Miguela, Caecilia, and Henna snuffed out the torches and tidied up the room in silence before going to Caecilia’s chambers. The entire time, Miguela was thinking about how she was supposed to tell her friends that the man they worked under murdered Henna’s first and only love in cold blood.
They entered Caecilia’s chambers, and immediately Caecilia went to a small cabinet, producing three half-glasses and a decanter of some amber-colored liquid that Miguela assumed was Arzan whisky. Caecilia poured two fingers of the whisky into each glass and gave one to Henna and then one to Miguela.
Miguela took a swallow of the harsh amber whisky and let the liquor calm her nerves. Once she collected herself, she told her companions about Poe’s memories and how the Archmage had him murdered. Caecilia swallowed her whisky in one gulp when Miguela finished her story and poured herself three fingers to follow it.
“I am so sorry for your loss, Henna. I know this will not make your pain any less, in fact, it will probably make it worse, but you should know that Poe’s final thoughts were of you,” Miguela said, gently taking Henna’s hand.
Henna cried, sobbing in the only way that grief could cause.
After some time, her sobbing subsided, and she looked at Miguela directly.
“Thank you for telling me,” Henna said, scrubbing her eyes with her free hand.
“What should we do?” Caecilia asked.
“If we flee, I think we would be putting the others at the compound at risk, and maybe even the hamlet itself. That is why we will contact the Vestigare and go about our duties until they arrive,” Miguela said.
Caecilia nodded at the suggestion, but Henna looked mortified.
“I understand we will be asking a lot of you, but it is the only way to ensure that monster gets taken down,” Miguela said, patting Henna’s hand.
Henna nodded but still looked uncomfortable with the decision.
Caecilia brought out her writing utensils for Miguela to use, and Miguela penned a message to Koal, explaining the situation and telling Koal to get the Vestigare. She reread what she wrote, and once satisfied, she folded, sealing it with wax.
Miguela walked across the chambers, heading for the door. She gestured for Caecilia to follow. At the door, they spoke in soft voices.
“I will deliver the message. Have Henna stay with you tonight, and I will have her stay with me tomorrow. If she gets an assignment, make an excuse for why she cannot do it,” Miguela said.
“An excuse?” Caecilia asked.
“Yes. Say Henna’s monthly cycle is causing her discomfort,” Miguela answered.
Caecilia nodded at the suggestion.
“That will do. Be careful, Miguela,” Caecilia said, hugging Miguela.
Miguela left her friends and walked the empty halls of the compound. It was late, but she was sure the guards were up, drinking and dicing.
As she approached the guards’ quarters, she could hear laughter and people talking. Miguela peeked into the room and saw guards lounging in a room filled with tobacco smoke on their bunks, drinking wine, chatting, and playing games of chance. She realized that there were fewer guards than she remembered before knocking loudly on the door.
“Is Helix here? I would like to have some words in private,” she announced. Miguela was aware of how this looked, a young woman showing up at the guards’ quarter in the middle of the night, so she leaned into the perception, slurring her voice to appear drunk.
The guards laughed a bit at her request. However, to her surprise, they did not jeer or even make a big deal out of it. Miguela wondered how often this type of thing happened at the Academy.
“Private, you say? Interesting,” a voice said, breaking her from her thoughts.
A young Arzan guard said, striding towards the door from the smokey room. The guard was lean, tall, and walked with the dangerous grace of a skilled swordsman. He had the light-blue skin tone of many of his people and navy blue hair.
“Yes, Helix, come out with me into the hall, so I can show you exactly what I wish to discuss,” she replied boldly.
Miguela waited at the door until she was sure Helix was coming and retreated into the hall.
“So, what would we have to discuss,” Helix said, approaching her confidently.
“Take this to Koal immediately. I cannot stress the importance of delivering this message,” Miguela instructed, pulling the sealed message out and putting it in his hands. The surprised look on his face was priceless, but Miguela did not have time to savor it.
“Take this ducat now, and I will give you another one after confirming you delivered the message,” she said, giving him a ducat.
Helix looked at the message and the ducat. He opened his mouth to say something but quickly closed it. It looked as if the prospect of getting two ducats for a ride to the hamlet defeated whatever issues he had with the assignment.
Miguela smiled before reaching up and mussing his hair.
“Tell them I was too drunk, so you sent me home,” Miguela said, and Helix barked a laugh before nodding.
Miguela returned to her chambers happy with what she set in motion, but she knew that waiting for the Vestigare was the hard part of her plan.
For the next few weeks, Miguela kept herself occupied by taking care of Henna with Caecilia. Henna’s grief seemed to grow by the day. Day after day, she sobbed herself to sleep, barely ate nor spoke, and when she did speak, often it was to blame herself for Poe’s death.
It was Miguela’s turn to have Henna stay with her. This night, Henna ate well but still did not speak much. It was an improvement, so Miguela thought that maybe the healing process was beginning, finally.
Miguela was well into her sleep when what sounded like an explosion woke her. She scrambled out of bed to find a message scrawled on a scrap of parchment. Miguela picked it up and read it.
I am sorry. I cannot wait any longer. I wish I were brave enough to tell you to your face. But I know if I tried, you would have talked me out of what I need to do.
I also must apologize for taking your red steel dagger. I know it is precious to you. Hopefully, knowing that I used it to bring justice to the world will earn your forgiveness. I will use it to cut out the heart of the man who destroyed mine.
Take care, Miguela.
“Henna, what have you done?” Miguela said to herself.
Suddenly, there was the sound of gears turning in the ceiling of her chambers. Many places that deal with alchemical materials or magikal experiments have fire retardant alchemical gel in the ceilings. Miguela learned how to trigger hers in the Academy, but she wondered why it was triggering now.
