The Carrier – Episode Six
Copyright 2015 Willan Ellis
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Cover Art: Chris Bro
A Message from me,
We are nearing the end of the first volume of The Carrier Chronicles. I hope you are still enjoying the story and adventures of Teanne, Jacob and Iszalie. I have to send a huge thank you and a Virtual hug for your continuing support, especially since I make you wait months sometimes for the next instalment.
You won’t have to wait long for Episode 7, as I am finishing it off now and will release it soon, and then toward the end of this year, I will combine all the episodes into one volume and offer it exclusively to you for free, before I send it out to other audiences.
Thank you again,
All my love
Aelia – Morning
Jacob jumped from his caravan and stretched his body. It had been a week since he had returned to the plains. He had been busy, with Iszalie. He smiled at the thought of her.
‘Good morning Commander.’ Jacob looked over as Sister Nai
approached and smiled,
‘Good Morning Sister, how be you?’ The Sister smiled and nodded her head, ‘Are you ready for the gathering today?’ Jacob grimaced and scratched his chin, urging the Sister to continue, she sighed, ‘the gathering with the Sisters to appoint a new Head Elder Elite. We agreed it was time.’ Jacob lowered his eyes, he had forgotten,
‘Of course Sister Nai. What time would you like to meet?’ Sister Nai grunted her disapproval as she moved passed Jacob
‘The young of today are so preoccupied with their own lives. Mother help us.’ Jacob sheepishly smiled and extended his hand to the older woman,
‘Come Sister, let me escort you.’
Jacob looked around the plains at the make-shift camp and the Luia people going about their daily chores; everything was settling into a routine and becoming so normal. Even the gates of the great wall of Aelia were no longer guarded as both peoples happily mixed. As Sister Nai and he approached the centre of the plains, Jacob saw the remaining Sisters had already gathered. He caught the eye of Alliva and quickly looked away; he could feel her gaze following him as he walked on. He quickened his pace when he spotted Chev. Daon was directly behind her – he had become her constant companion since she had fallen ill. A pleasing side to the Prince’s personality, Jacob had to admit. Chev smiled as he approached, ‘Jacob, how be you?’
‘I’m well, and it’s good to see you up and about.’ Chev motioned him to sit next to her. Jacob smiled at Daon, who simply nodded his head,
‘So the rebuilding of Luia begins.’ Jacob looked at Chev, she seemed angry.
‘We need to start sometime Chev.’
‘I know Jacob, but it seems too soon… for a lot of things.’ Jacob wondered if there was more to her mood. He patted her lightly on the arm and looked toward Sister Nai, who had taken a seat opposite. She motioned Jacob to begin. He grimaced, and stood, lifting his hand in the air to settle the crowd. Clearing his throat he began.
‘Thank you all for coming here today.’ Jacob waited until the crowd settled.
‘People of Luia, and distinguished guests from Aelia’ Jacob looked at Daon, who smirked ‘it has been many a month since we left our home’ he paused to emphasise the word home ‘today however is a day for celebration. We have struggled, and we have lost much. But nothing can stop us from moving forward.’ A cheer came from the gathered crowd.
‘Today we appoint a new Head Elder Elite – someone to guide us as a people, and guide us in our spirituality. To ensure the traditions of our great home Luia continues throughout the coming generations.’ More applause from the crowd, Jacob raised his hand to settle them,
‘I have met with the remaining sisters and most are in agreement with the choice’ Jacob fixed a stare on Alliva who lowered her eyes, ‘Sister Nai, if you would’. The Sister rose and moved toward him, but stopped and looked down at Chev.
‘Sister, it has been decided’.
The colour in Chevs face vanished as she looked up. Jacob and Sister Nai lowered themselves and bowed low.
‘Long Life to the Head Elder Elite’ Jacob said proudly.
The gathered crowd repeated the words, and cheerfully applauded. Chev looked behind to Daon, who winked and smiled proudly.
The noise of celebration from the plains was almost deafening with many of the folk from Aelia, making their way out from behind the Great Wall to join in the celebrations. Iszalie stood next to Jacob and watched the people dance about. Many Luia folk and notably some Aelian council members approached Chev and offered their heartfelt congratulations. Many were however simply standing around watching on with awe.
Iszalie thought about the one treaty – it was well and truly broken now. A sharp pain to her side made her look up toward her palace. Her twin was hungry. Angrily she looked back toward the gathered crowd. She would have to wait. The feeling of Jacob tightening his grip around her waist made her tingle, she still couldn’t believe that they were together, and for the first time in forever she didn’t crave anyone else. She was sated.
‘A great day for the people of Luia, Commander’ Jacob nodded and continued to watch the celebrations. She could hear his heart beating as she leaned her head against his chest. This was fast becoming her most favourite place.
‘Majesty. Please excuse the interruption’ Iszalie turned to one of her head guards as he approached, he waited until she nodded for him to continue.
‘Scholar Matthew and Wilfred wish to see you urgently.’
Matthew and Wilfred together? This didn’t bode well. Iszalie nodded and watched as the guard departed.
‘Do you want me to come?’ Jacob asked, and she shook her head, and gently kissed his cheek.
As Iszalie entered the great chamber she looked at Matthew as he was waving his hands in the air, obviously trying to make Wilfred understand something. Wilfred was looking down at the message runes. He looked concerned.
‘Majesty, thank mother you are here…’ Iszalie stopped Matthew before he could continue, and crossed toward Wilfred and standing on tip toes stretched up and gently kissed him on the cheek,
‘Grandfather. Are you well?’ Wilfred smiled his toothless grin and nodded. A grim look took his face,
‘I think we gots some problems little one.’ Iszalie knew for Wilfred to be here it wouldn’t be otherwise. He never entered these rooms. In fact it was not common knowledge that he was the grandfather of the Queen. A decision she did not understand but respected nonetheless. His decision to remain in the background was exactly the way he liked it. She turned and looked at the scholar.
‘Well, what is going on?’ Iszalie finally asked.
‘The message runes.’ Matthew was almost panting, ‘Someone in Luia has activated them.’
‘That’s impossible scholar. No one is left in Luia.’ Iszalie spat out, she turned to look at her grandfather. The grim look remained. She felt a shiver run up her spine.
‘I know Majesty. But they activated and then…’ Matthew looked like his heart was going to explode, Iszalie motioned him to sit and he took a deep breath and then continued slowly ‘and then… well someone appeared.’
Iszalie screwed her forehead and looked at Matthew sternly,
‘What do you mean someone appeared?’
Iszalie watched Matthew as he attempted to start speaking, and then stop himself. She couldn’t help but smile at his obvious internal conflict.
‘In the times after the old war, the sovereigns used to visit each other by entering a doorway. It was a way they could communicate without the Order Lords knowing. I was examining the runes here in the chamber, and she appeared.’
‘Tell her the other part Matthew’ Wilfred added
‘I don’t think she really knew what was happening, she looked so… frightened,’ Mathew responded almost to himself. Wilfred cleared his throat loudly pulling Matthew from his thoughts,
‘She… The woman. Well she looked familiar. Like someone long dead. I didn’t realise it at the time because I was so startled, but I swear she looked exactly like…’ he stopped almost scared to say another word.
‘She looked exactly like whom?’ Iszalie angrily asked.
Iszalie stared at the scholar in disbelief.
The Mother. The story of the mother existed over a thousand turns ago. She was a myth. This was another story to entertain the children, but for those standing against the Order Lords, it was something to believe in and unite them in a common cause.
‘The Mother is myth.’
Matthew pulled a book out from under his robes and handed it to Iszalie, ‘Turn to the end’ Matthew shakily handed the book over.
‘What is this?’ Iszalie asked
‘It’s a book of folklore about the Mother. A tale that talks about an ancient time – I used to read this to children at night, it was a favourite.’
