple compliment, no matter how trivial, went a long way. At least some things in this crazy world still made sense.

 

They opened the door and stepped inside. Miguela frowned when her eyes hit the table in the center of the room. She felt like the copper pitcher, mugs, and parchment atop the table were mocking her. Next to the tools of their trade was the object of today’s session: a pair of leather trousers. Moving closer, she noticed dried blood around a jagged hole in the trouser’s left thigh area. Miguela sighed as she realized that even though she had no desire to find out what caused an injury like that, she was about to find out.

 

Miguela made eye contact with Caecilia and said, “Death is a part of life. If nothing else, we will be prepared for the end.”

 

Miguela was unsure why she said that, but she felt that Caecilia needed to hear something to give her confidence. Caecilia made a strange face at the comment, and Miguela felt her cheeks heat.

 

There was a moment of awkward silence. Then, Caecilia laughed.

 

“Thank you for trying, but don’t worry, I’ll be fine. And while you are doing the heavy lifting, I will have your back,” Caecilia said once her fit of laughter died down.

 

Miguela chuckled as well. She was happy that she did not offend Caecilia and make matters worse.

 

“Now, let’s get through today’s scrying,” Caecilia added, sitting down in her chair.

 

Miguela followed Caecilia’s lead and sat. Miguela took a deep breath and then cast the scrying spell, focusing on the leather trousers. The world lurched, and a flood of information slammed into her mind. She was Kloy Alua, and her family was a small Nawahl noble house. Her house was so minor that it was forgotten by all but the most diligent historians and Kloy’s father. Kloy was a scout for the Nawahl military. She lost her lunarbound years ago and refused to suffer that pain ever again. Despite not having a lunarbound in her service, Kloy was second to few as a tracker and a scout.

 


 

Kloy headed towards the village, but it was taking longer than anticipated. Staying downwind to avoid detection by any hounds or Chelkata in the area, she moved as quickly and quietly as possible. She needed to reach the village, scout for potential allies, then move on to the next. Wildlanders, in general, were notoriously poor communicators, so she didn’t have much hope of finding allies here. She knew her feelings were irrational, but the Five Kingdoms had already spent too much time on the Wildlands as it was. And who knew, maybe this village would be like the last one she scouted and actually offer something useful.

 

The village was near a river and ringed by high grass and trees, providing ample cover. As Kloy stalked closer, she realized that this was too easy. Kloy did not see a villager anywhere. Every village had activities that carried its citizens outside their homes and fortifications. Even when using a looking glass, she did not find a soul. Could the villagers have fled? She found that idea to be unlikely.

 

She was beginning to have a bad feeling about this. She crept closer. The tall grass made it easy to hide her position, but she had to inch carefully. The slightest mistake would send ripples through the tall grass, telling whoever saw where she was exactly. The meticulous process turned a fifteen to twenty-minute walk into almost two hours. As she approached the crude palisades that protected the village, she still found no sign of any life. Kloy stayed low and sprinted inside the village walls. She decided to get off the main road and ducked behind a structure that she figured acted as community storage.

 

Kloy weaved between two more buildings and figured she was coming up on the village square when she heard voices, making her freeze in her tracks. Kloy looked around until she found a good vantage on the side of a building that looked as if it might be the village hall, but when she got into position, she was unprepared for what she saw in the square. There were about twenty individuals. All but two of them were dragging bodies to the middle of the square. Kloy deduced that the bodies were the inhabitants of the village. However, the people moving the bodies did not appear to be rival Wildlanders. They all wore matching black shirts, trousers, and executioner-like masks with a white skull painted on them. She remained still, watching them work, and while she observed, she noticed that they were a mixed bunch. She saw Arzans, Xandrans, and even a Grang amongst the workers. The two not dragging bodies were Arzans and close enough for her to pick up their conversation.

 

“How much time do we have?” The shorter one of the two asked.

 

“Until tomorrow, but you never know with Bishop Baoro,” the taller one answered.

 

“Bishop Baoro? Seven Hells, I would feel more at ease if Ta’Lin himself was coming.”

 

The taller one chuckled at the comment before issuing a warning.

 

“I’d keep opinions like that to myself. You never know who might be listening.”

 

Kloy processed the names she heard, the name Bishop Baoro meant nothing to her, but something about the name Ta’Lin sounded familiar to her. She was sure that the name was ancient Nawahl in origin but could not place its meaning.

