Miguela lit a bundle of dried sage. Once it was smoking adequately, she placed it in a censer bowl, allowing the smoke to clean and erase the smell of her stomach bile from the other night.
Miguela was ready for the knock at her door and when it came, she opened the door immediately. Archmage Belvi stood outside, jumping slightly by the suddenness of the door opening.
"Good morning, Scryer Miguela. I see that you are eager to start the day," Archmage Belvi commented.
"Good morning, Archmage Belvi. I am eager to get the day finished at least," Miguela retorted, and to her surprise, the Archmage chuckled.
"I believe your academic curiosity will soon defeat your archaic superstitions. You'll see," he said before leading them down the halls.
They made their way to scrying room number seven in silence, but Miguela had to admit she was not as disgusted with the idea as she was the other day. Miguela inhaled sharply as Archmage Belvi opened the door. The room's torches were already lit, and another sheet-covered table waited at the center of the room. Archmage Belvi strode right up to the body and pulled back the sheet, revealing a young Arzan.
Miguela's heartbeat quickened. "He couldn't be older than twenty," Miguela commented.
"Indeed. It is a shame for one so young to be cut down so soon," the Archmage replied.
Miguela looked over the corpse, and her eyes were quickly drawn to the puncture wound in the young man's chest. She wondered what could have caused an injury like that before catching herself and realizing that she was probably about to find out.
She shook herself, then said, "Let's do this."
The Archmage smiled and made a flamboyant leg in her direction.
"As m'lady commands," he said playfully.
Despite being in a room with a corpse and about to witness necromantic magik again, Miguela laughed at the Archmage's silliness.
Archmage Belvi produced another scroll, casting the necromantic spell at the cadaver. The corpse's hands twitched, and the undead stood. This time the Archmage had the undead walk the entire room, looking behind each torch. He cut the spell, causing the young Arzan to buckle on the spot.
"Now, it's your turn, Scryer Miguela," Archmage Belvi said, taking his seat.
Miguela followed his lead and sat as well. The Archmage produced a white apron.
"This is the item," he explained, holding the apron up for her to see.
Miguela cast her spell, feeling the rune latch onto her ley. The world lurched, and a torrent of memories from the twice dead Arzan slammed into her consciousness. She was Avio Vale, a talented baker's apprentice. Her bread was already very popular among the compound's guards. She planned to take over her master's bakery in the future, allowing her mentor to retire worry-free.
Avio woke up before the twin suns rose. He prepped the dough for the day and fired up the stoves to start the loaves. Avio was always an eager worker, but today his spirits were particularly excellent because he had an engagement with W*******. Avio was not inexperienced with women, but this was different. W******* was an older woman of elegance and grace. She should not be interested in an apprentice like him, but she was. He would not allow her to slip away. He went about the rest of his morning duties, daydreaming about how he would sweep ****e*** off her feet.
Master Hubul arrived as Avio was setting the first loaves out to cool. The suns were now low in the cloudless sky.
"Good morning, Avio. You look especially chipper today," Hubul commented. Avio was bad at hiding his feelings. He wanted to tell somebody, but he did not want to soil *****ll*'s reputation. He decided he would tell Hubul without revealing who she was to him.
"Good morning, Master Hubul. As a matter of fact, I am in an incredible mood this morning. I have an engagement this evening with a lady."
Hubul beamed at the news.
"Well, tell me about her, lad," he said, tying his apron strings around his rotund waist.
"She is a bit older than me, but we connect on many levels. She is as beautiful as a summer sunset and as elegant as a queen," Avio explained. Hubul smiled like a proud father.
"What is her name?" Hubul asked, sitting on his stool. Avio saw little harm in telling Master Hubul her name but could not bring himself to say it for some reason.
"I cannot tell you until our courtship has become official. I would not want to ruin her reputation as a woman," Avio said instead.
Hubul nodded. "I can respect that. I am happy for you, lad. The only advice I can give you is to enjoy the moment."
Before Avio could say anything else on the topic, the bell attached to the doorbell rang. Avio looked over his shoulder and saw that it was Hubul's brother, Savol.
"Savol! How are you?" Hubul said, standing to greet his younger brother.
"I can't complain. How are you, Hubul?" Savol retorted.
"My knees and my back ache all the time. You'll understand one day," Hubul answered with a chuckle.
