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After Miguela met with her brother, she had a few days of rest. She also avoided drinking alcohol during her days off, so she felt rejuvenated when her next assignment came.

 

She met Caecilia out of scrying room number seven. Caecilia appeared eager to get back to work, and despite the concerns that had arisen in the last few days, Miguela had to admit she was ready to dive back in.

 

They made their greetings and hurried about lighting the torches. After getting the room lit, they made their way to their work area. Caecilia prepared the water and a space for her writing utensils. She stopped dead in her tracks when her eyes locked on the table. Miguela noticed her friend's rigid posture and followed her eyes, turning to see what had unsettled her partner. On the table sat a red fang. It was the Grang's red steel fang award. Miguela didn't know what a Grang had to do to receive such an award, but she knew it was prestigious and significant.

 

"Hey," Miguela said, bringing Caecilia's attention from the Grang medal and onto her. "We have a job to do. Whoever this was, died in the line of duty for the Five Kingdoms."

 

Caecilia nodded as the color returned to her face.

 

"Of course, you are correct. I can never forget the horror stories my grandfather told me about the Grang Wars," Caecilia said, sitting tentatively as if the fang might lash out at her. Miguela decided not to mention the Ramons had enslaved the Grang for years, and any horrors that happened likely were earned because she needed Caecilia to be focused and not upset.

 

"It will be fine, Caecilia. Business as usual," Miguela added. Caecilia smiled and nodded for her response.

 

Miguela cast the scrying spell, feeling the rune latch on to her ley. She focused the spell on the red fang, and the world lurched before a torrent of information slammed her. She was Kelbin, a decorated Grang warrior who served under Warlord Ur'Maz. Ur'Maz told her that the Warlord of Warlords would be considering her to take over a fist as a warlord soon. She earned her red fang during the Grang Wars for cutting off a supply chain with only a handful of Grang calvary. Leading her fist would be an honor but leaving behind her mentor Ur'Maz was something that she did not want to happen. In a perfect scenario, she would inherit Ur'Maz's fist when it was time for him to step down. However, she knew that she could not turn down this honor from the Warlord of Warlords. It is the way of the Grang.

 


 

Kelbin regrouped with his squad. They just encountered a small pocket of the undead that the man races had taken to calling the Scourge. Kelbin believed it was to downplay the true nature of the abominations. He did not have time to worry about the petty politics of men when he had Grang he needed to keep alive.

 

"Report," he said to nobody in particular.

 

"No casualties, and in other good news, the undead were Ramons, so they died twice," a young, brash Grang named Mogi said.

 

"There will be none of that in this fist. The Ramons died with honor, doing their part in the war. If you have a problem with it, we can settle it right now before we rejoin the fist," Kelbin growled, loosening his sword in its sheath to drive his meaning home.

 

Mogi eyed Kelbin up and down, weighing his options. "I meant no disrespect. I was trying to lighten the mood."

 

"Good. Let's head back to the fist," Kelbin said, pointing his index digit in the air and rotating his wrist in a circle.

 

Kelbin and the squad found the fist with little difficulty. Kelbin wondered if Ur'Maz knew where they were headed at this point as he dismounted his bounder, handing the reins to some whelp he did not recognize.

 

"Water him and hitch him to bounder cart four," he instructed the young Grang before setting out to find Warlord Ur'Maz. It did not take long to locate the cart he rode on in the middle of the throng of marching Grang. Kelbin jogged to the cart and hoisted himself up into it. There was a guard in leather armor standing beside Ur'Maz. The warlord appeared to be lost in thought.

 

"Give us some privacy," Ur'Maz said, turning his head towards the guard who saluted fist over his heart in response before jumping off the cart and following closely on foot.

 

Ur'Maz was a short, thick Grang with dark-green scales that reminded Kelbin of a toad. He was soft-spoken, a rarity among warlords, but demanded respect at all times from the individuals who served under him.

 

Kelbin approached the warlord once they were alone and gave his report on the encounter with the Scourge earlier. Ur'Maz listened, scratching his lower mandible in thought. They swayed back and forth in silence as the cart rolled forward.

 

"Kelbin, I have yet to receive orders from the Warlord of Warlords, but I am leaning towards returning to the main force because, from our estimates, the Scourge already has a force that might be larger than the main force," the warlord said after a moment.

 

"I doubt the Warlord of Warlords would find fault with your assessment of the situation," Kelbin added carefully, unsure if Ur'Maz wanted his input or just wanted to tell someone what he was thinking.

 

Ur'Maz grunted noncommittally, and they rode the cart in silence again.

 

"You are correct, Kelbin. We will continue the route today, and after we camp, I will issue orders to rejoin the main force," Warlord Ur'Maz said, breaking their silence.

 

Kelbin saluted in the Grang fashion of his fist over his heart and was about to excuse himself when Ur'Maz spoke again.

 

"Stay, ride with me until camp. After we return, the Warlord of Warlords will probably be issuing you a fist to command, and the next time we will have time to talk will be when we are planning attack phases."

 

Kelbin grinned at the sentiment, discussing various thoughts about the war and the Five Kingdoms' approach so far. Even with his trusted mentor, Kelbin made sure not to badmouth the Warlord of Warlords. One could never be too careful when dealing with the Warlord of Warlords' ego and temper.

 

Drums began to beat throughout the marching fist, signaling to the fist that they were about to set up camp. Kelbin looked at the sky to discover that the suns were well on their descent. He lost track of time speaking with Ur'Maz.

 

"You better attend to your duties," Ur'Maz commented, and Kelbin took the words as a dismissal, saluting the warlord before hopping off of the cart to help with the assembly of the camp.