A glass capsule dropped from the compartment in the ceiling, shattering on impact, splashing a foul-looking purple liquid everywhere. Miguela had seen the fire retardant gel before, and this was not that. She covered her mouth and ran for the door. The noxious fumes of the purple liquid burned her nostrils as she opened the door, tumbling into the hall. Miguela got back to her feet and dashed barefooted down the empty hallways. She ran towards Caecilia’s chambers, hoping that whatever was in their ceilings did not affect Caecilia. Miguela arrived at Caecilia’s locked door and feared for the worst. She began pounding on the door with all of her might, but there was no answer.
“Somehow, I knew you would still be alive. You are very resourceful and bright,” said the familiar voice of Archmage Belvi. He stood at the four-way intersection of the hall and carried two shimmering wands in his hands. Miguela could not take her eyes off the wands, recognizing them for what they were. Normally, wands were single-use enchanted items that had one spell embedded in them. Unless one was actively searching for a standard wand, they did not look or feel special. Miguela could feel the power radiating from the wands that the Archmage was carrying.
“Caecilia is already dead, Miguela. There is nothing to be done for her,” Archmage Belvi said, taking a half-step forward before stopping and looking over his right shoulder. Miguela heard people shouting from the hallway that the Archmage was looking down. Archmage Belvi causally turned to face whoever was coming and raised his wand. It started wailing an inhuman sound before unleashing a fireball the size of a horse-drawn cart down the hallway. The angry shouting turned into screams of terror and pain. That was when Miguela realized the Archmage was carrying fused wands. Fused items embodied the soul of a sentient, living creature in it. She did not know how they were created because they had been outlawed longer by the five separate empires respectively, well before the collation of the Five Kingdoms. Miguela did know truly powerful fused weapons were created with the soul of daemons. She turned on her heel and began sprinting before the Archmage could return his focus on her.
This time, Miguela headed towards the guards’ quarters. She did not know if she could trust them, but it was the only hope she had. Miguela ran to the quarters only to find it a smoldering wreck. Thick black smoke billowed out of the open door, and charred, twisted bodies were lying everywhere. Her last chance was to leave the compound, she turned to run to the main gate, but to her terror, the Archmage was walking down the hall in her direction. Miguela turned around and ran again. She decided to run to the canteen. Maybe she could hide there and buy enough time to think of a plan.
“Why do you run, Miguela? Why do you run from your nature? The gods made you a necromancer, not me,” the Archmage called to her as she ran full speed down the hall. Miguela hid behind the counter where food was displayed when the canteen was open. Miguela initially decided on the spot because it provided her with some cover but did not trap her, but shortly figured it would not matter because she would be dead as soon as he wanted her dead. He wielded too much power with his wands.
Miguela was unsure how long she squatted behind the counter, but suddenly, she felt her ears pop like she was traveling in a windship at high altitudes. The power from his wands was disturbing the pressure of the canteen.
“Miguela, stop this foolishness. Come with me. Together we can make changes that the world has never seen before,” the Archmage called to her from near the canteen entrance.
Miguela saw no other choice but to talk to him. She could at least buy herself more time to think of a way out of this.
“With necromancy?” She called back.
“Yes. I admit I was not forthcoming with my intentions. I did not want any of this to happen regardless of how things ended up,” Archmage Belvi explained.
“That is hard to take at face value, considering all of the people you murdered tonight and who knows how many before tonight,” Miguela said.
“It is true. I have done horrible things to protect myself. I just wanted to show the world that necromancy can do great things. Unfortunately, that dream died tonight with the compound and the scrying project. But perhaps we could join with people of our own kind and make a difference in the new world that is coming,” the Archmage said, his voice sounding closer than before.
“Join the Scourge? Are you mad?”
“And why not? You are the most gifted necromancer I have ever encountered. You might even rival Al-Zon Darkmare.”
Miguela felt sick to her stomach at being compared to the most notorious necromancer of this age.
She slowly stood up. Miguela knew he was getting closer and did not want to be surprised by the madman.
The Archmage had the gall to smile at her warmly as she came into his sight. Miguela also noticed that one wand pointed at her and did not lower it once he realized it was her.
“Go!” A voice yelled from the entrance. The Archmage spun around just in time to see seven men burst in the door. Archmage Belvi wasted no time raising his wand. The wand chattered in gibberish as it fired forks of lightning from one of his wands. One of the seven men had a magikal aura, but it shattered from the power of the spell, hurling him back across the room. Another one of the seven was not lucky enough to have an aura. He screamed in pain as a bolt of lightning seared through his chest, crumpling to the floor like a discarded dishrag.
The Archmage quickly swiveled, raising his other wand. It howled in its inhuman voice and engulfed two other men in a raging ball of flame.
The other three closed in on the Archmage with practiced efficiency. Miguela could look at the three men more closely now they were nearer. One was a Xandran, and the other two were Arzans. The Xandran wielded a Xandran dueling sword and the Arzans longswords. One of the Arzans cast a spell that made it difficult to tell where he was standing, as if light avoided him. The Xandran’s sword flashed a blinding light so powerful that it caused Miguela to trip on her feet and sprawl to the ground. She frantically tried to gather her senses, but all she could see was the residual of the white light that blinded her.
She could hear scuffling and the discharging of the Archmage’s wands, followed by silence. Her vision was starting to come back when she heard a pair of boots stopping in front of her.
“It’s over,” the voice belonging to the boots said.
“You are safe, now.”
The man scooped her off the ground, carrying her away from the madness.
- 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