Excerpt for The Sorcerer's Sword - Part 2 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

This page may contain adult content. If you are under age 18, or you arrived by accident, please do not read further.

The Sorcerer’s Sword – Part 2





















































Jack Cee









































ISBN: 9781370856411

Cover Design by Plumstone Book Covers.

To find out more about the author visit: www.jackceeauthor.wordpress.com

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.







Chapter One



"Shut up! Shut up, all of you! For Spirit's sake!"

Rahin put her hands in front of her ears, although she knew it would not help, to try and shut out the voices screaming in her head. She closed her eyes but could still see the horrors Spirit was showing her. Newborns being smashed against walls. People trying to get away but being slaughtered at every turn. Blood flowing down streets like coursing rivers.

"Oh, please. Please, make it stop."

To try and calm herself down she started to rock back and forth as she sat on the floor of the cave. Why was Spirit showing her all this? Had it not tortured her enough?

"What do you want from me?!" She shrieked in exasperation at the ceiling, at the walls, at nothing.

All she got for an answer was the echo of her own voice.

Number One, her dear sand dragon, came and lay down beside her. She lay down next to him as she was so exhausted she could barely stand to sit upright. He licked her face with his slimy, sticky tongue and eased somewhat the pain of the burning fever plaguing her.

Sighing, Rahin asked herself why she still bothered to try and scare the visions away. She knew that she could not escape them, no matter how hard she tried. Spirit wanted her to see what it wanted her to see and she had no choice in the matter.

The visions persisted until sundown, when Spirit apparently decided that she deserved some rest and made them go away. Rahin thought briefly that she should eat something as she hadn't done so in days but the exhaustion took over before she could find the strength to rise from the cave floor. She fell asleep as the last rays of the sun disappeared over the tree tops.

Number One woke her up the next morning by rubbing his head against hers. She felt a calmness as she awoke that she knew only Spirit could give and she received an instruction: to open her father's notebook and read his second vision.

It had been three winters since she had come to this cave but Spirit had told her for all this time to stay away from the book, that she was not yet ready to learn the rest of what was written in it. Now the moment had come. She opened the notebook and began to read out loud:

"Shortly after my beloved wife had passed, killed by vicious criminals, I decided to acquire a sword for my own and my child's protection. I gathered some money I had saved and made my way to the marketplace. But as I arrived, Spirit told me to turn around and go into the desert. That there was something there which I needed to see. So, I obeyed and walked out of the city.

The weather was still at first but as I went further into the sandy dunes a wind began to blow. Softly, initially, but then harder. Soon, a violent sandstorm was raging all around me. I hid my face inside of my turban and prayed to Spirit to not let me be buried alive by the sand.

Suddenly, I felt cold. Not just the kind of cold you feel further north when you forget to put your coat on before going outside. No, this was the most ravaging, icy cold I have ever felt. I began to shake so violently that I fell to my knees and when I looked up I saw that it was no longer sand blowing around me but snow.

The blizzard was so thick that I could not see where I was so I began to panic. I tried to run but could not move fast because the snow went up to my knees and the wind sent me one step back for every two steps I took.

I cried out, asking if there was anyone here, but got no response. So, I continued until I saw a figure further away. I asked it for help and it came slowly closer. When it was just a few steps away from me, I saw that the it was not walking but hovering above the ground. It was wearing a strange blank silver mask with no features and black and silver robes which blew menacingly upwards in the wind like the wings of a gigantic bat.

The figure began to chase me. I tried again to run but fell head first in the snow, pushed downwards by the furious wind. Quickly I turned on my back, only to see the mysterious being hovering right above me.

I heard someone, a child, calling my name and looked in the direction from which I had heard it. A group of boys were playing, kicking a boll between them in the snow. One of them was Ezlen, my closest and dearest friend and in this vision he was still a child. He pointed to something behind me and said:

“The sword! The sword will destroy the evil one!”

I turned my head and saw that there was a sword in the snow, its hilt just sticking up above the surface. With the little energy I had left, I crawled as fast as I could and grabbed it. In the same moment, I felt the evil one’s skeleton fingers around my throat. He squeezed them into my flesh and blood began to drip, tainting the white snow below me.

I prayed to Spirit to give me strength and I hit backwards with the sword. A scream was heard and when I turned around I saw that the one Ezlen had called evil fell apart as dust which blew away in the wind.

Relieved, I sat up in the snow and took a deep breath. I closed my eyes and when I opened them gain I saw that I was back in the desert. Looking down, I saw that there was no snow anywhere on me and when I touched my neck the wounds were gone.

But the sword was still in my hand. I noticed that it was a finely decorated weapon with complex patterns on the grip and fuller. The pommel was shaped liked a crown and golden. The cross-guard was golden as well and had precious stones embedded in it, two smaller one on each side and a large one in the middle. Underneath the larger gem were two golden dragons, facing in opposite directions but their tails intertwined.

I thought that I was still inside of the vision as I had no weapon with me when I wandered into the desert and I had never seen this sword before. It was then that Spirit gave me knowledge, as it does with a deep feeling of peace. It told me that this sword was in fact real and of crucial importance. That it was the only weapon that could overpower a great coming evil. What that evil was or where the sword came from, I would not get to know. This knowledge was for others who would come after me. My purpose was to keep and guard the sword until my last day, when another would take it into their possession and bring it to its destiny."

