Miguela and her friends drank heavily for the next two days. She was grateful that the group, by some unspoken agreement, didn’t discuss work during their binges. Instead, they discussed all sorts of things, with romance and potential partners sitting at the top of their list of subjects. Caecilia was partial to men of power. It was a very stereotypical Ramon noble way of thinking. Caecilia claimed that she could learn to love a man if his ambitions and path to power matched her expectations. Henna tried to convince them that her type was the academic type, but Miguela could see she still longed for Poe.
This morning was uneventful. Miguela ate a large breakfast and had a chance to relax in her chambers before a knock came on her door. She opened the door, and standing outside was Archmage Belvi. Today, the Archmage wore robes of golden silk with dark-purple stitching. He flashed a handsome smile as their eyes met.
“Scryer Miguela, good afternoon. I hope you are rested and feeling better?”
“Archmage Belvi, good afternoon. I am feeling much better, thank you for asking.”
“Excellent! Because I have discovered something that may allow the Five Kingdoms to turn the tide of this war,” Archmage Belvi stated grandiosely. “But I need your help to make it a reality.”
Miguela knew that if there were the slightest chance to end this terrible war, she would have to do anything in her power to help.
“Of course. What do we need to do?”
The Archmage smiled. “Come with me. I will explain it all in detail once we are in scrying room seven,” Archmage Belvi answered, extending his crooked arm for her to take.
Miguela hesitated briefly, and she noticed Archmage’s smile strain. Before things became too awkward, she closed the door to her chambers and took his arm. The Archmage led them through the hallways, making idle small talk as they made their way.
Miguela became lost in her thoughts as they walked. She wondered why she hesitated back in the doorway to her chambers. Miguela thoroughly respected the Archmage and thought he was a brilliant man who knew when to take chances. She had to admit that the message Koal left in her riding dress had eroded some of her trust in the Archmage. She didn’t know what secrets the Archmage kept, but she had a feeling that those secrets were numerous.
They arrived at the scrying room, and Archmage Belvi opened the door, holding it for her to enter first. Miguela obliged, walking past him. The torches in the room were lit already, giving the room an orange glow. Miguela’s eyes were drawn to the cadaver on a cart in the center of the room, her body stiffening and palms becoming sweaty.
The Archmage entered the room as well, locking the door behind him.
“I am sorry that I must ask you to endure so much. But today really could change everything,” the Archmage said. Miguela wondered if he noticed how tense she had become.
Suddenly, Miguela had a realization about what he intended to do. “You want to recreate what happened during my last scry?” she asked, feeling sick.
“Indeed, but you will not be helpless this time,” the Archmage answered.
“What do you mean?” Miguela asked, her curiosity overriding her fear.
“You made the undead husk scream last time. I am convinced that you can disrupt the spell, which would free you and destroy the zombie at the same time,” Archmage Belvi explained.
“How would I be able to do that?”
“I will talk you through it. Together we will find a way to help the Five Kingdoms from the safety of this compound,” the Archmage said with conviction.
“What if I cannot do it?” Miguela asked. She felt herself shudder at the thought of being trapped in a zombie.
“Then I will cut the spell. Do not worry. Even if I had a heart attack and died while you were scrying, the spell is a low-powered scroll, so the spell would abate on its own in a few hours. There is no way I would allow for even the possibility that you would not return. You are too important to the project and me,” the Archmage said.
Miguela did not know what to say. Especially to the last part, so she nodded in confirmation.
“Now, hopefully, the cadaver I found did not die a mysterious death. The coroner assured me the death of this man was a straightforward accident. That should allow us to focus on the main issue of destroying the undead. Are you ready?”
Miguela felt a bit more confident in the situation after the Archmage the safeguards he’d put into place. She was still processing what he meant when he said she was too important to him but decided that was a problem for another day.
“I think so,” Miguela answered.
“Then let’s get started,” the Archmage said, giving her one last reassuring look before reaching into his robes.
He pulled out a scroll, unrolled it, and began reading the words. The body under the sheet stirred and clumsily sat up. The undead man had been an Arzan in his middle years. His head lay on his shoulder as if he were tired, but Miguela realized that it was because he had a broken neck. The Arzan worked his way off the cart and stood in the corner out of sight.
“Scryer, if you would please,” Archmage Belvi said, gesturing towards her usual seat.
“This dagger was his prized possession,” he added, holding a dagger forged from blue steel in his hands.
Miguela sat and mentally prepared herself for what she had to do next. She cast the scrying spell and felt the familiar sensation of the rune latching onto her ley. Miguela focused on the dagger, and the world lurched as a torrent of information slammed into her skull. She was Tomus Vitru, an Arzan merchant who made a nice sum of money importing the spirits and wines of the other nations to Arizi. After the satellite classes of the Academy shut down, she ran into some hard times, but with the opening of the compound, she was experiencing a second boon. She was determined to make the best of this run because who knew how long it would last.
Tomus woke up as the twin suns peaked through his curtains. He was excited to get the day started. Because today, he would be traveling to Arzal to start his business again. Tomus managed to work out a sweet deal with the compound and the inn in Arizi. The compound would allow him to travel with their caravans to provide alcohol for its staff and members. Tomus would assume all the risk of not selling his stock, but alcohol, in general, kept for a long time. He would also provide for the inn, making him the sole merchant for specialty spirits and wine in Arizi. Tomus figured he could expand to other hamlets near the Academy if he played his cards right.