Matthew watched eagerly as Iszalie turned the pages until she reached the back. A finely inked drawing showed four different people, two were badly smudged. Reaching over the top of the book, Matthew tapped the picture of the white haired woman toward the top. ‘That was her. That was who I saw.’
Iszalie turned as Wilfred moved behind her and looked over her shoulder ‘Do you believe him?’ Wilfred shrugged and Iszalie slammed the book shut
handed it back to Matthew,
‘You are seeing things scholar.’ Matthew sighed and rubbed his forehead,
‘I do not deny the absurdity Majesty. But I swear it was her.’
Iszalie looked at Matthew, and could not doubt his belief in his words. He was convinced at what he had seen.
‘My immediate concern scholar is not who you think you have seen, but more that these runes are active.’ Iszalie feathered her fingers across the top of the stones. ‘Wilfred, please escort the scholar back to his room, I need to go and see someone.’
Wilfred smiled and motioned Matthew is collect the runes and his other items, he turned as he watched his granddaughter leave the chamber, calling after her, ‘say goodnights to yas grandma for mes, won’t make it there tonight.’
Aelia – Midnight
Iszalie looked at her reflection in the pond. She always looked tired whenever she was down here. She smiled as a small ripple moved across the face of the water. Her mood quickly evaporated when she heard her grandmother approach.
‘Iszalie, what can I do for you’?
‘Grandmother.’ Iszalie forced herself to look up and give a small courteous nod. She still didn’t understand the effect this woman had on her. Their encounters always left her angry.
‘The scholar Matthew believes that someone has used the ancient portals… in Luia.’
‘Really. That’s interesting’ the older woman didn’t sound surprised,
‘You knew this already didn’t you?’ Her grandmother covered her mouth trying to hide a smile,
‘I felt something earlier today.’
‘Why did you not come to me?’ Iszalie tried to control her tone,
‘Would you have believed me?’ Iszalie scowled.‘I did not feel the need to bother you, and you have been preoccupied somewhat lately, with that Commander’ her tempered smile cut through Iszalie like a knife ‘he is a nice catch by the way.’
‘What does it mean?’ Iszalie tried to ignore her grandmothers taunting.
‘It means what it does Iszalie.’
‘Is that it? Is that all you are going to say?’ Iszalie saw her grandmother sigh deeply and then turned away in obvious aggravation,
‘It means you need to focus on the real task at hand – to get the Estrus back. If you are to supremely rule, you know what is required from you. Enough of this fancy you have with that man. I taught you to use men, not love them – do you want my life?’ Iszalie looked back down at the pond trying to quell the growing rage. She was her own person; she did not need to be lectured to by an old woman. Standing, Iszalie moved closer to her grandmother, and met her stare with equal ferocity.
‘Do you think that the portals being activated is something I should be worried about?’ Her grandmother lowered her gaze,
‘It depends on who activated the portal, and I guess at what time they were activated. No one for a long time has known how. That is interesting. I guess we will just have to wait and see.’ Looking back up, she lifted her granddaughters chin ‘but you need to follow the path set for you, you need to right the wrong of your mother and with the Estrus returned, you need to fulfil your agreement.’ Iszalie angrily removed her grandmothers’ hand away from her chin.
‘I know what is required of me grandmother, but I need to know is the portals being activated something I need to be wary of?’ Ignoring her question, the old woman walked toward the small entrance to her chamber and over her shoulder said,
‘Leave the Commander, and concentrate on the path that has been set for you, it is time for you to take on your responsibility and stop being a child.’
Iszalie looked after her grandmother angrily.
‘I choose my own path grandmother; I am no longer a child. I am the Queen!’
‘Of course. Majesty’ her grandmother bowed mockingly.
Iszalie turned to look at Jacob. He was asleep and snoring. She smiled and lovingly stroked his beard. She loved this man. Love. An emotion she thought she would never experience. Would she be able to have the best of both worlds? Have both this man, and the path set for her. Iszalie sighed; and knew she would have to choose sooner or later.
Closing her eyes, she tried to call sleep but was finding it hard to settle her mind. The echo of her grandmothers’ voice reminding her of her duty and the image of the woman with white hair and now the portals being used, it was keeping her awake, all she really wanted to do was curl up next to Jacob and fall sleep.
Destiny. It had been drilled into her since she was a child.
Iszalie rolled onto her back and looked at the ceiling; she pulled herself up and sat drawing her knees in. She wondered if she and Jacob could simply disappear. Pulling herself from the bed she crossed to the window and looked down over the city below. This was her land and her responsibility. She knew Jacob too wouldn’t leave his people. They both were bound tight in duty and responsibilities. And agreements, Iszalie thought angrily.
Looking over her shoulder to the gold ornate window hanging from the wall, she wondered if her twin could rule. It would be easy enough; they were identical in almost every way, almost. She thought about what the rule of her twin would be like. Sighing she walked in front of the mirror.
There she was waiting patiently, waiting to be fed. Iszalie had ignored her twins’ wants since Jacob had come to her bed – she knew she would be hungry and angry. Smirking she glanced at Jacob and then turned back to the reflection. Iszalie turned her wrist and watched as the mirror moved to its side.
‘Do you not love me anymore?’ Iszalie sighed. She couldn’t console her twin no matter how hard she tried. She placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.
‘I will always love you. I have told you this for the past hour, now concentrate. Do you recall anything about the stories of the mother?’
‘I’m hungry.’ Her twin said tearfully.
‘Listen to me!’ Iszalie yelled and then pushed her twin up against the wall trying to catch her gaze. Finally the cloud shifted from her eyes and her twin smiled at her.
‘No I don’t know anything of this Mother. But I do know it’s nearly time for us to claim our destiny. I heard grandmother, it’s now our time Iszalie.’ Turning away from her twin, Iszalie began pacing the room,
‘It is my time. Not yours, mine’ she heard her twin chuckle.
‘You remember what we sacrificed to the Order Lords in order to receive the Estrus, you know that we are the true protectors of the stone, you know what we sacrificed.’ Iszalie looked curiously at her twin, she could never recall her ever being there during the ceremony all those years ago, but she knew she had to be.
It was only really after the initiation that her twins presence was so much clearer. She remembered like it was yesterday her being there by her side, curled in a ball. That day Iszalie became her protector in so many ways.
Softening her voice Iszalie responded carefully, ‘I know, but I do not have the Estrus do I, and now the people of Luia live in my land , and that will not bode well with the Order Lords.’
‘We do not like the Order Lords’
Iszalie laughed at the simplicity of that statement.
No, she did not like the Order Lords but she was bound to an agreement with them as far back as the old war. Iszalie shivered as she recalled the initiation ceremony in Mesi. Bound in chains, she hung over a deep pool of water. They had whipped her until she could not take it any longer. She was only twelve turns the day her grandmother had come to her, telling her that now it was her time. It was her time to fulfil the destiny of Aelia. It was the day her mother died that started the horrific path that followed.
Iszalie had the sudden urge to tell Jacob everything that she had kept from him. He knew about the secret treaty, and accepted it without too much resistance. Would he accept this? Would he accept the fact that she was secretly bound to an agreement with the Order Lords? Would he still love her if he knew that her destiny was to not only protect the Estrus, but destroy it? Iszalie thought about the woman Jacob was betrothed too. If she did have the Estrus, and perhaps was still alive or maybe someone in Luia now had the stone, she knew that she would have to destroy it, and anyone who was in the way. Would Jacob accept this? Did he love her enough?
‘Our mother failed them. She failed to protect and destroy the stone. She was selfish.’ Iszalie looked at her twin, who had always supported the ideals of their grandmother, and their so-called path. Iszalie too held close a lot of the beliefs but she did have a distaste for her grandmothers meddling ways. Her twin slowly sat against the wall and lowered her head. Iszalie knew her moment of clarity was passing.