Rahin put the notebook down and felt not quite surprised by what she had read. She had suspected that there was something special about the sword ever since she had seen in her vision what it had done in Djeen's hand. Then there was also what had happened by the pond when she had tried a spell on it but it had burned her, permanently scarring the inside of her right hand. It had been as if the sword itself had refused to be used by her in this manner. As if it had been waiting for someone else.

Wherever the sword was now it was probably with Djeen. Rahin did not know exactly where he was but she had seen visions of him wandering in the mountains of the North. In time, Spirit would guide her to him.

She stood up from the cave floor and got out of her clothing, a gorgeous yellow and gold dress she had bought in a village near Ily after having been released from the prison. Outside, the sun was shining over the new morning and the fresh forest air gave her new life. She took a deep breath and dived into the lake.

The water was a clear as the blue sky above and she could see without trouble the rainbow coloured fish swimming all around her. Bright green algae danced in the current, caressing her body as she swam by.

On a rock by the waterfall, she found the toiletries she had left there the day before. When she grabbed a bottle of scented oil, Spirit gave her a message; as it does without words.

She was now free, it told her. This very day she would be allowed to leave this place. After three winters spent in this forest, she was ready at last to carry out the mission that had been given her.

Rahin took a bar of soap and a razor knife. She proceeded to shave herself. Her arms, legs, stomach; all over. When she was done she looked up the tree tops and the waterfall, gazed over the lake and the soft grass surrounding it.

She took in this place which had been her home, and her prison, for three whole winters and she grabbed her long black hair. Cut off a chunk of it, about half, and let it fall into the water.

Finding the feeling strangely liberating she kept cutting off more, until the length was about the size of her thumb. She massaged some soap into her remaining hair and shaved it all off. Slowly and gently, to savour the symbolic moment when she cleansed herself; released the past and started anew.

When she was finished, she dived into the water to wash off the hairs that had stuck to her body. She swam until she felt clean and sat down by the shore. A warm breeze blew from the north, from the direction in which she would travel.

Somewhere up north, in the wild mountains, was Djeen. Now she just needed to find him. And guide him to his destiny.





*

"Master! Master!"

Viktr awoke to the sound of his servant calling for him and knocking loudly on the door. He stood up, still half-asleep, from his bed and began to change from his nightshirt to his regular clothing: a white and bronze doctor's robe.

"The Republican Guard is here," he heard the servant say from the other side of the door. "They say it's urgent."

"Tell them I'll be right out."

Viktr took his bag of medicines and tools from off his desk and hurried out into the hallway. Two republican guards were waiting for him.

"Your presence is requested in The Golden Village, doctor. There... has been another one."

The soldier needed to explain no further. Viktr followed them outside, where a chariot was waiting for him.

They arrive soon at The Gold Gate as Viktr's villa was located near it. As a simple doctor, he was not considered worthy enough to live in the Village itself but the senators appreciated his services enough that they still wanted him to be close by.

The chariot stopped in front of senator Lonz's residence. Bazk, leader of the Republican Guard, was waiting for Viktr by the gate.

"Doctor! Glad you could make it so quickly. Although, I wish it was under different circumstances."

"As do I. I have been told that there has been another one."

"Yes", Bazk said and nodded. "But I feel I need to warn you: this one is... different. Follow me."

The silence inside the house was eerie. Not even a whisper was heard as they walked down the hall and into the dining room. There, they were met by a truly bizarre sight.

Senator Lonz, his wife and their two children were sitting around the dinner table. Face down into their bowls of soup. Freshly picked white hibiscus flowers were strewn all over and around the table and the dead.

Truly, this one was different. In the previous four white hibiscus murders, only the senator himself had been murdered and not his family. There had also been only one flower left at the scene; on or close to the body. But tonight's murders were similar in the regard that a strong, fast acting poison had been used.

Viktr walked slowly around the table. Took in the scene, made a mental note of every detail. He felt an ache in his heart when he looked at the two children, both of who he had helped deliver. As a doctor, he witnessed the circle of life and death on a daily basis. But there was nothing natural about dead children fallen face first into a bowl of tomato soup. It was such an abomination, such a crime against everything pure and true.

He put on his thick leather gloves and turned to Bazk.

"May I...?"

"Yes. Of course, Doctor. Do whatever you need."

Viktr moved the body of the senator, sitting him up in his chair. Which was trickier than it looked due to the stiffness of the corpse. With a napkin, he wiped the cold tomato soup from the senator’s face and began examining him. He noticed the colour of the lips, the bleeding under the nose. And, as he parted the eyelids, the greenish discolouring in the white of the eyes.

"What are you doing with my brother?!"

A man had entered the room. From his clothing Viktr could tell that he was someone of the upper class but not a senator. With a face distorted by tears and anger, he rushed towards him. Bazk, both to stop him and calm him down, put a firm hand on the man's shoulder.

"It's okay. He's a doctor. He is helping us determine the cause of death."

The senator's brother simmered down but continued to glare at the doctor with suspicion.

"So?" He asked impatiently.

"Well," Viktr said, "the same poison was used as in the other murders: Zatum leaf poison. If it is of any comfort... It was a very quick death. It was over before they could feel any pain."

