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Friday, January 31, 2014

Preview A Fallen Hero Rises - Chapter One

In the fieldbender guild of Karaj Robat, the Sage closed his eyes in silent prayer. ‘Some things you can’t come back from. Let’s hope this is not one of them.’

His red leather boots stepped quickly over white marble floors as he headed toward  the council chamber. Square columns lined the open-air corridor. A cool breeze from the storm raging outside ruffled his high-collared military cape. It did little to cool his temperament. Acolytes in white robes bowed their heads in respect as he passed. He ignored them all, clenching and unclenching his fists, eyes straight ahead. This was no time to pretend he cared about decorum.

Guards flanked either side of the chamber entrance. They stood at attention, hands resting on the hilts of their swords. Both wore ceremonial armor embroidered with the crest of Karaj Robat: a crow superimposed on a red mountain.

The Sage did not slow down as he approached. One guard held up a hand, blocking his path.

“No entry,” the guard said. “Fieldbenders only.”

The Sage raised one eyebrow and glanced at the other guard.

“Sorry, sir,” the second guard said. “He’s new. Baubi, stop being an idjit. Let him pass.”

The first guard, Baubi, shook his head. “Sorry, Jaymes. I’m not risking my job based on your recommendation. Why would I let this stranger in? I don’t even know his name.”

Jaymes, the second guard, coughed and went pale. “He’s not a stranger. This is the Sage. He’s been a consultant to the fieldbenders since before you were born.”

Baubi tightened his grip on the hilt. “Stop making fun of how young I am. Besides, the Sage is a position, not a name.”

The Sage cleared his throat. “As amusing as you clowns are, I have places to be. I’m expected inside. No one here knows my true name. Names have power. Everyone calls me the Sage. Now are you going to step aside or do I have to push you?”

Baubi started to draw his sword. Jaymes grabbed his arm to stop him.

The Sage’s eyes flashed red with an internal flame.

“Please go in, sir,” Jaymes said. He quickly opened the twin doors to the chamber. As the doors shut behind him, the Sage heard the two guards continue to bicker.

The meeting had already begun. The council chamber was a large, round room. Tall, gilded columns encircled the room. Between the columns, hundreds of fieldbenders spoke to each other in hushed tones. Most were initiates dressed in white robes. Many blinked rapidly while others nervously glanced at the shadows.

‘They look nervous,’ the Sage thought. ‘That’s a good sign. It means they’re taking this seriously.’
He pushed through the crowd to reach the white marble table at the center of the room. Like the chamber, it was round. Seven robed men were already seated around the table. These were the leaders of the guild, the ones who had summoned him to the meeting. Two of the chairs around the table were empty. The Sage sat in one and turned to listen to the debate.

“Eschandel, it’s just not possible.” The speaker, a middle-aged man in green-trimmed silver robes, looked down his nose at a man with slender features in black robes.

“Stop saying that, Sirion.” Eschandel slammed his fist against the table. His ice-blue eyes darted from person to person around the table. “For the third time, it is flamin’ possible because it’s flamin’ happened. Sit there and deny it until the moons fall from the sky. It changes nothing. Last night, fifteen Seers had the same vision. A blaze of light flew through space. It slammed into the dimensional prison. Now there’s a crack in the Void.”

“I think what Sirion is saying is that, perhaps, the Seers are mistaken.” This cool voice came from a white-haired man in sky-blue robes. Though much older than the first two speakers, his eyes were sharp and clear. “We need more than their word before we panic.”

Eschandel took a deep breath. “As I was about to say before Sirion stuck his head in the sand…again…we have more proof. I present Bender Mikhel from DunDegore. His report should shut you up.”

The white-haired man cleared his throat.

“Sorry, Latimer.” Eschandel hung his head and rubbed the back of his neck. “His report should help clarify things.”

The white-haired man, Latimer, smiled and nodded to show his support.

The Sage turned as a new figure stepped forward. Like the majority of the crowd, this man wore the white robes of an initiate; however, his robes were dirty, the hem caked with mud. He had obviously been traveling.

“I’m Mikhel,” the man said. “I can’t speak of the Void directly but my guild has reason to believe it is damaged. It’s the only explanation for what we found. Something fell out of the Void.”

For a moment, there was silence.

Then the room erupted into curses and shouts of disbelief.

Latimer lifted a hand and everyone hushed.

“Please,” Eschandel said, “continue.”

Mikhel wiped sweat from the edge of his neck as he looked around the room. “I’m part of the research team from DunDegore. As you know, we’ve explored the ruins for decades. The old Behersker city goes down for miles. We’ve only uncovered the first 50 levels. Usually we find trinkets – tools, dishware, data disks. Yesterday we found something else.”