‘You don’t love me anymore’ Iszalie crossed the room, and sighed looking down at her twin,
‘You know that’s not true. I just don’t need to fulfil you anymore’ her twin angrily looked up at her, ‘no. It’s him, you don’t love me because of that man, you have forgotten me, and you don’t care.’
‘You know I love you’.
It was no use, there was no consoling her, she had returned to a childlike state. Frustrated, Iszalie turned away. She needed to clear her head and find a way to appease the Order Lords and not loose Jacob. Iszalie fought the conflict in her mind. She turned back to her twin,
‘What did you say?’
Her twin looked at her coldly ‘You have a duty Majesty. You have to choose. You can’t have both.’ The authority in her twins’ voice startled Iszalie. She moved to stand over her, and within a blink of an eye, her twin returned to the childlike state again.
Was she right? Was everyone right? She knew it was time for her to begin fulfilling her destiny, she could feel it. Iszalie turned to leave and stopped short.
Jacob was standing in the doorway.
‘Who are you talking to?’ He asked with a concerned look on his face. Iszalie turned and pointed to her twin and then looked back to Jacob. It was time to tell him everything. Jacob continued to look around
Iszalie looked at him incredulously, and pointed at her twin again. Jacob crossed the room and then turning back took her shoulders gently,
‘Iszi I don’t see anyone.’ She felt her heart race, was he blind? Her twin was right there in the corner of the room. Iszalie turned to see her twin smiling wickedly at her.
‘Jacob. She’s right there, my sister, can’t you see her?’ Jacob took another look around the room and then shook his head sadly. Iszalie felt her forehead crease. How could he not see her, she was right there.
‘She is right there’ Iszalie shouted angrily.
‘Iszalie, I don’t see anyone!’
Iszalie looked at Jacob. His eyes were filled with worry and suspicion. She had seen that look before, from her brother. It was not going to happen again, not to her. She ran from the room and leapt from the opening, and turned watching as Jacob followed her.
‘Tell me what is going on, what is that place?’ Jacob moved toward Iszalie who put her hand up to stop him approaching, she cocked her head to the side. She could hear her twin whispering in her thoughts not to tell him, not to let him make her think she was crazy, like their father did to their mother. Iszalie pinched the bridge of her nose. No, she would never allow anyone to look at her like that again, and would never allow anyone to pity her. She heard her twin humming.
‘It is nothing to concern you with Jacob’ her voice was cold.
‘You are my concern. Please help me understand, who were you talking to?’ Jacob moved to comfort Iszalie. She pushed his arm away.
‘Make him leave; he will ruin everything we have worked for’
Iszalie shook her head trying to banish her twin’s thoughts, and took a deep breath and pulled the mask of sovereignty onto her face, it was time for her to focus, and return to her duties.
‘Get out!’ She demanded.
‘What?’ Jacob yelled back,
‘I said, GET OUT!’
Jacob again moved to comfort Iszalie, but she slapped him hard across the face.
Turning to look at her he rubbed his cheek,
‘I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what is going on.’
Iszalie started pacing the room, rubbing her forehead. She needed him out. Her thoughts were racing. A sharp pain hit her side, and she fell to the floor. Jacob rushed to her side and pulled her close. Iszalie slapped him again, and pushed him away. Calming herself and viciously looking him in the eye she whispered,
‘You no longer satisfy me, you can go.’ Jacob sat back and looked at her.
‘Get out. You have outstayed your usefulness.’
Iszalie watched as Jacob slowly rose, she so wanted to jump into his arms and ask him to forgive her harsh words, but her twin was right; her grandmother was right – it was time for her to focus on her destiny. Jacob and she were silent for what seemed an eternity waiting for a next move. She turned her gaze away and sat waiting.
A tear ran down her cheek as she heard the door close. Why was she so upset, he was only a man.
A man she loved.
Aelia – Dawn
Jacob scratched his head, and leant back against the wall. He slowly lowered himself onto the floor. What had just happened? Iszalies’ final words echoed in his mind, ‘Get out, you have outstayed your usefulness’. Jacob couldn’t reason her viciousness. Nothing that just happened made any sense to him.
‘Hey there sonny.’ Jacob turned to see Wilfred approach ‘what’s you doings here?’
‘Hi Wilfred’ Jacob looked at his friend, and noticed the kitchen uniform was gone, it was replaced with a tailored dark suit. Wilfred looked rather handsome.Jacob smiled and asked ‘what brings you to the palace?’
‘I was just bout to ask yas the same thing.’ Jacob tried to sort his thoughts enough to reply but instead merely shrugged his shoulders. Wilfred stopped in front of him.
‘You look like you could use somes air’ Wilfred gestured him to follow ‘come walk with me?’ Jacob slowly rose and reluctantly followed.
The night air was cold, but Jacob didn’t care. They walked down toward the stairs in silence. Jacob looked over the edge. The height no longer worried him.
He noticed Wilfred occasionally look over his shoulder and was surprised when instead of heading to the river as Jacob had thought, Wilfred began heading up the side of one of the surrounding mountains, and weaving in and out avoiding low hanging vines and stepping over roots and Jacob followed.
Wilfred finally stopped and looked out, smiling widely. Jacob followed his gaze. He could only just make out the start of the river from this height; he followed the length of the river as it weaved its way through the valley, disappearing into a dense forest. On any other occasion this view would have left him speechless.
‘You have an argument with the Queen did yas?’ Jacob laughed at the question,
‘I think she was the one having the argument, don’t rightly remember being a part of it’
Wilfred chuckled, ‘the women in that family are a fine breed.’ Jacob nodded and asked ‘You know much about her family?’
‘You might say that’ Wilfred kicked a stone over the edge of the mountain path and looked over watching it fall
‘I hear you met the Queens grandmother?’ Jacob looked suspiciously at Wilfred, he had come to realise that this man was more than he seemed. Wilfred turned looking at him, his toothless smile making Jacob grin,
‘We were trying to get answers about my friend and a treaty.’
Wilfred put his hands on his hips, ‘never take anything that woman has to say as law Jacob. She is a truly talented seer and understands a lot more than most, but she is a tricksters and she likes to weave games that will suit her fancy rather than gives someone what they truly desire.’ Jacob was taken aback. Wilfred suddenly appeared and sounded like a completely different person.
‘Who are you talking about exactly?’ Jacob asked
‘The old woman. Sarah.’ Jacob looked at Wilfred suspiciously,
Jacob almost fell over as he looked at his friend. Wilfred was a servant, and Sarah was of royal blood. She was the Queens’ grandmother, and a seer; the connection was not plausible. Wilfred looked at Jacob sidelong and smiled again,
‘I wasn’t always a cook my boy.’ Jacob lowered his gaze, embarrassed that his thoughts had revealed themselves,
‘I’m sorry Wilfred I did not mean to offend you. You are more of a man than anyone I know. It’s just where I come from …’ Wilfred raised his hand stopping Jacob and looking around he motioned Jacob to sit as he lowered himself against the cliff-side. He plucked a twig from a nearby branch, and pulling a knife from his pocket, began whittling it down. Satisfied he popped it into his mouth moving it from side to side.
‘It’s not common knowledge sonny that I be the Queens grandfather, and I would rather it stay that way. I keep outta their business they keep outta mine’
Jacob nodded still trying to come to terms with Wilfred’s declaration.
‘I was once the head of the army of Aelia, a proud soldier like you. It was a much simpler time. I even visited your land once; hot place that home of yours. I was in charge of a detail to protect the then Queen and her daughter, we were on a diplomatic mission where Aelia and Luia were to sign a treaty – not sure what for – didn’t really care.