The man nodded and dried his tears. He kneeled beside the body of the youngest child, a little girl who had only lived through six winters, and took her cold hand into his own.

"Who could this? What kind of monster?" He asked, sobbing.

Viktr knew not what to say. What could you say in the face of such horror? Did any words even have the power to ease this grieving man's pain? Thankfully, Bazk answered.

"We will find out," he said as he looked with determination over the dining room. "We will find him. I promise you that."





*



The sun was setting over the soft green hills and a much longed-for freshness could finally be felt in the dusky air. The sheep were grazing peacefully, the little lambs pressed closed to their mothers, while the dogs watched over them. No howling from wolves had been heard in days and Yurat felt somewhat confident that they would not be bothered by them tonight. A lone mountain panther might still try to take its chance to steal away a sheep from the heard. But the dogs would probably smell and chase away any intruder away before it had any opportunity to do any harm.

After having completed his daily count of the herd and finding to his satisfaction that no sheep were missing, Yurat walked up to the tent at the foot of a small hill. He opened the fly sheet and crawled down next to Tomeer, greeting him with a kiss on his hairy butt cheek.

"Hi, there," Tomeer said. "I've missed you."

"I was just out counting the sheep."

"I know. I've just been waiting to do... this."

He grabbed Yurat's leather loincloth, pulled it down and kissed his cock. Right then, the barking of dogs was heard.

"Oh, Spirit! Why now? Stay here, I'll take care of it."

Tomeer grabbed his spear and ran out. Leaving his lover alone in the tent with his newfound arousal.

Yurat lay back and closed his eyes to rest an instant after a long day of walking and herding. He opened them again with a jolt when he felt someone lying next to him.

"It's okay. It's me," Tomeer said. "False alarm, out there. Just a small mountain fox, nothing to worry about."

Yurat felt his eyes getting heavier and his cock getting harder again. He wondered which one of his needs would end up winning.

"You want to sleep?" Tomeer asked.

"No, I'm fine. I just..."

He let out a yawn and blushed. Tomeer smiled.

"It's okay. Get some rest," he said and lay down next to him; rubbing his stubbly cheek against Yurat's. "We have all the time in the world."





*



Viktr had always enjoyed Ily's book market. Loving both reading and knowledge, he loved few places more than this one. But as he walked today among the stands, he felt a certain sadness over the loss of what this place once had been.

Before the Justice Party had succeeded in their plan to pass a law to tax all books sells, this market had been something truly different. From best-selling authors to the wisest philosophers in the Republic to small children selling short stories written on cheap sheets clumsily tied together with string, all had been free to share a wide range of works and ideas. After the tax had been passed, many sellers had disappeared. Mostly people from the poorest classes who could not afford to pay it and still make a profit.

Another, in Viktr's eyes far more sinister, consequence of this tax was that the state now had control over who got to sell at the market. Only those deemed to have ideas and works worth spreading were given a license. Those considered to have opinions harmful, that is to say contrary, to the beliefs and values the state wanted the public to hear had to now take their business elsewhere.

While the tax was originally an idea spawn by the Justice Party, the change had been welcomed by most in the senate. The great book market of Ily had long been, with its free market of unconventional and controversial ideas, an annoyance to the ruling class. And now they had finally found a way to take control of it.

Behind a small wooden table where books and pamphlet about medicine were displayed, Viktr found his old friend Trak. The old man had been one of his teachers at the Academy of Medicine and they had been friends ever since. Nowadays Trak was retired but he would often be selling at the book market to make a little extra money in addition to the meagre pension paid to him by the city.

"Viktr!" He exclaimed when he saw his former student. "How are you doing? And how are the kings of our grand city doing?"

"I am well. And Ily hasn't had kings in a long time, you know. How are you?"

"I am very well. Oh, but our great city has kings! Now they just call themselves senators."

They shared a laugh over their shared disdain for the Ilyian authorities and Viktr sat down on the edge of the table like he would often do when he came by to see his old friend.

"Something seems to be troubling you, Viktr. Do not say no, I can see it in your eyes."

"Yes", he said with a sigh. "You must have heard by now of the recent series of murders in The Golden Village. After each of them I was asked to come in and determine the cause of death."

"Oh, yes I have heard. How tragic. A whole family decimated in the last one. Those poor children!"

Trak shook his head with tears in his eyes. He had always been a deeply emphatic person, which was probably why he had chosen the path of medicine. Viktr felt comforted to know that there still was some compassion in the world.

"Well, there are some things about these murders that the public has not been informed of."

He spoke now in a low voice, to avoid attracting attention. Leaning closer, he whispered:

"Such as... white hibiscus flowers being left near the bodies."

The old doctor sat back in his chair. Frowning and scratching his beard like he often did when thinking.

"Do you know what it means?" He asked.

"No, unfortunately. That's why I came to see you. I don't know anyone who knows as much about plants and botany as you do. I wondered if maybe you had of idea of what it could mean."

Trak rubbed his chin and pondered for a moment.

"Well, the white hibiscus is not a symbol of anything as far as I know. And it has no specific properties that would be relevant to all of this. I can't..."

He stopped, as if he had suddenly thought of something.

"There is one thing but I doubt that it really could have anything to do with these murders."

"Let's see."

Trak brought his chair closer to Viktr. He looked around a bit, making sure that no one was eavesdropping on their conversation.