"Morning, Avio. The usual for me," Savol said, looking in Avio's direction.
"Morning, Master Savol. I will get that ready for you," Avio responded, moving to put together his order.
Savol had a large family that loved the bread his brother made. Savol ordered six loaves of bread and a dozen assorted sweetbreads every other day or so.
As Avio busied himself wrapping the bread for Savol, he looked up at the brothers while they idly chatted. If Avio did not know they were brothers, he probably would not have been able to put together that they were. The two looked very different from one another. Hubul was short for an Arzan with dark-blue skin, thinning hair, and a thick gut that he developed from eating all bread all day. Savol was tall and slender with light-blue skin and a full head of thick hair. They did, however, have similarities in their eyes, which were the same shape and the same color of blue.
Avio finished putting together the order and handed it over to Savol.
"Thanks, Avio. By the way, the kids keep asking about you. Come by and visit sometime soon," Savol said before saying his goodbyes to his brother, taking his leave.
A few guards from the compound visited the bakery as the afternoon went by. Avio's special sweet buns were a particular favorite of the guards. They were so popular with the guards that they had to keep a batch per day aside for when the guards inevitably swung by.
Finally, the day finished, and he could prepare for his engagement with W******a. Avio arrived at his home and prepared a bath. He started the water heater then opened his tiny closet, looking for something to wear. After a few minutes of deliberation, he decided on a lacy shirt and a pair of dark green trousers. Avio took his bath, splashed his neck and underarms with lavender-scented oils, and dressed. After multiple checks of his appearance in a full-body mirror, he hopped on his horse and rode for his love's cottage.
Suddenly, Avio was standing in front of her door. He felt light-headed and didn't remember the trip to her cottage. He gathered himself, and once his light-headiness subsided, he knocked on the door.
"Come in, Avio" the beautiful voice of ******a called from behind the door.
Avio opened the door, and standing in the middle of the little cottage was W*******. She wore a stunning red dress that showed her curvy, sensual body. Avio noticed that the room smelled W*******'s sweet fragrance, an intoxicated odor that made him dizzy. Avio wanted to gaze at her perfect face, but his eyes couldn't focus on the details for some reason. He knew she was beautiful and would do anything to please her.
"You came, Avio," she said as he closed the door.
"Of course, I did. I couldn't disappoint you," he said, walking toward her.
Avio heard something clicking on the floorboards but could not divert his attention from her.
"My sweet, sweet, Avio. I wish there were another way, but I do not have time," she said. Avio sensed sadness in her voice and immediately wanted to comfort her in any way he could.
"Two centuries ago, I would have fallen in love with you, my sweet Avio."
Before he could answer, he felt a stinging sensation in his leg. He looked down and saw a spider the size of a hunting hound scurrying away. He was about to ask what was going on when his leg gave way, and he collapsed to the ground. Avio was paralyzed but could still see and hear what was happening.
"I am sorry, Avio. But thank you for allowing me to live," she whispered in his ear. He heard the sound of something being dragged over the floorboards and then the sharp pain of something stabbing him in the chest. Avio fought off unconsciousness for as long as he could, but before he knew it, he died.
"RISE!" A voice boomed in his head.
Before he could gather his wits, his body lurched with a will of its own. After his body stumbled from the cart, it staggered forward toward the torches in the room's corners. His body looked behind each torch, and behind the last one sat a book.
"YOU ARE FREE!" The voice boomed again, and just like that, he died again.
Miguela woke up, feeling less confused than she used to feel when scrying. She stood up and rushed to the corpse, lifting his leg and finding two fang marks where the crag spider bit him.
"What are you doing?" The Archmage asked, seemingly confused by her sudden interest in the corpse.
"How did the constable say that this man died?" She asked, ignoring Archmage Belvi's question.
He rubbed his chin in thought for a moment before answering. "He said he was stabbed in the heart and robbed by brigands."
"He was murdered," she replied.
"Well, yes, I can see that," he said.
"No, I mean, he was murdered differently. He was murdered for something other than ducats," Miguela explained.
"What was he murdered for?" the Archmage asked.
Miguela exhaled sharply before answering. "I don't know, but I think it involves magik even darker than what we are experimenting with."
- Tokyo, Japan
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
Book 2: Dogma of the Five Kingdoms