 

Kelbin instructed his Grang in their roles. Putting together a camp, even a makeshift one, for an entire fist was a chaotic dance that somehow became second nature for seasoned warriors. The cooks lit the bonfires that would feed the troops this evening, and before Kelbin knew it, the aromatic smells of roasting boars, soups, and flatbreads baking filled the air. When the supper bell clanged, Kelbin got himself a hunk of boar, a bowl of soup, and some flatbread. He found a large, flat rock under a tree and sat on it. He ripped a piece from the flatbread, dunking it in the soup before plopping it in his mouth. He was about to tear into the roasted boar when the young Grang Kelbin threatened to duel earlier today, and approached him.

 

"Is there something you need, Mogi?" Kelbin asked. As the young Grang took a step closer, Kelbin went through several combat scenarios in his mind.

 

"Can I eat with you, sir?" Mogi asked, and Kelbin felt his shoulders relax some.

 

"Why not?" Kelbin replied neutrally.

 

The younger Grang sat cross-legged in front of Kelbin's rock. He wrapped his flatbread around his chunk of boar, eating it like a sandwich.

 

"I was out of line today, and you were right to put me in my place," Mogi blurted out around a mouthful of boar and bread.

 

"I know that's why I did it," Kelbin retorted, and as soon as the words left his mouth, he regretted it. The young Grang looked stunned and embarrassed. Kelbin knew better than to play a young Grang's honor.

 

"Look, I appreciate the guts it took to come to me. And I also understand your feelings about the Ramons. They are monsters, but they are also our allies. The more of them who die, the weaker we become and the more likely we fall to the Scourge. You must endure them for now, and after the war, you can return to Grang and tell all the jokes you wish at their expense," he explained in a friendlier tone.

 

"I understand, and thank you for listening," Mogi replied, standing, saluting crisply.

 

Kelbin was about to say something more on the subject when suddenly forks of lightning crashed from the cloudless sky, striking Grang relentlessly.

 

"We are under attack! Raise the alarm!" Kelbin ordered. Mogi ran towards the heart of the camp, only to get cut down by a fork of lightning in the back. The Grang bounced off the ground and was reduced to a twisted, smoldering husk.

 

Then the Scourge came. Waves and waves of undead crashed into the camp, Kelbin became caught in a flood of the undead bodies. He twisted his body to get loose, somehow unsheathing his dagger from his belt at the same time. But the undead did not care. Kelbin swung his blade feebly before getting trampled under the feet of hundreds and hundreds of the walking dead. The last thought he had before he died was he never thought his end would be from a stampede of the undead.

 

"RISE!" A voice boomed in his head. Kelbin started to panic as his body stood on its own. The rest of his fist also heard the call because they stood as well.

 

"COME!" The voice commanded, and his body stumbled forward, following the orders. Kelbin calmed down as his body walked because if he were still alive, he would need his wits to survive. Kelbin and the undead fist walked for days, and days turned into weeks, and finally, off in the distance, he saw a small village.

 


 

Then something happened, Miguela not only saw what Kelbin was seeing, but she sensed Kelbin's thoughts as well. Miguela tried to wake up, but she couldn't. She was trapped in Kelbin's body. She looked around as much as she could to take her mind off her predicament. The village they were shuffling towards looked familiar. Then it hit her. This village was the village Miguela visited in Kloy's memories. The Grang packed into the village square and what she saw on the other side made her want to vomit. There was an innumerable amount of undead standing, waiting to be unleashed on the Five Kingdoms. She wondered why the Grang were gathering here instead of joining the rest of the army when she heard voices. Two Arzans wearing black trousers, black shirts, and black executioner masks with white skulls painted on them approached Kelbin's body.

 

"It's this one," the shorter of the two masked Arzans said.

 

The taller of the two went through a series of hand gestures, looking at Kelbin intently.

 

"FOLLOW!" A voice boomed in her mind. Kelbin's shuffled after the two Arzans. They lead her to a slender Xandran, wearing black robes and a bronze mask fashioned as a skull, covering his entire head except for his mouth and jaw.

 

"Bishop Baoro," the two Arzans said in unison, dropping to one knee.

 

"We found the one you were seeking," the taller Arzan said.

 

"Yes, I see. Leave me," Bishop Baoro said, not taking his eyes off Kelbin.

 

The two Arzans left, and Bishop Baoro started casting a spell. Suddenly, Miguela felt constricted.

 

"WHO ARE YOU?" The voice of Bishop Baoro boomed in her mind.

 

"Miguela," she heard the voice of Kelbin's body say. Miguela struggled against the magik.

 

"WHERE ARE YOU?" Bishop Baoro's voice boomed again.

 

"The compound," Kelbin's body answered faithfully.

 

Miguela started to panic. She didn't know why but she screamed as loud as she could, and to her surprise, Kelbin's body started screaming as well.

 

A smile blossomed on Bishop Baoro's lips.

 

"Interesting," he said, beginning to cast a different spell. However, before he could finish, Miguela felt as if her head was dunked into a river, and she woke on the floor of scrying room number seven, her face drenched with water. Miguela looked up and saw a concerned-looking Caecilia standing above her, holding an empty cooper pitcher.

 

"You were screaming and thrashing. I didn't know what to do," Caecilia explained.

 

"You did perfect, Caecilia. Absolutely perfect. Now get Archmage Belvi, and I will explain everything later," Miguela said, forcing a smile for Caecilia's sake. Caecilia nodded and quickly went off to fetch the Archmage, and as soon as the door closed behind her, Miguela began crying. She curled into the fetal position and sobbed as she had never sobbed before.

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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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