"Do you remember the story of the great Brock?"

"How could I not?"

The story of Brock, the legendary founder of the Ilyian kingdom, was one of the very first children were thought in school. History told that a long time ago the young and ambitious chief of a small tribe set his mind to conquer as many other tribes as possible and unite them under his rule. He made it his life's work and overtook forty-nine other tribes. Ily was then founded as the capital of his kingdom. The city now called "The Jewel of the World" had then been the first metropolis in history.

"The books speak of him in great extent," Trak said. "But they say very little about his family. Especially his wife. Brock was as known a bachelor for most of his life as he was focused on always conquering new territories and had very little time for such things. When he got older he realised that he would not have an heir to take over his kingdom when he passed away. So, he asked his brother for his daughter’s hand. This was of course at a time when it was still common place to marry one’s relatives. His brother agreed and gave him his youngest daughter, a beautiful young maiden of only sixteen winters. She soon bore him three children: two girls and, most importantly, a boy who would inherit his kingdom. Then Brock reunited with Spirit and his son, Brock the Young, took over as king of Ily. But it is said that his mother always had an interest in Ilyian politics and was a great influence on his rule. Her name, I forgot to mention, was Fayanna. Do you know the meaning of that name?”

Viktr knew only a little Old Ilyian but enough to understand the meaning of fa yanna.

White hibiscus.”





*



Rahin was used to turning heads. Wherever she went the colour of her skin and the way she dressed always attracted people’s attention. And sometimes their malice. It hadn’t been any different as she had travelled northward in the Republic. On the contrary, the further north she went the more people took their time to look at her. With even a few coming up to her to touch her hair or skin, almost as if to check if she was real.

Although lately it hadn’t been Rahin who had caught the most attention but her sand dragon Number One. Such animals were probably a rarity so far up north and judging by people’s reactions it was likely that most of them had never seen one.

Number One did not seem to mind, if he noticed at all. And Rahin felt relieved to not have to be the centre of attention for once. Which she unfortunately often ended up being against her will by simply being who she was.

Among those who were the most curious about Number One were children. In every town and village she had stayed in there was always a group of kids following her around, wanting to ride on her dragon’s back and play with him. She let them most of the time, which made Number One very happy. Sand dragons were mighty beasts capable of breaking a grown man in two with a single bite. But being pack animals they had a natural instinct to protect youngsters and never hurt children.

Quite the opposite, the dragons’ worst fury was usually reserved for those who did harm to little ones. Something the man Number One had cornered against the wall of the Village House had apparently not been aware of. Having beaten a boy for stealing a cabbage from his stand, he had triggered the protective instincts of the dragon and would soon, unless Rahin stepped in quickly, be his next meal.

“Number One! Stop this immediately! Don’t make me tell you twice!”

She hurried among the merchants' stands and squeezed herself past the crowd gathered around the scene. Number One was still closing in on the poor man. Drool dropping from his scaly grin and unto the dirt floor. Rahin put herself between him and his intended victim.

"I said: stop this at once! Stop! Out!"

She pointed towards the entrance and stomped her foot furiously to get her point across. The dragon shook his head, let out a disappointed grunt and obeyed her order. Avoided to look into her angry eyes before he made his way through the terrified crowd who jumped aside at his passing by.

"I'm so sorry," she turned around and said to the merchant. "Are you okay?"

The man stared at her with eyes wide open, mumbling something in a local dialect she did not understand. A woman ran out of the crowd and took him in her arms but he still shook like a leaf. His face was as pale as snow.

"Oh, father! I was so frightened!"

The woman gave Rahin a furious stare and when the sorceress looked around she saw that so was everyone else. From the elderly ladies with their canes to the little children in their mothers' arms. All saw her with disdain.

A man came towards her. From his long beard decorated with the finest jewellery as well as his elegant clothing, Rahin concluded that he was someone of authority in the village. Perhaps even its leader.

“I think it is best,” he said, “that you leave this place. It has become quite obvious that you do not belong he…”

“They’re coming! They’re coming! Hurry!”

Children shouting outside. The people’s faces, who had just a moment ago stared at her with anger, now lightened up and cheers and laughter filled the Village House. All ran out to greet whatever it was they had been celebrating and waiting for all day. Only Rahin and the bearded man were left behind.

Young man,” he said and Rahin felt her body cringing at being called that. “As I was saying: it is best for you to leave our town. I want to see you on your way as soon as the travel road is opened again. And for Spirit’s sake, keep that vicious beast of yours from my people!”

He gave her a last angry look and hurried out after the others. Leaving her alone among the stands with a familiar aching pain in her chest. She sat down, leaning against the dry stacked stone wall, and sighed. Both out of relief and disappointment over having find yet another place where she was not wanted.

Familiar heavy steps echoed between the walls and Number One approached her. His head hanging down in shame, his eyes looking up at her with a begging. He was like a sad dog that just got caught defecating on the carpet and Rahin could not resist patting his big scaly head when he rubbed it against hers.

I’m very disappointed in you, One. You really scared that poor man.”

He made a sad grunt and looked up at her with his puppy eyes as if to apologize. She hated how he always found a way to pull at her heartstring.

“Fine,” she said. “I forgive you. But you better not do it again!”