‘Sarah was young, and full of spirit. She was always provoking trouble, and had a taste for soldiers back then, and she liked to satisfy that thirst by bedding as many as she could and of course doing other things. She was a sight – the most beautiful woman I had ever laid eyes on. She took my breath away every time she looked at me, much like the Queen does to you’ Wilfred cheekily winked at Jacob who in turn lowered his gaze trying to avoid the admission.
‘Her father, mother rest his soul asked me to watch over her. I had to promise though never to succumb to her advances. It was all I could do to not. Sarah was my everything. Every part of me ached to have her, but I had promised, and I always keep my word’ Wilfred reached for another branch, rolling it in his palm.
‘ She fell pregnant – no one claimed to be the father – possibly because no one knew who was. Shortly after Sarah gave birth, I honoured her by asking for her hand in marriage – we wed. It was a fine marriage; she seemed to be happy enough, we had three children. The eldest was Iszalies mother. The other two died. Brokes my heart,” Wilfred lowered his gaze.‘Sarah was changed after that -she was void of any emotion, and then when her father passed – she decided to serve the beliefs of our land and took herself to the chamber preferring life with her books, and memories. I took myself to the kitchen – it suited me fine. It meant I could stay and watch over her, but not get in her way. Believe me Jacob I do truly love that woman – she is my everything, still to this day.’
Jacob thought of the old woman in the earth chamber. He thought about her and Wilfred
‘And the child she conceived before you married?’ Jacob asked
‘A girl – she was never seen – it was rumoured she died at birth’
Jacob looked at Wilfred intently, ‘Iszalie was angry because I couldn’t see who she was talking to. It angered her so much she told me to leave… do you think it could be this child?’
Wilfred eyed Jacob questionably ‘No it could not be her. Who was she talking to?’
‘I don’t know. I woke up and found her gone. I looked around, and saw an opening in the wall where the mirror hangs, light was drifting out. I could hear Iszalie inside; she was pleading with someone for help.’
‘And did she say who she was talking to?’
Jacob was hesitant in replying, Wilfred’s’ tone was surprisingly serious.
‘Oh mother help us’ Wilfred lifted himself up and held a hand to Jacob ‘Come on boy we need to pay the wife a visit’ Jacob went to speak but the look on Wilfred’s’ face silenced him.
Jacob watched as Wilfred opened a door hidden behind the vines of purple flowers against the mountainside. He followed Wilfred as they moved through a thin corridor, occasionally bumping his elbows against the wall edge. He wondered how Wilfred fitted through the small corridor. They finally entered a large room. As his eyes adjusted to the low light, Jacob recognised it as the earth chamber, the home of Iszalies grandmother. Wilfred’s, wife.
‘Sarah!’ Wilfred yelled as he walked around the pond ‘Sarah!’ His tone was stressed.
‘Wilfred my love’ she paused when she saw Jacob ‘What’s he doing here?’ Wilfred gave her a big hug and she smiled up at him and then returned her gaze to Jacob,
‘He and the little one had a fight’ Wilfred said. Sarah giggled.
‘You bore her already Commander?’
‘Mind your manners Sarah, he be a friend of mine’ she shrugged her shoulders and moved to the edge of the pond looking in; she sighed and looked back at Wilfred.
‘What was the fight about?’ Sarah asked casually
‘She got upset about Jacob here not seeing someone’
‘Her twin perhaps?’ Sarah yawned.
Wilfred and Jacob both stopped short.
‘What do you know of this woman?’ Jacob looked at Wilfred, who suddenly seemed so much bigger as he glared at his wife. She pretended to twirl an invisible thread on her dress ignoring him, ‘Well’? He angrily asked.
Sarah looked up at Wilfred and glared, ‘don’t you use that tone with me’ Sarah crossed the chamber toward one of the walls and laid her palm against it, it seemed to shimmer at her touch.
‘Did you see anyone Jacob?’ Sarah asked over her shoulder. He shook his head ‘Interesting.’
Jacob watched as she returned to the pond, and sat down, running her fingers through the water. He looked at Wilfred who was growing increasingly impatient; he obviously knew something.
After a while of no one saying a word, Sarah lifted her gaze to Jacob,
‘Iszalie chose at a young age to follow a path. She does not remember much of the preceding events, and probably not too much after as well’ Sarah giggled to herself ‘it was at the same time she received her gift from the Order Lords’
‘The marks on her back?’ Jacob asked
‘Yes, quite beautiful aren’t they!’ Jacob looked at Sarah angrily, but held his tongue, he waited for her to continue, ‘it was an initiation that enabled her to split her soul in two.’
Jacob looked at the Sarah. He couldn’t even begin to comprehend what she had just said. Splitting a soul in two? Jacob turned to Wilfred, and noticed his frustration had turned to concern. Wilfred looked at his wife and softly spoke
‘I thought you had put a stop to that… was you a part of this?’
‘Naturally’ Wilfred scratched his head and sighed, ‘It is the way husband, and you can not condemn me for following the correct path’
‘And what was the reason for starting to do this barbaric thing again?’ Wilfred bellowed back
‘To become the balance to the Estrus of course, our family has prepared for its return since the old war, it is a part of who we are’
Jacob ran his fingers through his hair. The Estrus, always the Estrus, he had never seen this famous gem but he loathed it more and more. It was now responsible for taking another that he loved.
‘Why could I not see her… sister, twin?’ Jacob asked quietly.
‘Because she is in love my boy. You have a lot to answer for Commander’ Sarah looked up at him with an attempt at grandmotherly love ‘because you too love her, you can only see the part of her that you love; she no longer needs to feed the other side of her because you fulfil her completely. She is happy.’
‘She doesn’t seem very happy’ Jacob added, Sarah merely shrugged her shoulders.
‘An expected side effect of love, is it not?
‘Perhaps it is time she knew the truth, she believes that side is her twin, not another part of her – perhaps it is time she knows the truth.’ Sarah added quietly almost to herself, ‘Or maybe not’
‘Can others see this’ Jacob paused trying to find the words ‘other side of her?’
‘Occasionally. But only in the grip of complete fear. Her mother and I could see her of course. Iszalie truly believed that she had a twin so we kept up the charade. Iszalie has kept her hidden since her conception.’
Wilfred moved to Sarah ‘you promised me that you would never practise such…’
‘Stupidity?’ Sarah interrupted ‘I did husband. I never allowed our daughter to practise the art, but on her deathbed she asked that I continue our practise in ready for the return of the Estrus. She had failed and she did not want her daughter to do so.’
‘Why would you need to tear someone’s soul in two?’ Jacob finally asked,
‘We are all made up of two sides. In order to balance the Estrus you must forfeit one part, be it the dark side or the light side’
‘So this twin is her dark side, and Iszalie is the light?’ Jacob asked
Sarah burst out laughing. She looked at Wilfred who suddenly looked worried,
‘I guess you would naturally think that, but unfortunately we don’t know which side she is’
‘Well I do’ Jacob spoke defensively
‘I told her to leave you today young man, did she tell you that?’ Jacob looked at her harshly ‘I think you are a fine catch sir, you certainly lasted longer than I thought.’
‘Sarah!’ Wilfred interrupted his wife, she returned her gaze to the pond.
‘I’m just saying, she knows she is not allowed to waste her time on the fancies of love’
‘You did’ Jacob retorted, Sarah smiled,
‘Yes, but I was not the one, am I?’
‘Well maybe she isn’t. If she was, then why did someone in Luia have the Estrus. Why is it not here now. Why has it been lost to you for years, and why is it now that Iszalie is suddenly the true balance?’
Sarah raised her hand in the air; the familiar glow began surrounding her wrist. Jacob jumped as a book suddenly appeared and landed in front of him.