“Spit it out already,” Sirion said. “We don’t need an archeology lesson.”

“Yes, sir.” Mikhel’s ears turned red. He glanced at Latimer but, unable to look the leader of the guild in the eye, he focused on Eschandel. “We found a sword. At first, we assumed it was a sculpture, perhaps part of a statue we had yet to discover. No one’s ever found a Behersker weapon. There’s considerable doubt they actually had conventional weapons. But it proved to be anything but ornamental. The blade was translucent yet harder than any metal, even darkstone. The hilt was opaque and appeared to be crafted from onyx. It’s also impervious to damage. We tested it against fire, electricity, acid and blunt force. No effect. When we tested its reaction to fieldbending we began to realize exactly what we’d found. It seemed to eat every spell we threw it at. The archeologists asked me to examine the sword because of my area of expertise. Starfall.”

“By the Oak.” Latimer covered his mouth with trembling fingers, eyes no longer clear. He glanced at Eschandel. The younger fieldbender nodded and closed his eyes.

“From the look on your face, sir, I see you understand.” This time Mikhel was able to look Latimer in the eyes. “The sword has inscriptions visible only when exposed to Akashic energy. The script wasn’t Behersker. It was Sirian. The sword has a name.”

“The Sword of Kassandra,” Latimer said.

Mikhel nodded.

The room became deadly silent as if everyone had forgotten how to breathe.

Sirion shook his head. “Preposterous. The Sword of Kassandra is locked in the Void.”

“Correction,” Eschandel said. “It was locked away. It’s not anymore. If you want more evidence let me introduce you to Leinda Farthing. She’s our ambassador to the geognosts. She studied with Defksquar some years ago, which makes her the best expert available. I’ll let her explain why she’s here.”

A woman dressed in deer-hide pantaloons and an unbleached tunic stepped out from the crowd. Her long brown hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail. A tribal tattoo decorated the length of her neck: a dragon.

“The head of my guild sent me here to deliver a warning,” she said. “I’m sure you all know we specialize in manipulations of foramen and the magnetic subweb of our planet. We are highly attuned to inter-dimensional activity. Two days ago there was activity like we’ve never felt before. After hours of investigation we discovered the cause. Something came into our world. Think of it like a meteor that smashed through the walls of our dimension instead of crashing down through our atmosphere. Whatever it was, wherever it came from, it didn’t close the portal it created. As long as it remains open, other things may enter our world.”

“And what say you, Sage?” Latimer stared down at his hands.

The Sage cleared his throat. “I say Sirion needs female companionship more regularly. There is nothing more annoying than someone who claims to be a skeptic but is truly a fascist. Whatever happened, I felt it too. Two days ago. It was similar to the opening of a foramen but more…raw. Dangerous. I have no idea what caused it and, as you know, I despise not knowing. We all knew there was a possibility the Void wouldn’t hold forever. If there is any chance it’s compromised we have to alert the Great Castles. You should send envoys to the Valgt’til and the Redgraves.”

“I tend to agree.” Latimer placed his hands, palm down, on the table. “At worst, we appear over-prepared for battle. But if we say nothing and there is a crack in the Void, well, we can’t take that risk.”

Sirion grumbled. “I’ll have you know I get female companionship regularly.”

Eschandel chuckled, a wide grin on his face.

“Hardly the most pressing issue at hand,” Latimer said. “Sirion, I’ll send you back to DunDegore with our friend Mikhel. Help verify it’s truly the Sword of Kassandra. Your skepticism will come in handy. If it is, we need to safeguard it. Something that powerful in the wrong hands could be disastrous.”

“You mean the Quadumvirate, I suppose.”

Latimer stood and looked around the crowd. “We need to move quickly but keep this quiet. By any oath you hold sacred, this news cannot leave this room. Trust no one. The Quadumvirate has spies everywhere. I’ll head to Castle Grygar myself. Eschandel, I’ll leave you in charge in my absence.” He turned to a middle-aged man in red robes, “Bahrza, I’ll send you to Castle Redgrave. Your connections in the court will get us a quick audience with the royal family.”

The Sage raised his hand before speaking. “It would probably be in our best interest to notify the Nizarians as well.”

Latimer nodded. “That’s assuming they’re not behind this. Gods only know what that race is capable of. I have someone I trust who will deliver the message. From this moment on, be on alert. The Sword of Kassandra may be the least of our worries. There are far worse things imprisoned in the Void. If it’s cracked, Dispayre could break free.”

The Sage bit his inner cheek. “And that means war.”

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