She stood up, grabbed Number One’s leather collar and walked back to the tavern where she had spent the night. The streets outside were empty. All the clowns and musicians were gone and the sellers’ stands abandoned. Laughs and singing were still heard as an almost ghastly echo coming from the main road.

Rahin left Number One down in the stables and went up to her room. She made herself a cup of calming herbal tea to sooth her anxious nerves and sat down by the window, staring down at the road outside to see what all the fuss was about.

Coming down from the hills and passing through the town was what seemed like a never-ending stream of sheep and goats. On the sides of the road were the townspeople, dancing and cheering as the animals passed by. Some loosely clad women were rhythmically shaking their feet and wrists on which were many small shiny bells. Others were banging what looked like small tambourines against each other. The music, loud and unharmonious, ringed all the way up to Rahin’s room and ever more so as she opened the greasy windows to get a better look of the spectacle.

Strange colourful clouds rose up and as she looked down again she saw that the people had now started to throw colourful dust at the animals. Purple, orange, yellow, pink and blue and all other colours of the rainbow covered the beasts and all the people around. Some more orderly chants than had been heard before rose up with the clouds of powder and Rahin thought they sounded like some sort of blessings or prayers. Probably some superstitious pleadings to a local god or spirit.

Rahin shook her head, out of exasperation rather than contempt, at their ignorance. She saw a group of children throwing powder over their heads and dancing in it as it rained back over them. With eyes closed and innocent smiles on their angelic faces as they twirled and twirled in the bright colourful mist. They looked like the very manifestation of happiness itself. Ignorance did bring on more joy than wisdom ever could.

A little further behind them she noticed two young shepherds about her own age. One was tall and handsome and quite like the typical northern tribesman: hairy, rough-looking and with a thick blond beard.

The other one she recognized immediately although he looked quite different from the last time she had seen him. His hair was now dyed black, his musculature much less impressive and well-defined as it had once been. His face was scrawnier than it used to be and gone was the cocky, confident expression that had once been there. But she would have recognized anywhere those piercing eyes. They always sent a cold shiver down her spine.



Chapter Two





Viktr entered the city library in the early morning when it was still dark and only the faintest orange light could be seen in the horizon. He knew that he would most likely be alone in the building at this time of day and it was exactly what he wanted. Already during his time at the Academy he had learned that few companions were more valuable to a devoted student than silence and solitude and few places offered so much of these as the grand library of Ily.

He picked a table in a corner of the main reading hall and took a moment to close his eyes and breathe in the smell of the millions upon millions of books all around him. This particular scent, so familiar but always exciting awoke many memories in him. So many adventures he had lost himself into in this place. So much ancient knowledge and wisdom he had learned about, lapping it up like a desert beast thirsting for cold water. Truly, the grand library of Ily was to him the most precious gem in this The Jewel of the World.

Rubbing his hands with anticipation, he got up and walked into the Archives. Situated in the next room just a few steps away, it was one of the largest ones in the building and contained almost half a million documents in hundreds of filing cabinets reaching all the way up to the ceiling. He consulted the list of topics he had written down, moved one of the sliding ladders and began to climb.

The first document he found in a drawer at the very top, so close to the ceiling he had to bend forward to not hit his head. It was a simple sheet of paper on which was written as the title the topic of “white hibiscus”. Underneath was a long list of every book relevant to it with references to specific tomes and pages.

“Can I help you?”

The voice, coming seemingly out of nowhere, took him by such surprise that his foot slipped from the rung and he almost fell off the ladder which started to roll slowly on the tracks. In panic, he grabbed the stiles and screamed. His feet hanging desperately in the void.

“Oh, Spirit!” He heard the voice exclaim. “Hold on!”

Vikt felt the ladder stop. He put his feet cautiously one after the other back on the rung and dared for an instant to look down. A woman was looking up at him with deep green eyes and a look of concern on her face. From her red and brown satin dress the same colour as the walls, he could see that she was one of the librarians. Her wavy dark hair fell over her shoulders in gorgeous locks and she herself was of uncommon beauty. Her high cheekbones and voluptuous red-painted lips making him forget for a moment that he had just almost dropped to the hard marble floor of the Archives.

He reluctantly took his eyes of her and climbed down. Once he felt the comfort of ground under his feet he looked at the woman again and saw that she was unusually tall, about a head or two more than the average man.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to startle you. Are you okay?”

“Yes. I’ll… I’ll be okay.”

He nodded shyly and felt his cheeks turning red. He tried to think of something more to say but the air seemed to get stuck in his throat when he saw her lovely smile.

Wonderful! I’m Tharasza.”

“Viktr.”

Tharasza went down on her knees and Viktr had to swallow hard and look away to distract himself from the inappropriate thoughts suddenly flooding his mind. She stood up again with in her hand a piece of paper which she gave to him.

"So... Botany."

"Botany?" He asked, confused, and looked down at the paper.

It was the one he had just dropped when he had almost fallen.

"Oh, yes! Botany. Flowers and... such. I'm redecorating my garden. White hibiscus flowers. Yes, gonna have that in my garden."

He bit the inside of his lips and cursed himself for turning into such a rambling idiot every time a beautiful woman payed him any attention. But Tharasza didn't seem to mind. She smiled like she found his clumsiness endearing.

"Well, just let me know if you have any questions. I happen to know a thing or two about plants. Gardening is sort of one of my hobbies."