‘That book is a history of my family, it was written long before you or I. I found it in my youth. My ancestors wrote of an agreement we had with the Order Lords, it predicts that on a certain day a true carrier will be born, the Estrus will return and we will walk our path as being the balance.’
‘Iszalie was born on this day, not her mother nor me’
Jacob shook his head, surely this women could not see that many were born on this day, and as if reading his thoughts she continued
‘Not just the day Jacob, but an exact moment’
Jacob sighed it seemed it was no use arguing with this woman.
‘Why are you so sure it is her?’ Wilfred asked on behalf of Jacob
‘Because only in her lifetime has the Estrus appeared. A woman came seeking the carrier; she too knew of the birth date, the alignment, and she had the stone. She preached that she was here to test our bloodline. Her wish was that the four roots would unite, and the world would once again be whole. I of course did not reveal my knowledge of our ancient agreement with the Order Lords and waited until the woman went through her tests. Sadly my daughter was seduced by the stones power, it consumed her, eventually killing her. I knew then that the writings of our ancestors were true and that a soul needed to be split in order for someone to be in its presence. After her mothers’ death I took Iszalie to the Order Lords to prepare her for her destiny, to honour this ancient agreement’
‘So there was another treaty between you and the Order Lords?’ Jacob asked and Sarah nodded. ‘And does Iszalie know of this treaty… to be its balance, its protector, its destroyer?’
‘She knows of her obligation to be its protector and destroyer. I have not yet seen to her teaching in the balance.’
Jacob slowly lifted his gaze and fixed them on the old woman, so many lies, and now Iszalie was caught in the middle of this woman’s fancies, ‘So you believe she is this balance merely because of that book, and a few coincidences and an ancient agreement?’
Sarah stood straight ‘Yes, it is her destiny.’
‘Do you not see how absurd that sounds? You are basing everything on an old book and its writings. You are basing it all because your family signed an agreement with the Order Lords.’
‘She was born on the day of the alignment , at the exact time, and our family have an obligation to fulfil. It is fact’
Jacob started pacing the chamber, he was almost laughing to himself at the close mindedness of this woman,
‘I am not debating the ties your family has to the Estrus or the Order Lords, but can’t you see the hole in your belief – this is not destiny, it is a belief based on coincidence and writings of men and women, it is not pre ordained, it is not shrouded in spiritualism or voices from above, it is set in play merely because you have taken an agreement between this and that.‘You have created your own idea of a destiny. You don’t seem to know the true meaning of this word, it’s based on blind faith, based on that old book’ Jacob yelled and Sarah stood to her full height and looked at Jacob, her eyes grew dark.
‘What would you know of faith and destiny Commander? Your land is full of false teachings, your people do not follow any path or destiny or faith; you just sit in your tiny corner of the world practising and manipulating the art of fire, there is no spiritualism in your practices, it’s all self righteous dogma!’
Jacob sighed. He had often thought that himself, but Sarah was wrong. The dogma that the sisters followed was based around a spiritual feeling not something written on paper. They celebrated fire and its power, and there was no destiny pronounced on a person, they chose where their path lead. The only people in his land that were bound by any type of structure were the Sisters of the Flame. But only because they chose to.
‘I am not saying your faith in what your elders believed is false or wrong, Sarah’ Jacob paused to quiet his tone ‘I am saying your idea of destiny is based on false beliefs, and Iszalie is caught in the middle of it all only because she happened to be born on a particular day within a web of beliefs created by people before her. This is not true destiny. Destiny is not written on pages. It is lived.’
Sarah looked at Wilfred who was standing arms crossed listening to the debate before him ‘What say you’? She asked coldly
‘He does have valid points. You have always been bound by strict teachings and rules. What Jacob says makes sense – you are following a path set out by men, this is not something that you knows to be trues, you believe it only because you want to believe it’
Sarah moved across the room, and touched the walls. She shook her head and turned back to them, her look could have turned them both to ash. They were challenging everything she believed, the basis of her whole life; they were both speaking false teachings, and they were both being blasphemous. She had had enough of their lies.
‘It is the way, there is no more discussion – Iszalie has set out on her path toward her destiny – it is the way’
‘But Sarah can’t you understand that this is not true destiny, it can’t be, it was created by men not by…’ Jacob saw Sarah raise her hand.and twist her wrist and he found himself standing in the middle of the of the plains. He looked up at the palace off in the distance, and yearned to hold Iszalie. To let her know that everything she knew was wrong that she could control her own path, her own destiny. He started running toward the great wall and skidded to a halt as the now returned guards at the gate stopped his entry,
‘Let me through!’ The two guards locked their arms stopping any approach from Jacob,
‘You are not allowed in Commander!’ One guard said hesitantly, almost embarrassed to be stopping him.
‘By whose authority?’
‘An order from the palace.’
Jacob sighed, and moved back. Sarah worked fast.
Aelia – Morning
Jacob walked through the campsite all morning, trying to put everything he had learnt from the night before into some semblance of rational thought. He smiled as he came across a group of families settling in for breakfast. They offered him food and he politely declined, and moved on.
Looking ahead he saw a large tent sticking above the others. The Head Elder Elites tent had been finally erected. He quickened his pace and moved through the other tents toward it.
‘May I come in?’ Chev turned to see Jacob poking his head through the tent door flaps. She smiled brightly and waved him in. Jumping up from behind her desk she gave him a big hug. Jacob lifted her slightly from the ground,and returned the hug then lowered her slowly. He looked around the tent, it would do… for now.
‘So, you have finally decided to come visit me then?’ Chev cheekily punched Jacob in the arm, and he rubbed it pretending it sore.
‘Is that anyway for a Head Elder Elite to behave?’ Chev laughed and returned to her desk,
‘Are you all right Jacob? You look very distressed.’
Jacob sat opposite Chev and looked at her, this was definitely not the young girl he used to play hide and seek with, ‘Yes Chev, I’m fine.’
Chev smiled and returned to reading the papers in front of her,
‘And how is the… Queen?’ Chev kept her eyes down.
Jacob smiled appreciatively at her attempt to be friendly about the relationship he had with Iszalie. He knew that she felt Jacob was betraying Teanne by being with her.
‘She kicked me out, we had a fight.’
Chev giggled under her breath, ‘you bore her already?’
Jacob laughed, ‘you are not the first person to ask me that question. I’m sure it will sort itself out.’
‘Do you love her Jacob?’ Chev finally lifted her gaze. Her blue eyes searched his.
‘Yes Chev, but Teanne is still in my heart.’ Chev nodded and smiled meekly as she bunched the papers in front of her and set them aside.
‘and you Head Elder, how are you finding your duties? And how is your new protector Daon?’ Chev blushed as she diverted her gaze,
‘He is a good friend. You have just missed him actually, and my duties Commander are… well they are many.’ she laughed shyly, Jacob smiled at her.
‘Jacob?’ he nodded for her to continue, noting her tone growing serious ‘how long shall we stay here, it’s been months. Do you not think we should be moving on soon?’
Although he had had many distractions of late, well one -that question was not far from his thoughts. Jacob knew that it was something that needed to be decided soon; not just for the sake of his people but also for the sake of the people of Aelia. They had taken a great risk sheltering them for this long.
‘I’m not sure Chev. I’m not even sure where we should go, I was thinking of sending a scouting party back home as a possible destination’
Chev nodded then looked up at him,‘I sent a patrol four days ago.’ Jacob looked at Chev surprised ‘I’m sorry, I wanted to consult you before doing so but…’
Jacob interrupted. ‘Chev that was a good decision, you are the leader remember.’
‘The spiritual leader Jacob’ she said firmly corrected him ‘you are the leader of the people.