 

“Even Bishop Baoro should be pleased with this haul. We got the entire village, and almost all of them fully limbed,” the shorter one idly commented as they watched the others placing the bodies in the square.

 

“The bishop can be very demanding. He wants to be the first to have an army large enough to strike at the Five Kingdoms before the Warlord of Warlords arrives with the entirety of the military and its command,” the taller one replied.

 

His words stopped Kloy breathing for a moment. They were planning on attacking the Five Kingdoms, but what did the dead bodies have to do with an attack? Kloy was sure that whatever the answer was to her question meant pain and suffering for the Five Kingdoms.

 

Kloy took a reflexive step back, and before she could stop herself, she knocked over a fish drying rack, making enough noise to wake the dead bodies in the square.

 

“Over there! Keep working! We will handle this!” Kloy heard one of the two men not working shout from behind her as she ran. She felt the rushing wind of something whip over her shoulder and mumbled a few choice words as she began to run in a zigzag pattern to make it more difficult for the archer to get a bead on her.

 

Kloy turned the corner and was almost to the village’s entrance when she felt an arrow enter her thigh. She tumbled and skidded around the corner but scrambled to her feet and kept running. She made it to the river and dove in it, allowing the current to do the work of getting her away from whoever they were. The river swept her downstream.

 

After she felt far enough from them, she swam to the riverbank. She started to pull herself out of the river, but her muscles barely responded to her commands. After struggling for a moment, Kloy managed to pull herself out of the river. When she stood up, her leg burned and tingled. She realized the arrow in her thigh must have been poisoned, and that was what was sapping her strength. Kloy did not know what poison it was, but it was safe to assume that it was not crag spider poison because the poison would have already paralyzed her if it was. She did not have time to worry about it and fumbled around, pulling an alchemy antidote from her belt. The bottle slipped out of her hand and fell to the ground. She bent over to pick it up, and vertigo hit.

 

Kloy could not differentiate up or down. She felt as if the whole world was spinning, and it took her a moment to realize that was as she tumbled down the riverbank into the water. She splashed feebly in an attempt to swim, but her arms felt as if they were made from stone. Her body just stopped working, and the current took her. She was surprised at how calm she was, despite knowing that this was the end. Her only regret was that she could not report her findings, and before she knew it, she felt the icy cold river water filling her lungs, turning the world a brilliant white.

 


 

Miguela clawed at her throat until she realized she was breathing air and not river water; sweet air.

 

“Can you go on?” Caecilia asked. Miguela could hear the sound of worry clearly in her voice.

 

“Yes, I need only a moment,” she answered, gasping for air. Caecilia nodded and prepared her writing utensils. After Miguela’s breathing evened out, she started to tell Caecilia what she had witnessed. Miguela did not know what Kloy stumbled upon, but she did know something was amiss in the Wildlands.

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A note from CKJ5

If you like what you are reading, you can find more epic adventures in the Five Kingdoms universe on Amazon:

Book 1: Scourge of the Five Kingdoms

link: https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B09VK3JZ8V

Book 2: Dogma of the Five Kingdoms

link: https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B09VKC3TRR


About the author

CKJ5

  • Tokyo, Japan

Bio: Charles K. Jordan was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. He attended university in his home state, as well, where he studied Information Technology. After graduating, he decided to move abroad to experience more than what he had seen in the United States. He found his way to Japan in 2003, and since then, he has called Japan home.

Charles K. Jordan was always drawn to fantasy, sci-fi, and adventure. When he was a young child, the first novel he read was Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe, and from that point, he was hooked. Since then, he has found inspiration and heroes from various writers in all forms of media. Some of his heroes include Robert Jordan, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Quentin Tarantino, Terence Winter, Garth Ennis, and Glen Cook, just to name a few. Ever since that fateful day that led him to pick up Bunnicula, he knew his calling in life would be to create and hopefully contribute to someone’s growth and dreams.

Charles K. Jordan vowed to himself that no matter what happened in his life. He would never stop dreaming, writing, and creating.

The Five Kingdoms of Cordizal series available on Amazon:

Book 1: Scourge of the Five Kingdoms

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09VK3JZ8V

Book 2: Dogma of the Five Kingdoms

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09VKC3TRR

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