"Great! I'll make sure of it."

He gave her an awkward smile which she answered with a shy simper and a blushing of her cheeks.

"See you around."

Viktr spent the next four days as in a trance. He would come in early in the morning to the library and not leave until late in the evening long after the sun had gone down. During the day his eyes were off the pages only when he took a moment to eat, visit a latrine or search for the next book in the massive oak shelves. Not since his days as a young Academy student had he been so consumed by a subject but the questions burned in him and he knew that he would find no rest until he had found the answers he was looking for.

What he did found was not much. The history books on Brock The Great spoke very little about his wife, when they did at all. Most did not even include her name, mentioning only that she was his brother's daughter. Two of the books of the seventy-three he researched claimed that Fayanna took an active interest in politics, her ideology leaning more towards what today would fall into the beliefs of the Justice Party. But since these books were newer and the older ones did not make this claim, he deemed it to be less credible.

By the end of the fourth day his eyes were weary of reading and his back aching from sitting. He decided to take a few days off from his endeavour. Perhaps taking a step back would allow him to see things more clearly.

Before he left, as he was putting his coat back on to go outside, Tharasza passed the table where he was sitting and put something in front of him. Viktr picked it up and saw that it was a package wrapped in brown paper and with a note glued to it which said: "Open at home." He looked up and searched for Tharasza but she was gone.

Well at home, he ordered his servants to go to bed for the night and to bother him only in case of emergency. Then he poured himself a nightcap, opened the window to let in some fresh night air and sat down by his desk.

He carefully unwrapped the package, finding inside of it a book. A newer one by the looks of it. Or at least newer compared to most of the books in the library. It was printed on poor quality paper and with blue ink which looked just as cheap. It was slim, he approximated it to be about fifty pages, and the cover gave no clue to who had written it. But he almost choked on his drink when he saw the title: The Secret of the White Hibiscus.





*



In the darkness of a back alley by the tavern, Rahin stood. She had put on a long black dress and covered her head with a shawl just as black, to make herself less visible to curious eyes. For most of the night she had waited patiently for him to come outside and was beginning to feel restless and wondering if maybe she should give up and go back to her room when the wooden door of the dirty drinking joint suddenly opened.

Expecting to see another drunkard staggering out unto the paved street, she was surprised to see that it actually was the man she had been waiting for. He leaned on the wall of the tavern and took a pipe out of his vest. With a small piece of flint and steel he lighted it and smoke rose up, carrying with it the bitter odour of the intoxicating herbs all the way to Rahin's nostrils.

She kept observing the man and saw how he took the first deep breath of fume and closed his eyes. The drug seemed to have effect right away, the muscles in his face and body relaxing as the smoke found its way down his lungs. Rahin noticed how pale he looked in the light of the oil lamp hanging from the eaves. White like death, as her father would have said.

After a short moment of hesitation she took a step out of the darkness and into the light. She stood now so close to him that she could smell the faint odour of his sweat over that of the drug and see in his eyes when he opened them the dancing reflection of the flame from the oil lamp. He jumped back when he noticed her and instinctively put a hand on the small knife hanging from his belt.

"Piss off, mate! I don't got any money!"

Rahin put up her hands to show that she meant no harm and took another step towards the light.

"I don't want any money."

Her words did nothing to reassure him. He had recognized her and his face turned red from anger. And something that looked a lot like shame.

"You've come to kill me?"

"Kill you? Spirit, no! Why would I want to do that?"

He let out a confused laugh and stepped towards her, whispering:

"I'm The Fire Demon Who Killed A Thousand Warriors In One Battle, remember? Half the Republic wants my head on a spike."

Djeen stepped back and threw up his arms. Rahin could see tears glimmering in his eyes.

"Well, knock yourself out! Fucking kill me if you can! See if you can figure out something I haven't!"

She put her hands up again and let him know once more that she had no desire to end his life.

"I just want my sword back."

He seemed to calm down for a moment but kept fixing her with his eyes, as blue in the dim light as the seas of ice of the northern mountains on winter nights.

"I don't have it anymore," he said. "I threw it in a lake after what happened back in Ily. Look, I'm sorry I stole your weapon but it's probably turned to rust by now."

"No," she said confidently. "It hasn't. Not this sword. It's special. But you probably know that already."

Djeen cocked his head to the side like a hungry wolf studying a prey before the kill. It made her blood freeze.

"What do you mean?" He asked.

"Djeen, what you did back in Ily when the fire took you over... You already had such powers. I know it. I have seen visions of you, of the past. But what you did in the capital, that happened because of the sword. It connects to you, to the Spirit energy inside of you. It makes you stronger."

He shook his head, rubbed his temple as if her words were physically painful to him.

"Then that sword is evil. We're all better off without it."

"I'm afraid not."

Rahin tried to find the right words, to speak in a way that would ease the distress she could sense in his being. Finding no such words, she figured it would be best to let him know the truth as soon as possible. She put a hand on his shoulder, looked into his eyes and said with her softest voice:

"They are coming. The undead ones, the risen corpses. I have seen them. They are coming from beyond the mountains."





*



A new day was dawning over the horizon. Thin summer snow was spread over the soft grass of the plain like fine flour fallen from the sky and The Beloved One found his thoughts once more drifting to where they should not be.

