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The only one whom I actually allowed to have my work on his website is Armaell who invested the time to compile them into pdf.
“An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.”
- The Journey to the Afterlife
***Kingdom Newerth, Capital City***
“...and now we are back.” Marcus finishes his lengthy explanation of what happened during our forced absence. He tried his best to keep it short, but how do you explain in a few words that we landed in another realm and had to find our way back. In addition he had to find a way to explain the wedding bond between us. His mother is a very attentive person and of course she immediately noticed the two matching pieces of jewellery.
Once we are alone, I have to thank Marcus for spinning a slightly less provocative story for his family. One in which he actually had a choice in marrying me, even if it wasn’t according to the customs of his country. Otherwise this could have come across in a slightly offending way. Clarity and Charles could have seen it as an attempt to steal away their heir for all it’s worth.
“I see.” Charles starts pacing left and right. “We started to experiment with… eating spirits… and the result speaks for itself. Seria’s little show was enough to convince me that the matter deserves research. But as you can probably imagine there is a high amount of resistance from everyone who didn’t witness the initial attack. I’ve to deal with a whole society of people who are convinced that turning into a spirit creates a mad, rampaging monster. After the last attack I am of the opinion that we need this power. Though I have to be subtle about introducing it to the public.”
“Yes, about that. What happened after we fell through the portal?” I ask.
Clarity massages her forehead, using enough force to flex the skin and redden it. “It was bad. I ran off to take Caden and Lilith to safety, but the whole city was dissolving into chaos around us. And Caden didn’t want to be taken without his girlfriend. So we had to secure her too. And with that her family. I really have to create more protocols for emergency evacuations. This is becoming a regular activity.”
Good. So Adea is in safety. Though I wonder why Clarity’s first reaction is always to run away and hide her children. It would be funny if her spirit form turns out to be some kind of rabbit.
Charles continues to get us up to date. “It turned out that the spirits infiltrated a large part of the governing body. I am still amazed at how many they got in.” Charles expression turns sour. “I suppose that’s what we get for our blindness. It didn’t even occur to us that someone would put so much effort into taking down the country. We prepared against all sorts of scenarios in which the attack comes from the outside. But none of our security measures was aimed against a third party which was coming from within.”
Marcus shakes his head. “How should you have known. We were looking for traitor within the nobles, but the spirits were using them just as chess pieces. You can’t defend against a force you know nothing about.”
His father lets his shoulders droop. Suddenly he looks much, much older. “I had visions about this. But I wasn’t able to interpret them. Anyway… when you uncovered the secret agents, they activated their plans prematurely. They had hidden explosives all over the palace and the city. In addition they had several groups of turned civilians in private cellars. When they gave the signal, they caused as much chaos and destruction as they could. They even tried to release the prisoners in the basement. Luckily our security measures held. That’s at least one thing they didn’t manage to get their hands on. It took the army hours to restore law and order.”
Marcus looks relieved. “So that means that my brother is still in custody. Have you tried to treat him? Did he regain his sanity?”
The king shakes his head. “We didn’t try that. It was much too early for such experiments and I have a feeling that it wouldn’t help Perseus. He lived with his instincts for a long time. It would be asking too much to have him cured just like that. Of course we will try, but I don’t have my hopes up.”
I nod and study Charles’s expression. It’s clear that there is more to his story than he told. “You said that they activated their plans prematurely. What makes you think that?”
Charles shrugs and walks over to the window. “You said so yourself. They intend to topple this country to create a bridgehead to this realm. They need a base of operations where they can create a safe portal to let their armies through. The attack practically took down the government. The army had to make their own decisions. I am not saying that my generals can’t do their job on their own... but it’s one thing to get your instructions from the legal authorities, and another to see the palace with the government inside being blown to pieces. On top of that the city is attacked by marauding bands of spirits. It has a demoralizing effect at the very least. And it did have that effect. The fact that it took so long to reinstall a working chain of command is proof of that.
“I think that they intended for this attack to go down hand in hand with an invasion. The two of you discovered their plans prematurely and they decided to trigger their part of the operation while they still were able to do so.” Charles ends his explanation by taking a deep breath and letting out sigh.
I scratch my chin and let my attention wander. Marcus and I are standing in the middle of the living room, while Clarity reclaimed her place at the couch. Charles is still studying the scenery outside the window, which looks depressing to say the least.
Caden is trying to comfort his little sister. It’s the first time that I get to see Marcus’s youngest sibling in person. She is still a child of twelve years, but I can already see that she will turn into a spitting image of her mother. It will take just a few more years.
Then a thought strikes me. “Have you found the location where they intended to summon the next portal? They must have one in preparation if your theory is true.”
Charles turns around, furrowing his forehead. “Sadly not, which is a sore point in my theory. We’ve gathered a sizeable part of the DF in the capital. That’s the strange thing about the situation. With that many troops we were able to search the whole city. All we found were their hideouts, but no portal or anything that’s needed to create one.”
Marcus scowls. “But that’s exactly what they want. They want to take out most of the fighting forces within one given area. Have you ever thought about searching the surrounding lands. It’s becoming clear now. They need to establish a bridgehead. But opening a portal and sending troops isn’t enough. An organized military is always able to plan a counter attack to take out the portal. That’s the weakness in their plan. They need to prevent that they are cut off from their realm.
“And they found a way to counteract that weakness. I bet that their plan was to draw all your troops into the capital. Once their terror attack went down, our troops would have been busy with saving civilians. The perfect opportunity to open a portal in a rural area and start sending troops. By the time the army has regained its mobility, they face a force which outnumbers them.”
His assessment of their strategy makes sense. But if he is right, then why hasn’t Charles heard anything about the portal? “Is there a possibility that they managed to inform their homeland of their failure? If not, then the second part of their plan must still be in the workings.”
Charles shakes his head. “I doubt that they haven’t heard about what happened. The terror attack on the capital hit the news right away.”
I grin. “Yes, but if they had opened a portal anywhere close, then your people must have sensed it. So if they haven’t, apart from Zhon’s portal, then their army is still waiting on the other side, without an update regarding the situation. After all we slightly deviated from Zhon’s plans. Maybe they haven’t sent word, since they thought that Zhon got through anyway.”
Marcus’s expression turns to a wicked grin. “And if that’s the case, then we just have to find the place where they prepared the portal. And once we open that with a little preparation of our own, we have a straight gateway to their base of operations. Wherever it is.”
I smile at him, not caring to hide the malicious intent in my expression.