‘I am sorry if I stepped out of my domain, but you have not been around lately.’
Jacob felt a tinge of guilt. Had he neglected his duties because of his involvement with Iszalie? He shook it off and smiled proudly at Chev.
‘It was the correct thing to do. I apologise for not being here to offer guidance Head Elder’
Chev shrugged her shoulders then relaxed ‘you were busy. Do you think I can do this?’
Jacob stood and moved toward Chev and gently squeezed her shoulder ‘I think you are doing it already Chev’ She looked up at him and smiled.
Jacob and Chev both turned as someone burst through the tent door. He fell to his knees gasping for breath. His head was covered in blood.
Chev ran to his side, and crouched next to him. Jacob joined her supporting Daon as he tried to catch his breath,
‘Daon what happened?’ Jacob asked as he helped Daon remove his amour,
‘We… we were ambushed … Mesi I think, my men… no one left.’
Jacob stood and moved to the door of the tent. He looked back at Chev,
‘Look after him, I’ll be back soon.’ Chev nodded as she helped Daon to her cot.
Jacob ran through the tents sending out a long whistle – a signal to his troops to group. He heard the returning whistles from all corners of the plains. He jumped over fires, tent lines and ducked under a tarp strewn across a long table. Finally reaching the centre of the plains near his caravan, he waited. Mere moments later, guards came from all directions and began grouping before him. Without a word they formed lines and waited. Jacob called forth the four captains from each battalion.
‘The Prince and his men were attacked on their patrol. We need to secure the plains and set up a perimeter. Send out a scouting party to see what we are up against’
The four captains saluted to their hearts and moved back to their men yelling orders and organising the patrols.
Jacob yelled over the men ‘Quietly!’ The noise suddenly stilled. He watched as the groups moved off. He saw Simon to the side and called him over,
‘Go to the palace and inform her Majesty’ Simon nodded and ran toward the wall.
‘Jacob. What’s going on? We heard your whistle’ He turned to see Sister Nai approach with more sisters behind her.
‘Some of the Aelian soldiers were attacked, we are setting up a perimeter.’ Sister Nai grunted and turned to her sisters issuing orders. Jacob watched as they moved off in the direction of the four battalions. Sister Nai, turned back to Jacob, a scowl firmly fixed on her face.
‘I was wondering how long it would be before they came to finish us off.’
Jacob ignored her and ran to his caravan. He pulled on a clean shirt and strapped his sword around his waist. It had been a long time since he wore this uniform. He looked down and smoothed down his trousers and buttoned up the black shirt. Jumping from his caravan he sent out another whistle, this one however was lower, and waited, He heard the land-walkers approaching before he could see them. These were his men; his guards. He grabbed the reins of his land-walker and pulled himself up, and looked around at his men, no one spoke,and all their faces were set awaiting instructions. He returned his gaze to Sister Nai,
‘Can you go see to Chev, the Prince is with her, and he is hurt.’ Sister Nai nodded her head, turned and ran off.
Matthew sighed deeply as he looked down at the runes. He wished she would come to him again, but there had been no response to his messages. He gathered the runes and threw them back onto the velvet cloth. He froze as he watched the rune of East slowly cross and move toward the rune of North.
Mother, help us all’
[* Aelia – Mid- Morning *]
Jacob sat high in his saddle looking up toward the mountain pass. It was a little too quiet.
‘Commander?’ Jacob turned as two scouts ran toward him ‘there is a small contingency just over that pass’ Jacob followed the scouts finger, turning to the five guards directly behind him he moved his head to signal they follow.
Jacob followed the narrow trail keeping as close to the mountainside as possible. As he approached the top he looked back toward the plains and the great wall, even from this distance the wall was an impressive sight. Jacob pulled the reins to his land-walker and jumped down, scratching her softly under the chin. He signalled the guards behind him to keep low.
Pushing aside some low hanging branches Jacob and the other five moved toward the crest of the mountain and peered over. One of the guards behind him handed him a periscope. Jacob pulled it into focus and sighed.
There were over ten thousand men gathered in the small clearing Their uniforms were the same as the scouts that had been captured. They were definitely Mesi soldiers. The brutality and aftermath at Luia flashed in his mind.
The treaty had been broken, a shiver of fear crept through his body. They had sealed Aelias’ fate the day they had arrived in their land.
At least this time they would be ready.
‘How long before they reach Aelia Jacob?’ he turned to one of his captains who was crouched under a bush. Mark had been by his side throughout the battle in Luia,and he was glad he was with him still.
‘It will take them a few hours to get that amount of men on the move. It will probably take at least a day, maybe two. We need to get back. They could start out anytime.’
Jacob and his men galloped back down the trail, making good time. They arrived back at the plains to see the tents being torn down. He slowed his land-walker and headed toward Simon who was standing next to Chev and Sister Nai,
‘What’s going on?’ he asked
‘The Queen has ordered everyone behind the wall’ Jacob looked back over the massing crowd. Aelian guards and city folk were helping people pack their things and were ushering everyone toward the gate. It would take too long to get everyone through that small entrance. Jacob was thankful to Iszalie for allowing this, but time was a concern.
A loud boom sounded from behind the great wall, shaking the ground beneath. Jacob turned and stared in amazement as the walls began to to vibrate and then part, moving slowly aside. Pieces of stone from the wall and tired vines began falling to the ground. An opening was being created that would allow everyone to enter quickly rather than through the small gate entrance, and by the look of the multitude of soldiers standing behind it, an easy way for them to enter the plains.
In the centre standing with her arms outstretched was Iszalie. She was dressed in black from head to toe, the chain mail she normally wore to symbolise her command of her army was now replaced with a breastplate of armour and full arm guards. Her hair was pulled back tight in a braid. Jacob was spell bound, she looked so beautiful and yet so deadly at the same time.
Behind Iszalie, were thousands upon thousands of men who were all suited in similar armour standing to attention. They were carrying everything from cross bows to staves.
Aelia it seemed was ready for the coming fight. Jacob watched as Iszalie walked toward him; she stopped and bowed to Chev, and then looked up at Jacob, her eyes seemed to be clearer than usual, but there were still flickers of rage throughout. She looked different.
Jacob watched as she without a word nodded her head and raised her arms. The mass of troops behind the wall began to file out from the great city and disperse, slowly creating a boundary around the edge of the plains. Iszalie turned and looked at Daon as he approached. The wound to his head had been cleaned and sealed; but still looked raw. Jacob noted it was very similar to the marks on Iszalies back. Daon moved to Iszalies’ side without a word and stood to attention. The two of them on their own were a fierce sight.
Jacob watched as the last of the Luia villagers moved beyond the wall. Leia again raised her arms, and another loud boom made Jacobs land-walker almost bolt, he settled her with a pat and watched in amazement as the walls started to close.
As the wall was near closing Jacob could see two figures leaving the small entrance, one was instantly recognisable as Wilfred. The second to his surprise sheltering her eyes from the bright sunlight was Sarah.
Turning to face his men he looked out over them. Each one was high in their saddle. He looked down at his uniform, it was a little worn with threads pulling from the seams of his black shirt, and his trousers were now faded. He certainly did not look like the Commander of an army, but the bands around his wrists shone in the sunlight, they carried the symbol of Luia embellished on both. This made him swell with pride.
Speaking to Mark he issued orders to make ready the weapons and join the Aelian soldiers; Mark tapped his hand to his heart and left. Jacob finally jumped from his horse and knelt before Iszalie.
‘Your Majesty, I am sorry it has come to this’ He looked up at her, her eyes had not changed. They were as cold as ice, and the voice that followed was cutting,
‘It is not only your fight Commander, I too invited this’
Jacob couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling he got from Iszalie, she seemed like a complete stranger.