He had seen some days ago a group of people grazing like oxen outside a nearby village. Driven insane by hunger and desperation, they had thrown themselves at the first chewable thing they could find.

He had found the spectacle deeply disturbing but since there was no passage in The Perfect Book forbidding the eating of grass, he had realized that it was a wrongful feeling driven by a compassion that should not be. The Mighty had made perfectly clear and simple in His Word that whenever the people lacked food it was because of their own wrong, a punishment for spitting in the face of The Perfect One with their disgusting imperfection. Whenever a man suffered, it was the will of The Mighty. All things lay in his hands.

Still, The Beloved One could not shake off the feeling that something was just not right with the way things were in the land. He had suffered from these wrongful thoughts for a long time. Already as a child they had plagued him and tried to hurt his faith in The Mighty. But they had gotten worse lately.

Ever since The Mighty had introduced the Redeemed to the people, ever since he had seen these repulsive beings and felt their putrid stench in his nostrils, he had been fighting day and night against himself. He could not allow himself to think that what his God did could be wrong or that He could ever not be good. The Mighty knew all things, saw all things, and would surely know of his budding apostasy. Then his head would roll. And what worse was: he would deserve it.

The Beloved One looked up at the flat roof of the temple and forced himself to stare at the Redeemed standing guard above it. He reminded himself that this was the will of The Mighty and that it must therefore be good. No matter if the parts used to make these creatures had once belonged to humans like him. Humans who had laughed and loved and had been loved. Humans who had been someone’s sister, mother, father or brother. The Mighty had decided this to be good and it therefore was. Because he was God and only God could judge of what was true and pure.

One of the Redeemed lifted its rotten finger towards the north and when The Beloved One saw what was approaching he hurried back into the temple. About one hundred and fifty Beloved Ones from all over the land were gathered in the main hall and waiting with both anticipation and fear.

"He will soon be here. Bow down your heads in shame for none is worthy of His Perfection. Follow me."

He led the march outside and following by example fell to his knees, face first in the dirt. He started the chants and his brothers followed him in the rehearsed verses.

"No one is greater! No one greater than our God! Mighty and exalted He is all over the world! Praise be He! Praised be He!"

When The Mighty's procession was close enough that The Beloved Ones could feel its steps shaking the ground they began a new song:

"We are but filth! We are but filth! Not worthy of your forgiveness are we!"

To illustrate their words and as was customary with this particular chant, they rubbed their faces unto the group. Took handfuls of wet soil and smeared it into their hair.

The sounds of the steps ended and by the intensity of the stench, one could understand that The Mighty and his undead warriors were just in front of them. But none of The Beloved dared to look up. No one deserved to gaze at God, especially without permission.

"Silence!"

His shout echoed through the plain, resounded with power like you would expect The Divine's voice to. The Beloved Ones immediately turned quiet, knowing full well what would happen to them if they dared disobey.

The Mighty's litter was lowered to the ground and black leather boots as well as the lower part of a black and silver robe passed quickly before the kneeling men's sight. He walked into the open doors of the temple. His steps on the concrete floor loud and repetitive like the drums calling before an execution.

"Rise and come before me!" He exclaimed when he had sat down on the silver throne that had been prepared for him.

The Beloved Ones followed his order, walking into the temple in an orderly line and positioning themselves in exactly fifteen rows of ten men and exactly four steps between each men. Just as they had spent days practising in advance to reach the outmost perfection.

“Gaze upon me!” He ordered and they did.

A long moment followed where he studied them in silence from behind his mask. He looked into their eyes and searched for any signs of doubt or fear. He found it in a few of them but it bothered him very little. Only a short time left and none of them would ever feel such things again.

“You might wonder,” he finally said and rose from his throne, “why I have called you all out here today.”

He made his way down the few steps to where the men were standing and began to walk among the rows. Studying each man, staring him up and down like a war general inspecting his soldiers before battle.

"As you all know, the Day of Redemption is the day all mankind is so desperately waiting for. The day on which we will bring the world the final battle, create a new order and end all suffering. This day is now nearer than it has ever been. But some things need to be taken care of before we can fulfil this mission."

He walked back to his throne, sat down and raised his leather gloved hand.

"Guard! Come before me!"

A young man who looked to be somewhere between sixteen and twenty winters entered the temple. He was wearing the traditional guard uniform: white silk clothing with the words In service to God embroidered in gold on the chest. It was an unusual sight. One rarely saw any guards or soldiers nowadays as most had been replaced with Redeemed Ones.

The man stopped before the silver throne and kneeled before his God. The Mighty nodded in approval and turned his attention once again to The Beloved Ones. He pointed to a random man and asked:

"Dear one, what is according to The Perfect Book the greatest enemy stopping justice and righteousness from flourishing all over the creation?"

Without any hesitation, the man responded.

"Doubt and weakness of faith, oh Mighty One."

"Truly it is," he said and speaking in a voice as if to children, "and from this we can conclude that it is doubt and weak faith that must be abolished in all our soldiers before they can go out into the world and fulfil their mission. How will we do such a thing?"

The Mighty pointed to another Beloved and the man answered with the same certainty as the previous one.

"Put to death any person who dares question you, oh Mighty One, or your Perfect Word."

”Yes, it is a start. That is why I have ordered it in my Perfect Book. But you my Beloved can only know from someone what they dare say out loud. Many doubts and wrongful thoughts remain hidden secrets in the heart of men. Even amongst you.”