Tomus jumped out of bed, getting dressed quickly and doing one last check on his travel pack that he had prepared last night. He slung the pack over his shoulder and headed downstairs, finding his sister, Katlyn, setting breakfast out on the table. He saw sausages, flapjacks, boiled eggs, sliced apples, and wheat porridge. His stomach rumbled at the sight of the spread.
“I know you wouldn’t have a decent cooked meal for a few days, so I wanted to send you off with a full belly,” Katlyn said as he sat down to eat. Katlyn’s husband was fighting on the frontlines of the Wildlands, and she spent more time at Tomus’s home than at her own.
“Thank you, Katlyn,” Tomus said around a mouthful of sausage.
“I am proud of you, Tomus, but be safe,” Katlyn replied, sitting down and ladling some wheat porridge into a bowl.
“That is the best part, Katlyn. I will be traveling with an Academy caravan. I will be safer than I have ever been,” he retorted while reaching across the table and grabbing a few slices of apple. He popped a slice in his mouth before adding, “Actually, I am more worried about leaving you alone than my safety with the Academy caravan.”
“I’ll be fine,” Katlyn said, laughing at the notion.
“There was just a witch in our hamlet killing people, so you never know. Here take this,” Tomus said, taking his blue steel dagger off his belt and handing it to his sister, “if anybody tries anything funny, use it. The blue steel will slice through most materials with ease.”
Katlyn took the dagger gingerly, tears welling in her eyes.
“That’s not a gift. Blue steel is expensive,” Tomus quipped, and Katlyn threw an apple slice at him for his efforts. They ate breakfast, reminiscing about childhood and simpler times, and it soon became time for him to depart. Tomus gathered his things, said his goodbyes, mounted his horse, making his way to the compound.
The caravan was camped about half a league away from the compound, but he had two stops to make before joining them. Tomus hitched his horse and tripped up to the main gate on foot. The massive Ramon, Dontino, was waiting for him. They arranged to meet before his second stop because Dontino had other duties to attend to.
“Master Tomus, good morning,” Dontino said, greeting him.
“Master Dontino, good morning, and thank you for doing this,” Tomus replied.
“You are the one doing the guards a favor,” Dontino said, laughing as he produced a folded piece of parchment that looked tiny in his meaty hand.
“Regardless, I appreciate the opportunity,” Tomus added, taking the parchment from Dontino. He unfolded the parchment, glancing at its contents, and there was a long list of wines and liquors. Tomus folded the parchment again, tucking it away.
“Some of these might not be available, even in Arzal, but I will do my best,” Tomus explained, making sure he set expectations.
“Understood. But if you can find the Ramon summer wine. There will be some extra coin in it for you. That’s for me,” Dontino said before taking his leave.
Tomus had to hurry to the hamlet and get their list. He mounted his horse and spurred it to a sprint. The horse carried him swiftly into the hamlet. He hitched his horse and hurried to the inn.
The innkeeper, Mich, was cleaning the counter as he walked toward him. Now that Tomus thought about it, Mich always cleaned something when he was not serving drinks.
“Master Mich, good morning,” Tomus said, getting the innkeeper’s attention.
“Ah! Master Tomus, you want that list, don’t you?” The innkeeper asked.
Tomus nodded eagerly and explained that he did not have much time. The innkeeper dried his hands on his apron and disappeared into the back room, coming out with two sheets of parchment neatly rolled together. Tomus thanked him and promised he would get all he could find from the list and hurried back to his horse.
Tomus spurred his horse to a full sprint, heading towards the caravan campsite. Suddenly, a deer sprang out of the woods, crossing in front of him. Barreling through the brush, chasing the deer was a giant black kumardae. The predator must have spooked his horse because it reared wildly, throwing Tomus clear from his saddle, pinwheeling him through the air. He landed awkwardly, hearing the sickening sounds of his neck snapping. Tomus could not tell if he was breathing, but he found out shortly as he suffocated to death.
“RISE,” a loud voice boomed in Tomus’s mind. His eye snapped open. He could tell there was some sort of sheet covering him. While he was attempting to figure out what was going on, his body started to move on its own, sitting up. He tried to make his body stop, but he discovered that he was nothing but a mere passenger.
“OVER THERE, STAND,” the booming voice commanded, and his body carried out the orders, despite Tomus having no idea where over there was. As his body stood obediently in a corner, he noticed a young Xandran lady sleeping in an oversized seat. He was unsure how long he waited, but after some time, the voice boomed in his head again, “COME.”
His body shuffled forward.
Miguela felt herself floating in a void as somehow her consciousness was in Tomus’s body. She felt the body coming to a stop in front of the Archmage.
“Remarkable. Are you in there now, Scryer Miguela?” He asked.
“Now listen to me. I need you to focus and try to probe Tomus in the same way you probe an unknown magikal item.”
Miguela did her best to stay calm and focused on probing Tomus. She felt ethereal tendrils tethering him to this plane.
“Once you find the tendrils, I need you to focus Tomus’s ley on each one, using this incantation,” he explained before starting a slow and deliberate chant.
Once she understood the flow of the incarnation, she did as he asked. After a few moments, she felt one of the tendrils give way, then another, followed by the last one. As the final one snapped, she felt a searing pain and felt as if she was caught in the torrent of a raging river as the world went white.
- 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