‘Stand up sonny’ Jacob looked at Wilfred as he finally arrived. He too was dressed in full battle armour. The soldier had returned. ‘How many?’ he asked after catching his breath.
‘Over ten thousand at my best guess’ Jacob replied
‘Well this should be fun.’ Wilfred replied smiling his toothless grin. Adjusting his breastplate Wilfred looked down at Sarah, and smiled shyly. She smirked and returned her gaze to the ground,
Wilfred turned to Daon,‘Make ready the campsite, they will not strike today, we need to ensure every inch of the surrounding area is covered, no one is getting ionto the plains’ Daon without argument nodded and turned to issue the orders to his commanders. Jacob turned toward his men,
‘Simon, split the cavalry up and send them out to join the Aelian troops, there should be at least a hundred cavalry at last count, the rest can go out on scouting missions’ Simon nodded and moved away. Jacob looked up. The sun had almost reached its highest point, it was going to be a long day, he stumbled on his feet and looked down toward the ground, there was a rumble coming from underneath. He steadied his balance, and looking over his shoulder and saw that both Iszalie and Sarah had their eyes closed. The ground behind them began pulling apart as if a mini earthquake was starting, he moved toward Iszalie.
Wilfred and Daon both stopped him.
‘Let them be sonny, your land practises the art of Fire, our land practises the art of the Earth.’
Jacob stared incredulously as the ground tore in two, the tear began to encircle the edges of the plain. It was creating a make shift mote. He flinched as Chev put her arm through his, and he looked down at her; she too was surprised and bewildered.
‘Head Elder, could you ask your sisters to place fire in these pits as we approach night?’ Iszalie asked Chev intently. Chev nodded and moved towards Sister Nai and the others.
‘And now we wait’ Sarah added.
Aelia – Dusk
Iszalie felt different. The power surging through her was unlike anything she had felt before. Her grandmother and grandfather had paid her an unexpected visit earlier that morning. They had requested that she bring her sister, that in it self she found unsettling. Her twins existence she thought had always been secret to everyone but her grandmother. She grew increasingly suspicious when Sarah had remained silent as she entered, and didn’t know why, but their seriousness affected her. As her twin entered her room, she noticed the sad look in her grandfathers’ eyes, and the mixed pleasure in her grandmothers. Her twin feigned away from the old woman as she approached shaking her head and hiding behind Iszalie. She started pleading that it wasn’t time; that it wasn’t fair, the feeling in the room was electric, and then suffocating. Shortly after she passed out and woke to her grandfather stroking her hair,
‘What happened?’ She had quietly asked.
‘Your twin has given you a gift.’ She heard her grandmother reply from the other side of the room ‘I hope this is worth it Wilfred, so much work gone!’
From that moment Iszalie had felt odd, she had for the first time since she was initiated in the court at Mesi, complete. She had shaken the strange feelings off, but when her grandmother had asked her to call the power within, she grew frightened. After some coaxing she did as her grandmother asked. She had never had this much control or power. Wilfred had helped her to her feet, and as she had looked around the room, the doorway to the chamber beyond the mirror was closed, the mirror in its place. She remembered stumbling across the room to her table and steadying herself to look at her reflection. She looked different. Glancing at her grandmother through the mirror she noticed the scowl on her face. Iszalie asked where her twin was? Her grandmothers’ face was filled with anger, but before she could reply, Wilfred lightly placed his hand on her shoulder,
‘She will always be a part of you little one, but right now we need you’
Iszalie had looked at her grandfather, and his toothless smile made her heart swell. She didn’t understand what had just happened but the look in his eyes made her relax and accept that right now she was needed, not her twin.
Iszalie looked at the large mote surrounding the plains. She had been taught from a young age the power of earth, how anything that had a mass, or a physical form could be manipulated or destroyed. She sadly thought about the numerous men she had extinguished the life from – to feed her twins hunger. The feeling was only fleeting. Today she felt empowered. She could feel the earth responding, and she could feel it breathing. She smiled at the absurdity of that thought. She looked at Jacob; he still took her breath away, and she wished she could explain something, anything to him. But she didn’t exactly know what was happening and now was not the time.
‘Your Majesty, if you please, we have set up a command tent, your Generals are waiting for instructions.’ Iszalie turned to Daon as he waited for her response. She walked in front of him and traced her finger down the line of the cut to his head calling her power to heal. Daon pushed her hand away,
‘Leave it, I quite like it’ Iszalie smiled up at him.
‘Shall we go?’ Daon nodded. Iszalie looked at Jacob who bowed and followed as they made their way to the tent.
Aelia – Night
Jacob jumped as he heard a roar of fire suddenly fill the tent. He looked over as Chev entered the tent. She was smiling proudly. He suddenly realised he had fallen asleep.
‘The ditches are lit Majesty’
‘Thank you Head Eld…’ Chev interrupted
‘Chev. Please. I feel like an old woman when you use my title.’
Iszalie respectfully bowed her head ‘Thank you Chev.’
Wilfred looked up from a map spread out over a table,
‘If the Mesi follow their usual tack they will attack just before dawn, when the light is soft. Do you really think this will work Sarah?’ He asked as the old woman sat up. Jacob looked around at all that were gathered as they shared a look. There had obviously been some tactical discussion Jacob had missed. He couldn’t believe he had fallen asleep, not at a time like this. He stood and moved toward Wilfred and asked to be brought up to speed.
‘Sarah and Iszi have requested we think a plan through. They want to create an illusion of abandonment. They want to make the Mesi think we have all run, draw them in and then attack.’
Jacob shook the sleepiness off and thought about the plan. It sounded good, but how were they going to achieve such a thing, he didn’t need to ask,
‘Leave that part to us Commander’ Sarah then added ‘do you think you are ready child?’
Iszalie squeezed her grandmothers’ hand tightly and nodded.
Jacob watched as Iszalie stood and left the tent. He waited a moment and then followed.
The night had settled in, the two moons were huge in the sky, it was if they were two eyes looking down on the proceedings. He looked around until he saw her.
‘Are you all right?’ He asked as Iszalie turned and looked up into his eyes
‘I am fine Commander.’
‘Iszi about last night…’ Iszalie lightly touched her fingers to Jacobs’s lips,
‘This is not the time Jacob, I am sorry for treating you so harshly. But right now we both know that we must concentrate on our peoples needs’ she paused then continued softly ‘not our own.’
Jacob could only nod. She was right, he had been so caught up in his needs, and had put the needs of his people aside. He was their leader, and they needed him to focus unconditionally on them, not selfishly on his own desires. He thought of Teanne. She too would have scolded him for being so selfish.
Although things had taken an unexpected turn with Iszalie, he wished that Teanne were here to guide him, to reassure him that everything would be all right. It seemed like forever since arriving in Aelia, and so much had happened, the death of his best friend and lover. The birth of a new love. And now it seemed a new Luia.
‘So how do you plan on making this plan of yours work?’
Iszalie looked around at the flames spitting up from the mote,
‘My grandmother believes we can manipulate the surroundings, using the smoke from the flames, and create the illusion that no one is on the plains. I’m not sure if it will work, but it will definitely give us an advantage.’
The look in Iszalies eyes made Jacob uncomfortable. He jumped as someone approached from behind.
‘Jacob may I speak with you?’ he turned as Daon approached.
‘Of course Daon, what can I do for you?’ Daon looked at his sister, and smiled shyly. He then turned back to Jacob ‘in private?’
Jacob nodded then turned to Iszalie who was already making her way back to the tents. Daon gestured Jacob to follow as he strode off toward the plains edge.
Jacob looked at Daon, he seemed to be deep in thought. Daon finally stopped and took a deep breath. He turned and fixed Jacob with a sombre stare.