He looked over them, seeing in many of their faces the fear his word had struck into them and which they struggled to hide.

“Do not deny it,” he said. “You know I can read into your hearts. But I, in my grand mercy, forgive you. Truly, you are no different than any other men. For I say to you: if I had punished with death every person in this land who has ever been weak in faith, none would have survived. But I forgive greatly for I love you greatly. You, my Beloved and my people.”

The guard was still kneeling before him. He was a young and eager one, fully invested in his faith and his mission. They often were at that age. Unfortunately, as they got older the youthful pride which made them think they had everything figured out slowly weakened until it was no longer there to keep the doubts at bay.

And it is because my love for my people abounds,” The Mighty continued, “that I have decided to end the torment of wrongful thinking within you. In my mercy, I will substitute your spirit with my Spirit and make of us truly one. Oh, my Beloved! Do you not long for it? For all your thoughts to be pure? For all the filth to be cleaned from off of you? For you all to be truly pleasant in my sight? Me, the Father who loves you all so much from the oldest one to the littlest one?”

Some of the Beloved began to tear up. There was even a lower lip or two trembling with emotion. And in all of the men’s faces he saw that rare emotion which he knew meant he had them in the palm of his hand: hope.

“I promise you today, my dearly loved servants, that I will not allow for a single one of you to leave this temple before you have been healed from the perversions plaguing your spirit.”

The Mighty rose from his throne, took the guard by the arm and gently made him stand up on his feet. He turned him around so that they both faced the crowd and continued:

“This young man has been serving me in my Highest Temple and I am deeply pleased with him. He is a man of great faith and great courage. When I brought to my guards a proposition to be part of a magnificent new thing, many felt doubtful and frightened. Men far older than him were weak in their faith and did not come forward. But this man, this wise young fellow, threw himself in from of my throne and gave pledged his very life to me. May ye all have even a tenth of his faith!”

He pushed down on the man’s shoulder, making him kneel beside him.

“And now,” The Mighty proclaimed, “he will be greatly blessed as he will be the very first of all living humans to be given my spirit. In time, all beings will have my life force moving through them. Pray for that day to come soon.”

With a nod, he signalled to the Redeemed standing by the sides to extinguish the torches hanging on the walls of the hall. They obeyed without a thought, putting out the flames by suffocating them with their bare hands. A sickening sweet smell of rotten, burning flesh spread throughout the temple as darkness began to take over. The heavy, dragging sound of the stone doors being closed were heard and the last glimmer of outside light disappeared.

All stood for a moment in the pitch-black dark. Nothing was heard, not even breathing. Then suddenly: a spark. It came and went. Came and went. Pulsating red and purple until it became a small flame.

Underneath it was the gloved hand of The Mighty. Its fingers moving as if dancing to the rhythm of the flickering fire. Behind it, the face of the guard becoming slowly visible in the low glow. His eyes were closed and an expression of serenity could be seen on his youthful face. The paleness of his skin, accentuated by the darkness surrounding it, gave the impression that one could have been looking at a corpse. That is, if it hadn’t been for his breathing, which as it grew stronger took in the flames as if they were but colourful fumes from scented incense.

A barely audible chanting circulated around the room and from its gruntlike mumbling one understood that it was the Redeemed who were singing. If one listened closely one could even hear how they swayed their bodies lightly with the rhythm of their tune, which if it wasn’t for how deeply unsettling it was could have almost put one to sleep like a children’s lullaby.

When the guard had breathed in the last of the flames, his face disappeared into the dark once more and a loud thump was heard. The singing of the Redeemed continued as if nothing had happened.

A bright light. So sudden and blinding that many of the Beloved fell to the ground from the shock. All eyes turned towards the source of the mysterious blue-white light and saw that the guard was now sitting on the steps in front of the throne. His body was erect in an unnatural fashion, as if he was being held up by some invisible strings. His eyes were empty like that of a child’s doll, or a dead man. And from his skin this strange glow emanated, illuminating the whole room better than a hundred torches.

He began to sing. But something felt wrong about the voice. Light and soft, like a child’s or a woman’s, it did not seem to match him.

“Praise be The Mighty. Praise be He, for he has freed me. Free! Free! Born once more! Freed from wrong! Brothers, sing His praise with me!”

With hands oddly limp as if he wasn’t the one guiding them, he began to clap. His head and body swaying like seagrass in a soft stream.

“Sing with me!” He repeated and the Beloved followed in his song.

Filthy, filthy I was. But He has cleansed me, washed me with the waters of His spirit. Praised be He! Praised be He for His mercy!”

The Beloved clapped along and imitated the movements of his body. Their voices rising higher with each word, becoming more and more like that of not many men but of one man.

“Only He can save! Only He can save! May He take pity on us and save us from our filth! May he wash us clean and breathe into us life!”

And all, Redeemed, guard and Beloved, fell to their knees. Bowed down before the throne of their God as their voices rose ever higher until they were nothing but desperate pleadings. Tears streaming down every one of their faces, the Beloved no longer felt any fear or doubt. Only an insufferable longing, a deep desire for their spirits to be taken away and replaced by the most Divine spirit of The Mighty.


Continue reading this ebook at Smashwords.
Download this book for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-31 show above.)