‘Does Iszalie seem different to you?’
Jacob was taken aback by the direction of conversation; he had thought they were going to discuss tactics.
‘A little, why do you ask’?
Daon turned away and lifted his head toward the night sky then followed the trail of fire around the large plain ‘the women in my family have always contained so much power, their ability to manipulate anything that has a physical form. But what she did today with the wall and this ditch. I have never seen anything like it.’ Jacob ran his hands through his hair and looked back toward the camp.
‘Perhaps because Sarah was helping her?’ he offered then shook his head ‘I’m sorry Daon. In my land only a select few practised our art form, I never knew that there were others in this world who could do anything like what I saw today. Truthfully since the fall of Luia and seeing what your sister can do I don’t react to anything anymore. I just accept that it happens. Maybe it is naïve of me to accept it on such blind faith’
Daon slowly turned and smiled
‘No Jacob you are right. I know that power exists. I was just surprised at how much and how easily she controlled it. I don’t know, she just doesn’t seem herself’ Daon clasped Jacob on the shoulder ‘come lets get back.’
Jacob stopped and looked at him ‘you do not have any of this power?’
Daon almost laughed out loud at the suggestion ‘that’s women’s work, I use my hands and fight the old fashioned way.’
Jacob smiled as he thought about the men in Luia. They too no longer possessed the art of fire. He turned back to Daon whose look had become suddenly serious. ‘Was there something else?’
‘No’ Daon said unconvincingly,
‘You and Chev seem to have become fast friends’ Jacob smiled as he saw Daon’s cheeks go red.
‘She is a simple wonder’ he replied.
Finally after a long pause, he continued ‘do you miss your friend?’ Jacob looked at Daon, finally it seemed he was getting to a point.
‘I don’t think that Chev approves at how fast I moved on from her to your…’ he paused searching for the right words
‘My sister’ Daon returned, not lifting his gaze from Jacob ‘she can be quite irresistible, you didn’t really stand a chance once she decided she wanted you.’ Daon smiled wickedly.
Jacob felt a tinge of anger fill him ‘I think it was mutual Daon.’ Jacob tried to steady his voice, it didn’t work,
‘If you say so’ Daon dismissed Jacobs’s response with a flick of his wrist. Jacob looked back toward the forest edge and sighed.
‘And you don’t think so?’ Jacob finally asked turning back and looking at Daon sternly, who simply shrugged his shoulders and smiled,
‘You know that Chev doesn’t think… Teanne, that’s her name right?’ Jacob nodded, ‘… is dead’
Jacob felt his breath catch. He looked at Daon angrily,
‘What is that supposed to mean? Chev was the one who said she was gone.’
Daon began walking away. Jacob stopped him and pulled him around to face him, his eyes were a blaze with anger. Daon smiled wickedly and looked Jacob up and down, he took a while to finally respond
‘I believe her exact words were – she was not of this world anymore. No one but you thought that meant dead.’
Jacobs head was beginning to ache, he looked at the man before him. It was all he could do to stop himself from lashing out angrily.
‘And what do you think Daon?’ Jacob finally spat back angrily,
‘I think you found a warm bed that suited everyone at the time.’
Jacob could no longer stop himself. He launched at Daon and threw him to the ground. Raising his hand he paused for a moment then angrily grunted as he threw a punch. Daon kneed Jacob in the side and pushed him off. Before Jacob could block him Daon landed a kick to his ribs, he flinched as he tried to catch his breath. Daon threw another punch that landed squarely across Jacobs chin. He saw a splatter of blood fall to the ground. Daon finally had Jacob pinned to the ground, his knee tight against his throat
‘Save your strength Commander, we have a long fight ahead of us. I am merely saying what many think.’
Daon stood up and looked down at Jacob and smiled, ‘I would have waited a little longer if I were you that is all. But I am not you am I?’
Jacob glared up at Daon and rubbed his chin. He remained lying on the ground looking up at the night sky as Daon walked off. Angrily Jacob wiped away the blood coming from his nose.
Was Daon right?
Angrily pushing a tear away he sat up and looked over his shoulder, he could just make out Daons shape as he moved into the command tent. No, he wasn’t right. What he felt for Iszalie was real. What he felt from her was real. He slammed his fist against the ground and hung his head.
What if Teanne was alive? He had done the unthinkable, he had betrayed their love, and he had betrayed her memory. No. She was dead. Chev had told him that, and he knew it had to be true!
‘Even if she were alive Commander, she would understand. You are after all merely a man and my granddaughter has many skills that no man can resist.’
Jacob looked over his shoulder as the old woman sat down behind him,
‘I would rather not hear any of your opinions Sarah.’ Jacob said coldly, and she laughed,
‘My grandson has a spiteful tongue, please forgive him.’
‘You heard that?’ Sarah stretched her weary legs ahead of her and slowly laid back, sighing blissfully as she stared at the stars,
‘I think the whole campsite heard that conversation’ she said between giggles.
Jacob stood and brushed down his trousers, he flinched as he felt his side, it ached from the kick Daon had landed,
‘Well I guess that you have what you wanted?’ Sarah eyed Jacob questionably ‘your granddaughter back. Completely. No more distractions from her destiny.’
‘Yes, things have turned out rather well haven’t they. Mind you,’ she added cheekily ‘you are a pretty distraction.’
Jacob growled under his breath and walked back toward the tents.
Entering the tent Jacob glared at Daon who was sitting back in one of the cots. He simply smiled at Jacob and then went back to shining his sword.
‘Why are you covered in dirt?’ Jacob looked over at Chev, and ignoring her he moved toward another cot and lay down ‘Are you all right Jacob?’
Jacob looked at her then looked back toward the tent roof. He was not only embarrassed with how easily Daon had beaten him, but now was filled with conflicting thoughts.
‘So apparently you believe Teanne is still alive?’ Jacob didn’t look at Chev, he simply waited. He heard Wilfred and Daon rise and leave the tent without a word, he then heard Chev whisper to one of her attendants to follow.
‘I never said that.’ Chev finally replied. Jacob sat up and angrily looked at his friend
‘Not according to the Prince. Is he not your confidant now?’ Jacob couldn’t control the rage growing in his voice.
‘Jacob please, that is not what I meant… exactly.’ Chev averted her eyes from his heavy gaze,
‘How exactly did you mean it then?’ Jacob watched as Chev tried to find the words, and slowly looked up at him,
‘I have merely been thinking that perhaps she didn’t die, maybe she was taken somewhere…’ Chev lowered her voice ‘I was only dreaming that that was true.’
Jacob took a deep breath then looked at his friend,
‘You said not of this world’ he said recalling Daons words ‘what did that mean?’
Chev finally fixed her stare on Jacob, ‘Daon doesn’t like interracial relationships Jacob. He’s just mad that you and the Queen are together.’
‘He doesn’t seem to mind the interracial relationship you two have.’ Jacob wished he had stopped those words leaving his mouth the moment he spoke them
‘I’m sorry Chev. I didn’t mean that. But you too do not like the idea of Iszalie and I anymore than he does’ Jacob said coldly.
Chev slowly stood and moved toward him sitting down and putting an arm around his shoulder ‘I just think it happened so fast is all Jacob, I know Teanne is no longer here, but please don’t take this the wrong way but I felt you accepted her death too easily and well seemed to push her from your mind and move on. But you seem happy and that makes me happy.’
Jacob nudged Chevs arm off him and looked at her angrily.
‘Well its over, so I guess I can get back to mourning my long lost love’ he said sarcastically
‘Jacob, please that’s not what I meant you know that…’
Jacob froze and looked at the tent door. A low whistle carried into the tent. The heckles on the back of his neck rose. He stood and ran to the tent door, he looked back over his shoulder toward Chev
‘They are early!’
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